Today, I'm reviewing P.J. Hoover's Solstice. I was lucky enough to read an advanced reader copy earlier in the summer, and I think that you guys will definitely enjoy this book!
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published June 18th 2013 by Tor Teen/Macmillan
ISBN 0765334690 (ISBN13: 9780765334695)
So when I found out in January that P.J. Hoover was coming out with a book that combined both elements, I immediately went to (politely) beg Tor for a review copy. Fortunately for me, the publicity team at Tor was very kind to a confused, new blogger muddling her way through the complex waters of publicity requests for the first time, and agreed to send me a copy.
I absolutely devoured the book upon receiving it, and spent the next couple of days thinking about the star, beautiful world that P.J. Hoover has created.
Solstice is a very unique addition to both the dystopian YA and mythology YA genres, and I think that this is a book which will appeal to readers of both.
Synopsis (via Goodreads:)
Each day brings hotter temperatures and heat bubbles that threaten to destroy the earth. Amid this global heating crisis, Piper lives under the oppressive rule of her mother, who suffocates her even more than the weather does. Everything changes on her eighteenth birthday, when her mother is called away on a mysterious errand and Piper seizes her first opportunity for freedom.
Piper discovers a universe she never knew existed—a sphere of gods and monsters—and realizes that her world is not the only one in crisis. While gods battle for control of the Underworld, Piper’s life spirals out of control as she struggles to find the answer to the secret that has been kept from her since birth.
An imaginative melding of mythology and dystopia, Solstice is the first YA novel by talented newcomer P. J. Hoover.
Things that worked:
From the get-go, Piper's a smart and likable character. She's level-headed, keeps calm during difficult situations, and is generally very understanding about the restrictions that her mother has placed on her life.
I think Hoover did a fantastic job of laying down a strong foundation for Piper in the initial chapters, which went far in explaining how she could take the revelation of visiting the Underworld and the fact that she was a god, so calmly and rationally. It's a very well-developed character arc, and Hoover deserves kudos.
As for the secondary characters, I think they were all well-developed within their own right. Both Shayne and Reese have different attributes going for them, and I was touched by Piper's devotion to Chloe. I was a little bemused that Piper's mom came off as the stereotypical YA mom who, because she doesn't tell her daughter something, causes an entire book's worth of problems, but YMMV.
* The plotting
I should probably state outright: this is not a fast book. The first half of Solstice is very slow, and spends a lot of time building up the mystery behind the global temperature changes and Piper's mother's disappearance. So if you're looking for something with a lot of explosions or chase scenes, this isn't your book.
However, with that being said, Hoover does an excellent job of plotting. Her reveals are paced perfectly, with each revelation feeling very explosive in their own right, but also perfectly believable. I can generally predict things coming from miles away, and there were instances in which Hoover did a fantastic job of catching me off guard with her plotting.
Bottom line: this is a dense, slowly paced book, but it's basically the epitome of "slow and steady wins the race."
* The writing
Hoover's an accomplished writer with quite a few books under her belt, and it comes across very clearly in her writing. She's fantastic with her descriptions, her world-building is strong, and her dialogue is very, very sharp.
There are plenty of things that struck me about Hoover's writing while reading, but I was especially impressed with the world-building. I've noticed in some of the previous dystopians that I've read, that it's very easy for writers to get caught up with the story they're trying to tell at the expense of world-building.
This absolutely wasn't a problem in Hoover's case. She's created such a rich, detailed and logical world - e.g. Piper receives a gift of chocolates, which is a huge deal because the heat has made it virtually impossible to transport chocolate cheaply - that I think readers will find reading, and spending time in Hoover's world, a genuinely enriching experience.
Which leads me to...
* The science and mythology behind Piper's world
One of my favorite parts of Solstice, was the science and the mythology used in the creation of Piper's world.
From a scientific standpoint, it was evident that Hoover had spent a considerable amount of time considering the various ways that global warming could gradually become worse over tie, and the potential methods that individuals would try to use to combat and adapt to the rising temperatures.
E.g. Everything that the characters used to combat the heat - e.g. the heat pills; the weather changing missile; even the spraying gels - all seemed like viable, real-world solutions to increasing temperatures. The realism added both depth to the book, and made me curious enough to keep reading.
From a mythological perspective, I highly enjoyed the fact that the temperature changes of Piper's world were essentially an exaggerated version of the weather changes in the original Persephone mythology.
I think both aspects will draw in readers from different genres that are generally very separate.
* The ending
The ending was a little bittersweet, but I thought Hoover wrapped it up beautifully. She tied all of the loose ends together, and also left room open for a possible sequel.
Things that didn't work:
One of my primary problems with the love triangle, was the fact that Piper seemed to experience different degrees of insta-love with both Reese and Shayne.
Piper more or less fell in love with Shayne within the span of a week, which is fast, even by insta-love standards. And while she wasn't necessarily in love with Reese, Piper was also instantly attracted to him in a way that didn't quite make sense, given their short acquaintance.
In both cases, while I completely understood that the mythology was what was driving Piper to get attached to these guys without cause, I still felt like there should have been more development of the relationships.
I also recommend Solstice for fans of science-fiction, who would be interested in trying something a little different than your standard sci-fi fare.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Solstice from Tor, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! :)