Theresa Linden’s YA novel Chasing Liberty plunges the reader into a dystopian future where the family has been made obsolete and the government controls citizens’ every move. Liberty, whose perfect genetic material slates her to be a Breeder, wants out—and she gets her chance when she crosses paths with an underground organization that offers the freedom and dignity that Liberty has never known.
Theresa Linden offers starstriking dystopian worldbuilding that holds its own against Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies and Veronica Roth’s Divergent. Bolstered by visceral descriptions and detail, the futuristic situation hits close to home and sets up the perfect stakes for the reader to be invested in Liberty and her mission. The characters are deep and likeable—or intentionally dislikeable in the case of Sid and Dr. Supero!—and their relationships are uplifting yet believable. (I’ll admit it: I love, love, love Dedrick.)
Most exciting is Linden’s deft weave of the Catholic Faith into a time where it has been stifled (but not smothered). Unpopular truths are unabashedly stood for, without giving the readers the feeling that doctrines are being overtly explained or forced upon them. Charity, gentle or firm, always takes center stage, and is shown in action rather than explained. Liberty’s relationship with God (before she knows to call Him God) is smoothly written, reminding me of what I have heard about the movie The Book of Eli with Denzel Washington. Finally, the story eliminates the idea of a passive Church, and instead shows the community taking on the mess and defending its own, as well as saving innocents in the fray. After all, Jesus said, “[B]e shrewd as serpents” and “[O]ne who does not have a sword should…buy one.”
There were scenes that appeared superfluous or redundant, particularly in the antagonist’s point of view, which slowed some of the plot, and I would have been excited to see that word count applied to an even deeper immersion in the more pivotal scenes, which at moments could feel skimmed. There were also moments where the internal or external dialogue, or certain actions, came across as stilted. However, these are the only two substantial critiques I can offer.
(I would, though, like to offer a brief content warning, as mature themes are involved.)
Chasing Liberty was a gritty, engaging member of the 2010’s dystopian YA boom, unashamed of its Catholic zing, a rare prize that the world needs right now. 4/5 stars. I’m excited to dive into the sequels, Testing Liberty and Fight for Liberty, as well as Theresa Linden’s other novels, particularly the West Brothers saga.