The premise of The Cage by Megan Shepherd enticed me right from the start. One reviewer described it as “The Maze Runner meets Scott Westerfeld.” I listened to this exciting, unique teen/YA sci fi novel on audio, and it was engrossing from beginning to end.
Cora wakes up in a desert and doesn’t know how she got there. The last thing she remembers is riding in the car with her brother, heading to a ski resort in Virginia to meet their parents. How did she get to a desert? And why isn’t she wearing her own clothes? As Cora walks around, she discovers an impossible scenario; within walking distance, she can move from one distinct ecosystem to another – from snow-covered mountains to the desert sand dunes where she woke up to a beach complete with boardwalk and quaint town.
As Cora walks around, she also discovers that she isn’t alone. She meets a handsome boy named Lucky, from Wyoming, who had a similar experience to Cora. Gradually, they meet the others – five teens in all – including the gorgeous model from Thailand named Nok, the shy Norwegian genius named Rolf who was attending college in London, and the tattooed, tough-looking Australian named Leon. The five can’t figure out where they are or how they got here. Or what happened to the dead girl Cora found on the beach.
Then a very tall, handsome man appears out of thin air. Cassian explains that he is from a race of alien beings that took the teens from Earth in order to save the human race. This odd collection of habitats is their way of trying to recreate Earth for the captives. Feeling like animals in an alien zoo, watched through mysterious black windows, the teens argue over what to do – comply with the aliens’ demands of them or fight back somehow? Cora desperately wants to escape and return home, but is that even possible?
This gripping, unique story reveals its secrets one at a time, providing compelling suspense. Every time I thought I had things figured out, another surprise would be revealed. You don’t know whether the aliens are altruistic or dangerous (or both) or the exact details behind the teen’s captivity. Even the teens themselves are questionable. Most of them are hiding secrets from their pasts, they almost always disagree on what to do, and the group even wonders if perhaps one of their number is a mole for the aliens.
This is a novel that keeps you guessing. The reader – just like the characters – doesn’t know who to believe or what is real. You are rooting for the teens (to varying degrees) but don’t know whether you should hope they acquiesce or hope they fight back. It’s a gripping story with plenty of twists and turns that kept me captivated. The audio was very well done, and I can’t wait for the sequel! Book 2, The Hunt is due out on May 24, 2016.