I came across Ryan Winfield’s The Park Service on Amazon back in June as a freebie deal. Currently its got 4.5 out of 5 on Amazon from a total of almost 900 reviews, and when a freebie pops up with good reviews, I really don’t see the harm in grabbing it.
I was almost halfway through by the end of a 2 hour car ride, so I was pretty sure it was going to be a great book. It did lose steam a bit once I hit that point, but it was able to pick back up again toward the end.
Author: Ryan Winfield
Series: The Park Service
Publication Date: October 11, 2012
Set almost 1000 years in the future, The Park Service centers around 15 year old Aubrey VanHouten, a boy who lives in a compound called Holocene II beneath what was formerly the United States. In Holocene II, all kids take a test at age 15 to determine which of the 6 levels of society they’ll move on to for the remainder of their working life. Aubrey gets called to Level 1, which is extremely rare because no one really knows what happens there. Not knowing what he will find, he sets off on a train to his new home. On the way, his train crashes and he is dumped out into the middle of the world he was told was uninhabitable. He stumbles across a small clan of people who take him in and make him one of their own. In time, he begins to realize that the world he lived in and what he was told was fact was almost all a fallacy. The scientists that controlled what he did, ate, and how he lived were doing much more than attempting to keep the human race running. He, along with his new friend Jimmy, end up on a mission to destroy what was a much more disturbing and sinister organization than Aubrey ever thought possible.
What I Liked:
1. Male protagonist. They’re rare, but I almost always like them, finding them much less whiny or mopey than the female protagonists of the YA genre.
2. While it happened quicker than I thought it would, the author included Aubrey’s necessary adaptation to the outside world. He’d been living underground all his life with an immune system and body that could only develop so many immunities in the concealed space. He had to go through a transition period of sunburn, peeling, and illness before being able to really function in the open air.
3. The evil of the Park Service is demonstrated to an extreme. I’m not sure why I found this a strong aspect of the story, because the note I added was “so freaking depressing,” but it added a good deal of emotion to the story. If writing can elicit true emotion, I find it worth reading.
What I Didn’t Like:
1. That everything I did like happened within the first 150 or so pages. I tore through the first chunk of the book in about 2 hours, but once Aubrey and Jimmy met the Radcliffes, I ended up skimming for about 50 pages. There had been a lot of things happening in the first half – adapting to a new way of life, making new friends, mass murder, treks through the mountains, etc – that kept it moving along nicely. Once they reached the compound, Aubrey seemed to get comfortable back in his own element (sort of), so things stopped happening.
2. After Aubrey met Hannah, things turned into a stereotypical YA romance for awhile. She was beautiful, they fell for one another immediately, they roll around in the ocean together, etc. The only weird thing was that her parents were expecting them to essentially bring the human race back from extinction once Dr. Radcliffe pulls off his crazy plans, but that added to the interesting aspects of the story.
3. Dr. Radcliffe told Aubrey absolutely everything about his mad-scientist schemes and explained all the things that they’ve been keeping from those in Holocene II. He laid it all out very clearly, making it way too easy for Aubrey and Jimmy to carry out their own plans.
I still haven’t picked up book 2, Isle of Man, because I’ve got several other books I want to get out of the way first. But I’ll definitely be grabbing it. Toward the end of the book, things started to pick back up and it’s looking like the next part of the story will be pretty interesting. I definitely recommend this one to anyone who enjoys YA dystopian and wants something not fraught with romance. It’s a relatively cheap series – The Park Serivce is only $3.99 on Amazon, with books 2 and 3 – Isle of Man and State of Nature at only $5.99. All are free for Kindle Unlimited.