Friday, March 7, 2014

Review: Plus One by Elizabeth Fama

Friday, March 7, 2014 with 26 comments
Title: Plus One
Author: Elizabeth Fama
Series: n/a
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Source: from publisher via Netgalley
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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.

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.

About the author:

My second young-adult novel, Monstrous Beauty, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in September, 2012. It won won the 2013 Odyssey Honor Award, and was included on the 2013 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults list and the 2013 YALSA Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults list.

My first book, Overboard (Cricket Books, 2002), was named a 2003 Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association (one of only eleven books selected unanimously by the committee that year). It received the 2002-2003 honor award from the Society of Midland Authors, and it was nominated for five state readers' choice awards (New Hampshire, Texas, Illinois, Utah, and Florida).

I'm currently working on a young-adult alternate-history novel with the working title Plus One, slated for publication by FSG in January of 2014.

I am vastly over-educated. I attended the University of Chicago, where I received a BA in Biology with honors, an MBA, and a PhD in Economics and Finance. I should probably have majored in Literature instead.

My husband is John H. Cochrane, a talented economist whose books sell better than mine. We have four young-adult children, all artist-scholars, and boisterous family dinners with lots of vegetables and swearing. For fun I jog every day, swim in Lake Michigan (when it's not ice), and play tennis a few times a week. You run faster than I do, but I can beat you on the court.

Find Elizabeth:

WebsiteTwitter | TumblrGoodreads


  1. OMG. I'm so glad you like it. I. need. this. one. I'm a sucker for these cool sci-fi-looking covers, and this one is preeetty cool. So it has a pretty strong French flair then? AWESOME. I love dystopians, so the dystopian-ness doesn't worry me. As long as it's fresh and awesome. Okay, I'm off to stare at it on Goodreads and see if I can speed the release date up.

    1. Even if you weren't a fan of the dystopian-ness, I wouldn't worry because it's not really a typical dystopian...just incorporates some elements of those stories. And have no fear, it is completely fresh and awesome. :)

  2. So this may have just become my most anticipated stand alone for this year.

    I'm ashamed to admit that although I got Monstrous Beauty the second it came out, I still haven't read it. I'm moving it to my next-up list immediately. I'm also ashamed to admit that despite being a lover-of-fairy-tales, I haven't read The Day Boy and the Night Girl. But now I have to. So congratulations, LOL. In one blog post you have managed to convince toreadandsoon not one, not two, but THREE books.

    Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    1. Yay! And I'd say that Monstrous Beauty is probably the best mermaid story I've read to-date because it's so atypical. I think that's pretty much going to be the standard with this author, though...she likes to chart new territory. :) So glad to see your excitement for this book and the job here is done. =)

  3. Awesome review. I was on the fence with this book. I also loved Monstrous Beauty, but wasn't so sure about the synopsis on this one. I need to move the book up on my TBR. I love that you mention feeling smarter reading the book. Some books do that to me too, some make me feel a little less intelligent. The writing in this book looks absolutely beautiful.

    1. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect with Plus One, but I think that if you enjoyed Monstrous Beauty, you will have fun with this one, too. And I much prefer the books that make me feel smarter as opposed to those that make me feel less so by the time I'm done. :)

  4. I kind of love that cover. A lot. And though this isn't a book I would read myself, I loved reading about your adoration for it. Great review!!

    I also see you're listening to Anna currently... great, isn't it?! I loved the audio. I'm listening to Lola right now... and to me, it's even better!! Gotta love fantastic narrators combined with fabulous authors. :)

    1. The cover is gorgeous, but so is the book. Why don't you think it's your sort of book?

      Anna & Lola on audio are awesome. I was due for a re-listen. :) I prefer Lola, too.

  5. this cover reminds me of Clive Barker's Imagica book cover. Only this one has a bit more of an 'up to date' look. Great Review!! I've never heard of this book until now and after reading this I am convinced that this should be in my possession! LIKE NOW!!! Oh damn! I just seen that it doesn't come out til April :(
    Book Hangovers Blabs Books

    1. Whoops, this is the correct spelling~~ Clive Barker's Imajica

    2. I'll have to check out that series, especially if it's anything like this story. And lucky for you, April's not that far away! :D

  6. I never read her first one, though I wanted too back in the day.. but then I forgot about it.. too many freaking books I tell you!!! I'm not sure I would like this one. It does seem kind of dystopianish, and I love those kinds of books, really I do, but I'm starting to get burnt out.. though you say this one reads not like most dystopians, so I probably would like it.

    I have not seen this one around at all. This is the first time I"m seeing this cover, and I would remember, because she looks like she's practicing making out by herself. lol.

    1. I think you'd like it,'s really different. :) I'm burnt out on dystopians, too, but this one was a welcome surprise, mostly because it only has ELEMENTS of a dystopian's really not a dystopian at all. If that makes any sense. =)

      The cover was only released recently, so that's probably why you haven't noticed it before. I think the cover is perfect for the book, except that it makes it look a little more romantic than it is. (There is an awesome romance, but that's not all that it's about.)

  7. Huh. When I first saw this cover I thought it was pretty, but automatically assumed it wouldn't be something I'd be interested in. I've honestly all but stopped picking up any dystopian or fantasy novels, but I may have to make an exception. This sounds intriguing. I love it when the chemistry between the main characters is so obvious and you believe that they should be together. I'm happy to hear you enjoyed this so much. I LOVE that Gilda Radner quote. Great review!

    1. Yay, I'm glad I might have changed your mind about the novel, then! I really don't know what to classify the novel as, but it has elements of dystopian while also being a very contemporary story. I can only tell you that it was a fantastic read. ;) And that Gilda Radner quote is perfect, right?

  8. Oh, I've been anticipating the release of this novel! I was thinking of waiting it out --to see if my library would pick up a copy. But after everything you had to say --especially about Sol's quiet strength and her magnetic connection to D'Arcy, I don't think I have it in me to wait a few months. Not only that, but this is a thought-provoking novel, and I'm amazed this story packs so much. I want this in my hands and NOW! Thank you for reviewing this one, Jen, and of course, for making me excited about it all over again! Gorgeous, gorgeous work!

    Marlene @ The Flyleaf Review

    1. Aw, thanks...I'm glad to have converted another reader over to the dark side. Er, I mean, I'm glad you're even more excited about it now. :) It won't be for everyone, but it really is a fantastic story. And that cover is beyond gorgeous!

  9. Is 2 hours a lot of time for a review write? That would be a really efficient amount of time for me! Anyway, this review made me fall in love with this book and these characters all over again. I love that Sol is basically on a suicide mission - or at least one that isn't going to end well - and she's not stupid about it. She KNOWS the consequences won't be good, but she's willing to sacrifice anyway. So many heroines do stupid things not realizing the consequences, but she does. I also agree, that I love that this society seems scarily possible, and that it's not your typical dystopian. I'm so tired of the standard revolution plot. The fact that Beth sets her story in real places also makes it feel more real. And Beth always makes me feel smarter with whatever she writes. That end KILLED me, but I agree. It was also BEAUTIFUL the right one for this story. Lovely, lovely review.

  10. Oh god, I'm the same as Lauren and my reviews are so not as detailed and wonderfully written. Most reviews do take me 2 hours! I have this one to read and I'm looking forward to it. Weirdly the gut-wrenching pain and tears have me the most intrigued. lol

  11. I'm honestly not surprised that you loved it. It really does sound fantastic! I've had this on my wishlist ever since I heard about it. I just loved Monstrous Beauty and cannot wait to read more from Elizabeth. Glad you loved it!

  12. ooooh... I've been seeing this book around and I love the cover! Thanks for the awesome review :)

  13. I can't wait for this one. I requested it from Netgalley months ago but im not cool enough yet to get it. hope i win it here! Yays!
    Brittany @ Please Feed the Bookworm

  14. I appreciate you taking two hours to write this wonderful review! It's the third 5 star review that I've read for this book. I need it immediately! If I don't win it in the tour, I will definitely buy it! :D

  15. Ooh it's a retelling too? That makes me want to read it even more! Thanks for the review. Glad you liked this one. I'm super-excited for it. Thanks for the quotes too. Quotes always get me more excited about a book.

  16. I first saw your review on Goodreads and I was like "Wow, that's an awesome review" considering you put two hours in to it! It was really good and I enjoyed it and I don't think I'd have the patience to write a review for two hours...I try not to spend more than an hour just because my attention doesn't last long when I write! But back to you...thanks for writing this amazing review!!

  17. This is such a good review, quite made me really interested in the story. I'm already curious on how the author plays on the whole day/night thing, and now I get to read on the characters. nice!


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