The Amplified by Lauren M. Flauding, 204 pages, Blurtery Publishing, March 15th 2016, Genre: Dystopian/Young Adult. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.
Review by Leigh Holland.
The Amplified is a young adult, dystopian novel set in a world where physical prowess is what determines social status. It explores themes such as peer pressure, societal conditioning, choice and freedom versus security, and forsaking ethics for status. It draws a parallel between our world of image over substance and this fictional world of status based strictly on physical condition. This theme is starkly evident when one of the Amplified characters, Liam, saves Mari’s life, only to have everyone laugh at him for being overweight. Liam is willing to risk death in order to transform his body into one more accepted by others.
Mari Quillen is a fifteen year old girl, living in a society divided into three groups: the Regulars, the Amplified, and the Restrainers. Everyone is born into the Regulars, although the children of the Amplified are of higher status than those born to other Regulars. Mari’s parents were Regulars; in school Mari was bullied for being of lesser birth. She has an older brother and a younger brother. Her father passed away because of a virus and her mother is blind. Her mother picks beans, which are sent away for processing by the government. Nobody eats food anymore; everyone eats capsules which have varying effects. Regulars get only the regular capsules; but Amplified get a variety. Mari’s older brother returns home after four years’ service as an Amplified, fighting against their enemies, the Dissenters, who are made out to be nothing more than savages with pitchforks. Mari doesn’t like how different her brother has become.
Mari decides to go through Amplification regardless, since this is the way to succeed in their society. An amplifier is surgically placed inside her head. Whenever an Amplified issues commands to their amplifier, they are able to perform at superhuman levels in order to achieve the command. As she continues in her training, Mari discovers that not only can they not resist a command they’ve issued to their amplifier once it has been made, but that their are ways for their handlers to override their Amplification units. Indeed, the Override command is used to control them on the battlefield. They kill whether they like it or not. As she uncovers more sinister machinations of the governor, Mari begins to regret ever having chosen to become Amplified.
My favorite character was Mari. She was the only one to see that something was wrong and resist the temptation to forsake her personal values for the sake of societal status. Despite this, Mari, like all of us, is flawed. When her friend clearly was in need, she failed to notice and only managed to be there for her after the crisis had passed. I also liked Liam; I’m holding out hope we’ll see Talina rebel against the governor once and for all in future installments.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading The Amplified. The first chapter started off a bit slow, but once past it, I couldn’t put the book down. The plot was original and the characters were developed; the writing was engaging. Flauding does a masterful job of subtly weaving this dystopian tapestry, crafting a compelling tale and fascinating world. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys dystopian or young adult novels.
This book is the first in a series, at The Amplified.