Gr 10 Up—Pioneer came to Lyla's family when they were at their most vulnerable: Karen, five-year-old Lyla's older sister, had disappeared without a trace from in front of their apartment building, not long before the planes hit the World Trade Center. Lyla's father and mother-along with several other families-willingly followed Pioneer to Mandrodage Meadows, a gated community with a dark secret. Pioneer claims that the mysterious Brethren have chosen them as survivors of the coming Armageddon. He controls what they watch, how they live, whom the youth will marry. Lyla, now 17, knows that she is safe, but the thought of living in the underground silo that will be their home when the world ends doesn't really seem like her idea of living. When she meets Cody, the local sheriff's son, and he begins to question some of her long-held beliefs, Lyla wonders if Pioneer is really the savior he claims to be. Her doubts will have some consequences that will put her and her community in danger-not only from outside, but also from within. This well-plotted tale will allow readers a glimpse into the possible world of a doomsday cult. Because the characters come across as real individuals, it's easy to sympathize with their situation and the way in which they have been taken in by Pioneer's lies. The subject matter and violence make this book more appropriate for an older audience, but the language is accessible, making it a good choice for reluctant readers. After the last page is turned, the question will linger: "Could I ever be deceived like this?"—Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO
Appearances can be deceiving.
Lyla Hamilton is a loyal member of the Community. Her family was happy to be chosen by Pioneer to join such an lovely gated neighborhood. Here, life seems perfect.
But after meeting Cody, an outsider boy, Lyla starts questioning Pioneer, her friends, her family--everything. And if there's one thing not allowed in the Community, it's doubt. As Pioneer cleverly manipulates his flock toward disaster, the real question is: Will Lyla follow her heart or follow Pioneer over the edge?
From the outside looking in, it's hard to understand why anyone would join a cult. But Gated tells the story from the inside looking out, and from behind the gates things are not quite so simple. Amy Christine Parker's beautiful writing creates a chilling, utterly unique YA story. Perfect for fans of creepy thrillers and contemporary fiction alike.
"A tense psychological thriller that will leave you gasping for breath as you race to the very last page." --Gretchen McNeil, author of Ten
HelloGiggles.com, August 3, 2013:
"When I found out that there was a YA book about cults, of course I had to read it. As it turns out, Amy Christine Parker’s Gated is an awesome, creepy book that reminds me of my favorite cult films while still being surprising."
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2013:
"Parker doesn’t pull punches, indicating a level of brutality that will appropriately disturb even as it successfully conveys Lyla’s complete entrapment in the Community. Compelling and not that distant from real-world cults that have ended in tragedy."
Publishers Weekly, June 10, 2013:
"Parker skillfully explores the mindset and inner workings of an apocalyptic cult, steadily building toward the inevitable moment of truth...As for the apocalypse itself, Parker keeps things suitably ambiguous, resulting in a complex, intriguing tale rooted in real-world events."
School Library Journal, October 2013:
"This well-plotted tale will allow readers a glimpse into the possible world of a doomsday cult...The language is accessible, making it a good choice for reluctant readers. After the last page is turned, the question will linger: 'Could I ever be deceived like this?'"
"A well-rounded and thorough look into cults while still remaining entertaining throughout. I look forward to reading more of Parker's works in the future."
It’s the end of the world, and no one’s fine in this tense psychological thriller, Parker’s debut. Seventeen-year-old Lyla is part of the Community, a group of families led by the charismatic Pioneer, who has secluded them from the outside world in anticipation of the imminent apocalypse. With Pioneer’s prophesied deadline fast approaching, Lyla struggles with her faith and resolve. A chance encounter with Cody, a boy from the outside, further tempts her away from the way of the Community, but when events escalate—with her salvation at stake—she may have to choose between following her heart or staying true to her friends and family. Parker skillfully explores the mindset and inner workings of an apocalyptic cult, steadily building toward the inevitable moment of truth. The appeal of the Community’s simpler way of life is balanced by a growing sense of wrongness, as cracks appear in Pioneer’s façade. Lyla’s internal conflict is well-played and believable. As for the apocalypse itself, Parker keeps things suitably ambiguous, resulting in a complex, intriguing tale rooted in real-world events. Ages 14–up. Agent: Lucienne Diver, the Knight Agency. (Aug.)
A tense psychological thriller that will leave you gasping for breath as you race to the very last page.”
—Gretchen McNeil, author of Ten
“An awesome, creepy book that reminds me of my favorite cult films while still being surprising.”
“Compelling. . . . This absorbing examination of a cult focuses on a teenage girl who begins to doubt their leader.”
—Kirkus Reviews, Starred
“I highly recommend Gated to fans of contemporary fiction with a twist. This one has a bit of everything—mystery, intense action, real life issues, and romance.”
—My Book Addiction (blog)
“After the last page is turned, the question will linger: ‘Could I ever be deceived like this?’”
“Highly recommended for fans of YA thrillers and contemporary fiction.”
—A Dream Within a Dream (blog)
“Every once in a while a book comes along that leaves you reeling. Speechless. Shocked. Nothing you say will do it justice. Gated is that book. Chilling, horrifying, but beautiful. A MUST read.”
“Action-packed and full of suspense. . . . It’s new and fresh, a step away from everything that’s out there right now.”
—Me, My Shelf, and I (blog)
“A complex, intriguing tale rooted in real-world events.”
“Mysterious, entrancing and dark, Gated brings in just the right amount of paced storytelling with the edge-of-your-reading-seats sense of suspense.”
“An absolutely enrapturing book . . . I couldn’t put it down.”
—In Libris Veritas (blog)
An entertaining and unique entry in a sea of generic YA novels.”
—Fiction Frenzy (blog)
“If you need a summer thriller read with a smartly woven plot and a lamb-to-lion main character, then this book is for you.”
—Great Imaginations (blog)
“An absolutely fascinating read with an original concept and an absolutely brilliant villain! Different with just the right touch of chilling.”
—Fiction Freak (blog)
This absorbing examination of a cult focuses on a teenage girl who begins to doubt their leader. Lyla's little sister was kidnapped in New York City 12 years ago, just before 9/11. Her inconsolable parents fell prey to a charismatic man calling himself Pioneer, who promised to keep them safe in the coming apocalypse thanks to knowledge received from aliens. They now live with about 20 other families in a walled-in agricultural community that hides a secret: They have dug a five-story-deep silo into the ground in which they intend to live for five years before the aliens come to rescue them. Pioneer controls his people closely, assigning the adolescents into marriages (Will is Lyla's Intended) and insisting that everyone in the Community learn to shoot to kill, as he's sure Outsiders will eventually attack them. Parker convincingly portrays the dynamics of a cult from the inside out, contriving events that will allow Lyla to learn the truth about Pioneer and nicely fitting Lyla's rebellion against the Community into her natural adolescent rebellion. But if Lyla tries to warn the Community, will anyone believe her, or will she be trapped forever in the silo? Parker doesn't pull punches, indicating a level of brutality that will appropriately disturb even as it successfully conveys Lyla's complete entrapment in the Community. Compelling and not that distant from real-world cults that have ended in tragedy. (Fiction. 14 & up)
Read an Excerpt
"Shoot to kill this time, okay?" Will winks and pushes me into the tall corn as we walk through the field to the gun range. I push him back and he laughs. The sky is a perfect cloudless blue and the air is hot from the summer sun. It's a day meant for picnics, not pre-end-of-the-world target practice.
"But that's why I have you," I say. I fiddle with the leather strap attached to my rifle, sliding it back and forth across my shoulder until it rests comfortably in the crook of my neck. Turning my face up to his, I'm sure that I'll see his lips curl into a smile at my routine grumbling, but instead he's frowning.
"What if I'm not with you when we're attacked? You can't assume someone else will pull the trigger for you all the time." His hand tugs absently at his ear, a sure sign that he's not joking anymore.
I swallow back my answer and look out past the corn to the prairie beyond. The unspoken words drop into my stomach, making it hurt. The gun range is up ahead. Marie and Brian are already there. The popping sounds of their guns carry over the cornfield, punctuating the sudden awkwardness between Will and me.
"I'm just saying that maybe it's time you took all of this seriously." Will reaches out for my non-gun-toting hand. I hesitate, my fingers twitching in the air. He dips his head and gives me a sidelong smile.
I know he means well. He always means well. He cares about me I am the problem. Exactly three months until the end of the world and I still can't muster up the proper response. I pull in a long breath, glad for the abundance of air around me. Thinking about the end of things always makes me feel like I'm suffocating.
Will chases after my hand with his own until he snares it. He laces his long fingers through mine. "I worry about you, Lyla. I can't be with you every second, even once we're in the shelter. I just want to know you'll do what you have to to survive."
I can't keep a sigh from escaping. We've had this conversation so many times. It's intensifying now because of the target shooting. This is only our fifth time out on the range, and his pestering is reaching epic proportions.
"Come on," I finally say, like he's the one who's holding us up. He squeezes my hand lightly. We walk the last few yards to the open grass and the gun range. I fish my earplugs out of my pocket and stuff them in my ears before Will can say anything more. He leans down, his lanky frame casting a shadow over my face. He's like a barometer--constantly measuring my moods and reporting them back to me in his expressions. His stonewashed-blue eyes are troubled and his freckled nose is crinkled with concern. This means that he thinks that I'm overly anxious. I want to reassure him, if only to get him to look away, but it's as if clouds have suddenly formed and gathered over my head.
Brian's standing behind Marie, his face buried in her dark curls. He's gently guiding her rifle to her cheek for what I'm sure is the hundredth time. Together they aim her gun at the large collection of hay bales across from them. Each hay bale has a life-sized cutout of a person bound to its front. They're aiming at a woman. It's a silhouette, but still it makes my skin tingle when the gun goes off and I see a piece of the plywood lady's chest fly out into the grass. Marie grins at us and her cheeks flush pink.
"Did you see that?" she asks. I can't exactly hear past my earplugs, but I don't need to. She says the same thing every time she manages to land a shot. I paste a smile on my face and walk toward them and out of Will's shadow.
"Nice!" I holler back. I take my usual spot in the grass, across from the hay bale with the man cutout. I'm pretty sure this makes me sexist, but the man target is the only one I can stomach shooting. I lower the rifle from my shoulder and try to psych myself up.
Not enough room for everyone. We can't take them all. They had their chance. We have to protect ours.
I play this litany over and over in my head, hoping that somehow it will make my heart understand. It didn't work the last time and I don't hold out much hope for this time either. How can I take someone's life when he's just scared and looking for help, even if it saves my own?
I glance over at Will. He's shooting at two plywood cutouts: a man and a woman. His rifle is tucked into the space between his chest and his shoulder, and his cheek is welded to the gun's stock. He keeps both eyes open, lines up his sights. There's no hesitation once he gets the sights level. The rifle jumps as he takes the shot and the plywood man's head flies backward. His featureless face searches the sky. Will readjusts and shoots the plywood woman in almost the exact same spot. Her head stays upright, but it's missing its rounded top. He smiles as he lowers his gun and looks at me.
I turn back to my own hay bale and the silent man-board waiting there for me. I pull my rifle up into position and ready my stance. I can feel the others watching me, hoping that for once I'll shoot one of the mandatory targets: head or heart. My bangs are plastered to my forehead and sweat tickles my back as it runs down my spine. I still my body, put my finger on the trigger, and pull. The recoil makes me wince and I shut my eyes. When I open them and look out at the silhouette man, I let out my breath in one relieved rush. The bullet hit exactly where I wanted it to.
"Really, Lyla? The kneecap again?" Marie has her hands on her slim hips and one foot jutted out as if she's suddenly become a seasoned assassin. She can't seem to wrap her mind around my continued reluctance to shoot right.
"It's her tribute to Terminator Two," Will says. "Where the kid orders the Terminator to take nonlethal shots all the time." He doesn't look at me as he walks back to his spot and aims at his target again, but I know that our discussion isn't over. It won't be until I manage to find a way to do what they want, to give in and fight.