AMY CHRISTINE PARKER writes full-time from her home near Tampa, Florida, where she lives with her husband, their two daughters, and one ridiculously fat cat. Visit her at amychristineparker.com and follow her on Twitter @amychristinepar.
Upon starting this book, I was in a terrible reading slump. I kept picking books up and reading a few pages and them putting them back. But once I received this book in the mail I couldn't put it down.
Let me first just say that I truly wanted to slap Lyla. She was so timid and she just made me want to scream. She was afraid of everything and was actually OKAY with being that scared little girl that hid behind everyone. Luckily, that changed or I would have been ranting and raving throughout the entire book.
I love the fact that the book is centered around 9/11, hurricane Katrina and a few other natural and terrorist happenings. Pioneer uses these things to form his Brethren story and draws a ton of families into his little Community.
I have recently read a book similar to Gated and I liked it but I HATED the religious cult aspect. Gated does have the religious cult type aspect but once you get into the book you find out that the initial religious thing was wrong and something much more out-of-left-field is at hand.
Pioneer is creepy. He kind of reminds me of a pedophile, honestly. His belief in the Brethren and the fact that they are actually not about God was a very eye opening scene. This really just teaches you that you should never believe certain things will happen in a book. Everything can get turned around in the matter of one page.
I loved the fact that Lyla questioned her love for Will. She knew she loved him but she didn't LOVE, love him. She was questioning a lot of things and I am glad she wasn't the only one. Marie had some questions of her own but they weren't exactly like Lyla's. Marie was more worried about her brother and experiencing things outside the Community. Lyla was more worried about Pioneers ways and whether the world was really ending.
Mandrodage Meadows sounds like the perfect place to live. No bills, no cares in the world really. Well, yeah, except for the cult thing, obviously.
The parents in the book infuriated me. They let some random man come into their lives, spew some stuff about the world ending and they just believed him. Then they let this same man "punish" them and their children. Something has to be severely messed up in their brains to allow this to happen. I wonder if all the families were like Lyla's. Had they all gone through a tragedy that made their beliefs dwindle so much that they would put their lives in the hands of a looneytoon?
Cody's character was definitely Lyla's breaking point. He helped her realize that something about her life just wasn't right. He also put into question her feelings for Will and whether having an Intended as right. He was the perfect person to shake her world up.
The ending was very intense but it had to happen. The entire book was building up to something bad happening to the Community. I still can't believe HE survived though. Maybe Lyla was wrong about the Brethren. Maybe she was wrong about everything. I guess we will find out in the next book.
I would definitely suggest this book to anyone who likes more realistic dystopian/apocalyptic books. This book could actually happen. It probably already has somewhere in the world.
Overall, I gave the book 4/5 stars.
I would first like to say that if you enjoyed Gated or even found it a little boring then you should still at least try Astray. It gets sooo much better a lot more intense.
I really enjoyed the whole school aspect. In a way it actually made the "Meadow" kids worse because it just showed them how bad people really are. They were taken from a place where the fact that humans were horrible people was drilled into their heads on a daily basis and they were shoved into a school where the people really were horrible. I think the whole school thing really just enforced their beliefs even more and did more harm than good.
Lyla is so much different in Astray. She is brave and overcomes so many struggles. She has turned into a completely different girl but she still has her doubts. I don't think she will ever get over them but at least she has Cody to help her move along. I really like how everything about Lyla is laid bare. Her doubts, fears, insecurities and most of all her faith.
I really don't think Lyla could have gotten any luckier than when Cody came into her life. He tries to help her and he is always there for her and most people would just treat her like she is a freak. But Cody holds her hand, comforts her and doesn't care about the repercussions on his personal life.
Will got really obsessive and creepy during this book. He wasn't exactly mentally stable in Gated but at least he seemed like a semi-normal guy. Everyone got really obsessive and creepy, actually.
Astray just puts into perspective the the cult followers can be just as bad, if not worse, than the leader himself. In actuality, Astray is extremely more cult related than Gated was. There is chanting and stalking and threatening where in Gated there really wasn't much creepy stuff until the very end of the book.
Mr. Brown and Brian took things extremely too far and I think that just added to the creepy cult factor. People can be so easily manipulated and made to believe in anything and that scares me.
In the end I think the conclusion of this book was great. The bombing was TERRIBLE. But with how The Community was I was expecting something huge to happen. Will's family came to their sense's, I think. And best of all. Lyla stopped fearing Pioneer and he didn't win.
Overall, I gave the book 4.5/5 stars.
1) What is the hardest part about being an author?
For me the hardest part is always pushing through the moments when I doubt myself, my story, and my ability to write that story well. I used to think getting published would help with this, that it would somehow validate me in such a way that I could be more confident as a writer, but so far that hasn’t been the case! I am scared that I suck every time I start a new book, every time that book lands on my editor’s desk, and every time that book releases to the wider world.
2) What made you decide to write books like Gated & Astray so far after the 9/11 incident?
I was inspired more by the Mayan Apocalypse predicted to take place in 2012 than I was 9/11. For me 9/11 was just a potent way to show how someone could begin to doubt the world and it’s future, mainly because on that day anyone who was old enough to know what was happening did doubt. Everyone felt vulnerable and no one will ever forget that feeling. There are few events that strike such powerful feelings from people than 9/11 and I felt that it was the best way to get people to relate to the characters and their decision making.
3) Are any of your characters inspired by real life people?
Yes, Pioneer. He is a hybrid of every single cult leader I researched. There are aspects of Jim Jones, David Koresh, Charles Manson, Warren Jeffs, and Marshal Applewhite in his personality--but he’s the only one.The other characters I developed may have subtle similarities to people I know or researched, but if they do it was purely accidental.
4) Who is your favorite character from Gated or Astray?
Pioneer. I like writing a villain, what can I say. It’s fun! There’s an absence of any empathy and humanity there that makes him interesting and trying to make him appear empathetic while also hinting to the reader that he was anything but, was tricky. It kept me on my toes.
5) Which cover for Gated do you like better? The hardback or the paperback?
You know, when I saw the first cover I was ecstatic. I thought it conveyed the overall sense of unease and tension that Lyla felt as the story progressed. I actually have a framed poster of it hanging up in my house. The colors, the special feel of the jacket, all of it was so much more than I imagined. But then Random House decided to retool the packaging for the book to make the look and feel more contemporary and I have to say, I fell for the new cover pretty hard too. If I had to chose I’d go with the paperback. I think in the end it fits the book better, but I still say that I won the cover lottery because I haven’t been upset with any of my covers and I realize that not every author can say that. Have you seen the German cover? It’s awesome too!
6) Will there be a third book in the series?
No, ASTRAY is the end of Lyla’s story. In my head it was always the two books, so I’m excited about moving on and exploring new stories.So far most of my ideas run to stand alones. I tend to like to read that way too. Very rarely do I read an entire series start to finish. I get fidgety--with my writing it’s the same. My favorite part of the process is starting to research and plot something brand new.
7) Do you think the world is going to end?
Some day, yes. It’s logical that everything has a beginning and an end, but I don’t have any expectations for when that might be! And I’m not preparing in any way
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