Gated | Amy Christine Parker | Book Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Gated | Amy Christine Parker | Book ReviewGated by Amy Christine Parker
Series: Gated #1
Also in this series: Astray (Gated Sequel)
Also by this author: Astray (Gated Sequel)
Published by Random House on 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Social Issues, Peer Pressure, Violence, Dystopian
Pages: 339
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

A fast-paced, nerve-fraying contemporary thriller that questions loyalties and twists truths.   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, 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." From the Hardcover edition.

Y’all, there is never a time in my life where I would say no to an interesting, traditionally published book featuring cults. For serious, like one time Christina recommended an adult fiction cult book to me and I read the heck out of it. When I saw Gated by Amy Christine Parker on Netgalley, the description basically immediately grabbed my attention. Because, you know, CULT BOOK! I am so glad I decided to read Gated because it’s one of those books that has a slow build to an intense crescendo and if you read all the cult books, as I do, both fiction and nonfiction, you will recognize so many elements of a cult. Frankly, I got so excited reading this book and cannot recommend Parker’s debut young adult book enough.

When Lyla was a little girl, her sister Karen was abducted. They never found Karen. Unfortunately, just when an effort was mounted to find Karen, 9/11 happened, and so all the focus went on that. It’s not as though tragedies compete with each other, but 9/11 took precedence over Karen. Lyla’s parents basically went nuts with their grief and turned for comfort to a man named Pioneer who preached of a group of gods known as the Brethren who basically picked them along with some other families for survival when the end times come. Lyla’s parents then uproot the family from New York City and they move across the country to a compound known as Mandrodage Meadows, where the families are separated from society by a fence and a gate. At the Meadows, they are stockpiling and preparing for the end times, where they will all wait it out in an underground bunker known as the Silo. When we first meet Lyla, she is having difficulty shooting targets shaped like people, her conscience weighing on her. This sets the tone perfectly for the thriller that is Gated by Amy Christine Parker.

Lyla is another in a line of characters that I would consider to be quiet. She’s introverted and shy. She’s an artist. Her quietness is so pronounced that Pioneer often refers to her as Little Owl because she is constantly observing the world. Anyways, Lyla does not think anything is amiss with the community she lives in until she is tasked with giving a tour to an Outsider, Cody. As can be guessed, Cody opens her eyes to the ultimate sketchiness that is Pioneer. But really,Gated is at it’s heart, the story of a young girl who finds independence within herself and learns to question and think for herself. I love that. I love that this sort of renaissance of Lyla is the main point of the story, not the romance.

Speaking of the romance, you might notice that at the very bottom of this review there are 4.5 stars. That is because while I liked the romance, I am not sure that I believe it. Like many young adult books, the romance is instalove. Which, okay, I get it. The boy is new and mysterious and represents something exotic to Lyla. I just thought the pacing and the feelings were very, very quick to happen and I am not sure I believed it. It just stretched the limits of what I consider plausible. Also, there are two guys who are vying for Lyla’s attention. I just felt it was lackluster.

Now, you guys the romance totally is not the most interesting thing in Amy Christine Parker’s Gated. Instead, the really interesting thing is how the sociology of cults in real life plays out in this fictional cult. Now, I’ve read books about Charles Manson and Jim Jones, so while I am not an expert, I am knowledgeable. Both dudes were hella sketchy, but managed to prey on people and get them to do heinous things. Pioneer is totally like them both. Like Manson, he’s definitely got a checkered past. Like Jones, he is able to get people to give up their lives and worldly possessions. What further enhances the book is that each chapter begins with an epigraph that is either a Pioneer quote, a quote from a real life cult leader, or a Bible verse. It just totally sets the tone and draws, to me, a parallel between fiction and real life zealotry. I loved it.

If you are cuckoo for cults like me, you need to get your hands on Gated. It is all that I wanted when it comes to young adult books that feature cults. The sociology within made sense. It clearly lays out why someone would join a cult with sensitivity. The characters are interesting. The cult leader, Pioneer, is charismatic when we first meet him. The writing is tight and clean. It is well paced, sure it starts off kind of slow, but trust, that’s to build up to the crescendo of the intense amount of action at the end. I highly recommend Gated by Amy Christine Parker to those who share my taste in books.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher

Other reviews of Gated by Amy Christine Parker:

Itching For Books – “wonderful writing, intriguing characters and fantastic twists”
Xpresso Reads – “a surprisingly good read”
Fiction Frenzy – “entertaining and unique entry”

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Well I’m definitely going to read this one now. I know a tiny bit about cults from an intro to social sciences class, and in general they’ve always fascinated me. I like that this seems to be a sensitive story in regards to cults. I don’t like instalove, but the premise sounds promising enough so maybe it won’t be that big of an issue. Great review.

  2. For some reason, this book appeals to me in the same way dystopian books do. Perhaps because both often involve nefariousness and cover-ups on the part of the authorities! Anyway, I’ve never read a cult book, but I think it’s something I could enjoy and aside from the romance (love triangles, yuck) it sounds really good to me 🙂

  3. I haven’t read any cult books but this one sounds really interesting. I might have to give it a shot.

  4. I really reallly want ze book
    Great review

  5. Totally not cuckoo for cults like you but… I want to read this anyway? It sounds SO interesting. I’m definitely more interested in the workings of the cult and the psychological aspects of this than I am the romance but lol, there’s enough romance in my reading life anyway. Great review, April, thanks for sharing! 🙂

  6. LoL, so I saw your tweet about being sad, and I thought to myself how I’ve been meaning to come and comment on your Gated review, but I haven’t gotten a chance to yet. To my surprise, this is the post you shared. :o)

    I really loved this one too. Cults are awesome. Well, they are awesome to read about anyway. I reviewed this one a few weeks ago I think. I don’t even know, i’m such a bad blogger these days.

    I feel the same about the instalove, I can’t stand that crap, but in Gated it kinda worked for me because she’s stuck in this compound around the same people and has her life mapped out for her. Along comes Mr. Cutie pants, and I honestly would have been all up on that too.

    How about Pioneer, eh!? That guy was a piece of work. What a freaking nut case.

    So glad you liked this one! I was waiting for you to read it, because I remembered you liked cult stuff.

    btw, hope you are doing well! 🙂

  7. I am really looking forward to this one! I’ve been intrigued by it since I found out about it a few weeks ago. But after this review, I’m doubly excited! Cults are always fascinating, creepy as they are. Bummed that it’s instalove, though. *sigh* Of course. Because heaven forbid that teenagers actually get to know each other before realizing this must be True Luv.

    Still, though! This one looks like it’s right up my alley, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

  8. Cults scare me in a fascinating way. I always wonder why people would become part of one, and it seems like this book might show me a possible reason. While I’m still unsure I’d check this one out, it’s definitely one I’d keep in mind since you enjoyed it a lot.

  9. Well, I do like a good Cult book. I’m fascinated by the whole thing so I’ll try to pick this one up.

    Too bad about the romance, when it sounds like just an add on, i wish they would leave it out completely.

    Thanks for the review: D

  10. I ordered this for my library and I will be sure to check it out when it is cataloged. It sounds just like something I would like.

    I just read a book that has a cult in it (The Hero by Robyn Carr) but it wasn’t about religious belief as much as control of people. I’m not sure why I find cults fascinating but I started reading about them when I was a teen (People’s Temple, People’s Tomb and Helter Skelter, etc.). I always think that I would never be susceptible to something like that but who knows. Lyla’s family was really vulnerable at that time and if someone so persuasive can offer them something that gives them answers or makes them feel safe…

    There is a new nonfiction book out called Pilgrim’s Wilderness that you might like (I haven’t read it yet):


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