Interesting idea, even if a lot of it isn't exactly new - we've seen a lot of these thoughts in the "Hunger Games" trilogy or movies like "Gattaca". Mix in a bit of the 3rd Reich and its horrid ideas of killing people to purify and improve humankind... Then you have Faya, a dictatorship that kills off children and teenagers that are considered flawed.
Still, the story in itself intrigued me enough to buy the books after reading the sample.
My main peeve with these books: considering that we're in a post-apocalyptic society that considers itself a vast improvement over the "Amerikaz" which brought their doom upon themselves, there are way too many references to today's culture. The "Saw" franchise and "Rambo" are mentioned, and so are, indirectly, the "Speed" movies (with the first game). Then there are references to Bugs Bunny, the iPhone, Prada... Many of today's companies seem to have survived, somehow, only they've changed their names to start with a "Z": Zwitter (Twitter), Zersace (Versace), Zike (Nike), ZooTube (Youtube)... How can they possibbly have survived the downfall of our civilisation? And if they didn't, why would companies far, far in the future name themselves after companies of today?
Also, movies are apparently forbidden in Faya - how can people have seen anything like the "Saw" movies, then? Surely the government wouldn't make an exception for movies that represent a culture they look down upon?
How do people even know so much non-essential things about the past? Supposedly, they only know what the ancestors of their leader "Xitler" (a reference to Hitler?) found burried in the ground: things that the people of today wanted to preserve to tell coming generations what happened to the US and what our world was like. Would they really have included knowledge about trivial stuff like horror movies, fashion brands etc.?
A lot of these references just feel like the author is trying to be clever.
Another point of criticism for me: there are just too many similarities with the "Hunger Games". A few examples:
A dictatorial government kills off children and makes a huge media spectacle out of it. They present it as being a necessary political measure and use it to gain money and power.
The main character takes part in the games (more or less) voluntarily.
She fakes (at first) a romantic relationship with another player to gain support from the viewers.
The characters don't seem consistent in their behaviour, and some things just don't make sense. Examples:
Decca states she has been preparing for the games for a year. Quite apart from the fact that there seem to be a surprising amount of things that she doesn't know about the games (despite her prepping), you'd think that she would take initiative and tackle the games her own way - instead, she almost immediately starts relying on Leo, whom she doesn't even know, to come up with plans to save them. She gets angry at him when he fails to do so, and only takes matters into her own hands when she absolutely has to.
Surely, Timmy wasn't chosen as the new trickster the very same day that the games start - he would need a lot of instructions and rehearsals to pull off being the Emcee of this huge media spectacle. So why was he even with the other teenagers in the beginning?
Some things stretch my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point, such as:
Leo, an unarmed teenager, manages to disarm a guard that's holding a loaded gun. He steals the gun - which seems to have an mind-boggling amount of bullets, considering how often it is mentioned that he uses it. It takes too long before he is down to the last two bullets.
His song, "I am Alive", was a big hit - even though it's obviously considered subversive enough to earn Leo a harsh punishment from the government. Considering how easy it is for them to control what people see and hear on their "iAms", it should've been no problem to pull the song before it had a chance to become a hit.
All in all, I really wanted to like this book, as I have a soft spot for dystopian YA novels, but couldn't muster more then a "meh". I feel like it's pretty close to being a good book, though, it just needs a decent amount of editing, more character development and a few changes to lessen the similarities to other books or movies.