Escape from Eden by Elisa Nadir
Publication Date: August 18, 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Thriller
Since the age of ten, Mia has lived under the iron fist of the fundamentalist preacher who lured her mother away to join his fanatical family of followers. In Edenton, a supposed “Garden of Eden” deep in the South American jungle, everyone follows the Reverend’s strict but arbitrary rules—even the mandate of whom they can marry. Now sixteen, Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep the faithful in, and the curious out. When the rebellious and sexy Gabriel, a new boy, arrives with his family, Mia sees a chance to escape.
But the scandalous secrets the two discover beyond the compound’s façade are more shocking than anything they ever imagined. While Gabriel has his own terrible secrets, he and Mia bond together, more than friends and freedom fighters. But is there time to think of each other as they race to stop the Reverend’s paranoid plan to free his flock from the corrupt world? Can two teenagers crush a criminal mastermind? And who will die in the fight to save the ones they love from a madman who’s only concerned about his own secrets?
Escape from Eden is a captivating story of one sixteen-year-old’s journey to escape the confines of Edenton, a religious community nestled in the jungle, separated from the rest of society, and defined as a utopia to its Flock. Even its name alludes to the biblical Eden, the quintessential paradise created by God. Ironically, as the plot unfolds, readers gradually discover Edenton is a hellish prison instead of the paradise promised.
The story is narrated from Mia’s POV, and Nadir has done a great job in creating a well-developed, realistic protagonist who secretly questions Edenton’s way of life. Even after six years of the Reverend Eden’s brainwashing tactics, she is still able to maintain her individuality despite the pervasive cult mentality that surrounds her. Mia longs for freedom from the control their fanatical leader who dictates almost every aspect of their lives even down to who they may marry. Although she has been isolated from the outside world and is naïve in many respects, Mia recognizes the reverend’s manipulative tactics and refuses to blindly follow his mandates. Her cleverness, fast-thinking, and compassion for others make her a likeable heroine.
When Gabriel arrives with his family, Mia is already in the beginning stages of planning her escape. She is immediately drawn to this rebellious bad boy with his devil-may-care attitude who defies authority at every turn, preferring punishment to acquiescence. Gabriel is a guilt-ridden hero haunted by his past, and I think this is the driving force behind his risky behavior. Gabriel is also charming, witty and nonchalant in the most stressful of situations, which helps to relieve some of the tension and anxiety that build as the plot progresses. Gabriel seems to recognize Mia’s resistance as well, and the two begin to work together to flee Edenton after their shocking discovery of the Reverend’s corruption and depravity.
Some aspects of the plot are predictable. Reverend Eden is a power-hungry one dimensional character whose extreme ideology fosters a culture that discourages independent thinking, and he uses fear to keep his Flock under control. The story includes plenty of conflict and action scenes where Mia and Gabriel must fight an onslaught of dangers that threaten their lives. I like that Nadir establishes a sinister undertone early on to build up the mystery and suspense, and she includes some surprising turn of events that I certainly didn’t anticipate but kept me turning the pages.
Yet, there are some aspects of the novel that didn’t quite work for me. Although the climax is definitely intense and suspenseful, I found the Reverend’s actions and behavior in this scene to be overly dramatic. I also wish Gabriel and Mia’s relationship had more depth. For much of the book it seems they fight their mutual attraction, and their constant push and pull interactions make it hard for me to truly believe they have really fallen in love.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and think it’s geared toward older young adult as well as adult readers because of its mature subject matter and violence.
I received an ARC of this book from the author for an honest review.
3.5 shining suns
-Silver Dogtag Necklace
-Green Snakeskin Pop Phone headset for for Mobiles