As I discussed in my post of Mermaids in Paradise, I think that mermaids are one of the hot new trends in fiction and I’ve had Ally Condie’s Atlantia awaiting on my shelves for a suitable time to read it (i.e. one a sufficient distance away from my past mermaid reads so y’all didn’t think I was weirdly obsessive AND so that I gave this book a clean slate). But unlike my expectations, this book wasn’t exactly about mermaids, more like humans living under the sea, under da sea (sing it with me!), down where it’s greener, down where it’s cleaner, take it from meeee!
Well, Rio and her family are living in the underwater city of Atlantia because the Above became too overpopulated and polluted. Solution: her forefathers established a colony in the ocean. But Atlantians can make a choice on their eighteenth birthday – stay in the below forever, or go up to land. Rio has always wanted to see the sun and walk/run/dance in the sand, but after the death of their mother, her twin sister Bay betrays her and strands her alone in Atlantia. With the help of her only remaining relative, the mysterious and estranged Aunt Maire, Rio tries to find a way to escape, discovering terrifying truths about her mother’s death and the nature of their city along the way.
Poor Rio. I really felt for her in the confusion that ensued from her mother’s death and her sister’s abandonment. Add that to the reveal that she is a feared siren, capable of swaying people’s thoughts and emotions, a huge secret that could lead to her imprisonment and death if it got out. With no allies, she stays pretty resilient at first; unfortunately, soon after she begins to make snap decisions and estrange potential allies so it’s kind of a miracle she wasn’t outed sooner.
That’s my main issue with this book – the beginning is mysterious and as seductive as a siren call, but then it’s like hearing the same song over and over again. You get bored as Rio wavers and no danger seems more imminent than her stupidity. And the boredom continues until near the end, and becomes tinged with irritation the more you realize that communication and trust would’ve solved 99% of Rio’s problems. Though to be fair, it’s more Bay’s fault than Rio’s and, as a result, I was unable to connect with Bay as Rio does because I fully believed she was a selfish she-witch until the end.
Bay supposedly had a well-intentioned reason for departing into the Above, and that is her man. As semi-appalling as I find that, her other motivation was keeping her sister safe though that didn’t work out too well. At the very least, there wasn’t terrible love triangles with Bay or Rio. Rio’s interest, True Beck, was friends with Bay’s lover and, although amazingly attracted to her within minutes of their meeting, is quite supportive of her rash choices and comes across as a generally upright guy. Still neither romance tugged my heartstrings any more than the sibling relationships did.
The element I loved best though was the dystopian essence. Our world had devolved due to resource scarcity and overpopulation, though still existed in a form, so some people are forced into underwater cities by their ancestors. But that doesn’t solve their problems because humans are still human and greedy power-graspers are as common Below as Above. The depictions of the Venice-like city that paralleled the lost Above were haunting and I was intrigued by the religious system that had been developed by those Below, including the carvings of gods and miracles of the bats. While finding out how Atlantia appears and exists was most fascinating, not all my questions were answered about how the Divide came into being and the whole political relationship between Above and Below.
Thank the heavens Above that this wasn’t a series though, because for the most part, we did get a nice, happy(ish) ending all wrapped up in a bow with all plot-points concluded if not as thoroughly as I hoped. While it was a bit cliche, at the very least it was realistic…or as realistic as underwater cities go (which is fairly because apparently the UAE and Japan have one in the works).