Publisher: Strange Chemistry.
Release Date: June 3rd 2014.
Source: Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Autumn escaped a cult, but now she realizes she’s fallen into another.
Growing up in San Francisco’s Centrist Movement, sixteen year-old Autumn Grace has always believed emotions—adrenaline, endorphins, even happiness—drain your Essence and lead to an early death. But her younger brother’s passing and a run-in with a group of Outsiders casts her faith into question.
Ryder Stone, the sexy, rebellious leader of the Outsiders, claims Essence drain is nothing more than a Centrist scare tactic — and he can prove it.
Autumn follows Ryder to his Community of adrenaline junkies and free spirits in Yosemite National Park, and they introduce her to a life of adventure, romance, sex, drugs and freedom. But as she discovers dark secrets beneath the Community’s perfect exterior, she realizes the more she risks in search of the perfect rush, the further she has to fall.
Cults are one of the most unsettling things to read about, and I felt unsettled for the entirety of the book, which I think just goes to show how well O’Kane wrote this book. It felt real, or that it could be real. People fall into cults all the time and you can’t help but feel sorry for the kids born into them.
Autumn is part of a cult called The Centrist Movement. It was born after a series of earthquakes in the near future, when the founder claimed he was shown the way. They believe that ‘Neutrality is the key to longevity’. That everyone has ‘essence’ and if you are too emotional then you will drain it quickly and die.
Autumn is struggling with this view after the death of her young brother. She starts questioning what she has been told all her life.
She runs into a group of teens that tell her that the Centrist Movement is a lie and that they have a way of proving it. After some persuasion, she decides to go with them.
Autumn has lived a very sheltered life, and her eyes are dramatically opened when she joins the Outsiders. They are trying to disprove the essence theory wrong by doing crazy things to elevate their heart rate like zip-lining and base jumping and other adrenaline inducing activities. She goes through a lot of new experiences, and I thought her responses to them were real. She has to deal with a lot of emotions that she has never experienced before and she is just kind of thrown in the deep end and has to sink or swim. It was a lot to take in for her and she fumbled her way through it and made mistakes, which is so true to life.
I couldn’t possibly write a review without mentioning the setting. Setting it in Yosemite National Park was a stroke of genius. O’Kane describes it so beautifully. Everything was so easy to picture, you felt you were right there in Yosemite. It really made this book a standout.
There is a love triangle, and at first I was really going for the underdog, even though it was clear who she was going to choose. In fact, it took me until 3/4 the way through the book to start liking the guy she chose. When his layers were pulled away and his true self was revealed, I started liking him. I didn’t like the cocky, bad boy act and I hated, hated the fact that he smoked.
Paradise is rarely paradise and soon the cracks start to show. Autumns friends start to question the community and their way of life. I was suspicious of the whole thing pretty early and I was holding my breath waiting for the dark underbelly to show and for Autumn to realise what she had gotten herself into. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen when she did. And it was worth the wait. That ending! Exciting, edge of your seat stuff. I would have to say it was my favourite part of the book. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with this now that Strange Chemistry is no more, but I’m hoping it will get out into the world somehow because you can’t just end a story there! I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS! And I’m sure a lot of other readers will agree.
Essence is certainly worth the read. If you’re not really into dystopian, I suggest you still give this one a try because it didn’t really feel like a dystopian due to fact you only get to see inside the two cults. And just a warning for those who care about these things: I would suggest this one is suitable for upper YA and above only. It does contain drinking, drug taking and sex (Though the sex is not detailed.)
I highly recommend this one and suggest you snap it up while you still can!
You can add it to your Goodreads here.