Published September 7, 2010.
In a world not too far removed from our own, kids are being taken away to special workhouses if their families exceed the financial debt limit imposed by the government. Thirteen-year-old Matt briefly wonders if he might be next, but he quickly dismisses the thought. After all, his parents are responsible with their spending, right? But after Matt's family unexpectedly goes over their limit, Matt's whisked away to a workhouse where far more serious dangers exist than anyone on the outside realizes - dangers that could change his reality forever. (book back blurb)
See, for me, that blurb exerts far more tension than what the story did. Yeah, the threat is there but it's kind of cartoonish and the way it's told kind of waters down the tension that could be there.
To be fair, this is more of a middle grade novel than a young adult. Just the age of the MC and the style it was written in showcases that so I'm not a prime candidate to judge this one. But I think I can still make a few comments on it.
I loved the kids in this story. I just thought each one of them so individually unique, with their own quirks that stood out so vividly on the page that I felt they were right there next to me. Matt was so real and up until the end, even Honey Lady (a nickname Matt gave her that existed, for the most part, in his head) was exceptionally real. I think that was the strongest part of this book; the characters.
The world I could believe too. I'm not sure of the greater overall motive of the government to put spending caps on people or take their children away. It's really government spending and deregulation that ultimately screws over debt but that's beside the point. It felt real to me for personal reasons I won't go into. I kept being able to put myself in Matt's shoes and I found it horrifying. When you're that young you have such faith in your parents that they're doing right and when you find out they're not infallible, it hurts. In this world it just so happens the children that have to have that realization end up paying for it. Again, I don't really get the dynamics but I'll swallow it.
The parts leading up to the workhouse were really good, grinding in tension in the background through backstory and hint-dropping. I liked it. But I think it unhinged a little bit once the workhouse came into play. I liked THE BIG REVEAL towards the end but I think the context could have been a little better. I don't want to give anything away so I'll say that the threat isn't all that present in the way it's presented. Good for trickery but, to me anyway, bad for the ultimate execution of it.
The biggest thing that threw me, though, was that every adult seemed to be suffering from Idiot Adult Syndrome. Not as common in YA (I don't think, at least not in what I've read) but much more prevalent in MG where all of the adults end up being dopes for the sake of allowing the kids to rise to the top and solve the problem. I likened it to those really obnoxious live action shows on Disney or Nickelodeon where the parents are just caricatures of what parents really are. I absolutely facepalmed a few times with some of these adults, especially towards the end. All I'll say is, to save the plot, if you're a member of SWAT and need to rely on kids to connect the dots in front of your face for you, you need to lose your job for the safety of the greater public.
I was ultimately okay with the book until the end when every adult in the story turned into a raging moron. That just aggravated me. I understand that the kids need to be the ones to solve the problem in these books but it doesn't make them look any better to plop them in a pool full of idiots. Really, it was a good story. I enjoyed it. I didn't think it carried the amount of tension it would have liked to (especially by the way of the blurb) but it was enjoyable. Just beware of idiot adults. They run rampant in The Limit.
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