Monday, 3 October 2016

The Book Club: Cell 7

Hello blog land! Before I start, let me apologise for my long absence - this September I had a vet school placement on a dairy farm; I started at 5:30am every day and finished at 7pm! While I did have a 3-hour gap in the day, I used it to eat and nap and was just too tired to do anything but eat, shower, and go straight to bed once I got home. The placement was very tiring but I learnt a lot and made lots of cow friends.

Anyway, while it was quite a rush to read Cell 7 in the final 3 days of September (yep, 3 days people, plus I had 9-5 training at uni!) I did finish it (maybe possibly on October 1st... oops) and WOW, was this a read.

Cell 7

By Kerry Drewery

Cell 7 is a future dystopia, focusing on a modern justice system where everyone is a member of the jury. That sounds fair, right? What democracy is all about. But it is revealed pretty early on that this isn't what it seems - casting your vote as to someone's guilt or innocence will cost you a premium rate phone call, and one person can vote as many times as they wish - so, really, all the wealthy people are the jury. Martha Honeydew is a girl from the Rises, a collection of tall housing buildings constructed to deal with the housing crisis. And if you're from the Rises, well, that says it all; nobody needs to give you the time of day to know you're not going anywhere in life. But, with all the corruption in this new "justice" system, where people are executed just to make good TV and no evidence is necessary to prove their innocence or guilt, perhaps one girl from the Rises can change it all.

Martha is fiery and strong-willed, even when she's in the cells - one cell for each day, all of them creating different personal tortures; 7 cells in total. She sticks to her guns and it's clear from early on that she's making a point - sending a message - even though you can't know what or why yet. It seems she's accepted her fate. The problem is, she killed a man in the public eye, Jackson Paige, known and loved by all (rich people, ahem), so the stats say she doesn't stand a chance. But of course, there's more than meets the eye.

Bring in Eve, designated counsellor to the accused. She knows there's something up, knows that this girl is different. She breaks the rules for her, sends messages and brings actual, proper biscuits in. She fought for this job, as soul-draining as it is, because she really believes that the accused have a right to talk to someone. The general public, of course, think that murderers are undeserving of this luxury. Eve stirs up the dust surrounding Martha's case, and she starts to peel away the layers that reveal to us as readers what's really going on here.


This book is possibly the most difficult I've ever read to then talk about - it is impossible to describe the acute emotions coursing through the pages and diffusing into you; impossible to put a name to that frustration you feel in your gut, that hopelessness that paralyses you - it's the kind of book that absorbs you until you give it everything. It's a book that you feel as you go through, but you also have to give it all your brain power, because there's a mystery here that you have to get to the bottom of. It really is a skilful work, spinning a web slowly and sucking you in, tempting you with details and consuming you. Of course, it's still not a negative experience, but it definitely is a thought-provoking one. Is capital punishment okay? That's still something our society brings up for debate. Would things really be better if we could all put forward a vote on a criminal case? Or would the anonymity feed our thirst for power over people's lives, just as in the book? Would our society ever forgo the current system in favour of biased TV shows, a much cheaper 7-day jail system, and a steadfast belief in the phrase, 'an eye for an eye'? The scary thing is, that doesn't seem impossible. 

Onto the craft, and this was a particularly interesting one. I'd go as far as to say it's completely unique - I've never read anything like it. Martha is first person, with all her heat and tenacity and beliefs. Despite being rude and stubborn, she is a very likeable character, purely for her commitment to real justice and the love she is clearly capable of from the outset. And with her history, that's even more admirable. Eve is first introduced in chapters called 'Counselling', then later has title chapters too; both are written in third person, which seems to me to be a very clever way of reinforcing that Martha is at the centre of all this - Martha is the key player. Later on, other characters also earn title third-person chapters. The strangest part is the TV show, Death is Justice, where "all" the "facts" surrounding a case are communicated to the public, including character interviews and professional interviews, all if which are spun towards the desired outcome. It's written as a script, with dialogue between presenters Kristina (bitch) and Joshua as they engage with interviewees and their audience. When all of these techniques are first introduced it's very confusing, but after seeing each one once you get into the habit. It's actually very a smart craft - you get to see all the viewpoints around this case which highlight the brokenness of the justice system - poor Martha, enduring the cells; professional Eve, who opposes the system so strongly; and the general public, whose thirst for blood outweighs their morals.

Overall, Cell 7 definitely gets 5 stars from me. It is not for the faint-hearted, and really challenges society and the way we see so many things evolving for the worst. It's packed full of adrenaline and fires up your motivation - your desperation to see Martha walk away alive. I can't wait for the sequel to arrive next year, entitled 7 Days, to experience what happens after the stunning conclusion to Cell 7.

I hope you'll be inspired to pick up a copy!

Happy reading,

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