The Getaway is an intense dystopian thriller that takes place within a "utopian" community that hit a lot harder than I expected it to. This is marketed as YA age range, and while I found the writing and most of the characters fit that well, there are a few more intense scenes that I think would probably make this better for the upper range of YA or at least warned that there are some major content warnings for violence and racism, among other topics. I've seen this compared to the movie Get Out in a number of reviews, and I would agree with that comparison for a general vibe of maybe what you could expect from this book.
I wanted to like The Getaway more than I did, but I still found it to be a really solid and engaging exploration of racism, classism, and what it means to be stuck in a world where you discover that your life is simply not valued in the same way that others are. While these themes and the premise and general concept of The Getaway was incredible, the execution felt somewhat lacking at times, which I'll discuss later in this review.
The Getaway takes place within Karloff Country, a utopian-inspired amusement part that is sold as "the funnest place on earth" and is supposed to have just about everything you could want for a fun time and promises an almost perfect visit. Think Disneyland but on an even grander scale. Karloff Country is essentially a sort of "refuge" for the rich within this dystopian future landscape to spend their money and get away from the chaos that is occurring throughout the rest of the outside world. Employees mostly consist of families and people who live on Karloff Country property where all members of the family work for the park in one capacity or another based upon their age, skills, etc. Employees stay within Karloff Country's walls and therefore only see and hear about what's going on in the world via the internet, but do not really ever venture out themselves.
Jermaine, known as "Jay," and his family live in the Jubilee neighborhood, along with Jay's friends Zeke and Connie. Chelle, his friend-slash-hopefully-girlfriend one day, is the granddaughter of the Karloff founder himself and lives in a mansion with her white mother and grandfather, while she herself is mixed race and often used by her mom as a sort of token to connect with the rest of their non-white employees like Jay and his friends. Jay is a good kid and I liked following him as our main protagonist in The Getaway, though his goodness was almost hard to watch sometimes as he slowly began to witness more and more horrors as the story went on. He is a very determined teenager and only wants his family and friends to be safe. He struggles with wanting to do the right thing and not dwell on outlandish conspiracy theories about the "dark side" of Karloff Country that his friend Zeke tries to share with him, but he also doesn't want to fully ignore anything bad going on around him. As the story progresses, he is forced to make some choices that I think really shows his true character and marks him as a particularly compelling protagonist.
We mainly follow Jay's first person POV, but get occasionally first person POV chapters from Connie, Zeke, and Chelle as well. Whenever the POV switched, I almost always got confused while reading the chapter trying to remember whose perspective I was reading because the voices all felt almost exactly the same. I also think the author was really trying to go for a younger-sounding narrative voice, but it didn't always work for me and sometimes felt a little forced.
Most of my issues with this book center solely around the writing and execution, such as the previously mentioned POV issues. The story itself was entertaining and hit the mark, but the execution and writing of it didn't quite hit the mark for me. The main problem was that a lot of this book almost felt like I was reading a draft. Since this was an ARC, I'm not sure how much change there may be between my reading of this ARC and the final product, but if there are not major changes then I don't think my opinion would change.
The pacing of The Getaway was also slower than I expect for this genre and premise. I assumed that I would fly through this book, but it actually took me longer than anticipated to make my way through, and I think that's largely because the pacing took a while to build up momentum. I also think it's because the writing just felt clunky at times and the plot pacing didn't really progress in a manner that flowed well. It's really hard to describe this without using examples, but any examples would really end up being spoilers so I am refraining from using them. Suffice to say, certain major plot points felt almost randomly thrown in at times and then were surrounded by slower pacing, so my interest really kept piquing and then falling, and it made for a less than great reading experience. I think with a bit of polishing, this book could easily be a four or five star from me.
The atmosphere and themes in The Getaway are really where this book shines. One minute spent in Karloff Country will immediately put you on edge a little bit; everything polished and perfect, but it's too polished and perfect and you have a slight fear that there may be horror lurking within the interior of that shiny exterior. When things go extremely wrong after the big climactic moment of this book, we as readers get to experience the horrors that unfold along with Jay and his friends and it is truly haunting and terrifying to be a part of. It's a hard reality to experience in this story and to think about in relation to our own world, and I think Giles did an amazing job of incorporating so many real world problems–most importantly the focus on racism–and fears into this story in ways that I think will definitely make an impact.
Overall, I've given The Getaway three stars. This is a haunting and eerie look at the dark side of any attempts at a utopia and really the dark side of humanity itself. I definitely recommend this to anyone looking for an entertaining dystopia with some real world issues at its core. Things get darker than you might think, so be prepared for this one. I think this will be an awesome book for teens!