‘Savage Run’ by E. J. Squires

*This review will contain spoilers!* 

There comes a time in every reviewer’s life when they have to decide between upholding their integrity or following their heart. I’m choosing to follow my beliefs and do what I think is right, even though it does make me feel like a massive poo. I want to say a huge thank you to E. J. Squires for sending me this novel in exchange for an honest review, and I tried so hard to like it, but I’m going to be honest – this was one of the most disappointing books I’ve read in a very long time.
‘Savage Run’ tells the story of Heidi, a Laborer in the lowest class in her society, destined to be ruled by a Master as soon as she turns sixteen. Heidi’s best friend, Gemma, has been with her Master for nearly a year, and Heidi comes up with a plan to get her freedom – the Savage Run event. The Savage Run is a competition for teenage boys of the lower classes to participate in an obstacle course to become Masters, giving themselves economic stability and freedom for the rest of their lives. Because Heidi and Gemma are girls, they disguise themselves as males and get hold of fake IDs, desperate to compete for their only chance at freedom.
I thought the plot sounded so interesting, I jumped at the chance to review this novel. I love dystopian fiction, and for a novel to have something that sounds so out of the box and brand new is a massive surprise. But there were so many things wrong with this novel.
To start off at a basic level: there were 35 errors that I spotted throughout the novel, also known as an error every ten pages. It made it feel uncomfortable and disconnected, with fragmented sentences and random punctuation marks inserted into the manuscript over and over again. That’s not including the commas that were added in or were missing, because once you start counting commas it gets to an insanely high number, but that means in actuality there were way more errors. I understand that for lesser known, indie authors the proofreading process is never going to be absolutely faultless, because paying for someone to proofread and edit your novel is quite costly, but this many errors shouldn’t have just been able to slip under the radar unnoticed. Similarly, there were a lot of phrases that didn’t make much grammatical sense, meaning that every page I was tripping over something, leaving me feeling beyond disappointed at how deeply it affected my enjoyment of the novel.
Also, the repetition throughout the novel grated so deeply. Heidi constantly forgetting that she’d traded away her mother’s locket, and rolling in the guilt of causing Gemma’s ‘death’, just annoyed me. I didn’t feel anything over Gemma’s death, so constantly being reminded of how upset this girl is over a character that I didn’t have a minuscule amount of emotion for just bored me, and I just wanted to shake her and tell her to get over it.
Furthermore, it was just so one dimensional it made me want to scream out loud at multiple points throughout. The ‘death’ of Gemma at the start of the novel was flat – how are we meant to care about the death of a character who has done nothing of note for the first fifty pages? – and that tone continued throughout, with other Savage Run participants being introduced and killed off after having only appeared in one scene, meaning that I didn’t have a visceral reaction to any of the devastating imagery described throughout the first three quarters of the novel. Arthor was a promising character, but even his death didn’t do too much for me, because it was all so utterly predictable. I didn’t even like Heidi; constantly second guessing whether Nicholas liked her and panicking about their potential relationship when she should be more worried about possibly impending death, the internal complaining about Arthor when she wanted to let him go first on the cliff and took instant offence when he took the lead, all of her actions just made me want to slap her, and when you hate the main character of a dystopian novel you find yourself constantly crossing your fingers that they’re going to end up dead, even though it’s beyond predictable that they’re going to survive.
On the note of predictability, anybody that didn’t see the reveal of Mia being Heidi’s mother is obviously blind to what is stated right in front of them. It was obvious from the second appearance of Mia, so the fact that Heidi stated repeatedly that there was no way that Mia could be her mother just made me want to rip my hair out, and the big reveal in the final chapter fell completely flat because I’d been expecting it since the first one hundred pages of the book. Similarly, it’s pretty obvious that you never know someone is dead until you’ve seen their body, so Heidi discovering that Gemma survived the beginning of the book also didn’t surprise me.
There were some promising scenes. The obstacles featured in the Savage Run all seemed extremely interesting, but in the actual delivery of them they fell short. The moment when Johnny shot Heidi’s capsule out of the sky, and the following recovery in the hospital, was extremely well written but other than those small moments the book as a whole was completely flat. At times it felt like a rip-off of ‘Divergent’: the box that made them hallucinate the people they cared about most and then having to shoot them being the most obvious comparison, but also the attitude of the main character constantly throwing herself into life-threatening situations for reasons that only really made sense to her.
The ending of the novel is left extremely open, but I have my fingers crossed that there isn’t going to be a sequel, because it will probably be focussed solely upon the politics behind the Savage Run and the downfall of President Volkov, and it all just seems too predictable to be worth wasting the time upon. I went into this book seeing that it had nearly a 5 star average rating on Goodreads, but if you’re considering reading it don’t be fooled by that number. I am really disappointed and deflated following what I just forced myself to read.