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Published:January 3rd, 2013 16:45 EST

'Grounded' Electrifies Readers

By Tony Graff

G.P. Ching has made a statement in her new novel, Grounded. She has found a way to create a dystopia that sounds much more believable, with a caste system that makes you wonder, then embellishes that with a love triangle that`s actually worth reading about. This was an embracing read.

Now, I`m a fan of dystopias. Maybe I`m just a little too morbid, maybe I`m looking around feeling cocky about my doomsday prepping, or maybe it`s my inner schadenfreude at work. Who knows. However, dystopic futures are pushing their way to the front of the literary spotlight. Amid The Hunger Games, Skyship Academy, The Walking Dead, and Partials, Grounded has found a niche that the others haven`t touched.

We start with finding out that the Amish are the segregated minority. Lydia lives in Hemlock Hollow, an Amish community seperated from the rest of the world by a concrete wall. They haven`t had to adapt to the changing outside world, and rather than dismember the community for their seemingly barbaric practices, the outside world decided to sweep them under the rug.

I know what you`re thinking. I thought the same thing when I first read it. How could anyone hate the Amish? What did they ever do to anyone? We visit them, buy real, unprocessed foods and heirloom quilts from them, but what did they do that a modern world would outright shun them? Well, those barbaric practices include killing and eating real animals, which becomes illegal in the future. Why don`t they just buy it at a store where no animals were harmed? That`s our future, ladies and gentlemen. Synthetic meat.

In this future, all the green energy and earth conservationists banded together and showed their dedication to the earth by overthrowing the government and establishing the Green Republic. They then make fossil fuels illegal, as well as any other power source that isn`t renewable. Then they decide killing animals for any reason is bad, so the only meat or eggs you can get are harvested in a lab.

That combination of Amish being forcibly segregated and tree-hugging hippies as the dictators in a totalitarian government throws a lot of people off their literary footing. I like it.

So, back to the protagonist, Lydia. She`s decided to join her best friend Jeremiah on rumspringa, which is the Amish version of sowing your wild oats before settling down. The teenagers are given the opportunity to live and work in the Englisher world, wearing synthetic fabrics too tight, showing way more than their ankles in public, drinking, drugging, and sleeping about. Then they flip the switch, don their straw hats and bonnets, and return to the rural great life. Lydia`s thinking this`ll be fun. Amish version of spring break with her best friend.

That`s when the real world decides to play tricks on her. She learns that she`s adopted, not really Amish, and was the result of a genetic experiment to turn people into batteries. Not Matrix type batteries, more charging your phone or toaster just by touching the prongs of the power cord. That also means that she can electrocute people, electrical grids, and melt sand into glass by focusing the electricity.

Now we get to see that pesky love triangle. As a literary ingredient, love triangles are like cooking octopus. Done right, it`s amazing. There`s a depth it brings to the table. But, it`s tricky, and done wrong, you`re left chewing something you found on the bottom of your shoe. No one unexperienced should walk into a kitchen and just throw some seafood in a pot and think it`ll work. Same with love triangles. The paradox between Korwin and Jeremiah is a genuine struggle, and one that made me want to read more, not vomit like the majority of love triangles. Korwin`s another Spark, like Lydia.

Lydia finds him in a government controlled facility where they are systematically draining him of his power. She rescues him and immediately relishes the idea that there is someone else like her. Together, they figure out what`s really going on in this green, dark world.

Overall, this book was great. The pacing was just right. There were a few grammar details, but I could count all of them on one hand, as well as one or two character inconsistencies. However, G.P. Ching brings us a story that holds attention better than her previous series. I`m looking forward to what she presents next.