Last week I finished reading Jenni Merritt's debut novel, PRISON NATION, and I have to say it has the makings of a great "beginning" - the way it ended, while kind of low-key, was also vaguely epic, or rather it spoke of much epicness to come. I suppose PRISON NATION could be seen almost as a drawn out prequel to what might come next. I definitely think there should be a sequel (and Jenni assures me she plans to write one eventually. Yay!!). To briefly recap the story, main character Millie 942B is a "Jail Baby", born into a huge prison where her parents were sentenced for life. Millie's about to turn 18, and upon her birthday will be set free into the Nation beyond the prison walls to start a life of work as a proud, hard-working citizen. Only there's a lot she doesn't know about the Nation she's been taught (a.k.a. a wee bit brainwashed) to love without question. After her release, she starts to learn truths that have heretofore only been hinted at: truths about her own parents' histories, and about some of the so-called criminals she shared her living space with for her first 18 years.
One criticism I had of the story was that, sometimes, it seemed that Millie's release from prison took too long to arrive. I mentioned in my GoodReads (spoilery) review that there were certainly moments prior to her release that we needed to read about, because they painted a picture of Millie's life in prison and also prepared us for future parts of her story to unfold. Also, there was definite tension in the air which never really left even after Millie was released. Still, sometimes I felt like the "daily mundane" details of prison routine could possibly have been condensed a little, and sometimes seemed to draw away some of that tension.
After Millie left the prison, her life seemed to be going in a positive direction, but there was always an underlying threat that not everything was as it seemed, or that big bad ugly truths were still waiting to be uncovered. I definitely found that the last 100 pages really picked up the action. But the story ended on an "OMG, what next?" note, which is why I'm now waiting for a sequel! All in all, this story has the makings of being completely epic, and I will definitely read a sequel when it arrives. But I'd hope to see events unfold in a more fast-paced and tense way with any future installment. Of course, sometimes you need "down time" here and there, to give your poor heart a rest, but fast-paced and gripping is generally what compells me to devour an entire book in less than a day.
In summation, Jenni's debut shows a lot of promise and I can't wait to see what she does next!