Plus Oneby Elizabeth Fama (Website, Twitter)
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan on April 8, 2014
Genres: Action & Adventure, Dystopian, Fantasy, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
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I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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.
In the dystopian world of Elizabeth Fama’s Plus One, society is split into two: those who are allowed to live in the daylight (Rays) and those who are allowed to come out during the night time (Smudges). This division in society came about during the flu epidemic in the early Twentieth Century, and when the government doctors work in shifts to care for the sick, the results were so successful that the example spilled out into more professions and society. Even after the epidemic was over, the government mandated split of people into night or day didn’t end, and you were born into one or the other with not much chance of moving between the options. In this world, the Rays have a lot of advantages over the Smudges, holding more wealth and opportunities.
Soleil is a Smudge, forced to live simply in the darkness along side her grandfather and brother Ciel. But her cell phone hacker brother was arrested and the government recruited him to work for them during the day, and almost all of their interactions have stopped–except through government censored text messages. Now Sol is alone with her sick, blind grandfather, whose dying wish is to hold Ciel’s new baby. Knowing that Poppu doesn’t have much time, Sol decides to injure herself at her after school job close to curfew time, hoping to get close enough to the baby in the hospital to borrow it for a few hours so her grandfather can die with his last wish fulfilled. Why not take that huge risk for the man that means the most to her, especially when she’ll soon have nothing left? She doesn’t like school, her job blister packaging medicine sucks, and she’s not allowed to see her brother since they aren’t on the same schedule anymore. What does she have to look forward to with little money and no future?
After maiming herself and heading to the hospital, she’s treated by a young medical apprentice named D’Arcy. He’s suspicious that she hurt herself on purpose, still he does his best to treat her smashed finger to the best of his ability. When she’s taken into custody for a curfew violation, he goes to the detention center to check on her wound. And their dance begins, with distrust and obvious interest on his part slowly growing into more for both of them, even as Sol finds that she can manipulate D’Arcy into getting her into the hospital to see her niece. And then Sol kidnaps a baby, pulling D’Arcy into a whole web of trouble, resulting in them going on the defensive and the run for the rest of the book.
I really enjoyed a lot of things about Plus One. The character driven story was refreshing. Sol is driven by an intense love of family, and her loyalty, wit, snark, and unfiltered mouth were great. D’Arcy was a nice contrast to Sol, with his almost too observant mind and his perfect memory. The beautiful descriptions of areas that are familiar to me since I’m an Illinois native, having grown up a half hour away from Starved Rock State Park and I work in Chicago. I definitely connected with the setting in a deep way instantly having lived in the Midwest my entire life. The small passages written in French allowed me to break out my rusty language skills, but I enjoyed trying to translate the sentences all the same.
There were a few things that were a bit bothersome, but they were things that didn’t really hit me until a few days after I’d finished reading the book and really thought about things. The way that Sol kidnapped the baby by placing the newborn in her hoodie probably wouldn’t work in real life. I’ve had a baby, and there’s no way a newborn would remain quiet and in place even if you were holding them in there while you tried to run. The equal splitting of day and night is something else that is glossed over a bit, so what about when the days are really short during the winter or long in the summer? And the book makes it sound like the Smudges never see the daylight. They live in houses with windows, so what about if they just stayed awake? They would obviously at least know what things would look like in the daytime in the immediate area outside of their home.
I give Plus One a four out of five. With sympathetic characters and beautifully written passages, the progression of Sol and D’Arcy’s relationship from doctor-patient to something more was an enjoyable slow burn that didn’t overshadow the book’s main focus of social inequality between the classes and what would you do for the love of your family. The book ended with most questions answered, but there is still much left for the reader to answer yourself. I hope that there will be some kind of companion piece to this work, because I know that I’m eager to see more from these characters and this world.