Verdict: A romance novel with dystopian on the side.
When sixteen-year-old Madeline suffers her first grand mal seizure, she finds herself in an unfamiliar reality, surrounded by strangers wearing familiar faces. Her best friend, Brandon, tells her that the world has fallen to chaos, the aftermath of World War III ten years ago. Madeline doesn’t remember anything from this life— especially not the explosion four years ago that killed her parents and landed her in a coma, or the Lord Commander; a zealot leader of the Southern Territories now searching for her.
Madeline barely has time to process everything before waking up to the life she’s always known. As soon as she dismisses it all as a strange and vivid dream, she finds herself back there once more. Unsure if she’s truly caught in the middle of a brewing rebellion, or teetering on the brink of insanity, she finds herself flipping between the two lives. Her heart becomes torn between two versions of the same boy and the lines between her realities begin to blur as she struggles to save her lives in both worlds.
Madeline has strength to her character but she can’t control her seizures. This means that her friends and family watch her like a popcorn kernel in the microwave, waiting for the seizures to burst out of her. Despite this, she comes across as a very capable damsel who doesn’t give up.
The other characters are pretty smart and diverse. They are aware of their flaws but can’t help themselves, and nothing feels more real than characters that mess up despite their best intentions.
The first half of the book has a heavy emphasis on the love triangle... well, pyramid might be more accurate description, although as soon as Madeline crossed into the other reality, I had no idea what shape her relationship web resembled.
With a dystopian novel, I want to know about the world just as much as the characters. But after a snippet of the post-apocalyptic environment, we go back to the love enneagram. The romance is highly saturated in this novel, and while I wanted a few more drops of dystopian world stirred in, I soon realised that I had to change gears to enjoy the unexpected genre domination.
That’s not to say I didn’t find the testosterone spurred fights engaging. The love dodecahedron was certainly well executed and even took me by surprise in a few places. Some might find Madeline’s boy issues trivial considering what was happening in reality number screwed, but I still wasn’t putting the book down any time soon.
Two of the love interests are gifted to us before the book begins so we don’t get to see why they fell for Madeline. As more boys seem to trip up over her, I started to wonder what type of plumage this girl is waving around to attract just about anyone who lays eyes on her – but there’s more going on than meets the eye, thankfully. That said, this girl is truly blessed with all the family and friends who can’t imagine their lives without her. She’s also prized by the Lord Commander in the dystopian reality, although I have a feeling there’s more to it than currently mentioned.
The world building is more atmospheric than specific. I know what happened, but not why, how, or who. It quickly became apparent that the dystopian elements aren’t the main focus of the first book, and that just makes me want the sequel more. I also appreciated how author avoids info dumping and piling on the exposition, and instead focuses on a gripping story.
The ending is a bit cheeky. I like book 1 to be a story in its own right so that I can choose whether to continue with the series or not. This story has no sense of completion and will leave you gripping to the side of Dover’s white cliffs as you patiently wait for the next instalment.
So I had a few niggles but this is still a brilliant book and I’m now awaiting the sequel. I can tell this book won’t be for everyone, but I enjoyed it a lot so I think it deserves every star.