Title: The Limit
Author: Kristen Landon
Published by: Aladdin (2010)
My Rating: ✭✭✭✭✩
This book was very well done. Plotted and described in the same tone as The Girl Who Could Fly, The Limit is set in a futuristic world where families who cannot keep under their debt “limit” are forced to send their children off to workhouses to work the debt off. Our main character, Matt, has never truly worried about the limit; his family manages money well—or so he believes. When his family suddenly finds themselves over the limit one fateful day, Matt finds himself being sent off to one of the workhouses without so much as a goodbye. He dreads it and just knows it’s going to be torture, and fears he will never get out once he arrives.
However, once he arrives, he finds it a pleasurable place, full of fun-but-hard work and plenty of exciting activities during free time. Of course, all these activities are only available to Matt because he is a Top Floor and one of the smartest students in the facility. The Lower floors have no such pleasures. As time wears on, though, Matt starts noticing strange things about the workhouse (which seemed a lot more like a school). Students around him are getting curious headaches and then being sent away. His sister, who arrives after his family goes over another limit, even has a seizure. Matt decides it’s high time to find out what’s truly going on.
Plot: This book reminded me so much of The Girl Who Could Fly. In both books, it starts the same, with the main character going to a school-thing that seems wonderful. They love the school at first, and thing it’s an amazing place. The school offers unique opportunities that seem incredible; and there are new friends to meet that the main character comes to love. But then mysteries start arising, and things seem a little out of place. The main character decides to do some rule breaking and snooping to try to figure it out. Then the MC constructs a plan to escape, but fails. Then the secrets are revealed that the school is actually evil and is using evil technology to control the children there to use them for their own good. (Yes, all of this is in both The Limit and The Girl Who Could Fly.)
There were so many similarities in the “schools” between these two books, except I’d have to say The Girl Who Could Fly was written a little bit better, with a stronger structural plotline. I’m not accusing either book of copying—I just noted the similarities and found them interesting. And overall they were very different books; it was just the school element that seemed the same.
The Limit itself had a pretty good plotline; at any rate, it was interesting enough to keep me reading. The writing was acceptable, with longer sentences and better use of bigger words. There was good descriptions, and Matt was a good main character, working for the sake of his family and friends rather than for himself. His love for his sisters was well expressed, as well, and yet he still felt like a realistic teenage boy.
Negatives: However, there were aspects of the plot I found very unbelievable and fell a bit flat. For example, in one scene, Matt decides to run away. And despite all the security the author has gone into detail explaining over and over how strong it is, Matt still defies the odds and gets away. And not even that. He makes it all the way back to the city—walking, even though it took two hours to drive there—and even gets back to his house. I thought the security was super tight? I thought the people in charge were super smart? How was it even possible Matt made it that far? And then, when he gets back to his house, he walks in, sees his little sister and says, “Hi, Abbie,” before going upstairs. No tiredness? No fatigue? No emotional aspect of “I can’t believe I’m home”? Nope. Then he goes to his mom and she barely notices he’s there, only is worried about money and new businesses. And then Matt blows up at her for not being careful enough with money, careless enough that he and his little sister were both taken. (That part, at least, was understandable.) Then, of course, there’s a knock and it’s the security. Finally. On top of it all, he willingly goes back to the school. And the most ridiculous part is the reason he ran away in the first place: It was to tell his parents his little sister was sick! (True, I know she had a seizure, but the way this part was expressed, it seemed like he was simply worried about her sickness in general.) Oh, look! Lauren has a headache. I have this theory the school is evil and is doing something horrible to us. I think I’m going to launch an intricate plan to go escape and tell my parents she’s sick. Then I’m going to come back and stay here, even though I know it’s incredibly dangerous.
While this wasn’t stated directly, this was the feeling that I got from reading it. This was the one part of the story that didn’t make any sense whatsoever. Seriously—I know the security is going to come after him and make him come back, but first of all, they wouldn’t catch him the next morning. It would be minutes later, from the way the security is described in the book. Secondly, he wouldn’t go all the way out there just to tell his parents Lauren was sick, then willingly go back! The impression that came off as a result was the school was some kind of place one could easily leave at any time and then come back, when it was supposedly the other way around.
Setting: The one other thing was: while the workhouses before he arrives are described as some kind of horror place, once he gets there it seems more like a fun school. He’s supposedly there to do “work” that will help pay off his family’s debt, but I’m still in the dark on exactly what this “work” was. All that’s said was that he worked all day at a computer at online school classes, then created intricate new designs for popular companies. If this were any other genre, I’d say that it seems incredibly unrealistic that they’d make the “work” for thirteen-year-olds creating new hit designs and animations for companies, but then again, this IS a dystopia where teens seem to be very experienced with computers. I do wish there had been more detail on the work, though. The only impression I got was that it was fun. As well, despite the word “workhouse”, scenes where the characters openly admit they’d like to live there forever are constant. Even Matt wonders if he’d like to stay there and never go home. After all, it seems to him like a perfect paradise.
Other than those few things, though, the book was very well done and I enjoyed it. Like I’ve said, it reminded me much of The Girl Who Could Fly, and that put a positive spin on my reading. Though it definitely isn’t the best book out there, this dystopian story was a fast-paced, intriguing, and a somewhat well-written read. I wouldn’t consider it a favorite, but I’ll probably be re-reading it sometime in the future. 4.0 stars.