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Erin reviews Alex London's Proxy, a dystopian Whipping Boy update for our modern times

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BOOK REPORT for Proxy (Proxy Book 1) by Alex London

Cover Story: You're On Notice
BFF Charm: Yay and Nay
Swoonworthy Scale: A Refreshing 0
Talky Talk:  Like a Speedy Train
Bonus Factors: Institutionalized Racism, Diversity, Bills Bills Bills
Anti-Bonus Factor: ADT*
Relationship Status: Summer Playboy

Cover Story: You're On Notice

Okay, Big Face.  I'm nearing the end of my book-reviewing career here, and you want to throw this shit into play?  Not just one Big Face, but two, and one is upside down, and there's all sorts of weird, vaguely SS-related imagery going on?  That's how you want to play this?  Fine, sir.  But you're winding up right under Bears and right above the Koch Brothers on my On Notice board.

Other than the Big Face x Deux, however, this cover's not terrible!  The random numbers across the top actually mean something (though it'd be better if it were in binary) and I actually sort of like the blood-drenched effect.  BUT!  And this is important!  Syd,  the main character, is Black, and you totally can't tell that from this cover.  Is this some "clever" attempt at white-washing?  Because if so?  LAME.

The Deal:

Knox is a Patron - the rich, only son of a powerful business guru, a boy born into wealth and privilege.  He fucks up often, and he can do so with impunity, because he has a Proxy named Syd.  When Knox breaks an antique vase?  Syd gets a licking.  When Knox steals a car and goes for a joyride, it's Syd who's sentenced to a labor farm.  Syd, like all Proxies, is indebted to his Patron - Knox's father pays for Syd to go to school (an increasingly expensive enterprise) and so Syd is working off up to 18 years of debt.  He's been beaten, humiliated and forced to endure hard labor, but when Knox crashes a car and accidentally kills his date, Syd suddenly finds himself staring down way more punishment and debt than he'll ever be able to pay off.

With no choice but to run, Syd accidentally meets Knox at a party and gives him a good what-for.  But he certainly doesn't expect Knox to try to help (even if only to piss off his old man).  Now they are both on the run, only to discover that neither of their lives are nearly as simple as they believed.

BFF Charm: Yay and Nay!

I would definitely hand out a BFF charm to Syd, who could TOTALLY use a non-shady BFF.  The poor guy has almost nothing going for him - he's Chapter 11 (gay) in a world that still seems to be frustratingly homophobic, he's up to his eyeballs in debt, and all he wants is to graduate high school and perhaps get a job as a debt-free IT person somewhere.  I mean, these are not huge dreams, y'all, but the odds are TOTALLY stacked against Syd.  He could definitely use someone to help guide him through, not to mention punch people, should punching be necessary. I volunteer to be that person!

On the other hand, there is no way on God's green earth I would ever give Knox anything, except for maybe syphillis.  Because while he is hot and has charm for days, he wouldn't be good for anything but a quick shag and a kick out of bed.  (Hmm, from the last two statements, I think I may have led you to believe I have syphillis.  I do not.)  Knox is kind of hilarious, yes, but BFF material?  No way.

Swoonworthy Scale: A Refreshing 0

There isn't much swoon happening in this book, mostly because none of the three main characters like each other very much (and certainly don't love-to-hate each other).  That said, when Knox - who is used to flirting with people to get his way - learns that Syd is gay, he tries to turn on the heavy charm, and the results are HILARIOUS.  

Considering MOST dystopian thrillers have an insta-love triangle these days, it was nice to finally have a book where no one seemed to want to put it in another person's pants FOREVER.

Talky Talk: Like a Speedy Train

Damn, y'all, Alex London is NOT MESSING AROUND.  This book is blisteringly fast-paced, and manages to incorporate more themes and social criticisms than a New Yorker cartoon.  And while some of the critiques and criticisms about society could use some drawing out, and the "conspiracy" seems a bit shallow, I have every faith that this is a trilogy that's going to make it big.

Bonus Factor: Institutionalized Racism

(The murders of the Freedom Riders and their killers' subsequent escape from justice was just good ol' fashioned total racism, but please enjoy this documentary about my home town!)

Wait, let me reiterate, RACISM IS NOT A BONUS.  But the discussion of racism totally is.  Syd is Black, and while on the surface, his being Black doesn't seem to be that big of a deal, it really is an intrinsic part of the social critiques present in this book.  Think about it: Knox, a rich, spoiled white guy, can do whatever he'd like and never see punishment, because he knows that he has a fall guy.   A Black fall guy who, despite years of hard work and struggle (not to mention brains and talent), has the deck so stacked against him that he'll never get ahead, at least not if he plays by the rules.The Patron/Proxy system is set up so that the Patron watches the Proxy receive the punishment (obstensibly to learn a lesson), but of course that relies on the fact that rich, spoiled people are inherently populists who care about the rights and freedom of the people who labor to keep them rich.  And, of course, they don't.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

A Black, gay main character?  A persecuted Jewish dissident?  An Hispanic Patron with a heart of gold?  Holy Diversity, Batman!  Thank you, Alex London!  And thank you, publishers, for finally realizing that books with these characters can and will sell.

Bonus Factor: Bills, Bills, Bills

The world in Proxy is uncomfortably like our own.  Everything costs, including primary school and high school, and if you don't have the money, you can take on the debt.  People go into debt for school, clothes, health care and food, and soon they are so far into debt that they won't ever be able to get out.  Their children are born into that same debt, and pretty soon you have a vicious cycle that keeps the wealthy on top and the poor in chains.

Anti-Bonus Factor: ADT*

Another. Damn. Trilogy.  While I'm definitely into this trilogy and will snatch up the next two volumes as quickly as they are released, I AM SO SICK OF FUCKING TRILOGIES.  Just write a book!  ONE BOOK!  Leave it all on the floor, my friends!

Casting Call:

Michael B. Jordan as Syd

Only the man who has brought me two of my most beloved and heart-breaking tv characters (Wallace and Vince) could handle both Syd's heartbreak and triumph.

Alex Pettyfer as Knox

Because I want to punch him in the face, simple as.

Relationship Status: Summer Playboy

Book, I know exactly what is going to happen in our relationship, because I've seen it before.  Sure, I think we have something special, and while you're new in town, you cling to me a bit.  But the second summer hits and you have a big debut party, everyone's going to want a piece of you.  Soon I'll be hearing about you dating all of my friends.  And while normally I'd get jealous at that sort of thing, I think you should get out there and flaunt it.  After all, your style of lovin' needs to be shared with the world.

FTC Full Disclosure:  I received a free review copy from Penguin.  I received neither cocktails nor money for this review (damnit!).  Proxy will be available in stores and online June 18, 2013.  You should buy it!

*EDITED TO ADD:  Author Alex London assured us that Proxy is NOT, in fact, the beginning of a trilogy!  It's a duet!  THAT MAKES IT SO MUCH BETTER TO ME!

Erin Callahan's photo About the Author: Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink. When she isn't drowning in a sea of engineers for whom Dilbert is still uproariously funny, she's writing about books, tv, the cult of VC Andrews and more.
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