Hello! Normally I don’t really open with an introduction, but normally I don’t feel like I give away that much. I’ve tried to avoid spoilers as best I can, but read this as fair warning that while I don’t straight up tell you what happens, there are a few hints that I couldn’t get around or avoid that might give away some of the mysteries and reveals.
I loved Hive the first time I read it and I loved it again on this re-read. The premise is fairly simple. Hive is about Hayley, a young girl who lives in a small world and tends to the world’s bees. Life is pretty simple until she starts getting headpains and asking too many questions. These are the first signs of madness.
This re-read was fun because I picked up a few extra clues that remained hidden the first time around and have enjoyed noticing things I didn’t value as much initially. A lot of the book calls back to other themes or clues so it was nice to notice these as they happened.
While I enjoy realism and contemporary settings, there is always something wonderful to me about a new world and sometimes it’s much easier to jump into a short book with a restricted but well-developed world rather than tackling a new fantasy series. If you’re after the former, Hive is your book.
In the beginning, the world feels cosy and safe, almost like what I imagine I would feel if I lived in a hobbit hole. The garden sounds like my absolute dream. I’m always partial to books with an element of agrarian culture. But as the book goes on and more and more questions go unanswered for Hayley, and the reader, it takes on a darker and more oppressive vibe. The garden is not the safe place it once felt like and there are secrets and lies everywhere.
‘The garden is not the safe place it once felt like and there are secrets and lies everywhere.’
I’m always super interested in dystopian, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it style things. Maybe it’s who I am, maybe it’s the society we live in, but I really enjoy reading about these kinds of scenarios played out. Don’t you worry, I’ve been taking notes and I’ve got my own apocalypse plan sorted. What is interesting about Hive is that you know it’s a bit dystopian but you don’t know why or how these characters have ended up in this society and lifestyle. There are hints along the way, but it never fully answers the question: why do these characters live like this? I’m assuming this will be a huge part of the sequel and we will finally get some answers.
A nice touch was the way words were examined and played with in the book. Early on, Hayley talks about how the word ‘plum’ sounds like how a real plum feels and tastes. As someone who has happily sat in front of a mirror and said ‘spoon’ repeatedly just to see how distorted it starts to sound, these kinds of things are right up my alley. The idea that this community knows words and phrases but don’t understand their meanings is super interesting and one of my favourite smaller details in the book. It was a nice way of developing the community and built the idea of this ‘lengthy’ history of the society, that it is so old that phrases have fallen out of relevance.
‘The idea that this community knows words and phrases but don’t understand their meanings is one of my favourite smaller details in the book.’
I found an odd comfort in the way the system of life and death worked in this book. Unlike the characters, I liked seeing this side of the society and thought it was an almost wholesome system. It was a great way to add more mystery and wonder to the book, while also playing with some of the dystopian elements and contrasting against the utopian feelings held by the characters. The science and pattern of it all worked out and I can’t see how they would’ve dealt with it another other way. I can see why they reacted the way they did though! I’m not at all religious so questioned the need for a God in the book but also couldn’t think of a more realistic of believable replacement.
This book seemed to tick a lot of odd personal interests for me. I’ll pick up almost any book that has bees on the cover or in the title. I don’t know why, but they fascinate me. Having Hayley as a bee-keeper is a lovely addition to the book. I enjoyed how it became a continuing theme and how Hayley continued to refer back to the bees when she thought about life and her world. The pattern and routine was familiar and it was an easy comparison for the reader to latch on to. It was a nice way to link everything in the book together and to connect the overarching themes and Hayley’s realisations, especially towards the end of the book.
‘I enjoyed how it [the bees] became a continuing theme and how Hayley continued to refer back to the bees when she thought about life and her world.’
I was worried I was going to be left unsatisfied waiting for the sequel, concerned that perhaps the cliff-hanger wouldn’t keep me interested. It wasn’t as tense on the re-read but I wasn’t surprised by this. I already knew what was going to happen! I would’ve liked to have seen just a tiny bit more to know what exactly Hayley was going to be working towards. It’s very open-ended, which is great for the sequel but I wanted just a bit more of a taste of what was to come. That being said, there are so many unanswered questions that I will definitely be eagerly awaiting getting my hands on the sequel. I need answers!
It’s an easy (and short) read and great for readers who are just getting into dystopian fiction.
If you like the sound of this book, keep an eye out for something exciting coming to my Instagram @hungrythesaurus this July!
Authors: A.J. Betts
Publisher: Pan Macmillian
Extent: 262 pp.
Read If You Like: After The Lights Go Out, The Orchard Underground, The Haven series.