Author: Anna Carey
Genre: YA, post apocalyptic/dystopia, happy bacteria
Release Date: July 3, 2012 (expected)
Summary: Sixteen years have passed since a deadly virus wiped out most of the Earth’s population. After learning of the terrifying part she and her classmates were fated to play in the rebuilding of New America, eighteen-year-old Eve fled to the wilds and Califia, a haven for women determined to live outside the oppressive rule of the king of New America. However, her freedom came at a price: she was forced to leave Caleb, the boy she loves, wounded and alone at the city gates. Eve quickly learns that Califia may not be as safe as it seems and soon finds herself in the City of Sand and the palace of the king. There she uncovers the real reason he was so intent on her capture, and the unbelievable role he intends her to fill. When she is finally reunited with Caleb, they will enact a plan as daring as it is dangerous. But will Eve once again risk everything—her freedom, her life—for love?
☆: 3.5/5 stars – a great continuation of the first book, but a bit disappointing.
Review: So…while this one was a great continuation of the first book, it suffered from a bit of middle book syndrome. There’s only one two Big Reveals, and the pace, I found, was a bit sluggish. While we get to see Eve finally reunite with an old friend, it’s taken away from her just as quickly, as is the rest of her freedom. “Once” is a tale of sacrifice and rebuilding a nation that’s completely rotten at its core – just not quite as gripping as its predecessor.
While I absolutely loved the first book and its pace was frenetic and didn’t stop until the last page, I feel like “Once” lingered in places a little too long, and gave us a little too much hope by inserting our favorite mountain guide in the City of Sand, and just felt a bit too predictable in general. This was a bit disappointing, as I was hoping for something as mindblowing as the first book, but I still liked this one a great deal. The Big Reveals are pretty great, but they don’t quite entirely make up for the lack of emotional punch that this book has. However, I loved the ending, and I do definitely want to read book number three.
What I wish Carey had done more of and what she did so well in the first book was killing her darlings – meaning, torture her characters until we get a great emotional connection or other payoff. She does it so little in this book that it was pretty startling. I think that’s why I just couldn’t completely emotionally plug into this second book. We do get some great new characters and some surprising information on the old, and Carey’s sensory imagery and language really create this grand new city rising from the corpse of the old – and that helped saved the book for me. Her creation of this City of Sand was absolutely gorgeous, and I loved all of her descriptions of old Las Vegas, Califia, and all of the areas in between.
I generally feel like had this book had one more draft, it might have turned out better. I saw a lot of stuff that could have been cut or at least shortened. I loved the King, I thought he was great, but he could have been a bit more evil or…well, just relatable in general. For some reason in this sequel, a lot of the new characters just felt very 2D. I wish I could say otherwise. But the good thing is, Eve’s backstory (along with the backstory of the world Carey has created in general) really gets filled out and we get more information on the plague and the timing of it, which is something I really wanted in book one. I felt more anchored to the world thanks to that info, so I’m happy we got it in this book.
But, ultimately, this one was a bit of a letdown in terms of what I was hoping for in a sequel. But for those who enjoyed the first book, I know you guys are going to like this one. I just didn’t love it as much as I hoped I would.
Final verdict? While it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, that’s just me. Fans of the first book should definitely give this one a chance, since it does deserve the read. Here’s hoping for a more awesome book three! “Once” is out from HarperTeen on July 3, 2012 in North America, so be sure to check it out then!