You know how sometimes you have 1.7 million books on your TBR list but then someone comes along and recommends a book you’ve never heard of and you just drop everything and read it??
That happened to me with Proxy.
It’s no secret that I’ve been fangirling pretty hard over the Legend series (have I mentioned that one?? I can’t quite recall…) Anyway, the other day someone who loves Legend almost as much as I do (possibly more, I’m not sure, we can hash that out later or maybe we can share?) recommended this book to me and I didn’t even read the blurb I just bought the book and dove right on in head first.
And you know what….It was an excellent decision. Sometime you just have to trust your book buying gut. (and recommendations from people who are as obsessed as you). Proxy is a fantastic story and an exciting read. It broke my heart in all the right ways and made me think. (Thinking is such fun, yeah?.. dissecting the world through the medium of books is one of my favorite things…raindrops on roses are nice too).
Another thing I love is when an author takes a classic story or theme and reimagines it. (Robin McKinley is one of my all time favorite authors for exactly this reason her versions of classic fairy tales are AMAZING). Proxy it turns out is a dark and dynamic take on The Whipping Boy (which was already pretty dark). It has been a very long time since I read that book but I remember it stuck with me enough that it has a place on my bookshelf to this day (I have a whole separate bookshelf dedicated to my collection of childhood favorites and classics from picture books to Newberys and everything in between…Maybe I’ll highlight a few in a post someday.)
Anyway, Proxy is set in a futuristic, high-tech, post-apocalyptic, dystopian America (my favorite). Where the rich are insanely outrageously in control of the lives and assets of the entire society and the poor are so deeply in debt (often from the moment they are born) that many are forced to pay their “debt” as Proxies (or whipping boys) to the wealthy. While the idea of legalized torture as a means to teach lessons to snotty rich kids may seem absurd the vast disparity of wealth distribution and the overwhelming debt situation facing the average young american is not…
Maybe I sound a little pessimistic and paranoid and my liberal is showing for sure….But is it really that hard to imagine a time in the not so distant future where we would sell ourselves to companies in exchange for the latest technology or more importantly life saving medications and treatment? Perhaps that’s why I love these dystopian books so much. I love the what if’s and even more than that I love the stories of the people who fight the system and save the world. I like the darkness but I love the hope (maybe I’m not such a pessimist after all).
As much as I gravitate to these stories for the subject matter at the end of the day I don’t love a book unless I connect with the characters. The three main characters in Proxy are amazing. I love them. (From here on out things are a little spoilery, not much but a little soo…reader beware).
Knox was that guy you love to hate until you suddenly realize you actually love him. Exactly one second into this book I was thinking “Ugh, ew! I certainly hope this isn’t the main character.” (this may have had something to do with the seemingly vapid girl he was in the car with and the annoying text conversation they were having). But he was a main character and his story was arguably the most important.
Knox is the poor little rich boy you have zero sympathy for until you start to understand the deep dark emptiness this character carries around in his soul. Still, his internal suffering wouldn’t be enough to conquer his horrifying apathy if he didn’t have a pretty extraordinary character arch. Which he does. Whew!
Sydney (Syd) on the other hand is instantly likeable; strong and sympathetic he has the terrible misfortune of being Knox’s Proxy (Knox was basically a demon child and Syd has paid in blood sweat and tears for it…literally). Syd is also chapter 11 (gay) and that brings a really interesting dynamic to the story. I appreciate how the author treated Syd’s sexual orientation like it was just part of life, just who Syd is…it wasn’t a huge deal and the story did not revolve around it. That’s not to say the author doesn’t tackle some of the tough stuff… he just did it in a natural and understated way.
I felt for Syd, a lot. It was pretty darn impossible not to. His life story was tragic and it pulled at my heart strings in almost every chapter. Syd however. was made of stronger stuff than someone like me. He didn’t much see the point in self pity and so you the reader don’t either… And it makes you love him all the more.
One of the very best parts of this book was watching the brotherhood that forms between Knox and Syd develop. In my last review I confessed that sibling relationships are often the lifeblood of a good book for me and this one was no different. While Knox and Syd are not technically brothers eventually they begin to see each other that way and when they do the truth of it is undeniable. The protectiveness that Knox (and Marie) feel for Syd by the end of this story is right on par with that of any blood sibling.
Which brings me to Marie. Marie was fascinating because she was smart and sassy with a good head on her shoulders…. but she was a crusader and the author had interesting points to make about her stance. Marie’s character certainly spoke to those of us (coughMEcough) who have a tendency to hop right up on our soapboxes and spout wisdoms about issues we may not truly understand. (I maaaayyyy have done that in this very review) I think I have a lot to learn from Marie….
And then there was the ending…..Holy hell. I finished the book and just stared…stared at the last page for a good five minutes. I was all “NOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooo!” But on the other hand, the tiny sad voice in my heart who loves symmetry and appreciates the beauty of self sacrifice when it is truly necessary thought…. “yes. that was how it needed to be…there was no other way.” The love and growth that sacrifice demonstrated was just gorgeously moving…and of course heartbreaking.
So here’s the thing, I KNOW I’m a little obsessed with this genre right now…and I know a lot of people are super duper over it….But this was a great book and it deserves to be read and discussed!
What do you say?? Maybe you’ll give it a try and we can chat? I DO SO LOVE to chat! 🙂