ARC Review: Boy 23 by Jim Carrington

ARC Review: Boy 23 by Jim Carrington
Boy 23
Boy 23
by Jim Carrington

Genres: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science Fiction
Publication date: 19 November 2015
by Bloomsbury

Format: Paperback


Amazon | Book Depository

Boy 23 isn't in My Place any more. He can't see The Screen, he can't hear The Voice. Boy 23 is alone. One dark night, Boy 23 is thrown in the back of the van and driven out of My Place - the only home he has ever known. He is abandoned in a forest with a rucksack containing the bare essentials for survival. Before the van drives away, a voice tells him he must run as far as he can. His life depends on it. Boy 23 has never known another human. Boy 23 has never even been outside. So who is he? Why do people want to kill him? And more to the point, who is the voice that wants to save him? A hugely fast-paced dystopian page-turner which by the end will leave you in a state of shock. For fans of Chaos Walking and Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror.

I approached Boy 23 with a lot of optimism. There was the gorgeous cover, the tagline promising it to be the next Chaos Walking (I freaking adore that series!), and I knew next to nothing about the plot (I love going into books blind).  My feelings upon finishing this book were mixed, I liked it for the quick read it was – but I yearned for it to be more.Boy2301

For a book about a mysterious boy on the run, Boy 23 is largely devoid of heart pumping action scenes or nail biting moments – at least until the last couple of chapters. I wanted more physical conflict, I wanted to see our protagonist struggle through the plot. Instead, I had every confidence that he would emerge from most of his dilemmas OK. A specific piece of information revealed later on in the novel dragged the stakes down even lower – how could I become truly invested in Boy 23’s journey if I know he would be fine? I am a bit of a literary masochist, I like to see my heroes backed into the corner (literally, if possible!). Unfortunately, the crucial element of danger was missing from the book. Boy 23 was sheltered in seclusion for most of his childhood – yet upon emerging from his walled room, he still did not get to experience much more, leaving me somewhat disappointed.Boy2302

We spend the majority of the book privy to the thoughts of Jesper – the eponymous Boy 23 – and Carina. I felt I never really got to know them as people. Carina’s thoughts were often dark and angry, yet we remain mostly detached to her motivations and clueless to the source of her fury. While Jesper’s lack of personality could be attributed to his isolated upbringing – I had issues with his lack of agency and curiosity. Wouldn’t you be asking a million and one question if you were unceremoniously dumped into the world after years of solitude? Instead, Jesper remained largely driven by the schemes and machinations of others – whether it was orchestrated by the mysterious Voice, or some other organisation. Hopefully, they will both develop into more complex characters in future instalments of the series.

The character relationships also remain superficial and hollow. Their interactions only served to drive the plot forward. I want the characters to act human to each other, rather than tools of plot exposition or plot necessity. The Voice was present to help Jesper escape and help him out of tight spots – then turned into the ultimate source of info-dump towards the end. Carina flounders to find her purpose within the story, I’m not sure if she was present merely because they needed the token female – but I hope the plot finds her in the next book.

As this is the first book in a series, I am going to be generous on the worldbuilding. Post-apocalyptic landscapes are intriguing to my morbid mind by default – and I think this is the aspect of the story which holds infinite potential. By the time we meet Jesper, most of humanity have succumbed to an epidemic known as the Marsh Flu. Plot developments promises a compelling answer to why the disease proliferated. Again, I wish we got more.  We are given a multitude of names and factions: New Dawn, Huber Corporation, St Jerome’s – yet none of these organisations are expanded upon. Even the by the end of the book, we are left with a lot more questions than answers – frustrating when you have invested 300+ pages into the question. The only answer we did get, was unfortunately so farfetched – my brain demands more explanation!

Boy 23 has an exciting premise and a promising start. Unfortunately, thin characterisation and world building prevented it from reaching its potential. The result is a decent, but rather unmemorable entry into a genre already filled to the brim with dystopia about lost children.

Rating Report
Overall: 3
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I'm Aentee, a 20-something lover of books and shiny things. By day, I attempt to prescribe books to all the patients in my optometry clinic. By night, I read books, watch TV, and spend way too much time on twitter.


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  1. says

    Wow, the premise of this book sounds stellar. I don’t think I have ever heard of a storyline quite like that before. Really fresh. Too bad the writing didn’t support it. It is super disappointing when a book could have been this wonderful thing, but the execution was horrible. I will be looking forward to you thoughts on the sequel; if it gets better, I might give them a try. Thank for the review, Aentee. :)
    La La in the Library recently posted…TELL ME TUESDAY #77My Profile

  2. says

    I’ve never actually heard of this book before, I don’t think. But probably if I found it in a bookstore I would have jumped to read it, especially because of its comparison to Chaos Walking. But yeah, it does sound a bit like it fell flat. I’ll probably grab it if I see it in the library, but I have so many other books I want to buy, I won’t sweat it if I can’t get my hands on it. Thanks for reviewing it!
    Liz Brooks recently posted…Memento MoriMy Profile

  3. says

    Ohh, this sounds very disappointing. It’s one of those reads you think *could* be great if they just gave a bit more into every concept of them. Instead, they’re just mediocre.
    For me, this is slightly worse than an outright bad read because a. a bad read usually makes you very emotional (if on the negative scale) and b. for a bad book to be good you pretty much have to write a different story. For this type of novel to be good you just need the author to go the extra mile :/
    Nitzan Schwarz recently posted…TV Review: Shadowhunters Episode 1 | Could Have Been A Lot BetterMy Profile

  4. says

    It’s never fun to finish a book with more questions than you had before you start it. :( Sorry this was so meh for you, but I can completely see where you’re coming from. I don’t think this would be for me either because I am a huge fan of books with a lot of well-written action scenes and strong characters. Nonetheless, thanks for sharing your thoughts and, as always, fabulous review! ♥
    Zoe @ Stories on Stage recently posted…Their Fractured LightMy Profile

  5. says

    Aw, sadness. I hadn’t heard of this before, but if I had, I probably would have wanted to read it. I can now go back to not knowing it existed (because it doesn’t exactly sound memorable hah). I am like you- I need a good apocalyptic story, I want to know why things are the way they are. And you are right, it could come in later books but… since the characters and the plot aren’t the best either, I am not really all that hopeful. Sorry this wasn’t better for you! Great review though :D
    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight recently posted…This Week At Midnight (96)My Profile

  6. says

    Ah this book sounds so interesting – it’s such a pity it wasn’t executed in the best way! I like a lot of action in dystopian novels as well as world-building, so it’s disappointing that Boy 23 lacked in those departments. I might still give this a go because that synopsis sounds fascinating, but it’s not at the top of my wishlist. Great review! :)
    Kyra @ Blog of a Bookaholic recently posted…The Boy Who Sailed the Ocean in an Armchair by Lara Williamson captured my heartMy Profile