Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Eden Newman must mate before her 18th birthday in six months or she’ll be left outside to die in a burning world. But who will pick up her mate-option when she’s cursed with white skin and a tragically low mate-rate of 15%? In a post-apocalyptic, totalitarian, underground world where class and beauty are defined by resistance to an overheated environment, Eden’s coloring brands her as a member of the lowest class, a weak and ugly Pearl. If only she can mate with a dark-skinned Coal from the ruling class, she’ll be safe. Just maybe one Coal sees the Real Eden and will be her salvation her co-worker Jamal has begun secretly dating her. But when Eden unwittingly compromises her father’s secret biological experiment, she finds herself in the eye of a storm and thrown into the last area of rainforest, a strange and dangerous land. Eden must fight to save her father, who may be humanity’s last hope, while standing up to a powerful beast-man she believes is her enemy, despite her overwhelming attraction. Eden must change to survive but only if she can redefine her ideas of beauty and of love, along with a little help from her “adopted aunt” Emily Dickinson.
Thoughts: I was cautious about this book from the beginning, since it stood a high chance of having a strong dose of racefail, given that the premise of the novel is that the ruling class consists entire of dark-skinned people, and now caucasians are treated with disdain and have no rights. Tie that in with the series title, “Save the Pearls” (Pearls being the derogatory term for white-skinned folk), there was every chance that this could turn into a sod story about how poorly whites are treated and how unfair it was that poor whitey gets such a raw deal in life.
As it was, I didn’t have so much of a problem with that, but only because it was overshadowed by so many other problems. The plot itself was, on the surface, fairly interesting. Earth is no longer protected by the ozone layer, the population and life expectancy has dwindled, and scientists are secretly working on a plan to fiddle with the human genome in order to combine attributed from sun-resistant animal species in order to increase humanity’s chance for survival. As an antagonist, we get the Federation of Free People, a group who seem to have the destruction of all Pearls as their main agenda. The government keeps the population complacent with carefully-delivered information and doses of emotion-changing drugs and nutritional pills.
But there are a lot of problems that got in the way of me enjoying that plot. For starters, it’s established right at the beginning that mineral-related terms to reference different ethnicities is a racist thing, and thus we’re expected to see it as bad. But everybody uses them. Not just when they’re angry or attempting to be insulting. hey use them all the time. Casually. In reference to each other, and to themselves. They’re all but sanctioned code-names. But when Eden gets annoyed and calls someone a Coal, everyone acts as though she just dropped a nuclear n-bomb in the office.
The author also has a habit of throwing in scientific names for plants and animals. This would have been fine had the book been written in first-person, from Eden’s perspective, since she’s deeply involved in the scientific world, but it came across more as the author trying to show off that they know scientific terms. They weren’t appropriate to the plot, and appeared with such freqency that it got downright annoying.
There is a huge logical flaw in the government’s plan to keep humanity on top of things, too. Females are required to breed by 18, males by age 24, and if they don’t, the government cuts off all supplies of food and water to them. Eden is 6 months shy of her 18th birthday, and is paid a visit by a government representative to remind her that if she doesn’t breed soon and contribute to the continuation of the decimated human race, her supplies will soon end. But couples may only have one child. Essentially halving the population with each generation. This doesn’t increase humanity on the whole, but decreases it. Food and water supplies are limited, and this may be a good reason for the limitations on offspring, but that still doesn’t mean that one child per couple is a viable way to keep the population even stable.
Then there’s Eden herself. She was a whiny self-involved brat quite often, who seemed to engage others in emotional circular arguments that served little point. her reactions to Bramford were particularly annoying, and they amounted to frequent renditions of, “Ugh, I hate this guy so much, he’s so arrogant and annoying and so dark and sexy and I keep getting turned on when he looks at me but I hate that jerk so much.” Repeat ad nauseum. It drove me nuts, and was profoundly frustrating and boring.
This was one of those rare books where I couldn’t wait to reach the end, not because I was compelled to keep reading but because I couldn’t wait to stop reading it so that I could move on to something potentially better. I can’t recommend this book. Other people seem to have enjoyed it quite a bit, but I found it too flawed, too unrelatable, and too boring to be worth passing along to somebody else.
(Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.)