From Lancaster alumna Joe Kipling comes her debut novel Blinded by the Light, a dystopian fiction for young adults set in the near future when the world’s population has been ravaged by disease. MaryAnn, a naïve and spoilt girl of 15, lives in the Neighbourhood, where the rich and powerful follow the ruling of the Light and live in constant fear of infection and the Feral Echo outside the Boundary, those who have been driven mad by disease. When she attends a party with her do-good parents, however, her life will be irrevocably changed forever.
Blinded by the Light is certainly highly imaginative. The setting is well thought out and, despite some overloading of information at the beginning to aid us in navigating our way through this world, it is easy to follow too. Dystopian fiction is something that has increased in popularity in recent years across all media with zombie apocalypses and the worry over increasingly anti-biotic resistant bacteria. What Kipling has done in her novel is not only to deal with this post-apocalyptic issue but also to make her novel realistic and current by taking ideological power relations into consideration as well. Speaking to SCAN on her choice of genre, Kipling exposed what has interested her about dystopian fiction, saying: “I am a long-time fan of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. In this story I wanted to focus on discrimination and I thought that looking at how wealth impacted on the fate of people affected by a flu virus would be an interesting idea to explore.”
Indeed, this is the most successful aspect of Kipling’s debut. MaryAnn is confronted with the endless battle between good and evil but also the issue of power relations and prejudice very close to home. Despite being the first in a trilogy, Blinded by the Light leaves us hopeful that such prejudices can be overcome no matter how ingrained something is in society – a message which is educational for the young audience this novel is aimed at.
The biggest issue with this book, however, is the main character. Perhaps this is just because I am slightly older than the age group this novel is aimed at, but despite the extremities that MaryAnn faces during the story she still remains an immature girl who is obsessively infatuated with every good-looking guy she meets. For me this undermines the very serious subject matter that Blinded by the Light deals with and I hope that over the course of the next two books in the series MaryAnn loses some of these irritating characteristics, particularly as she is the first person narrator. Whilst we can never know how we would react in such situations as MaryAnn faces, surely it is highly unlikely that we would consider how beautiful the man sat next to you is whilst in the midst of peril.
Blinded by the Light, however, fits easily and well into the dystopian fiction genre. It is a quick read for any dystopian fiction fans, but is definitely suited to younger teenagers. The novel is available to pre-order now, and for further discussion on this novel, see: https://www.facebook.com/theuniontrilogy