Review: Perception by Lee Strauss

Lee Strauss

ESB Publishing
Released September 12, 2012
234 pages
YA / Science Fiction

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Seventeen year old Zoe Vanderveen is a GAP—a genetically altered person. She lives in the security of a walled city on prime water-front property along-side other equally beautiful people with extended life spans.

Her brother Liam is missing.

Noah Brody is a natural who lives on the outside. He leads protests against the GAPs and detests the widening chasm they’ve created between those who have and those who don’t. He doesn’t like girls like Zoe and he has good reason not to like her specifically.

Zoe’s carefree life takes a traumatic turn. She’s in trouble and it turns out that Noah, the last guy on earth she should trust, is the only one who can help her.

PERCEPTION is a ( SF/mystery/romance) Young Adult novel that takes place in the not-too-distant future in a world changed by climate extremes, natural disasters and impending wars, and where scientific breakthroughs cause class divisions—both financially and philosophically. It explores the clash between faith and science and how differences can separate us as enemies or ally us together. And in some cases, even in the midst of betrayal and personal crisis, there’s room to fall in love.

This is the first book in a planned three book series.

Zoe Vanderveen is a perfect blonde model, who is going to live for centuries and live within the guilded walls of the city made specifically for the wealthy GAPs, those genetically altered to live longer, be smarter and look more “perfect” than normal people. It’s a homogenous society built by her grandfather, who invented the genetic science that allows the GAPs to exist. Zoe has an older brother who has recently started acting a little fishy before he disappears without a trace, which is especially odd considering all the GAPs have microchips embedded into their hands to act as tracers, data cards and bank accounts all in one handy mobile location. His disappearance leads Zoe down a dark road to find truths about her family, her way of living and the outside world for which she is not prepared.

Lee Strauss has created a solid mystery with Perception in a world that is very much like our own with a bit of genetic modifications thrown in. Zoe is essentially representative of the very wealthy, who have everything and lack any knowledge of those who don’t have as much. She just happens to be a perfect genetic specimen. Noah, on the other hand, is from a poorer family and lives a more normal life; he could easily exist within the real world. By creating a mystery that eventually leads these two together, the story has two compelling, but somewhat opposite main characters.

Zoe is a pretty interesting character, though her complete ignorance of the conditions of the outside world seemed a little overly naïve. She’s a sheltered character, absolutely, living within the walls of a rich city, but to assume that everyone’s lives were as peachy keen as hers made her seem younger than her character is described. I suppose there are super rich people who don’t expose themselves to the news or anything resembling the real world, but I guess my imagination isn’t as good as it once was, because I can’t comprehend someone being as oblivious to the greater world. I did like how adaptable she managed to be once introduced to Noah and his group of friends, and how her fear of the other side of the wall slowly turned into acceptance – and perhaps even a preference - of how the rest of the population lives.

The sudden shift in first person perspective over half through the book was jarring to say the least. After spending so much time with Zoe, to suddenly be in the head of Noah seemed out of place not to mention the time jump that occurred at the same time. At first I was afraid that the character voice would remain the same, only from a male perspective, but Strauss manages to give Noah his own perspective and enough of a change to not sound like Zoe’s own consciousness.

There are so many reasons why I enjoyed this fast-paced and exciting tale, but many of the reasons are plot spoilers so I’m a little lost for words to really explain how much fun this book is. With the science fiction bent, what could have been a run of the mill mystery wrapped in a YA star-crossed romance turned into something far more intricate and exciting. Despite the slight bump with the change of point of view, Perception was incredibly enjoyable with characters I enjoyed spending time with in a slightly advanced version of Los Angeles that keep things interesting. Though I enjoyed that it felt like a standalone novel, I’m interested to see how Strauss expands her world and characters in the sequels.


I received an e-copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review. I hope this review makes sense. It's been a long week.