Eden Newman must mate before her 18th birthday in six months or she'll be left outside to die in a burning world. But who will pick up her mate-option when she's cursed with white skin and a tragically low mate-rate of 15%? In a post-apocalyptic, totalitarian, underground world where class and beauty are defined by resistance to an overheated environment, Eden's coloring brands her as a member of the lowest class, a weak and ugly Pearl. If only she can mate with a dark-skinned Coal from the ruling class, she'll be safe. Just maybe one Coal sees the Real Eden and will be her salvation—her co-worker Jamal has begun secretly dating her. But when Eden unwittingly compromises her father's secret biological experiment, she finds herself in the eye of a storm—and thrown into the last area of rainforest, a strange and dangerous land. Eden must fight to save her father, who may be humanity's last hope, while standing up to a powerful beast-man she believes is her enemy, despite her overwhelming attraction. Eden must change to survive but only if she can redefine her ideas of beauty and of love, along with a little help from her "adopted aunt" Emily Dickinson.
Victoria Foyt is a master. I've flagged her as one of my favorite authors and I can't wait for book 2 in the Save the Pearls series. She sucked me in from the start with a dystopian society that puts humans with pale skin at the bottom of the gene pool for the lack of protection from the sun's super powered radiation. Her elements of tension are believable. Anyone with dark skin is considered beautiful while anyone pale sprays themselves with a dark coating to cover up their inferior skin color. Eden is under pressure to find a mate even though she's pale. She has a secret boyfriend she hopes will mate with her. She also endures being looked down upon and judged because of something she can't control. Top it off with a distant father and a dead mother and she's one miserable chica.
I liked the believable, three dimensional characters. They felt like real people to me. The evolution of Eden was enjoyable to watch. She started out as a victim then progressed towards self enlightenment. It was a realistic progression which peaked with an appropriate moment of clarity.
What I didn't like: I can't think of a thing I didn't like about the book besides the protagonist. But only cause he was mean and broke Eden's heart. He was such a jerk!
Seriously, I liked the plot line progression, the characters and the world Victoria created. I think anyone who enjoys dystopian (tightly controlled societies where people give up many freedoms to be safe), enjoys a romantic plot line and wants to see a protagonist undergo a process of evolution, this is the book for you.
For my cautious readers: there is mild sensuality, mild-moderate violence but not gory and no language that stood out. "Mating" is implied but not described. This would be a good book for parents and teens to read together and discuss race, the environment and judging people without knowing them.
I received this book as an ARC without compensation or guarantee of a favorable review.