Book Review: Gods of the Garden
Reviewed by Tomi Alo
An intriguing story that challenges young adults to view life from a unique perspective
Robin Strong’s debut novel Gods of the Garden is an enlightening and engaging narrative that allows its reader to gain a fresh perspective on human existence. With a focus on cultural anthropology, the book analyzes the foundation of life, offers a fresh perspective on how life changes when influenced, and poses the questions that have always seemed too ambiguous to have clear-cut answers—Why are we here? What’s our purpose in this world?
“Cultural anthropology is more than the study of culture…It’s a discipline that helps you better understand others. It challenges you to step out of your bubble and take another person’s perspective. As the world gets more complex and connected, you need a lens to view it with the proper context and tools” (35).
At the beginning of this story, the reader is introduced to Lucy Fernández, a seventeen-year-old high school senior who has her heart set on attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Lucy believes she has a real shot at fulfilling her dream if she wins the TechEd Tournament—the national STEM competition.
When Ian Gibson introduces her to a virtual reality called The Garden, she consequently accepts his invitation to partner with her for the tournament. Lucy and Ian need to develop a whole new cultivation in the virtual world to get The Garden ready for the competition. However, as they select the laws, morals, and values to apply to their fictitious universe, the lines between reality and fiction blur, and the temptation to use the power they now possess increases.
“The Garden was our chance to make the world better. In theory, we had the power to do it all. And that kind of power was tempting—possibly benevolent.” (57)
The author does an outstanding job of evoking varied emotions in her reader through the novel’s characters and description. She creates an atmosphere in which you can experience their losses and wins right alongside them. Strong’s writing style is simple to read while remaining enlightening and engaging. The novel’s tempo is steady and glides effortlessly to the end.
Strong also does a tremendous job of developing her protagonist. At the start of the novel, Lucy comes across as a perfectionist who places a high value on following the law and seldom strays from it. According to Lucy, failure was never an option, and thus she needed to uphold an impeccable reputation to succeed. This makes her appear as a somewhat annoying and shallow person initially, but as Lucy goes through tough changes and experiences, readers can see how she grows as a person—how she rediscovers herself and carves a new path for herself—and they can enjoy her personality shining through.
All in all, Gods of the Garden is a well-written and thought-provoking novel that will resonate well with young people figuring themselves out. I highly recommend it to those who have an affinity for science fiction too.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Science Fiction
Print Length: 336 pages
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