Renegade is the debut offering from author J.A. Souders, and although I was frustrated at times with several examples of immaturity throughout this story, ultimately I was intrigued enough to follow it through to the end. With this underwater dystopian, our heroine faces realizing nothing is true about her life, and does so with emerging strength, which I found inspiring.
The world building is a source of conflict for me. While I thought choosing to set Renegade in an underwater utopia was a brilliant move for this premise, I was confused at the need for guards, and the shadowy, brutal Enforcers. There were several aspects of the society that I found really compelling and hope to learn more about. However, despite the fact that characters reference modern day technology, (video games, horror movies,) the world outside Elysium seems to be set in older times, (Gavin references a hunter-gatherer society with an antiquated government). I wish there was more clarification on that point and can only assume the sequel will provide this. There was a great deal of telling via info dump in Souders' book, which I disliked.
The characters in Renegade were another source of frustration. Evelyn, or Evie, is an extremely unreliable narrator, which adds another level of creepy to an already uneasy read. At times naive and lost, Evie made some very questionable - and downright stupid - decisions, but I felt sorry for her, and wanted to follow her story to see if she grew any. Alas, that's another reason to read the sequel - she does show strength, but I was hoping for more maturity from her.. However I can say that the secondary characters were fascinating, especially Gavin. I really enjoyed him, and thought his voice was refreshing. I'm looking forward to watching his romance with Evie mature, since it, like so many in YA books, happened almost instantly, and relied on circumstance rather than moments of substance, to build their feelings. The Mother character was terrifying, and I'll likely have nightmares about her, her actions, and what she allowed to happen in Renegade. She was a truly scary villain, and I applaud J.A. Souders for her creativity.
While a frustrating book, Renegade does offer a great deal of important questions about sense of self, family, and free will. The love story, while very fast, is still sweet at times. And despite a few circular moments, and immaturity in the writing, I will probably read the sequel/s. (Especially after THAT ending!) I think this author will grow and mature along with her characters, and I'm curious to see how that goes! It wasn't a perfect read for me, but it was a book with potential, so I'd definitely recommend you read it for yourself!