If you were to judge this book by it's cover, you may think it is some futuristic erotica. But you would be wrong in that case. There is no relation to what is going on inside this book to it's cover.
Having said that, I must agree with other reviewers who state that this book is very difficult to shelve. Cara McKenna writes erotica and romance. But would not classify this book easily as either. There are some sex scenes but while they are hot and graphic, they are not necessarily erotic. The sex in this book is useful, sometimes it is strategic. In one or two cases it is romantic, but on the whole this is not a book about romantic, erotic or sexual feeling.
Also while I do eventually shelve this as a romance, it doesn't fit the trajectory usually defined for romance. While there is a main female protagonist and a main male protagonist, their romance is not the focus of the book. And neither do they get what I would classify as an HEA, but rather what felt like an HFN.
Having gone into depth about what I can't
classify this as, I do need to say that it is undeniably an interesting and well written book. First and foremost Cara McKenna is more and more striking me as a writer who I am comfortable characterizing as provocative and fearless. I find her work so fascinating because she manages to surprise me. And I am fairly jaded when it comes to genre fiction. I really like the way she crafts interpersonal relationships. They feel outside of trope.
As a person who does on occasion watch competitive reality shows, I found myself falling into the same pattern while reading this book that I do while watching the shows. At first there are so many competitors you can't keep them straight. You single out one or two who resonate with you, the ones you want to root for and the ones you want gone. As the game progresses and the herd is culled a bit, the personalities come into stronger focus. You may end up revising your opinion on the ones you roots for, the ones you think you might win.
You lament when one of your favorites is booted or there is a shocking elimination or you wonder in frustration why the ass-holey contestant manages to survive like a cockroach. You enjoy the fact that some of the challenges are quite ingenious and wonder what you would have done differently. There is even the point when the competition is winding down and you get competition fatigue. You just want a winner already. All this happens when I watch, say .The Amazing race
and it happened while I was reading this book.
I did like the resolution of the story. And I liked the epilogue because I had a question about the fate of a sentimental favorite who had gone out early and the epilogue answered that. Although tantalizingly enough, there are hints of a possibility of a sequel.
Really good book. Recommended.