This review contains minor spoilers for The Lost Code.
I knew upon reading the first two, painful pages of The Lost Code that it would not end up being a book that I'd like, but me, being the horribly optimistic and good-hearted person that I am (laugh and I'll make you read this book) trudged on hoping that The Lost Code would garner at the very least two stars from me.
And this is what I get for being optimistic and good-hearted. *sigh* I should just stop being an overall amazing person. (Again, anyone laughs and I'll find you.)
I think it's time I become Batman. Er... Batwoman. (But Batman sounds better... This'll take some heavy contemplation.)
I've read my fair share of awful books this year; from the 'brb-clawing-my-eyes-out' Evermore, to the 'I-WANT-TO-STAB-EVERYONE' Defiance, and now to the 'this-book-is-drunk' (you'll see what I mean)The Lost Code. But the thing about The Lost Code is, I think it might be even more frustrating than the former two novels, and the first quarter or so of it is most definitely one of the worst beginnings of a novel I've ever read in my lifetime, if not the worst. And unfortunately, it doesn't get much better from there. Where The Lost Code had some shred of promise, it was unfortunately bogged down by cringe-worthy characterization and romance, mediocre to down-right bad writing, nonsensical plotting and world-building, and pacing similar to me trying to jog (spoiler alert: not very fast).
The Characters and Romance:
Right off the bat we're introduced to Owen, the character through which this novel's perspective is told. I'll get it out of the way right now that I did not like Owen's character at all, and the fact that the novel was narrated by him certainly didn't help at all. I think if The Lost Code weren't narrated by Owen it would have made the entire novel a lot more tolerable (though still certainly not good), because honestly, being trapped in this kid's head almost feels like some sort of sick, twisted form of torture. One moment, Owenactually acts like a semi-normal fifteen year old boy, and then another moment he acts like he's a whiny, eight year old trapped in the body of a fifteen year old (shhh. If you listen very carefully, you can almost hear that eight year old inside of Owen screaming 'Let me out!'), and then most moments he's a lovesick teenage girl from seemingly every other YA novel to date, exhibit A:
I wondered if maybe I already loved her, in that love-at-first-sight kind of way that was the only kind of love I really knew. (approx. page 10; 4%)
Owen wonders whether he loves the love interest, Lilly, upon just meeting her. But wait, it gets better: they meet because Lilly is a lifeguard at a summer camp Owen attends, and Owen drowns. Then, Lilly, being the amazing lifeguard that she is, asks if Owen is okay while 'standing there with her hip cocked to one side, one hand on it and the other spinning and unspinning a whistle around her index finger.' That's it. That's the one interaction between Owen and Lilly for Owen to wonder if he loves her.
His comment about whether or not he already loves Lilly after that one incredibly romantic, earth-shattering interaction (guys, she asked if he was okay after he drowned. If your heart doesn't melt reading that, then you have no heart to speak of), is followed by:
The kind of love you could just have without ever actually telling someone, without them even knowing you.
*shakes head* Um, Owen... I don't know if that love even exists... I think that's more infatuation than love, but you know what, who am I to say. Go off loving someone who doesn't know you. I'm sure it'll work out amazingly.
And also, to support my argument that Owen is really a lovesick teenage girl, Exhibit B:
"Hey, I've been thinking about you." [Lilly said]
She had? When? Where? What about?
No comments necessary. But, since I took notes and feel like sharing my frustration with the world, here is more:
She shot me a slight smile. I tried not to melt into the water.
[After Owen and Lilly kiss] How long had that been? A second? An hour? I felt like I had no idea. For a moment I just stared up at the blur of sunny sky. My first real kiss. With a girl I could barely believe I got to be around. In spite of all that was happening, in spite of the way my nerves were ringing, I felt a sadness that it was already over. Would we ever have another chance? Why couldn't this just last?
I'm pretty sure this scene would have been a lot less sappy if this book were narrated by Lilly.
And as for the whole personality of Owen that is the eight year old cleverly disguised as a fifteen year old(view spoiler), it seems like, very often, Owen is devoid of a real sense of urgency or importance in some instances throughout the novel, Exhibit A:
Now that it was too late, all I could think about was that it really stunk to be dead. It was just unfair and stupid, and I hated it.
Yes, Owen. Dying stinks, and is unfair and stupid. But you know what else stinks, is unfair, and stupid?
You. Hehehehehehehehe I'm so bad. Well, let's see, failing a test you've studied hours for, getting in trouble for something you didn't do, etc. But those things and dying are practically interchangeable, right? It's okay. I can tell you're really passionate about dying; after all, you did describe it as being 'stupid', you eight-year-old-disguised-as-a-fifteen-year-old rebel, you.
The writing in The Lost Code, while mediocre at best most of the time, provided me with moments of great frustration and confusion. One of my biggest pet peeves in literature is when the writing is comprised of mostly - or entirely - telling and not showing, and that was exactly how the writing in The Lost Code was, Exhibit A and B:
Paul handed me the cup. I took a sip.
Then I coughed. Took a breath but coughed again. Wait - there was a weird feeling, like water in my throat. Tightness in the back of my windpipe. I couldn't breathe.
As well as the telling and not showing writing in The Lost Code, much of the writing makes little to no sense, and it makes me wonder if even the author himself knew what he was talking about when he was writing certain sentences and passages, my personal favorite being:
The temperature was balmy, the breeze like a soft hand.
Please, Mr. Emerson, enlighten me: what exactly does a 'breeze like a soft hand' feel like? Because last time I checked, a breeze felt like a breeze. Not a physical hand. I hope the breezes where you live don't feel like hands, because quite honestly, I find that to be terrifying.
Adding to the at times confusing writing, the teenage voices feel, and are, incredibly forced, thanks to the massive overuse of the word 'dude' (and sometimes with extra u's, you know, for emphasis duuuuude), a certain character adding emphasis to the middle of some words for reasons unknown (ex: "Dude, that's aMAZing!" and "They hAte you!"), and so on and so forth. I'm around teenagers all the time due to my occupation, and I can say (and quite happily, might I add), that I haven't heard anyone use 'dude' or emphasis in the middle of words in a long, long time (and I live in southern California, so that's saying something).
Plotting, World-Building, and Pacing:
I feel like most of the plotting (and really all of the plotting throughout the first half of the novel) in The Lost Code was centered around typical high-school drama, just in a different setting than high-school. There was the main bully and his little army of less important bullies who tormented Owen and his fellow bunkmates, there was the painful romance between Owen and Lilly, there was Owen coming to terms with changes in his body, and the list goes on and on. However, when we pass the fifty percent milestone (it sure felt like a milestone to me), the high-school drama, thankfully, decreases, but in return we are provided with an extremely typical plot that seems to run rampant in every single dystopian novel in the YA market: *ahem* [In broody, action narrative voice] The main character finds out that everything he knows about his world is a lie. In a hasty escape from the world he once knew, he tries to find out the secrets about the world he lives in, along with a few allies to help him. But how does the main character know who to trust?
Dun, dun, duuuuuuuuuun!
And as for the world-building in The Lost Code, it was one of the most pathetic attempts at world-building I've ever read in my life. For starters, the basic rundown of the world, or at least what I've managed to grasp from Emerson's awful explanations, is that the icecaps melted due to global warming, and the world is submerged under water.
But wait - there's more! So, as a solution so that the population can live, a six kilometer dome is built to house over 200,000 people, all while protecting them from the radiation outside of the dome. This in itself arises a whole set of questions, but the one that nagged me the most throughout The Lost Code was: if the world truly is submerged in water, how would you even begin to build a dome to protect the population? What, do you swim while building this massive, massive dome?
And where is everyone else while these people are building the dome? How did they get the water outsideof the dome? How did people get inside the dome without letting water from the outside inside with them?
But wait - that's not even the worst of the world-building. While I have already reached my maximum level of frustration and anger towards this book (and at this point I'm only 14% in), I stumble upon this joke of an explanation:
Xane's parents, and most of the Taiwanese, had emigrated to Coke-Sahel, which was formed when the Coca-Cola company merged with Walmart and then purchased twelve West African countries.
Okay, so Coca-Cola merged with Walmart (how are there even any existing Walmarts at this point?) and with all of that combined money, they decided to buy twelve West African countries? Go home, book. You're drunk. (See? I told you you'd see what I meant by saying that this book is drunk!)
Ultimately, I should have gone with my gut and put this book down after reading just the first two pages alone. The Lost Code is probably tied with the likes of Evermore, League of Strays, and Hereafter, if not beating all of them entirely, as the worst book I read this year, and is also probably one of the worst books I've read in my lifetime. Though let this review be a cautionary tale to everyone reading it: always, alwaysread the Goodreads reviews for a book before you buy it. Because if I read the reviews for The Lost Codebefore buying it... well, I most likely wouldn't have bought it in the first place. But at least one good thing came out of me reading The Lost Code: I realized that it is my destiny to be Batman.