Brought to you by OBS reviewer Marie-Reine
*Beware of possible Spoilers*
At the dawn of World War III and nuclear apocalypse, a group of civilians makes it way up a mountain to gain the safety of a military base. This base is in the hands of a merciless commander, who shoots first, then reluctantly allows some of the survivors to enter in. Though safe from the bombs inside this bio-dome, the survivors discover that justice and democracy have given way to autocracy and oppression. The civilians are cast into the Pit, to mine coal for the dome and thus pay their passage. Fast-forward 283 years later: Sunset “Sunny” O’Donnell, along with the other descendant of the unfortunate survivors, still lives under the iron grip of oppression and slavery of the ruling class (or bourges, as they are called in the Pit). A chance encounter with Leisel, the President’s daughter, changes her life forever. For the sake of her people in the Pit, she agrees to pose as Leisel during her wedding to Jack Kenner, another powerful bourge. Powerful and handsome. But all is not as it seems. Sunny and Jack are forced to run together to survive as the world order of the dome threatens to implode around them.
The author, S.M. McEachern, begins the novel with a prologue to establish the story. Unfortunately, this was the weakest part of the novel and it felt cumbersome compared to the rest. And though it seems to slow down the beginning of the novel, the pace quickens and the reader can enjoy Sunny’s first person narrative for the remainder of the novel.
An urchin from the Pit, she is the standard but well-written heroine of the Young Adult and Dystopian genres made famous by Suzanne Collins and Stephenie Meyer. She is mature and intelligent while also being self-deprecating, self-effacing and unaware of her many charms. Of course, a love triangle ensues between herself and two beaus: Reyes, her childhood sweetheart from the Pit and Jack, the handsome and sensitive bourge on the run with her. Although McEachern makes use of this trope—often drawn out unnecessarily for dramatic effect, to the exasperation of many readers—her character, Sunny, has enough wits to makes the best choice and the waters do not stay muddied for long.
Unlikely alliances, treachery, the revision of history by the ruling class, the rise of improbable leaders—these all figure in Post-Apocalyptic YA novels, and fans of the genre will not be disappointed to find them in this novel as well. While not adding many surprises to the genre (at least so far, there are still two more books to come), McEacherns has produced an exciting and entertaining story, with enjoyable leading characters. With a cliff-hanger ending, readers will impatiently await the next two installments of the trilogy to satisfy their piqued curiosity; to find out the fate of their now beloved characters and the world they live in.
All who love the dystopian genre will get pleasure from reading this book, though it is probably better suited for more mature young adult and adult readers.