As most of you know, if you’ve been around here for a while, Case Maynard is something of my partner in crime when it comes to writing. Our paths have become intertwined recently, as we’ve set out to work on Gifted together, but we’ve been very involved in the other’s projects since forever. She’s always been my biggest cheerleader, and vice versa.
Recently, Case was offered a publishing deal with Blaze Publishing for her debut novel “The Surrendered.” (I touched on this very briefly in an earlier blog post.) I don’t think I could possibly be more proud of her. After the first few rounds of edits were completed, she sent the book my way so I could read it over and offer my own feedback. (Like I said, very involved.)
With her permission, I’ve compiled some (spoiler free) info and my own thoughts about this young adult novel set to release in September.
After a financial collapse devastates the United States, the new government imposes a tax on the nation’s most valuable resource—the children.
Vera “Vee” Delancourt is a sixteen year old girl – and a slave. At age ten, when her parents stopped paying their fees, Vee and her twin brother, Oliver, were surrendered to work in the Mills. With only two years to go until freedom, the twins are trying their hardest to keep their heads down and not make any waves – something that doesn’t come naturally to fierce-spirited Vee.
Soon, not making waves goes from difficult to impossible when Vee stumbles upon a nauseating discovery. Young girls in the Service Mill are being abused in the worst kind of way by the men in charge. Desperate to protect them, Vee is spurred to action – and a series of events quickly unfolds that forces her and two of the service girls to flee for their lives.
Outside of the fence, Vee and the other girls are shown an unexpected kindness and taken in by a family of farmers – whose farm is maintained with slave labor. It’s soon after that Vee discovers a whole slew of people who’ve been trying to take down the System in their own ways – including the gorgeous but antagonistic Cason Hale.
While Vee may have mixed feelings about her new allies, she has to accept their help – especially when the Master, in an attempt to force her to return to the Mills, makes a threat that changes everything. Although unsure of who her enemies and friends really are, Vee must do whatever she has to in order to stop the Master and save the enslaved brother and other children she left behind.
After sitting down and tearing through the whole book in about six hours, I was left feeling a tornado of emotions. This is a story that grabs you by the throat in the first chapter and refuses to let go, long after you’ve read the last sentence. Case pulls absolutely no punches, flooding you with the rage, confusion, fear, disgust, and anguish that Vee feels at every twist and turn. This was my absolute favorite part of reading. While every writer strives to elicit a raw, emotive response from their readers, few manage to do it as well as Case does with The Surrendered.
Vee Delancourt is a protagonist that you can’t help but feel connected to. She speaks to what all of us are at our core – flawed in more ways than one, but trying. Angry and guarded, Vee has been through more pain in her short sixteen years than most people should have to experience in a lifetime – and there’s more pain to come. But through it all she keeps her jaw clenched and her eyes on the prize. She will do what needs to be done to protect the people she cares about – or she will die trying. You will root for her to succeed as if you’re the one fighting against a System that wants to exploit and abuse you.
Of course, Vee isn’t the only compelling character in the book. Cason, an intense boy Vee’s age with a dark and painful past, is endearing in the way that only a bad boy with a heart of gold can be. Jane, a mysterious young girl with an unexpected connection to Vee and Oliver, will intrigue you at every turn. Ramsey, a service girl who’s fallen victim to the predators at the Mills, reminds readers of the dark reality and lasting effects of the abuse she endured. Matthew, Cason’s best friend, stays good natured and optimistic – until tragedy wipes the smile off his face and changes him forever. John William and Miss Ann, the farmers who take Vee and the girls in, always have a good dose of endearing southern hospitality to dish out. And Oliver, Vee’s discerning and courageous twin brother, manages to give her – and us – hope that things will work out in the end.
In fact, hope remains one of the many themes running through the book. Vee and her allies refuse to accept the status quo, and it is their hope for a better future that makes that future possible at all. The heart of the story asks the question – How far down can the oppressed be pushed before they start pushing back? And when they do, can they really change things for the better? Vee certainly hopes so, and she’s risking it all on that hope.
There are other questions posed, as well. How well do we really know the people around us? At every plot twist, Vee and the readers discover that almost nothing is really how it appears – and almost no one is really what they say they are. How far would you go to save innocent people? Vee must make impossibly hard decisions to protect other children being controlled by the System that once owned her. And finally, is love a weakness that can be exploited… or could it be our greatest strength?
At the end of reading, with all of the questions I still had about Vee’s fate, two things were made very clear: 1) this book was awesome, and 2) I could not wait for the second one. The Surrendered, and the series to follow, is not something that you want to miss out on – I guarantee it.
The Surrendered by Case Maynard will be released September 20th, 2016 and will be available at most major online retailers and select bookstores. If you are interested in reading and reviewing an ARC of the book in August, please contact Blaze Publishing. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to Case on her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter for any and all updates, including the cover reveal, teasers, and more!
I received no compensation for this post and am in no way professionally affiliated with Blaze Publishing or The Surrendered. All opinions expressed are my own.