This spoiler-free review is in three parts: the overall opinion for those who haven’t read the book, the review for those who have (still spoiler-free), and a what-we-have-learned section at the very end, full of tricks I learned too small for individual posts. I encourage you to read the whole thing, read the book itself, then read the review again to see if you agree.
Partials, by Dan Wells, was extremely good. I bought it on a whim last Friday night, and finished it just before midnight on Sunday. Partials is a post-apocalyptic science fiction (also known as dystopian) in which almost the entire human race has been destroyed by a single virus known as RM. This came at the end of the war with the Partials, a race of super-soldiers manufactured to win wars who eventually turned on their makers. The last surviving humans, immune to the RM virus, have barricaded themselves on Long Island, NY, constantly fearing an attack from the Partials or the rebel group known as the Voice. Unfortunately, because of the RM virus, any newborn babies will die within minutes of birth. Humans are going extinct.
It was extremely well-written. There is no beating around the bush; the author quickly introduces a strong conflict and good characters. Humor is excellently spaced, enough to keep readers cheery without destroying the macabre feeling of the book. The pacing isn’t overly fast or slow, but the intriguing concepts kept me involved in the story. I would highly suggest this book to people looking for a less depressing Hunger Games (though there is almost no similarity between the two).
However, I must give a slight content warning: since the plot of the book revolves around the ability to reproduce, they’re going to talk about it a lot. There is some language present as well. This is for upper YA, not those just coming from middle-grade fantasy. Also, the author’s first trilogy was horror. There will be blood, guts, and quite a few dead people. It isn’t quite on the scale of the Hunger Games, but people do die occasionally. The main character is a medic in a cursed maternity ward, after all. I recommend it to anyone who has made it through a high school biology course without throwing up.
All that being said, I really did enjoy the book. The main character is a girl, but that doesn’t mean it’s a girl book. It doesn’t mean it’s a boy book either. It’s a good book. That’s all.
On to the more in-depth stuff. The way information is introduced and held back in this was well done. It seems a little cheesy at first, with all the characters describing that which, surely, everyone knew by now. But that doesn’t mean we get enormous infodumps– most of the time, we get half of what we need to know, and the other half fills in later. It was a little tricky getting the right idea about who the Voice were and how they were different from the Partials– I thought the Voice were the Partials at first. Though it wasn’t quite clear at the beginning, things became clear when we needed them to be clear. I’m still debating whether or not this is a good tactic or not.
The characters, as I said before, are excellent. One or two characters are witty, and one of them is always there in the scenes that need a wisecrack. In the serious scenes, however, only the main character is present, and she only rarely makes jokes. I didn’t think the humor variation was bad, though. If there was more humor, it might seem like a lighthearted dystopian, and that’s an oxymoron.
The plot was twisty enough for my liking, though the big twists were predictable. I won’t say which ones, but they were a little obvious. I think I even know the twist for book three.
The romance level was good. Instead of procuring its own suspense through love triangles, it was tied in knots by the plot itself. I enjoyed that much more than a simple, self-sufficient romance plot walking alongside the regular plot and the two never crossing paths.
Now, what we have learned:
Dialogue tags are less effective than a sentence of action before the dialogue. He threw up his hands. “I don’t know what to do with you.” (That isn’t a real line, by the way.) There is no need to do both, as long as it’s clear who the paragraph belongs to.
It’s okay to write sentence after sentence of subject openers– just vary the sentence structure in other ways. This might not mean much to you, but I’ve been struggling with this a lot. Someone told me that sentence opener after sentence opener was bad, and I’ve been trying to justify ignoring them.
The Hollywood Formula works in books too. This was the main reason I wanted to read this book. Sort of. The author is one of the panelists on the Writing Excuses podcast, and I wanted to see if he incorporated the formula in his own writing. Turns out, he does. As I said before, there were a lot of questions in the beginning of the book. That’s the way the formula works– halfway through the story, it goes from asking questions to answering them. Three quarters through the story, there is a low point. (This was thirty-two pages late, but I didn’t mind.) And at exactly one quarter into the story, the characters take their first steps to fix the conflict. In fact, the book is conveniently split up into three parts, and they translate roughly into the three acts of the Hollywood Formula. It’s pretty amazing– almost as if the author knew what he was doing.
That’s what I think of the book. Have you read it? What did you think?