The Chosen by Taran Matharu

Cade was framed for a crime he did not commit. Ashamed and embarrassed, he’s just trying to make is through his year-long sentence in an alternative school. But one day he is told that the powers-that-be are moving him to another school in northern New York State. He doesn’t remember the plane ride, yet Cade suddenly wakes up in another dimension… stuck on a narrow ledge above a canyon being snapped at by a premodial beast. His quick wits and a distraction get him free of the prey and he meets up with the rest of the students who were on the plane.

Evidence of artifacts and people lost in time. Dinosaurs and Roman legioneers. Samurai swords and lost pyramids. The young men enter a land that has been shaped by a puppet master. And they desperately want to know the rules of the game.

The Chosen is a book that has all the YA tropes of The Hunger Games and Maze Runner. Cade is an excellent character who is able to use what little knowledge he has of survival skills and parlay them into several tough escapes. He’s not one for brawn, but his brains help him coax the stubborn crew forward towards what truth then can deduce.

It’s a fast plot with so much action that the character development is left behind a bit, but Matharu uses a series of flashbacks at the beginning of the book to take the reader to Cade’s first months of confinement. As a young man of mixed race, he finds himself caught in between several cliques behind the bars of the center. And when thrust into the life or death situation, these prejudices get exposed just as violently.

The lower rating comes mostly from the lack of characterization of the secondary characters. They tend to be good or bad, cookie-cutter actors. There’s not much shading to get any investment from the reader.

The worldbuilding is solid with great descriptions of all the ‘lost’ items and peoples. It’s a great concept that comes off a little shallow at times. This is the first book in a series and the author gives you enough in this one to keep you going to the second.

Recommended with reservations for fans of the YA survival-puzzle books. It’s a quick action-packed ride. Hang on!

3.5 out of 5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley, Macmillan Children’s, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

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