Book Review

'Elusion': Young adult novel depicts a lovely dystopia


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A future world where Florapetro pollutes the air so badly the citizens must wear oxygen masks just to step outside. A society in which technology saturates its citizens like the acid rain pouring from the sky. A place where a young woman named Regan must uncover the truth behind a troubling new technology, all the while battling her feelings for Patrick, her best friend and co-creator of the technology, and Josh, a compelling new classmate. This is the world in "Elusion."

The dystopian elements of this young adult novel by co-authors Cheryl Klam and Claudia Gabel might sound familiar. And indeed, readers of the genre may recognize the flawed future society and the distracting love triangle. But "Elusion" contains a distinguishing feature that keeps readers hooked.

Elusion is the name of a new virtual reality technology that stands to change everything about Regan's world. Designed by her father in the years before his untimely death, Elusion allows its users -- via the heady cocktail of trypnosis and Equip -- to escape into a virtual Earth long vanished under a layer of Florapetro pollution.


"ELUSION"
By Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam
Katharine Tegen Books ($17.99).

By transporting the users to a place so breathtaking words cannot properly describe it, Elusion becomes a destination some never want to leave. When questions start to emerge about the possible addictiveness of the technology, Regan finds herself at the center of a dangerous investigation into the truth

In order to unearth the facts about Elusion, Regan must journey into unexplored virtual realms and delve into clues left behind in her father's cherished copy of "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau.

It's fitting irony that "Walden" -- a treasured reflection on the importance of simplicity and nature -- is the key to unlock the truth behind the most cutting edge of technologies in a world that has strayed far from nature.

The subtle imbedded social commentary is as intriguing as the virtual Elusion worlds and technology. Using Elusion as an emblem for the role of technology in our own society, the authors utilize dystopia in a classic way: to draw focus onto current societal concerns.

After all, with technology pervading every aspect of our lives -- and with fully immersive, virtual reality technology like Oculus Rift on the horizon in a serious way, particularly since its recent purchase by Facebook -- the dangers imagined in "Elusion" may not be too far from our own reality.

The otherwise fast-paced story slows down -- and stumbles a bit -- over the love triangle. Despite the urgent predicament Regan faces, she spends an implausible amount of time admiring Josh and debating her feelings for both Josh and Patrick.

While the young adult readers may enjoy the love interest and, in fact, admirers of the genre may expect it, Regan's preoccupation makes her unsuspecting of impending threats that the readers anticipate. And Regan's strained relationship with her mother -- coupled with her mother's all-too-convenient absences -- decelerate the novel's breakneck speed.

Still, for fans of young adult novels of dystopia and science fiction, "Elusion" proves an addictive read. Not unlike the technology at its heart.


Pittsburgher Heather Terrell, a former commercial lawyer in New York City, is the author of "The Chrysalis," "The Map Thief," "Brigid of Kildare" as well as the young adult series "Fallen Angel" and"Relic," the first in the young adult series "The Books of Eva."

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