Written by: Elizabeth Fama
Published by: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release date: April 8th 2014
Genres: Alternate History, Dystopian, Romance, Young Adult
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads
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.
I can’t think of any other books I’ve read that I can compare to Plus One, it’s that unique. There’s something about the way the plot worked together with the characters, the setting, the pacing… Even when things slowed down (which they do for a section in the middle), it was still gripping.
Plus One is a surprisingly personal and character-driven story, despite Sol and D’Arcy’s eventual involvement in fighting against the Day/Night divide. Everything starts with Sol trying to help her grandfather, and her family remains her drive through the whole book — which I found wonderfully refreshing. Many dystopias (which is what Plus One feels like, despite not quite fitting the definition) start out with a personal touch, and then the main character ends up fighting for the larger cause over the course of the book. And that’s not a bad thing — it’s just what I would expect to happen. However, even though she gets involved with things that end up helping the resistance of the Day/Night divide, her focus remains almost exclusively on her family — even above her relationship with D’Arcy as it develops.
I think that’s the thing that struck me most — and impressed me most — about Plus One. In allowing Sol to focus on her family, it explored a lot about the importance of that family, of loyalty, and what it means to love someone selflessly. Sol is a really surprising character to be so focused on doing things that put her in so much danger, as she’s not exactly the nicest person, nor immediately the most likeable character. But I liked this about her. I found her engaging and complex, and just different. It’s what kept me glued to the pages.
But even though Sol’s focus was narrower than many heroines’, the scope of the book felt large. Plus One feels big. The events that take place affect so many people, and instead of feeling like those people are on the periphery, it feels like they’re part of the story. Sol and D’Arcy aren’t the only ones fighting, and they’re nowhere near the forefront of the resistance. But you still feel the struggle of this society, and see the much larger picture through what the two of them go through.
Additionally, one of the main threads of Plus One is the relationship between D’Arcy and Sol — the Day Boy and the Night Girl. ;) A couple things about their story are a little predictable, but overall, I absolutely loved them. Their relationship starts off so far from “romance”, it had me wondering if, in fact, the two of them would ever get together by the end. But it was so refreshing to have two characters who go from barely tolerating each other, to a rocky partnership, before anything else happens. Well. Kind of before anything else happens. (Spoilers!) They were amazing together, both as initial partners, and as they grew into something more, and they were never not interesting. I loved them.
Finally, there’s a lot of buzz (or is that just in my own head?) about how Plus One deals with the issue of inequality and privilege, as depicted by the Day/Night divide of society. And let me just say, without going into it too much, this is handled so well. The hypocrisy of how Rays (Day people) get away with things that Smudges (Night people) would be imprisoned for… The disparity between the two groups’ quality of life and well-being… I thought the Day/Night divide was such a successful way to illustrate these issues.
Anything to add?
- The tone of Plus One did surprise me, in some places. While it sometimes warranted the use of pretty strong language, some sections still seemed a little… rough, for me. And there’s also one scene that I really wasn’t expecting, or entirely comfortable with, in a YA book, even though it happens “off-camera”… but that’s a spoiler. =/ I think my 1/2 star deduction from 5 was because of these issues, though.
- The parents! Were present! Omg! I know this will make a lot of people very excited, considering the tendency for parents in YA books to either be conspicuously absent, or totally awful. Obviously, Sol’s grandfather (parental figure) is a main focus of Plus One; but D’Arcy’s parents are also very much a part of the story, and I actually loved them as characters.
Plus One is different — a dystopian-esque story that is surprisingly narrow and personal in its focus — and I loved that. This is definitely a book I’d recommend to any YA fan who’s looking for something original and surprising. Also, to anyone who hates insta-love. ;)