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The Transition

Review

The Transition

It’s hard out there for a young couple. Karl --- who (sort of) supports himself by writing online product reviews and ghost-writing term papers for university students --- and his wife Genevieve, a teacher, have most of the middle-class creature comforts. They go on holidays, buy new clothes, and eat out at restaurants. But unbeknownst to Genevieve, this comfortable lifestyle comes at a price. Karl, in reality, has been supporting their family only by moving his debt from one high-interest credit card to another, and eventually by participating (perhaps unknowingly) in an illegal online scam that lands him on the wrong side of the law.

His choice? To go to jail or to sign up for The Transition, a program of rehabilitation in which young couples (Genevieve has to participate, too) are paired with experienced mentors and given a rigorous program of instruction in career development, money management, education, nutrition and self-awareness. At the end of the six-month program (during which the couple’s wages are deposited in a savings account that will allow them to save up for a down payment on a house), they’ll be financially independent, ready to embark on some new business venture, and happier than they’ve ever been. At least that’s what Karl and Genevieve are promised during the inspirational session that kicks off the program.

"Luke Kennard takes some hot-button social and economic issues...and blends them together with a more personal examination of what The Transition does to this particular couple’s relationship."

Karl is skeptical of The Transition from the beginning, but Genevieve seems genuinely eager for a fresh start. Their mentors --- Transition alums and experienced leaders Stu and Janna --- are charismatic and seem eager to help their new protégés achieve success. But Karl bristles under the constant vigilance and lack of transparency, not to mention the feeling that he’s always being monitored and that his time is no longer even remotely his own. When The Transition seems to be driving a wedge between him and Genevieve, Karl begins to rebel --- with drastic consequences that, he soon discovers, may have been the point all along. At times, readers may grow impatient with waiting to figure out (or be told) exactly what is happening to Karl and why. But this frustration in many ways echoes Karl’s own experience within The Transition. And when the truth comes out, it is chilling indeed.

THE TRANSITION is a dystopian novel, set in a near future (virtually all the cars are self-driving, for instance) that still bears a great deal of resemblance to our present. Fundamentally, then, it’s a satire --- the kind of novel whose premise might seem absurd at the outset but eventually feels uncomfortably plausible. Author Luke Kennard takes some hot-button social and economic issues (the millennial fondness for frivolous items like avocado toast, for example, or the double-edged sword of the gig economy) and blends them together with a more personal examination of what The Transition does to this particular couple’s relationship.

Karl and Genevieve’s dynamic is complicated by Genevieve’s bipolar disorder and Karl’s perpetual desire to protect her and care for her, blended with her desire to be independent and his parallel fears that The Transition will prompt a relapse that could endanger her newfound status in the program, if not her life.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 19, 2018

The Transition
by Luke Kennard

  • Publication Date: January 9, 2018
  • Genres: Dystopian, Fiction, Satire
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • ISBN-10: 0374278717
  • ISBN-13: 9780374278717