I’ve never read this author’s The Thousandth Floor series, especially because it has a lot of mixed reviews and I didn’t feel like investing my time in it. But the alternate reality version America in this new book felt very interesting and I thought it’ll be a great foray into the author’s works. After really adoring RWRB (which is also like an AU version of America), I thought this book will be equally fun, but it’s very unfair to even try to compare the two books. I’m actually not sure what I’m going to say below in my review coz I’m very unsure about my feelings and really playing by the ear.
Let me start off with the positives. The writing is very compelling and easy to follow, I never got bored and didn’t exactly wanna put it down either – which is kind of an accomplishment because I didn’t actually like the characters or the story but I still wanted to know what was going to happen. Now for what I didn’t like…. I definitely wanted to know a little more about the history of this alternate America, why Washington decided to become a King and how has the monarchy shaped the country – but we don’t get any of that. The main characters are the descendants of GW and current rulers, and that’s all we get to know. We get a little about the various Dukes and Earls and Viscounts that make up this America, and some references to previous Royal scandals, but that’s about the extent of the worldbuilding. I’m probably expecting too much from a YA romance novel, but I found it rather jarring that there’s no mention of the history of slavery and how it was abolished (because there’s no civil war and obviously no Lincoln in this world). Out of the four POV characters, one is a commoner who also happens to be a Latina with lesbian parents – her whole family felt like the token diverse part added to this novel. The only other POC character is a Japanese-American teenager who is in a coma throughout the novel. So you can guess why I’m a bit disappointed at how tone deaf this novel seems to be. I understand that the author wanted to write a teenage drama but that doesn’t mean the book can’t have depth or should necessarily only be superficial and frivolous.
There are four POVs in this novel which actually surprised me because it’s not easy keeping track of so many storylines. It took me a while to remember who was who but it got easy gradually. The only character who seemed atleast a bit developed and had some depth was Beatrice, the heir to the crown and first future Queen of America. She struggles with always trying to be perfect and never having the choice to make any decisions for herself because her whole life is tied to the crown and country. I could truly sympathize with her when she couldn’t even fall in love with the person she wanted. Her younger sister Samantha came across as a mostly entitled privileged girl who was jealous of all the attention her sister got. Sam’s twin Jeff seemed like a clueless teenager whom I got to know nothing about except that he has two girls fighting over him. Nina is the only commoner POV we get and I liked that she was a grounded character for the most part, not at all swayed my the trappings of royalty despite being the twins’ friend since childhoood. I just wish she had more to her story than just revolving around the royals. Daphne is the final POV, who is from a noble family and will do anything to marry Jeff. She is the villain of the story and the source of a lot of girl hate and meanness (which I don’t like). I especially hated her parents because I’m sure they are responsible for her being that way. There is a lot of drama and romantic entanglements throughout the story, but I frankly could care less who ended up with whom.
Ultimately, this book can be summed up as American royalty version of Gossip girl – full of drama and love triangles and backstabbing mean girls. If that premise interests you, then this is a perfect book for you. It’s fast paced and entertaining and pretty easy to finish in a single sitting. But if you like your YA romances to have a bit more depth and be less superficial, then I don’t think this one is for you. This is also not a standalone and ends with a cliffhanger, so keep that mind when you decide to pick it up. But even that predictable ending is not enticing enough for me to continue with this series.
PS: Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Books for Young Readers for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.