Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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Recruitment Day is here...if you fail, a loved one will die...While not as wholly original as I had hoped, The Culling managed to take the emotional pain of The Hunger Games to a whole new level that was a bit draining.
For Lucian “Lucky” Spark, Recruitment Day means the Establishment, a totalitarian government, will force him to become one of five Recruits competing to join the ruthless Imposer task force. Each Recruit participates in increasingly difficult and violent military training for a chance to advance to the next level. Those who fail must choose an “Incentive”—a family member—to be brutally killed. If Lucky fails, he’ll have to choose death for his only living relative: Cole, his four-year-old brother.
Lucky will do everything he can to keep his brother alive, even if it means sacrificing the lives of other Recruits’ loved ones. What Lucky isn’t prepared for is his undeniable attraction to the handsome, rebellious Digory Tycho. While Lucky and Digory train together, their relationship grows. But daring to care for another Recruit in a world where love is used as the ultimate weapon is extremely dangerous. As Lucky soon learns, the consequences can be deadly...
The inclusion of a gay protagonist is perfect and spot-on. It's something that I have been looking and hoping for in the booming dystopian "genre" for a long time and it was nice to finally see it realized. As LGBTQ people slowly begin to gain acceptance in our society, we can only hope that our literature and the literature that we share with our children reflects that same shift, right?
I appreciated (not necessarily like, but appreciated) Lucky's character from the beginning. He is a very loyal and I felt like I could connect with the emotions that he was feeling throughout. He's conflicted about certain actions and people and that carried an air of realism for me.
The dark nature of The Trials takes the twisted killing of children that The Hunger Games brought to a modern audience and takes it a dark step further. It is not the participant who ultimately dies in the case of failure but a loved one. The whole time I was reading this, that was a difficult pill to swallow. The darkness...oh the darkness. It will truly break your heart.
Overall, I enjoyed this book but it took me awhile to really get into it. At first, the similarity to The Hunger Games (the inevitable and predictable comparison, I know) was a bit of a turnoff for me. However, I am glad that I stuck with reading this one as in the end I felt like it was worth the heart-wrenching journey.