Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Review: Plus One by Elizabeth Fama

Author: Elizabeth Fama
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Expected Publication: April 8, 2014



Divided by day and night and on the run from authorities, star-crossed young lovers unearth a sinister conspiracy in this compelling romantic thriller.

Seventeen-year-old Soleil Le Coeur is a Smudge—a night dweller prohibited by law from going out during the day. When she fakes an injury in order to get access to and kidnap her newborn niece—a day dweller, or Ray—she sets in motion a fast-paced adventure that will bring her into conflict with the powerful lawmakers who order her world, and draw her together with the boy she was destined to fall in love with, but who is also a Ray.


Review
Plus One is a story that I went into reading with high expectations. The story sounded incredibly unique to me like a mix between The Day Boy and the Night Girl by George MacDonald and Night Watch by . However since this has zero otherworldly aspect to it, I'd say it ended up being a mix between the above with a dash of The Book Thief by MarKus Zusak that had been coupled with a sprinkling of Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.

One of the things I really found interesting about Plus One was the way society functioned. The Rays seemed to live happy and healthy lives while the Smudges seemed to almost always be skittish, grumpy and most noticeably poorer than those who lived in the sunlight. I think it would be hard not to draw comparisons to the Germans (Rays) and Jews (Smudges) during WWII as influencing the Author for creating this society in this way as the similarities are eerily familiar. 
I also think the set up for D'arcy and Sol's relationship was sweetly done. I love how their friendship (albeit anonymously at that point) started with each other through a series of doodles drawn on their desks during class. I remember at one point in the book she turns to him and says "You took bio for trees just to draw on my desk?" Now what makes that so sweet was that the class was well below his abilities but he was so enamored by the mysterious artist that he basically changed his entire schedule around just so he could see the drawings before they were removed. I don't believe their was any romantic interest at that point but instead it was two people finding and enjoying each others company even if they lived worlds apart from each other in this case him a Day dweller and she the night dweller. 
However, despite my expectations being quite high, that all fell apart quite quickly once Sol stole her Brother's baby from its nursery. Now let me backtrack just a second, When I read the premise I thought surely the reason Sol steals the baby must've been worth it like she'd be killed for being born a girl or sent to an orphanage never to be seen again. Ie, Something noble, a way that would make sense why Sol is so determined to risk everything for her. However, this was not the case whatsoever. Instead Sol risks capture and imprisonment all so her Grandfather can see the baby one time before he died. Yup, that's the whole reason. While I'm sure some would find her actions noble or admirable it in my opinion is a really weak reason for the basis of the story to exist in the first place. 

Oh but it gets better, so not only does Sol steal the baby but then she treats it like a bag of potatoes once in her possession. Not only stuffing the baby in her sweltering hot shirt nearly suffocating it while she makes her escape but then later by acting like it's inconveniencing her by being fed and changed. I mean, it's bad enough she takes in no account of the parents being distraught by her kidnapping the child but then she can't even make sure the baby is at least happy and healthy for when she inevitably returns it. In my mind that is neither noble or admirable.

Baby issues aside, Sol is also a very impulsive person and it was incredibly frustrating for me to read. She doesn't think things through ever and just jumps from one situation to the next without any sort of planning and then acts all surprised when things don't go her way. She's very child like in that way and it certainly must stem from being raised solely by her Grandfather. Then again, she is blinded by Love and any one whose ever been in it can tell you that Love makes you do crazy things.

Speaking of Love, I thought the romance once fully developed was weak although it certainly started off sweetly enough with the whole desks thing. In the end though I just don't understand what D'arcy sees in Sol besides his need to fix/help her. She's not particularly nice to him throughout the story and like I mentioned above she never listens and is impulsive so really what's left? Her looks maybe? I honestly think he is more in love with the idea of the girl she used to be rather than the girl she became because he seems to get as flustered with her as I did at times. We'll see how things go for them as the series progresses but I don't see (as of this moment) how it will end well for either of them.

Lastly, I felt the world building was lacking. Yes, the idea of a Day/Night Society was intriguing but once you remove any sort of paranormal element as to the reasons why it seems to lose some of its appeal. Even in today's society we have those who work/live solely in the day or night and if it was really about upping productivity then they'd just implement the same system of shifts we have today. I can't really see any justification for separating people that makes sense. Maybe a town sure but the entire country or world no way whatsoever. I can't see citizens being OK with that even given the reasons stated in the book. It is simply to far fetched at least in my opinion. 

Final Thoughts
Despite my issues with certain aspects of the story I did end up liking Plus One enough that I was glad that I read it by the stories end. While the writing was certainly strong and the prose beautiful the overall plot and dicey world building left me feeling unsatisfied considering my expectations going into the story.

So I guess that begs the question, Would I recommend Plus One? Yes, I would. If the author can work the kinks out of the story, I do believe Plus One could become a fantastic series. Plus I am looking forward to seeing which direction the story takes should a sequel be written as it is certainly left open ended enough to warrant one. With that being said, I'll be rating Plus One by Elizabeth Fama  ★★★.

 *Copy reviewed provided by Netgalley.  All opinions are my own and I was not compensated in an which way  for providing them.

About the Author
Elizabeth Fama is the author of Plus One (FSG, 2014), Monstrous Beauty (FSG, 2012), a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selection and Odyssey Award honor winner, and Overboard (Cricket Books, 2002), an ALA Best Books for Young Adults. She is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc.

Follow Elizabeth: Goodreads / Website / Twitter

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