The Cage came out in May, I had an ARC since, like, January, and I only just read this now. Why, you ask? What's my problem, you ask? Well, what happened was that I kept putting this one off since I saw several not-so-great reviews of the book. Now, if I had looked closely I would have seen that there were a ton of good reviews, but I focused on the ones that claimed this book was a meh read and sometimes even worse, and I'll admit, they affected how I thought of the novel. Finally, a couple of days ago I was in the mood for this and I decided that I'd read it once and for all. Best. Decision. Ever. I finished the book in one sitting, and oh my gosh The Cage is one of the best things to have ever happened to me. After all, as author Lindsay Cummings says, "Megan Shepherd can do no wrong".
Based on my brief reading of the synopsis so long ago and the start of the story, I knew that this was a science fiction novel. For some reason, however, it totally escaped my notice that this was a book about aliens. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with aliens, but you must admit that when someone recommends you a book and they say it's about aliens, it doesn't exactly get you psyched out to read the book (I've tried this before when recommending Obsidian...didn't go so well). After that initial smack in the face though, boy was I happy to see those aliens - especially the one, Cassian. When I first saw him, I hated him. You may think this is normal, but it isn't in the least. Usually it's the main character who hates the guy on sight and I'm the one who loves him; this time it was flipped. I HATED the dude on principle, you know what I mean, and then Cora was all Oh my, what is this attraction I feel? Not cool. I totally got on board that ship a few pages after that - I have my reasons - and everything else that happened after that was amazing. Ridiculously amazing. If you believe you won't be caught up in the alien-human romance and that's why you haven't read this yet, I strongly urge you to think again. Secretive, mysterious, not-supposed-to-be-compassionate-but-is, hot alien dude? You want. Everything in this book is brilliant, and the relationship between Cassian and Cora is no different.
What surprised me most about this book is how different I felt about each character at the end of the novel when compared to how I felt in the beginning. Basically what happened is that the people I liked in the beginning, I disliked them by the end, and vice versa. There's definitely some crazy character development going on there. The main character Cora, I liked her from beginning to end, but how I felt about the other people she was trapped in the cage with altered drastically - it was actually a pleasant realization. No one likes predictable characters, and in Shepherd's latest book, they were anything but. Not only did each character have an utterly unique backstory and life back on Earth, but they were each interesting in their own way. At the same time, there was never a moment in the book where I was bored of seeing any of them; they all played an integral part in the story, whether or not they realized it.
Pretty much every aspect of The Cage surprised me, but nothing shocked me more than that EPIC plot twist at the end. I never would have suspected anything like it, and the twist rendered me speechless. That was cruel, Shepherd, that was cruel. I mean, as you near the end of the novel you guess at every single possible ending, and finally, the author does something you never even would have, could have considered possible. It's crazy, and yet it makes me love this novel even more. Thanks to that unexpected surprise I've been going mental wishing that book two would just fall into my hands right at this very moment. Sadly, it hasn't happened yet.
My favorite part of this book was probably that it made me question humanity while at the same time made me proud to be a part of it. There's a comment in the book that says that humans aren't meant to be behind bars - that we aren't animals. That got me thinking: what makes it okay for animals to be locked in cages? We say it's for their protection, and to keep them reproducing/save their species, but The Cage makes it abundantly clear that we humans as individuals wouldn't under any circumstances be okay with giving away our freedom and being forced to reproduce with others not of our choice simply to save humanity as a whole. So why should animals? Food for thought (because is there really a right answer to that?).
Never in a million years would I have expected to love this book as much as I did. Clearly I didn't put enough faith in Megan Shepherd. She is an amazing author with a resplendent mind, and I can't wait to read more of her works. Shepherd has quickly become one of my favorite Young Adult authors, and I hope that every one of you tries out or already has tried out a book of hers. There's just nothing else like them.
Book Synopsis: The Maze Runner meets Scott Westerfeld in this gripping new series about teens held captive in a human zoo by an otherworldly race. From Megan Shepherd, the acclaimed author of The Madman's Daughter trilogy.
When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn't know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn't alone.
Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora's past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren't from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.
As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage?
Source: Received a copy from the publisher for review.