“Pretty Lies” is a debut dystopian novel by Jessica Scurlock set in a near- future United States, now called the Northern Unity, which, after a second civil war, has been drastically reordered into four semi-autonomous zones. The Enlightened Society, as the government is called, has brought about some positive changes, vast reductions in crime, for instance. The general message to the citizenry: What came before was bad, what is now is stable and fair, so support it.
Our heroine, Ivy, is a get-along to get-along girl, generally happy with the new order despite nightly curfews required to thwart would be terrorists. Some things set her apart, however, from the typical teen living in the Green Zone, one of the four geographic divisions of the old United States. First is that her father, the former police chief for her zone, disappeared under mysterious circumstances and without warning, leaving Ivy, Ivy’s brother, Liam, and Ivy’s florist mother to pick up the pieces.
Ivy defies the nightly curfew to search for clues about her missing father, despite the threat of punishment in the form of “re-education” should she be caught. On one of these trips, she witnesses a murder which understandably upsets her. Meanwhile, a terrorist attack on an airplane causes the authorities to crack down on the populace of the Green Zone via massive, indiscriminate house-to-house searches. During this period, Ivy is introduced to her brother Liam’s friend, Nixon, who she initially does not care for (spoiler alert, her feelings change). Events happen, intertwining Ivy, her family, Nixon, the witnessed murder, and the authorities’ reactions into one story which slowly reveals who really runs things in Ivy’s “enlightened” society.
I enjoyed Ms. Scurlock’s book, which despite a smattering of profanity, had a real YA feel to it. The main characters are late teens to mid-twenties young and deal with issues consistent with folks that age, in addition to kidnappings, safe houses, pursuit and capture, secret agents, and a host of other tribulations normally not on a young person’s Saturday night to do list. There is a lot of romantic tension developed between two characters which just when you think will be realized, dastardly doings (or sometimes just social awkwardness) keeps them apart. There is a bit of family drama in the novel—the missing father and a bitter mother’s resentment of his departure plays a prominent role.
Despite the feeling that all four zones are right next to each other which seems odd, given how big America is, and a few happenings that seem a bit unrealistic, I kept reading at a quick clip to see if Ivy and her friends would ever make it clear from trouble. Given that this is the first in a series, I did not expect a complete wrap up of all the plot lines and the book expectedly does end on a cliffhanger.
“Pretty Lies” allows you a quick vacation from your problems by delving into twenty-something dystopian angst which I found fun.