Published by Inkyard Press (2.25.2020)
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Format: Audiobook, 400 pages
Length: 12 hours, 23 minutes
Narrator: Christian Barillas, Joy Sunday
Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.
Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. With humans deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, emotional expression can be grounds for execution. Music, art and books are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her.
Born in a lab, M0Rr1S was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for the love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does.
Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while creating a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.
This is a hard book to review, because I have pretty mixed feelings about it.
In the beginning, it felt very much like a rip off of Zero Repeat Forever, which is one of my all time favorite books (read: those are some VERY big shoes to fill). The dynamic between M0rR1s (Morris to humans, audiobook narrator pronounced it “em-zero-one-is” in Ilori language) and Janelle is VERY similar to August and Raven. Their personalities are incredibly similar as well – Janelle is fierce and determined just like Raven; M0rR1s is innocent and earnest just like August. Human and alien start as enemies and fall in love, then fight for each other (even against their own people) at all cost. I tried really hard not to compare them, but it was impossible to look past the similarities in the beginning. And it just didn’t have that emotional connection that ZRF did. That being said, I did still enjoy it in the beginning. The aliens are interesting, and imagining a world where art is illegal is unimaginable. It felt very much like a government-controlled dystopian, but with aliens, and I liked that aspect.
I did mostly forget about the comparison to in the second half, because it started to take its own path. It dragged a bit in the middle, and I have to admit that I got a bit bored at times because it felt like there wasn’t much happening. I was starting to lose interest in the story by the 3/4 mark, and I did a lot of skimming toward the end because it kind of lost me. View Spoiler »
There were still some things I liked, though. I did like the bookish and pop culture references. The idea of the Ilori is cool; like the way they communicate, and that they had numerical names. I liked that this book takes a hard look at bigotry and injustice – the Ilori labmades and True Ilori had a very oppressed vs. oppressor dynamic, and the world is in a pretty poor place socially and politically before the Ilori come take over earth. It’s not a new alien story – aliens come take control of earth because humans are literally destroying it, and each other – but this is one that never gets old, because honestly? It seems feasible, and it’s a terrifying thought. I also liked that this book is super inclusive and diverse!
Writing style: 3/5
Overall rating: 3/5