Thursday, April 09, 2009

Review: Inferno

Inferno by Robin Stevenson

Smart, independent Dante is struggling at the school she's been attending since she and her parents moved over a year ago, and being brokenhearted due to her secret girlfriend moving away isn't helping matters. For her sixteenth birthday she changed her name to Dante after reading Dante Alighieri's Inferno, but her mother still calls her Emily and sends her to a support group for girls. It is there that Dante gets to know Parker, a mysterious girl who quit school and lives with her boyfriend.

Dante is an independent thinker and Parker easily convinces her to get involved in her protests against free speech and schools' strict rules. Soon Dante is sneaking out of her house in the middle of the night and scaling walls to hang banners. Things are not all fun and games for long however, and when Parker's group decides to protest the status quo in a way that people will notice and remember, Dante must decide how far she'll go to help a friend.

I like Dante, but then I almost always like smart and independent female protagonists. She's also a bit quirky but confident in her quirks, but I almost always like that too. So perhaps I was destined to like her.

That said (and none too eloquently either), what I really enjoyed was knowing how Dante perceived herself and comparing that to how others saw her. How she came across so confident and self-assured and yet really didn't know what to do most of the time. How her actions were definitive but the decisions going into her actions often weren't. The saying "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" could certainly be used to explain what happens with Dante, but that may be taking the Inferno metaphor too far.

The people who populate the rest of Dante's world were fascinating. I particularly enjoyed her parents and their distinct personalities and reactions. Parker was complex and almost unbearable to watch sometimes. Her situation was heartbreaking but scarily accurate, and of all the characters I wonder most about what happened to her. I doubt I'm the only one she sticks with.

As a side note, I love the cover. The fire juxtaposed with circular clockwork-like graphics is eye-catching and the title font is simple and elegant. Not to be ridiculously picky, but I would have liked the cover even more if the font used for the author's name was the same as the title font. Nonetheless, I would definitely be drawn to this book if it was on a display, and I'll find out soon enough here at the library if others feel the same way.

Inferno is a compelling novel that has friendship, rebellion, love, risk-taking, and more. 4 stars out of 5.

Robin Stevenson's website.
Other books by Robin Stevenson at PRHS.

Dante Alighieri's Inferno.

*This review is based on an advanced reader's copy (ARC) that I received through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

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