In most dystopian stories, especially the ones I’ve read in YA, there are two distinct sides. You have the authoritarian bad guys who oppress the masses (ie the “bad guys”) and you have the downtrodden yet plucky rebels who are fighting against them (ie the “good guys”). The Empire vs. the Rebellion. The Capitol vs. the Districts. The list goes on and on. The thing I like about this book so far is that it clearly shows both sides. Normally, in a dystopian story, I would be cheering for Day in his efforts to undermine the Republic and take care of his family.
And yes, I’m still doing that.
But this book is also showing us the people on the other side with June’s story with her brother. June’s second chapter starts off with a flashback to when she was seven years old and really, really sick. Metias, who was nineteen at the time, was supposed to be at his induction ceremony into the military, but instead stays behind and takes care of his little sister since their parents are gone. In the last chapter, we see Metias hunting down Day after his escape from the hospital, and it would be easy for Metias to be just one more nameless, faceless soldier hunting our hero. Instead, we see how much he loves his little sister by peeling and feeding her orange slices while she has a fever. This makes the entire story much more complex and rich and I am here for it.
“You’re not going to leave me too, are you? You’ll stay with me longer than Mom and Dad did?”
Metias kisses me on my forehead. “Forever and ever, kid, until you’re sick and tired of seeing me.”
It’s impossible to hate this guy, and it’s easy to see how much June really idolizes him.
Which makes it an absolute punch in the gut when Thomas shows up to their apartment to escort June to the hospital because Metias has died from his confrontation with Day. Or, more specifically, Day’s knife. And while heartbreaking, I also really like how the author portrays June’s reaction to losing the only family she has left. Thomas is trying to take care of her, leading her out to the car, but June doesn’t hear a word he’s saying to her. I remember when I lost someone very close to me and it does feel like this. The world goes almost into tunnel vision and the periphery seems to completely fall away. The one thing that June can fixate on is that she should have been with Metias that night. She had asked to go with him and he said no.
I’m not sure how June’s presence would have helped, except that maybe Metias would have stayed behind with her instead of following Day. Still, how was she to know that? How was Metias to know that following a thief would lead to his death?
Once they arrive at the hospital, June sees the yellow tape cordoning off the area beneath the tower and surmises that they haven’t caught the person responsible yet. Thomas is surprised at her (correct) guess.
I nod toward the building. “That’s really something,” I continue. “Whoever it was survived a two-and-a-half-story jump and still had enough strength to escape.”
Thomas looks toward the tower and tries to see what I see — the broken third-floor stairwell window, the taped-off section right below it, the soldiers searching alleyways, the lack of ambulances. “We haven’t caught the guy,” he admits after a moment. The rifle grease on his forehead gives him a bewildered look. “But that doesn’t mean we won’t find his body later.”
“You won’t find it if you haven’t found it yet.”
Thomas doesn’t know how to respond to this. We also get a brief insight into why Thomas and Metias were so close. Thomas’s father was a janitor in their apartment building and Metias recommended Thomas to be assigned to the same patrols as he was. Since Thomas had a high trial score and a recommendation, he was given the post, even though he didn’t come from a prestigious family. He owes a lot to Metias and they got to be good friends too.
Commander Jameson comes up to the car and I already don’t like her much. She is the one who requested that June be brought to the hospital instead of just being informed of her brother’s death. And from the Commander, there is no sympathy. No platitudes. No concern for June whatsoever. Instead, she very bruskly informs June that, due to her perfect Trial score and the fact that she was almost done with her coursework, she is being graduated early.
It doesn’t stop there though. Jameson leads June to HER DEAD BROTHER’S BODY and asks her to basically figure out what happened as a “pop quiz.” See, this is one of those dystopian people that we’re supposed to hate. This woman is terrible! The thing is though, June didn’t get perfect Trial scores and near perfect grades for nothing. She can immediately deduce what happened.
I don’t even flinch from the sting of her words. The details rush in, and I start talking. “Whoever hit him with this knife either stabbed him from close range or has an incredibly strong throwing arm. Right-handed.” I run my fingers along the blood-caked handle. “Impressive aim. The knife is one of a pair, correct? See this pattern painted on the bottom of the blade? It cuts off abruptly.”
Commander Jameson nods. “The second knife is stuck in the wall of the stairwell.”
I look toward the dark alley that my brother’s feet point to and notice the sewer cover several yards away. “That’s where he made his getaway,” I say. I estimate the direction the sewer cap is turned in. “He’s also left-handed. Interesting. He’s ambidextrous.”
She’s saying all of this while kneeling beside her brother’s body. This is so tragic.
June tells the Commander that if the culprit went into the sewer, it would be near impossible to track them, since if they were smart, they would loop around several times and go through the water to throw off their scent. We know that Day did exactly this. The Commander finally gives June a bit of time to collect herself, calls Metias’s death “a waste of a good soldier,” and then tells June to meet her in the stairwell so that the photographers can finish cataloging evidence. June vows that she will hunt down the person who did this if it is the last thing she does.
Later that night, June is home and going through some of Metias’s things. She is also studying a smooth pendant, which was found on the scene as evidence. She has also learned why Commander Jameson graduated her early — Metias’s death has left a vacancy on the patrol and this way, Jameson can nab the only person to get a perfect Trial score before anyone else can try to recruit her. Her first assignment is to track Day.
They know that Day is the murderer, mostly due to fingerprints on the ID tag he stole that match up with another set found at one of his other crime scenes. June wonders about this, since the hospital heist was very poorly planned. Day tried to steal the plague treatment and he clearly doesn’t have it (otherwise he wouldn’t have been strong enough to escape). That means that he must have loved ones who are nearby and who are sick. It means he won’t be leaving the city any time soon. June wonders if he is working for enemies of the Republic – the Colonies or a group called the Patriots – but doesn’t think so. It doesn’t fit what she knows about Day. But then, none of this does.
But the biggest thing that doesn’t compute for me is this: Day has never killed anyone before. That’s another reason why I don’t think he’s connected to the Patriots. In one of his past crimes, he crept into a quarantine zone by tying up a street policeman. The policeman didn’t have a scratch on him (except a black eye). Another time, he broke into a bank vault but left the four security guards at its back entrance untouched — although a bit stupefied. He once torched a whole squadron of fighter jets on an empty airfield in the middle of the night and has on two occasions grounded airships by crippling their engines. He once vandalized the side of a military building. He’s stolen money, food, and goods. But he doesn’t set roadside bombs. He doesn’t shoot soldiers. He doesn’t attempt assassinations. He doesn’t kill.
This leaves June wondering why Day chose to kill Metias. She is certain that it was intentional since the knife was thrown so hard right at Metias’s heart, but from what Day said in the last chapter, I don’t think that was the case. Day said that he saw the knife hit Metias’s shoulder and saw him fall, but expected him to get back up. I think Day was just trying to injure Metias enough to stop him from chasing him. I seriously doubt that Day meant to kill him, especially given his history.
June also keeps examining the pendant necklace. It has very little monetary value so she assumes it must be sentimental, like a good luck charm of some sort. She feels like it must have some hidden meaning, but she’s not sure what it is. She also mentions how she used to be fascinated with Day and his exploits but now, it is her job to track him down. And after a few days, she has a plan.
See you next time, where we check in the Day and see if he survived the sewers!