“I was just a baby when we were relocated and I don’t remember much. Everybody has that black hole at the beginning of their life. That time you can’t remember. Your first step. Your first taste of table food. My real memories begin in our assigned living area in Compound 14.” Just a generation ago, this place was called America. Now, after the worldwide implementation of a UN-led program called Agenda 21, it’s simply known as “the Republic.” There is no president. No Congress. No Supreme Court. No freedom.
There are only the Authorities.
Citizens have two primary goals in the new Republic: to create clean energy and to create new human life. Those who cannot do either are of no use to society. This bleak and barren existence is all that eighteen-year-old Emmeline has ever known. She dutifully walks her energy board daily and accepts all male pairings assigned to her by the Authorities. Like most citizens, she keeps her head down and her eyes closed.
Until the day they come for her mother.
“You save what you think you’re going to lose.”
Woken up to the harsh reality of her life and her family’s future inside the Republic, Emmeline begins to search for the truth. Why are all citizens confined to ubiquitous concrete living spaces? Why are Compounds guarded by Gatekeepers who track all movements? Why are food, water and energy rationed so strictly? And, most important, why are babies taken from their mothers at birth? As Emmeline begins to understand the true objectives of Agenda 21 she realizes that she is up against far more than she ever thought. With the Authorities closing in, and nowhere to run, Emmeline embarks on an audacious plan to save her family and expose the Republic—but is she already too late?”
Agenda 21 follows a teenage girl named Emmeline who has grown up in a planned community where there are strict rules and regulations in place, governed by the Central Authority. Throughout the novel, you get to experience what life is truly like in the community. From the strict dress code to the mandated energy output, the struggle of being a teenager in this controlled, desolate area is made even worse when Emmeline is officially paired with a boy she’s never met for the sole purpose of reproducing for the Authority. If a child is born, they go straight to the Children’s Village where they are raised, without their mothers, to become energy producing citizens of the Republic. “Praise be to the Republic.” Emmeline’s inability to fully understand the community she lives in, leads to her asking more questions, distrusting the Central Authority and their practices, and trying to figure out, on her own, what is truly going on and what happened before this place existed.
It was slightly hard to get into the book at the beginning due to the short sentence structure and the flashbacks. I often had to go back a couple of pages and figure out if we were in the present or if Emmeline was retelling something. The chapters are pretty short and didn’t flow very well at the beginning. About 30 pages in though, things started to pick up, the writing was better, and the chapters flowed from one to the other. Life in the compound is horrendous and something we would all consider inhumane. Only problem is that it was created like this on purpose. The communities were developed because the human race kept taking and taking from nature, not respecting the earth, or each other. Nobody was equal, some earned a lot, some earned nothing. The Central Authority was created to make everyone equal: same clothes, same food supply (more like rations), everyone has a specific job, there is no money, everyone follows the rules, and nobody can mistreat one another or the earth. Glenn Beck’s goal was to make people aware. Make them think. Make them imagine what could potentially happen to this country. He accomplished that goal very well, in my opinion. The “before-time” you often hear Emmeline and her partner, David, talk about sounds like how our country is now. People had to work for their things, they lived on big farms, etc. Then it seemed like overnight everything changed: a new government, new rules. I often found myself worrying, what if? What if something like that is in the works right this very moment and we just have no idea until it’s too late? This is why I love books like this. They make me ultra aware of everything going on.
After I got more into this book, I kept wanting to read to find out what happens to our main character. She would do or say things that made me so worried she would get in trouble. I kept waiting for this huge, monumental, heart pounding climax to happen. Unfortunately, no such thing happened. Yes, there were suspenseful moments that kept me reading eagerly to find out what happens. Then it went back to discussing her day-to-day life. In the back of my mind, I kept telling myself this huge story changer is just later in the book. Fast forward to the last 40 pages of the book. The story line picked up dramatically, almost a little to fast. It seems one day everything is going normal (as normal as things could be in a society where the government controls every single detail) then the next morning everything is different and stress and tension is high amongst some of the secondary characters. Then the next thing I know, it’s the last chapter. The book was spent building this world (which I really did appreciate) and not enough building up the plot to hit this pivotal point. The last two chapters is where what I had been hoping and praying to happen finally did. Unfortunately, it was the last two chapters and there wasn’t much intense action or heart pounding scenes. I was scared and worried but it moved too fast. A couple of pages later, the book ends. WHAT?? Talk about leaving the audience hanging! I don’t know what happens to Emmeline, I don’t know what happens to the rest of the community, I don’t know anything! Beck wants to leave it up to your imagination, I suppose. But still, a couple of chapters added on to solve some of the problems we are left with would have been nice!
Overall, I did enjoy reading this book. There were some key issues I had with it but nothing that made me stop reading. I really cared about the characters and wanted to make sure nothing bad happened to them. I wish Beck hadn’t spent so much time world building, had put the last couple of chapters somewhere after the middle of the novel, and then went into detail of the events that transpired during and afterward said key event. If you enjoy dystopian novels, I do encourage you to read this. I guarantee you haven’t read anything quite like this before. The lengths this “perfect” society goes to is just astonishing and will make you very thankful for what you have.
Overall Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)