The Threshing is a thrilling YA dystopian novel, and I just burned through the pages. Funny thing is, since I followed the podcast, I already knew most of what would happen. It was interesting to me that this didn’t matter. At all.
Tim Grahl started his writing journey for this novel in the most public way imaginable: on a podcast, shared with anyone who cared to listen, while mentored by Shawn Coyne, an editor and the creator of the Story Grid method. Like many others, I followed along on the four-year process, and I was psyched when Tim’s dream finally came true: he published his first fiction novel.
The Threshing follows Jessie, a 12-year old girl who makes a living stealing credits. When she gets caught she gets a choice: be punished and join the Numbered – the lowest layer of society – or go to the capitol to take part in the Threshing, a vicious fight in virtual reality against the other three worlds’ Factions. What will she choose? And will she survive?
Thinking back to the time when I was 12, I think the story portrayed the challenges children of Jessie’s age face really well. They’re starting to navigate the ‘grown-up’ world on their own, which can be an intimidating and challenging world to be in. Especially if that world is a dystopian future after the world burned. So, significant pressure for Jessie throughout the story.
“There are no ruby slippers, Jessie. Not in the real world. There are only the choices we make and where those lead us.”
What I loved about Jessie was that she was both bold and vulnerable. She felt authentic to me, with conflicting emotions fitting for a girl who just wants to go home to her parents and be safe. Only she doesn’t get to.
The other characters are also well-portrayed. You have Harry, who becomes Jessie’s mentor, and you’re just not quite sure if what he tells you is the truth. Az is one of those characters you love to hate because he’s not necessarily evil, he’s just an ass. But throughout it all, he’s just fighting for what he beliefs in.
The only thing I missed in terms of characters was a more in-depth building of the relationship between Jessie and Alex and Ernst. They become her friends and are the ones who need to make sure she doesn’t die when she’s in the grid. I feel that if their relationship was given just a smidge more attention, some parts of the story would have hit me harder.
“Your greatest gift to the world is the thing you do so naturally that you don’t even know it’s special.”
The world-building was done really well, in my opinion. We start in a dystopian New York, still a city with tall buildings, a burned-out Central Park, and limited supplies. The distinction between the different classes of people was alluring and portrayed expertly. We start at the building of the high elites (who Jessie’s trying to rob), and we move to the lowest of the low: the Numbered. The Numbered are the people who clean up after everyone while they’re being plugged into the grid.
And then there’s the virtual reality grid, where all the challenges take place. It’s also the place where the population mines credits in order to buy food; they’re plugged in to the grid all day, and only get out at night. I loved the whole Matrix vibe of ‘the grid’ and the people who are basically addicted to this grid.
The writing is no-nonsense and fast-paced. So, it’s not like reading poetry with flowery sentences, but this style fits really well with the continuous action in the story. There is still ample description and detail added. The Threshing also has some great twists and turns in the story, and I loved the ending. It’s a closed ending, wrapping up the events of this first book of a planned trilogy, but it also brings up new problems that are to be solved in the following books.
To sum it up: if you love a good YA fantasy story with a Hunger Games vibe, set in a dystopian world with some neat virtual reality grid a-la the Matrix, then you can’t go wrong with this book!
If you have purchased this book, and read it, please let me know your thoughts below!