Book Review Sunset Rising by S.M. McEachern

17312777Title: Sunset Rising

Author: S.M. McEachern

Genre: YA Dystopian

Age Group: Young Adult

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

February 2024: Desperate to find refuge from the nuclear storm, a group of civilians discover a secret government bio-dome. Greeted by a hail of bullets and told to turn back, the frantic refugees stand their ground and are grudgingly permitted entry. But the price of admission is high.

283 years later… Sunny O’Donnell is a seventeen-year-old slave who has never seen the sun. She was born in the Pit, a subterranean extension of the bio-dome. Though life had never been easy, lately it had become a nightmare. Her mom was killed in the annual Cull, and her dad thought it was a good time to give up on life. Reyes Crowe, her long-time boyfriend, was pressuring her to get married, even though it would mean abandoning her father.

She didn’t think things could get any worse until she was forced upstairs to the Dome to be a servant-girl at a bachelor party. That’s where she met Leisel Holt, the president’s daughter, and her fiancé, Jack Kenner.

Now Sunny is wanted for treason. If they catch her, she’ll be executed.

She thought Leisel’s betrayal was the end. But it was just the beginning.

Sunset Rising is Book One of a series.

Sunset Rising is a young adult dystopian novel that brings a familiar theme in a new jacket. Sunny, short for Sunset, and her family have lived in the Dome for all their lives, as did their ancestors before them, and as they’d done for about three hundred years. Forced to work in the Pit in the most dire of circumstances, and culled – as in, killed – at age thirty-five, life is anything but enjoyable for Sunny. When she’d asked to serve food during a bachelor party for the Bourges, the people who don’t have to live in the Pit, and who get everything Sunny is deprived of, she reluctantly agrees because she doesn’t have much of a choice. Along with her best friend Summer, she goes into unknown territory.

At the party, she draws the attention of Liesel Holt, the daughter of the president, who begs her to come home with her and her fiancé, Jack Kenner. Liesel fears someone may want to kill her on her wedding day. She comes up with a daring plan – Sunny should wear a bullet proof vest, and pose as the bride instead. While Sunny and Jack reluctantly agree, little do they know Liesel has an entirely different plan waiting for them…

When all goes to hell, Jack and Sunny have to work together to survive. They take on another identity and head back down into the Pit, where the seed of revolution has been planted, and people are crying out for justice…

Sunny was an awesome character. She’s so dynamic, strong and intelligent that she’d almost be a Mary Sue character, if it weren’t for how truly broken she is inside, and how scarred she’d been by the life she’d led. She lets others define her. With her dad being sick, she worries more about him than about herself. When they’re both in danger, she’s only worried about Summer’s safe-being. Even though her boyfriend Reyes is anything but good for her, she sticks by him and is willing to forgive all his flaws.

In that regard, Jack really makes her a better person. When he enters the picture, Sunny finally begins to make some selfish choices, and it’s about time. There’s only so much of a selfless person one can be. She starts to believe in herself, starts to see herself as others see her, and the closer she gets to Jack, the more we see the real Sunny peeking through.

I absolutely loved Jack. He was charming and witty, but clever and brave at the same time. He’s supposedly twenty in the book, but he acted more mature than his age, like twenty-four or something, and I actually kind of liked that.

The supporting cast of characters was diverse as well, although they all stayed kind of superficial. Even Summer, Sunny’s best friend and probably the person with the most screen time apart from Sunny and Jack, lacked personality. She was just there, but apart from caring about Sunny, there’s nothing we really know about her as a person.

The characters made this book intriguing for me, in particular the main characters, since, liked I mentioned, the secondary cast wasn’t nearly as developed. I also liked the plot, even if it lacked a bit of originality. I’ve heard the nuclear apocalypse, everyone runs into a bio dome scenario, countless times now. The rich people vs. poor people plot has been done often as well. It also didn’t make all that much sense to me how, at the start, the general of the dome could just go “I’m president now, everyone must follow my rules” and everyone, including all the soldiers and people, would be okay with that. I thought it was rather random behavior, and I wish there’d been a better explanation for why they made some people work in the Pit, and others were priviledged. Also, at the start the general complains that there’s now about 300 people more than they bargained for in the dome, whereas when Sunny’s story starts, there’s supposedly 30 000 people in the dome. How does that work then?

Apart from the few things left unexplained, and the at times predictable plot, I really enjoyed this book though. The author has a fluent writing style, and she knows how to write good dialogue. And what impressed me the most, was how convincing the romance was. Writing believable romance requires some real talent, and S.M. McEachern certainly has heaps of talent.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, and find out what happens next to Sunny and her friends.

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