We love sharing student reviews with you here at Penguin Teachers’ Academy. Below is a review for Emily McKay written by high school student Morgan, aged 14.
Something that every good book should have is a clever and complicated plot, one that is constantly twisting and turning, and keeping you sitting there until the early hours of the morning with your eyes watering.
Well, ‘The Farm’ certainly has that.
‘The Farm’ is the story of a girl called Lily and her autistic twin sister, Mel, who speaks only in nursery rhymes such as “Red rover, red rover.” (Their code word for their jailbreak from the farm) and is only calmed by the slinking sound of her slinky. It is a world set in the future, where civilisation has collapsed and monsters called ‘Ticks’ have taken over. They are similar to vampires, but are better thought of as animals. In this horrendous world, children and teenagers are kept in facilities called ‘Farms’. They have blood taken out of them regularly in an attempt to satisfy the Ticks undying thirst. Often, kids are tied to the poles outside of the facility and left to the ticks. The Farms are the only safe places left – the only places where people can sleep at night and not have to fear being eaten by a Tick. However, once outside of the Farm, most people don’t survive. Lily and Mel live together in the Farm, taking shelter on the seventh floor of an abandoned school building. There are other people on the other floors, but they stay well away from them, knowing that too much interaction could get them killed.
The people who give blood while in the Farm are called Greens, and are essentially the bottom rung of the hierarchical ladder. Next are the Collabs – the all-brawn-no-brain henchmen of the Dean. The Dean is the head of each farm and – naturally – the top of the hierarchical ladder. Lily and Mel are both Greens, and are treated exactly like cattle. Fed four times a day, have blood taken once a week and are left to do whatever it is they do for the rest of the time. Lily decides that there must be life on the outside somewhere, and so creates a plan to escape with Mel. But before she knows it, Carter, a boy she had a crush on in the Before, is at the Farm and trying to help Mel and herself. However, she is still determined to break out – WITHOUT Carter’s help. This leads her, Mel and Carter on an adventure of courage, loss and terror. The trio meet Sebastian the vampire (An accomplice of Carter’s – but certainly not a friend), Joe and McKenna (The couple that are desperately trying to save their unborn child) and of course the Dean (The crazy whack-job who – in the end – is even more insane than originally thought). All this is going on while everyone is trying to figure out Lily’s incredible power. The ability to control the emotions of the people around her.
Unfortunately, this is where my complaints start.
Firstly, the BIGGEST twist in the entire story is given away in the BLURB. It states, “Except Lily hasn’t reckoned on two things: firstly, her sister’s ability to control the horrors; and, secondly, on those out there who desperately want to find and control Mel.” (The Farm, Blurb, Emily McKay, 2012). The whole story is given away. Lily’s supposed powers are not in fact her own, but rather Mel’s powers. As someone who always reads the blurb first in order to gain a first impression of a book, reading the greatest and most unexpected twist before even reading the book itself really ruined it for me. If I hadn’t read that, I would never have suspected anything. It would have been a really clever and sneaky twist.
Also, the artwork on the front cover – although very interesting and contrasting – has no real relation to the book. On the front is a picture of a girl in a red cloak with the hood pulled up. Except nowhere in the book is there any mention of anything like this. Perhaps the red symbolises the blood given? Or the pale white of her face signifies her looming fate? Regardless, the first impression of the book given by the cover is somewhat misleading.
However, I really enjoyed this book. It has an original and interesting storyline, and it really is a book that you want to keep reading. The writing is creative and realistic which keeps you from fading out. Overall, I was very impressed. I definitely recommend this to people who enjoy teen romance, adventure (exploding backpacks, fighting off monsters with planks of wood and dramatic car chases counts as action, right?) and tension. Not to mention a small amount of horror at the end. Probably not a book for kids under eleven, but a must read for older kids.
Thank you Morgan for your honest and well-considered review. Teachers, if you would like to submit us a student review, feel free to contact us in the comments.