Thursday, 18 August 2011

Review: A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

A massive thank you to Jon at Orion Books for sending this book to me. However the review is entirely my own thoughts and opinions.

Rosalinda Fitzroy had been asleep for 62 years when she was woken by a kiss. Locked away in the chemically-induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten sub-basement, sixteen year old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long dead, and Rose- hailed upon her awakening as the long-lot heir to an interplanetary empire – is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat.
Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her, hoping that he can help her start again. But when a deadly danger jeopardises her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes – or be left without any future at all.

This book was full of surprises for me. I started out really not liking it, then became hooked, and by the end was crying and absolutely smitten with it.

The first hundred and fifty odd pages were really off-putting for me. This is just me personally, but I felt like there was so much information to try and cram in to get the reader up to speed that it all was a bit too much. There was very little progression, just a constant info dump of explanations for Rose’s situation and her world. I also struggled with some of the slang speak – Rose struggles with it too, and I eventually picked up a rough idea of what it meant, but I would have found it really helpful if one of the other character’s explained some of it to Rose, or if a dictionary were included at the start of the book. The lack of understanding simply served to make me feel even more out of touch with the world than I already did.

However, somewhere along the way something really caught me. I think where things begin to unravel and Rose develops a little more of a backbone as she struggles to regain some form of her identity. She is an old soul trapped in a body that doesn’t work, appears young, and surrounded by incomprehension by those around her – apart from Otto who was one of the more fascinating constructs of the book. Her character development was really strong – starting out as a very weak and passive girl, but gradually learning about herself, about the things that have happened to her, and becoming stronger as a result.

And her story is simply tragic in places. The book starts out as a very innocuous sleeping beauty tale, but it quickly unravels to show a darker side to some of the characters, as truly horrific in their ideas of normal behaviour. The further we got into Rose’s story the more I wanted to pull her out of it and show her that this is not normal, and she shouldn’t just lie down and take it.
The characters are well constructed, offering a host of interesting avenues of information, and development – and I genuinely wanted to learn more about them in their own right, not just in relation to Rose.

And at the heart of the story is one of the most touchingly beautiful love stories I’ve read in young adult fiction. Very reminiscent of ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ – Rose and Xavier’s story is gently interwoven throughout the story. It’s Rose’s touchstone, her lifeline, the one constant in her life, and it’s fascinating to go back and watch their relationship evolve and develop. It explores all the different possibilities of love, how it occurs and proves that love really can concur all.

I hope, given the ending, that we can expect a sequel to this touching story, and perhaps without the need for backstory it will launch straight in and take hold of the reader in a way I didn’t feel with this story straight away.

It’s a Romeo and Juliet tale with a modern twist that keeps you guessing and constantly on your toes. Of all the books I’ve read this year, this has been the most surprising. At no point could I guess what would happen or how things would end, Sheehan has offered a fresh approach to storytelling, with an exciting new world and beautifully constructed characters, and a breath taking approach to love and how it can shape us, guide us, and offer hope at the darkest moments.

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