I've always been a fan of apocalyptic novels. Ah, the end of the world! How cool would that be? But why does apocalyptic fiction have such an appeal? Is it because all of us are simply maintaining a facade of civility? That we resent the burdens of civilization? No matter what the activity, there's some restriction in place. Some law, or rule, or limitation on our behaviors. I think we feel constantly forced to comply.
So maybe apocalyptic fiction appeals to us as a way to get out of the straitjacket of societal restrictions, a way to really and truly be ourselves, to survive by our wit and strength. There's something appealing to not having to be nice anymore....
In Arclight we find ourselves in some unknown future, where the world has been reduced to the light and the dark. The dark is occupied by creatures called The Fade. We don't know anything about them in the beginning, and the slow unraveling of their mystery is a big part of the plot.
Written in first person, we're along for the ride with Marina, a young girl (we're never specifically told her age, but late teens is probably a good guess) as she discovers hidden truths about herself and her world. It's a great way to invest the reader in the mystery and pull him or her along on a journey of discovery.
Marina was found in the Grey, which is what the surviving humans call the area of land between the Dark where the Fade live and the safety of Arclight, the human base. Rescued, Marina lives in Arclight, unable to remember anything about her past. Somehow, a Fade manages to infiltrate Arclight and communicate with Marina, which sets her off on a quest to learn more about herself, and, as a consequence, the world she, the Fade and the rest of the humans live in.
Unfortunately, this interesting story is inextricably entwined with the check box elements that so permeate young adult fiction these days. I've done it before, but let's do it again, and run through the Young Adult Best Selling Story Checklist:
- Normal teenage girl who turns out to be anything but - CHECK!
- Parents dead or missing - CHECK!
- Socially inept but really a sweetie - CHECK!
- Manifest destiny as THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN DO IT - CHECK!
- Love interest (with green or blue eyes) who's unattainable/wrong for the protagonist but with whom she feels an immediate attraction to despite them disliking each other when they first meet - CHECK!
- Violence - CHECK!
- Absolutely, positively no activities that might even accidentally be construed to be of a sexual nature - CHECK!:
And.... that pretty much covers Arclight.
Too bad, because the Fade end up being pretty cool creations, an inventive and plausible consequence of technology run amok.