When I first picked up this book and glanced at the back cover, I would have never guessed what it was packing inside. The title Gated is unassuming, and the phrase on the cover ‘She thought the evil lived outside the walls’ gave me a kind of dystopian feel. Dystopian is a genre that lately has been exhausting, but like the cover phrase, this book surprised me by being a totally enthralling psychological thriller.
I loved this book because I am someone who has always wondered about what might go on in infamous cults such as The People’s Temple of Jonestown or the Branch Davidians of Waco Texas. Amy Christine Parker brought a topic to life that I found entertaining and wrote a really good story about it.
This story is told from the point of view of a 17 year old girl named Lyla. She has lived most of her life in a place called the Community, led by a mysterious man named Pioneer. Lyla’s family, along with about twenty other families, entrust their lives to this man who they hardly know anything about. The Community is a hardcore doomsday cult. However, since Lyla’s been told otherwise since the age of 5, she believes that everyone on the outside of the walls is strange. Lyla’s only allowed to trust the people on the inside. Inside the closely guarded walls of the Community, there are no lies, everything is shared, and you are expected to behave as if you are a part of a very large family. The people of the Community believe they are the chosen ones who will survive the upcoming apocalypse, and that Pioneer has visions that tell him the word of the Brethrens, alien deities from outer space. But the increasing speculation from the nearby townspeople, and a forbidden visitor who catches Lyla’s eye, slowly starts to dissolve the facade, which changes everything.
At the beginning of each chapter, Parker includes a quote from a famous cult leader, such as Jim Jones or Charles Manson. It’s a subtle way to foreshadow what’s really going on with Pioneer. Pioneer is such a convincing and persuasive leader, it is no wonder all these people trusted him with their lives. There were some moments where I almost believed him too; he is just that good of a character. It really makes you wonder about the state of mind of people who follow cults, and why they are vulnerable like Lyla’s family.
Some readers have qualms about certain aspects of the novel such as Reilly Card, junior, who felt that the book had many lost opportunities to really delve into the fact of how these people were essentially brainwashed and how the influence of a powerful leader can lead many to horrible consequences. She said that, “The main character felt “wishy washy” and although she had many strong moments of doubt, she overall was focused on the idea of a boy and not the true force of what she was dealing with. The book had a great idea but lacked proper execution.”
While I do agree with some of the points brought up above, I think that Parker’s character development of Lyla was realistic. The first few chapters of the novel do start out slow, but I say give it time and it will knock your socks off. I got through the novel in an afternoon and a half. Gated is a good book to get through on a lazy weekend, or even in one sitting if you really put your mind to it. If you have finished the book like me, have no fear, there’s also a sequel called Astray. Both novels can be found in the WBHS media center.
If you have read Gated by Parker also, do not be afraid to share your thoughts in the comments below!