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373 pages, Hardcover
First published April 8, 2014
He went on. "You admitted you were throwing your life away so that Poppu could hold Fleur just once, and it was like the floor of your apartment opened under me. You had the balls to condense the whole screwed-up world into this one pure thing, this crazy act of love. Everything I was working for collapsed through that hole with me, and I went into a free fall. And then you kissed me on the prairie and I wanted it all -- I selfishly wanted what Poppu had."I've been writing this review in my head for days, since I first finished Plus One, and yet I still don't think I can sufficiently portray just how much this book means to me, but that quote comes close to expressing everything I felt for Sol and her situation. I loved Monstrous Beauty when I read it last year, and I've been not-so-patiently awaiting Elizabeth Fama's next novel, so I was elated to see it pop up on ATW ARC tours. I purposely skimmed the summary for this book because I wanted to be as surprised with it as I was with Monstrous Beauty, but Plus One exceeded any and all expectations I might have had.
"The sun was as high as a Midwestern sun can get in late September, which D'Arcy informed me was not very high, so that as we approached the Natural Bridge the light was hitting it somewhat from the side, highlighting the red ferns and lichens and moss that grew on it and throwing extravagant shadows on the rough surface of the stone."Despite the ugliness of Sol's plan and the world she lives in, I found so much unbridled beauty in this book, from the comparisons and contrasts of day and night life, to the desk drawings, to the gorgeous prose used to depict the Maquoketa Caves State Park...I felt like I was living and breathing Sol and D'Arcy's experiences through this book. This world is not far off from our own, just shy of what life could be like for us now, had things gone differently in the past. And not even vastly different...I mean, things in the past that were supposed to be temporary because of war, etc., have long since been made permanent: taxes, daylight savings time, among other things. Having one sector of the population temporarily switch to night in order to circumvent the effects of a devastating epidemic seems somewhat reasonable. But whenever the government intervenes like this, there are sure to be those who object.
"In the end I had actually worked up some wetness in my eyes. A drop spilled onto my cheek, and just like in the movies I left it there. I hate the way actresses do that, because when you really cry you want your tears gone -- it's all about wiping them away as fast as you can."What I loved best about Sol, aside from her devotion to her family, was how genuine she was. From her bluntness and non sequiturs to her never-ending diatribes, I really felt like I'd come to know this girl. Usually, I find that I need to relate to a character in some fashion or another in order to fully enjoy a story, but that wasn't the case with Plus One. I could never be as strong or as capable or as self-sacrificing as Sol. Not once did I question her decisions, think that she was making the wrong choice, but neither could I have ever done the same as she did in her circumstances. Sol knows her lot in life, and she's relenquished herself to always living in the dark, but once her heart is set upon its task, she will stop at nothing to see it through. Normally, I'd question the foolhardiness of such a plan, but with Sol, it was unbelievably easy to get on board with such a harebrained scheme.
"Eventually he turned his back to me, with his arms crossed on his chest, and sometime later his body jerked with a hypnagogic twitch, and then utter stillness told me he was asleep. I sat up, holding my breath, the Mylar making the sound of a hundred candy wrappers as I lifted the blanket away."I also love that this book made me feel smarter while I was reading it. I just knew there had to be a real word for that moment when you jerk yourself awake right before you fall into a deep sleep, and now I know there is. =) I love young adult novels; I think that much is obvious. But I love them even more when they're intellectually stimulating and really force me to question morally ambiguous issues, like the ones the characters face in Plus One. Other things that instantly captured my attention: Gigi and the Noma, the murmuration and how it's described, the use of French and how prevalent it is in this novel despite the fact that the setting is in Chicago, and the use of flashbacks to illustrate life for Sol prior to Ciel's absence. I'd love to go into more detail about these things, but I don't want to divulge too much about the story. Also, for brevity's sake, I need to end this review soon, or else it will end up as long as the novel....I really could go on and on about it ad nauseum, that's how much I enjoyed this book.
"We're going to steal food," I said. "Is that what you're telling me?"Sol and D'Arcy, as different as night and day and yet so perfectly matched. Plus One is a love story when all is said and done, but it's also a story of sacrifice and loss and hope. There are moments of unbelievable gut-wrenching pain that brought me to tears, there are chase scenes that could have come straight from your favorite action movie, and there are brief moments of levity that left this reader unexpectedly hopeful, despite the dire circumstances the characters were facing. Suffice it to say, this book is the real deal, the full package...everything I'd hoped it would be and more. I wasn't ready to say goodbye yet, but oh my goodness, did I looooove that ending! I think Gilda says it best:
He grinned. "I know, right? I am a miscreant now. And it's your fault."
My stomach grumbled, like the muffled creak of an old hinge. "They probably only just got settled in," I whispered. "They may not be asleep yet."
"Then we'll have to be as sneaky as..." he stopped.
"As sneaky as Smudges," I finished the pejorative saying for him.
"Not at all. I'm actually worried you can't pull this off, with your galumphing about and booming voice. Maybe I should do it alone."
His eyebrows knit together, and I allowed myself a tiny smile, no bigger than the Mona Lisa's.
"Touché." He laughed under his breath.
It was a miracle we didn't get hit. It was like the videos I had seen of traffic in India...
I rested my lips on the rim of the bottle before I drank, trying to differentiate between the warm wetness of the water and the warm wetness of his mouth...
...and brushed his great nose...
"This is what I've wanted since the prairie."
"The same night that..." He couldn't finish the sentence. "The same night that Poppu died."
I looked closer. His lashes were as pale as his eyebrow.
...my parents had their honeymoon in Arcy- sur- Cure, in Burgundy, in north- central France. The cave paintings there are the second oldest in the world.”
"D’Arcy,” [Sol] said, understanding. “From Arcy.”
"Did you think French scientists would name their son after the love interest of a nineteenth- century British novel?”
D'Arcy leaned back on his arms and breathed in, letting himself become part of the sky.
The joy: D'Arcy was like a planet to my meteor. The gravitational pull was similar to a hurtling sensation. My body needed to collide with his. And, the universe be praised, this planet welcomed the impact.
Wishes were stupid and pointless. They were self-inflicted injuries - open woulds that you had to tend for the rest of your life just to contain them, to keep them from festering and consuming you.