While the purpose of YA or Bust is not to review books, every so often we read something that makes us flail and squeel and go “OMG EVERYONE MUST READ THIS BOOK.” When this happens, well of course we want to squeel and go OMG EVERYONE MUST READ THIS BOOK. So, without further adieu…
Summary (from Goodreads): It’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth–an almost unrecognizable Kai.
The hook: If you couldn’t tell from the summary, IT’S PERSUASION, Y’ALL. Sci-fi dystopia + Jane Austen = YES.
First impressions: I’ll be honest. When I read the first sentence on Amazon, I thought “another dystopia?” Then I kept reading and once I realized it was Persuasion, I knew I had to read it. I was hooked immediately — I hadn’t planned on reading it as my next book, but once I took a peek at the first few pages, I couldn’t stop.
The cover: I think this is a gorgeous cover; I love looking at it. However, I’m not sure the cover and the actual book complement each other well. “Pretty girl in evening dress turned away from camera” is very trendy in YA covers, but it doesn’t seem authentic to this story, or to Elliot (Elliot who certainly never wears a pretty evening dress in the book, nor do I think she looks like a supermodel). There’s plenty of interesting fashion in FDStS, and nifty imagery that I would have loved to see on the cover — the sun ship, perhaps… something with the broken compass? That said, I don’t have any bright or brilliant ideas for alternate covers. Just note that the cover might indicate more “typical” YA, but I found FDStS exceeded my expectations of what was promised by the cover image alone.
The good: Love the writing! It’s very Jane Austen without being too Jane Austen. I stopped several times to marvel at the beauty of the language in certain passages, but it wasn’t too “hoity toity literary NOVEL” level pretty. The will they/won’t they Jane Austeny- UST (unresolved sexual tension) is delicious–you really ache for Elliot’s frustration/pain, and Kai is a true and proper dick to her at times. It’s also fun seeing how Peterfreund adapted Persuasion to a post-apocalyptic society.
On that note, I came to really love the dystopic world-setting. My first impression based on the summary was wrong: this is not another dystopia. The science wasn’t too SCIENCE! or science? — the destruction of the world as we know it made sense based on society’s current direction, and the solution also made sense (in an irrational, frustrating way… like it should!). Though I’m very pleased that this is a standalone book (because Persuasion should be, and everything nowadays is a trilogy), I was also sad because it felt like there was more to do with the world.
Elliot is a strong heroine — just enough Anne Elliot, but with a bit more modern ass-kickery to satisfy those of us who sometimes wish our Austen heroines would just YELL at people. I like that her strength came from perseverance, loyalty and common-sense instead of literal ass-kicking.
The bad: This is here for symmetry. I didn’t find anything bad about this book!
The ugly: No ugly, though you may find yourself wanting to smack several characters, as one does in a Jane Austen novel
Diana Peterfreund is going to at at Dragon*Con this Labor Day weekend, and will be on several panels on the YA Lit track, which two of us (myself–Alexa– and Casey are on staff for). If you’re going to D*Con, definitely come and hear Diana talk about strong heroines on the Tuff Chicks panel!