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Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion #1) by Aimee Carter
Published November 26th 2013 by Harlequin Teen
Source: received from publisher
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

YOU CAN BE A VII IF YOU GIVE EVERYTHING.

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked – surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister’s niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.

There’s only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed, and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that’s not her own, she must decide which path to choose and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she’s only beginning to understand.

Pawn had me going “????????” from the opening pages.

So Kitty fails an aptitude test right before the book starts, and ends up with a III tattooed on the back of her neck. Her boyfriend Benjy tells her he doesn’t care and that he’s willing to run away with her! But somehow she’s convinced that it’ll ruin his test results and she’s not willing to be his downfall which. If it’s an aptitude test I’m struggling to see exactly how her score and her marrying him will affect his personal aptitude? And halfway through, we were kiiind of floated this idea that maybe the aptitude test isn’t all it seems and that it doesn’t really test your aptitude, which 1) has the potential to be a really good critique of the current standardize testing system (SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, etc etc etc) in the US and 2) can start to potentially make an argument for why certain choices, like marrying a III, might ruin your chances of becoming a VI. BUT then immediately after we’re treated with a slew of tidbits here and there about how bright and wonderful and talented and smart Kitty is, and how there’s proof in how she managed to pull a III on the test although she had to leave a huge chunk of it blank, and then it all swirled away.

Benjy? I liked his steadfast resolution to stand beside Kitty. I wasn’t really sure about much else, though. Pawn was really good at putting everything into really neat little boxes, and Benjy? He sat in a nice little cardboard box labeled “KITTY’S MOTIVATION” and set a toe past those boundaries.

So Kitty goes to a club instead of becoming a sewage worker, and from there everything really starts to unravel, because instead of actually selling her virginity to the highest bidder, the highest bidder actually just wants Kitty for her. blue. eyes. And for that reason alone, he’s set to make her into a VII and his niece’s doppelganger? They can lengthen legs in this futuristic world. They can change entire body shapes and sIZES in this world. But they can’t change someone’s eye color to blue? ??? ????? There are processes now, in 2019, that can do that for a person. Hell, there are less-invasive colored contacts that can give you any eye color you want. But this is their one hang-up in this dystopian world?

But, okay. Kitty becomes Lila, agrees without thinking there might be some sort of catch, or maybe fifty (who will track you down, shoot down club members and intimidate your family members to get to you, only to hand you a golden ticket with no strings??).

And from there? I’m. Not quite sure? I read Aimee Carter’s The Goddess Test and Goddess Interrupted when they came out, and honestly, Pawn kind of gives off the same vibes I remember (albeit from. seven years. ago). It floats here and there, dabbles in a lot of things that could be potentially interesting, but never delves into them, and then sprinkles that atop some romance and calls it a day. There’s something about a rebellion, though we don’t actually ever get to see it. There’s set up for political intrigue, but, as Kitty – and every other character she interacts with – hammers home for us every other page or so, Kitty’s motivation is BENJY, so we’re treated to a lot of fretting and worrying and doing-things-at-other-people-s-command-so-benjy-will-live-to-see-another-day but no actual self autonomy, and so much of the intrigue-discovering happens once Kitty’s become a victim, or an unhappy bystander caught in the crossfire. There’s romance, but Benjy’s never really treated to any character development, and feels like nothing more than the possibly proverbial carrot to Kitty’s every move, so the romance comes off as dry and maybe even posturing instead.

Aside from all this, the world building is also confusing, not to mention pretty unbelievable – unrest settled by the reorganization of all the resources to the elite few? It’s simplistic and glossed-over, fluffed up with a few comments here and there about how unjust the system is. And the characters? They have just enough presence to fulfill their roles in the story, but are hardly memorable, and after a while, start blending together.

Pawn wasn’t an awful read, but it was shaky and lackluster. You might be able to chalk up chalk up some of it to Pawn being the first in a trilogy, but even then, I don’t feel any motivation to continue.