Review: Plus One by Elizabeth Fama

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.

Review: Plus One by Elizabeth FamaPlus One by Elizabeth Fama
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on April 8, 2014
Genres: Alternate Universe, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 373
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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two-half-stars

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.

I’ve not yet read Fama’s debut, Monstrous Beauty, but the reviews were so good that I purchased it. I simply had to read Plus One, which sounded so interesting and I’d heard so much about Fama’s prose. What I’d heard about Fama’s writing was not over-hyped, but, sadly, I was simultaneously impressed with her skill and left emotionless. Plus One has a fascinating alternative universe setting and lovely writing, but failed to engage me emotionally.

Starting with what I liked, I want to talk about the world first. Basically, it’s an alternate universe in which America chose to divide people into Night and Day, Smudges and Rays. Due to the flu pandemic of 1918, the president shifted half the population to a schedule of being awake at night. Everyone was divided into the two shifts, so that society could keep functioning. However, this change increased efficiency and productivity so much that it became permanent. While a bit strange, I love this, because it’s a really interesting concept. Imagine everything being open at all times, fully staffed, rather than our weird 9-5 M-F schedule for so many important professions.

Of course, this has a downside. Rays can only be around during the day, with a mandatory curfew at sundown. Smudges inhabit the nighttime hours. Anyone found out and about at the wrong time will be charged with breaking curfew and jailed. Plus, the Smudges have to adjust to a highly unnatural schedule. The Rays are slightly better off, the elite, while Smudges engage in more manual labor. I wonder how this schedule would work in Alaska, where nights and days are essentially non-existent for some of the year. The other thing I love about this set up is that the night/day divide isn’t a racial thing. So often class distinctions are defined by race, but this time people were divided up by skill sets.

The heroine, Soleil La Coeur, is a Smudge. She’s going to high school, working in a factory, and taking care of her Poppu (grandfather), who’s quickly dying of cancer. Sol is reckless, clever, insubordinate and daring. Her brother left the family to be a Ray, an opportunity made possible by his technical skills. Once her Poppu is gone, she feels there’s nothing left to live for, so she concocts a really stupid plan. Poppu wants desperately to see his grandaughter (the brother’s child) before he dies, but Ciel (the brother) won’t speak with them even on the one time a year when he’s allowed. Thus, Sol decides to steal the baby, which sets in motion the chain of events of Plus One.

Partly, I think Plus One didn’t work for me as well as others because the whole constant baby-swapping plot really doesn’t interest me. Much as I love the setting, that is a whole lot of baby. It’s a string of betrayals and plot twists, and I just didn’t care that much. Plus, some of the twists were so glaringly obvious I was rolling my eyes. I’m not sure if the identity of the desk-writer was meant to be so telegraphed, but it certainly was and was pretty cheesy in my opinion. The world building is awesome, but I don’t feel like the plot really uses that. It really is baby-swapping forever, with some little attempts to change society thrown in at the end.

Mostly, though, I just did not have the feels. There’s a romance in Plus One and I totally should have been shipping it. The connection is hate to love (at least on Sol’s end, though I’m not sure about D’Arcy). And, for ship’s sake, his name is D’Arcy. This should have been in the bag, since it was borrowing my immense Pride and Prejudice feels. But nothing. I like them okay, but they also get so romantic so fast and the things they say to each other are over the top, and some of the things Sol thinks even more so. For example, this: “D’Arcy was like a planet to my meteor.” Blech. Basically, they say terrible mean things at first, but then they fall in love and every thought and word is supportive and loving. It’s probably a sign that I’m fucked up, but I need banter and snark even when they’re in love; the constant “I love you” perfect relationship thing grosses me out.

Though I know that didn’t come out particularly glowing, I still recommend Plus One to the right sort of reader. It’s a book for those who come for plot and twisty changes. Depending on the kind of romance you like, that will satisfy, but if, like me, you like couples that are a bit mean and silly to each other, then it might not.

Favorite Quote:

It was the beginning of the school year, and I had chosen a seat in the back of my class. If you’re going to sleep through lectures and skip readings, it’s rude to do it from the front row. I’m at least a thoughtful reprobate.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

New Girl ugh couples

26 responses to “Review: Plus One by Elizabeth Fama”

  1. Pretty fabu premise and I adore the cover.
    Audra (Unabridged Chick) recently posted…Napoleon in America by Shannon SelinMy Profile

  2. Sarah says:

    I think it’s totally realistic to expect banter and snark even when a couple are loved up!! Real world couples aren’t all lovey-dovey support all the time, not the ones that last anyway. The husband and I have been together 6 years and still banter all the time (in a nice way), as do all the long-term couples I know.
    Sarah recently posted…Thoughts on the Classics: Jane EyreMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Ha, I mean, I think it depends on the couple. I’ve seen some boring ones, but they’re not the ones that interest me. :-p

  3. Angie F. says:

    The cover makes me desperately want to read this, and I loooove the idea of the population being split into Nights and Days, which sounds like it was done well. The part about stealing the baby is what stops me from adding it to my wishlist. Like you, this doesn’t interest me, and honestly, it doesn’t seem to make much sense. I get why she steals the baby, but what the heck does she plan to do with it after her grandfather dies?!
    Angie F. recently posted…Review: Knight Assassin by Rima JeanMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      The concept is fantastic, but the baby-stealing really didn’t seem like the best use of the amazing world building. Also, I just don’t care that much about the baby.

      I think her plan was to be arrested and then have the baby taken back. It was sort of a suicide mission, though probably prison rather than death.

  4. I haven’t read Monstrous Beauty either, although it’s definitely on my TBR list. That’s so disappointing, that this book just didn’t really effect your emotions. I’m not sure I would care for it either. I mean, let’s steal the baby thing is pretty ridiculous. I haven’t read the book, obviously, but the fact that Sol doesn’t seem to be worried about how her brother might feel about it, is crazy.

    Even with a love interest named D’Arcy, I’m going to pass on this one. Thanks for the review.
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted…Top Ten Books On My Spring 2014 TBR ListMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Well, to be fair, Sol isn’t worried because her brother abandoned them for a better position in life. He cut off all contact, even when he could have reached out. At the same time, if the baby-stealing, plot-twisty thing doesn’t sound like the sort of thing that works for you, you’d probably end up where I am. Plus One works for a particular sort of reader which is not me.

  5. I am still swooning over this book. Sorry it didn’t work as well for you!
    Lenore Appelhans recently posted…Spring ReadsMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      You are the perfect reader for this book. I really wanted to be, but I’m afraid that I am not. *sobs*

  6. I’m currently stuck at 43% with this book. It’s sad, but I don’t know if I can continue. And you might have just sealed the deal for me.
    I agree with you. The world seems so interesting. Yet it’s just to much baby drama. Where I’d like to explore more of the world.
    I’ve also not reached the “love” point but after a few pages into the book I really wasn’t excited for it. Again, like yourself, I am in no way attached to these characters emotionally. And I am a pretty character driven reader.
    Thanks for the great review!
    Brittany @ This is the Story of My(Reading) Life recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Spring TBRMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Awww, I’m sorry that it’s not working for you either. Baby drama is so the antithesis of my favorite thing. I sort of wish there was a companion set in the world, perhaps at its founding?

      Oh, I was actually excited for the romance, but it’s not my kind of romance. :/

  7. That is a very creative concept and it’s interesting to think how it would function in our society. I like that it’s based on skills instead of race (and I would really want to end up in the Day as a Rays. I need sunlight) It’s a shame that the plot didn’t work. I read somewhere else about the baby-business and it was strange.. But the concept might be enough to make me read it 🙂
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Top 10 Tuesday 31. Spring list.My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Yesssss, the world is just sooo amazing. I am utterly disappointed that I didn’t love the rest of it. I could probably be a Smudge, because I don’t avail myself of the sun much anyway.

  8. So sad to see you didn’t love this one! I’m still just a mess of excitement over this book (the coverrrr!!!), so I’ll be reading it anyway. But I AM glad to hear that the romance isn’t so perfect; now I’ll know to calm it down on the shipping. I think snark and poking at each other is part of a healthy relationship, personally. But then again, snark is my second language, so… That may just be me xD
    Kayla @ The Thousand Lives recently posted…Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR ListMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I hope that it works for you! One of my friends completely loved it, so it just depends on what you like! Best of luck!

  9. I’m glad that you liked the idea of this one overall, because it’s definitely cool to imagine a store or business running 24/7 because there are these two different shifts of people doing work while the other half is chilling out. It’s a good point, too, how people can distinguish in Alaska where it must feel like the same time of day all the time. Sorry this one didn’t give you the feels, I hate when it feels like everything’s there, but something just doesn’t manage to click for you 🙁 Fantastic review, though, Christina! <33
    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted…Tuney Tuesday: Ignorance by ParamoreMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Yup, it was disappointing to me. I wanted SO badly to like it, and it’s not a BAD book, but good book + me doesn’t necessarily = lovey dovey feelings. This is a sad fact of bookish life.

  10. Emotionless is never good. I love the concept though, with half the population being awake and functioning during the day, and the other half during the night. I’ll still be reading this for the plot and the world building, but eh to the romance. Ehhhhh.
    Amber @ Books of Amber recently posted…Hiatus: Amberica ’14My Profile

  11. Bonnie says:

    I really loved the concept of the world as well. While the idea had some holes and had my questioning some aspects of it, for the most part it really made a lot of sense. As far as the plot goes, the baby-swapping shouldn’t have been the WHOLE plot. I was expecting it to set it motion other issues, which it did, but they weren’t nearly as exciting as I would have hoped. The romance was so disappointing. I thought their connection to one another was sweet but didn’t have that emotional punch that I would have liked. Super disappointed with this one but still managed to enjoy it for the most part. I haven’t read Monstrous Beauty yet either but might have to.
    Bonnie recently posted…Audiobook Review – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret AtwoodMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      For real. I mean, there at the very end, the world building came in a LITTLE, but seriously the whole book was about the babies. Babies bore me. It’s just a fact. Yeah, they were sweet, though I could have done without the desk. It was necessary to make their instalove not instalove though, so I guess whatever. Yeah, I think I’ll like MB more. I certainly hope so.

  12. I’m just going to ignore the romancey thing and pretend it never happened – the world is what has me intrigued. And I’ll pretend they are swapping recipes rather than a baby. How bizarre.
    Kat (AussieZombie) recently posted…Showcase Sunday #71 – Business as UsualMy Profile

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