Friday, December 4, 2015

Title: Plus One
Author: Elizabeth Fama
Narrator(s): Julia Whelan
Series: n/a
Length: 10 hrs 3 mins
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Source: gifted by author
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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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.

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.

Disclosure: I'm friends with the author. And when she told me she was planning to have an audiobook produced for Plus One, I was ecstatic. I've been wanting to re-read this phenomenal story pretty much since the moment I first finished the book. Then she told me she was in talks with the incomparable Julia Whalen to narrate, and I was over the moon.

I've listened to many, many novels narrated by Whalen, and she never fails to impress. I've also heard her voice characters with accents, French included, and I knew she was the perfect choice for this endeavor. And I told Beth that I thought so. It's been months in the making, but the audiobook version of Plus One is now available, and when Beth offered me a copy, I couldn't say yes fast enough.

And it was everything I was hoping for and more. If I loved this book the first time I read it, I loved it even more upon my re-read via audio. The story is so lovely and heartbreaking and it can cut you to the core if you let it. But it's also a fabulous story about the human spirit and how hard it is to break.

Julia's narration of Plus One is just so on point. She just has this way of making you forget you're even listening to a book; her narration is so captivating that you can't help but become engrossed in the story. Julia's performance made this story even more beautiful than I could have imagined, most especially because Whelan's French is worlds better than my inadequate attempt to pronounce it in my head. :P But she also just embodied Sol to a degree that I couldn't have expected; she absolutely nailed the character, not that I had any doubts.

Essentially, this audiobook was pretty much perfection. OH! And Beth's own child wrote and performed a song at the conclusion of the audiobook that is just gorgeous and it absolutely captures the spirit of the story. I am just so honored to have been given the chance to listen to this amazing performance of one of my favorite novels.

Below, you'll find my thoughts from the first time I had the pleasure of reading this lovely story.

He went on.  "You admitted you were throwing your life away so that Poppu could hold Fleur just once, and it was like the floor of your apartment opened under me.  You had the balls to condense the whole screwed-up world into this one pure thing, this crazy act of love. Everything I was working for collapsed through that hole with me, and I went into a free fall. And then you kissed me on the prairie and I wanted it all -- I selfishly wanted what Poppu had."
I've been writing this review in my head for days, since I first finished Plus One, and yet I still don't think I can sufficiently portray just how much this book means to me, but that quote comes close to expressing everything I felt for Sol and her situation.  I loved Monstrous Beauty when I read it last year, and I've been not-so-patiently awaiting Elizabeth Fama's next novel, so I was elated to receive a review copy. I purposely skimmed the summary for this book because I wanted to be as surprised with it as I was with Monstrous Beauty, but Plus One exceeded any and all expectations I might have had.
"The sun was as high as a Midwestern sun can get in late September, which D'Arcy informed me was not very high, so that as we approached the Natural Bridge the light was hitting it somewhat from the side, highlighting the red ferns and lichens and moss that grew on it and throwing extravagant shadows on the rough surface of the stone."
Despite the ugliness of Sol's plan and the world she lives in, I found so much unbridled beauty in this book, from the comparisons and contrasts of day and night life, to the desk drawings, to the gorgeous prose used to depict the Maquoketa Caves State Park...I felt like I was living and breathing Sol and D'Arcy's experiences through this book.  This world is not far off from our own, just shy of what life could be like for us now, had things gone differently in the past. And not even vastly different...I mean, things in the past that were supposed to be temporary because of war, etc., have long since been made permanent:  taxes, daylight savings time, among other things.  Having one sector of the population temporarily switch to night in order to circumvent the effects of a devastating epidemic seems somewhat reasonable.  But whenever the government intervenes like this, there are sure to be those who object.

So, yeah, this sounds like a dystopian novel, in that the government has made this society undesirable for some.  But I don't want that to scare you away because this story definitely doesn't read like the typical dystopian novel.  Far from it. Sol isn't trying to change the world...she's just trying to grant a dying man's wish.  And I'm not positive, but from what I can tell this is actually sort of a retelling of The Day Boy and the Night Girl by George MacDonald. I haven't read the whole story, but it was referenced a ton in the Razorland Trilogy by Ann Aguirre, which I have also read and loved.

I also love the irony of Sol's parents naming her Soleil, which is French for "sun". Although when we meet Sol, her disposition is anything but sunny, we soon discover that this is an exterior shell she projects.  Inside, she's still the young girl she was when her brother Ciel -- French for "sky" -- all but abandoned her and Poppu to live as a Ray, those who live in the daylight hours.  Because of that betrayal, Sol doesn't get close to anyone and doesn't let anyone close. Poppu is all she has left, and now she's losing him, so it's understandable that Sol would want to give him the last thing on this earth that he wishes for, even if it means her own incarceration and the end of everything she knows.
"In the end I had actually worked up some wetness in my eyes.  A drop spilled onto my cheek, and just like in the movies I left it there.  I hate the way actresses do that, because when you really cry you want your tears gone -- it's all about wiping them away as fast as you can."
What I loved best about Sol, aside from her devotion to her family, was how genuine she was.  From her bluntness and non sequiturs to her never-ending diatribes, I really felt like I'd come to know this girl.  Usually, I find that I need to relate to a character in some fashion or another in order to fully enjoy a story, but that wasn't the case with Plus One.  I could never be as strong or as capable or as self-sacrificing as Sol.  Not once did I question her decisions, think that she was making the wrong choice, but neither could I have ever done the same as she did in her circumstances.  Sol knows her lot in life, and she's relenquished herself to always living in the dark, but once her heart is set upon its task, she will stop at nothing to see it through. Normally, I'd question the foolhardiness of such a plan, but with Sol, it was unbelievably easy to get on board with such a harebrained scheme.

And that's where D'Arcy comes in. He may not have been named after a character in a famous nineteenth-century novel, but he might as well have been. *sigh*  I don't know how to adequately express how much I love the coincidences that brought Sol and D'Arcy together.  There is nothing remotely similar about these two characters, but from the onset of their time together, it was clear to me that they were "meant to be". Maybe neither of the pair has actively rebelled against the system until now, but it's obvious that neither accepts it without question.  And the fact that D'Arcy just went with his gut when it came to Sol...I think that just speaks volumes about his character and it speaks to Sol's unflappable willingness to see her promise through to the end.
"Eventually he turned his back to me, with his arms crossed on his chest, and sometime later his body jerked with a hypnagogic twitch, and then utter stillness told me he was asleep.  I sat up, holding my breath, the Mylar making the sound of a hundred candy wrappers as I lifted the blanket away."
I also love that this book made me feel smarter while I was reading it.  I just knew there had to be a real word for that moment when you jerk yourself awake right before you fall into a deep sleep, and now I know there is.  =)  I love young adult novels; I think that much is obvious.  But I love them even more when they're intellectually stimulating and really force me to question morally ambiguous issues, like the ones the characters face in Plus One.  Other things that instantly captured my attention:  Gigi and the Noma, the murmuration and how it's described, the use of French and how prevalent it is in this novel despite the fact that the setting is in Chicago, and the use of flashbacks to illustrate life for Sol prior to Ciel's absence.  I'd love to go into more detail about these things, but I don't want to divulge too much about the story.  Also, for brevity's sake, I need to end this review soon, or else it will end up as long as the novel....I really could go on and on about it ad nauseum, that's how much I enjoyed this book.
"We're going to steal food," I said.  "Is that what you're telling me?"
He grinned.  "I know, right?  I am a miscreant now.  And it's your fault."
My stomach grumbled, like the muffled creak of an old hinge.  "They probably only just got settled in," I whispered.  "They may not be asleep yet."
"Then we'll have to be as sneaky as..." he stopped.
"As sneaky as Smudges," I finished the pejorative saying for him.
"Not at all.  I'm actually worried you can't pull this off, with your galumphing about and booming voice.  Maybe I should do it alone."
His eyebrows knit together, and I allowed myself a tiny smile, no bigger than the Mona Lisa's.
"Touché."  He laughed under his breath.
Sol and D'Arcy, as different as night and day and yet so perfectly matched.  Plus One is a love story when all is said and done, but it's also a story of sacrifice and loss and hope. There are moments of unbelievable gut-wrenching pain that brought me to tears, there are chase scenes that could have come straight from your favorite action movie, and there are brief moments of levity that left this reader unexpectedly hopeful, despite the dire circumstances the characters were facing.  Suffice it to say, this book is the real deal, the full package...everything I'd hoped it would be and more.  I wasn't ready to say goodbye yet, but oh my goodness, did I looooove that ending!  I think Gilda says it best:

*It may have taken me two hours to write this review, but I promise no babies (or Premie Gorts) were hurt in the process.

**All quotes were taken from an advanced copy and may not appear in the final book.

GIF it to me straight:

About the author:

Elizabeth Fama is the author of Plus One (FSG, 2014), Monstrous Beauty (FSG, 2012), a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selection and Odyssey Award honor winner, and Overboard (Cricket Books, 2002), an ALA Best Books for Young Adults. She is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc.

Find Beth:

WebsiteTwitter | TumblrGoodreads


  1. I don't know if I am alone in this, but I think this book could really benefit with having a sequel. So much was left open ended, and I just really want more of these characters. Maybe with D'Arcy as the MC narrator.

    1. Oh, no, you're not alone. I completely agree. I would love to see a sequel. Though, I did kind of appreciate the open-endedness of the story, just because it left me with hope that he'd wait, ya know? But I also like the idea of D'Arcy as narrator. =)

  2. Do you think I will like this ? It sounds good and the cover is awesome.

    1. I do. Maybe not as much as me cause I'm a total fangirl for this book and this author, but it's definitely good. :) I could loan you my copy if you want. But the audio is really great. It's such a go-go-go book.

  3. Do you think I will like this ? It sounds good and the cover is awesome.


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