Gemma Malley writes dystopia really well. Her previous series, The Declaration, was one of my favourite additions to the genre and I was extremely excited about reading her next series which opens with the Killables. While dystopian YA is somewhat monopolised by American authors, Malley’s dystopian has more of a British feel about it (The Declaration in particularly is quintessentially English). The Killables however, does have an ‘any-place’ vibe in its setting which I think works for the novel and its themes particularly well.
In a time where ‘evil’ is removed from your brain and you are graded on your subsequent capacity for badness and evil, The Killables is set a utopian society with a sinister side. Evie, our main protagonist, is a B (solid, acceptable, could be better, just like me in school a lot!) and engaged to Lucas, an A, and epitome of what the city admires. Evie works in label changing, meaning that when the city’s computer either demotes or promotes a person’s letter, she is in charge of sorting out the system. Anything below a D, deviant, means that person is liable to be marked out in the city as evil, while the worst of the labels, K, remains mysterious as no one knows what happens to them.
She is also terrified she is evil. From her many nightmares to her secret passion for Raffy, her fiancé’s brother. Evie is desperate to be good and live by the rules, but when Raffy is branded a K though; everything changes as both Evie and Raffy run from the city.
I found that this was a really interesting book, if a little slower than Gemma Malley’s previous series. As the opening to the series, I definitely found that my interest was piqued and that I really want to read what happens next. I particularly liked that while the ending served as an appetiser for the second book, it also felt like a proper ending that didn’t make me want to squeal.
The concept of this novel is particularly striking; while we’ve had novels about love being forbidden (Delerium is one recent example), controlling evil seems more utopian than dystopian. After all, a society without rape, murder, war sounds ideal. However, reality tells us that as flawed creatures, it would be unlikely to remain perfect and Malley depicts this wonderfully. The idealism of the City coupled with how it treats one resident when they are downgraded to a D and the ranking bias proves that this is not a great place to live.
While Evie and Raffy are in the City, I did feel the story was a little slower and less pacy than I might have expected, however when they run away it really picked up for me personally. The romance between the two felt very sweet and honest; they were a couple I could believe in and root for. That said, their relationship is not a smooth ride and I did find myself mentally wanting to curse Malley for some of the obstacles she put in their way. I definitely am looking forward to seeing what comes next for the two of them and how their relationship survives.
I would also add this book can work as both a YA and crossover novel. As all the teenagers have left school and hold jobs in accordance with the City’s conventions, this lends itself well to adult readers as well as the characters have a slightly more experienced world than in some YA novels.
If you are a dystopian fan then I think the Killables will have a lot to offer you. The Killables offers a window into considering more about what evil even is and would we ever be able to destroy it. I received my copy for free from Hodder & Stoughton and am as always grateful and thankful for the opportunity. My review is not affected by how I obtained the novel.