Pastworld by Ian Beck is about a young woman, Eve, who has grown up (sort of) believing (absolutely) that the Victorian London she lives in is the truth, and not the colossal theme park it actually is. And someone, the Fantom, is hunting her. And tearing up the bodies of the people who get in his way. Caleb is a visitor to Pastworld and has been falsely accused of a crime for which he could be hanged. Inspector LeStrade is trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Bible J is a pickpocket who has a soft spot for people in trouble.
Got it? Okay.
This is not your usual, straightforward YA novel, with a single character's linear narrative. We see several characters' points of view, and the writing style varies by those characters' personal styles. Eve, whose story we get from her journal, writes in a period-appropriate way. The inspector's style is to-the-point, with lots of details noted, but in a straightforward, definitely not-flowery way. Bible J likes adventure and a pretty girl. Caleb is viewing this city of the past as a new-comer from the outside, and his descriptions often compare the two worlds.
So, it's stylistic. Reader, beware: you need to keep track of several main characters and keep up with several story-telling styles from two very different time periods. It does require a bit of mental energy--most of the iffy reviews I've read reference the different POVs as the major drawback.
That being said, it works. Each character has a portion of the story to tell, and their unique voices make them memorable, not just one more character on a full stage overseen by an omniscient narrator. Seeing their stories separately at first, and then more and more intertwined is fascinating.
And the steampunk influence? Awesome. Who doesn't appreciate a good mech rat/surveillance system these days?
Add the slight dystopian feel. While the reader doesn't see the world outside Pastworld (excepting a few brief scenes in a police department that oversees the park), we get the feeling that it is highly mechanical, highly sanitized, and highly bland. London, on the other hand, is dirty and dangerous, with elements both criminal and morbid. (Anyone want to see a dead body? It's just a shilling.)
There's adventure. There's mystery. There's romance. There are circus performers and human dissections. There is steampunk, history, and the future here.
To say the least, it's a book that's hard to pin down. But if you're looking for a fantastic, exciting, frightening story with a hopeful, good end (even if not all the loose ends are tied), pick this one up. I did--and wasn't able to put it down.
(True: Blogspot doesn't think "dystopian" is a word. Sort of sad, really. Also, "steampunk." Blogspot is missing out.)