Full disclosure – I was provided an advanced reader’s copy of this book by the author but have voluntarily provided a review.
YUM – The wave of the future
Somewhere in the United States, Madam has taken control. Using only a little pill that could easily be mistaken for bubble gum, YUM promises to totally eliminate the need for food. Imagine, all that time spent cooking could be better used for other pursuits. YUM promises to be life changing and it is indeed that. With all of of Nurticorp City under the spell of YUM the populace has been reduced to either those who are in Madam’s good graces or those who are not. For those who’s tics are not noticeable, they enjoy the good life – lavish apartments stable jobs and even dinner parties with Madam for the elite few. But for the others, who’s tics are noticeable, even debilitating, they are relegated to Old Town to live out of sight of Madam, but not out of mind.
However, not all who live within the limits of Nutricorp City and Old Town have succumbed to the magic of YUM. Living outside the city in areas that are easily overlooked are the Gardeners; a community committed to resisting the evils of YUM and the tyranny of Madam. A group of cast offs and fugitives, the Gardeners have sworn off YUM to live off the land and whatever they can scavenge from the now forgotten supermarkets of the cities. The Martinez sisters are part of the Gardeners. Having come under the care of the community after their parents succumbed to YUM Lola, Jen and Suzy have two goals: to rescue their parents and to destroy Madam. Neither task will be easy, but Jen has a secret weapon in the form of Danny, the son of Madam and the heir to the Nutricorp throne. Joined by a neighboring community, the group sets out to topple Madam from the throne, but it is only when they have ventured too deep into the fray that they realize just how vast Madam’s reach is. When the smoke clears will the Martinez sisters be successful, or will this all be in vain?
It has been a while since I have read a dystopian novel that really made me pay attention, but Garden did just that. Carol James Marshall’s YUM fueled world is every bit as attractive as it is sinister; where one wrong move or the whim of Madam can find you on the Hunt or facing down a Shaky. At times, it was hard for me to remember that the cities of Old Town, Nutricorp City, and The Hills were in America as Marshall has completely reimagined a region that does not even remotely resemble anything in the United States. From the futuristic vibe of Nutricorp City with its YUM factories and police forces with their Shakies, to the run down YUM infested areas of Old Town where the worst of the worst, or “Poppers” are left to roam, and to the almost apocalyptic feel of the fortified Hills to the nearly imperceptible Gardener camp these different areas provide a vivid backdrop for the story to unfold. Garden is not Marshall’s first foray the dystopian genre, but this is definitely her best to date and it is definitely worth the time to give it a read.
In Garden you will find a wide variety of characters and situations that will make you either love or hate them. While reading through, I found myself laughing, yelling out in disbelief, and even shedding a tear or two. When the final sentence is read, Garden will linger with you. I know I am curious for a revisit to catch up with the characters after the fact, whether it be a short story or a full-blown sequel if Marshall so desires. To me there just feels like there may still be quite a bit of story to be told where Nutricorp and the Gardeners are concerned.