Published by Random House Childrens on August 6, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Drama
A fast-paced, nerve-fraying contemporary thriller that questions loyalties and twists truths.
Appearances can be deceiving.
In the Community, life seems perfect. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pioneer invited Lyla’s family to join his group and escape the evil in the world. They were happy to be chosen, happy to move away from New York and start over in such an idyllic gated community. Now seventeen, Lyla knows that Pioneer is more than just their charismatic leader, he is their prophet . . . but his visions have grown dark.
Lyla is a loyal member of the Community, but a chance encounter with an outsider boy has her questioning Pioneer, the Community—everything. And if there’s one thing not allowed in the Community, it’s doubt. Her family and friends are certain in their belief. Lyla wishes she could feel the same. As Pioneer begins to manipulate his flock toward disaster, the question remains: Will Lyla follow them over the edge?
From the outside looking in, it’s hard to understand why anyone would join a cult. But Gated tells the story of the Community from the inside looking out, and from behind the gates things are not quite so simple. Amy Christine Parker’s beautiful writing creates a chilling, utterly unique YA story. Perfect for fans of creepy thrillers and contemporary fiction alike.
Lyla is the narrator of Gated and the remaining child in her family. Her induction into the cult as a child ensures that she views the outside world with hostility and mistrust. She manages to form solid relationships with other members her age, including Will, the boy who Pioneer declared Lyla will marry. (Side note: unlike many real-life cults, there is no sexual abuse in Gated, although there are several instances of physical abuse.)
Pioneer informs his followers of a fast-approaching apocalypse of which only he is aware. Lyla’s father views the outside enemy in a relatively practical sense: only the community has knowledge of and is prepared for the coming apocalypse, so, logically, the rest of the world is going to converge on the community to steal their resources. They must be prepared to kill to ensure that the community survives. Her mother, on the other hand, has a more straight-forward reason for wanting to kill; everyone outside their tiny community is evil and deserves to die.
Hating outsiders, however, does not mean that they can always be avoided. Pioneer and his followers occasionally need resources from the outside world, and on one of these outings, Lyla encounters Cody, the sheriff’s son who previously paid a visit to the community along with his father. Despite her wariness, Lyla connects with Cody and he challenges her to question her long-held beliefs.
Even though I knew Pioneer had to be either a scam artist or completely loony tunes, I felt my own heart racing near the end of the book, as the build-up to the clash between the community and the outsiders finally occurs. There were so many exciting moments, and I never knew in which direction Parker would take the story.
It’s terrifying to think of cult-leaders like Pioneer that we already know existed (Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite, Charles Manson, David Koresh, etc.), but Gated left me wondering how many of these cults exist hidden in the shadows. I think it also shows the ease with which vulnerable people can be seduced by someone who claims to have the answer to their problems. Lyla’s development through the book from unquestioning follower to someone willing to challenge those around her seemed believable. All she needed was someone on the outside to give a little push, and the walls of her little compound began to crumble.
Note: I received and ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Review posted at Goodreads.