Tick by Allison Rose is a book without an ending. I don’t think that is a spoiler but it is disappointing. And it’s my fault. I read a description of the book and was so taken by the interesting description that I clicked “read for free” on the Amazon site and read it as a Kindle Unlimited (KU) book. So I can’t complain about paying too much. (Even though the “read for free” claim on a subscription site that I pay for bothers my sensibilities as an English teacher.) But these are mostly administrative details (except for the “no ending). It remains my fault that I read my way through this interesting dystopian novel expecting answers and when I didn’t get them, I complain.
Jo is the 17-year-old hero of this YA novel. She has problems she cannot even define and she knows it. Some problems she can define. Mom is somewhat off the rails in a mental alternative world, but not all the time. Jo can remember an earlier youthful time when mom was fun, before Rick. He is mom’s current partner; Jo’s real dad died years earlier, a suicide. So we start out with two well-defined problems and we add Jo’s hatred of Rick. While this looks like a set-up for an abuse by stepdad story, I will reassure readers this does not happen. It is not a spoiler as early in the book Jo solves her problem by removing Rick’s brain and placing it on his lap. That was before she went to prison. First problem solved but now we have the prison situation to deal with.
All of the action takes place in a very tightly controlled society. The question of who is in control is a central plot question. It looks like the government, through an organization called ACTA, controls the population by intrusive mental monitoring of its citizens. Done by sensors in various platforms, backed up by drones appearing at unexpected times, implemented by random, mandatory medical examinations of the brain, life is hard in Jo’s world. She is particularly worried by frequently appearing violent visions in which she kills people. Jo calls these “ticks” and she is worried that these will be discovered by the random government sampling. If the existence of her visions becomes known, she will be labeled as a member of Alias (or Alias X) an organization battling ACTA for power.
Jo is also worried that her visions, which seem to increase in intensity over time, might eventually be backed up by actions. She might actually kill someone. This is borne out as she removes Rick’s brain, is captured by the police, goes to trial, and, while in the courtroom, attempts to kill her lawyer. While in prison, she attempts to control her visions with drugs. There is a lengthy, well-written discourse on the dangers of drug dependency.
Does she get out of prison? Sure. Does the battle for civilization continue with the aid of an 11-year-old sniper? Sure. How does Jo resolve her inner contradictions? To a large extent (watch out for the paintbrushes). But there are bigger questions. And I will look for the answers in later installments.
This is a fun, quirky read. As long as the writer continues, I’ll join the reader groupies to find out what’s next.