Ever feel like you’re just in a reading slump, and you’re pretty sure nothing you’ve got on your bookshelf is gonna solve it? Today, I’m going to share with you the book that solved mine.
Last weekend, I was looking for a YA standalone that’d be a fast read with great characters & worldbuilding, and my awesome friend Carrie suggested three awesome books for me! I’m saving her other recs for later, because they were great, but Elizabeth Fama’s Plus One grabbed me immediately.
Plus One is set in the present, but Sol Le Coeur’s life isn’t quite like ours. She’s a Smudge–a night dweller–in a version of America that’s been segregated by time. Rays live and work during the day, where Smudges aren’t allowed. At curfew, the Smudges live their lives, and the Rays stay indoors. Sol’s life is relatively normal, though she struggles with the loss of her parents, the illness of her caretaker-grandfather, and the fact that her hacker brother has been effectively removed from their lives. Basically: Sol’s carrying a lot of weight for a teenager.
And when the book starts, Sol’s willing to risk it all for her grandfather.
The amazing thing about Plus One–other than the creative concept–is the way it all comes together. There’s so much more to this novel than appears to exist on the surface. It’s a sci-fi adventure/romance/thriller, yes, and there are crazy chases and intrigue and kissing. ALL the things you want in a really great summer read. But I loved all the background work that went into making Fama’s story plausible and realistic. She doesn’t want you, her reader, to just accept that things are the way she says they are “just because.” She’s deftly inserted all kinds of details into Sol’s world that make everything you’re reading fall into place, logically, and something about that sensibility really spoke to me. Fama’s ability to slip in those details without beating us to death with them in one big chunk was something I particularly appreciated.
Re: the characters, I don’t even know how to talk about them without going completely fangirl. Sol is amazing. She’s impulsive, terrified, gutsy, smart, determined, clumsy, and intensely loyal. I identified with her immediately. D’Arcy is one of the most stable, calm, intelligent romantic interests I’ve seen in a YA book in a long time, and I absolutely adored him. The secondary characters are just as complex (Gigi: whoa!) and the world of this book is so vivid that it’s totally worth a re-read, for me.
The pacing of Plus One is absolutely fantastic. The chapters flip back and forth–not rigidly alternating between present and past, but at nice intervals–giving us much-needed pauses in the action, and lovely glimpses into Sol’s past. The moments when we get to catch our breath are, for me, the true meat of the story, and culminate in some heartbreakingly touching and fabulous moments. The whole thread with Sol and a friend at school drawing messages on their desk…amazing.
Fama writes with great sensory sensitivity: every little passing thought, every uncertain emotion, every tiny gesture is conveyed, with just the right amount of fleeting delicacy. These tiny details make Sol’s quiet, vulnerable, bewildered moments feel so real to us, which make the bombastic, fast-paced, crazy action seem all the more terrifying. I absolutely inhaled this book, and I can’t wait to read more from Fama.
Definitely some language. Like…kind of a lot, once we hit the section with the Noma about 2/3 of the way through. I’m going to admit that I normally would have stopped reading when I hit it, but I totally didn’t. I was too sucked in and just tried to gloss over it–I had to see what happened next! 4 stars because the language did bother me (if not enough to quit). Otherwise, I honestly can’t think of a thing I didn’t enjoy about this book, and it might be a full 5 star rating!
First Line: “It takes guts to deliberately mutilate your hand while operating a blister-pack sealing machine, but all I had going for me was guts.”