Book Review: Coda by Emma Trevayne
I step back from the mike. “Pixel,” I say, shaking my head when he glances at me. I stare the guy down. “Yeah, you don’t feel it. That’s because this is real music, and you’ve got to want it. You’ve got to let it get inside your head. Do that, and the high is better than some processed drug. This is what the Corp keeps from you so that they can make us listen to the stuff that’ll kill us. So they can keep us under control, use our bodies for energy, take our credits, and run our lives. If that high is worth it to you, go back to your console.”
He doesn’t say anything. I’ve started it, now. It’s too late to turn back, but I guess it’s been too late since that day Johnny first showed me the basement. Everything was always leading here.
“There used to be five of us,” I continue, gesturing to the band before I face the audience again. Rapt expressions nearly make me shut up. I’m not the person for this. “Our friend put on a track one day and dropped dead. They killed him, and he’s not the only one. It could happen to any of us, any time we put on a track. Have you ever pissed off the Corp? You might not know even if you have. Maybe our friend was lucky. Maybe it’s a good thing that he won’t go through what happens when the music’s finally eaten through enough of his brain. But do the Corp care? No, it just makes room for the next person to come along: someone else for their guards to threaten, someone else to give up their life for the Corp’s glory.”
Murmurs ripple. “And you’re gonna change all that?” asks the guy, raising his voice to be heard. Yeah, I don’t really believe it either.
“I’m saying that this is what they take from us.” I slap the body of my guitar. “The right to express ourselves. They take it and use it to kill us, instead. I’m saying we take it back, but we need your help. We need people.”
I can’t see where the question comes from, but it’s one I’ve asked myself a thousand times. “Change,” I say. “To show President Z, the Board, and everyone else involved with encoding the music and keeping real stuff from us that we don’t want this anymore. That they have to give music back to us and know they can never get away with doing this again. To replace them, if that’s what it takes.”
Welcome to the future, where the United States of America is no more, and everything is run by The Corp. Humans are born with numbers, energy is one of the most precious commodities and generated from people and their emotions, and music is how you get medicine- and mandatory highs- and is controlled (like everything else) by the Corp. Eighteen year old Anthem tries to lose himself and his troubles in the clubs, but nothing seems to beat the highs he gets from playing music himself, which is illegal and extremely dangerous. When his friend and mentor Johnny is killed by a track, Anthem, his girlfriend Haven, his ex Scope, and the rest of the band decide to take on the Corp by fighting the only way they know how: by growing resistance through underground concerts. Yet when The Corp decides that they are too big of a threat to ignore, and a traitor destroys everything, Anthem has to chose between resistance and what he feels is right, and the safety of his family.
Coda is extremely gripping and a wonderful (and disturbing) dystopia built upon a media that almost everyone is familiar with. The dialogue is exquisite, and the characters are colorful, flawed, and extremely well-described. Readers fall into Anthem’s world almost immediately, and are carried along for the ride. The twists and turns within the story carry throughout the book, and keep readers on edge and wanting more. It definitely fits within the cyberpunk genre (confused? think about the movie Tron: Legacy for inspiration) and throughout does not lose its core or optimism. 5 out of 5 stars. As of July 21, 2013, Goodreads rates Coda 4.05 out of 5 stars (what is WRONG with them?!??!).
I love the fact that music is used as the control over the human population, especially when you consider how much we listen to music. Anthem is such a complicated character, and his decisions are not easy ones. As a reader I felt each decision with him, and when the twists hit, I agonized with him through his choices. I also loved the fluidity within love that Anthem feels- like some of my teens he loves who he loves, no matter what body they happen to be in. Haven (his current love) is female, yet Scope (his former love) is male, and no one bats an eye over this.
Another thing that really struck me with this book is how dedicated Anthem is to his family. His mother dies early in his life, and his father is dying, so it’s up to Anthem to take care of his younger siblings (twins, who have called themselves Alpha and Omega). He’s constantly worrying about them, about how fast they’re growing up, about them getting addicted to the music like he is and going through the cravings, and about how they’re destined to grow up like he is, to become little more than a living battery for the upper elite. Anyone with siblings has been in that situation before- worrying about their situation- and Emma writes it so believably that it strikes chords within your soul. It’s a beautiful book, and I’m excited that there is more to come from her including Chorus….
Coda is nominated for the 2014 Rainbow Project List, and is a 2014 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adult nominee.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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