Pub. date: October 11th, 2016
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services (2nd edition)
The city of Parole has been quarantined from the mainland, because it’s burning. Literally, people have been cut off and left to die on a land with an open flame directly under it.There’s a police force called Eye In The Sky that ensures that nobody leaves. Meanwhile, the city is also populated with a bunch of superhumans who have fantastic abilities and are keeping the city from completely wiping out. One of them, Regan (with snake eyes and a lizard tail), suffers from years of anxiety and PTSD, and needs to escape. He can’t, because Hans (a little shit of a ghost), knows how to help him, in exchange for Regan committing a murder.
Regan fails, loses his memory, and ends up running into Evelyn (singer by night, superhero by day). Regan joins her in hopes to piece his story together and escape from Parole. Here we meet the rest of the cast of characters: Danae, who can bring machines to life, Rose, who has healing thorns and vines growing out of her body, Zilch, who is made up of other dead people, and Finn, a lovable taxi driver who causes explosions when he’s feeling anything but happy. Together, they work to uncover the secret behind why Parole is burning, while trying to survive imminent annihilation.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy at the end of a dystopian fantasy novel. No, really. This book comes with a lot of hope, and it’s really hard not to love any of the characters (well, maybe not Hans. In case you couldn’t tell, I really don’t like Hans, the conniving little piece of- you get my drift). I loved reading the story from multiple POVs, because the entire premise of Regan losing his memory allowed for the story to unravel and give us context, as he was piecing his life together. This plot point also made it super easy to follow the other characters’ POV. There is a romance ARC, and a fully fleshed out secondary romance narrative as well, which is quite lovely. Not gushy, not out of place, it just flows naturally with the rest of the story (while casually tugging at your heart).
I can’t talk about this book without talking about it’s inclusiveness. Oh man, I want to shake my fists and shove this book in the faces of people who are all “ugh it’s not always about a diverse cast, can’t we just love the book” and other bullshit because HOLY COW this book is as diverse as it is good. I’m talking trans rep, ace rep, polyamorous rep, mental illness rep, etc. If you’re white/cis-straight/able and are eye-rolling, I challenge you not to fall in love with these characters. Not only is it inclusive, but my most favorite part of the book is all the conversations surrounding these representations. Not in a “let’s center this aspect of your character and make you one-dimensional” kind of way, but in a way that completely fit into the scene. These conversations are so important, so vital, and even when we see diverse representations we don’t often see such nuanced conversations. Those scenes validated me and my experiences. That these characters were still struggling with some parts of their identity and hadn’t quite worked it out, without reducing the plot to their flawed identity situations; I didn’t realize how much I wanted to see that on the page till I actually saw it on the page.
The book is basically made up of several tiny pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that’s fun to piece together, while being enveloped in inclusion and validation. I absolutely loved it (in case that wasn’t already clear). I’m so glad I chose to participate in #AceBookClub because there was no other way this book would ever have made it into my radar, and I’m really looking forward to the sequel. Please, please read this book.