I received this book for free from ARC Tour in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
Series: The Thousandth Floor #1
Published by HarperTeen on 30th August 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Sci-Fi
Format: ARC, Paperback
Source: ARC Tour
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New York City as you’ve never seen it before. A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future, where anything is possible — if you want it enough.
Welcome to Manhattan, 2118.
A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something . . . and everyone has something to lose.
Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction — to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.
Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.
Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world — and a romance — she never imagined . . . but will her new life cost Rylin her old one?
Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.
And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all — yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.
Debut author Katharine McGee has created a breathtakingly original series filled with high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, where the impossible feels just within reach. But in this world, the higher you go, the farther there is to fall...
“On the other end of the call was Atlas, her brother ─ and the reason she never wanted to kiss anyone else.”
Look, you don’t start a book with that kind of line within the first ten pages. It just doesn’t inspire confidence in the reader.
Surprise, then: I didn’t finish this one. After slogging through several hundred pages of petty drama between characters that I really, really do not (and probably could not) care about, I just didn’t have the energy or the patience to force myself through the rest of it. Life is too short to spend on stories that very quickly turn into a complete chore to get through, and that’s exactly what The Thousandth Floor is. To me, anyway.
I stopped around the halfway mark, though, so I think that qualifies as giving it an honest shot, and a good enough one to give a rating and (brief) review.
But I’ll tell you this: You should probably take said review with a grain of salt, because I’m definitely not the target audience for this kind of book.
This book is for people who enjoy series like Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl: those shows that thrive off of a soap opera built entirely around the shallow goings-on of spoiled teenagers who have nothing better to do than complain about how difficult their lives are despite their wealth and status. The Thousandth Floor is essentially a CW show with a (very) light sci-fi veneer slapped over the top.
And, hey, if that sounds like something that you’d enjoy, I make no judgments. I love to champion people’s ‘guilty pleasures’ as parts of life that don’t need the word ‘guilt’ attached to them. I mean, by God, let’s let people like the things that they like (so long as nobody’s being hurt by the things in question, of course). The world is an ugly place, so leave people to their own means of escaping it. Listen to that new pop single! Watch that Lifetime movie! Read that romance novel! Our culture has an incredibly skewed and narrow-minded understanding of what makes something ‘art’ or not, anyway, and it’s always fun to stick it to the critics, right?
So I can see the appeal to a story like this. Who doesn’t like to dabble in the trifles of the rich on occasion and watch them all fall apart? I’m sure that it gets more cohesive near the end, but what I got through mostly reads like a series of vignettes of each person’s personal collection of not-very-exciting twists and dull surprises. Right off of the bat, we’re given a whopping five POVs to try to differentiate between, and each begins to intermingle with the others as the characters start to cross paths with one another.
“A chorus of squeals erupted at that ─ ‘Wait, you and Patrick?’ ‘When?’ ‘Where?’ ─ and Jess grinned, clearly eager to share the details. Leda leaned back, pretending to listen. As far as the girls all knew, she was a virgin too. She hadn’t told anyone the truth, not even Avery. And she never would.”
It’s a clever setup, I’ll admit, and one that would probably make for a very satisfying resolution once it all came together ─ if I had any interest in following things through. Which I don’t. Despite the differences in their situations, all of the kids sound the same. This is partially because everything is written in the third-person, and partially because they all neatly fit within the various stereotypes that we’ve watched teens be filed into since time (AKA the high school dramedy genre) began. Sure, we’ve got the sort-of interesting concept of the titular tower, which is essentially a world within its own ─ the lower you go, the poorer you are and the less you’re regarded ─ but it’s a rather flimsy conceit that ultimately isn’t any different from the typical ‘rich versus poor’ and ‘popular versus unpopular’ scenarios that have been done to death in more contemporary settings. We have:
Leda: A girl who has everything, but hides a dark secret. The secret is that she had to go to rehab for a drug problem. She’s also in love with her best friend’s brother. Will she relapse? Will her relationship with her friend fall apart? Probably.
Eris: A girl who has everything, but has her world undone when it’s discovered that her mother has a dark secret. Now she doesn’t have everything. Will her friends still accept her now that she’s been left destitute? Probably not.
Rylin: A poor girl who lives near the ground floor and cares for her sister after their mother died. She has to work for everything, but is suddenly swept into a steamy relationship with some rich guy who can take her away from her old life. I’m also pretty sure that she has a dark secret in there somewhere, because it’s required at this point.
Watt: A genius who has created a sentient hacking program that essentially lets him do anything that he wants, including pick up girls out of his league by looking up their interests while he’s flirting with them. His introductory chapter involves him feeling sad because he just doesn’t feel a spark with the hot club-goers that he so effortlessly charms, because it’s just too easy. Boo-hoo. Is his dark secret the fact that he’s both creepy and irritating? Possibly.
Avery: Yet another girl who has everything, including genetically-designed features to make her look perfect. (‘Perfect’ here means ‘white,’ ‘thin,’ et cetera.) She lives on the very top floor and is swimming in luxury. But we’re meant to sympathize with her (I think), because she has a dark secret: she’s in love with her brother. Also, the prologue opens with her apparently plummeting to her death. Which is promptly foreshadowed with nary a trace of subtlety four pages later, just to make sure you understand the connection to the main character. Thank goodness.
But, really, have we not seen this exact mix-and-match bag of setups before? Am I supposed to be surprised by the idea that rich people might, you know, not have lives as perfect as they want us to think? That their biggest issues mostly end up being painfully baneful nonsense, like the fact that you’re in love with your brother (who’s adopted, so it’s okay), who (*gasp*) slept with her best friend? Who’s still in love with him? But he mysteriously disappeared for a year and is suddenly back?
The whole ‘this is the future’ gimmick is there to help prop up the story, of course, but it really doesn’t work, because it’s paper-thin once you think about it at all. There’s no real system or underlying logic in place to give the setting an authentic sense of worldbuilding. It’s just a bag of buzzwords that’s drawn from every once in a while to remind you that it’s there. So among all of the typical shenanigans of the socially-adventurous teenager (doing drugs, making out with strangers, gossiping about your friends, and so on and so forth), you’ll suddenly be told that they’re using a hover car, or watching a hologram, or getting some body part scanned for one reason or another.
There’s no limitations to any of this technology, either, which makes it seem like it’s thrown in just to sound cool. Contacts and earbuds let you use the Internet while you’re walking around! Holographic sunshine makes you believe that you’re outdoors! Tattoos can move! Literally everything is a touch screen!
“I wouldn’t waste your time with this one. Girls 2 and 6 were more interesting, Nadia ─ Watt’s quantum computer ─ answered, flashing the words across his contacts. When they were alone Nadia spoke directly into his ears, but she defaulted to text whenever Watt was with someone else.”
It’s like the Uglies series, but without the novelty. We’ve already read about/seen this kind of world before, and it hasn’t been changed much here. So the book has to be carried by the characters and their appeal. Which, as I’ve pointed out, is sort of hard to find.
So… Should I Read It?
Well, this definitely isn’t for me, but don’t take that as a hard rule. I’ve been worn out with the YA formulas for a good, long time by now, so a book like The Thousandth Floor isn’t going to do me any favors.
But, again, if this kind of drama is up your alley, then by all means give it a try. There’s a curiosity to it ─ watching the circus from the stands and drinking in the spectacle of it all, so to speak ─ that I can get, but can’t actually enjoy.
And if I have to read one more description about a chiseled guy arching a ‘single, perfect eyebrow’ or flawless girl be flustered by said eyebrow, I’m going to throw something.
It returns. I figure I can still use this space as an opportunity to throw some songs your way, whether you like it or not. Enjoy some tracks that vaguely tie into the relationship drama that this book thrives on.