Thursday, August 16, 2018

NINE by Zach Hines

This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shaped or forms my opinions of the novel. Thank you Harper Collins for the opportunity.

AUTHOR: Zach Hines -- Twitter
PUBLISHED: August 7, 2018 by HarperTeen (Harper Collins)
GENRE: Young Adult Sci-Fi
PAGES: 260
Find it on Goodreads

In an alternate world startlingly close to our own, humans have nine lives—and they can’t wait to burn straight through them.

As you shed lives, you shed your awkward phases: one death is equal to one physical and mental upgrade. Julian’s friends are obsessed with the idea of burning lives, but Julian is determined to stay on his first for as long as he can. His mother, the ultimate cautionary tale, burned through her first eight in just a few years, and Julian has no intention of succumbing to the debilitating rebirth sickness that she inflicted on herself.

But the regime has death incentives aimed at controlling overpopulation, and Julian realizes that he’s going to have to burn at some point—especially when he becomes a target for Nicholas, the manipulative leader of the Burners, the school’s suicide club. And when Julian eventually succumbs, he uncovers suspicious gaps in the rebirth system that may explain exactly why his mother went so far down the rabbit hole years ago. Along with a group of student dissenters, Julian sets out to find answers and is soon on the verge of exposing the greatest conspiracy ever unleashed on the world.

He has just eight more lives to uncover the brutal truth.

Nine was a book I was REALLY looking forward to. It seemed like nothing I'd ever read before and I loved the premise -- that humans had nine lives. The book was absolutely everything I expected, and then some.

It gets spoilery here. Enter at your own risk.

My first gut reaction when I got through the first few chapters was that this would be a great read at Halloween. There's definitely a slightly creepy factor, but it's small, and it makes the book extra mysterious, especially when things start going on and some people simply stop returning to their lives, or coming back with severe retrogressions. Julian comes back from one of his unable to see the color green, but that is nothing compared to his best friend Molly, who, after her third burn, vanishes from his life and it turns out that the retrogression wiped her memory.

Despite some of these situations that the government is trying like hell to cover up, Julian has "befriended" Nicholas, who is the Gold Star leader of the burners and also the son of someone in charge of the local lake where those who have burned come back to for their next life. As such, he is privy to certain information: What exactly happened to his mother. And Nicholas dangles it over Julian's head to see exactly how high -- or in some cases, how willing to fall and burn -- he is to get it. After all, Julian is the school's ONLY one. The only one who has never, ever burned. But all that's about to change as he pacifies Nicholas to get whatever information he can on his mother.

On top of all this, Julian's father is struggling to keep them afloat and knows that if his son were to burn twice and become a three that they would get a rebated that would help them stay in their home. But when it turns out that Julian's father also has to burn another life (I think from a 6 to a 7) for that rebate to take effect, Julian's worst fears are realize -- after he burns, he doesn't return.

As more and more cover-ups in regards to burning and surviving come to light (like how sometimes the nurses in charge of the process and the Prelate in charge of the lake would make a recently revived human die multiple times in quick succession, but only tag them as a three or a four), Julian knows he has to do something fast. His brother is taken from him to be a part of an experimental camp for children in regards to burning, something Julian NEVER wants his brother to have to do.

With the help of some new friends, and unexpectedly, Nicholas, who has experienced a fall from grace and is now raring to make his father pay for his crimes against the community at the lake, they expose all the holes in the system.

I really, really loved this book. I thought the pace was perfect. There was a LOT of information to cover, but it was covered pretty thoroughly. And then were tons of unexpected plot twists, which I loved. I could never have expected some of the things that Hines came up with for his characters. It was everything I was hoping for. I went into the book not having read the description (I try not to when reviewing books because sometimes it tarnishes the experience), so I wasn't sure if people were intentionally saving lives for when the really bad things happened in life -- I'm a cancer patient after all, and it'd be nice to know I had a few extra lives in my back pocket. But when it turned out it was really only Julian who was trying to save his, I was very intrigued.

There were a few things that I wish would've happened.

For example, twice, they mention something about doing their "Life Tables" at the age of 25. The mentioned it and for Molly, it was a big deal -- she only wanted to be a three and then she was going to wait until her "Life Tables." But we never learn what those are. So those were a big question on my mind. However, I realize I am reading an ARC and changes are sometimes made, so they may discuss that in the fully finished print/digital editions.

The other thing I would've liked was an exact measure of what year this parallel Earth was in. We learn about comet crash in the 1800s, but not about what time this book begins. Are we supposed to be in the time frame we are now? That would've been nice to know.

Despite these things, I think this book was really awesome and successful. I also think that a prequel to this book would be REALLY interesting. There's even some sequel possibility. I would read either. But in regards to a prequel, I have so many questions -- who was the first person to die and be reborn and theoretically come back to shock the hell out of a grieving family? There had to have been ONE that helped them discover it. And how did they develop the process for the reborn burners? What did that look like? What went wrong, what went right?

This book is one that has left me asking myself questions late at night, one that I think I'll be mulling over in my brain for a long time, which to me is the mark of a really great book.

I highly recommend 9. It was fast-paced, fun, a little bit creepy (but good creepy), interesting, and full of plot twists you won't see coming.

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