Plus One by Elizabeth Fama tells the story of our world if drastic measures had been taken during the Spanish Flu epidemic, resulting in half the population being allowed out only at night (Smudges) and the other half only during the day (Rays). In this alternative history, Sol is trying to deal with a dying grandfather who just wants to hold his great-grandchild even though Sol’s brother abandoned her and her grandfather to become a Ray instead of a Smudge. Plus One provides a powerful demonstration on how “separate but equal” rarely works out when it comes to human society while leading us on a thrilling chase to discover plots within plots.
Note: I received Plus One through Netgalley for an honest review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Plus One by Elizabeth Fama
Published by Farrar on April 8th, 2014
Genres: Alternative History, Dystopia, YA
Page Length: 373 pages
How I got my copy: NetGalley
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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.
- As soon as I read the alternative history that Plus One takes place in, I was pumped. The idea of our government making a drastic and desperate decision to recover from the Spanish Flu is a great twist on the typical dystopian. I’m always a fan of seeing what differences could occur from small (or large) changes in our world’s history.
- The romance in Plus One is much more subtle than the cover and synopsis implies and I was quite happy with that fact. Plus One combines previous events with the present day to paint a full picture of Sol’s life and how a certain adorable person came to be in it. It takes a while for things to get going, but I think romance fans will be happy with the result ;-).
- While I didn’t pause to verify all the facts, I was pleased with how Plus One handled the scientific explanations for a lot of the medical and psychological elements. Scientific words were actually used correctly for the most part and plausibly even if we don’t actually know everything for sure in our present day.
- Plus One has a heavy emphasis on the strong bonds of family and the pain that comes with those bonds being betrayed. I enjoyed seeing this in a YA (NA?) story since family seems to be lacking at times in a lot of this genre. The found-family elements were nice too in that Sol’s grandfather was her sole parent figure, but that didn’t make their bond any less vital to her life.
- In an age of trilogies/series/duologies/etc., Plus One is a breath of fresh air because it is a solid standalone! While all the major events aren’t tied neatly in a bow by the end, it is clear where things will head after the story concludes and there isn’t any need for a sequel.
- I know a lot of people have been put off by the initial events in Plus One since our main character, Sol, decides to kidnap her newborn niece. While I wasn’t particularly bothered by that element for various reasons, I found the whole set of scenes rather unbelievable. Sol is malnourished and weak and yet she is able to carrying a baby awkwardly for an extended period of time? I’ve held babies for an hour or two and they are not light even when newborn! There were just a lot of things that didn’t make much sense when it came to that element of the story, sigh.
- The whole alternative history of Plus One is based on the government deciding they need to separate the population to prevent the spread of Spanish Flu. Given our culture has plenty of 24-hour services that rely on night shifts, it seemed a bit strange that such an extreme divide needed to be forced on the population; it just ended up feeling like a bit of a stretch.
- I don’t speak French and therefore was mighty annoyed when there were French sentences thrown in without a translation afterwards. I guess it was assumed that the reader could figure out the meaning based on context? I got along well enough, but couldn’t help but feel that I was missing out.
- Towards the end of Plus One the word rape is used inappropriately and almost as a joke by two female characters, which really really pisses me off.
- Once I reached the end of Plus One, I couldn’t help but think “that’s it?” as in “nothing really happened….” The events that Plus One directly covers are mostly small events while a larger movement takes place in the background, so Plus One just ended up lacking an “epic” feel to the story.
Plus One is a unique book both because of the alternative history dystopian premise and that it is a standalone novel. I enjoyed some aspects of the world-building, but felt like we were missing out on the all the cool action since Sol wasn’t really directly involved with much. The romance was adorably understated, though builds nicely by the end of Plus One and made me like the two main characters even more. While I found Plus One enjoyable enough to read, I struggle to really feel any sort of excitement about the story itself.
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
Plus One by Elizabeth Fama
© 2014, Anya. All rights reserved.