Book Review: Possession by Elana Johnson

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Published: 7nd June 2011

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 416

Genre: Dystopian, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 14+

Rating: 3/10

Amazon/Goodreads

‘Vi knows the Rule: Girls don’t walk with boys, and they never even thinkabout kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn…and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi’s future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they’re set on convincing Vi to become one of them….starting by brainwashed Zenn. Vi can’t leave Zenn in the Thinkers’ hands, but she’s wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous: everything Zenn’s not. Vi can’t quite trust Jag and can’t quite resist him, but she also can’t give up on Zenn.

This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.’

Oh dear. Someone is going to have to tell me what the hell happened in this book, because I couldn’t follow any of it.

It’s not often I so badly rate a book, but I have to be honest, Possession was disjointed, incoherent, with unlikable, inconsistent characters and a rambling plot. And the synopsis sounded so promising.

One of the most important aspects in a dystopian to get right is the world building, and Possession’s was vague to say the least. A quick run down on what I did manage to grasp:

There’s the Goodlands and the Badlands where the Goodies and the Baddies live. The Baddies aren’t actually bad, they simply want to have the freedom to wear what they want, dye their hair any colour they like, live how they wish etc. The Goodies submit to authority and control, via brainwashing for the most part. The Goodlands are technologically advanced, have very strict rules such as no showing any skin, no boys or girls to have contact (I always wonder about this type of segregation – particularly in a dystopian future. Not everyone is heterosexual, just saying) and they use mind control to maintain order. It’s a fairly basic set up and nothing particularly original jumps out so far.

Vi, our heroine, (I use this term loosely – as she does spend an awful lot of time unconscious or sulking), is a ‘Good girl’ who doesn’t like to do as she’s told. Arrested within the opening chapter for walking in the park with her boyfriend, she ends up in a cell with Jag, a ‘Bad boy’… and you probably have a good idea of where things go from here. Fed up with her attitude (in some ways I’m not sure I really blame them), Vi is banished to the Badlands. I’m not entirely clear on why this is a sensible punishment, sending a loose cannon to where, presumably, the rebellious sit around plotting, or even why Vi is so upset about it. For all her talk and hatred of the system, when push comes to shove, she doesn’t actually want to leave.. Both Vi and Jag are sentenced to be tagged, so they take off and run… immediately to the Badlands.

There are far too many inconsistencies to list here, but I did wonder why it was so easy for Vi to just stroll across the border?  Why was there a tech range about a stone’s throw away from Jag’s treehouse? How is it he’s never noticed it before? He’s meant to be a rebel, so surely he should be more aware of these things?

Characters appear out of nowhere, situations arise randomly, the story jumps around with no warning and nothing is ever explained. So many different Capitalised names are thrown at you, I couldn’t follow them all. There’s Rangers, Mind Rangers, Thinkers, Goodie Raiders, Mechs, the Associations of Directors, Free Thinkers, Insiders, Special Forces, Greenies…

The language is childish but then overly convoluted to describe the simplest of things, such as Vi blacking out. I’ve read, and loved, books where information is withheld from the reader for a reason. Where the plot and sentence structure is beautifully or intelligently crafted in a way that carries the story and you know eventually everything will piece together and make perfect sense. Possession isn’t one of those books. It’s simply sloppy and I’m have to say it, poorly written. It’s told from Vi’s (aggravating) point of view but every so often we would suddenly be in Jag’s head, with no indication there had been a switch of narration. I actually read another review where they weren’t sure if there wasn’t three different narrators! Someone here is missing something and I’m not so sure it’s the readers.

Possession is also, unfortunately, one of the worst examples of the dreaded ‘insta-love’. Violet is deeply in love with Zenn, her best friend/boyfriend of five years, but within 24 hours of sharing a cell with Jag, is head over heels for him. There’s no foundation or reason for it, other than he is attractive (though I can’t say the blue hair does it for me, but each to their own), In fact, Jag treats Violet like dirt. He blames her for things beyond her control, regularly throws a tantrum and runs off in a huff, leaving Violet to fend for herself in the middle of nowhere, lies to her continuously (for her own good and because he simply can), controls her with his own powers (usually when he wants to make out with her), and has a tendency to randomly burst into tears. There were times when I wondered whether he was entirely sane. As a character, Violet isn’t much better. She whines far too much, is foolish and has a know-it-all attitude that grated from page one. Neither is she quite the rebel she seems to think she is.

The there’s the irritating trait of having your characters do something incredibly stupid and illogical for no reason, other than it creates some action/tension/drama. 

‘He has to do this’.

‘Well why?’

‘Because he does’.

‘But, why does he though?’

‘Because that’s the way it has to be’.

But why??!? Sob the reader and the protagonist.

This happens a lot in this book.

I will say the ending had some merit (though it far too similar to Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies) and would have been quite good, had the rest of the book allowed us to actually care about these characters.

I don’t know why I forced myself to keep reading this, other than I paid money for this book and I was damned if I was going to let it beat me. I almost felt like an idiot after closing it and had no freaking idea of what on earth happened in this 400+ page book. Fortunately, a quick glance at Goodreads reassured me that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. It seems I’m not the only one who was left utterly bewildered. Sorry Johnson, but this ones going on the donate pile.

“No.’ I shook my head. ‘No.’ This could not be happening. I would not abandon Jag. He filled my empty places.’ ~ page 377

‘I tilted my face up to his and he rested his forehead against mine. ‘I mean it, Vi. Without you, I would die. You really are my Choker. I’ve never felt so full.’ ~ 316

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One thought on “Book Review: Possession by Elana Johnson

  1. Wow, your review of Possession was a lot more coherent than mine was. I definitely agree with you on all points. I didn’t understand what the author’s intention was. The story was convoluted and messy. Sorry to hear that you paid money to read this.

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