A girl explores a stratified dystopian society in this debut YA sci-fi novel.
Fourteen-year-old Eva has grown up in the only aboveground city left on Earth: Layer Zero, or the Dome. By the 22nd century, global warming has caused most of the world to be covered in water, and what’s left of humanity has taken refuge in underground communities called the Layers, controlled by the mysterious, omnipotent Central Administration. Life in the Dome is peaceful and prosperous, untouched by the rest of the world’s problems, until a strange virus starts to spread among its citizens. Eva’s father, the Dome’s community leader, undertakes a dangerous journey to the Toronto Layers to buy much-needed medicine for his people. When he doesn’t return, Eva sets out to find him. What she discovers is a surprisingly habitable planet, a secretive government that controls its people with misinformation, and a budding rebellion. It’s clear by the end of the book that it could be the beginning of a long series. That explains some of the story’s incompleteness, including an aborted romance arc and a lack of detail about the Central Administration’s sinister plans. The plot might have been much more engaging if the author didn’t repeatedly stop the action to tell readers exactly how much Eva fears something. For example, when she encounters a storm, the next paragraph inevitably reads, “Eva’s mind was overflowing. She was terrified that, after all she had been through, this storm was going to kill her.” When she’s escaping from a hostile Layer, “She worried she wouldn’t be able to make it.” This habit not only slows down the story, but also makes the protagonist appear weak and passive. The book’s backdrop, however, is an imaginative dystopian world with occasional scenes of wonder, and the author beautifully draws the protagonist’s relationship with her deceased mother. In the end, though, it’s not enough to make Eva interesting.
An ambitious epic that fails to delve beneath its promising surface.