Everyone has a heartbeat. Few have the pulse.
When a book is labeled “dystopian,” readers immediately expect certain characters and elements. The trick for the author then is to utilize the traditional and iconic while providing a compellingly original story. This something Pulse achieves.
All the fundamentals are here: the all powerful “State”, those living on the outside in uncertainty, those actively opposing it. A heroine of immense power who knows nothing of her abilities. The best friend who is whisked away to the Promised Land in an unmarked van. The much younger but much smarter nerd tag along who can hack anything. Two good looking and mysterious boys interested in her, one good and one bad. But Patrick Carman brings them all together in an exciting new tale.
Faith Daniels is starting at a new school…again. Living outside of one of the States means a life of uncertainty and upheaval. Fortunately, most of the things she needs are provided by her Tablet which, like everyone else, she keeps on her at all times. She and her best friend Liz may be attached to their personal computers, but they are drawn to things outside the Tablet’s scope. The night they let computer hacker Hawk tag along to the abandoned library and introduce him to “real” books, everything begins to change. While Faith may harbor lingering interest in the silent Dylan Gilmore, she is swept into the glamorous world of the Twins, Wade and Clara Quinn, athletes with nearly inhuman abilities. A disastrous date with Wade drives Faith into the arms of Dylan and suddenly her world becomes a great deal larger, and more dangerous, than she could have dreamed. And telekinesis seems to only be the beginning.
Pulse is a solid first novel, but I think a great deal rides on the next two books. We see very little of the State in this book. It’s roughly understood that the State is bad and the Drifters are good, but this mostly comes from a knee-jerk reaction against a faceless, controlling system and less from any real explanation for why the State is too be feared. The characters are compelling, and the plot is nicely woven with suspense, action, and time for character development. My main grip is that the technology isn’t terribly well explained. Science fiction works by pushing beyond our known world while remaining in the sphere of believability. Obviously, the author isn’t going to offer up recipes for Wire Codes, but more information on Tablets would go a long way toward helping this world be a possible future. Aside from those two fairly minor complaints, Pulse is great entry in the field of Dystopian YA, and definitely promises to be a trilogy to keep an eye on.