Thursday, 25 October 2012

Partials - Dan Wells

The first thing my flatmate said when she saw me reading Partials was "Oh no wait, let me guess. You're reading a dystopian YA novel?" It's true that the YA dystopia trope is really very overdone, especially these days. With the success of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and the like, it's clear that this is a genre that sells and does well. However, as I've told many people over the past few months, dystopia has always been a big feature of YA literature. I can remember reading tons of dystopian fiction growing up, Shade's Children by Garth Nix being one of my favorite books. I have my own theories as to why dystopia works so well for the YA genre, puberty and changes reflected in dystopian worlds where children now find themselves having to fend for themselves for the first time, but I think dystopias are something that will always be a part of the YA genre. 

The other thing I love about dystopias is, although they share a common thread of a world in need of rebuilding, they are always vastly unique and intriguing. A good dystopia needs a ton of world building and a new and inventive plot if it's going to work. The reader needs to know what the new world is, how it functions, and why the protagonist is in the position that they're in or will soon become. It requires a ton of imagination and talent to create good dystopian fiction and I admire people who can do it well.

On that note, let's move on to Partials. Eleven years previous to the opening of the book, humanity was almost completely wiped out by a disease called RM and a group called Partials. Partials were created by gene manufacturers to be the perfect soldiers and fought in a war between the Americans and the Chinese. However, they rebelled against humanity and ultimately won the war. Our heroine is Kira, one of the few humans left that resides in a small community in what used to be New York. She works in the hospital and is in a group of researchers trying to find the cure to RM. 

See, the problem is that the disease that killed most of humanity is still around and has been killing all infants born since its introduction. Thus, humanity is dying out, the youngest known human being fourteen. To combat this, not only are the doctors studying the disease but every woman age eighteen and above has to be pretty much perpetually pregnant, the thinking being that one day a baby will be born immune and can be studied. Kira, however, is positive they have somehow missed something and decides that they have to study a being that hasn't been seen in eleven years but is definitely immune to the disease: the partials.

I think the first thing a person notices about Partials is the fact that the book is long. Most young adult titles tend to be around three hundred pages. Partials is a whopping four hundred and seventy. It's not even that the print is strangely large or anything; it's just that the story is that intensive. I really appreciate what Wells has created. He spends a lot of time developing the world that Kira and her friends live in which kind of needed to happen because it's so vastly different. Although the book is long, it is still a quick read. I read the first seventy pages on a train ride to and from the movie theatre so it isn't impossible to get through, it just looks intimidating.

Also impressive is the amount of plot Wells puts into his novel. The focus changes about every hundred or so pages, keeping the reader on his or her toes. You don't even meet a main character until about two hundred pages in. This book could easily have been split into three but knowing it's the first in a series means that there is tons more to explore and I definitely am intrigued enough to read on. 

I have to admit that I found Kira a bit grating at times. She is rebellious to the point of just silliness at times. However, I really like how Wells created her. She is very smart and is also a scientific researcher. There are bits where she is doing laboratory tests and examining microbes and the like. Instead of skipping through it, Wells actually explores this and tries to explain the things Kira is seeing and tries to explain them. I was pleasantly surprised by this. Sure, it slowed the plot down a bit but it also added some really interesting information that indeed did come in handy later in the book. 

I was impressed with Partials and would love to read the next book. The book ends in both a comfortable and cliffhanger-y way. The plot of the first book is definitely resolved by the end but it leaves just enough questions and niggling thoughts to make you want to push on, just like a good first book should. If you're a dystopia fan, this is definitely up your alley.

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