Thursday, April 18, 2019

The World of Dystopia: A Review of The Voyage of Poe Blythe [Contributor: Megan Mann]

(Image credit: Penguin Teen)

Years ago young adult literature was leaving the world of vampires and werewolves behind. The mythical creatures and their love stories were on the way out, making room for a new genre: dytospian fiction. Yes, dystopias took the world by storm with books like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Selection by Kierra Cass, and Matched by Ally Condie.

It was a genre that focused on the future rather than the past. Dystopias ask the questions, “What if everything goes south? What would that world look like? Would the human race survive, or tear each other to pieces? Does our past influence what comes next when the world is unrecognizable?”

While some of these novel’s landscapes are unfathomable to us, they also aren’t exactly out of the realm of possibility either. That’s what allows writers the freedom to create a future that’s just enough to make you wonder, “Is this possible? If so, would I survive?”

And Ally Condie does just that. In her dystopian trilogy that began with Matched, Condie showed a future where we meet our life partner at seventeen years old in a tightly controlled society. In her latest dystopian take, the focus is less on believing that you’re in a Utopian society and instead discovering its seedy underbelly. This book is about knowing exactly where you stand in a future where you have to do what you can in order to survive.

That’s exactly what Poe Blythe intends to do: survive and seek revenge.

At the beginning of The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe, we meet Poe and her best friend turned boyfriend, Call, as they sail down the river in a mining ship. It’s a less-than-desirable job since there are often Raiders lurking on the shores waiting to rob the ship of whatever gold it dredges from the river. It’s a dangerous journey, but Poe believes not as important for Raiders anymore as there are less and less outlets willing to trade in gold.

Poe and Call have a plan: they’re going to set sail as if they are going on a regular mission but instead of turning around and heading back to the Outpost, they’re going to keep sailing and see what the wilderness has in store for them. It could change their lives for the better and they’ll be together in this new adventure. As they talk about their escape plan during an excursion, Poe’s help is needed inside the ship. When she comes back on deck with two other crew members, she can immediately tell that something is wrong.


As the Raiders take over the ship, she notices that Call is missing. Poe hopes that he’s simply hiding and didn’t have time to raise the alarm letting the rest of the crew know they were in trouble. But when they bring him up to the deck, she knows with certainty that Call is dead. Her hopes, her dreams, her heart is shattered in that moment. The Raiders take the ship and allow the rest of the crew to leave with a message to the Outpost that the Raiders, or drifters as they call themselves, will no longer allow them to take the gold from the rivers. As the group makes the long trek back to the Outpost, with the ship exploding in the distance, Poe feels the fire ignite in her.

“I make them a promise, as their smoke and fire blot out the stars. I will make you nothing too.”

Over the next two years, Poe does seek revenge on the Raiders. Through dreams, she sees Call creating armor to protect the mining ships and sets to creating it. Ever since she brought the dream to life, the last remaining ship has yet to be raided and its gold taken. This has allowed Poe to move up at the Outpost and live in her own apartment while working with the Admiral. But her need for revenge has not yet been quelled. When the Admiral tells her that she will be making another voyage, this time on a river that has yet to be mined by the Outpost, Poe isn’t sure how to feel. However it’s not an option; it’s an order.

It’s been two years since she had been on a ship and now as Captain, she’s unsure how to feel. She wonders about the crew and whether or not they can be trusted. She wonders if they will have a problem with being lead by someone who is just 17 years old. She wonders why the Admiral wanted her on this voyage in the first place. The ship fills her with memories and also suspicion. This is surely going to be the voyage that Poe was not anticipating.

Dystopias have to draw me into a version of our future while keeping me grounded in something relatable in order to be good. They have to make you believable in the relative impossible while keeping you glued to the page. The story has to be intense with great plot and action sequences because if you have to fight to survive, it better be a good fight. As a writer, you have to build the suspense and make the reader feel like they can’t put the book down.

The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe did all of that and more for me. It kept me guessing and wondering what was going to happen next. It was a story of survival, sure, but it had so much heart as well. It was, as somehow most dystopias are, a coming of age story set against an impossible backdrop. Being the captain of a ship where your boyfriend was killed and dead set on revenge at such a young age is a lot grapple with.

I enjoyed the mystery aspect of the story as well. Since Poe doesn’t know what all of the mining is for, we don’t know and you’re constantly wondering along with her. There are little tidbits here and there throughout the plot that come back around brilliantly. I love when writing brings small things back around and proves they were actually big pieces to the story.

If you’re looking for a story that is going to pull you in and keep you guessing, The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie is the perfect read for you. It’s a fresh take on the pirate story that will have you racing through the pages trying to figure out the mystery of it all. It’s fresh, exciting, and it’s the perfect summer read just waiting for you to dive into!

Get your copy of the book today!


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