Note: I received a free copy of the e-book from the author, Shannon A. Thompson, who contacted me to request a review – my thanks to her! Regardless, my opinion was not influenced by this exchange and what follows is an honest critique of the book.
It’s been awhile since I’ve read a good dystopia, or really any dystopia, despite the over-saturation of them in recent YA fiction. So when Shannon reached out to me, I jumped at the chance to switch genres from the heftier classics (see my reviews for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Dracula) to a compulsively readable sci-fi story.
In Take Me Tomorrow, only several towns remain populated with the United States as we know it having collapsed. Sophia Gray lives in the capital city, known as Topeka, one of the more stable parts of the country. With the proliferation of the clairvoyant drug tomo sparking rebellions, the government remains authoritarian and the people uneasy in the wake of the state’s massacre of the rebels two years prior.
Under her single father’s influence, Sophia has learned to skirt the restrictions and rules where she can – until her father’s illegal forgeries and her friends’ increasing recklessness leads to trouble in the form of Noah, a handsome stranger who sneaked across the border armed with tomo and intent on causing problems for the government. His presence and mysterious past connection to her loved ones causes Sophia to question her life and society she lives in.
(Mild spoilers ahead)
The primary reason I was drawn in by this description is that it’s a very innovative premise, like nothing I’ve read before. Usually in future dystopias, the major cities still exist in some form, whereas here the center of the new State is Topeka, Kansas – about as middle-of-nowhere as you can get (if that’s where it actually is since the geography is intentionally a bit sketchy). Various references to the Brooklyn Bridge pepper the novel, but it’s clear that Manhattan is destroyed and the rest of New York, particularly Albany, is also falling quickly into disarray. But honestly, how sad would it be for Topeka to be the future remnant of America?
Another creative element is the drug angle in the plot, highlighted by the Rx in “tomorrow” on the cover. Tomo is a hallucinogenic that may (or may not) give the user visions of the future. With tomo, the novel develops an added layer that links it to actual American history via our past and present war on drugs. Unlike cocaine and more similar to medical marijuana, tomo is considered to be a symbol of hope among a certain contingent. Yet, numerous characters express skepticism about it given the obvious and numerous negative side effects. Although I still don’t quite understand how tomo works, the author deftly presents both sides of the argument through the characters without imposing her personal viewpoint about drugs onto the narrative.
As for the characters themselves, I adored the protagonist Sophia most because she does what YA heroines almost never do – questioning the crazy in their lives and taking decisive action. She starts off pretty naive, but upon realizing her lack of information and the web of lies surrounding her, immediately starts interrogating her friends and family to try to make sense of the world again. And that’s totally understandable because I would do the same in her shoes, whereas certain female characters (no naming names here) just docilely follow whatever their hero says. Also laudable is the author’s lack of emphasis on Sophia’s appearance – I loved that I wasn’t treated to repeated references to her flowing locks or striking eyes, though she does have a (thankfully brief) obligatory beautiful gown/romantic dance interlude with her leading man.
Speaking of, I didn’t feel the same adoration towards Noah, most likely because he was a majorly unstable drug addict. Despite his infrequent attempts to do the right thing, he was largely self-serving and reckless with the safety of his supposed allies, which his friends even call him out on. Maybe some readers find this type of hero enthralling, but overall I felt like he was a negative influence on everyone’s life and that Sophia deserved better (personally, I was rooting for her slightly nerdy friend Miles or even broody Broden over Noah).
My distaste for the romance definitely dropped the book a half star as did the abrupt ending, which frustratingly leaves a few threads unresolved. I want all the answers, but I haven’t heard or read anything about a possible sequel. I’m invested enough in Sophia and curious enough about tomo that I’d definitely read it. In the meantime, fans of YA dystopias should give this a read as they await the next film installment of The Hunger Games.