Proxy didn’t grip me like I wanted it to. It took me almost all of December to read it, partially because of other books I found more interesting at the time, and partially because the beginning was a bit slow and rocky. I actually thought about putting Proxy down for the time being, but I am honestly glad I didn’t. It gets a lot better about halfway through, but the ending was a little predictable, though still definitely shocking and terribly saddening.
The story is dystopia where the wealthy have Proxies, people in the lower class who take their sponsors’ punishments for them. Syd is a Proxy, living a tough life in the Valve, who happens to have the most careless Patron ever, it seems–Knox. When Knox accidentally kills a girl, it is not him that is punished by the law, it is Syd. Syd does not belong to himself in this world. “His life is not his own” as the book’s synopsis states. Proxy deals a lot with the unfair gap between social classes. Proxies are indebted to their Patrons for years and years of their lives, and have to struggle to survive in the harsh conditions of the world available to them. Patrons are born into luxury and privilege, and don’t really have consequences.
It took me a long time to warm-up to Syd and Knox. Syd felt very flat, though I of course felt sympathy for all the terrible things happening and that had happened to him. Knox was a jerk, but a jerk I actually really started to like as the book progressed. Marie was pretty cool for someone who lived such a protected and privileged life. She did a lot more damage than the boys ever did. Knox’s father was a major douche bag, though very complex and hard to figure out; I liked that about him, even if he appeared very cruel to his son. Egan just annoyed the heck out of me–sorry, Syd! And Mr. Baram was kind of a lame excuse for a fatherly figure/mentor; he just wasn’t very memorable.
To go into more detail about our main characters… Knox was a spoiled little rich boy who really had no idea about anything outside his own comfortable life, and it was interesting seeing how he reacted to things when he, Syd, and Marie were on the run (because that was obviously going to happen, duh). Knox acted like you’d expect someone in his position to: he didn’t understand, he didn’t stand up, he didn’t always grasp the danger of the situation. Yet still I grew fond of him, even though he barely gave a care in the world how his actions would affect his Proxy.
Syd was a refreshing character for the YA genre: a boy of color and gay, too. It took me a while to like him and feel invested, but once he was on the run I desperately wanted him to find safety and a good host of people to be among. Haha, wishful thinking. This world was too bleak for Syd to get a happy ending, and I knew there was a sequel, Guardian, before even reading Proxy. Which means a lot still hasn’t been solved by the end of Book #1. But the ending twist… I guessed part of it way back in the beginning of the book, and wasn’t too surprised by the other part of the twist. But it was still hard to read.
Also interesting (or maybe not?) to note: the book, told in third person, jumped from viewpoint to viewpoint a lot. In one paragraph we’d be reading from Syd’s consciousness, the next paragraph we’d jump into Knox’s head. It was a little jarring like this, I found; I prefer section breaks (or even a completely new chapter) to signify that the POV is changing (think Sarah J. Maas; multiple characters in a chapter, but a clear section break when we’re switching viewpoints).
Proxy was a really good read, a book I didn’t initially think would be as good as it turned out to be. Alex London did some good world building here, making the different caste systems very distinct and extreme and the city and the wilderness very contrasting. I can’t wait to find out how things change for the world in Guardian. ♦
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About Alex London:
Alex London writes books for adults, children and teens. At one time a journalist who traveled the world reporting from conflict zones and refugee camps, he now is a full-time novelist living in Brooklyn.