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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Book Reviews! Plus One & Noma Girl by Elizabeth Fama

Plus One (Plus One #1) by Elizabeth Fama 
Genre: Young Adult (Dystopian Romance)
Date Published: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

A dying wish. A family divided. A love that defies the law.

Sol Le Coeur is a Smudge--a night dweller in an America rigidly divided between people who wake, live, and work during the hours of darkness and those known as Rays, who live and work during daylight. Impulsive, passionate, and brave, Sol concocts a plan to kidnap her newborn niece--a Ray--in order to bring the baby to visit her dying grandfather. Sol's violation of the day/night curfew is already a serious crime, but when her kidnap attempt goes awry, she stumbles on a government conspiracy to manipulate the Smudge population. Sol escapes the authorities with an unexpected ally: a Ray who gets in her way, a boy she might have hated if fate hadn't forced them on the run together--a boy the world now tells her she can't love.

Set in a vivid alternate reality and peopled with complex, deeply human characters on both sides of the day/night divide, Elizabeth Fama's Plus One is a brilliantly imagined drama of individual liberty and civil rights, and a fast-paced romantic adventure story. 

Plus One is the first book in the Plus One series by Elizabeth Fama. This is an alternate reality that goes in a very different direction from ours after the Flu Pandemic of 1918. The population is divided by those who are only allowed out during the day and those who are only allowed out at night, and of course they have prejudices against each other because people have to hate even when they don't know why they hate or who or what they are hating. So, you can really relate this world to our own history. There was action, romance, humor, and even a little suspense at times. I thought the characters and the world around them were well built and well thought out. The characters felt real. You got to know them as they got to know each other. They had strengths and weaknesses. They definitely weren't perfect. I enjoyed them quite a bit, and I loved watching what was a strong dislike between D'arcy and Sol grow into friendship and strengthen to more. They are characters worth rooting for. 

Note: I know I already used that quote in my Teaser Tuesday post, but I can't help it. It makes my belly flip.

4:30 a.m.

It takes guts to deliberately mutilate your hand while operating a blister-pack sealing machine, but all I had going for me was guts. It seemed like a fair trade: lose maybe a week’s wages and possibly the tip of my right middle finger, and in exchange Poppu would get to hold his great-granddaughter before he died.

I wasn’t into babies, but Poppu’s unseeing eyes filled to spilling when he spoke of Ciel’s daughter, and that was more than I could bear. It was absurd to me that the dying should grieve the living when the living in this case was only ten kilometers away. Poppu needed to hold that baby, and I was going to bring her to him, even if Ciel wouldn’t.

The machine was programmed to drop daily doses of CircaDiem and vitamin D into the thirty slots of a blister tray. My job was mind-numbingly boring, and I’d done it maybe a hundred thousand times before without messing up: align a perforated prescription card on the conveyor, slip the PVC blister tray into the card, slide the conveyor to the right under the pill dispenser, inspect the pills after the tray has been filled, fold the foil half of the card over, and slide the conveyor to the left under the heat-sealing plate. Over and over I’d gone through these motions for hours after school, with the rhythmic swooshing, whirring, and stamping of the factory’s powder compresses, laser inscribers, and motors penetrating my wax earplugs no matter how well I molded them to my ear canal.

I should have had a concrete plan for stealing my brother’s baby, with backups and contingencies, but that’s not how my brain works. I only knew for sure how I was going to get into the hospital. There were possible complications that I pushed to the periphery of my mind because they were too overwhelming to think about: I didn’t know how I’d return my niece when I was done with her; I’d be navigating the city during the day with only a Smudge ID; if I was detained by an Hour Guard, there was a chance I’d never see Poppu again.

I thought Poppu was asleep as I kissed him goodbye that night. His skin was cool crepe paper draped over sharp cheekbones. I whispered, “Je t’aime,” and he surprised me by croaking, “Je t’adore, Soleil,” as if he sensed the weight of this departure over all the others.

I slogged through school; I dragged myself to work. An hour before my shift ended, I allowed a prescription card to go askew in the tray, and I poked my right middle finger in to straighten it before the hot plate lowered to seal the foil backing to the card. I closed my eyes as the press came down.

Even though I had only mangled one centimeter of a single finger, my whole body felt like it had been turned inside out and I’d been punched in the heart for good measure. My fingernail had split in two, blood was pooling through the crack, and I smelled burned flesh. It turns out the nerves in your fingertip are ridiculously sensitive, and all at once I realized mine might be screaming for days. Had I thought through this step at all? Would I even be able to hold a baby?

I collapsed, and I might have fainted if the new girl at the machine next to mine hadn’t run to the first-aid station for a blanket, a gauze tourniquet strip, and an ice pack. She used the gauze to wrap the bleeding fingertip tightly—I think I may have punched her with my left fist—eased me onto my back, and covered me with a blanket. I stopped hyperventilating. I let tears stream down the sides of my cheeks onto the cement floor. But I did not cry out loud.

“I’m not calling an ambulance,” the jerk supervisor said, when my finger was numb from the cold and I was able to sit up again. “That would make it a Code Three on the accident report, and this is a Code One at best. We’re seven and a half blocks from the hospital, and you’ve got an hour before curfew. You could crawl and you’d make it before sunrise.”

So I walked to the emergency room. I held my right arm above my head the whole way, to keep the pounding heartbeat in my finger from making my entire hand feel like it would explode. And I thought about how before he turned his back on us, Ciel used to brag that I could think on my feet better than anyone he knew.

Screw you, Ciel.

Noma Girl (Plus One #.5) by Elizabeth Fama 
Genre: Young Adult (Dystopian Romance)
Date Published: March 25, 2014
Publisher: Tor

Because of a quirk of history during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, present-day America is rigidly divided between people who live and work during the hours of darkness—Smudges—and those known as Rays, who populate the day. A group of Smudges called the Noma live on the fringes of society in loose tribes, preying on Smudges and Rays alike. Gigi is a ruthless Noma, but in this prequel companion story to Plus One, she is ordered to abduct a cell phone hacker named Ciel Le Coeur and reveals a surprisingly tender heart.

Noma Girl is a prequel to Plus One told from Gigi's perspective. Gigi is probably my favorite character from Plus One. She's got spunk and guts, talks like a sailor, will punch you as easily as look at you, and yet, she's got a little bit of a softy in there too. She's complicated. Getting her story and the whole background between her and Ciel was something we needed to know. This was a very short story, but added a lot more depth to her character. And... now we know. 

Check out my review of another book by this author!

Elizabeth Fama is the author of three young-adult novels: Plus One (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014), a RITA Award finalist; Monstrous Beauty (FSG, 2012), included on the 2013 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults list, and winner of the 2013 Odyssey Honor Award; and Overboard (Cricket Books, 2002), an ALA 2003 Best Book for Young Adults.

Elizabeth is vastly overeducated, with a BA in Biology, an MBA, and a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago. She enjoys running obsessively while downloading audiobooks into her brain, swimming, tennis, and cooking Sunday Dinners for her extended Italian-American family. She and her husband raised four creative children in Chicago before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Elizabeth successfully pretends that she's living in Tuscany while she works on a manuscript set in sixteenth-century Florence.

To learn more about Elizabeth Fama and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on Goodreads and Twitter.

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