This is a terrific read. I have to admit the jacket blurb sounded stupid to me, but I had seen gushing reviews, so I got it anyway, and was soon well-rewarded with some great story-telling.
Violent energy storms have broken the surviving human population into parts. One part lives inside protected domes, or “pods,” and another, divided into tribes, lives a more primitive existence on the outside. The two groups know each other as Dwellers and Outsiders, and each harbors misconceptions about the other. The Outsiders are thought to be caveman-like wild savages; the Dwellers elicit Outsider contempt because of their perceived softness and unearned privilege.
Aria, who has spent all of her seventeen years inside the pods, is suddenly evicted out into the open (and to a presumably certain death) after being in the wrong place at the wrong time. She is rescued by an Outsider, 18-year-old Perry, who agrees to help her get back to her home; he has his own reasons for wanting to get inside the pods. Together, they must fight the brutality of Outside in order to survive, but first, they need to overcome their own distrust and prejudice against one another.
Discussion: The plot summary may sound predictable, but it’s really not; unfortunately it would be spoilery to tell you why! Not only are Perry and Aria (chapters alternate between each of their point of views) very special in unexpected ways, but the obstacles they encounter are unique and quite original. The jacket blurb, for instance, mentions “cannibals,” but this very small part of the story involves a complex religious practice and not at all a “zombie” situation. Rossi never once jumps the shark in spite of all of her innovative plot lines, such as some genetic mutations, because she has explanations for them that are neither outrageous nor outlandish, as is often the case in these books.
Evaluation: I loved this post-apocalyptic story; it has it all: adventure, bravery, love, danger, tension, tenderness, betrayal, and loyalty. There is even a strong female lead who is not crabby – now there’s a departure! And there is suspense enough to keep you at the edge of your chair. Respect plays a large role in relationships, which gives both characters and readers a lot to think about. And yes, there is sex, but it is spoken of as “joining,” and it is so much more romantic than more explicit portrayals. But the love is really the best part. And I don’t just mean the love between the adults, but also the tenderness and devotion between the adults and children. In fact, the relationship between the young boy Talon and the adults who love him is perhaps the defining relationship of the story. For this Rossi creates the concept of “rendering” – a bond more than just love – a bond that makes another’s needs your own. There’s something in this book for everyone, whether you like post-apocalyptic books, medieval tales of tribes and bravery, or just plain old swoony love stories.
Note: Although this is only book one of a trilogy, it actually ends, but in this case, you don’t want it to end!
Published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2012