Title: The Glass Ceiling
Author: Julie LaVoie
Release Date: December 11th 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Pickaxes, grime, and watery oatmeal are all sixteen-year-old Heart has ever known. Growing up in the tunnels, the only breaks in her muscle-aching monotony are the numerous nights spent cramped in a metal box. Stupid runaway mouth. But when strange visions and a hidden map hint there’s more to life than she’s been led to believe—boys being one of them—only one thing weighs on her mind. Escape.
Yet freedom is a tease. Heart merely trades her small prison for a larger one—a transparent dome controlled by the Guardian, an aging leader bent on creating a genetically perfect race.
Heart’s birthmark on her shoulder? An abomination that carries a lifetime sentence of slavery for females.
Refusing to let a glass ceiling deter her, Heart searches for a way out of the dome. But unraveling the Guardian’s secrets is a risky endeavor. Human skulls atop crude sticks serve as a warning: treason is punishable by death. When her new friends are captured, and escape is just an arm’s reach away, Heart must decide. Take the freedom she so desperately wants or save her friends’ lives?
When the main character in a book is called Heart I think maybe we would expect her to be breakable and soft; instead, she is like the physical muscle – strong, unrelenting and extraordinary. Though it is not unusual to see female characters take a central role in the YA Dystopian genre there is still something distinctive about Heart, which draws us to her.
Although overall I was disappointed with The Glass Ceiling, feeling the expected elements of romance and the ending were too neat but there were several unanswered questions, I did like the emotional quality of Julie Lavoie’s writing. It is this which connects us to Heart, Logan, and the book’s secondary characters and at times forces our shocked gasps at the most shocking moments.
The Glass Ceiling is a book which leaves us contemplating issues in our own society like sexism, arranged marriage and the idea of media created ‘perfection’ and will be particularly enjoyed by readers who admire Katniss and Tris.
Just as Heart touched the doorknob, muffled voices sounded from the other side. Crap. She looked around her. The closest object was a trash can. She lowered herself behind it, wrinkling her nose at the putrid smell of dirty diapers. The door swung open and the Matriarch stepped out. A messy braid laid over one shoulder.
“We need to locate her. Check the bathroom. Check the tunnels. She couldn’t have gotten far.”
The woman stomped past the trash can without noticing Heart. In one bright flash, all the fluorescents came on. Chills spread through Heart like black oil. They were going to find her.
The dorm mother put one of the older girls in charge and rushed toward the east tunnels. Heart stayed in her kneeling position, frozen to her spot. Think, Heart, think. Going inside her dorm was out of the question. Her only choice was to go west. Her heart sank. The west tunnels were in the opposite direction of the Box. She couldn’t leave 176 behind.
Before she could change her mind, she abandoned her hiding spot and sprinted toward the common area. Luckily, everyone was already in the tunnels and she made it through without being detected.
She neared the Box and moaned. She’d forgotten about the padlock. How was she going to get 176 out? She banged her fist against the thick metal. “176, you in there?”
There was no response. Of course, 176 couldn’t talk. She placed her ear against the door, listening for movement. Three thumps came from within.
“The door is locked and I can’t open it.” Heart banged once more. “I have to go, but I’ll come back for you, okay?” She hesitated. Promises alone wouldn’t help 176 survive the Box. “Just concentrate on the sliver of light. Pretend it’s an angel, wrapping you with her wings. Protecting you. That’s what I do.”
A ball formed in Heart’s throat. “Stay strong. I know you can do it.”
A thump sounded. Heart sniffled and wiped at her nose. There was nothing more she could say.
With a final glance over her shoulder, she rushed toward the west tunnels, staying close to the walls. She made a note of the small alcoves she passed. If needed, she could easily squeeze into one.
Every couple of minutes, she stopped and listened for voices. Yells and the beating of feet into dirt bounced off the cavern walls. She couldn’t tell if they were ten feet away or a hundred. Adrenaline forced Heart forward and she quickened her pace. If the Matriarch caught her, losing her tongue would be the best scenario she could hope for.
The walls grew narrower and the path more treacherous. She’d never been this far into the tunnels. Looming rock formations snagged at her hair. What if she’d picked the wrong turn? What if it was a dead end?
She turned a corner and her stomach flipped. A wrought iron gate marked the exit, a six inch thick steel bar holding it in place. Beyond the gate, a pinkish purple glow filled the tunnel. Freedom? Heart grasped the cold metal bar. C’mon, c’mon, c’mon! She tugged until her veins threatened to pop out of her forehead.
It didn’t budge. She whipped her head back and forth, searching for something hard. She grabbed a rock and slammed it into the bar. A pinging sound echoed off the walls. She didn’t care that the commotion would attract attention. There was no other escape. No bright arrows pointing the way. Nothing left to do but hit that bar with every bit of strength she could muster.
The footfalls came quicker now. A whistle blew. Heart hit the bar faster. Harder. The sounds were closing in. Every hair on her head could sense her pursuers. And yet she continued. Bang. Bang. Bang.
The bar moved slightly and tears of hope stung her eyes. Please!
Her body jolted as someone grasped her arm. The rock, and her only chance of escape, slipped from her fingertips.
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