He turned her head to face him. “Please wake up.”
And she did.
Not like a long-sleeping princess, who might have emerged from a leisurely nap with a refreshing stretch, a graceful arch of her back, eyelids flickering groggily from such a satisfying rest.
No. Nova McLain bolted upright and screamed. (425)
3.5 stars. I liked this book. I might even reread it before I definitely read the sequel. But I am just…very confused after the ending. And now I’m confused about what I thought I had been reading up until that point. Renegades is set after an Age of Anarchy, when the government has been torn down and gangs rule the streets. Out of this ruin, the Renegades rise up to save humanity from itself and instill a new rule, promising safety for all. Unfortunately for 6-year-old Nova, the Renegades don’t arrive in time to help her in her family’s most desperate hour. Furious and betrayed, Nova is determined to reveal the Renegades for what they truly are: frauds.
Renegades mirrors Meyer’s typical writing style of descriptive phrases and a slow-built world. I know many people are jaded on post-apocalyptic settings (and superhero stories in general), but I was easily immersed in the chaos and dismal destitution. There was some feeling of inconsistency in the setting during the playful kids-at-a-carnival scene, but more so because it wasn’t readily apparent that Nova and the Anarchists were some of the only people living in severe poverty. Meyer kept the pace of the story up well, doing an excellent job of hinting at quick twists in the early pages that forced me to pay attention to every detail throughout the entire book, and the dual POV provided a decent amount of insight into the mindsets of our narrators, Nova and Adrian.
If you want a story where it is abundantly clear which side to root for, this would not be that book. The Anarchists believe in the strong over the weak with no loyalty and kill with no reservation. The Renegades are essentially a police state with brainwashed subjects intent on controlling everything in the name of safety. Both sides were…pretty terrible. I’m all for a villain with strong motivations and appreciate evil with good tendencies. But as there were little to no redeemable qualities on either side, I couldn’t make an emotional connection with any character and instead spent the entire book…disconnected. The interchangeable use of characters’ real and superhero names also caused frequent confusion of who was on each side of this “good vs. evil” war, requiring frequent referencing of the character index, which was just annoying.
I have never read a more confusing, somehow anticlimactic twist-ending in a book before this. There was not enough foreshadowing for the reader to be able to rationalize it; my first reaction was “…okay…but…why…”. In the end, there was not much point to this book as the plot experienced no arc and instead documented a very, very long and drawn out introduction. I don’t know where Meyer will take it from here. I’m not shipping Nova and Adrian because she never became invested enough in him for me to care. The character arc Nova appeared to be going through was apparently a lie. Ultimately, it felt like this book accomplished nothing.
I loved that Nova wasn’t bestowed with a typical Chosen One’s extraordinary talents, the storyline was engaging with plenty of action scenes, and the world building was really well done. However, Renegades‘ ending overwhelmed everything I had felt up to that point with a feeling of general confusion. I’m definitely going to read the sequel (Archenemies) because I generally love Meyer’s books, but I’ll have some trepidation going into it.