08 March 2011

The Limit by Kristen Landon

From the cover:
An eighth grade girl was taken today . . .
With this first sentence, readers are immediately thrust into a fast-paced thriller that doesn't let up for a moment. In a world not too far removed from our own, kids are being taken away to special workhouses if their families exceed the monthly debt limit imposed by the government. Thirteen-year-old Matt briefly wonders if he might be next, but quickly dismisses the thought. After all, his parents are financially responsible, unlike the parents of those other kids. As long as his parents remain within their limit, the government will be satisfied and leave them alone. But all it takes is one fatal visit to the store to push Matt’s family over their limit—and to change his reality forever.

 In The Limit, Kristen Landon creates a slightly dystopian world where the amount of debt that a family can incur is closely monitored.  When a family goes over that limit, there are consequences.  Generally, a family is allowed to choose what happens next, whether they'll go on strict spending observation or choose more drastic measures.  For Matt's family, the choice is taken away--Matt is almost instantly carted off to one of the state workhouses to help work off his family's debt.  Once there, Matt is tested and assigned to the Top Floor, where the brightest kids are taken to work.  When strange things start to happen, Matt and his small cadre of friends investigate (using their superior intelligence and planning, of course).  The story offers a good amount of action with some moral lessons on the side.

While the storyline isn't overly complex, it was definitely a fun, quick read. (It's a great read for its intended audience)  I enjoyed the main character, Matt, quite a bit, as he progresses through the story.  I really felt he learned a lot through the process (at least it surely seemed that way in the end).  I start off my synopsis by saying "slightly dystopian" because it didn't have the same "doom and gloom" feel to me that a lot of dystopian stories have.  There is definitely the overly-controlling government aspect as a result of too much debt in the country.  However, there wasn't the same sense of previous destruction leading to such control that I attribute to most dystopias.  A similar lesson was there (watch out how you use your resources) but it didn't have the same effect.

There is a good amount of action that goes on throughout--from Matt's original taking to the mischief he gets into in the workhouse (to other things I won't mention for fear of spoiling the story).  The story really plays into the geeky nature of some of the main characters (a lot revolves around computers and math--need I say more?). I think this is a good recommendation for young male readers especially. (Not to say girls won't enjoy! It just seems like people are always looking for good books for boys)

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