This book is about a girl named Millie who has lived her entire life in a prison called Spokane because of her parents' crimes. She has committed no crimes herself and strongly believes in the laws of The Nation. On her eighteenth birthday she will be released from prison and become a citizen of The Nation. Once out, she learns The Nation isn't what she was taught to believe.
This book is set in a dystopian future where the United State no longer exists. In it's place stands The Nation that has built a wall covering the entire boarder to keep people out, and to keep people in. The Justice system has been completely changed. A citizen is no longer innocent until proven guilty. Everything about the setting is interesting and well written by Jenni Merritt.
The plot of this novel is interesting as well. It starts a few weeks before Millie is released from the prison. The reader gets to experience Millie's everyday prison life and feel her anxiety over leaving her parents and the prison walls behind. At times, I feel it is described too well, to the point where it becomes redundant and I'm ready for the story to move forward again. For example, "During the day, a haze of sunlight would illuminate the thick plastic window, giving us our only sign it was no longer night. Daytime it glowed, nighttime it was dead black." The first sentence is enough to describe the window. The second slows the pace of the story. Dialog is interrupted a lot with the characters feelings and overreactions as well, but it wasn't to the point that I got annoyed and stopped reading. I did find myself on occasion reading only the first sentence or two of a paragraph, then skipping to the dialog to keep the pace moving. Once she is out of the prison, she meets Reed, born and raised outside the prison walls, and from him, Millie starts learning the truth about the world of The Nation. The prison part of Prison Nation was so well developed that when you get out of the prison, it's disappointing. Not so disappointing that I stopped reading, but enough to make me shake my head. From the time she leaves the prison, the plot and other characters become contrived. The way the plot wraps up with everyone somehow connected to each other seemed too unrealistic to me, too coincidental. The world Jenni Merritt creates is fascinating, but the plot in the second half of the book didn't work for me.
The main character, Millie, had a lot of depth, but the rest could have used more. Why did the parents never tell Millie the truth during the eighteen years they spent together in a cell? They had plenty of down time for it to come up. I didn't feel a good enough reason was ever presented to explain why they didn't tell her the truth before she discovers it. Why does Reed suddenly decide to do something? I never felt a good enough reason was given to explain his sudden change. When the characters come across Maria's situation, why didn't they help her? They just decided to leave and left her to her doom.
Overall, I liked the world this story was set in and I liked the main character Millie. I liked where I plot seemed to be going until it didn't. It never got dangerous enough. The ending did leave room for sequels so maybe we'll see more of this world. I liked the story enough that I would give a second book a try.