Phoebe's Reviews > A Long, Long Sleep

A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan
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's review
Feb 24, 11

bookshelves: young-adult, sci-fi, chick-lit, loved-it
Read in February, 2011

It wasn’t until the halfway point of Anna Sheehan’s upcoming debut A Long, Long Sleep that it won me over. Initially, I feared that this science fictional retelling of Sleeping Beauty was little more than yet another entry in a long list of limp YA sci-fi novels. After all, the writing seemed to be on the wall. As was the case in XVI and Awaken (a book I didn’t even bother finishing), Sheehan includes a liberal sprinkling of FutureWords™; I worried that this would be yet another stand-in for genuine world building. And, as was true for both Delirium and Matched, Sheehan’s heroine, Rose, was quite passive and bland through the first hundred pages of the novel.

Then I reached what amounted to an extended IM conversation between Rose and a half-alien hybrid, and I realized how utterly charming I found her characters—and how much I was genuinely enjoying her book.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. A Long, Long Sleep is the story of Rosalinda Fitzroy, the daughter of a power-couple who own a massive, multinational corporation at some distant point in the future (our era is, at one point, referred to as “the Gates era,” a conceit I found pretty cute). Because Mommy and Daddy frequently jet-set around the solar system, they decide to stow Rose away in a stasis chamber, saving her from the horror of being a latch-key kid. Of course, this has the unfortunate side effect of prolonging her childhood exponentially. On those rare occasions when she’s let out, she slowly comes to befriend, and then fall in love with, a neighbor-boy in a time-shifted romance that somewhat resembles Audrey Niffenger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Unfortunately, her parents kick the bucket, and she gets left frozen for more than sixty years, neatly ending their nascent romance.

Most of this is told in flashback. The narrative begins when Rose is awakened by a strange boy who stumbles across her in a basement. She’s emaciated, her body ravaged by the effects of stasis. But the doctors cobble her back together well enough that she’s able to go to school, in the hopes that she’ll one day be able to take over the massive conglomerate she’s inherited.

Of course, the current stakeholders aren’t so pleased with this new development. While Rose is distracted with several boys (including one really awesome kinda alien named Otto; more on him below), someone is plotting to kill her . . .

In recounting this basic synopsis, I can’t help but be pleased by how fundamentally SFnal Sheehan’s premise is. This is definitely soft-SF, and the romance and love squares (love rhombuses?) are unlikely to appeal to hard SF readers or, frankly, boys. Still, the science fiction conceits are absolutely central to the premise, and the way Sheehan explores both stasis technology and genetic engineering shows real consideration for the complexities of both. While a lot of softer SF for teens these days is utterly hand wavy, Sheehan’s world is, instead, largely thoughtfully crafted. There’s some silly stuff here (an apocalypse caused by genetically modified corn; telepathy), but these are forgivable world-building sins when viewed in light of all the things that Sheehan gets right.

And she gets nothing righter than her characters. Rose herself is a somewhat difficult narrator. She starts the story as a bit of a poor little rich girl, and initially I hesitated over her strangely elevated diction. But this, as well as her passivity at the outset, are both well-explained given her background. After all, she’s a fabulously wealthy artiste (a trait that’s actually relevant, and not just an informed ability), and so I can forgive her, or at least understand, when she describes someone’s voice as “warm as a brown leather sofa.” And unlike all of the Bella Swan clones out there, the blander notes of her personality are, in fact, seen as flaws—the result of an abusive childhood. Unusual for the genre, Rose must display actual growth in order to thrive in her new environment.

More, Sheehan gives us not only a relatable narrator and main character, but also a host of well-developed, believable, and well-rounded male characters. Her romance with Xavier is described lovingly and touchingly; the crush she develops on her rescuer, Bren, is understandable and interesting and thorny. For once, a boy doesn’t just fall at our heroine’s feet!

But my favorite was easily Otto, a genetically engineered mutant owned by Rosalinda’s corporation. I must admit that I’m a sucker for alien romances (weird, I know), but Otto was so well-rendered that I suspect I’d feel this way regardless. His presence enables Sheehan to explore the ramifications of Rose’s wealth in an interesting way—the girl learns that she actually owns this mute, telepathic boy, and that she might someday be able to grant him his freedom. But, more, the friendship that grows between them is one of the more interesting ones I’ve seen in recent YA. I groaned a bit internally when I first saw that Sheehan was going to subject us to their IM conversations. Then I realized that these two characters interacted with such vitality and chemistry that I’d gladly read a whole book of their chat logs. Seriously (and I never say this sort of thing), Team Otto, all the way.

In the end, A Long, Long Sleep is the sort of lighter sci-fi fare that I think we need in YA right now. Though it might not be the most artistically daring novel I’ve read in ages, it’s solid, treats its characters respectfully, rather than as simple tools at the mercy of the plot, and it explores the logical ramifications of its central premises. It’s a thoughtful book, with a strong emotional undercurrent about loss and abuse. We’re set up for a second volume (though this one also gives us a satisfying conclusion), and I’m curious to see where Sheehan takes us next.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher and
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Phoebe PS to everyone on the internet: this is not a dystopian novel. There's nothing the least bit dystopian about it. It's post-apocalyptic, sure. But it's not a dystopian. Not all YA SF books are.

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Heh, thanks for that. I kept seeing this described as a 'dystopian', even though its society (as it stands in the narrative 'present') isn't in the least bit dysotpian.

Vinaya Lovely review! I know some people who were disappointed because this book wasn't hard-core sci-fi, and I remember saying to them, the sci-fi is relevant to the story, but it's not the essence of it, because the themes of abandonment and betrayal and recovery pretty much transcend any genre, and it's in those parts of the story that Sheehan really shines! I really loved this book, so I'm always excited about other reviews in praise of it! *high five* :)

oliviasbooks Thank you very much, Phoebe, for this detailed and wonderful review.

Phoebe Thanks to Vinaya and olivia! Even though I enjoy harder SF, I also think it's important to evaluate a book on its own terms. This one has more in common with, say, The Time Traveler's Wife than a Connie Willis novel. But that's okay! It does its thing very well.

And yeah, seriously, Sean. This one was even announced at PW as a dystopian deal. I know dystopian is a big trend right now, but applying the term to a book like this is just flat-out wrong.

Wendy Darling What an amazing review, Phoebe. I didn't really start enjoying this until the second half, either. I'm hoping for a good follow-up book.

message 7: by Kaitlin (new) - added it

Kaitlin Ward I finished this last night so I just read your review, and I am totally with you--I thought Otto was the best character in the book.

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