The Perfect Escape
The problem with Suzanne Park’s The Perfect Escape is that it’s two different books weirdly glued together. The first half is a rich girl-poor boy YA across-the-tracks story which I was really starting to get into, when WHAM! The rich girl and the poor boy are suddenly in a Hunger Games-style survivalist zombie competition. There’s no logic to the transition between the two, and there’s no internal logic, either.
Kate Anderson’s dad is rich, but also basically a prison warden who uses experimental tech from his company to keep Kate under constant surveillance (even her pulse is subject to examination by the robot butler). He demands that Kate follow him into tech when her heart is in theater – a dream she needs money to chase. Meanwhile, Nate Jae-Woo Kim would love to be forced into a high-paying tech job by the likes of Kate’s dad, of whom he, weirdly, has a cardboard cut-out in his closet. The best offer he’s had lately is from the school rich kid, who wants to pay Nate thirty grand to cooperate in a grade-fixing scandal. That’s a lot more than Nate makes at the zombie escape room, where he meets Kate, who is playing a zombie. But maybe there’s another way out; if the two can win a zombie survivalist adventure competition, the prize is fifty thousand dollars.
There is potential here, but the logic just doesn’t line up.
- Nate and Kate both desperately need the money from the zombie competition, so they prepare by doing… absolutely nothing. They show up both generally vague on the instructions and having not even done training as simple as regular jogging, let alone specialized skills like rock climbing.
- This is a survivalist contest with a fifty thousand dollar prize. There should be MASSIVE interest in this event and its outcome. Instead, there’s a bunch of schmoes (including some who are drunk), and then a small core of aggressively-trained adventurers, and also some of Nate’s classmates who sign up at the last minute. What?
- The internal functioning of the contest is just ludicrous. I can’t go into it without spoilers, but it is just plain head-scratching.
I liked Nate and his family, but Kate’s dad was over the top to the point of abuse and neglect. The characters are not strong enough. Overall, The Perfect Escape is not an offensive read, but a disappointing one.