Review: Breakdown by Sarah Mussi

Friday, 19 December 2014

22432850Breakdown by Sarah Mussi
Released: 2nd October 2014
Published by: Hot Key Books
Genre: YA Dystopian
Source: Publisher
Pages: 418
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
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It is 2084. Nuclear radiation has poisoned the country. Society has fallen apart. Starvation is rampant, and power shortages have resulted in piles of obsolete gadgetry. Necessity has driven those who've survived to complete self-reliance, if they have the means to do so. For Melissa and her Nan, survival is just about possible, so long as they can guard the tiny crop of potatoes in their back garden and find enough fuel to cook on - and as long as they are safely barricaded inside their home by curfew.

 For after dark, feral dogs hunt, and violent gangs from the old Olympic Stadium (now a miserable ghetto) roam to loot and plunder. If they catch you, they are not merciful; so when Melissa falls into the hands of Careem's gang, her prospects look bleak. But Careem soon realises that she might just be more valuable alive, as a ransom victim. However, he hasn't reckoned with Melissa's resourcefulness. Soon part of his young gang are completely beguiled by Melissa and her story of a hidden valley in Scotland - a place that sounds like a comparative paradise, if they can get there. But apparently only Melissa knows the way, and only she can lead them there. But Melissa is hiding a secret. She has never been to Scotland in her life, let alone a mythically Elysian valley there. Can Melissa's stories keep her alive long enough to escape - or will they get her killed?
Thank you to Five Mile Press Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

The General is evil. He ravages the beautiful. Like Aristaeus in the Greek myths, he desires what is not his.

Breakdown is a gritty and somewhat unsettling read exploring how societies would react in a world where nuclear radiation has devastated life as we know it. With a cast of well-developed characters, inclusion of some Greek mythological references and subtle metaphors, this is a dystopian novel that stands out from what we've seen before and brings something new to the table. 

The bees died because of mankind's greed. It was a penalty for our misuse of the natural world. Man's excesses upset the balance of nature, brought death, brought destruction.
Wasted populations.

The references to the bees which in many ways I felt represented how individuals in Melissa's time trying to exist in this derelict civilisations, were interesting ones. Although it certainly isn't the focus of the story, it did add that unique touch which you come across every now and then, and it gives you something to think about. Another aspect which I really loved was the Greek mythology that was a running theme. This comes into the story through Melissa remembering her Nan's stories, and what Sarah Mussi has achieved is weaving in the various myths to reflect what was happening in the actual plot at those times. It was fascinating to find this in a dystopian novel, which you wouldn't normally expect, and it really appealed to me. 

Only the strong survive. And the weak ones know it. They'll drag you down. Don't show them your secrets. Starvation makes monsters of us all. 

Our protagonist Melissa is someone who you can't help but side with - despite her powers of manipulation for the sake of survival. She matures throughout the book and always attempts to assert herself - even when faced with brutal gangsters who she finds herself in the clutches of. Her journey to try and find a piece of idyllic freedom in a situation where such a thing seems impossible is by no means an easy one. Tarquin and his younger brother Lenny who become her companions also have their distinct character quirks, and since most of the novel is focused around the three of them and their dynamic, it is explored thoroughly.

We're gonna hold back the underworld...We'll carry the Torch that'll never go out - just like them.

Breakdown offers a glimpse into a possible futuristic reality where the human race is pushed to its limits and survival is the only goal. It's refreshing to find a futuristic dystopian novel that doesn't follow the conventional formula, and is executed to a high standard as well.

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