Gated by Amy Christine Parker
In the Community, life seems perfect. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pioneer invited Lyla’s family to join his group and escape the evil in the world. They were happy to be chosen, happy to move away from New York and start over in such an idyllic gated community. Now seventeen, Lyla knows that Pioneer is more than just their charismatic leader, he is their prophet … but his visions have grown dark.
Lyla is a loyal member of the Community, but a chance encounter with an outsider boy has her questioning Pioneer, the Community—everything. And if there’s one thing not allowed in the Community, it’s doubt. Her family and friends are certain in their belief. Lyla wishes she could feel the same. As Pioneer begins to manipulate his flock toward disaster, the question remains: Will Lyla follow them over the edge?
It’s hard to imagine why anyone would join a cult, especially one of the kind that Lyla’s part of, when you’re not actually in a cult. But Parker tells the story of traumatized people preyed upon by a power-hungry villain. The quotes from Jim Jones and Charles Manson, leaders of real-life cults, add a terrifying element of reality to the book.
I liked that the story progresses both from Lyla’s perspective and from an outsider’s. Although it’s told from Lyla’s point of view, Parker throws in enough details for an “outsider” to realize there’s something off. The closer you get to the end of the book, the more dangerous it feels. The ending isn’t really a surprise, though.
Although the Community was well-developed and portrayed, Parker never mentioned Pioneer’s motives. Obviously he was a madman, but he still had some sort of reason or logic behind his actions. He was scary and obviously manipulative, but he lacked a bit of depth because of that.
I liked the apocalypse-preppers side of the Community, and it added a lot of suspense throughout the book. I could realistically see Pioneer talking a group of people, traumatized by personal and national tragedies, into believing that the world would end to punish the wicked. What didn’t seem so realistic is that he would be able to convince them the world would end when the earth’s rotation was reversed. That isn’t scientifically possible, and if it didn’t ring true with me, I don’t see how Pioneer convinced so many well-educated people of it.
Pioneer’s strange new religion was also kind of off to me. Again, it was realistic that he claimed he was a prophet and gained a cult following of his new religion. But Parker took it too far when she added in aliens. Even if some of the Community members had believed in aliens before meeting Pioneer, it seems like when he told them the Brethren were watching them and choosing to save them from the outer reaches of space, they’d have called bullcrap on the whole thing.
Other than a few hiccups and overdone plot points, though, Gated was a fascinating and captivating read. The romantic part of the plot had the feel of instalove, but since the story mainly revolved around the Community and Pioneer’s control over it, that didn’t bother me too much.
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