Proxy by Alex London

Proxy by Alex London Published June 2013 by Philomel Books 379 Pages (Paperback)

Proxy is the first book in a dystopian sci-fi series by Alex London. It follows Sydney Carton, orphan and proxy to wealthy and reckless Knox. When Knox crashes a car and kills his date, it’s Syd who must pay for the crime. One daring escape and unlikely meeting later, the two boys are running across the country toward a secret rebel society, neither one knowing who to trust or what to believe in. It ultimately was a story with huge potential that it didn’t quite live up to: 3/5 stars.

The bones of this story were quite good. Syd and Knox are both complicated characters. They faced difficult situations and decisions and made believable missteps. Syd is bitter and Knox is lonely and they’re both highly selfish and that all makes them each genuinely imperfect. They don’t have token faults simply to make them endearing. They’re memorable characters, not stand-ins for a reader, or soulless, stereotypical action heroes. 

This is still ultimately an action book, though, and most of the action was excellent. London’s writing style lends itself to action scenes quite well and the plot held many unpredictable twists and turns. It also had that delightful sense of constant suspense, the feeling that any character could die at any time. This is a quality so often found in a first series installment, because we really have no idea which characters will become the most important. And the shock value in some of the scenes in this is sky-high because of that.

I found a lot to enjoy in most of the plot, but I didn’t like a lot of things about the ending. As a capstone of character development, it was awesome, but when I stepped back and looked at the set-up, it made no sense. Hard to explain it without actually explaining it, but suffice it to say that the climax was compelling, but the reasons why the situation happened as it did were nonexistent. Bad science is my biggest pet peeve in any dystopian novel and this book had it, or, at least, did not pause long enough to explain itself in any way.

I also found myself rolling my eyes several times over some of the writing. The exposition lacked subtlety. Metaphors were forced, and then explained, which defeats the purpose. Take this line, which is slipped in moments after every animal in a zoo escapes its cage and Syd and Co. have just saved a kid from being mauled by a polar bear

“Knox was mesmerized by the madness. The zoo had unraveled like everything else in his life” (228).

I already understood that Knox’s life has been turned upside down at this point, just from events alone. The zoo madness clearly highlights that upheaval, without the dot to dot connection. There were lots of little goofy lines like that that bothered me, each pointing out connections and realizations that any halfway intelligent reader is going to make just fine on their own.

I couldn’t hate this, but I had rather high expectations and they weren’t met. But I did enjoy myself while reading it, I don’t regret starting it, and I will probably pick up the sequel at some point. I think Alex London is a writer with a lot of potential who’s built a pretty fascinating world that serves up a good action story while making striking, thought-provoking social commentary about debt and wealth and privilege. 

There are like a bajillion teen dystopias out there these days, though, and this isn’t the best of them. But if you’ve read all the best and you’re looking for a quick thrill ride with some fun to-read characters, then I don’t discourage you from picking this up, it’s not awful, just not my favorite.


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