Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Plus One by Elizabeth Fama

Plus One
Author: Elizabeth Fama
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Pages: 384
Release Date: April 8th, 2014
Source: Free Copy from Netgalley

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.

Set in a vivid alternate reality and peopled with complex, deeply human characters on both sides of the day-night divide, Plus One is a brilliantly imagined drama of individual liberty and civil rights, and a fast-paced romantic adventure story.

When I read a dystopian, one of the most important factors on a good rating is believably. A good story hinges heavily on whether I accept the world the author is showing me. Unfortunately, Plus One really bombed that test. The writing isn't bad, the characters are okay, but the whole plot just felt unrealistic by the end.

In this world, work forces are divided into Night and Day: Smudges and Rays. Curfews are enforced, and now years down the line, it has turned into a type of segregation. While that seems like it could be a unique concept, the reasoning behind it just didn't make sense to me. A flu epidemic somehow solved by dividing society into day and night shifts? I'm sorry it just felt ridiculous. 

Let me break it down a little bit: the government is spending all this extra money medicating these night workers, policing them to make sure they aren't around during the day, and for what? For less crowded transportation? Maybe at the time that made sense (disease couldn't spread with less people around. Okay, I could buy that), but crowded transportation is usually a good thing from an economic standpoint. More people riding at once, equals less trips transportation has to make, less money wasted. Round the clock working means more production is happening, true, but you are also using more energy to light and run these buildings because they are on during the night. Financially, a 24-hour society is a pit to throw money into. That's without even considering things like increase of car accidents or pedestrians getting hit at night because drives couldn't see them. These people don't live in tunnels: their eyes don't just magically adjust to their nighttime existence! What about crime? Why on earth would you put all the undesirables on a night living schedule? I wouldn't feel comfortable sleeping if I knew a whole society of be-grumbled citizens could just decide 'screw it' and rob my house because I'm a Ray and they knew I'd be sleeping. I could see making everyone keep a set schedule and enforcing a curfew, shutting everything down at night. But this? There are so many holes and none of it is ever addressed. 

Setting aside my clear frustration with the world, I'm not sure the plot itself made me feel much better. Basically, a factory worker injures herself then tries to kidnap her baby brother from a hospital. It's a dramatic display of love for her grandpa, sure, but at the same time I'm asking what the heck?! At one point she's shoving this baby in her jacket. Who thought this was a good idea?! I don't know how Sol could care so much about her grandpa, but so little about her own niece. Yeah she's just going to run home with it, bring it back later. Hopefully it doesn't suffocate in the meantime, get smothered in it's sleep while it's stuffed in her jacket, you know? 

I kept reading though. I wanted to give it a shot. I liked D'Arcy, and I liked his background story. His family felt believable and I would have enjoyed reading more about him. The romance between him and Sol felt odd though, a bit sudden, and there was one scene near the end that just threw me for a loop. It really seemed like a bad time to be all romantic. The ending was unique, a little cheesy maybe, but after everything that happened it felt like the right end. Sol seemed believable as a character, even though some of the things she did seemed completely ridiculous. Then again, most of the book felt a bit ridiculous. 

Beautiful cover, some interesting twists in the end, but I just couldn't get over my initial bewilderment. 

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