Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Books
Publish Date: October 28th, 2014
Can you hear Atlantia breathing?
For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.
Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.
The only previous works that I have read by Ally Condie were Matched and Crossed, the first two novels in the Matched Trilogy. I rated both books as one star, never finished reading Crossed, and evidently never advanced to the final book in the series. When I read a string of books by a single author and dislike all of them, I tend to concede that the author’s writing style is not for me and abstain from picking up any future publications by that author. Atlantia was an exception, and unfortunately my theory held true – I wasn’t able to immerse myself in the characters, plot, or world, and I consequently didn’t enjoy the book as a whole.
The plot was predictable to say the least. While I found the underwater environment to be new and exciting, there was very little going on plot-wise, and I became bored very quickly. When you’ve read enough dystopian novels, you become fairly good at predicting future events several chapters before they occur, and Atlantia brought no surprises. Furthermore, I was frustrated by the unnecessarily long period of time that it took the protagonist to connect all of the dots, even after they were blatantly laid out in front of her. Information that I presumed would be straightforward and obvious took her weeks to decipher, and her resulting conclusions were even occasionally incorrect. And lastly, characters’ reasonings and rationales for making certain decisions were very weak. I constantly wondered how they would be enough to serve as justification for betraying one’s family members and loved ones, and I wasn’t able to look past this disconnect.
I repeatedly got the sense that Condie had decided to rewrite the Matched series and merely alter the setting to that of an underwater society. The protagonist’s voice very closely mirrored that of Cassia’s, not to mention that the novels shared some similar plot points and character relationships. It was extremely disheartening to be reading a rehashing of a book which I had already established as one of my least favorite dystopian novels of all time.
The main character, Rio, was constantly wrapped up in her own affairs that she had no time or motivation to consider the thoughts and emotions of those around her. She devotes more than half of the novel wallowing in her own self-pity, which was when the boredom started. Rio was willing to tread on and take advantage of anyone and everyone in order to attain her end goal: going above. She was foolish, irrational, and impulsive, refusing to heed the well-intentioned warnings of others and then losing her temper when pea-brained ideas backfired. The best comparison I can draw is to that of an unruly toddler who disputes everything you say solely for the sake of being belligerent.
The remaining characters are exceptionally generic and appear to have come from a cookie-cutter mold. Many of them are amalgams of two or three of Condie’s previous major or minor characters, retaining some of the same mannerisms, dialogue phrases, and traits. I wasn’t a fan of any of the characters, Rio included. Many of them were ultimately backstabbing and selfish, resulting in all of them sharing similar personalities. Two words should not be able to adequately define the entire host of characters in a novel.
The romance, and indirectly the writing style, provided me with several doses of secondhand embarrassment:
“He kisses me… He is good at this. I am good at this. We are good at this.”
I’m not sure what this progression of comments was intended to convey, but to me, it screamed inexperience and a desperate plea for a decent editor to come along and complete a precursory reading of the novel. I’m not sure if the exclusion of details regarding any physical relationships was intentional in order to lower the reading level for this novel, but these scenes seemed out of place and never failed to make my skin crawl.
While Atlantia had an interesting premise, it was severely underdeveloped and succumbed to many of the stereotypes promoted by modern dystopian novels. It wasn’t a compelling read, and I think I’ve officially learned my lesson: Ally Condie’s books are definitely not for me. And yes, the absence of mermaids was extremely disappointing.
|Plot & Premise||1/5 Cauldrons|
|Writing Style||2/5 Cauldrons|
Overall Rating: 1.5/5 Cauldrons