Paradigm by Helen Stringer

“If I ask you to do something, will you do it?”

“Maybe.”

“Maybe?”

“Well, I don’t know what it is yet. But I’m guessing that death is the alternative, so I’m prepared to be 18127544reasonable.” Sam Cooper is seventeen. He drives a cherry red 1968 GTO that he won on a bet, and spends his days exploring the open roads of the great American West. He should be living the teenage dream, but post-collapse America is a hard place to survive.

The United States is long dead, basic resources are getting scarcer, and no one on Earth has seen the stars since before he was born. Vast tracts of the country are now empty as people huddle together for safety. In all this chaos, Sam has survived on his wits and occasional luck. But a visit to the walled and prosperous Century City results in a split-second decision that changes everything. Soon Sam is on the run from the ruthless Carolyn Bast, and by something much more dangerous: MUTHA-a powerful artificial entity that has been watching and waiting for Sam’s return from the barren outlands. Sam unknowingly carries the key to something MUTHA can’t live without, something so dangerous that others are willing to kill him, or worse, to ensure that the great plex never possesses it.

Sam can’t stay one step ahead of them forever. His only hope is to unravel the secrets of his peculiar past and awaken the incredible power that sleeps within-because even in his beloved GTO, without the truth, Sam will never succeed in outracing the nightmare to come. – Goodreads.com

Parts of this book intrigued me and others left me scratching my head in frustration.  It generally kept my interest, but seemed very disjointed along the way.

I liked Sam – he loved his books and his car and seemed pretty loyal.  His internal monologue gave me some laughs and he recognized his biggest fault – impetuousness but, to his credit, it was mostly for good reasons.  The secrets surrounding Sam seemed to drag on too long and, as a reader, I was very frustrated.  I understand not giving things away too early, but this was overkill.  It wasn’t until deep in the book that questions were answered.  There were also contradictions with Sam’s character traits – in one paragraph he said his parents raised him to be happy with what he had, but then further down the page, he’s ranting about how he’ll always want more and sometimes his choices of action seemed to be pretty random.

Alma was a strong character, but the romantic aspects with her and Sam seemed forced and the fact that she kept turning up at crucial moments was a little too convenient.  Alma’s character was essential to the plot, but I didn’t see how their relationship really added anything.

I enjoyed the world-building and the basic plot, but felt like there were a lot of detours along the way before arriving at the real heart of the story.  Many of the secondary characters were there for a purpose, but some could have been cut for a tighter, more concise storyline.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

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