Rating: 3 stars out of 5
In a future where schools have no teachers and no classrooms, Jennifer Calderon is the perfect student. Every day she watches her video modules, plays her edu games, and never misses an answer. Life is comfortable in the Plex, a mile-wide apartment building. Corporations and brand names surround her and satisfy her every want and need.
Then one day, her foul-mouthed, free-spirited, 90’s-kitsch-wearing girlfriend Melody disrupts everything. She introduces her to a cynical, burned-out former teacher, who teaches them the things no longer taught in school. Poetry. Critical thinking. Human connection.
But these lessons draw the attention of EduForce, the massive corporation with a stranglehold on education. When they show how far they are willing to go keep their customers obedient, Jennifer has to decide what is most important to her and how much she is willing to sacrifice for it.
When I read the blurb of “At the Trough”, I was thrilled to finally find a classic YA dystopia with an LGBT+ couple. But that’s not what I got, so I was a bit disappointed.
There are so many YA dystopian novels out there, with two teenagers in a forbidden love, fighting to overthrow the system and I love that genre. But I have yet to find a book with a couple that’s not m/f. I had hoped that this book would finally be the first book with a f/f pairing with that setting. Needless to say, I was quite disappointed when it turned out that “At the Trough” was more a philosophical debate about the school system.
Other than that, I had a couple issues with the story. First of all, the timeline didn’t quite work out for me. The book is set in 2051 and the world as we know it doesn’t exist anymore. That’s only 32 years from now, so not all that far in the future. I found it hard to believe that everything is so very different, without any sort of natural disaster or war or something else to jump-start such a major change in society. It all started in the 2030s, which is just 20 years from now, and I just don’t see that coming.
I didn’t feel the romance between Melody and Jennifer at all. Best friends with benefits, sure, but lovers? Not so much. Maybe a little background info would have worked. We never learned how these two very different young women met and fell in love. We never learned anything about Melody’s past.
On one occasion, I found a pretty serious mistake. Charles tells his students about Kafka and calls him a “German writer”. And that’s just plain wrong. There’s a difference between German-speaking and German, just like there’s a difference between English-speaking and English. If you have to pin a nationality on Kafka, it would have to be Czech. Charles, a literature-loving teacher, would never have made that mistake, so it was clearly a research mistake.
The plot didn’t really engage me. It felt a bit like a manifesto of the brilliant, wonderful school system and that’s not something I’m interested in. And the ending didn’t really work for me either.
Overall, “At the Trough” wasn’t what I expected at all and I was honestly disappointed by that. I guess you might like the book more, if you go in with the right expectations, but it just wasn’t for me.
The cover by Natasha Snow is alright.
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Published May 13th 2019 by NineStar Press
Edition Language English