Esme Zur: And the I of the Age by L.A. Estabrook

Book Blurb:

Perfect for fans of The City of Ember, Legend, Divergent and Maze Runner, Esme Zur And The I of the Age is the first book in L.A. Estabrook’s, Esme Zur series. A grand dystopian saga which Esme Zur is transformed by friendship, self belief and love. 

This strong young female, becomes the key to saving the world, bringing hope by learning to believe in her gifts. Leaning on her friends to solve the most difficult coming of age story, save yourself or save someone you love. In a future world decimated by the Versa’s AI. Esme Zur learns that her Dad was taken by the anti AI Andize for hiding her genius hacker skills. Her family is torn from within over her abilities. She must choose between staying in the shadows or hunting the mainframe, risking discovery by the Andize. Needing more than herself to find her way, Esme discovers she may be the chosen one to bring about the downfall of all AI. Will she get caught and be forced to do the Andize’s bidding to fight the Versa or will she return stability to her family and the World. Staying in the shadows allows survival. Being discovered demands saving the world. – Commence discovery.

I received this book from the author for free. All comments and opinions are entirely my own, this is a voluntary review.

Rayleigh’s Review:

Esme Zur is a gifted young girl thrown into a Dystopian world of AIs and overbearing computers. When her father disappears with very little explanation, Esme is determined to use her gift to find him and bring him home. But snooping into a computer’s code has more consequences when one doesn’t fully understand the big picture, and Esme may dig herself into the middle of a technological war that she is ill-equipped for.

Middle Grade dystopian is a rare genre, but being a lover a dystopia myself, I love that this author, Estabrook, decided to use her love of dystopia for a younger audience. Esme Zur And the I of the Age encompasses a fantastic dystopian world filled with computers, holograms, and all the cool sci-fi things we have come to love in this genre. Her use of color, music, and lights really brings this world to life in a very beautiful way! However, though Esme’s quest and world are both extremely exhilarating and interesting, there are a few things keeping me from giving this book a 5-star rating.

The first reason is the inconsistency of the point of view (POV), which often caused confusion in who was telling the story and where in the story the reader is (there is a lot of bouncing back and forth from past to present). The POV is in Esme’s voice (first person) for the entirety of the book, but she often reveals the private thoughts and motives of the other characters, which she should not know. It happened very frequently and made me double back to see if I missed a chapter break to inform me that we had switched POVs, but I finally realized that there was just a huge inconsistency of POV. The most confusing chapter was when Katie, Esme’s sister, is telling Esme a story of what happened in their past. The chapter opens with Esme telling us, in first-person, about Katie telling her a story, but then Katie recounts the event with a blend of second-person (telling Esme what ESME is feeling and sensing as the event took place–which is really strange), first-person (her own feelings and senses as the event took place), and even some third-person as she reveals aspects of the story of what happened to people who weren’t even in the same place as them! This left the reader clueless as to whether to take Katie’s story seriously, though I feel like the whole point of including the story is because it is what really happened? The whole chapter was just incredibly confusing and I was so focused on trying to follow who was talking and how they knew this information that I got distracted from the story that was being told and had to reread it a few times. Esme does tell Katie, at the end of this chapter, “You would not know what I was feeling” as she tried to grapple with whether the story was fiction or fact, which might have been an attempt of justifying the style of the storytelling, but it still felt very odd for the duration of this 20+ page chapter. Because of this POV inconsistency throughout the whole book, the flow of the story didn’t feel natural. Middle graders may not pick up on this or even care about this, but advanced readers will feel the oddness of the storytelling even if they can’t pinpoint what it is that is off.

The only other reason that I chose a 3-star rating instead of a 5-star rating is that I found Esme’s family members to be present only for their purpose to help Esme’s end quest–almost like robots. Her relationship with her Grandma was really sweet and well done, as was Esme’s relationship with all of her friends, especially Olli. So I think that’s why her relationships with her sister and mother stood out to me as very two-dimensional. They were more present in the story than her friends were, yet they only seemed to interact with her when the story needed to move forward and Esme needed a breakthrough in information, and they just happened to walk in the room and tell her what she needed to know. There wasn’t really a relationship there.

As far as storyline though, Esme Zur: And the I of the Age is an exciting adventure that will interest young dystopian readers! And I also loved Esme’s character development from a young genius who can solve any problem herself, to an awesome team player learning to see the gifts in others. I think that’s a powerful message to convey to middle graders and I really liked it! So, even though I wish Esme’s familial relationships would have been more purposeful and I would have liked to see a consistent point of view throughout the book, I was actually very pleased with Esme Zur and I do recommend it to middle graders as a clean, adventurous, and exciting read!



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