Review of Proxy by Alex LondonTo be published on June 18, 2013
Source: bought from indie bookstore
Summary (adapted from Goodreads:) Knox was born into one of the City’s wealthiest families. A Patron, he has everything a boy could possibly want—the latest tech, the coolest clothes, and a Proxy to take all his punishments. When Knox breaks a vase, Syd is beaten. When Knox plays a practical joke, Syd is forced to haul rocks. And when Knox crashes a car, killing one of his friends, Syd is branded and tortured. But Knox and Syd have more in common than either would guess. So when Knox and Syd realize that the only way to beat the system is to save each other, they flee. Yet Knox’s father is no ordinary Patron, and Syd is no ordinary Proxy. The ensuing cross-country chase will uncover a secret society of rebels, test both boys’ resolve, and shine a blinding light onto a world of those who owe and those who pay.
Ten words or fewer: Historical meets futuristic, buddy caper, guy friendships.
My take: Proxy takes the intriguing historical concept of the whipping boy (which, according to Wikipedia, was a boy who was raised with a prince and punished when the prince misbehaved) and transplants it into a bleak futuristic setting.
In historic times, the prince and his whipping boy were raised together. In fact, King Charles I reportedly gave his whipping boy a royal title. In Proxy, the whipping boy is transformed from a royal privilege to a perk of the uber-rich. Knox and Syd, his proxy, know of one another's existence, but have never met until the fateful day when Knox steals a car and crashes it, killing the girl in the passenger seat. So Syd is summoned and horribly punished, then sentenced to a penal colony.
After that, Syd and Knox end up on the run together. At this point, It seemed to me that the book became one of my favorite kinds of stories -- a buddy caper. Syd and Knox are as comically mismatched a pairing as the guys in my favorite bromantic comedies: Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte in 48 Hours, Danny Glover and Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon, Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in Silver Streak. Syd is poor and gay. Knox is rich and straight…ish. (There's a running joke about a kiss between them.)
The book's third-person narration switches off between Syd and Knox's points of view. But as the two guys join forces, the narrative occasionally alternates their POV mid-chapter, even mid-scene. This is not a typical choice for a YA book, and I know some readers are not happy with this sort of "head hopping." It wasn't a huge problem for me, given the fact that it was skillfully done, and that Syd and Knox have an unusual connection through their proxy arrangement.
It thought the strengths of Proxy were its cool concept and inventive story world, plus the developing friendship between the two guys. There are never enough guy friendships in YA! The book's heavy use of slang and lingo was disorienting at times, but I loved the odd literary and historical references that also popped up. Knox's car accident seemed like shades of Chappaquiddick. Syd's name is Sydney Carton -- as in A Tale of Two Cities. And indeed, the theme of sacrifice come up in the story. Proxy's relentlessly brisk pace suited the story, even if it did prevent much introspection about some interesting ethical issues -- like the proxy arrangement.
I really enjoyed Proxy. It was imaginative, fast-paced and a whole lot of fun.