AJ Betts’ Rogue is the second and final volume in a two book story that started in Hive. While the two books have the same protagonist they tackle very different versions of futuristic dystopia. In Hive, main character Hayley is forced to question everything she has been brought up to believe about the enclosed, hierarchical system in which she has been raised. Rogue throws her into a completely different world, one that has its own set of problems. For those who have not read Hive, there are, of necessity, some spoilers ahead but they have been kept to a minimum.
Rogue opens moments after the end of Hive. Teenage Hayley finds herself alone in a tiny tub in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by more space than she can imagine. Fortunately for her the currents take her to an island where she meets a family who are prepared to help her. From there, Hayley adventures into the world in a quest that will reveal the secrets of the world she left and which will bring her back to Will, the young man who helped her escape in the first place.
Between Hive and Rogue, AJ Betts runs a gamut of post-apocalyptic dystopian scenarios. Hive was a generational survivors tale. A group of humans cut off from the rest of the world, creating their own stratified society with rules that enable them to survive. Rogue is more standard post-climate change dystopian fare. Drones patrol the skies as “drifters” seek refuge on the Australian mainland. Those that make it enter a Faustian deal to be resettled in Tasmania, emptied of citizens and rechristened Terrafirma. All of this is sketched and told rather than detailed in the narrative. Hayley never really engages with a drifter and never sees the cities of the mainland. Much like Hive, the milieu that Betts builds just seems like an amalgam of ideas from dystopian fiction that has come before, toned down for a young adult audience.
Hayley as narrator comes to terms with going from a life lived in a series of connected rooms to crossing Tasmania on foot remarkably easily. She manages to navigate a world that would be completely foreign and potentially overwhelming with surprising aplomb. For example she goes from never having seen a dog before to adopting and training two guard dogs which then accompany and protect her. She continues to be plucky, determined, resourceful and intuitive, the sort of can-do character that target readers would seek to emulate.
Rogue is fairly standard YA fare and is well pitched for teens. Despite all of the dystopian trappings its main concern seems to be the power of love. Hayley is driven by her desire to be with Will, the young man who helped her escape from her previous home and then turns up again in the surface world. When staying with the family who first adopt her, despite coming from what for them is a mythological place, fellow teenager Petra is only interested in what she knows about boys. And the end is pure wish fulfilment which, given the culture that was hinted at in Hive, does not survive too much scrutiny. Overall, Rogue while engaging enough, does not live up to the promise tantalisingly left hanging at the end of the previous book.
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