Originally posted at my blog Chasing Empty Pavements
This book was one that BLEW up on the blogosphere last year and it was one I was highly anticipating. Unfortunately, it didn't live totally up to my expectations. It felt a lot like Delirium except with a lot less world building. The whole men-are-bad-and-so-is-love theme rippled throughout this novel and Eve seemed so much like Lena.
Firstly, the writing was well done. That's ALWAYS something to commend when there are SO many YA novels out there these days, especially with the dystopian theme these days. Carey does a great job of setting the initial scene, character and plot. She definitely kept me engaged and wanting to know what happened next. I almost got the prep school vibe from the school for girls and I loved that she had the men calling these girls "sows" and other bad names. It reinforces the world she is trying to set. In one way, I did like the romance between Eve and Caleb, I think Carey was able to capture those very first moments in your teenage life when you're experiencing a crush or falling in love. She does a nice job of contrasting what Eve's been taught her entire life and relating that back to what she's experiencing on her own. To be honest, my favorite parts of the novel were the most violent scenes because those are the only times I really felt like I was in the novel. I felt the blood, the horror, the sadness. I wanted more of that throughout the rest of the novel.
Okay. I really felt this novel fell really flat for me. Like I said earlier, it felt very similar to Delirium, and when your readers are comparing it to similar novel, you gotta make sure you're really setting your book apart and I felt that she didn't do this enough. It kept falling short for me. I didn't feel the "plague" was explored enough, Eve didn't feel like a well-rounded character. She seemed one-dimensional to me and I couldn't connect with her. I felt more in tune with Arden than I did Eve. The relationship between Eve and Caleb felt a little rushed and forced. While I did like aspects of it, as explained before, it still felt underdeveloped. I thought the relationship between the two of them could have really been expanded. The world building was another area that I felt wasn't done as well as it could have been. The Goodreads summary mentions something about it being 2032. Is that even mentioned in the novel? I really had no idea if this was set in the far future or what. She gives us brief glimpses into the past before the plague, but not nearly enough to set the scene for after the plague.
Overall, it was an enjoyable read but I wish I could have come away more impressed. I had a lot of hopes for this one. Due to my curious nature, I'll definitely be reading the second novel in the series to catch up with Eve and Caleb. I hope to see some improvements in Once where Eve fell short for me.