Initial reaction: 2.5 stars overall, I liked the setup and really liked the beginning, but it dragged its heels far too many times and force fed the relationships far too much for me to really like it more than what I did. I want to follow the series, though.
Full review: This is another YA sci-fi/dystopian series I've picked up in the past year where the premise had a ton of potential for the set-up, but the way it executed left me feeling exhausted and uber annoyed by the time I finished it. Pretty much the way I felt about Victoria Aveyard's "Red Queen" I could say I felt about Megan Shepard's "The Cage". Yet, I still want to see where this series goes.
I'll tell you what I loved about this book: the premise (five teens trapped in a human zoo while being experimented on by an alien race, the Kindred), the multicultural characters (each of them is from a different part of the world, from Earth), the potential for the worldbuilding, and the overarching plot aim and food for thought it provides.
To tell you what I hated: lack of character development/growth, forced instalove/instalust, and the overarching sluggish pacing (which in part was due to the jumping POVs, but as far as events...there wasn't a lot of urgency and investment considering the circumstances).
The setup this book provides for "The Cage" is pretty nice. I was so pumped starting this work considering Cora, Lucky, and three other teens (Rok, Leon, and Rolf) wake up in this strange environment where they're subject to experimentation by a race called the Kindred. The being presiding over them is Cassian, set to ensure their survival since the teens were chosen for some superior abilities they share among the human race, though they must follow certain regulations within 21 days time (cooperate, stay healthy, and...reproduce. *cringes*).
What makes this book intriguing to me is that humans are the ones subjected to experimentation in a futuristic, clinical environment where their captivity leads them to slowly degenerating paranoia and desperation. I liked that aim, but the execution of this story frustrated me so much for the promise of the premise.
For the instalove - I wasn't buying it at all. Granted, I liked Cora's persistent personality and aim to escape, but her fawning and over-reliance over Cassian was just too much and overemphasized/overfocused. Lucky's one-track mind over his lust for Cora made him passive and a static character when you consider his role in the overarching novel. (Plus the motivations he had for liking Cora and his knowing her before their captivity was hard enough to swallow for rationale). I liked the intent of the teens progressively turning against each other, but the way it was done wasn't really believable.
And I saw the twist at the end of the novel coming far too soon. For the nature of the betrayals that occur in this novel, some of them were intriguing though the sloppiness of their execution really ruined the potential impact they could've had. Such was the nature of all of the purported betrayals in this novel, but none so blunt as the final one. Still, the potential this story has to go in some interesting directions makes me want to continue and see where this goes.
I'm probably being more forgiving of this book than I would normally be, but it has me on the fence for a fantastic premise and potential directions with what are so far very threadbare and lackluster characters. I'm hoping the next book is an improvement, but we'll see.
Overall score: 2.5/5 stars.