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Since the age of three, sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has been trained to be Daughter of the People in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. Selected from hundreds of children for her ideal genes, all her life she’s thought that everything was perfect; her world. Her people. The Law.

But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into their secluded little world, she’s forced to come to a startling realization: everything she knows is a lie.

Her memories have been altered.

Her mind and body aren’t under her own control.

And the person she knows as Mother is a monster.

Together with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a ticking time bomb... and Mother has one last secret that will destroy them all.

364 pages, Hardcover

First published August 20, 2012

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About the author

J.A. Souders

10 books491 followers
J.A. Souders was born in the heartland with an overactive imagination and an over abundance of curiosity that was always getting her into trouble.

Because she never grew up, she decided she’d put her imaginary friends to work and started writing. She now lives in the land of sunshine and palm trees with her husband and their two children and is an active member of the RWA, SFWA, YARWA and SCBWI.

She is represented by Natalie Lakosil of the Bradford Literary Agency and her debut novel, RENEGADE, will be released Fall 2012.

**For REVELATIONS ARC requests please contact my publicist at aisha.cloud (at) Tor (dot) com. Thanks!

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Profile Image for Giselle.
990 reviews6,365 followers
November 6, 2012
Holy bloody muffins!!

Look at this pretty cover! Right? Don't be fooled! The world inside Renegade is not pretty. It's not beautiful! It's gory, disturbing, sick, and the more you advance in the story, the more terrifying it all becomes. It starts innocently enough. Perfect life, in a perfect garden, everyone is "perfect" with perfect blue eyes and perfect blond hair, perfect genetics to make perfect babies in this perfect world full of perfect flowers and perfect fish--for real! They live in an underwater dome-- you get my gist. It's a utopia. At least until Evelyn realizes she's been forgetting things. Her memory is not what it should be, and neither is Mother.

"Failure will not be tolerated. The only result of failure is death
-Enforcer Statute 104A.3"

Mother... That's what she goes by in this world. She is, of course, the perfect leader. More like, the perfect villain. Like the world itself, the more we learn about Mother, the more perturbed you will feel. This woman has some twisted plans and has been working on sick, gruesome experiments that made my eyes widen in disgust--me: the lover of all things horror. It was not always from the gore either, although there is plenty of it, but also from a psychological perspective. Brainwashing, manipulation, memory alteration, all from an alarmingly young age; there is nothing this woman has not tried. It is all so disturbing in so many ways.

""Oh my God," Gavin says, and starts gagging.
Even I can't blame him. The hallway is covered with dead bodies. The floor is sticky with partially dried pools of blood. The walls and even the ceiling are covered in sprays of blood. And it drips from the ceiling like sprinkles of rain."

Evelyn is Daughter of The People; mother's best and brightest. This girl was chosen as Mother's daughter as she is the epitome of perfect. She will grow up to be the next perfect perfectness. It comes without saying, this girl did not evade Mother's maniacal engineering. What does this give us? A very broken, messed up protagonist! A girl who is stubborn and resilient, with a mind that has been so altered, that she, herself, is not sure what is true anymore. I found the psychological aspect of this character--this novel as a whole, really-- to be incredibly well done. Layer after layer we see the mental instability of not only Evie, but this whole sick "utopia". Evie shows us her amazing strength and determination, then in the blink of an eye, she turns into someone completely different with seemingly no control over her own thoughts and actions. Now she can't even trust herself! I love books that add in psychological twists, they both terrify and fascinate me, and Souders did this brilliantly.

Some may consider the romance insta-love. I saw it more as a quick bond founded on this need to survive. Living through horrible life and death situations with another person forms unimaginable bonds, and this is what happens to Evie and Gavin. It's not the cliché all-empowering-end-all love, but a sweet, believable romance that has quickly, but believably formed between two teenagers running for there lives together, keeping each other alive. And this escape is serious; Imperative. There is a LOT riding on it and will be the difference between a new life, or a life that is worse than death. The pace is set high with constant action, though not so much that it deprives us of character or world building. The horrors that we see along the way makes it even more electrifying; and what's worse, is it's all frighteningly real. Even the dome is described in such great scientific detail that it convinces of its plausibility. When we get to the ending, we see ourselves at the start of a new journey that will take part in book two. Oh, the wait will be a killer!

Renegade is the kind of book where the more you read, the better it gets. So for a book that starts already uphill, by the time I was done, I was not only on top of the hill, but I had leaped over, and into an abyss of bloody muffins. Yes, it all comes down to the muffins!

"Way down yonder, down in the meadow,
There's a poor wee little lamby.
The bees and the butterflies pickin' at its eyes,
The Poor wee thing cried for her mommy.

-Children song, part of the pre-school curriculum"

Quotes in this review were taken from an uncorrected proof.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for review.

For more of my reviews, visit my blog at Xpresso Reads
Profile Image for shady boots.
500 reviews2,037 followers
May 2, 2015
This review is also available over at my blog.


Holy crap.

Um, wow, I'm not even sure where to start.

Okay, so, in the underwater city of Elysium, which is ruled by a woman that goes by Mother, Evelyn Winters has been trained to be the Daughter of the People, and the one in line to be the leader of the city. She had a perfect life, loved by Mother and all the citizens of Elysium. But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, somehow manages to enter the city, Evie starts realizing that her whole life is a lie. Her memories are constantly altered and her mind not under her own control, and the city's beloved Mother is a monster. As Evie and Gavin form a bond together, they plan an escape to the surface. But Mother has many terrifying secrets, including one that could destroy everything.

I loved how this was written. I liked that during the first few chapters, there were ones that started exactly the same, with sentences like My life is just about perfect and It's nice to have someone to talk to and so on. You could definitely tell when Evie was mind-controlled or not. The whole mind-control thing overall was a very nice touch with Evie, because during the last half of the book, it caused a lot of crazy shit to go down. Actually, something hella crazy happens at the end of the first chapter, so that's pretty much a warning about how intense the book is gonna be.

Evie was likable. When she was in control of her own mind, of course. She didn't make any stupid choices, and she was definitely far from a Mary Sue. Starting the book, I actually was expecting her to be a Mary Sue. Imagine my surprise when she turned out a pretty borderline-kickass heroine. Especially nearing the end. Holy shite. My jaw went straight through the floor and into the ground several times.

I also quite liked Gavin. He has a southern accent, which I rarely see YA heroes have. xD And I thought he was pretty sweet and never came off as a douche. The romance between him and Evie was unfortunately insta-love, but, get this: I was not annoyed with it whatsoever. I know, right? What sorcery is this? Insta-love has always been a one-way ticket to a low rating for me, but this time the book was just so damn awesome that it made me overlook the insta-love. And to be honest, I really liked their chemistry.

Mother. Okay, this bitch is straight-up batshit insane. Seriously. She's way past the point of drunk with power. She's so obsessed with wanting her city to be completely flaw-free that she would do anything to ensure that. And by anything, I really do mean anything. Double, triple, quadruple emphasis if needed. Besides Mother, there's also Father, but he was pretty much just a shadow. He only appears, like, once in the whole book, and had about one or two lines. I felt like he was the King from Alice in Wonderland: barely there, completely passive and letting his woman take care of everything.

I liked the world-building, and the whole Enforcer thing I thought was very...unusual. They're females that are selected from the age of three to become these assassin-type murderers that serve Mother. It was crazy that all of them were these really young girls, most of them barely sixteen. I give props to the author for that whole concept, because I think it's pretty damn original.

Although I did feel like the details of how Elysium came about were very brief and sort of vague. And I also kept wondering what it was like in the surface. Was it like our modern world? Or was it completely torn apart by wars, as Mother wants the citizens of Elysium to believe? There weren't any details about it, really, besides the quotes at the beginning of each chapter (which are all from Mother's words so that's why I'm skeptical) but I'll let it slide because this is the first book, and I know there will be more info in the next one.

Around 250 or so pages, I started getting into this book so damn much. The amount of action was overwhelming, and all the scenes were very gripping and intense. I was so into it that I swear I was panting as I read. I was ready to give the book 4 or 4.5 stars, until the last half. I thought if I rated this book any less than 5 stars it would be a friggin' crime punishable by law.

I'm glad that the ending wasn't quite a huge cliffhanger, or I would've been pissed the hell off. I am extremely excited to see where this series goes, because there are countless unanswered questions swirling in my head right now.

To put it shortly, this book was pretty damn awesome, despite its few flaws. Hell, the simple fact that the insta-love in it didn't annoy me at all just proves how awesome it is. I would recommend you get your hands on this book as soon as possible.

Billions of thank you's to NetGalley and Tor for sending me this galley!
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews1,984 followers
December 6, 2012
Originally reviewed on The Book Smugglers

Sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters' life is just about perfect. Adopted by Mother and made the Daughter of the People, Evelyn is being groomed for the inevitable day that she will take over Mother's illustrious position as the head of the suboceanic society of Elysium. The war and strife of the hateful Surface Dwellers above led Mother to start a new society of her own, concealed by the ocean's murky depths. It is Evelyn's job to listen to the people, to learn from Mother, and most pressingly, to select a mate with whom she will Couple - from the predetermined pool of matches that Mother has authorized, of course.

When a surface dweller makes his way into Elysium, however, everything Evelyn has ever known changes. Gavin - the young, handsome, and impossible Surface Dweller - causes Evelyn to question her society, her own mind, and Mother. As she grows closer to Gavin and decides to help him escape Elysium, she uncovers devastating revelations about Elysium's past, Mother's true nature, and Evelyn's own clouded, brainwashed past.

I was drawn to Renegade because of the killer premise for the book - I love a suboceanic SF tale, and I love dystopian societies with unreliable narrators even more. When I started Renegade, it truly seemed that the book would deliver on this incredibly promising premise - it has a cool sort of Bioshock-ish vibe, combined with a distinct sense of foreboding creepiness, as Renegade's heroine is completely unsuspecting that her actions and thoughts are so bizarre. Evelyn's brainwashed, repetitive thoughts and the little pieces of information she lets slip about her daily life are unsettling and effective in painting a picture of a deep-seated wrongness in Elysium. So, yes, Renegade starts with an undeniable bang. That said, while the first chapters are solid, the book quickly devolves into a puddle of tepid ridiculousness: Renegade is a classic case of great idea, terrible execution. A poorly conceived world that is blandly written with a nonexistent plot and laughable characterizations, Renegade is not a good book.

Let's start with the (nonexistent) plot. From the description and the first few chapters, you'd think the book will be a girl's journey to uncover the secrets of her past and come to terms with the conditioning and brainwashing she has had to endure for years. It isn't. Essentially, the plot of Renegade involves Evelyn and Gavin running around Elysium for the entire book, desperately looking for escape exits and dodging DNA-scanning guns (it's ok because apparently Elysium has no shortage of "shadows" in which Evelyn and Gavin can hide from guards and gun turrets). While fast-paced, the lack of actual meat and emotional integrity to the story is deeply disappointing. Instead of character development and realistic motivations for character decisions and action, we get slipshod worldbuilding (replete with ludicrous technology - more on that in a bit), people that are EVIL for EVIL's sake, some good old fashioned insta-love, and a dystopian society that inherently makes no sense.

In Elysium, Mother has declared that only blonde, blue eyed, light-skinned people fit her perfect race. The rationale behind the genetic tinkering and Aryan-esque standard for genetic perfection is never satisfactorily explained, however (which is actually incredibly troubling when you think about it). Nor is it explained HOW exactly Mother had her rise to power. She's been in power for 30 years, yet generationally this does not account for the older people in the society, and it does not jive with the "gene manipulation" that Mother has implemented for all of her Citizens (e.g. there are older people in this society that are middle aged or the same age as Mother - how, exactly do they fit in with her Perfect Blonde/Blue-Eyed World?). Unless Mother brainwashed every single person on a regular basis, unless every single person that was initially invited to Elysium back when it was a vacation resort was blonde, blue-eyed and white skinned (or there were a sufficient number of blonde blue-eyed white skinned people around that Mother could create a society with them after disposing of all the dark haired/skinned/other colored eyed people)?*

The character of Mother herself is comical, portrayed as both unstable (there's a scene where she melodramatically whispers "Why does everyone leave me?" to an old photograph of her dead mother before smashing all of her precious perfume bottles in an insane rage), and an Evil Mastermind Dictator that has unlimited resources and loyalty from her police force and guards.** It's incredibly hard to take Mother seriously as a character because of this skimpy motivation and characterization. Why does Mother do the things she does? Essentially, the reason comes down to this: Mother is Evil and Insane and harbors some unexplained prejudice against Surface Dwellers (and people with dark skin/dark hair/non-blue eyes). After Evelyn discovers Mother's Super Secret Diary, she concludes:
[Mother] grew to hate free will. She believed she had a pure vision of a perfect society - a perfect family - but the Citizens did not comply. She saw the city falling apart before her eyes. The harder she worked to bring her vision to the city, the more the people rebelled against her rules. She wanted them to be more docile so she worked with a scientist to experiment with gene manipulation.

And with that brilliant observation, Mother's character is explained away by Evelyn. Case closed! She grew to hate free will! That explains everything!

Beyond Mother's characterization, there is the utter ridiculousness of the science and technology in this world. I can accept that a suboceanic society has some fast and loose science at the helm, harvesting power from oceanic volcanoes and nanobots to prevent the bends - that's fine. I can swallow that. BUT, the ridiculousness of the computing systems/Elysium's technology and Evelyn's magical skills to crack said systems are laughable. Such gems include Evelyn's deductive skills:
Then I reach another section in code. I can't make out much, but the dates correspond with the journal from Sector One. Finally, I find a blue hyperlink within the code and I know I have to see where it leads.

And Evelyn's supreme (and utterly convenient) hacking skills:
The computer immediately asks for a password. At fist I panic [...] But still, I barely breathe while I fight the computer. My fingers fly over the holographic keyboard ad my arm aches like a bad tooth, but I don't dare stop. Even though I've never done this before, it's like the codes an sequences are all there in my mind just waiting for me to use them. Somehow I know how to peel down each wall of security as if it is an orange [...] with every step I take forward to break the code, the more concerned I am the computer will tell Mother what I'm doing. Finally, just as another drop of sweat dribbles down my back, the desktop appears on the holoscreen. I cracked the password.

And to cover her mad computer prodigy skills, there's this kicker:
"If Mother was able to see that you fixed Macie's coupling thing, wouldn't she have just removed us from the computer again?"

I give him a thin smile. "No. I made it 'read-only.'"

Seriously. No, SERIOUSLY.

But there's more! Beyond the ludicrous computer information technology, more importantly there are fantastically convenient devices and nuggets to bail Evelyn and Gavin out of trouble, and also to cause drama to make sure they don't make it to the ever-illusive exits too quickly. There are conveniently left behind and perfectly preserved notebooks detailing Mother's past (from both Mother's perspective, and that of her unfortunate father), and there are caches of weapons from decades earlier that were never removed or discovered in a secretly preserved older sector in Elysium that Evelyn and Gavin just happen to stumble upon.

There's the deus ex machina factor, too - the (incredibly beautiful, genetically perfect) Evelyn is able to: kick ass because of her Super Secret Past Training. She has secret undiscovered knowledge of weapons and computer systems; she was the youngest enforcer to ever excel at all the things in the world. In order to throw a wrench in this perfect person's path, there's a magical failsafe that kicks in "when she tries to help a Surface Dweller escape" (because...that's something you'd program for in your suboceanic society in which there are no Surface Dwellers?) - how does this work? WHEN does it work? Why does it only kick in at the eleventh hour? Needless to say, the gaps in logic here are insurmountable. And this is just ONE example of the crazy lack of internal logic in Renegade.***

Then, there's the issue of the inconsistent world - Evelyn doesn't know the meaning of slang like "hot" and touching is outlawed, but "sexy" is a normal word, stiletto leather boots are around? No livestock are present underwater because the space and resources they consume, but she knows about other animals from the surface? At the end of the book - when the equivalent of 28 Days Later genetically modified/experimental ZOMBIES show up (I shit you not) to throw yet another roadblock in our intrepid couple's attempts to escape, the following common popular song is being sung:
There's a poor wee little lamby...The bees and the butterflies picking at its eyes.

Praytell, HOW would this underwater society, whose every move and piece of literature and knowledge has been carefully sanitized, where everyone is a vegetarian because livestock takes up too much room, know what bees and butterflies and lambs are?

And then, of course, there's the problem of the insta-romance - Gavin and Evelyn know each other for, oh, 3-4 days, and Evelyn is willing to throw away everything she has worked for as Daughter of the People, and she can miraculously overcome the ingrained conditioning and brainwashing that has dominated her life since she was a child. Needless to say, things feel a little rushed, and the character development is stunningly unconvincing. Compounding the problem is Souders' writing, which ranges from blandly competent to intensely annoying - stomach flutters, breath catches, and phrases like "I lose myself along with my breath and my heart" abound.

There's also the problem that Evelyn and her friends are so very ridiculously STUPID and slow to put together the pieces (e.g. when friends start acting strangely and issuing weird canned responses - He's a Filthy SURFACE DWELLER! You are Silly Flighty Girl! - the thought of brainwashing never crosses her mind).

I could keep going on. I really could. But I think you get the picture. So far as Renegade is concerned, there's only one word that comes to mind to embody my dissatisfaction with the book. Just NO.

*It's also worth mentioning that in this dystopian society, people are all apparently heterosexual and expected to Couple with someone from the opposite gender - a problem pervasive in so many YA SF dystopias, rearing its ugly head here.

**Again, how did she win this loyalty? HOW does Elysium actually run, when it seems that Mother has killed all the scientists and she herself has grown up underwater for most of her life without - apparently - any education in the sciences?

***Another key question: the motivation to keep Evelyn alive, according to Mother, is that she needs Evelyn to procreate with another perfect genetic match to pass on her AMAZING genes - but in a society in which genetic tinkering is supposedly commonplace, WHY put up with the drama and hassle of keeping Evelyn around and alive? Why not, I don't know, artificially inseminate her eggs with ideal sperm in a laboratory environment?
Profile Image for Kendra.
2 reviews24 followers
November 23, 2012
As Daughter of the People, Evie Winters’ life is just about perfect. Chosen as a child for her perfect genetic profile, she was adopted and raised by Mother and is being groomed to one day take her place as leader of the underwater society Elysium. But not everything is as it seems, and something is wrong in Evie’s practically perfect life. She finds herself missing chunks of time, and experiences splitting headaches accompanied by flashes of forgotten memories. When Surface Dweller Gavin crashes into Evie’s garden one day, she is drawn to him, and they soon find themselves on the run from Mother and her terrifying Enforcers, searching for a way to return Gavin to land, and recover Evie’s clouded past.

Renegade takes an intriguing premise and unfortunately turns it stale. The protagonist Evie starts as a fascinating and troubled character. As the book is written in present tense, we are able to see the depth of Evie’s brainwashing, and the reasons behind her eerie repetitive thoughts. Unfortunately, once she starts putting the pieces of her situation together, the novel loses most of its suspense and originality to become a predictable action story.

The biggest loss is the potential for Evie’s character arc. She begins cowed, brainwashed, and manipulated into believing unquestioningly the lies of the society, but makes an almost immediate switch to kick-ass, confident heroine. For a character that has sustained years of emotional isolation, memory wipes, and encoding, she shows no sign of internal struggle, or damage. While there is a predictable back-story to help explain this, I found the ease and speed of her emotional transformation to be unrealistic, as well as a wasted opportunity for complex characterization. For instance, in Elyrian society there is an emphasis on modesty of behavior and dress, with severe punishments for infringements. Initially, Evie spends quite a bit of time making sure her skirt is covering her knees, and avoiding looking men in the eye. Yet a couple chapters later, she’s sashaying around in a negligee, and flirting with guards as a ploy to distract them.

Like Evie, her love interest Gavin also seems undercooked. He’s attractive, he has a Southern accent, and he occasionally challenges her assumptions. The best thing about his character, unfortunately rare, is that he is neither controlling nor rape-y. While there are instances where Evie thinks he might be jealous of the man Mother has chosen to Couple with her, he doesn’t say anything, or try to stop her from going through with it. Hallelujah! His concern for her is that she isn’t able to make her own decisions. Similarly, I appreciated that Evie had started to figure things out before Gavin, and that her life did not start when the guy showed up.

While the characters were generally bland, much of the world building actively did not make sense. This underwater society was built to escape the hate and violence of the surface world, and only the best (read: blond, blue-eyed, pale) were allowed to join. There are strict genetic tests to determine whether two people will be allowed to Couple, as well as moral laws about touching before being paired. However, for a society with these extreme dystopian elements, much of the book reads like it takes place in current day North America. Evie casually orders a chai soy latte after one of her Citizens is dragged away to be executed, and observes a sushi restaurant while walking downtown.

Gavin’s world, on the other hand, resembled the Old West. His town has a Sherriff, he hunts to trade for cloth and oil for lanterns, but later makes reference to watching horror movies. This limited supply of electricity would presumably have gone to something more useful than a movie theater, especially since it was mentioned in such an offhanded way, not as if it were some unusual and special event.

Similarly, there are no animals in Elysium, with all protein coming either from fish or plants, and Evie is shocked to find that Gavin hunts for sport. Yet later she casually refers to her ‘leather stiletto boots’. First of all, in this society that prizes public modestly, where is the market for this kind of footwear, and second of all where did the leather come from??

My final observation is the conspicuous use of the metric system in what is presumably a former American society (no specific reference to the US is made, except that they are just off the coast in the Atlantic of a North American country, in tropical waters). This would could have been an interesting aspect to address with the political climate changing during the surface wars, but it was never explained and just felt like a detail that was thrown in as ‘look, things are different!’.

The best word to describe this book is bland. And that’s saying something for a book that revolves around genetic perfection. The impetus behind selecting blond, blue-eyed, white people is never really explained. Clearly the person in charge is CRAZY and EVIL, but what was the motive behind this kind of selection? In a future where DNA cameras exist, what scientific evidence do they come up with for appearance to be genetically ‘superior’ than the others? Especially with actual science demonstrating that a diverse genetic profile makes for healthier individuals. The best that can be said is that Souders deals inoffensively with offensive topics, but it also means that nothing is really said or addressed by it other than it’s BAD.

The plot was rather familiar and predictable. It is far more action/chase oriented than I was expecting, and much of the plotting did not make sense. If Evie is being trained to take over as the head of the society, why are they constantly erasing her memory? Wouldn’t they be turning her to their side, not keeping her completely in the dark? How can she rule if she is basically non-functional, wouldn’t they just have tried again with someone else?

The inconsistencies in world building, and un-intriguing plotlines weigh down a book already all too familiar and weak. If you’re looking for a book that addresses mind manipulation, I suggest checking out A Long, Long Sleep and The Adoration of Jenna Fox.
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,126 reviews2,164 followers
November 3, 2012
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Wow. I honestly don’t know where to start when it comes to Renegade. While I was excited beyond measure to first read the synopsis of this novel, and even later when it’s beautiful (and very relevant) cover released, I found myself dreading the moment it would arrive for me in the mail as, with each passing day, I became convinced that Renegade would be “just another” dystopian novel with insta-love, predictability, and downright flat characters. Well, let me reassure you now: Renegade is not “just another” dystopian novel. Although its premises mirrors that of other utopias, only underwater, Renegade is the rare example of that typical dystopian plot done right and believe me, it is spectacular.

Elysium is an underwater utopia, ruled by a woman who calls herself Mother. Evie, the adopted daughter of Mother, has been hand-picked for her set of perfect genes and is the Daughter of the People, training to become the next Mother. Evie’s life is just about perfect, but her world is turned upside down with the arrival of Gavin, a Surface Dweller. Gavin, unknowingly having found an entrance into Elysium, is held as a prisoner in the underwater utopia Mother built away from the wars, famine, and pain that regales the lives of those living above. Upon interrogating Gavin though, Evie slowly begins to realize that not only is everything Mother said about the Surface false, so is everything else about her life: Evie has been brainwashed time and time again, conditioned only to remember what Mother wants her to remember. With this newfound knowledge, Evie sets out to help Gavin escape, but unknown to them all is that Mother still has plenty of deadly cards up her sleeve…

I really have to hand it to Souders – the woman knows how to write. Renegade opens up by introducing us to the extent of Evie’s brainwashing, even from page one. We can see that Evie thinks the thoughts she’s meant to think and whenever she’s just beginning to break free of that mold, her memories are wiped out. It’s all rather horrifying and the glimpses of the real Evie we get to witness in-between her conditioning only make us admire her resilience, strength, and loyalty. Thus, I really liked Evie; she was everything I look for in a protagonist and her story kept me flipping the pages, frantically needing to know what happened next.

Evie aside, I loved the world Souders had created. Not only is Elysium beautiful, but the world-building surrounding it is richly detailed and complete. Souders slowly peels back the layers surrounding this mysterious realm, from its creation, to the inner workings of its independence from the Surface, to the madness that drives its ruler, Mother, to brainwash the members of her land. Yet, what impressed me most of all was that Souders approached her utopia with a new kind of cunning. In the majority of dystopian novels, we are given a faulty utopian society and eventually, the citizens come to realize this and they rebel. In Renegade, however, Mother knows that her citizens will rebel – which is exactly why she brainwashes them and uses genetic manipulation to get her way. It’s all eerily haunting and remarkably cunning at the same time, making Mother a villain to fear.

Nevertheless, despite my enjoyment of this novel, I did have one slight qualm with Renegade: the romance. I’ve heard the romance in Renegade be called insta-love, but it isn’t. Gavin and Evie meet quite by accident and with time, they become friends. Evie is the only person Gavin can trust in the strange realm he’s found himself in and to Evie, Gavin is the one person who seems to truly know what’s happening and help her remember when her brain resorts back to its conditioning. From the moment these two escape though, their friendship turns into romance and I wasn’t really feeling it. I loved Evie as a character on her own and Gavin is a really nice guy, but I never felt as invested in their love story as I wanted to be, perhaps because Gavin could, at times, be extremely cheesy and almost unrealistically male. I have to admit though that I was overjoyed by the ending of this story, which made me realize that while Gavin and Evie’s romance didn’t do much for me for the duration of the action and fast-paced adventure that graced this tale, I ultimately still did really like them as a couple, even if it was only by the very end.

Frankly speaking, Renegade is a novel I might have skipped over if I hadn’t received an ARC, so I’m warning you all now: this is not a book you want to miss out on. Souders creates a deadly utopia, part dystopian and part psychological thriller, which is bound to keep your eyes glued to the page. Furthermore, her characters are well fleshed-out, her romance is realistic, her world-building is absolutely, and her villain deserves a hearty round of applause for her evil schemes. J.A. Souders is a debut author I will be eagerly watching out for in the future and I am already counting down the days until the sequel to Renegade releases. If the first novel was this could, can you imagine how mind-blowing the next installment will be? ;)

I was given a copy of this book from the publisher on behalf of DAC ARC Tours in exchange for a honest review. Thank You!

You can read this review and more on my blog, Ivy Book Bindings.
Profile Image for Giselle.
1,057 reviews908 followers
April 12, 2016
An Electronic Advanced Reader Copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review. Quotes have been pulled from an ARC and may be subject to change.

Evelyn lives a sheltered life. Living underneath the ocean in a city called Elysium her life is perfect with her gorgeous gorgeous garden and her equally blonde and stunning mate. Her Mother rules all, and she’s a queen that rules with an iron fist. When Evelyn’s memory flashes pop up in her mind’s eye, it causes her to question her perfect utopia. Even more so when a surface dweller somehow stumbles upon their city in the water and starts to tell her the truth of what happened back on land.

Evie didn’t exactly pick up on her trashed memories until it started happening more frequently which I found bored to read with. It kept happening and replaying again and I found it boring and tiresome. I felt no connection with Evie whatsoever, minus the fact that the plot kept me so entertained.

Mother reminds me of a woman Hitler. She’s downright tyrannical, leads her people with an iron fist, and is more crazy with the idea of perfection than you have ever seen in a character. Naturally she ends up being the most interesting character. As the story progresses, the history of how she came to be is revealed. And thank God there were answers. Nothing annoys me more than a book that leaves all the questions unanswered.

The romance was downright abysmal and I’m always a sucker for romantic relationships in novels. I even enjoy love triangles, but this one fell short. It had a lot of potential to be a great book but it was sorely lacking. Not to the writing style itself, but to their character personalities. It’s always such a sucker punch to the gut when you can’t connect with the characters you read. *sighs*

Evie does grow a lot during the story, so that was a big plus.

Incredibly fast paced in the beginning, a tad still in the middle, and huge climatic ending. Wonderfully done.

Cover & Design
Brilliant. Love the colours and the type suits the book well, but I felt the girl on the character to be too CG’d.

Incredibly woven with a twist or two here and there which made it fun to keep reading.

Lots of potential, and I wished I liked the characters more.
Profile Image for RD.
133 reviews
November 18, 2012
Ugh, any enjoyment I may have had for the book's (somewhat interesting) plot (but made clumsy by all too convenient coincidences), was COMPLETELY ruined by the fact that this book DIRECTLY perpetuates the pernicious LIE that the "perfect" human can only be white, blonde, and pale. There may or may not have been an indirect hinting of racial cleansing in Elysium (because don't expect me to believe the utter tripe that only white people are rich), but there is no denouncing of said racial cleansing (which just bloody perpetuates racism! Aside from the whole "white is the perfect default" thing, we get no explanation of the ~war on earth, devastating, cruel WW3-esque tragedy~. If not for the egregious racial agenda, I probably would have given this 2 stars (for the interesting premise because I've been waiting for a novel set under the sea), but not so much for the sloppy writing (and the really awkwardly misplaced sexual tension/advances)). How did I even FIND this book again?
Profile Image for Ari Reavis.
Author 17 books145 followers
February 10, 2017
I loved the level of action and mystery in this book. From the very beginning, you can tell all is not right in this underwater 'utopia', but you can't imagine the full extent of control and insanity that Mother has inside her little head. The main character, Evie, is made to forget things almost daily, so this was a little confusing in the beginning because it's told from her POV, so you're like 'what is going on?'. The romance was cute, but kind of builds out of thin air. Evie just feels these intense feelings for the surface dweller, Gavin, for no apparent reason. But they grow to trust and depend on one another and refuse to leave the other behind. The reason I gave it 3 stars was because the twist was just kind of blah for me. Instead of an 'oh my gosh!!' reaction, I was like 'umm oooooo.....kay.', but still an interesting read.
Profile Image for Arlene.
1,156 reviews641 followers
December 26, 2012
My life is just about perfect…

Creepiest words EVER for the rest of my life!! Holy oceans of freaky fish!! This book was really good and mentally taxing all in one nightmare! I was not expecting to be this drawn into a dystopic YA thriller! But, J.A. Souders grabbed my attention and toyed with my imagination to the point where I just allowed myself to be pulled by the intensity and momentum of this story. The high energy and constant action of Renegade continued to build as the novel progressed. By the end of the book… I was spent!!

In Renegade, we meet Evelyn Winters who is Elysium’s Daughter of the People. She’s being groomed to take over the rule of this underwater world that was built during the Surface War. Elysium is self-sustaining and the people of this community hold one thing sacred. The do not allow ‘surf dwellers’ to enter their perfect community made up of perfect humans. Surf dwellers are looked at as evil and destructive, so when Gavin finds his way from the surface into Evelyn’s garden and is targeted for immediate elimination, she comes to his aid in order to help him escape.

Each chapter commences with a chilling revelation of this underwater world that is controlled by “Mother.” She’s the supreme ruler of Elysium and her sole focus is to control the citizens through any means necessary, including destructive conditioning, cruel elimination of people and bio-manipulation. As Evelyn fights to help Gavin escape, she slowly uncovers the lengths to which “Mother” has gone to control Elysium.

This is a great story… no doubt. It was creative, creepy and captivating. Everything I typically require to rate a book as flawless. However, I did find a few elements that sort of caught my attention and made me consider a few things.

For example, I’m curious how readers will react to the characteristics that are used to describe the “perfect human” in Elysium. Some readers might be put off by the stereotypical “blond hair” and “blue eyes” as being the ideal human, so I wonder if that will create a negative reaction for some. However, I wasn’t put off too much by it because it’s this same group of people that are manipulated and conditioned to act against their will, so the balance between ideal and flawed is somewhat leveled in my opinion.

In addition, I wanted to know more about the world building, including the war that occurred among the “Surface Dwellers.” It didn’t feel post apocalyptic, but at the same time we weren’t given enough information to determine if the world at the surface was destroyed to any capacity, so it left me slightly curious if anything.

More importantly, it did take an ample amount of reality suspension to grasp the concept of an underwater world that’s completely self-sufficient. It was captivating, but rather light on the details as to how that was all developed.

As far as the characters go, I really liked Evelyn’s (Evie) instincts and constant battle to fight her conditioning. As the story progressed and her delicate hold on reality was challenged, I was left at the edge of my seat to see how and if she’d completely fall apart. It was eerie if anything to hear the mental battle going on in Evelyn’s head. Her Mother is one twisted lollipop double dipped in psycho! Talk about the epitome of evil! I feel Gavin was the perfect pair for Evelyn. Where some might feel their immediate attraction and loyalty to each other was rather abrupt, it’s important to consider their dire circumstance and complete reliance on one another to survive. Overall, I sort of bought into their connection for each other, so I was rooting for them the whole way through.

Lastly, I wish Souders would have positioned this book as a stand-alone rather than shelf it with the overwhelmingly large number of trilogies that at this point is simply overwhelming. I was taken on a roller coaster of a ride that left me satisfied with the conclusion. With a few loose ends, I can close this adventure with my own imagination. It was an extremely satisfying dystopic thriller that I’m sure YA readers will highly enjoy! Great book!
Profile Image for ☼ rf ☼.
201 reviews107 followers
December 26, 2016
"I don't want to hurt you."
My stomach twists. "Well that's too bad," I say. "It's going to hurt. There's nothing either of us can do about it, so I need you to just do it."

I'm not going to tell you what the thing is that's going to hurt, but trust me, she's pretty badass. I started off this book bored, not really expecting too much from the over the top sweet cover – despite having a pretty kickass blurb. Have I ever been so wrong? The first chapter, the first chapter met my terrible expectations, but please please read to the second. What the author does is so clever, and honestly quite impressed me (although I was reading this late at night). Just read the first two chapters before you make up your mind, because I guarantee this book will mess you up.

Theres this whole idea that looks can be deceiving, even carried out with the cover that like I said earlier, looks super sweet. The actual book is terrifying, full of dead bodies and even deader minds. If you take some time to think about it, the whole premise is seriously disturbing, even more so than places like Panem (the hunger games) in my opinion. Okay, maybe that wasn't a good example because it's become so mainstream, thus losing a lot of the horror. Um, maybe think gone girl? Evie's mother is worse than that.

Despite all of the chilling experiments and other going ons, Souders still manages to make the characters realistic.
"I can see up your dress, okay? It's distracting."

I do admit, that this kind of dialogue isn't something I actively look for in books, but let's be real here. I know all the other books go on and on about perfect guys with perfect manners and even more perfect bodies, but they're teenagers, so that's probably the most unrealistic part of the book (this applies to the girls as well btw. especially those 'special snowflakes'). I thought this realism kind of added to the horror of it all? It made us remember they're 16, alone and terrified.

There were a couple of things that bugged me, the ending got a bit confusing and almost changed genres for a little bit? Also, there was barely any diversity (I know that most of the people are meant to look the same, but what about the surface dweller? At least make him a little more different... Anyway, I spent the whole book imagining the Evie having dark skin and black hair. Sorry not sorry). But overall this book was an amazing surprise, 4.5/5 would recommend.
Profile Image for Jason.
797 reviews46 followers
November 13, 2012
I was expecting a kickass twisted version of The Little Mermaid based on the quite cool-sounding concept and the excerpt of the beginning. I got…another in a long line of 2012's meh standard YA dystopias. I guess the plot and prose are okay, if pedestrian, except for sporadic gross gems like this: “It’s sexy and scary at the same time.” The characterization is very flat and one-dimensional, with the most disappointing character being villain Mother who sounds like a teenage girl, throwing out lines like “You know. The basics.” It reminds me of Lisa Simpson trying to fit in with the other kids by saying, “like, you know, whatever.”

The heroine is your typical bland but supposedly “badass” Chosen One Mary Sue, who falls in insta-love with a bland guy who she’s just Not Supposed to Be With. Guess what Gavin Hunter enjoys doing in his spare time? Though to be fair, initially she’s a dazed bland girl and he’s incredibly annoying, so I guess they get better. She really is “selfish, flighty, and foolish” the way Mother says she is, but there are worse YA heroines.

The world-building is very poor. Maybe it’s because the dialogue sounds like it could come from any YA book, and Gavin references “creepy horror movies” and baseball in such a way that it sounds like he lives in 2012 despite some war that apparently ruined most of America so that the few cities left are gated and guarded. I’m guessing it’s down to Souders being lazy. And I’m not sure why the book is in present tense; Souders isn’t nearly a good enough writer to pull it off, and it serves no apparent purpose.

Other things: Vegetarianism is evil is a random message the book sends. Some questions are touched upon but then ignored, I suppose to entice the reader to read the sequel. Everyone is blonde and blue-eyed in Elysium; how unsubtle to announce an Evil City.
Profile Image for Lauren.
3,345 reviews122 followers
May 2, 2016
What did I think of the first couple chapters? Hello Little Mermaid, where is King Triton. That is exactly the impression I got, I even went back to Goodreads to read the synopsis again just to make sure this was not an alternative version of the Disney fairy tale. Once you get past the first couple chapters though it is nothing like what I was expecting. This is an amazing action packed story with twists and turns at every angle. This is definitely not the typical dystopian type of novel; it was a unique and intriguing story.

Evelyn was resilient against all odds; think of a Katniss character in Hunger Games. Her ‘Mother’ was trying to create the perfect world in Elysium and used any means necessary to ensure her world was how she wanted it to be. Despite this fact Evelyn maintained a strong will and pure heart to overcome manipulation and make her own choices about right and wrong. She was constantly thinking of ways to get beyond the many changing obstacles that faced her and thought of only protecting the ones that she loved.

Gavin was a great hero, using his own instincts to guide him through and make the right decisions about whether or not to trust Evelyn. He was good on his word and a protector at heart. I loved him throughout the book and he grabbed my heart right away.

Overall, the author created a fascinating world that characters had to live in. The time frame was not exactly clear so the story is able to fit in any future time. The plot gives off a great lesson of right and wrong and standing for what you believe in and not just going with the flow.

Note: I received this book from Netgalley.

Also on http://lrjohnson13.blogspot.com/2012/...

Also Read In:
November 8-10, 2012
Profile Image for Soumi.
Author 1 book378 followers
November 8, 2013
Renegade means someone who rebels against her cause, and I believe that's exactly happened in this book, what a perfect name.

Sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters was raised and trained to be Daughter of People, to rule over the underwater utopia known as Elysium. her life was close to perfect, or at least that's what she believed. When she met a surface dweller named Gavin, and helped him escape prison, she realized everything she believed is was nothing but a mere lie and result of her memory alternation.
Together they tried to escape Elysium, but would they succeed to escape the iron fist of the women whom she called Mother, who is nothing but a control freak monstrous women.

Underwater Utopia

I fell in love with the book, and the world building. I was amazed to experience the underwater utopia, the brilliant creation of the author. It was vivid and well planned. The underwater world seriously sucked me in. I mean, seriously that evil women who claimed herself as Mother of People, really scared me. She proceeded to destroy everything and everyone who was against her. She wanted to control Elysium in her own terms which was nothing but domination.

Brainwashing and Surface Dweller

I have always valued character's growth with progress book, and I love when a character discovers her true potential. That's another reason, I loved Renegade so much.
In the beginning, Evelyn was just a fragile girl, more like a mechanical being or rather an empty puppet of her fake mother. She kept repeating lines such as My life is just about perfect or It's nice to have someone to talk to, and that strongly implied something was wrong with her, and her behavior also worried Gavin. Together they discover the truth behind her strange persona. I loved her strength and courage and curiosities, qualities that must require for a strong protagonist.
Gavin was just adorable, a good male lead or rather a great support to Evelyn's character. I don't have much to say about him, as in most part of the book Evelyn overshadowed Gavin.

All Well That Ends Well

Holy Mother of Elysium.......this book was breathtaking. I finished it in one one sitting. The book conjured a desire to go on, even after the ending, I couldn't stop myself from thinking about the book.
I really have a high expectation for the upcoming squall, and it better quenches my thirst.

Profile Image for Colleen Houck.
Author 39 books8,965 followers
August 5, 2015
I loved Elysium, the underwater hotel that's the main setting for the book. I really want to go to an underwater hotel someday. The enforcers were totally creeptastic. Lots of conditioning layers kept it very interesting.
Profile Image for Tina ♥ Bookaholic.
795 reviews111 followers
September 11, 2012
English Review:
First of all – the cover is absolutely beautiful and it partially also shows greatly the contents of this underwater town. I’ve been totally glad when I’ve got the book and also after the first shock, I’ve liked it really much. Why a shock? The first pages were written very easy, the statements and thoughts of the central figure Evelin, or briefly called Evie, were childish and very irritating, because they sounded like rehearsed texts and they’ve also confused me, to be honest. I already thought ‚oh no’ – what is this for a weird person and the book probably won’t be right for me. Moreover I had the feeling to be stucked in the movie ‘Groundhog Day’ and I was already expecting the worst.

But there I have judged a little too rash, because Evie has entirely changed and transformed and then her ‚true-self’ appeared and there is also a reason for her first weird behavior and thinking, which got explained and solved throughout the story.

Of course at this point you ask yourself what has happened to start this abrupt change, in a society which lives completely isolated and self-sufficiently in a built world below in the sea – in the so-called ‘Elysium’. The people of Elysium fled from the war, which has ruled some decades before on the surface, to live in this refuge and come to peace. Of course they are ready to do everything for this peace and for the protection of their town in the deep ocean, some more than others. Particularly ‚mother’ – the leader in Elysium – has prescribed her life for this town and for the backup of the future. Evie is her adopted daughter and therefore she is trained in all to become the next leader in the Elysium.

But her destiny changes, after a surface dweller succeeds in breaking into Elysium. He gets arrested by the guards and now Evie should try to receive special answers from him. How did he find them? How did he get in? Whether there are even more, which will follow? etc. But Gavin – this is his name – doesn’t let himself get into this questioning so easily and involves Evie in a questions–answers-play and with that he not only lures her slowly from her reserve and win her for himself – but also the readers and above all me :)

I also liked Evie, because she’s a figure which can also sort things out and stands up for herself and for other people or important values. I found that great – no matter which consequences she may gather from it. But Gavin, Gavin, was simply great! Slowly I’ve fallen in love with him together with Evie more and more, also although he had bright hair and I have pictured him at first dark-haired. He is the typical warrior, with a gentle side and a bright mind. He only could have had quietly some more rough edges, but I think, we will see them in the next part.

Otherwise, according to other characters in the book, it was quite thin. Primarily it was about these two figures, or also about ‘mother’, the remaining ones were just minor characters and thus they also appear neutral in the action.

There we would be at the story of the book, which has increased greatly, with a slow entrance – to describe the situation in Elysium – with growing tension, which tapers almost at the end to the final highlight. Sometimes it was a little bit nerve-wracking for me and particularly the second part – at the end – it was also a little fierce. So the also appears blood – a lot of blood – dangerously, also terrible scenes for the head cinema and though here it hasn’t disturbed me, I even found it super-duper. But I think that the recommended age for the book is too young with 13-17 years, and I think it should be raised to 15+.

I have liked the end very well and I was glad about how it has gone out. For me it was a ‘true end’ and if you ask me, this book also wouldn’t need a second part, but could also stand alone. It even would be refreshing to read once again an independent stand-alone book in the fantasy/ YA book genre. But of course a few threads and questions stay open and point to another, second part and I’m curious on the further ideas, Souders still has to offer here.
For more Info: http://martinabookaholic.wordpress.co...

Deutsche Rezension:
Zu allererst – das Cover ist zwar total schön und es gibt auch teilweise den Inhalt dieser Unterwasserstadt wieder – ABER alle Protagonisten in diesem Buch sind BLOND – und nicht wie hier gezeigt schwarzhaarig. Bitte daran denken, ich habe mich nämlich darüber etwas geärgert während dem Lesen.

Aber nun weiter zum Buch – Ich habe mich total gefreut, als ich es bekommen habe und auch nach dem zweiten Schock, hat es mir richtig gut gefallen. Warum noch einmal Schock? Die ersten Seiten waren sehr einfach gehalten, die Aussagen und Gedanken der Hauptfigur Evelin, oder kurz Evie genannt, waren kindlich und sehr irritierend, da sie wie einstudierte Texte wirkten und sie haben mich auch ehrlich gesagt verwirrt. Ich dachte schon, ‚oh nein’ – was ist das für eine schräge Person und das Buch wird wohl nichts für mich sein. Außerdem hatte ich das Gefühl in dem Film ‚Und täglich grüsst das Murmeltier’ festzustecken und ich war schon auf das schlimmste eingestellt. Aber da habe ich etwas zu vorschnell geurteilt, denn Evie hat sich von Grund auf geändert und verwandelt und ihr ‚wahres Ich’ kam später zum Vorschein und es gibt auch einen Grund für ihr anfängliches bizarres Verhalten und Denken, was im Verlauf der Geschichte erklärt und gelöst wird.

Natürlich fragt man sich an dieser Stelle, was passiert ist um diese Veränderung auszulösen, in einer Gesellschaft, die völlig abgeschieden und autark in einer erbauten Welt unten im Meer lebt – im sogenannten Elysium. Die Menschen von Elysium sind vom Krieg, der einige Jahrzehnte zuvor an der Oberfläche geherrscht hat, in dieses Refugium gekommen um ein Frieden zu leben. Natürlich sind sie bereit für diesen Frieden und für den Erhalt ihrer Stadt im tiefen Ozean alles zu tun, manche mehr als andere. Besonders ‚Mutter’ – die Führerin/ Herrscherin im Elysium – hat ihr Leben verschrieben für diese Stadt und für die Sicherstellung der Zukunft. Evie ist ihre Adoptivtochter und die somit wird sie in allem ausgebildet, um die nächste Herrscherin im Elysium zu werden.

Aber ihr Schicksal verändert sich, nachdem es einem Oberflächenbewohner gelingt in Elysium einzubrechen. Er wird von den Wachen festgenommen und Evie soll nun versuchen gewisse Antworten von ihm zu erhalten. Wie er hierher gefunden hat? Wie er rein gekommen ist? Ob es noch mehr gibt? usw. usf. Aber Gavin – so ist sein Name – lässt sich nicht so einfach auf diese Verhör ein und verwickelt Evie in ein Fragen – Antworten Spiel und somit kann er nicht nur Evie langsam aus der Reserve locken und für sich gewinnen – sondern auch die Leser und vor allem mich :)

Ich mochte ja auch Evie, da sie eine Figur ist, die auch anpacken kann und sich einsetzt für Leute und Werte, die ihr wichtig sind. Das fand ich toll – egal welche Konsequenzen sie daraus bezieht. Aber Gavin, Gavin, war einfach klasse! Ich habe mich gemeinsam mit Evie langsam immer mehr in ihn verliebt, auch obwohl er helle Haare hatte und ich ihn mir zu Beginn dunkelhaarig vorgestellt habe. Er ist der typische Krieger, mit sanfter Seite und hellen Verstand. Er hätte ruhig ein paar mehr Ecken und Kanten haben können, aber ich denke, das werden wir dann noch im nächsten Teil sehen.
Ansonsten war es Charakter-mäßig ziemlich dünn im Buch. Hauptsächlich ging es um diese zwei Figuren, oder auch um Mutter, die restlichen waren Nebenfiguren und so farblos erscheinen sie auch in der Handlung.

Wo wir bei der Geschichte wären, die sich gut gesteigert hat, mit einem langsamen Einstieg, um die Situation in Elysium zu schildern, mit anwachsender Spannung, die sich fast zum Ende hin zu einem Höhepunkt zuspitzt. Manchmal war es etwas nervenaufreibend für mich und besonders der zweite Teil, zum Ende hin, war dann doch schon etwas heftig. Also es kommt auch Blut vor – viel Blut – gefährlich, auch grausige Szenen für das Kopfkino und hier hat es mich zwar nicht gestört, fand es sogar ganz toll. Aber ich denke, dass das empfohlene Alter von 13-17 zu jung ist, und es auf 15 angehoben werden sollte.

Das Ende hat mir sehr gut gefallen und ich war froh, wie es ausgegangen ist. Für mich war es ein richtiger Abschluss und wenn es nach mir ginge, bräuchte das Buch auch keinen weiteren Teil, sondern könnte auch so alleine stehen. Wäre auch einmal ganz erfrischend ein eigenständiges Fantasie-/ Jugendbuch zu lesen.
Aber natürlich bleiben ein paar Fäden und Fragen offen und weisen auf einen weiteren, zweiten Teil hin, wobei ich gespannt bin auf die weiteren Ideen, die Souders hier noch zu bieten hat.
Für mehr Infos: http://martinabookaholic.wordpress.co...
Profile Image for Zuleeza.
404 reviews259 followers
November 14, 2012
Hey, you! Yes, you there. I am talking to you. You may deny it but I can tell that you need something.

These: links to buy Renegade either from Book Depository / Kindle / Amazon.


Yes, guys! Renegade is THAT good. Did I anticipate it? A bit. It has a very gorgeous cover but I thought this is just another irrelevant 'girl with a pretty dress' cover. Heh. I was wrong. That cover is completely relevant to the story.

I didn't add Renegade to my TBR list until I saw Giselle and Keertana reviews. My expectation wasn't that high either because it's a dystopian book. And you do realize how hard it is to write a great, unique dystopian book these days, right? Tettttt!!! I was wrong again. J.A Sounders did the impossible; she wrote a great, unique dystopian book.

I was wrong.

I was wrong. I was wrong. I was wrong.

Fuhhh!!! Renegade is truly a spectacular little gem. I seriously can't hide my fangirlism. I was convinced to read it purely based on words of mouth and I hope this trend continues.

By all means, this book isn't perfect. I wouldn't go as far as saying Renegade is as good and as ground-breaking as The Hunger Games but it came pretty damn close. In fact, the best part of reading Renegade was to be swept away by Evelyn's journey for freedom and self-discovery. And by reading it, I can tell that not only the characters grow, the author showed a remarkable growth herself. J.A Souders made an exponential leap on her writing skill, world building, character development all within 369 pages of Renegade. And truthfully, I am scared plus excited to see what she can do next for its subsequent sequels. I believe they will be HUGE!

Renegade started a little shaky. Just at a few small parts of the story, the writing gets a bit stiff. I was a bit annoyed when Gavin kept gawking and drifting off at the initial stage of their escape. It's a bit unrealistic considering it was his life that was on the line. And for the first quarter of the book, I tried hard to stay content with a goody-two-shoes heroine. I had to keep telling myself, 'it's okay not to have a tough, kickass heroine for a dystopian book'.

Tettttt! I was wrong again.

You will not believe how drastic and how quick the story unfolds right under your nose (literally). Renegade was again, literally unputdownable! There was never a dull moment. And whenever I started to jot down something that was impractical or unrealistic, I had to cross that out because the author always came out with the answer or the explanation afterwards. Renegade gets darker towards the end and I like it! By the end of it, all I can say was 'as if this book was written for me'. It offers everything I ever wanted in a YA book. A heady mix of memory loss, mistaken identity, genetic manipulations and a genocidal dictator!

Again, by all means, I do not think that Renegade is perfect. But here's the thing; whenever the history, politics, or technology details of Elysium was mentioned, I knew I had to take a moment to connect everything up to that point to see if it's logical but it was impossible because I couldn't turn the pages fast enough! So, probably if I re-read it, I might find a flaw or two. As for now, I can convincingly say that Renegade may own the top spot of my best 2012 reads, just slightly above The Assassin's Curse and Slammed.

I think J.A Souders is very brave to tackle the subject of memory loss. It's easy to succumb to paradoxes when it comes to memory loss. When you read Renegade, don't worry if you end up as confused as I was and wonder why Evelyn can remember certain things and not the other things. J.A Souders has answers for that, so don't worry.

The romance developed just a bit too quick for my liking. Only a bit. After all, at the end, Evelyn and Gavin went through a lot together anyway. So, yes, at the end, it is totally justifiable.

That bi*ch! I'm really uncomfortable with cussing but I really hate Mother with a fiery rage. She is sadistic, cunning and 100% psychotic. I appreciate that little back-story of Mother. It really convinced me that she is indeed 100% psychotic.

To sum it up, Renegade came along as an early birthday present for me. I finished it yesterday and today is my birthday (yay!) Wouldn't it be perfect if someone would actually give Renegade hardback as my birthday present.

Yes J.A Souders, you heard him. I need MOAR!!!

Five brilliant stars!

An ARC was provided to me by Macmillan-Tor/Forge in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jenni Arndt.
438 reviews331 followers
December 20, 2012
You can read all of my reviews at Alluring Reads.

Actual rating is 2.5.

I’m so torn about my feelings about Renegade. Before its release I read reviews from people who had read ARC’s of it and they were all glowing. People loved how bloody it was and how twisted the books bad guy, Mother, was. I went into this with super high expectations, I had an opening in my review schedule and thought it was finally time to sit down and soak up the awesomeness of this book. So sit down with it I did, and wait for awesomeness I did. Did that awesomeness come? Yes, but in the last 70 pages or so. And this leads me to want to talk about expectations.

I always try my hardest to stay away from reviews of books that I know I want to read eventually. I don’t want my opinion to be clouded by what I have read about the novel and I’ve come to realize that I also don’t ever want to go into a book with high expectations. I had expected some over the top bloody fun and a sick and twisted, sinister woman who calls herself Mother. I think I had glorified how epically twisted this tale would be because of what I had read about it. I honestly was wondering throughout if I was reading the same book as the people who wrote those glowing reviews.

The story revolves around Evelyn, who was adopted by Mother and deemed the Daughter of the People. She is being trained to take over for mother once she can’t rule anymore and she is also expected to couple at 16 and start popping out heirs so Mother can ensure the world of Elysium will remain under their family’s rule. I have to say that Elysium was a fascinating place, the view that is described when they look out the glass walls and see the marine life going about their business was just gorgeous. I also loved the idea of Evelyn’s garden, when I pictured it in my head it was breathtaking. While the scenery was stunning I longed for more in depth world building as far as the DNA tracking goes. The people of Elysium are all described as blonde haired and blue eyed, needless to say it seems only white people are chosen to live within the confines of the glass walls. Never are we told what makes the perfect genetic code in mother’s eyes. At one point they run a surface dwellers (someone who still lives on land, not under water) DNA through their scientific DNA readers and he is said to have the perfect genetic make up to produce children in this society, but why? I wanted to know WHAT made a person suitable for breeding, and not just their hair and eye color (his eyes weren’t even blue, they were grey.)

Now onto the grey eyed weirdo of the story. Gavin is a boy who lives on land and finds his way into Elysium via a tunnel that he finds in a cave. He is quickly captured and thrown into prison where he becomes one of Evelyn’s many tasks. She is to find out how he got into Elysium. Of course there has to be a romance, so once Evie starts questioning him she finds that surface dwellers are not the evil beings Mother has made them out to be. I wasn’t a big fan of neither Evie nor Gavin so I didn’t give a hoot about their romance. Maybe I didn’t like Evie because she was constantly being affected by her conditioning (brain wiping) and we never got know who she actually was. She was just all over the map in this and it seemed like every 50 pages she turned into someone else (which was always attributed to the conditioning.) I tired of hearing about what had been done to her about half way through and just wanted to get to know her. Gavin was pretty blah, he fell in love with Evie pretty fast even when that definitely was NOT a good idea (can’t say why because it would be a spoiler.)

The story mostly revolves around Evie helping Gavin escape Mother’s evil clutches and the twisted world of Elysium. I didn’t really find mother to be as intense as I had expected (once again high expectations suck people!) I ended up finding her pretty hoity toity and boring to be honest. Which sucks, a lot. I really need to be careful moving forward about reading glowing reviews of books that I am going to be reading myself. Would I have liked this one more if I didn’t have those expectations? I’m not sure and I guess I will never know.
Profile Image for Bonnie.
1,372 reviews920 followers
February 9, 2017
A copy of Renegade was provided to me by Tor Teen/Netgalley for review purposes.

'We are all Mother's children. It is a privilege to show her our ultimate obedience to her laws.'

Evelyn Winters is the Daughter of the People in the underwater world of Elysium. She is a flawless specimen with ideal genes perfectly suited to create flawless children. Mother has worked hard to solidify Evelyn’s perfection and the perfection of all citizens in Elysium. Mother will do anything and everything to make sure this remains so. All is not as it appears in Elysium. Look carefully, beyond the perfection.... and you'll see the malevolence hidden closely beneath the surface.

'Greed has poisoned men's souls. Surface Dwellers have destroyed what was once beautiful and turned it into a ghostly illusion of what they call peace. But down here, we have real peace. There will be no fear, or sickness, hunger, hate, or greed. We have created our Utopia. And it is magnificent.'

Evelyn is told from an early age that her people escaped to Elysium to hide from the evil Surface Dwellers that war with one another but when a Surface Dweller manages to breach Elysium Evelyn can’t help but be intrigued by him. His name is Gavin and with his help Evelyn realizes that the very world she lives in is a complete lie.

An underwater utopia? How. Awesome. I loved the descriptions and details of how everything worked and how people managed to not only survive but to truly thrive and be completely self-sufficient under the sea. I would have loved for it to be explained more in detail in the beginning rather than a conversation between Evelyn and Gavin when he’d ask a question here and there. I believe an introduction in the beginning on the underwater society would have been better.

Very intriguing from the very first page, it’s quite obvious that something is wrong with Evie and it all has to do with Mother. The introduction of Gavin had to be done in order to set in motion the entire story, but I didn’t buy how incredibly easy it was for her to understand and accept that she was being brainwashed. You'd think that for someone that was brainwashed for over almost her entire life wouldn't just begin having doubts just because someone (that she doesn't even know) randomly suggests it once. I think if there was more time spent on the overall character building that I wouldn’t have a problem with Evie trusting Gavin immediately or their instant bond which while it wasn’t quite insta-love veered a bit too close for my liking.

’…I shiver at the sounds surrounding me: Gavin’s gasping breaths. The thunder of my heartbeat. The ripping of flesh. And, making it all worse, the man’s rasping voice as he sings.’

The action is intense and ongoing and it never seems to let up throughout the extent of the book. Towards the end though, the story takes an extremely gruesome turn. Mother was a truly evil villain and one that conducted some particularly shocking experiments in order to secure her perfect society. A textbook villain is one that is willing to do whatever is required to get what she wants, and Mother was definitely prepared to do that. You don’t realize till then end bits just how far she had gone with her experiments and what the end result was.

When I began this story I was under the impression that it was a standalone novel but there were far too many questions that were left unanswered for there not to be a follow-up. I will definitely be reading the follow-up, I’m quite excited to find out how everything is explained and to see where the author takes the story. Despite the few issues I had and the lower rating this was still a highly enjoyable, edge-of-your-seat kind of read that fans of dystopian and sci-fi genres will enjoy.

2.5 stars overall
Profile Image for Beth  (YA Books Central).
415 reviews115 followers
Want to read
February 4, 2013
I went into Renegade not really quite sure of what it was about...I read some others reviews and could tell that it was definitely Dystopian so of course I had to read it.

Let me first say that the cover is COMPLETELY gorgeous and is a perfect portrayal of what I had imagined for Evie. I love the soft blue colors and the fact that she is holding the rose and looks so innocent...PERFECT COVER...

The first couple of chapters were a little hard for me to wrap my head around..and only because Evelyn seemed like a robot. Everything seemed to "goody-goody" to be realistic. Once I continued reading I realized that this was the entire purpose of the story. WOW...I seriously could not put this book down...
From the first few chapters I was hooked. The whole "sunny bright everything is perfect" concept in the first chapter got me. I knew that it meant something badddd was going to happen and I dived into the book to find out what..I found myself turning pages late into the night..

The whole world of Elysium is breathtakingly fascinating...The whole under water-new world concept immediately grabbed me. I couldn't wait to find out how this was possible, how they survived this long, and the story explains it all.

Evelyn, also known as Evie, starts the story out describing her perfect world and life. She is so sweet and innocent and then almost immediately the story is thrown into turmoil and pain. It completely shocked me. I mean wow...

Then comes the other main character, Gavin. Ah, Gavin....He is ruggedly handsome and a Surface Dweller. He has broken in to their secret world and this is unacceptable. As in all good stories it is good vs evil and as far as Evie knows..Gavin is evil..He is the abomination known as Surface Dwellers and must be stopped. Little do they know there is a bigger "Evil" to come...

"Mother", as she is known to the her people, places Evie in charge of Gavin's interrogation. She hopes to discover how he reached their underwater world and how he got in. Of course, she has ulterior motives...

AS soon as Evie and Gavin meet you can immediately tell it is a romance written in the stars. I loved the way they grew to each other and the way they affected each other. The moments they had were mesmerizing.

This book has so many twists and turns that I am afraid I may give away to much...It was just so awesome and I loved it. I loved how creepy "Mother" is and how she ended up......
HA! Nope sorry..Not giving that one away! You will have to read for yourself! I cannot wait to read the sequel... I have no idea where J.A. Sounders might take the story next but I cant wait to find out!!
Profile Image for Ezmirelda.
134 reviews266 followers
December 24, 2012
Guys, this book blew my mind away...seriously
From the beautiful utopian underwater setting of Elysium, to the deliciously sweet romance, the got-to-love-them characters, and the heart-pounding escape—what’s not to love about RENEGADE? It is rare that I find a book that is able to keep me so entertained and invested in the story. Guys, seriously, don’t let the cover fool you—Renegade is not just a gorgeous cover. It has a beautiful, action-packed, kick-butt storyline to match.

Utopias, claustrophobia, and brainwashing, oh my!
Reading Renegade gave me my first real case of readers-claustrophobia. While Evelyn didn’t seem to mind her underwater utopian home of Elysium I constantly kept getting the chills thinking what life would be like if I never got to see real sunlight again. The setting and world-building is what did it for this book. The technology, the way the society works, and the explanation of how the heck a society of people can survive underwater was pretty darn fascinating. I loved Evelyn’s character, especially toward the end as she began to get back some of her old memories and she became this awesome kick-butt heroine as opposed to the fragile meek brain-washed girl we meet in the first few chapters of the book.

Romance, and my overall thoughts on the book...
Words cannot express how adorably sweet Gavin and Evelyn’s relationship is. Seriously, I awwed! for like half the novel. Although it may look it at first I didn’t feel like there was any insta-love. It genuinely felt like Evie and Gavin grew to like each other gradually, and for the right reasons. Not just, hey I think you’re hot. I think a great deal of Evie’s initial attraction to Gavin was brought on with her fascination with everything to do with the surface, and because she liked learning about the surface so much that sparked a lot of their conversations in the beginning.

In a nut shell, Renegade is a tantalizing debut novel worthy of re-reads. I seriously can’t wait to read future books in the series!

Confusions with Renegade:
What happened to Evelyn’s “father” toward the end? He all of a sudden just disappeared in the middle of the book. His only purpose seems to be giving Evie the necklace which unlocks a few of her memories, but after that he practically vanishes. He didn’t seem like he was brainwashed like the others, or that he was particularly approving of Mother’s way of ruling Elysium. I kind of expected him to have a much larger role in the book than he did.
Profile Image for Rayne.
862 reviews287 followers
January 12, 2013
Score: 2.5 stars

Review originally posted at http://www.mycutebookshelf.com/2013/0...

And yet another greatly-reviewed book that I couldn't love, or, as it is the case with this one, even tolerate. Dystopias lately have turned into a formula, and it repeats itself novel after novel. I don't think I was wrong to think Renegade would be different, and in some aspects it was, but, when it came down to it, this novel suffered from some of the major flaws that most dystopias suffer these days.

The whole concept of the underwater Utopia had me from the start. As a fan of Bioshock, my mind made the immediate connection and through the first chapters, as the whole world unfurled, I was mystified. Sounders did a pretty good job in the physical construction of this world. Where it failed was in the backstory, but I'll get to that. Those first chapters kicked the novel off with a bang. It was incredibly engaging at first, and it managed the concept of the dystopia extremely well and it also began to establish a very formidable and convincing antagonist. But then it all went downhill after that.

This novel is not short on action, suspense and intrigue, and it is also nicely written, but there were some very important key factors that ruined it. First off, the romance. It was of the insta-love variety, - no, of the really hardcore insta-love variety. Two days and she was in love. Two conversations and she was risking her life for him. I had a really hard time connecting that Evie to the one from the very first chapters. The entire narration changed inexplicably when Gavin came in, and the entire plot lost its coherence. A lot started to surface after that, a lot more than the plot could handle at such speed. Genetic modification, selective memory erasing, secret trainings; it all came too fast for the character of Evie to accommodate it into believable character development and the whole character fell shortly after that. Her behavior was inconsistent, her development erratic, and the romance was unbelievable, chemistry-less and even slightly irritating.

My biggest problems with this novel are the lack of world-building and the convenient plot-devices strewn all over the story to make the convoluted plot progress when it couldn't on its own. The world-building in this story is nothing short of terrible and incredibly inconsistent. We get a short explanation for this underwater Utopia's existent, but the novel barely touches on that again or on the history of the world outside that lead to this, and when it does, it is not convincing in the slightest. Furthermore, Evie's entire world was full of unexplainable technological inconsistencies that I had a hard time reading about. I'm supposed to believe that they are so technologically advanced that they can manage genetic modification, selective memory erasing, even freaking healing wands and yet there's flat screen TVs and normal looking computers about? That there are security devices that identify DNA and yet they have an interrogation room that has just one camera without sound recording? The list goes on and on, with inconsistencies that stretch into language comprehension (Evie somehow couldn't understand the use in slang of some words, like hot and suck, but she knew others like sexy), and cultural (supposedly the world rejected religion, but there were several mentions of it).

Moreover, the convenient plot-devices were equally frustrating. Every time the plot hit a stop, one of two things would happen: Evie would either listen to another person's conversation which would be conveniently focused on the information that she needed right that moment, or she would find a journal that would be extremely specific in its entries with the information that would lead Evie to realize the purpose of one area in the dome, the role of one person or what was happening with her. These happen several times in the novel and it got cheesier and more and more cliched each time.

This novel was a very good idea with a mediocre execution. It started okay, but it progressed forcefully using terrible and cliched devices while carrying a heavier load that it could bear to hold. Bad romance, underdeveloped characters, terrible world-building and frustrating inconsistencies, Renegade is a novel that had the potential to be great, but, in the end, simply failed to live up to it.

After Reading Impressions:

There's no nice way to say this, so I'll just go out and say that I am extremely disappointed with this book.

Renegade has one of the most interesting concepts I've read about in a while. An underwater dystopia? Genetic modification, advanced technology and kickass women? It simply sounds amazing. And then the reviews! Most of the reviewers I trust have loved this one. Obviously, I went into it expecting my mind to be blown with the sheer awesomeness that this book was supposed to be.

I won't say it is terrible because that would be a lie. It is not badly-written or terribly-plotted or even boring. It packs a lot of tension and action, as a matter of fact, and the the novel managed the concept of a dystopia extremely well.

But then there's the inconsistencies with the world-building and plot-points, the irregularities with the technology (DNA detection cameras, but no sound in the cameras in the interrogation room / selective memory erasing and magic healing wands but common-day computers and flat screens TVs / incompetent guards that fail to actually guard anything and are easily fooled by a sixteen-year old girl) and lapses in knowledge in the characters (she knows what sexy means but not hot), the super insta-love (two days, two conversations and she decided she wanted to couple with him), the predictability and the convenient plot points. Needed to understand what was going on? Evie just pressed her ear to a door, listened to a conversation and got all the information she needed, which happens several times throughout the novel. And then there's the cheesiest and most cliched of the convenient bridges between plots: the tell-all and extremely specific journals that everybody seems to be leaving lying around for others to find with detailed entries with every type of back-story knowledge or explanation the protagonist might need.

I am extremely pissed with this book because I was honestly expecting this to be amazing, and the worst part is that it had the tools to be just that.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,230 reviews1,653 followers
November 7, 2012
I suspect I know what you're thinking. You're looking at that cover and imagining that this will be yet another cheesy romance disguised as dystopia, with a world built solely to keep the hero and heroine from being able to get it on. Well, let me tell you right now, this is not the case here. The cover is beautiful and has a girl in a dress and just doesn't look like the cover for a true, creepy dystopia. You know what, though? This cover fits the book perfectly AND Renegade also happens to be a true dystopia, one that is freaky and creepy as all get out, and, oh my, did I love it.

You're still skeptical, right? I mean, the first sentence is "My life is just about perfect." That's a little barf-inducing. That was my thought too, so I don't begrudge you this suspicion. I worried at first because it did seem like what I expected: a selfish, naive heroine and a cheesy setup for a romance. I mentally prepared myself for the imminent headdesk that didn't come. I promise you that there's a reason that Evelyn acts the way she does in the beginning, and that reason is dark and shiver-inducing.

What's funny is that for the first couple of chapters this book is straight-up The Little Mermaid. I could think of nothing else at first, and it still makes me laugh. Evelyn likes to spend a lot of time in her garden, the privileged favorite of Mother, the leader of the people. Evelyn, though mostly a good daughter, is a little forgetful, a little disobedient. More obviously, Evelyn gets into trouble for collecting a coin from the surface, since, you know, they live in a community under the sea and aren't supposed to be interested in those on the surface. Mother's wrath reminded me heavily of Triton's when Ariel was all obsessed with the Eric statue and saved the real Eric and everything (though his anger pales in comparison to Mother's when the surface dweller Gavin appears, though that's a topic for later). Anyway, this concludes my discussion of The Little Mermaid.

Things quickly take a turn for the much less Disney, however. Enjoy the lava-shiny happy bits while they last, because it's pretty much going to be a mindfuck for the rest of the journey. As I've mentioned Mother is one scary bitch. She reminds me a bit of Eldest from Across the Universe for those of you who are familiar with that: willing to do anything to make sure her utopia remains just that. She has some serious control issues. Perhaps, though, you need a concrete example of just how horrifyingly awful and terrifying she is to believe my assessment. Well, I'll do you one better: I'll give you two examples.

1. Mother has created her idea of the perfect society in her underwater paradise. Elysium is entirely self-sufficient, can produce all of its food, technology and materials right there, with no need to go to the violent, war-torn surface. They are safe and happy. Every single person in Elysium is also blonde-haired and blue-eyed. Yeah, if taking a page out of Hitler's book doesn't have you fetching a straitjacket to stuff Mother into, then I think you probably need to go get some more education.

2. Even more horrific, since Mother could perhaps have just collected good Aryan stock to bring down with her and not created her society of people with what she believes to be perfect genetics through genocide, are the Enforcers. Every society needs police, of course, because accidents happen and people aren't perfect. Mother's Enforcers, though, are all women, taken from their parents at the age of three to be molded into the perfect killing machines.

Yeah, so this one definitely is not in the camp of fluffy books packaged as dystopias as an effort to make more money. It IS a dystopia. Hurrah! I really appreciated Souders' world building and writing, which worked really well with the story she's telling. I also thought the snippets of the society's governing tenants and documents were used to great effect at the beginning of each chapter.

The only weak point for me at all was in the characterization. Of course, this is largely intentional, I think, though I cannot explain precisely why without spoiling something I want to leave completely new to you. I think she gets the narration exactly right for what she's doing, but Evelyn is a little hard to feel with as a result. I will say thought that Evelyn will probably surprise you. She grows and changes constantly as the book progresses; like the ocean, she has hidden depths. Because we get everything through Evelyn's lens, however, the other characters do not coalesce into anything tangible.

More troubling is the instalove. Yes, I know, I hear you crying. While not ideal, I do think the instalove here is less obnoxious than most because of the circumstances they're in and because the society does not exist solely to keep them apart. The romance is there, but it's not the central struggle of the book.

Renegade is jam-packed with action and will totally mess with your head. There are a lot of dissapointing dystopias out there, as happens in any absurdly popular genre, but this one rocks and is definitely worth a read for dystopian fans. I am so excited to find out what will happen in the next book, because the story could go so many places right now and that's just fabulous!
Profile Image for shre ♡.
355 reviews622 followers
October 23, 2012

*A copy was provided for review purposes*

I highly enjoyed reading Renegade, by J.A. Souders. In my opinion, every single aspect of this book deserves high praise, from the detailed cover art to the depth (no pun intended) of the author’s prose. She has created a captivating and unique underwater society in which the residents all have entertaining personalities and are a huge part of why this novel is so wonderful. In a way, this book could represent dystopia, but excluding the whole ‘end-of-the-world’ theme. It has different districts with a matriarch called “Mother”, who right of the bat to me seemed…off. She rules over an underwater settlement called Elysium, in which there is power, surprisingly, and the mer-people actually do inhale oxygen, once again, surprisingly. She’s everything you don’t expect a mother to be. Complete opposite, totally batty, I can’t say enough times how much this woman is crazy. But she’s not only crazy, she’s creep-tastic, and exactly as described in the synopsis, a monster.

I really liked Evelyn as a main character, although my relationship with her character had a rocky start. I’ve learned to not judge a character by the first few chapters, ok, maybe the first few sentences, a while back, but I still end up judging them anyway. And this is why I didn’t like Evie in the very beginning. She came across as a very annoying and dull character, and I was instantly turned off with her perspective. But thank god for character growth because she gives Sharpay from High School Musical (XD) a run for her money with the sudden twists of personality. Evie grows from wimp to kick-ass, and dull to pretty damn interesting. I mean, come on, she faces a mother who tells her to dress up in a baby doll black dress and go hunt for boys, I think that crossed the line of attention-grabbing a few sentences ago. As she discovers more about her past and who she truly is, the book takes a turn for the better with even better dialogue and more of an engaging plotline. I really hope that there’s an ever bigger growth in her with the second book, but as of now, Evie has been the perfect main character for Renegade.

The romance in this book was very sweet and natural. It wasn’t rushed, but it wasn’t torturingly slow either, it moved at a perfect pace. Gavin has a very down-to-earth, funny, and charming personality, which I felt was very refreshing from the regular tough bad-boys I read about. His interactions with Evie and their adventures together exploring the whole of Elysium and its different societies were entertaining to read about and very engaging. Gavin was definitely a great add to this book, and I will be looking forward to reading more about him and his relationship with Evie in the next book.

Overall, a great novel with jaw-dropping plot-twists, a unique utopian society, and a romance that’s sure to warm your heart.
Profile Image for A Canadian Girl.
471 reviews107 followers
November 3, 2012
If I could sum up J.A. Souders’ Renegade with one word, I’d use a word like messy because the frenetic pacing of the plot made it hard to follow what was going on. It also caused the development of the world, characters and romance to be sacrificed.

My first problem with Renegade was that the worldbuilding was sketchy at best. As a reader, I knew that Mother, her dad and their friends moved to Elysium to avoid war on land. That’s all I got though, really. I couldn’t fully comprehend the way that Elysium was set up – a map might have been nice since Gavin (who I still feel like I barely know!) and Evie were running all over the place – nor did I know what was going on on the Surface because Gavin doesn’t really speak much about the subject. I assumed at first that the people of Gavin’s community were living almost a pre-Industrial lifestyle since Gavin talks people getting married at a young age, trading and going hunting; but I later had to amend my thoughts when Gavin mentions video games.

I also couldn’t make myself care about the characters. Initially, the tone of the novel was great because although things seemed perfect for Evie, there was this underlying feeling of menace. However, over time, Evie’s repeated episodes of forgetfulness became more annoying than chilling to me, and made it hard to connect with her. When characters themselves don’t know who they are, how can you get to know them properly?! Evie’s forgetfulness also seemed as if it was just a convenient way for the author to get her characters to uncover another secret.

Lastly, I hated the romance because I thought it lacked chemistry and involved insta-love. From reading Evie’s perspective, it felt as if the reason she fell for Gavin was because he looked so different from the people of Elysium – meaning not only was he a Surface Dweller – something she’s fascinated by – but also because he had gray eyes instead of the Aryan qualities sought and cultured by Mother. As well, I was a bit weirded out by the fact that Evie could be so casual about Coupling with a guy she didn’t know anything about!

With its flimsy worldbuilding and weak characterization and romance, this dystopian, unfortunately, wasn’t for me!
Profile Image for P.J..
Author 28 books372 followers
September 25, 2012
From the second I saw this in the Tor Teen Book Buzz at ALA Midwinter, I wanted to read it. Not only did it sound fantastic, it looked fantastic (see (1) below). So color me excited when I got my hands on a sweet ARC to read!

Here are five things I have to say about RENEGADE:

1) I adore this cover! It's seriously one of the most intriguing (and beautiful) covers I've seen in ages. From the colors to the hair, dress, and body language of the girl, it completely drew me in and made me want to read it.

2) There is repetition in the novel done for effect, and I loved it. Seriously, it brought a smile to my face as I turned the page and started the new chapter. I enjoyed looking for the small changes and seeing where the story diverged. And it totally helped me understand and sympathize with the main character, Evelyn.

3) So I'm guessing this is the start of a trilogy, and lots of times, in the first book of a trilogy, we're left wondering at the end, "how did things ever get like this?" It made me so happy that RENEGADE explained the world and how it had come to be in its current dystopic state. Sure, that may change or we may not have the whole truth, but for now, I have my explanation and am happy.

4) I have to mention the romance, because I really loved seeing how the main characters were pushed/pulled together. I enjoyed watching their trust of each other grow alongside their feelings. Neither character is perfect. Both have some serious issues. But together, they are fabulous!

5) It's like MATCHED meets SERENITY, under the ocean. RENEGADE is packed with adventure, betrayal, deception, and romance. Highly recommended for girls (and boys who enjoy this type of book), seventh grade and up, fans of dystopian fiction!

Source of book: From publisher by request

Profile Image for Schokigirl.
350 reviews38 followers
August 16, 2015
German Review:

In "Renegade - Tiefenrausch" von J.A. Souders geht es um Evie, die die Tochter der Regentin der Unterwasserstadt Elysium ist. Sie führt scheinbar ein perfektes Leben. Doch als der Oberflächenbewohner Gavin auftaucht scheint ihre Fassade zu bröckeln. Sie hat immer öfter Gedächtnislücken & komische Flashbacks. Und ihre Mutter, die Regentin, erscheint ihr auch immer agressiver & radikaler. Ist Elysium doch nicht das Paradise für das Evie es gehalten hat?

Der Schreibstil ist flüssig & angenehm. Die Geschichte wird aus Evies Sicht erzählt.
Die Charaktere wirken auf den ersten Blick klar durchschaubar. Doch je weiter die Geschichte voran schreitet, umso vielschichtiger erscheinen sie. Sie wirken sympathisch & sehr gut nachvollziehbar. Die unsympathischen Charaktere lernt man schnell zu hassen. Sie sind aber nicht unrational, was die Geschichte spannender macht.
Die Handlung war actionreich & spannend. Sogar blutig wurde es gegen Ende. Sie konnte mich voll mitnehmen. Der Plot & die Ideen haben mir gefallen. Es gab Wendungen & immer neue Informationen, die man nicht erwartet hat bzw sehnsüchtig drauf gewartet hat. Ich hab es unheimlich gern gelesen.

Fazit: 5 Sterne BUCHTIPP! Kann ich allen empfehlen, die eine spannende Dystopie suchen.
Profile Image for Liz.
Author 11 books261 followers
August 15, 2011
From the first chapter, this book had me sucked in. Evie's world is unique, spooky, and foreboding from word one. And going on a tour of this strange world with Evie as your guide is a journey you'll never forget. She's a character full of surprises--she even surprises herself.

Featuring a villain the likes of which I haven't seen since Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, RENEGADE will have you turning pages long after you should have gone to bed.

I'd love to tell you more, but I don't want to spoil any of the crazy surprises waiting for you in this book. Just trust me--put it on your to-read list and make sure you've got a nice clear schedule before you pick it up. Oh, and you might want to practice holding your breath. Elysium is a long way down.
Profile Image for Anna.
105 reviews
October 22, 2022
Normally I try to be nice and rate a book three stars when I didn't really like it. Usually there's a part of a book that I didn't like, but I know someone else will. It simply isn't to my taste. And while I'm sure other people will love this book, it went beyond not being my taste. It just wasn't good.

I feel so mean writing that. I know authors put so much work and time and love into a novel, and it makes me feel so bad to say that it wasn't good. However, I also feel obligated to explain my rating.

Normally with a lot of three-star reviews, I can list a couple things I liked about the book, and the rest of the review is just what I didn't like. This is two stars because I couldn't think of a single thing I liked about this book.

I didn't hate it. I've read worse, honestly. Those I usually end up DNF'ing. But the only reason I finished the last 75 pages in one sitting was because I so desperately wanted to return to A Clash of Kings. (to be fair, reading Game of Thrones has probably subconsciously raised my expectations for everything I read. I definitely wasn't comparing the two, but it isn't fair to read this book alongside that one).

The pacing was all over the place. It somehow felt really slow and really fast at the same time. There was a lot of running around to different places, and those transitions were really quick -- but not the fast-paced kind of quick, just sort of rushed. Then during conversations or other scenes, the pacing would really drag. I think part of this was random info-dumping about the world, or the main character just going off on a tangent, but sometimes it just felt off for no reason.

The writing started off very choppy. This was annoying, but clearly intentional (the main character spends the first third of the book being brainwashed), so I stuck with it, hoping it would get better. It did... kind of. The choppiness faded away, but that's when the plot and the pacing really started to bother me. Overall, it was bland, nothing special.

The world was built so flimsily. Normally I have something positive to say, like 'it was nice, I just wish it was expanded on more'. Not this time. It just felt so shallow, so half-done. It's either strangely mundane, or filled with clichés like holograms and nanotech/accelerated healing. There was nothing original, and I couldn't bring myself to care about the world at all. The most annoying part is that the concept is actually really cool: a hidden dystopian city under water? Amazing, I'm intrigued. It just fell so very flat.

The plot was the worst part. This plays into the pacing. I got halfway through the book and so many things had already happened that I couldn't believe I was only halfway through. Each plot point only seemed to last a few pages -- no joke. There was a very brief moment where I thought we'd get a bit of fake dating, and then that was thrown out after, like, three pages.

There was also so much back and forth. The city is split into sectors with the 'palace wing' off of sector two, or something (I didn't memorize the map). The amount of times the characters, once they're finally fleeing, return to the palace wing or somewhere similar, is absolutely ridiculous. I feel like the author got halfway through the book, realized she didn't know where she wanted to go next, and just filled it with random obstacles to add pages. There's more I could complain about on this subject, but I don't want this to become a rant.

The characters were... interesting. They were pretty flat, but when I first started the book I thought there might be a chance I could become attached. The concept, especially towards the last half, held a lot of potential. However between the writing and the messy storyline, the relationship really suffered.

I also just don't understand why they were attracted to each other? Like I know Evelyn was a little 'special snowflake', but why Gavin? (also he's a hunter and his last name is Hunter and they never mention it. Like, if that's intentional, please bring it up. If it's not, proofread your book). Also why in the world was Gavin in love with Evelyn? She was so annoying the entire book, and then when he was complaining that she didn't trust him (he had a good point), she was like, "*deep breath of self reflection* okay, I trust you." And that was it. They professed their love, had their obligatory fade-to-black YA not-a-sex-scene, and lived happily ever after.

The One Good-ish Thing
I had a feeling there would be a bit of a bittersweet ending, so I'm glad the author actually followed through on that. It was way too rushed, and I didn't care enough about the characters or the story to really feel like it impacted me, but it definitely felt right.

Maybe my dystopian phase is finally over. I have to admit, I didn't even realize this was dystopian when I read the inside cover. I thought, for some reason, that it was a weird original fairytale of some sort. It wasn't, but that didn't really matter.

About a third of the way through, I wondered what year this book was published. Everything about it was screaming it's-2012-and-YA-is-booming. Guess what? It was written in 2012. I know a lot of dystopian books were being published in that timeframe as well. I think this was just another addition to the trend. It wasn't terrible, but it certainly wasn't good, and nothing too special. I don't think I'll remember anything about this book a year from now, just that I'd read it.
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