Stars: 1 out of 5
The Park is the perfect example of how to bomb what could have been an interesting story.
The premise is fun, even though it’s been done before. We’ve had something similar in Hunger Games or Battle Royal, but there is always a way to put a new spin on an old story.
Evenstad Media kidnapped 12 randomly selected people and put them in an enclosed trailer park with cameras everywhere. Only one can come out alive and win the big price. If done well, it could have been an action packed adrenaline ride or a grim illustration of human greed and our society’s unhealthy fascination with reality shows and violence.
So I was actually very excited to pick up this book after I read the short summary on NetGalley. I love dystopian stories like that. Unfortunately, the author made some bizarre narrative choices that totally ruined this book for me.
Those survival stories where it’s a fierce battle of one against all have to grip the reader immediately and keep their unwavering attention until the end. This is best accomplished if the book is narrated in first person present tense. That creates the illusion that you are right there with the character, and the present tense implies that whatever is happening on the page is happening in real time. So your heart starts pumping when the character gets into a sticky situation because you don’t know if he or she will survive it in one piece. That’s what makes readers turn the pages. That’s what makes them engrossed in this kind of story.
But what do we have in The Park? For some reason, the author chose to tell this story entirely in the form of emails and journal entries. Which… just doesn’t make sense. A journal entry is by definition written after the scene its recapping already happened, so there is no suspense, no action. If the character is here to write the journal entry, we already know that they survived whatever encounter they’ve been through, so there is no worry about them. Also, I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy reading a summary of an action scene after the fact. Drop me in the middle of a fight and I’ll be engaged, but try to tell me about it after the dust already settled, and I will probably fall asleep before you are done.
That’s by itself wouldn’t be a deal killer if the characters in this book had a distinct voice, but unfortunately they don’t. I don’t understand why the author chose to tell the story through at least 12 different POVs (or even more, since we have the 12 participants and the people in Everstad, the media, etc.) It’s hard to pull off even 2-3 distinct POVs before all protagonists start sounding the same, but 12+? That would be a feat worth of the Guinness Records book.
Unfortunately, that feat didn’t happen here. The characters have no voice. Zero. Nada. They all sound the same. They are so similar in fact, that I was quickly confused whose entry I was reading and what their previous entries were about. Add to that the fact that we get almost no background on any of the 12 participants and no real character development and you have 12 cardboard cutouts that I, as a reader, found very difficult to root for.
So no memorable characters to root for and no action to speak off makes for a very boring story. I finished it, because I don’t write reviews for books that I didn’t finish, but I will not recommend this book. There are plenty of other stories in this genre out there that are better written.
PS. I received and advanced copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.