Genre: Dystopia, YA
Publication date: April 8th 2014
by Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR)
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.