My edition: Paperback, published on 3 September 2015 by Hot Key Books, 325 pages.
Description: Life's short. Enjoy it.
This is the slogan of Leata, the wonder-drug that sixteen-year-old Hope has been taking since she was a child, just like the rest of her family. Well, the rest of the country really. For who would choose not to take it – a perfectly safe little pill that just helps 'take the edge off' life. Because everyone can do with a little help staying happy sometimes... Especially Hope, whose life is maybe not as perfect as she likes to make out on her blog.
Tom's never taken Leata. Why would he? His family are happy as they are. At least they were, until the sudden death of his journalist father. The police are unequivocal: his dad killed himself. But Tom just can't believe it. Consumed by grief, he obsessively begins to unravel the trail that leads to his dad's final news story.
And Hope is there to help. As a Leata-backed blogger, Hope wants to steer Tom into 'positive living'. Instead, her efforts take them down a path she could never have expected – into the murky underworld that lies beneath the surface of the 'happy' drug everyone wants to love... and the secrets it will kill to hide.
After visiting Hot Key Books towers earlier this year for a showcase of their 2015 titles, Cloud 9 was one of my top picks from their upcoming list of releases – and so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review the intriguing sounding novel.
Set in a dystopian world where a wonder drug makes people happy without any of the side effects we've come to know and fear of traditional emotion enhancing substances, we meet two teenagers on opposite sides of the moral scale; Hope and Tom. Hope has been taking the drug, Leata, for years and has been transformed from a tomboy into the epitome of the perfect magazine-cover teen and the poster child of the Leata-sponsored blogging community. Her father is a lawyer for PharmaCare, the company producing the drug, and the entire family is known in the community for being upright citizens.
Tom is Hope's neighbour and former best friend, though they haven't spoken in years. Tom's father was a journalist trying to uncover the dangers of Leata, but before his story could make it out in the open he passed away. Tom believes that PharmaCare is behind his father's death and rather than going to school, he makes it his mission to uncover the secrets his father was so close to finding. In his search for the truth he stumbles into Hope and they have to work together to find out what is really going on – and who they can trust and who is out there to silence them.
The premise of this story is fantastic and from the opening chapter I felt myself completely pulled into this compelling world where there seemingly was no emotional distress for the people taking Leata. It sounds too good to be true, and of course we soon discover that it indeed is. Not in the least because of all the mysteries surrounding those that do not take Leata yet suddenly disappear off the face of the earth or after a stint in rehab are completely converted about the wonders the drug can do for their mental health.
Having Tom and Hope on opposite sides at first made for a captivating story and I was particularly intrigued by Hope's standing in the blogging community and the way that PharmaCare utilised bloggers and vloggers to get their message out there to their target audience; impressionable teens. While as a blogger myself the mentions of guest blogging, reviewing and sponsored posts are all familiar, seeing it in the perspective of Cloud 9 the dangers of not actually knowing that someone is trying to sell you something or subtly change your opinion become painfully clear and serves as a warning about the power of social communities, media perceptions and blog posts even in our non-Leata world.
The novel continuously flicks back and forth between the perspectives of Hope and Tom, which added to the fast pace of the story and heightened the lingering mystery as just when we think we've uncovered a major secret, the narration would change leaving the reader on the very edge of their seat. And the mystery was a good one – I didn't suspect the actual reveal at all, which made for a nice change as I normally guess these things quite early on. I did find that the ending felt a little too rushed and happily ever after, but it didn't take away from what up until that point had been an unputdownable book.
Cloud 9 is a highly original and engrossing young adult dystopian novel, which is packed with a great concept, solid lead characters and a frighteningly realistic future that doesn't seem that far-fetched from where we are today. Fictional it may be, it does serve as a warning for where we are potentially heading as a society and that is a scary thought.
You can purchase the novel from Waterstones, Amazon.co.uk or your own preferred retailer.
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Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel through in exchange for an honest review.