4 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: The Line by Teri Hall

Title: The Line

Author: Teri Hall

Genre: Dystopia, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Dial
Publication Date: March 2010
Hardcover: 224 Pages

An invisible, uncrossable physical barrier encloses the Unified States. The Line is the part of the border that lopped off part of the country, dooming the inhabitants to an unknown fate when the enemy used a banned weapon. It’s said that bizarre creatures and superhumans live on the other side, in Away. Nobody except tough old Ms. Moore would ever live next to the Line.

Nobody but Rachel and her mother, who went to live there after Rachel’s dad died in the last war. It’s a safe, quiet life. Until Rachel finds a mysterious recorded message that can only have come from Away. The voice is asking for help.

Who sent the message? Why is her mother so protective? And to what lengths is Rachel willing to go in order to do what she thinks is right?

Stand alone or series: Book one of a planned series

How did I get this book: Bought (at The Strand in New York over BEA week!)

Why did I read this book: I have been looking forward to The Line ever since I first heard about it last year – seriously, it was one of my most highly anticipated debut novels of 2010 – and as a review copy remained elusive, when I saw it at The Strand I knew I had to buy it.


Well, you know that saying about not buying into the hype? I really should have kept that in mind when reading The Line – a book that went from one of my most highly anticipated reads of 2010…to the most disappointing read of the year.

Young Rachel lives on The Property with her mother, employed at the will of the home’s owner, Ms. Moore. During the day, Rachel completes chores in the greenhouse, and by night she studies under the watchful, shrewd eye of her mother. But Rachel is young and, as the young are wont to be, curious. While her mother teaches Rachel everything she needs to know about the Unified States, separated by an invisible, un-crossable Line from a wild terrifying realm known simply as “Away,” Rachel hungers to explore, especially since The Property lies right inside the mysterious Line itself. Ignoring the warnings and cautionary lessons from her mother, Rachel is fascinated by the Line, and when she finds a communication device and then meets a young man on the other side of the invisible barrier, she knows that there must be more to Away than she has been told.

Sounds good, right? So what, then, was so disappointing with The Line, you may be asking? I loved the concept of the book, as told in the blurb, but the story (and its execution) was…well, not good. I’ll be frank: the problem with The Line is fundamental. The book TELLS instead of SHOWS.

Allow me to elaborate: while The Line is (ostensibly) Rachel’s story, the book is weighed down by an incredible amount of exposition (in the unimaginative form of “history lessons” and lengthy discussions between mother, daughter and patron Ms. Moore) – and even worse, the most interesting parts of the story are those of mother and her employer Ms. Moore, related entirely in conversation to Rachel. The direction of the book is stilted; the worldbuilding revealed only through dry, uninspired, ridiculously contrived history lessons. That’s not a metaphor, by the way – every detail about the world in which The Line is set in is related literally in history lessons, from mother to daughter. You can imagine this becomes grating after a while. The most infuriating thing about the book, however, is how there are some truly awesome ideas and plot seeds in this book – the story of Rachel’s mother as a resistance member fighting against the Big Brother-like oppression of the government and the tragic love story of Ms. Moore and her lost love, come to mind. These ideas were so intriguing that I found myself wishing that instead of Rachel’s tepid story was her mothers or Ms. Moore’s instead. We learn about these other women, and I couldn’t help but wish we got to experience these stories firsthand, instead of having been told about them in long, uninspired (and, frankly, contrived) conversations. Even when Rachel’s adventure picks up a little steam, the book ends abruptly before any serious momentum is gained.

The characters are marginally better – but again, I wish the book followed the adventures of Rachel’s mother and Ms. Moore, living through them instead of being related to Rachel in long, boring monologues. This writing method didn’t allow anyone to truly gain dimension as a character, and even Rachel herself is a bit off – she’s supposed to be somewhere around 14 years old, but based on her reactions and mentality, it seems she seems more like someone in the 10-12 age group.

The writing is simplistic, and while the ideas in the book (the genesis of the Line, the concept of “Away” and the controlling nature of the government) sound great, they are never taken any further than that surface-grazing level.

There are a number of other failings with the book (the unimpressive, thinly veiled choice of replacement nouns – “Unified States” for the United States, “digims” for photographs, etc). And, well, I’m kind of out of things to say simply because I don’t really care. That’s it. Maybe this will work for readers looking for a brief, simplistic, exposition-laden dystopian novel. But given the sophisticated, exceptionally well-written YA dystopian books out there (The Hunger Games, Chaos Walking, etc, etc) – The Line is utterly insignificant and undeniably forgettable.

Notable Quotes/Parts:

It seemed to Rachel that she had always lived on The Property, though this wasn’t true. Her mother, Vivian, said they moved there when she was three years old, but Rachel didn’t remember. To her, The Property was home. She felt as comfortable there as she did in her own skin. But she knew that for most people, The Property was too close to the section of the National Border Defense System known
as the Line.

The National Border Defense System enclosed the entire Unified States. The section called the Line was only a small part of it, but because of its history it was infamous, at least locally. Strange things were supposed to happen near the Line; dangerous things. Even though there hadn’t been a Crossing Storm in over forty years, people still thought of the Line as a bad place to be near. There were whispers about Away—the territory on the other side of the Line.

There were whispers about the Others.

To read the first chapter of The Line, go HERE.

Additional Thoughts: If you’re a newbie to the dystopian YA genre, seriously, please check out these novels first:

The Book Smugglers’ Guide to Dystopian & (Post-)Apocalyptic YA

Verdict: If you’re looking for a story rife with exposition; if you’re looking for characters content to tell a story rather than experiencing one; if you’re looking for compelling plot seeds that never come anywhere close to fruition; if you’re looking for a simplistic, bland dystopian Young Adult novel, look no further. The Line is for you.

If you want depth, sophistication, or a book that provides a wholly and truly immersive reading experience…well, look elsewhere.

Rating: 4 – Bad, but not without some merit

Reading Next: Crossing Over by Anna Kendall


  • Rhiannon Hart
    June 16, 2010 at 12:09 am

    I was underwhelmed by this one too–the telling not showing annoyed me, and the over-the-top emotional reactions of mother and daughter. I didn’t hype myself up too much beforehand, though, because when I read the opening chapter months ago I saw that it was going to be a slowish read. Expectations can make for a cruel reading experience.

  • Akin
    June 16, 2010 at 4:02 am

    Hhahahahahaha! Poor Thea. See, unlike you, I’m hype resistant. I was inoculated against “hype” by the Central of Disease Control after Hush Hush came out. You lot should have done the same. No matter how powerful the “smugglers” are, you’re still very human 😉

  • Etta
    June 16, 2010 at 5:36 am

    That’s disappointing. I had been looking forward to this one, but I’m going to pass on it now.

  • April (Books&Wine)
    June 16, 2010 at 5:57 am

    I HATE HATE HATE when books tell, but don’t show. It’s one of my big pet peeves. Also am not a fan of info dumps. I still have this book on my TBR, but there’s like 3,000 books in my TBR, so I guess this one can wait for a little bit.

  • Hannah
    June 16, 2010 at 6:49 am

    Oh how disappointing. I was so looking forward to it. Not going to be buying this one then, though if I ever see it in the library I might borrow it. It has such a nice cover too, what a waste!

  • KMont
    June 16, 2010 at 8:01 am

    Oh. Hmmm. Yeah. This made it onto my highly anticipated of 2010 list as well. I’m glad I held off till someone like the folks here reviewed it. Thanks for taking the bullet. 🙁

  • SG
    June 16, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Despite the bad review, I think I’m still going to give this one a go. I may like it, I may not, but the discovery along the way is what I enjoy most. Even when I hate a book, I find that the experience can still be rewarding in some ways.

  • katiebabs
    June 16, 2010 at 9:27 am

    I was looking toward reading this one. Telling, not showing is a big reason for not reading a books.

    Is there any suspenseful action at all or just conversations between mother and daughter?

    Sounds a bit like Carrie Ryan’s Forest of Hands and Teeth, but with no zombies.

  • Allie
    June 16, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Interesting. I have not read THE LINE, but that was pretty much the feeling I got from reading the new highly-anticipated dystopian YA MATCHED. There was a lot of potential, but not much there there, and the story never really got started.

  • Thea
    June 16, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Rhiannon – Oh, phew. I’m glad you felt similarly underwhelmed with it. I’ve been seeing nothing but praise over the interwebs for this book, and it’s a little puzzling. (Yes, my opinion is RIGHT AND EVERYONE ELSE IS WRONG! 😈 🙄 hehehe. kidding.)

    Akin – You’re a wise one, you are! I need to force myself to back away from hype. Now, where can I get this supposed vaccine? 🙂

    Etta – Let me know what you think if you do end up reading THE LINE! I’d be interested in hearing what you think.

    April – You and me both, dude. I’m ok with limited info dumps, but this book had me rolling my eyes at every page. Lemme know what you think when you do get around to it…sometime in 2015 or so, right? 😉

    Hannah – Oh I’m with you on the cover – really lovely. And the ideas in the book are good, but it just doesn’t really go anywhere. Unfortunately.

    KMont – *nurses bullet wound* You’re very welcome, my dear :mrgreen:

    SG – Point taken! And to be perfectly fair, the majority of reviews I have seen for this book are overwhelmingly positive, so perhaps it’s a matter of personal taste? I can’t wait to see what you think 🙂

    KB – Ahh, well here’s where you’re WRONG 😈 See, THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH is written in beautiful, lush prose and though much of it is quieter and internalized, it has a thing I like to call “character development.” The zombies are just an added plus.

    THE LINE on the other hand has…well…lots of infodumps thinly disguised as plot. So…HAH!

    Allie – Oh noes. I have MATCHED on my TBR and am quite excited for it…maybe this is a good thing though! Now I can practice the art of ignoring hype/lowering book expectations 🙂 (But on a serious note, I do completely sympathize with your plight. Sigh.)

  • danielle
    June 16, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Fantastic, you tell me RIGHT after I shell out eighteen bucks on the hardcover. Really, this just ruined m day.

    But wait, was the whole thing a Tell-Tale Heart kind of narrative, with the mother or the teacher talking the whole time? Or was it a mix of narrative and dialogue?

  • Brenda
    June 16, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    I thought this one sounded great too, but came to the same conclusion you did. The history lessons were ridiculous, there was way too much narration compared to dialogue and action–it was just bad.

  • Adrienne
    June 16, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Bummer! I had it on my TBB but I think I will be deleting it from my list and buying Renegade X instead 😆

  • Mrs. DeRaps
    June 17, 2010 at 4:21 am

    Sad. Such a promising premise. I’ve read similar reviews elsewhere, so I think that I’ll be shelving this one for a long time to come. Thanks for the heads-up.

  • kay
    June 17, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Blah. Too much telling and not enough showing is one of the most annoying faults I can see in a book. Too bad this one didn’t turn out so good!

  • Elizabeth
    June 17, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    This is a big let down. I had hopes for this book. I think I will still read it though and check it out for myself. Thanks for warning me in advance in case I can’t stand it…..I’ll let you know so that why you can have the pleasure of saying, “I told you so!” hehe

  • Renay
    June 18, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Sigh! That’s unfortunate, because I had hyped myself up for this, too! I guess I will see how it fairs when I pick it up. 🙂 Curse you, expectations!

  • karol
    February 27, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    I read this book and i know im not a critic but i have to say i didnt found anything wrong with this book i may be wrong and you may have proof to say im wrong but i really enjoyed reading this book ..I LOVED IT!!

  • Emily
    October 25, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    When does it take place

  • Anonymous
    October 25, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    The book doesn’t even tell what time it takes place and it’s my book report book and it doesn’t tell so I’ll probably fail came to this sight to halo so please help me.

  • poo
    October 2, 2020 at 1:27 am

    i poop my pp

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