Flashfall by Jenny Moyer
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: November 15, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
Orion is a Subpar, expected to mine the tunnels of Outpost Five, near the deadly flash curtain. For generations, her people have chased cirium—the only element that can shield humanity from the curtain’s radioactive particles. She and her caving partner, Dram work the most treacherous tunnel, fighting past flash bats and tunnel gulls, in hopes of mining enough cirium to earn their way into the protected city.
But when newcomers arrive at Outpost Five, Orion uncovers disturbing revelations that make her question everything she thought she knew about life on both sides of the cirium shield. As conditions at the outpost grow increasingly dangerous, it’s up to Orion to forge a way past the flashfall, beyond all boundaries, beyond the world as she knows it.
What I Liked:
This book came highly recommended to me, by several fellow bloggers. I am a huge fan of YA science fiction, and I was told that I would enjoy this book. I'm happy to say that I loved it! I'm very impressed and I'm glad I did not pass on the opportunity to review this debut. I haven't been reading many dystopia novels (I'm tired of them), but I loved this one.
Orion is a miner in Outpost Five, in tunnel nine. She's one of a group of Subpars who can stand the radiation in the mines, and she and her people mine cirium that Congress needs. She and Dram, her caving partner, are the best. Orion is close to that magical goal of 400 g of cirium, and she and Dram go into the treacherous parts of the tunnel to try to reach that number. But reaching that number turns out to mean nothing. Orion and the other Subpars quickly realize that they aren't serving their duty - they are slaves, and there is no way out. Orion has always dreamed of getting past the flashfall and seeing the sky, and she'll fight to have the chance to do so.
This novel is entirely science fiction, in which is has a dystopia-esque feel to it, and there is an abundance of fictional science to the story. Cirium is an element that Congress needs to protect the city - or so the Subpars are told. The Subpars are told that if they reach 400 g of cirium, they can live in the protected city, where the Naturals live. But why if this is a lie? Hence where the dystopia aspect comes in. At first, Orion and the Subpars of Outpost Five feel grateful to Congress, and they feel like their are serving their duty as Subpars. But Orion feels trapped, and begins to speak out. Without meaning to, she starts a rebellion, and like dominoes falling, one event leads to another, in different sectors of the land.
One thing that stuck out to me (one of many) was the world-building. This is an intensely unique world that Moyer has created. Tunnels and caves? You don't see a lot of that in YA. Dystopian worlds, yes, but Moyer has something unique here. The flashfall, flash curtain, tunnel gulls, cordons... terrifying and intriguing stuff!
This book is told from Orion's first-person POV. I adore Orion! She is fearless and brave, a lot impulsive and entirely selfless. She gives her life for her caving partner Dram so many times, and throughout the story, she gives up everything for other characters, like a little girl, or an old man, or a dying forfeit. Orion is noble and selfless, and she never stops thinking of everyone.
Dram is the second protagonist of the story, though he does not have a direct POV. He's been Orion's caving partner for years, and they are a formidable team. They've never not been without each other in the caves, and even outside the caves, they stand up for each other. I like Dram a lot - he is so similar to Orion (selfless, brave, stubborn), but I liked that he was always looking out for Orion. Orion was busy fighting for everyone, and while Dram was definitely doing the same, you could see that his priority was Orion. Which was noble all by itself.
This novel is jam-packed with action! It starts off in the tunnels and caves, and we get a feel of how Orion and Dram work as a team. And then things start to get set into motion - the seeds of rebellion are planted, and grow. And then Dram and Orion are sent elsewhere as punishment.., and things get tricky. Orion and Dram are survivors, that's all I will say. They go through so much in this book, but they never stop trying to live, and help the others, even far away from them.
Like an dystopia novel, a sprinkle of unrest turns into a rebellion and then a war, and many secrets are revealed. The government wants cirium for reasons other than what are told. Orion's mother wasn't just what she seemed, and Dram's father died not where they thought he did, years ago. So much is uncovered, and so much comes together, in the end.
I love how complete this story is! Standalone novels are exactly what I need right now. Orion and Dram fight their through so much, and it's nice to see their story come to a close. Moyer ties up the loose ends by the end of the book, but I could see her weaving in a companion novel or something. You could read this book as it is (a standalone), even if Moyer did decide to write more books in the series! Which I wouldn't mind.
I can't write this review without mentioning the romance! No love triangle, no insta-love, no drama. I adored Orion and Dram together. They're caving partners and friends, but you can tell that Orion has feelings for Dram. The progression of the romance is SO sweet. I love friends-to-more types of romances, especially when the bond is this solid, like Orion and Dram's. They are perfect together! This romance was slow-burn, and headed towards the steamy end as the story went on. But at the same time, you could feel how deep their bond was. Love!
Overall, this was an amazing debut. Science fiction dystopia + exciting adventure + sweet romance = exactly what I like.
What I Did Not Like:
I think I wanted a little more explanation and background about the Conjurors... part of their role in the climax of the story felt a little deus-ex-machina-like. I also think it would have been interesting to get up close and personal with the Congress. I'm also a tad bit confused as to what happened with the Congress at the end of the story. I'm going to reread this again, but I'm not sure about a couple of things with the ending. I won't mention anything specific, because spoilers!
Would I Recommend It:
I highly recommend this book, if you like science fiction in YA! Even if you don't, it's worth the read. It's incredibly unique, with the world-building, and I adored the characters. Plus, the romance was so sweet and slow-burn. I did NOT find this book like The Hunger Games, nor can I compare Orion to Katniss (I've seen this comparison, in a negative light, and I can't say that the girls compare. They are each unique and different).
4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars. I loved this book! On the one hand, I love this as a standalone and hope it stays a standalone. On the other hand, more books to follow would be cool! Perhaps companion novels? I do love seeing Orion and Dram together though. But I would love to see an "aftermath" type of story!
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