Before we get into it, I’ll say I had a rough time getting into this book. Not because of the writing but because at the very beginning is a list of Black lives stolen and that was painful. There’s also a trigger warning for slurs and police brutality which was greatly appreciated. Thankfully, there are very few slurs in the book.
Survive the Dome is a fairly solid story.
Jamal, a student and budding journalist plans to go to a protest for the shooting of a Black man in Baltimore. The outcome of the trial wasn’t acceptable for the crime and people are angry.
We’ve seen it time and time again. Cop kills Black man, gets a slap on the wrist. Protests happen where more brutality occurs.
Jamal wants to be there, get photos and he thinks it’ll help him as when he tries to get into college, already being told as much from a teacher.
Jamal is a pretty well fleshed out character so I appreciated him as our protagonist. He’s Black, queer, and nervous.
Then the dome happens. The mayor deploys it to control the “violent element”. It cuts people off from the outside, no signals in or out. And that’s when the story begins.
As far as characters go, Jamal is the best fleshed out. Marco fell flat for me and was more or less hacker love interest. And that’s it. He didn’t feel as real. Catherine is the Latinex solder. Who may be ace which was a nice touch but it’s the only personal thing we learn about it and it was a bit of a throw away comments.
Now the story is easy to follow. The author has a writing style that’s easy to read but at times felt a little young. Where the writing falls flat is on the characters. They are pushed along by the plot. It was hard to see where characters got ideas from and made leaps of logic to because they just did. It was in service of the plot. And that really messed with my reading experience. Being able to track a character’s motivations is key and they just sort of did things because they had to.
Also Jamal went from terrified, sounding like he has clinical anxiety, to toward the end of the book, acting without fear. Or saying he was afraid but we weren’t shown it. Which was a shame because we do see him battling with his anxiety after everything starts. Racing heart rates, his counting to ground himself. Real things.
He did write some things that quickly got old. Jamal bites his tongue, lip, cheek, often. And every time he did it was until he tasted blood. I read that description maybe eight times? It was a lot and unbelievable. You want me to believe in a dome? Fine. A police state created by a corrupt mayor is believable. But when he’s been so descriptive about the feeling of his body, if he’s bitten himself that many times, he’s going to say something about it.
It also lost its effect. I was numb to that as a response from him.
It also felt like things moved along too easily in some points but that was also because they needed to be able to get where the plot needed them to be.
I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, although enjoy is a strange word for me with this book. Yes, as the trigger warning states, there is police brutality. And it’s often and on the page. That got draining. I finished it and sort of just sat because I was glad it was over.
When it comes to the ending, I don’t know how I feel about it. I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to because it felt like it left it open for a sequel. I don’t know if one is planned but I won’t be reading it. Nothing on the author but more police brutality is not what I want.
I will say that readers who pick this story up should monitor their reactions and mental health. It can be a lot. Doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be read, just be gentle while you read it.
For me, it gets three (3) stars.
I received this arc from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to them and the publisher.