Updated: Aug 3, 2021
By Kat Falls
"America has been ravaged by a war that has left the eastern half of the country riddled with mutation. Many of the people there exhibit varying degrees of animal traits. Even the plantlife has gone feral. Crossing from west to east is supposed to be forbidden, but sometimes it’s necessary. Some enter the Savage Zone to provide humanitarian relief. Sixteen-year-old Lane’s father goes there to retrieve lost artifacts—he is a Fetch. It’s a dangerous life, but rewarding—until he’s caught. Desperate to save her father, Lane agrees to complete his latest job. That means leaving behind her life of comfort and risking life and limb—and her very DNA—in the Savage Zone. But she’s not alone. In order to complete her objective, Lane strikes a deal with handsome, roguish Rafe. In exchange for his help as a guide, Lane is supposed to sneak him back west. But though Rafe doesn’t exhibit any signs of “manimal” mutation, he’s hardly civilized . . . and he may not be trustworthy.”
InHuman, while certainly not the most groundbreaking or masterfully written YA dystopian book of all time, is nonetheless a unique and entertaining read.
It’s premise of a disease spreading across the US (how topical) and creating genetic hybrids is definitely a very interesting one. The creative and creepy designs of the Hybrids for me particularly stand out. The freaky nightmarish fusions Kat Falls creates stick with you, as do the Manimals that live in the “savage” side of the US. Along with the creature descriptions, this book’s depictions of the destroyed cities are very vivid, especially the kingdom that Chicago has become and the destroyed roads that Lane takes to Moline. It’s got some pretty memorable and atmospheric action scenes and situations. The ending with the cage, the fight against the chimeras, and the ending fight come to mind
Rafe is a cool co-protagonist, although his hatred of Manimals, as highlighted as it is in the beginning, disappears very quickly and never really felt as strong as perhaps the author wanted it to come off.
Something particularly notable about this book is some of the ways it departs from the standards of a lot of YA fiction. For example, while many other books would revel in the corrupt government details and spend more time in what’s left of the US, Inhuman does not. It doesn’t waste time on the “civilized” side of the wall, because that part is just the same US but smaller. It serves as a bit of nice subversion of dystopia. Only half of the country has fallen apart, the main part of it is actually still functioning normally. This gives the book something refreshing and different about it, in my opinion. Also in that vein, it’s nice that the government isn’t the cliché big bad like in many dystopian novels (not even just YA ones, this is a trope in many sci-fi dystopian). Even the “big bad company” that acts more like a true antagonist isn’t that terrible given the circumstances. They’re more of a moral grey, trying to fix their mess and deal with the problem the way they see is “the best”.
All of that being said, this book is far from perfect. Naturally, being what it is, it does come with sort of the usual trappings of YA dystopian sci-fi-- like manufactured romantic tension, the BA teenage girl protagonist doing cool stuff that seems kind of unreasonable, and some questionable world building. Alongside that, like with a lot of sci-fi (especially YA) a level of suspension of disbelief can definitely be required, because if you think about it too hard some of the world-building starts to unravel. So try to avoid thinking too too logically about some of the set up because then things won’t add up. But if you just take it as it is it’s fun.
Some things that this book suffers from even outside the traps of its genres, is that it can be a tad melodramatic and hamfisted at times with themes, especially Lane and Rafe’s arguments about manimals in the beginning. Another thing particularly egregious in this book is how the love triangle is as out of nowhere as can be. It serves no real purpose, it has a very shoe-horned in vibe, and it just feels awkward with Rafe because of his relationship with her father. Pro tip author, if you have to clarify that they aren’t siblings to the reader to make the ship even sound like an option, maybe you shouldn’t have tried to set up a love triangle with them.
And lastly for some of the most possibly deal-breaking cons, Lane isn’t all that memorable of a protagonist. She’s functional, just not a stand out. There’s no reason to really hate or dislike her, but she can fade out in focus in comparison to the world and characters that surround her.
So, all this being said, do I recommend this book? If you like the YA style and/or sci-fi based on biological disasters and can handle the cons I’ve mentioned, then I would say yes. It’s definitely not going to be for everyone, and it’s no award winner, but it is a pretty cool book. If nothing else, I think you would walk away from it enjoying the world and situation that it sets up.
And if you really liked it, it does also have a sequel called Undaunted, which maybe I can review at a later date.
But have you read Inhuman or its sequel? Do you like them?