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The Elites

The Elites - Natasha Ngan 4.5/5Originally published at Gypsy ReviewsI received an ARC direct from the publisher. Thank you!I went into The Elites with low expectations and was wowed by it. It might seem like your typical dystopian but underneath it all, there are subtle messages about racism, family, freedom, loyalty and trying to figure out which is the side you want to be on? It has elements that you wouldn’t expect to see from many dystopians as it embraces diversity and managed to pop out such an engaging climax that was reminiscent of Mockingjay.Silver is a Red and an Elite which means she’s one of the select few who guard Neo-Babel. All Silver has wanted to do is to live up to who she is and to prove that she is a worthy Elite and she can protect her city. But things go wrong and everything starts to crumble and everything Silver knows is about to change completely. Silver’s situation is not as good as you think, not only is she an Elite but she’s a Red too (I presumed she was probably Chinese). The people in Neo-Babel are separated according to race and Reds are looked down, reasons for this were not explained but it was stated that Mainlanders (presumably Caucasians) were of the higher ranking. I liked that The Elites sought to address racism and prove that someone is not defined by their race but rather their abilities and who they are. It provided a lot of diversity to the book as there are many cultures in the book and I definitely appreciate a book that seeks to include all cultures out there and not focus on one predominant race. It’s hard for Silver, she is an Elite but there are people who look down at her and thinks she’s unworthy because she is a Red.When she realises Neo-Babel isn’t what she presumed, it’s difficult for her to accept that because it’s been drilled into her for so long. This side of Neo-Babel is the only side she’s known about, how can she just change her entire opinion about it in such a short span? She doesn’t want to believe that this is what is happening but she can’t ignore the facts that are staring right in her face. But it wasn’t just Silver who faced these conflicts, there were also other characters who we get to see who chose sides and had reasons for sticking to them. So we get to see from both sides and I really liked how we got to see how the characters reason why they chose to side with Neo-Babel and why they don’t. It provided more depth to the characters.Silver is a flawed character, she doesn’t pretend to be perfect, she knows her weaknesses and struggles with overcoming them but in overall, her heart is in the right place and she knows what’s important to her. I did enjoy the other characters too, I wasn’t too crazy about the names. I mean Silver’s best friend is called Butterfly?! No matter how minor the characters were, there was layers to them and they all managed to connect to the story, somehow or another they were intertwined together. There’s a sort of hidden history behind some of them which made me wish I could find out more. I wasn’t a big fan of a part of Butterfly’s story though, I found it all a little too convenient. I mean finding your mother and sister who were presumed to be dead in the first place you come out of Neo-Babel? Uhm… I wasn’t pleased that they died either, so basically they were first dead, then alive and dead again.The world building was good, it was straightforward and easy to visualise and understand how it came about. It was not hard to figure out how Neo-Babel worked and what was going on outside the walls of Neo-Babel. The concept of the Elites wasn’t anything very new I found but I did love the quotes in the book pertaining to them.Silver had heard the rumours about the Elites, that they were superhuman, that they didn’t bleed. But of course they did. They were no more or less human than anyone else. And what they didn’t understand was that bleeding wasn’t a sign of weakness; it was a sign of strength. It demonstrated to the world that you were vulnerable and ordinary, but when you wanted something enough, and fought hard enough for it, you were capable of doing extraordinary things. (pg. 355)I felt that Ngan had put in a lot of thought into her book and dealing with the aftereffects of people’s choices and the part they play in defining an entire city’s fate. Do they have the right to decide what is right for an entire city? Would it be better to let it be? Is it right to overshadow your own desire over others? I don’t find that characters inside the story come to terms with how their current world became this way so it was a welcome addition, usually they simply disagree with how society works but here, Silver tries to reason why Neo-Babel became like this and says why it’s wrong.The Council had got it wrong. No, Neo-Babel’s founders had got it wrong all those years ago when the city was first created. A person’s DNA shouldn’t dictate their lives. Skin-tone, genetics; how could any of those things decide what a person could become? That sort of thinking only bred hatred and created people like Ember who thought science had proven that their races were superior and Reds like Silver weren’t worth a thing. But science had done nothing of the sort; it was people who had used science to turn their prejudices into justifications. (pg. 330)What really won me over was what happened from the climax onwards, it was spectacular and I didn’t know that Ngan would be able to pull it off but she did. It was gut-wrenching, shocking and I was on the edge of my seat as I read it. In that short span, many people are forced to make choices they thought they would have more time to decide on and for others, they’ve lost everything they knew about. It feels like everything is going downhill and it’s not going to work out and it was a great book feeling because you’re not even sure if it could turn around and everything would be okay in the end. It did remind me a lot of Mockingjay’s climax and evoked the same feelings. It was my favourite part of the book and it made up for all the faults in the beginning.I thoroughly enjoyed this and I was so surprised by how much I loved it. Natasha Ngan is definitely an author to keep an eye out for, she’s got potential and I’ll be looking forward to her future releases.Verdict: Tired by all the disappointing dystopians? This will turn things around!----------------------This book exceeded my expectations by so much, despite a few bumps where you know one of the characters is called Butterfly and is a guy which is hard to take seriously. The Elites delves deep into what it means to embrace who you are, family ties, dealing with loss, being under a dystopian society and trying to come to terms with your past. It's a powerful book and I loved it, I couldn't tear myself away from the second half. -- Full review to come!