Author: Josin L. Quein
Genre: YA, dystopia, thriller, sci-fi
Publication Date: April 23, 2013 (HarperTeen – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC/Edelweiss Review Copy
Summary: No one crosses the wall of light . . . except for one girl who doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or how she survived. A harrowing, powerful debut thriller about finding yourself and protecting your future—no matter how short and uncertain it may be.
The Arclight is the last defense. The Fade can’t get in. Outside the Arclight’s border of high-powered beams is the Dark. And between the Light and the Dark is the Grey, a narrow, barren no-man’s-land. That’s where the rescue team finds Marina, a lone teenage girl with no memory of the horrors she faced or the family she lost. Marina is the only person who has ever survived an encounter with the Fade. She’s the first hope humanity has had in generations, but she could also be the catalyst for their final destruction. Because the Fade will stop at nothing to get her back. Marina knows it. Tobin, who’s determined to take his revenge on the Fade, knows it. Anne-Marie, who just wishes it were all over, knows it.
When one of the Fade infiltrates the Arclight and Marina recognizes it, she will begin to unlock secrets she didn’t even know she had. Who will Marina become? Who can she never be again?
☆: 4/5 stars – a really fun debut, and while not perfect, looking forward to the sequel!
Review: This is a book that is actually two stories in one. Literally. And while I’ll get into that later in more detail, “Arclight”, even while being a two-fer in terms of what we get in entertainment value, is a dazzling debut that really can’t be missed. This is some of the best high concept YA in the survival/dystopian/apocalyptic genre I’ve read in awhile, and I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel. If you’re looking for a legitimately scary thriller, “Arclight” is your book.
My biggest problem with this book: the fact that there is no bridge between the two halves of the book at one of the most important parts of the story, between opening and climax. “Arclight”, in ARC form, anyway, misses a crucial transition and left me going “wait, what?” because of Marina’s whiplash-worthy decision that literally changes the direction of the book. If there was a transition, I missed it. And usually, this would be a point where I’d DNF it and give the book to another friend or reviewer, but because of the pure quality of McQuein’s prose, I was still riveted, even if I did have to reread the transition-less area of the book a few more times before I could really wrap my head around everything.
Thus, that’s why I call this book a two-fer. Literally two books in one, due to one crucial missing transition.
But the rest was excellent – though I could have done without the semi-kind-of-author-couldn’t-quite-decide love triangle. More on that later. First the awesome – the worldbuilding and characters. You can feel the intensely paranoid tension of this environment with each page, each chapter – which is something that is incredibly hard to do. While the characters don’t seem very deep, their actions as Marina tells her story and the story of the humanity post-Fade, help deepen them. We don’t get a great backstory into each, only into the most important of the main cast. And even then, it’s still pretty brief (exception being Marina and how her backstory unfolds in the second half of the story), yet it’s enough. We get a good sense of pretty much all of the main cast, and thus, of the world, thanks to this minimalist focus on character building in favor of building the world and its backstory more. Which I’d usually wag my finger at, but in this case, it worked and worked beautifully.
McQuein’s narrowing of the world solely to that of the Arclight, the Grey, and the Dark was a brilliant move. Through our exploration along with Marina and co of the Arclight, we find out more of the backstory, which helps build the characters, which helps build the world – in a (mostly) positive feedback loop. I found it impressive, to say the least, and even in ARC form (even with the faulty transition), pretty nicely polished.
As for the backstory of how the Fade came to be, I wanted more. But since this is the first in at least a duology, it looks like, I got more or less enough to work with. What I did want was a little less of me having to do math (counting years since the Fade incidents initially happened in terms of “great-grandparents”), and a little more of a hint in those newspaper clippings found in the book. I do think McQuein was playing with us a bit in terms of asking what the true amount of time had passed between the amount of “great grandparents” and Honoria’s account, which mentions no real passage of time within years but has a lot of biological flags in terms of her scars. I hope in book two we get a more solid idea of time, since the Fade aren’t really rooted in a sense of time and can’t tell us (or won’t tell us) how much time has passed since they gained control.
Lastly the love triangle – it felt like McQuein couldn’t quite make up her mind as to have one, so it was a bit…well, confusing – even to Marina herself. While I love the idea of an unreliable narrator (and Marina turns out to be a great one), the romance area really needed work, and I hope it gets that work pre-pub. Or maybe in book two. But hey, at least there was no instalove. And I think we can all rejoice in that.
Otherwise? This is an absolutely wonderful debut, and had the faulty transition thing not happened? Would be on my best of 2013 list. However – it’s pretty damned close to being part of that best of 2013. This book is a lot of fun, and will make you feel a little more paranoid when you hear about the latest scientific advances in medicine. Just a bit.
“Arclight” is out from HarperTeen April 23, 2013 in North America, so definitely be sure to check it out when you get the chance. So much fun, and I can’t wait for book two!