I read, and moderately enjoyed, Robin Wasserman's Skinned last year, about a girl who suffers a horrific car accident and wakes up to find her parents have downloaded her brain into a cybernetic body. It wasn't the best book of the year, but it was a fine example of YA dystopian lit. So when Crashed came up this year, I knew I had to read it - even if it wasn't at the top of my "to be read" stack.
After reading Crashed I actually had to go back and read Skinned and then re-read Crashed. For one, there were just enough details I didn't remember from the first book that weren't re-capped adequately in the sequel, so I was totally lost half the time. Secondly, I was trying to figure out why Lia just rubbed me the wrong way.
Crashed follows Lia after she ran away from home at the end of Skinned. She's now living with a small group of other Mechs and helps out in the group by helping to recruit new Mechs to their philosophy: since they clearly aren't human anymore, why cling to the trappings and limitations of their old human lives? The Mechs, led by Jude, live a hedonistic lifestyle: there are a few independently wealthy Mechs with enough credit that no one has to work, they don't go to school, since they don't feel emotions or physical sensations the way humans do they subject themselves to extreme activities just to feel again, and since they'll live forever they find monogamy to be monotonous.
In Skinned we saw the first inklings that there were groups of people who were adamantly opposed to the existence of the Mechs. In Crashed, those groups are back in full force and growing larger and more powerful every day, succeeding in placing new restrictions on the lives and activities of the Mechs. A confrontation is approaching between the two sides, and Lia finds herself conflicted: just how much is she willing to tow the party line? How far is she willing to go to defend the rights of Mechs?
One theme that was introduced in Skinned and is really brought to the forefront in Crashed is class, which brings me back to Thursday's post on class in YA lit. Before the download, Lia was definitely in the upper class of the dystopian society America has devolved into. She doesn't have to live in a city or a Corp town, and totally buys into the bullshit reasons that people live in those less-than-desirable places (people in cities are stupid and lazy; if they'd just work harder they'd be working decent jobs and out of those hell holes!). In Skinned we briefly see a city at night, and Lia's friend Auden often tries to open her eyes to the realities of their society. In Crashed we see more of the cities, as well as a corp town, and learn more of what life was like for Jude, Riley and Ani - three of the first Mechs, culled from "volunteers" in the city.
Jude especially seems to revel in telling Lia what a spoiled and clueless girl she is, since she has grown up sheltered outside of the cities. He and the others don't waste an opportunity to let Lia know that she doesn't "really" know how the world works and she's just naive and/or a stuck up rich bitch to think the way she does. And it is painfully obvious that Lia doesn't get what life is like in the cities, but on the other hand I felt the book was really cramming it down my throat, "poor people aren't poor because they want to be! The Man keeps people down!" We got the point the first dozen times; now do we really need to keep calling Lia stupid because she doesn't think something is fair (or right)? I commented over at Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia that I couldn't figure out if Lia irritated me because she's legitimately irritating, or if I was reacting to and sympathizing with the other characters' irritation. I still haven't figured out which it was - all I can pinpoint now is that these books get under my skin, but not in a good way.