Review: Wasteland by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan

Rating: * / 1 out of 5
Genres: Young Adult, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Science Fiction
To be published on March 26, 2013 by Harper Teen
Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

Welcome to the Wasteland. Where all the adults are long gone, and now no one lives past the age of nineteen. Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan’s post-apocalyptic debut is the first of a trilogy in which everyone is forced to live under the looming threat of rampant disease and brutal attacks by the Variants —- hermaphroditic outcasts that live on the outskirts of Prin. Esther thinks there’s more to life than toiling at harvesting, gleaning, and excavating, day after day under the relentless sun, just hoping to make it to the next day. But then Caleb, a mysterious stranger, arrives in town, and Esther begins to question who she can trust. As shady pasts unravel into the present and new romances develop, Caleb and Esther realize that they must team together to fight for their lives and for the freedom of Prin.


If you read the synopsis of this book, you can see it gives a lot of promise. A dystopian world? Check. Post-apocalyptic? Check. Shady characters and possible conspiracies?! DOUBLE CHECK! If you’re like me, then you probably got super excited, imagining a book that will ultimately blow your mind. But before you get too thrilled, I must say this now: this book, unfortunately and sadly, is nothing but a disappointment. A huge, flat disappointment. In fact, if there’s anything that Wasteland is, this is it: a waste.

I really don’t like giving 1 star ratings and reviews. But it needs to be said. Wasteland joins the huge pile of books that could’ve had a great premise if it weren’t for its bad execution. And when I say bad, I actually mean horribad. Here’s why:

Problem #1: Horrible world-building.

Ok, if you’re going to do a book that’s in a post-apocalyptic dystopian setting and society, then you better have done your research and planned out explanations on how this screwed-up world came to be; otherwise, you leave your readers with nothing to visualize and no idea of the backstory. This is what happens here. We’re told that adults have all died, and only children and teenagers have the capabilities to exist, but only until the age of nineteen (But how? Why is this so?). There are also hermaphrodites or “mutants”, as they call them, that live amongst these kids (But how? Why is this so? What made them mutate and become as such?). We are told that the rain is dangerous and can kill you, and that the sun has become even hotter, resulting to much difficulties (Why did they become so? In fact, what was the apocalypse in the first place?!).

These are only some of the questions you’ll find yourself asking once you start this book, and trust me, those don’t even cover half of them. Readers are given little to no explanation with regards to world-building, making it hard (for me, anyway) to appreciate this novel. I know – it’s fiction, and we gotta suspend our disbelief, right? But in my opinion, there’s a standard when it comes to writing post-apocalyptic books. There’s a reason why the world became so. There’s a reason why everything degraded that resulted to this kind or that sort of dystopian society. If all I’ll get are a shaky, passing sentence here and a vague mention there, then forget it, you’re not getting anything more than 2 stars from me. It is because of awesome world-building that books like the Lunar Chronicles become really popular, since a proper execution of such would give readers a sense of a new world full of tension but also possibilites. Leave that out and you might as well have given us a blank page.

Problem #2: Horrible characters

Characterization is horrible. If you’re not into simple-minded, one-dimensional, whiny, stupid, and foolish characters, then turn around and run as fast as you can away from this book, because this particular one is full of them! No one stood out, no one gave anything new to the plate, no one was any bit interesting. It was all the same old, same old, rehashed formulas. We have Esther, the main character and the main contributor to the huge headache this novel gave me. She’s fifteen, and is in that stage of being rebellious just, well, for the heck of it. She keeps on whining how everyone else in town doesn’t treat her with respect, how they isolate her for being such a freeloader, when in truth, she is a freeloader and is always breaking the rules. :| She does this all the freaking time, going pseudo “philosophical” and then whining about it.

Um, hello?! If I were them, I’d give you the cold shoulder, too, loser! In my opinion, she got what she deserved :|The rest of the characters weren’t that good as well. All of them lacked depth, making them very simple. What makes these individuals a huge bore-fest is the fact that their emotions were almost always summarized in a fleeting sentence or two, leaving me feeling nothing, and then… that’s it. If you’re looking for depth and complexity, this is not the book for you.

Problem #3: Horrible writing

The writing leaves so much to be desired. The prose and narration are very simple and easy to read, but to be honest, the whole thing still felt like a big struggle to me. It tells us this, it tells us that, but it shows ab-so-lute-ly nothing. It reads like a whole summary, and you get a feeling that a lot of things have been skipped. I thought there were some internal narration in the first few pages, but as you go on, it eventually decreases and then gradually becomes non-existent. The multiple POVs here don’t really give us better angles and views of the story – they simply made the whole book a scattered mess. The romance between the two main characters also felt so forced and unnatural as hell, using the wrong adjectives and adverbs (lol what the hell was their love scene????!!!!!) to describe some events.

I really don’t recommend this. At all. And I’m really sorry for that because I was super looking forward to this book, because the synopsis made me pumped up with excitement. Alas, it was just not meant to be.

For a better review of this book, check out Christina’s review HERE.

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A 21 years old Filipina who loves books, games, languages, and most especially, food. Secretly wishes to be an astronaut so she can explore the stars. Has a love-hate relationship with Philippine politics. To get in her good graces, offer her Foie Gras, Or shrimp. Or a JRPG. A YA sci-fi book works, too. You can follow her on twitter here: @kawaiileena


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  1. says

    They didn’t even try with regards to the world building, which is sign number one that they just hopped onto the dystopian bandwagon. “It’s popular, so let’s write one. Let’s have it just be teens, because that’s sexier and creepier. It should be hot and dusty. Sounds like a book!”

    Bahahaha, Esther totally is a freeloader. It’s remarkable they didn’t exile her before that. She’s supposed to have been working for ten years, but I don’t think she really has.

    That love scene was whack.

    Thanks for the link, dear!

    • says

      Precisely my thoughts. It’s just one of those books trying to follow the trend without offering anything new to the plate. Um, sorry, authors, but we’re not dumb D:

  2. says

    Ugh. Oh my God, authors need to quit polluting the dystopian genre. It takes great skill and talent to convingly build a post-apocalyptic world and most of them don’t have it. This author just sounds like she didn’t even try with the world building. That’s like the most important part of a dystopia! Sigh… Smh.

  3. says

    It doesn’t even go over what the actual apocalypse was? Lamerz! I actually sipped this one after I saw it had awful reviews and a terrible overall rating on GR O_O Too bad it wasted precious hours of your life lol