Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Review: Plus One by Elizabeth Fama

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Review: Plus One by Elizabeth Fama
Plus One
Elizabeth Fama
Genre: Dystopia, YA
Publication date: April 8th 2014
by Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR)

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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
-A copy was provided by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for review-

I had high expectations for Plus One, especially with how much I enjoyed Monstrous Beauty last year, but unfortunately I didn’t click with this one. I won’t fault the writing itself, Fama still has a way with words. My problems mostly lay with the plot and world building.

While the setting itself is interesting in many ways – involving a society divided by night and day, characterized with social divides and discrimination – I found its raison d’être quite flaky. The idea of a whole epidemic being stopped by a simple night and day solution feels improbable, and many questions about the overall workings of this world still remains. The brief explanations we do get require some suspension of disbelief that a world like this could successfully establish itself. There are tons of gray areas we must ignore. Like the mentions of social cues between night and day people (Sol says they don’t say hello, they just nod etc), but no explanations on how they even distinguish each other. Or how Sol doesn’t know what she looks like in sunlight, yet doesn’t appear to live in a place with no windows… Small things individually, maybe, but it’s details like these that add up and break the realism of this world.

The plot is also shaky and left me feeling either bored or frustrated. The novel begins with Sol’s crazy plan to steal a baby so that her grandfather can hold her before he dies. A freaking baby! Firstly, I’ve had a baby, and I thought it was all kinds of foolish to not only devise a plan like this, but to not think about its implications. A newborn has to feed every 2 hours, for one, which Sol only seemed to consider after seeing her chart that says she was just fed (convenient!), not to mention how much danger she was going to put her in – I mean at one time she was running with the baby in her shirt! Anyways, many readers may be able to ignore some of this, but I found this plan of hers completely absurd and selfish – even if she had good intentions. Soon afterwards, I realized with dismay that this baby stealing scheme was the set up of the whole plot which involved several baby switches, ransoms, political conspiracies, altogether with helpful conveniences that insured a mostly trouble free storyline. Sure there were a few dramatic what-ifs, but these are quickly taken care of for the most part, often by random side characters.

The characters themselves I didn’t dislike per se. Sol was sarcastic, feisty, and good-hearted – even if I didn’t always agree with her decisions. I also liked D’Arcy’s well enough. He introduced a romance that was well paced and well balanced with the plot. But ultimately I feel like the characters were simply molded to fit the plot. They never became more than words on a page for me. The flashbacks could have been a good way to give them dimension, which was likely the intention, but instead they were more like info dumps that fell short emotionally.

I still consider myself a fan of this author for how much I enjoyed her past work. The writing itself is not at fault as it has a beautiful prose. It seems this plot and me were just not meant to be.

2 Stars
2 Hot Espressos

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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27 Responses to “Review: Plus One by Elizabeth Fama”

  1. Kathy @ I Write, I Read, I Review

    Always frustrating when an author we like writes something that doesn’t connect with us. I admire that you are willing to point out parts where it is something that was specific with you (and for what it’s worth I agree with the baby kidnapping thing). Hope your next read is a good one. 🙂

  2. Amanda @ Book Badger

    Oh this is disappointing. I expected great things.. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this Giselle, I really am. Damn, it’s such a shame. The things you’ve highlighted though, very important, I mean, what are the chances that the baby you’ve just stolen has just been fed, how unrealistic. I hope you have better luck with your next read instead 😀

  3. Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    I’m sorry you didn’t like this one. I’m always especially disappointed when an author whose previous work I LOVED, doesn’t live up to my expectations in their next book. I haven’t read Monstrous Beauty yet, but I know I will love it when I finally find the time. If I ever read this one, I’ll make sure to go in with lowered expectations. Better luck next time 🙁

  4. Tammy @ Books Bones & Buffy

    I’ve read three or four reviews of this book in the last couple of days, and every reviewer has been turned off by the whole baby stealing scheme. Although I do think the concept about Rays and Smudges is interesting, I would have issues with babies being mistreated (I’ve got two kids and nope. Not going there).

  5. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    Yeah, this is exactly how I felt. I wanted more from the world-building, especially regarding the history. Like you said, its reason for being that way was not at all clear and very iffy.
    I was enjoying the plot until she kidnapped that baby and shoved her under her shirt and kept her in the drawer. I haven’t had a baby and even I know that that’s almost child abuse. *shudders*
    Sorry this wasn’t for you, Giselle! Great review!

  6. Brittany

    I’m around the 50% point and have been for about a week. I don’t know if I’ll push myself to finish.
    I do enjoy the writing too. But I wish the world was explored. It seems pretty interesting. But the whole baby drama I could do without. And I’m not jelling with the characters. Or the eventual love.
    Sorry this didn’t work out for you Giselle. But great review. You did a fantastic job explaining why it didn’t work for you. 🙂

  7. fishgirl182 @ nite lite

    I have often been frustrated by world building when there seems to be no explanation for why the world has become this way or the reasoning is flimsy. Hopefully the next book by this author will be more to your taste.

  8. Mary @ BookSwarm

    With a story like this, I definitely need more worldbuilding than it sounds like the author provides. WHY do they have to live like this? How do they distinguish who’s night/day? Where did these rules come from/originate? I’d have too many questions, I think. An interesting premise but it definitely needs the worldbuilding to back it up.

  9. kimbacaffeinate

    I think it is always more of a let down when you like the author and have enjoyed previous books. Great review Giselle, but I can see why this fell apart for you.

  10. Sophia Rose

    Once my mind starts catching all the discrepancies and implausibles in the details, its hard for me to enjoy a book. I thought this one sounded interesting, but now I know not to get too excited.

  11. Henrietta

    Sol definitely sounds interesting but it’s bizarre to see a plot that puts a baby into such potentially harmful ways. I’m not sure if I’d pick this one up but thanks for sharing your thoughts, Giselle!

  12. ShootingStarsMag

    I can’t decide if I like the cover or not…it’s different. Sounds like there’s too much suspension of disbelief in this novel; not sure I could deal with that. haha

  13. Rachel

    Like you, I enjoyed Monstrous Beauty, so it’s disappointing to hear about this. It’s hard to enjoy a book when the world lacks believability and you can’t connect with the characters. Great honest review, Giselle! 🙂

  14. Megan

    Too bad this one ended up being disappointing. Characters I can connect with are the most important thing for me, so hearing that they were just words on a page for you makes me worry about whether or not I’ll enjoy this one.

  15. Aimee @ Deadly Darlings

    The premise is absolutely intriguing, so it’s sad that you didn’t really like the novel. The characters sound developed well enough. I’m still interested in reading this, but I’ll be a bit more wary now. Thank for your thoughts, Giselle.

  16. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    Oh, I’m a bit worried about that whole baby fiasco now…I’m a childcare worker, and GOSH newborns are incredibly fragile things and very hard work. And that worries me a lot. :/ I have high expectations for this book, too, buuut looks like it’s not going to be way up there on the star-ratings. I haven’t seen any raving reviews yet. I still want to check it out though. 🙂

  17. Bonnie

    This was a disappointment for me as well. The fact that the WHOLE plot centered around this stolen baby was pretty ridiculous and I was just hoping for more. I found the society aspects interesting but you’re right about there being a lot of holes in the theories. Was really hoping that it lived up to that gorgeous cover, oh well. Great review. 🙂