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The Hollow People by Brian Keaney

Inside Flap of the Book: Dante looked around, making sure there was no one who might overhear him. Then he leaned forward and, lowering his voice, said, “I still have dreams.” It was the most shocking thing Bea had ever heard. “Dr. Sigmundus says that disturbances of the mind which come to people when they sleep are the result of a psychic illness,” she replied. It was what she had been taught at school, and for as long as she could remember.

Review: The Hollow People is a novel set on an isolated island called Tarnagar where the lives of its people revolve around the upkeep of the asylum located there. Status is a very important thing in this world, which is why Dante, marked with the lowest status for being the child of a inmate, is convinced that his existence is completely insignificant. When a dangerous new criminal named Ezekiel is brought to the asylum and sets in motion a plan of rescuing Dante from Tarnagar, Dante learns that he is not only a significant person in this world, but an important weapon against Dr. Sigmundus, the Big Brother-esque dictator of the country.

"I just learned how to do this yesterday!"

This novel reminds me a lot of 1984 by George Orwell in that the citizens of this country are very careful about the decisions they make, and very concerned about how their actions are interpreted by others—but that’s only part of the novel. What really sets this novel apart from others of this style/genre is the supernatural element introduced later in the book—which I kind of hate. The supernatural element gives God-like powers to Ezekiel who has been a prisoner on Tarnagar for a month, receiving little food and getting shock treatments at least 3 times a week, but manages to successfully use his powers to help Dante escape. Yet after escaping and being well fed and taken care of for weeks, a shot that clips him in the shoulder renders him handicapped forcing Dante to use his magically super advanced powers to save the day… Bullshit. I call bullshit. It was like reading a well-written, but nevertheless shitty, fanfiction. So it’s not surprising to me that I haven’t hear a lot of hype about this novel since I bought it about 3 years ago. As a series, it may have gotten better, but I’ll never know, because I don’t plan on purchasing the other books unless Keany gets a movie deal.

The best thing about this book is that it really does seek to break the mold, not only does the supernatural element set this novel apart, but it also has small illustrations scattered throughout it, which appealed to the child inside of me that remembered sitting in the library reading Robert Munch picture books. The worst thing about this novel is the supernatural element. To help you understand, I’ll use Harry Potter as a parallel. Imagine a wizarding world where people try for years and years to learn how to ride a broom, and only Dumbledore and James Potter manage to succeed. Then Harry Potter comes to Hogwarts for the first time, Madame Hooch tell him how he should mount a broom, he mounts it, and instantly wins the Quidditch World Cup. Yeah, I think it sounds like a shitty idea too.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Faux-Utopia, Romance, Supernatural, YA Fiction