Book Review: Tankborn by Karen Sandler
With the wild success of The Hunger Games, both book and film, there are a lot of dystopian novels being published, and even more due to be released. Hype for the genre has flooded the market – and as a huge dystopia fan, I don’t say that lightly. But the truth is, it takes a lot to capture my attention with a young adult dystopia novel these days, and Tankborn by Karen Sandler managed to do just that.
Tankborn is the story of best friends Kayla and Mishalla, who have just been separated for their Assignments. They are Genetically Engineered Non-humans, or GENs, and in their society’s strict caste system, that means they are at the very bottom of the ladder. At 15, both Mishalla and Kayla get their Assignments, or jobs, which for Mishalla means caring for a large group of children that disappear in the middle of the night. Kayla, caring for an old man at the head of a very high-ranked family, starts to find unexpected secrets, and friendships. Then a horrible truth reunites Kayla and Mishalla, and it turns out the struggles they faced are nothing compared to what’s coming next.
Sandler really created a unique and interesting world with Tankborn, including massive insect-like creatures that were kind of creepy, a brand new food source, and a unique but believable society. There were a few times when the writing slipped me out of the world she’d created by using colloquialisms like “just to put the icing on the cake,” but it’s a minor complaint, as in other instances Sandler adapts them to her own world, for example, “it’s water down the Sheysa,” or “What if they mix you into the same kettle of kel-grain?”
Anyone looking for a novel with a strong female lead character won’t be disappointed with Kayla; she’s courageous but not perfect, and very easy to relate to. Her romance felt less genuine, as a character seemed to suddenly fall in love after having been so repulsed by her, and I didn’t quite believe it.
Even though Tankborn takes place in an imaginary time, on an imaginary world, Sandler deals eloquently with themes that could just as easily have been drawn from recent times like Nazi Germany. It also asks some interesting questions about genetic engineering, but it doesn’t fall into the lecture category. Instead, it’s an incredibly exciting, page-turning journey, filled with twists and turns, and utterly original. Finally, there is so much to keep the reader busy that even though it works great as a standalone, Tankborn left me lusting for a sequel. I’m hopeful that Sandler decides to write one!