It’s been a long time since I’ve read a dystopian novel. I kind of stopped reading them because I felt like I read the same story over and over a few times, and I needed to branch out to a new genre, so I took a break. When I heard of Your One & Only, though, I have to admit that I was really curious about it – it had a different premise and it sounded really good, and that pretty cover was another huge reason I wanted to check it out. It sounded like maybe, just maybe, this could be the book that would break me out of my dystopian novel slump.
So did it? Yes.
When I first started reading Your One & Only, I have to admit that I felt a bit overwhelmed. There seems like so much information in the beginning chapters of the book, especially the first one, and I was a little confused for a while, despite the explanations given. However, I was able to pick up on things relatively fast, and once I did, I was swept up by the haunting story that lies within the pages, and I couldn’t put it down until I read it all the way through.
“Althea had seen so many faces. She’d seen all the nine faces of the nine models of Homo factus, at all different ages. She’d seen these faces in Vispera as well as on a school trip to Copan. They were the same faces she’d seen in Crooked Falls as well. There was nothing beyond the walls of the communities but an empty, overgrown wasteland left by a long gone civilization. The faces in the three communities were the only faces that existed anywhere in the whole world, the only ones that had existed for over three hundred years.”
Althea-310 is the same as her nine sisters – she looks the same, acts the same, has the same interests, and can easily talk to her sisters without even needing words. The Altheas aren’t the only group that can do this, either – there are nine different groups that have the same abilities and likenesses – nine models, in groups of ten. They make their small community work well since the Slow Plague, which is what killed off all the humans centuries ago. These models were created in the image of several scientists that helped develop the program – a program that will allow the world to live on, even with humanity gone.
Everything is going smoothly in their community – that is, until Jack is introduced. Jack isn’t a new model – no, he’s in fact, a human being. He was created as an experiment by a few of the models, and because of his humanity, the others pretty much snub him, making him feel like he isn’t wanted, and even going so far as to hurt him. Jack is alone and unwanted, with the only one who ever really loved him having died.
It takes a while of Jack being excluded and unwanted, made fun of and mocked, before he and Althea start to talk and form any kind of friendship, but when they do, they begin to understand not only each other, but what is going on in the communities, and the type of trouble that they might be facing. When Althea learns about Jack and what makes him human, she starts to think about her own self, as well as her sisters, and whether everything she has ever known is actually a lie.
“For the first time, Althea considered that the council had made a mistake when they created Jack. A poster on the wall and a stack of books wasn’t enough. In the end, it must be wrong to bring someone into being who had nothing to connect him to the world he was thrust into.”
As Althea and Jack start to develop feelings for each other, a twist brings out some dark secrets that threaten to destroy everything that they have worked for for centuries.
I had a bit of a rough time really having any kind of connection with Althea-310 at first. It took a while for me to really develop any kind of feelings toward her, but I liked Jack from the beginning – he was really just lonely and he felt unwanted and confused, and he was struggling to fit in and try and figure out a way to be seen, heard, and appreciated. Toward the middle of the book I found myself liking Althea, too, and when the two of them started to develop a relationship with each other, I really hoped for the best for both of them.
The story was unique and original – this definitely isn’t the kind of dystopian that I have read before. It was a really engaging novel, full of some twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, but that fit into the story perfectly.
The pacing seemed a little slow to me at first, but after the first few chapters things really picked up and I found things flowing smoothly.
Your One & Only is the kind of novel that really makes you think. I mean, what if this is what our future holds one day? I like books that really make me wonder, especially when the story is perfectly wrapped up with a backstory and pieces that all fit together.
If you haven’t read a dystopian in a while, this is a great one to pick up.
I received my PhD in literature and creative writing from Binghamton University. Originally from Ithaca, New York, I now live in Cedar Falls, Iowa with my husband, the poet J. D. Schraffenberger, and our two young daughters. I’m an associate professor of English at Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa and the Program Director of Creative Writing. I teach creative writing, composition, and literature classes. One of the really fun classes I teach is Adolescent Lit, where we read some of my favorite authors: Lois Lowry, S.E. Hinton, Robert Cormier, Laurie Halse Anderson, Walter Dean Myers. I change this list up a lot by adding new releases and various titles just to keep things interesting. Because I don’t have enough to do (ha ha), I also make soap, lotion, and lip balm with my partner Rachel under the name Semisweet Soaps. We sell our products locally, raising money for Type 1 diabetes research.
Editor: Lily Kessinger, HMH
Represented by: Adam Schear, Defiore & Co.
3 winners will receive a finished copy of YOUR ONE AND ONLY, US Only.
Ends on February 13th at Midnight EST!
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