It was so close to being great. So close. There is a very real ability to write, a way of describing the futuristic aspects without being overindulgent. Perhaps this is because the idea of the veneer is one that is easy to relate to. Everyone knows about smartphones, about how we are making it increasingly easier for media to pervade every facet of life. So upon reading this book, I can honestly say it felt like a very real potential future; one in which the platforms for media cover every inch of our world.
The author brought to life some behaviors that felt chillingly real--a bit too realistic, and a bit too close to home. Because Steb's twitchy fingers after playing his videogame, the restlessness that he exhibits with the lack of visual stimulation, seems far too truthful. Everyone reconciling their veneers so that they can be the best parts of themselves was far too graphic, given the fact that everyone would change parts of themselves if given the opportunity. And the lack of self-worth and self-identity was far too accurate too. The world has learned to live behind a beautiful facade--how do you come back from that? How do you go from seeing the best version of yourself everyday, to seeing the mediocre version, at least in your own eyes?
It's incredibly intelligent world building. It stems from very real issues we face today, particularly the obsession with ourselves that is so prevalent in my generation. Really, this world was terrifically clever and I was impressed by the writing ability.
Maybe you're wondering why I gave it three stars, if I was so impressed? Because it deteriorated into schoolyard antics and romances. Schoolyard bullies who have no reason for the hatred. I suppose it works in that Russo, the bully, was ostensibly a psychopath and a sociopath. He goes so far as to kill two people and to attempt to kill another; even his failure not serving as a deterrent. It made for a damn good villain, but I still had a hard time reconciling this dastardly asshole with the image of a schoolyard bully. It didn't make it any less believable, only took a little of the enjoyment out of it for me.
What really killed me though was the whole romance part of it. I really don't have any clue what point Ilya had to the novel, aside from being a nice little side venture while we're waiting for Deron to return to Rosalia. The tryst between Ilya and Rosalia, at least as far as I could tell, really didn't hold any value to the plot other than maybe popping some tents for the reader. Which is fine and all, but it just drove me crazy! You've created this awesome world that actually makes sense and you instead choose to focus on a girl being raped by another girl?
Given the opportunity, I would tear out all of those excess pages and just stick with the meat of the book. It was such a strong, fundamentally engaging idea. And after it was over, it was still a fundamentally engaging idea, just with a little less power in the punch.