Now here’s an interesting premise for you –
Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).
Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.
The perfect soldier is done taking orders
Sounds interesting, right? As soon as I heard about this book, I couldn’t get it out of my head. It nagged at me until I abandoned the sugary romance I’d picked out for February to read something with a bit more teeth. At first it was all that I’d hoped for: Wren was a badass; faster, stronger and less emotional than anyone around her. None of the other Reboots come close to her number of 178 minutes dead and Wren constantly tries to remember human responses for the sake of her lower-numbered roommate, Ever. These responses don’t come naturally, however, until Callum arrives – full of smiles and questions, and, ab0ve all, a complete lack of fear of the legendary 178. At first I thought this wouldn’t change things too much, especially when Wren and Callum’s first training session had this exchange as its highlight:
“Try not to scream when I break your bones. It bothers me. You can cry if you want; that’s fine.”
He burst out laughing. I didn’t realize that was a funny statement.
“Got it,” he said, trying unsuccessfully to cover his grin. “Screaming, no. Crying, yes.”
But sadly it did change things. A lot. Reboot is told in the first person from Wren’s perspective and in some ways it would have been better in the third because although in the beginning Wren is distant but likeable, being inside her head allows us to see all of her inner turmoil and the more it spirals (i.e. the the more time she spends with Callum) the more human (and less interesting) she becomes. We never get to see her the way that most other characters do, human and Reboot alike, because we know her too well to share their intimidation.
It may of course have been Amy Tintera’s intention to utterly humanize Wren, but it wasn’t really what I wanted to read. I certainly didn’t want Wren to change so fast or so much but I soon felt like I was reading any other dystopian YA with a human romance. I wanted to read something where the conflict came, not just from outside opposition and a brutal world, but from the mental make-up of the characters themselves. I wanted Wren’s struggle with herself to be equal to her struggles against HARC and in the end, although she feels bad about her willingness to kill people (or at least thinks she should feel bad) she accepts her feelings for Callum easily.
Callum is likeable but very unremarkable, although I think that’s his whole role in the story – to be the everyman in an extraordinary situation. The writing is good. Which is to say that it’s appropriately…bland? Considering it’s being narrated by an emotionally stunted protagonist I would expect the writing to be more efficient than flowery and it is. The world of the Republic of Texas is hellish but worryingly easy to imagine and the KDH virus reminded me of the plagues in Marie Lu’s Legend and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder. Descriptions are vivid and wince-worthy during training and missions, and Reboot certainly didn’t pull any punches when it came to character deaths, human experimentation and the good old snap of bones breaking.
Although I was ultimately disappointed by this book, I am curious to see what happens in the sequel, Rebel, due out this May. Just not curious enough to pre-order it or probably read it this year.