08 May 2013

Book Review: Terra by Gretchen Powell

Title: Terra
Author(s): Gretchen Powell
Genre(s): Dystopia, Young Adult
Publisher/Date: Hopewell Media / December 10, 2012
Series: Terrestrials (Book #1)

"It really is a different world up here. On the face of every beautifully made-up woman and cleanly shaven man is a look of pure, unencumbered delight. A look that makes it very obvious they have never known the hardship of the groundworld. And they never will. Not while we are there to endure it for them.
Case Study
A broken and desolate Earth. A young girl simply trying to survive. A lost boy with a powerful secret.

A discovery that will change everything.

In the distant wake of a plague that has decimated the Earth's population, humanity is split in two: The rich and powerful live in skycities that float overhead, while those who remain on the ground have gathered in settlements strewn across a dying planet. Eighteen-year-old Terra Rhodon is a terrestrial--a denizen of the barren groundworld--who makes her living as a scav. Long abandoned by her father, her caregivers gone, Terra supports herself and her younger brother, Mica, by scouring the earth for discarded scraps and metals to recycle for profit. One day, while on a routine scavenging run, she discovers something that shocks her home settlement of Genesis X-16. When the value of her discovery is revealed, Terra's world is turned upside down.

Terra suddenly finds herself asking questions no one will answer. Her search for the truth leads her to Adam--a beguiling skydweller unlike any she has ever met. But Adam has secrets and a quest of his own. With him by her side, the world Terra thought she knew begins to unravel. Soon her discoveries unearth a terrifying conspiracy that has the potential to shatter everything--a revelation that will test the bonds of loyalty, family, and love. (synopsis from Goodreads)

The Game's Afoot
Hmm, let's see, how do I describe all the aspects of Terra? A post-apocalyptic world set on a dying planet. CHECK! A governmental conspiracy and shady cover-up attempt. CHECK! A kick-ass heroine fighting for the future of all mankind. CHECK! Hunky mysterious loner-dude to save the day. CHECK! Terra has all of the qualities that I typically look for in a dystopian YA. Now all that being said, why is it I was left with such a feeling of dissatisfaction in the end? Let's do some digging, shall we?

I initially read Terra at the behest of Kay (read her review here) and because, frankly, it sounds like my kinda story. I love dystopias and it's quickly risen to be one of my favourite genres. In the past I've been completely blown away by The Hunger Games, V for Vendetta and the Under The Never Sky series. Unfortunately, dystopia happens to be one of those genres that's very hit-or-miss and lately I've been mega-burned by a number of popular books (namely The Maze Runner series and Divergent). It would seem that Terra also falls into the latter, the category I like to refer to as "The Wompa".

At first I thought I might have fallen victim to another bout of the motivation zap but then after forcing myself to push through it, I realized something. Terra--- it's not me, it's you. You're one of those very deceptive books --- full of promising potential yet completely underwhelming in your execution. It's not that the premise itself was bad, oh no, you had all the elements I generally enjoy in a post-apocalyptic scenario, it's just that there was no real connection forged between myself and your characters or their unforgiving world. Forgive me for saying, but you came across as dull, predictable and somewhat cliched. Basically, you bit off more than you could chew. I held out hope that maybe by the end I'd relegate you to my beloved "awesomely bad" category, but no. Just no. I was less than impressed.

It's hard to explain but something just didn't click and I wish I had a better way to describe my lack of enthusiasm for this book but I don't. I felt like Powell tried too hard and there was too much going on --- the governmental conspiracy bit, the hard-hitting environmental message, class issues, aliens and... wait, have I said too much? Natch. There's just SO much happening that it didn't feel cohesive or well thought-out. And I guess my biggest issue was my connection to the characters --- as in, there wasn't one. I just didn't care. It's not like they were bad, they were just bland shells of characters that I've seen before. I wanted someone unique, someone who had some consistency (as in other than their consistently fluctuating personality, I mean). And I guess if you don't care about the characters, no matter how amazing the plot might be, that book isn't going to fare well. 

I feel kinda bad about railing on this book because I know it meant well and all, and I guess if I can say one good thing about it, it's that I really appreciated Powell's choice in character names. Most of our main peeps (Terra, Mica and Adam) all have cleverly appropriated names that related to some key aspect of the book, whether it be a plot or an overall theme. Another thing I enjoyed was that Terra is one of those books that promoes a message, one which is part environmental and part human rights. But while those are both issues I fully support, the book often comes across as heavy-handed and preachy (even for my liking). That being said, however in-your-face the message is, it's one I can get down with having worked in an envrionmental non-profit for over three years. I'd just like to note that it might not be for everyone due to its intensity.

Basically, every time I had a choice of picking up this book or doing something else, well, I generally leaned towards doing that something else. I mustered up a lot of effort to finish Terra, which is such a shame because it could've been SO MUCH MORE. Instead it came off feeling hollow and empty. I'm not sure if this is Powell's first attempt at writing dystopia but the book came off feeling a bit too novice. I dunno. Maybe I'm being too harsh here. Maybe this is the discontent voice of someone who's seen it all, read it all before. Maybe it's not entirely your fault, Terra. Just maybe...

Summary Prognosis
Terra is one of those books that has all the elements of a great dystopia but fails in the execution. I really wanted to like it more than I actually did though I tried very hard to give it the benefit of the doubt. Whether due to the preachiness of its message or the lack of a connection to any of the characters, it just didn't quite measure up to many of its more popular predecessors. And even though the book isn't to my liking, I do think it's a great intro if you're just getting into the dystopia genre.

Rating: ★★½

Read It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Discuss It: Goodreads | Author's Website


  1. I'm sorry you didn't like this book. I can see where you are coming from though and completely get it. Especially if you have a hard time connecting with any of the characters. If I don't connect with the characters I really don't enjoy the book. But lucky for me I liked the characters in this one so it turned out okay.

    P.S. You are too funny. :)

    1. No worries, Kay! It happens and we're not always going to love everything that we read (as much as we'd like to believe). I think my biggest issue was, in fact, my lack of feeling for the characters. Had that been different, I probably could've overlooked the rest of the books flaws. It's still got an awesome premise though and I'm glad you enjoyed it!

      Haha, I like to think so, so it's nice to know that someone else agrees! :)

  2. Interesting review! I've been a long-time reader for the author's weight-loss blog and I was surprised when she announced she was writing a book. I actually ended up buying it when it was on sale one weekend, but I haven't gotten around to reading it. I like dystopian books, but I'm not an expert on the genre by any stretch of the imagination so I'm curious to see how I end up liking it or not liking it.

    1. Wow, I didn't even know that Powell had a weight-loss blog. Interesting indeed!

      It's not that she's a bad writer by any means, I guess I was just expecting more because I read a lot of books in the genre overall. I do think it's a good book for those looking to begin reading dystopias, it just wasn't my bad, that's all. Let me know what you think about it!

  3. I agree dystopia can be hit or miss. I feel like I prefer adult dystopian over YA though. I like that these types of books can be quietly terrifying. Sorry Terra was a let down :( Yea, if I don't care about the characters, forget it.

    1. I just realized that I've been focusing too much on YA lately and I do miss the more adultly books. I guess my biggest problem is that YA can skew too young (for my liking) at times and it generally follows a set formula (i.e. - unnecessary love triangles, needy heroines & insta-love) which can get old and annoying. This isn't to say that EVERY YA book makes me feel that way or follows that pattern, but after reading so many of them, I'm kinda getting burnt out on the genre. I think it's high time I go back to my adult books! :)


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