Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) No one has set foot on Earth in centuries — until now.
It’s been 21 days since the hundred landed on Earth. They’re the only humans to set foot on the planet in centuries…or so they thought. Facing an unknown enemy, Wells attempts to keep the group together. Clarke strikes out for Mount Weather, in search of other Colonists, while Bellamy is determined to rescue his sister, no matter the cost. And back on the ship, Glass faces an unthinkable choice between the love of her life and life itself.
In this pulse-pounding sequel to Kass Morgan’s The 100, secrets are revealed, beliefs are challenged, and relationships are tested. And the hundred will struggle to survive the only way they can — together.
Thoughts: The sequel to The 100, Day 21 picks up a very short time after the previous book ends, with the exiled children still, well, in exile, and the situation on the Colony quickly deteriorating. Oxygen is running out everywhere except the affluent Phoenix section of the Colony, people are dying, and there’s an unmet demand for justice. On Earth, it becomes increasingly apparent that the teens are not alone, and that some of the surviving humans really don’t want the newcomers there.
I want to say that Day 21 is more of the same, that if you liked The 100 then you’ll like this one. And it is, really, and you probably will. The positive aspects of the previous book are stronger here. Unfortunately, the drawback is that some of the weaker aspects are stronger too, resulting in the same lack of balance that caused the first book to suffer so much in my eyes. The story is no longer reliant on flashbacks to carry the weight of development, actually moving the plot forward instead of keeping things at a general standstill, though there still are some flashbacks to continue giving us insight into what made the characters who they are today. There’s more action and thus more tension as opinions divide on how to deal with the Earthborns, and the sickness that’s slowly spreading through the camp.
The dialogue is also stronger, and I think that was due in part to how Morgan neatly sidestepped most situations in which verbal conflict was bound to happen. Most of the arguments between characters last for a line or two and then are either resolved or ignored, which isn’t how people tend to argue. So there was less arguing, which took away a weakness and made the rest of the dialogue seem stronger for it. There are still moments, of course, but they’re fewer and further between here than before, which was good to see.
One thing I didn’t touch on about the previous book is the suspension of disbelief required to accept a few of the major plot elements. The most egregious one comes at the end of The 100, where oxygen is cut off to Walden and Arcadia, and Glass and Luke are stuck in one of the oxygen-deprived areas. With a few hours, effects are being felt. People are getting dizzy. Their lips are turning blue. They’re losing consciousness. But we open on Glass’s perspective here to note that they’re confident they still have a few days of air left (and then have an ironic dinner by candlelight, something that will add to the oxygen depletion). Glass has the brilliant idea to access Phoenix via something she used to use to sneak from section to section in the past: air ducts! Ignoring, of course, that if the air ducts were open, there would actually be access to air. She’s surprised that the air duct she uses is blocked off, but it was blocked off by another person who snuck across, not because of the oxygen cut-off.
In a flashback, Clarke’s father mentions Saudi Arabia, which was actually renamed New Mecca, and he handwaves this gaffe by saying that the country changed names a lot before the Cataclysm that wiped out humanity. Over 300 years ago. Which means that he would have grown up knowing and using the correct name for the country if he referred to it at all, so this was a clear and clumsy attempt to convey information to the reader about Earth’s history. On Earth, some of the teens are falling ill from a mysterious sickness, which Earthborn Sasha eventually gives them the info to conclude is from a berry that grows near the came. She advises them that they should clear the plants so no one eats it, because it’s “very poisonous.” So poisonous, in fact, that without any form of treatment but time, she knows that everyone who ate it will be fine in a week, because you have to eat a really large amount to be sick enough to die. Yeah, that fits the definition of “very poisonous.”
And then there’s the issue of language. I could write a paper on this issue in books, I really could. 300 years separate the Colonists from the Earthborns. And they speak the very same variety of English with no vocabulary or grammar changes, or even an accent that’s tough for characters to follow. I can’t suspend my disbelief on that one. Come on, even today we still have new articles flying around websites to explain the differences between British English and American English, and when some people try to handle Canadian English, they get things wrong. Even assuming that Colonists and Earthborns had access to the same records and so the same written language and history, their spoken language would have diverged over 3 centuries, even just accounting for the vast differences in lifestyle. It’s not clear if everyone in the original Colony spoke English, though there are hints dropped that it was a multi-cultural group, so chances are there would be new words introduced from originating cultures, new words and phrases evolving over time. Ditto for the Earthborns, who spent about 250 years underground before finally coming back to the surface. But everyone communicates just fine with no awkwardness or struggle to understand a single thing.
It’s the little things like that which caused me to raise an eyebrow while reading. Things that weren’t planned that well, or thrown in for effect without considering how they tie in to, well, reality. Between that and the fact that in a few chapters, nothing happened except for watching people watch other characters, it still made the book feel like it was moving at a plodding pace, and most of the interest stayed with Glass and Luke as they fight their way back to Phoenix and then onto a dropship as the rest of the Colony starts falling apart. There’s tension in the Earth segments of the story, too, but much of it feels so distant than it’s hard to feel much concern about. The sickness was focused on by only a single character. A psychopathic killer within the group was revealed very casually at the end, with very little horror and emotion. With the exception of Bellamy, once again I had a hard time caring about what was going on.
This is an average sequel to an average book, with little special to redeem it and make it stand out from better books around it. It’s not bad, really. It’s just not that good. The idea behind the book is more interesting than the book itself. If you want to read a really good book about teenagers thrown onto a supposedly empty world where they have to survive after being expelled from a place with abusive control and population problems, then I recommend Monica Hughes’s Invitation to the Game instead.
(Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.)