Rating: ⭐⭐

I was provided an advanced copy of this book on NetGalley.

Bit disappointed by this book, sadly. The premise sounded interesting and it did keep me reading, but it’s a bit of a slog for the most part. If you like dystopian young adult fiction, you might enjoy this, but it’s kind of derivative, and other than the unique setting, doesn’t really add anything new to the genre.

I found the 3-character POV a bit tricky to keep on top of who was who - when it’s done well and you have well defined characters, I think it can really work; however, Esther - who I assumed at the beginning was the main character - and Nik’s voices kept getting confused, as they’re too similar. Neither Esther nor Nik felt anchored (excuse the pun) to the story enough to carry it, which meant it struggled to really take off. Honestly, I think May should’ve been the lead, as she was a much more focused and fully realised character, but for reasons I won’t go into (no spoilers), that wouldn’t work.

To be fair, Hadley, the main antagonist turned out to be pretty decently written. I thought he was going to be too generic a villain, but actually was more nuanced than he seems at first glance. It’s just a shame that Esther falls so flat. I think she could’ve been a great protagonist: trying to live up to her sister’s - albeit perceived - reputation to their parents, but getting derailed by all the events that take place, it’s no wonder she starts to unravel. However, she never really identifies her ‘why,’ and like many female protagonists in YA fiction, a lot of stuff just happens to her, rather than her having a truly active role in the story. She seems more like a plot device than a character, which does her a disservice.

My other big gripe with the book was that it relies on a lot of cliches and tropes to propel (seriously, I’m not doing this intentionally!) itself forward. The “will they, won’t they” couple - times two, even!; the life altering revelation; an ultimate sacrifice to galvanise the main character. Esther’s “good girl” demeanour is fine, until she begins to lean on her boyfriend, Alex, who borders on needy at best, emotionally abusive at worst. Nik has a saviour complex, which is a bit all over the place: one minute, he’s “doing this for May,” the next, he’s falling for Esther. Alex and May seem to exist just to set up a romantic pairing for the two leads. You can sense a series coming on from about halfway through the book, too, which is a little cheap. I feel like a book should be able to stand on its own and not have to be buoyed (okay, that one was on purpose) by a sequel.

I don’t mean to sound super harsh - I was just expecting a lot more from this book from the first couple of chapters and the interesting premise of it being set at sea. The building tension is put to good use throughout, and I definitely felt a drive to keep reading to find out what happens. The super abrupt ending doesn’t help matters, though. Not sure I’d read a sequel if one does come out, unless it had an even more unique hook to it.

Originally posted on Goodreads