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“Some debts cannot be repaid.”
Knox is a Patron, born into one of the City’s wealthiest families. He has everything he could ever want, including a Proxy, Syd, to serve as a whipping boy and take his every punishment. But when one of Knox’s incidents results in unexpected consequences, the boys end up on a cross-country race to save each other and escape the very system they’ve lived under for so long.
When I picked up Proxy, I did it with purpose. I knew Syd, one of the book’s main characters, was gay, and, from following the author’s tumblr, I knew his “gayness” wasn’t what the story revolved around. It was the latter reason especially that convinced me to purchase the book, without reading any reviews or talking to my bookworm friends.
I’ve been reading Science Fiction, Dystopian, and Fantasy books since I was a little girl. In my short twenty years, I’ve seen the Young Adult section in major booksellers change from having New Releases and everything else to include Paranormal and Fantasy/Sci-Fi with New Release subsections within those. However the one thing I, as queer black girl, hadn’t noticed were non-white queer characters who also were superheroes, vampires, witches, girls who lead revolutions, and so forth. Characters who looked like me seemed to be confined to the “multicultural section.” With books like Ash by Malinda Lo and now Proxy, we’re making steps toward a world that includes a realistic portrayal of all people.
Proxy is action filled. Told in third person, it gives the reader a glimpse into the hearts and minds of both boys. Alex London’s writing captures the mantra “show not tell” perfectly, and his decision to use third person, unlike first that we so often see in Young Adult books, doesn’t result in distancing the reader from the characters at all. Though I started out with clear, strong feelings about which characters I liked and did not, I was pleasantly surprised with how the author let me get to know the characters on a deeper level, allowing me to challenge my opinions.
Proxy enables the reader to think about how realistic the world of Proxy is and that it might not be too far from the world we live in now. There’s also the “lux” technology that adds a certain futuristic fare and ups the stakes of the already high-stakes race the characters undertake. Yes, it is at times a bleak story that seems to hold no hope for its protagonists. However it’s also hilarious. For instance, when Knox finds out Syd is gay he decides to use that to his advantage to win Syd over. He begins flirting with him in the most obnoxious of ways that had me rolling on the floor with laughter. By the time I finished the book, I was overcome with emotion. I had grown deeply in love with the characters; their pain had become mine, their joys mine too.
According to Goodreads, “Dystopian fiction is more popular than it has been in more than 50 years.” In a post in December 2012, The Hub, the literature blog for YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association, stated that the draw for dystopian books is more than the fact that they’re fun, action and romance filled, it’s that they’re relatable. Teens are at a time in their lives when they probably feel oppressed by those in authority.” I think that Dystopian books give teens the chance to explore those feelings while also learning a lot about themselves and the way society functions. As the post goes on to say, “…teens will ultimately be the ones making the decisions that shape the future.” If characters such as Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen teach us to stand up for what we believe in and to protect those we love, then it’s my hope that Syd and Knox might teach us a little about the consequences of our actions and how huge a difference compassion for and understanding of those different from us can make.
By Alex London
Hardcover, 9780399257766, 384 pp.