Beneath the Shine by Sarah Fine
Publication Date: April 18, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Review copy sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
In a future United States where those who control technology control the wealth, seventeen-year-old Marguerite’s viral video propels a populist candidate to presidential victory on a platform of “tech for all.” But as the mouthpiece of the new leader determined to break the elite stronghold, Marguerite finds herself on the opposite side of the divide in a new high school full of technocrat teens.
When the enigmatic Percy, with his flamboyant fashion sense, sharp wit, and tragic past, takes an interest in her, she is suspicious. But with everyone against her, she needs an ally. Percy is drawn to Marguerite’s passion for the cause, but the legacy of his murdered scientist parents prevents him from letting her get too close.
Soon terrorists strike the capital and technocrat leaders begin turning up dead, and the two must work together to protect both their families and the country. With everyone literally plugged into technology, total domination will take only a flip of the switch. In order to preserve their freedom and the future Marguerite envisions, she and Percy may be forced to pay the ultimate price.
What I Liked:
It's not secret that Sarah Fine is one of my favorite authors. Her books - both Young Adult and Adult - really work for me. I've never rated a book of hers with less than three stars (only three of her books got a three-star rating - the rest were four- and five-star ratings!). Pretty impressive, considering this is the fourteenth book of hers that I've read. She is an amazing storyteller!
Beneath the Shine is a standalone YA novel following Marguerite, a teen whose impassioned rant went viral, and boosted a populist presidential candidate's campaign. The candidate won by a landslide, and in no small part due to Marguerite. Now, she uses her voice for the President, and she going to be attending an elite school in D.C. A school filled with technocrat teenagers who supported the opposing candidate, and doesn't want specialized tech to be available to everyone (which is something the President campaigned for). The teens at this school are rich, entitled, and incredibly rude to Marguerite - all but a few. Percy Blake is one of them. He seems charming and full of humor and fashion sense, but there is something more to him that he doesn't share with the world. There is something about his appearance of shallowness that makes Marguerite suspicious, and intrigued. But Percy isn't the only one with secrets. What is Marguerite is supporting a monster? Terrorism strikes the capital, technocrat leaders and their children are killed, and Marguerite is being manipulated. But by whom? She'll have to trust Percy, who isn't all that he seems.
It's been so long since I've read a dystopia novel! I read entirely too many of them four or five years ago, and I haven't read too many since. This book is an excellent and refreshing dystopia novel! Probably because it hits really, really close to home, especially with today's current events. Yes, we have the cliched story of teens trying to unveil corruption and overthrow the government. But the story is so much more!
For example, the extreme use of technology. There are robots and basically closed humans (who are robots) everywhere, and these robots (called "cannies") have taken so many jobs. Poverty is at an all-time high, because so many jobs no longer need humans. What's more, many of the elite (humans) have Cerepins, which are basically like computers in your brain - think of it like your smartphone is inserted into your brain, and you can watch videos and go on Instagram and do whatever, via the Cerepin inserted in your forehead.
So, the world-building of this book is pretty great! I love how imaginative and inventive all of Fine's stories and worlds are. This book is entirely a dystopia, and highly futuristic, but some of the politics and corruption sounded so familiar, like some modern-day politics we are witnessing.
This book is told from Marguerite's first-person POV, but also Percy's first-person POV, which was a nice surprise. They don't switch off every other chapter - it's rather sporadic, the switches in narration. But not distracting. Fine knows exactly how to move the story along within the correct narration to do so.
I liked Marguerite from the start. Yes, she seems almost brainwashed, given how passionate she is about the President's campaign and commitments. People think she is greedy, selfish, a whore (some think she slept with the President), a social climber. But Marguerite is none of those things. She is kind, down to earth, even selfless. She lives her life like she knows her every move is being recorded, everything she says is public, and she represents something bigger than herself. Marguerite is a strong girl for all that she goes through, but I liked seeing her evolve as the story went on. She started to question things - and people - and she started to wonder about the right things. Marguerite is very smart and a good person.
Percy, on the other hand, is very smart, very charming, very witty, and very deceptive. He is hiding behind a shallow mask, hiding his true self. He has a thing for fashion and posts videos of him showing off clothes, makeup, tutorials, the works - but he is actually the son of brilliant scientists who were murdered, and he wants to know why. Percy is extremely clever and deceived everyone for so long about who he really is. I adored Percy, for all of his flamboyance and deception. He starts off being a little on the selfish side, only wanting to find out what really happened to his parents. But he becomes more aware of something larger at play, and he realizes what he could - and should - be doing, with his knowledge and skills.
This book was incredibly engaging and interesting to read, and there were a lot of tense moments that had me biting my nails for fear of either Marguerite or Percy. The story moves rapidly and never lets up, until the end. There are a lot of moving parts to the story - it's not just about the terrorism, the murders of elite technocrats, or Percy trying to uncover the truth about his parents' murders. Everyone is looking for a bad guy - the President? The CEO of the company making Cerepin? A combination of the two? Marguerite will find out the hard way.
This book doesn't mess around, and there isn't a lot of time spent on some relationships, but they exist. For example, Marguerite has a broken relationship with her mother, who hasn't been the same since Marguerite's father died. Everyone hates Marguerite at her new school, except a few people who take a chance on her. I liked seeing Marguerite make friends with Anna, the daughter of a powerful opponent of the President. That was unexpected, but you could tell both girls were trying to be genuine.
And then there is Marguerite and Percy. What if I told you that there was no Marguerite and Percy? Well, there isn't really any romance in this book. You can tell that Marguerite is interested in Percy and Percy is interested in Marguerite, but nothing romantic really happens, and there is no intense tension or anything like that. I mean, the characters are too busy trying to save lives and uncover some dangerous truths - and they don't spend a ton of time occupying the same space. In fact, Marguerite doesn't find out who Percy really is until around the climax of the novel. I like that Percy had his agenda and Marguerite had her own, and they didn't really work together until the climax of the novel. This book isn't a romance, and it doesn't need one. Of course, I would have loved more from the "romance", but this book didn't need one. Still, I'm very happy with the ending and the direction of Percy and Marguerite's relationship.
This book ends well, after all of the heart-pounding action that ensued throughout the story. The climax is exactly what you would expect it to be (a showdown with most of the important players of the story), and not everyone emerges unscathed. I liked the ending. It seemed fair to me, even if everything wrapped up a little too neatly. I'm quite pleased with this book!
What I Did Not Like:
I already stated that I think this book didn't need a romance, and definitely functioned well without one. Well, Marguerite and Percy are definitely into each other, but nothing happens and no feelings are professed (not until the end, kind of). And while I liked this book, romance-free and all, I also wouldn't have minded if there had been some stolen kisses or breathless moments. Just saying!
Would I Recommend It:
I do recommend this novel, whether you like dystopia books or not! I used to love them but then I got sick of them. This book was a nice change of pace (I've read a lot of fantasy lately), and it's honestly really timely (with the politics and corruption it involves). And while there is a hint of romance, this book is great for those that don't like romance to be at the forefront. But it also appeals nicely to those that do like romance, because a romance exists.
4 stars. In general, I think the author did a great job addressing issues that appear today in society (distribution of wealth, corruption of leaders, rise in technology). She also did a great job in telling an excellent story. I'm impressed with her storytelling, as always! I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.
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