Lit For Life Book Reviews: Perception by Lee Strauss

perception by lee strauss cover

Today’s title is Perception by Lee Strauss (and Elle Strauss, apparently, though her name isn’t on the cover?). It is the first book of The Perception Trilogy and was published as an ebook in December of 2013. I read this book in between 3 and 4 hours, and it sits at 313 pages.

Summary on Amazon:

“Seventeen year old Zoe Vanderveen is a GAP—a genetically altered person. She lives in the security of a walled city on prime water-front property along side other equally beautiful people with extended life spans.
Her brother Liam is missing.

Noah Brody is a natural who lives on the outside. He leads protests against the GAPs and detests the widening chasm they’ve created between those who have and those who don’t. He doesn’t like girls like Zoe and he has good reason not to like her specifically.

Zoe’s carefree life takes a traumatic turn. She’s in trouble and it turns out that Noah, the last guy on earth she should trust, is the only one who can help her.

PERCEPTION is a dystopian romance Young Adult novel that takes place in the not too distant future in a world changed by climate extremes, natural disasters and impending wars, and where scientific breakthroughs cause class divisions—both financially and philosophically. It explores the clash between faith and science and how differences can separate us as enemies or ally us together. And in some cases, even in the midst of betrayal and personal crisis, there’s room to fall in love.”

Acquisition: I read this title as a Kindle ebook, which I “purchased” for free. It was suggested to me by Bookbub in my daily deals email as a currently-free ebook in March of 2016, and is free as of now, as well (May, 2017). It is also available as a paperback and as an audiobook.

Spoilers May Exist Below!

Diversity: So-so. The GAPs (Genetically Altered Persons) in the book often are described similarly, but this is also made a point and an uncomfortable fact several times. Because these GAPs are genetically altered and specifically “designed” to be as attractive and aesthetically “perfect” as possible, they look fairly similar and are usually tall, beautiful, blond men and women.These characters are also very similar in their great wealth, intelligence, education, and beliefs. They are all wealthy and are of a distinctly higher social class than “naturals,” who are not even allowed to enter GAP cities (which have much better architecture, security, and energy efficiency) unless they work for a GAP family and are authorized to enter. However, the “naturals” who are described have more physical diversity.

These characters are also very similar in their great wealth, intelligence, education, and beliefs. They are all wealthy and are of a distinctly higher social class than “naturals,” who are not even allowed to enter GAP cities (which have much better architecture, security, and energy efficiency) unless they work for a GAP family and are authorized to enter.

The GAPs also all seem to be educated to the same level and hold the same morals/beliefs, which are fairly entwined. They all go to the university in Sol City (the GAP city in/connected to LA) and are expected to make contributions to science, which is basically what they have faith in instead of religion of any kind. Science is what gives them extremely long lives, immunity to almost all disease, and their social standing, and so it is also what they have faith in.

However, the “naturals” who are described have more physical diversity. Noah and his family are described as having darker “caramel-colored” skin. Dexter has red hair, and other unnamed characters in the “natural” city are described as being overweight, different skin tones, etc. Noah’s mother is extremely sick and Dexter is addicted to pharmaceuticals. However, I did not notice any differently-abled bodies, any non-hetero sexualities, or any non-cis individuals. 🙁

The “naturals” are also much more likely to have different moral and religious beliefs. Though they state that the vast majority of all churches have closed, it is also stated that religion may be alive and well in the family homes of the non-GAP communities. Noah’s father was a pastor (I don’t know if that was the exact word they used, but I think so? He led a church, anyway) who led the first protests against genetically altering people and their life spans, and Noah begins work to bring those protests back.

Originality & Plot: I thought that the overall ideas behind this novel were intriguing and seemed fairly original, though it reminded me of some other futuristic young adult books I have read in the past (see final review, below). The sci-fi kinds of technology ideas (city layouts, GAPs and disease immunity, energy efficiency, magnet grids, etc) were interesting ones and were well-laid-out and consistent throughout the book. It seemed very consistent and interesting that the GAP cities had much, much larger amounts of technology available and around. The whole “mystery” part of the plot is interesting  So, the dystopian and sci-fi parts of the plot were compelling.

The love story part of this book was not as compelling–beautiful girl falls in love with boy who is off-limits/is not “as good as” her/her family tells her she can’t be with–kinda yawn, isn’t it? However, thankfully their relationship does have some interesting points. Noah makes Zoe think about religion and moral choices. He makes her consider what a relationship with somebody who will live half as long as her means. But I really feel that the book could have gone on perfectly fine without the romance.

Editing Perspective: Sometimes, editing issues can be very distracting and seem to be much more common in these free, sometimes self-published book. However, I only noticed two missed errors in this entire book. Both were near the end and were simple little issues–single quotation marks where no speech was occurring. They did take me out of the story momentarily, but not enough to affect my experience.

Formatting, content, development of plot and characters, and pacing all seemed appropriate and well-done, and no issues with any of these things took me away from the story to figure out a why? or a what’s going on?. In the end, I was very happy and impressed with the book’s overall editing and level of polish.

Feminist Perspective: Zoe is a strong-willed young woman who finds ways to surreptitiously bypass authority when she feels it is necessary. I was glad to read her as an independent individual after a while, finally choosing to learn more about and spend time with those who do not have the extreme level of privilege that she was born with. When her grandfather alters her memory, though, she is highly dependent on her boyfriend Jackson and then on Noah, who “kidnaps” her to help her find her memories that she did not know that she had lost.

There are some problematic representations here, though. Pretty much all of the named and important characters are highly attractive, including the “natural” Noah–Zoe only decides that she can be attracted to him at all when she spends enough time staring at him to decide that he is good-looking despite his non-white, non-blond status and his single crooked tooth.

It is also frustrating and problematic to me that the book completely lacks disabled bodies of any kind, non-hetero relationships of any kind, and non-cis characters of any kind. I hope that these lackings can be addressed in some way in future books (is it a societal issue? are these individuals entirely unaccepted? have we simply not seen them because we spent much of this novel with Zoe in the GAP Sol City?) and that Zoe will reclaim her strength and independence, so that she doesn’t have to rely on Noah to “save” her.

Final Review: This book is well-written and intriguing. I felt that the pacing and action of the plot kept me very interested throughout. I will definitely be putting the second and third installments on my wishlist and be 100% ready and willing to read and review them, as well.  I do wish that the story had more diversity in it, but, in the end, it was not a bad book at all.

The futuristic style and altered human beings, as well as the way that the characters address these ideas, reminded me of The Uglies series by Scott Westerfield. The dystopian model and the ways in which science and education interact with society and government, as well as the whole idea of their running away from the society because of big secrets, reminds me a lot of The Barcode Tattoo books by Suzanne Weyn. If you liked these books, you will probably enjoy this one!



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