Well what can I say? I don't know whether to feel disappointed by this one or to go a little easier on it because I at least partially enjoyed the damned thing. But again, let's start from the beginning.
When you have a cover such as this one and a title that screams ambiguity, you will find yourself incredibly tempted to pick up Elizabeth Fama's 'Plus One", for which i don't blame you - I was in the same boat. Add in the fact that the writer of "Cinder", Marissa Meyer, has left her own footprint in the form of a one sentence praise on the cover and you'll definitely want to find out what exactly this book is about.
When it comes to premise this book is wonderful. Where some reviewers didn't understand why the divide even exists I found it to be perfectly logical - a society that is originally torn by the 1918 Spanish flu decides to split the population into 12 hour shifts, and seeing how effectively this runs they decide to maintain this segregation of the population. Beyond that it also adds a new twist on the idea of class division and social inequality which can all be explored here to whatever degree the author chooses. Sounds great so far.
Except that this book didn't quite turn out that way.
Sol is your fairly common 16 year old YA fiction underdog, fighting against the system to get what she wants and what she deems is just (refer to characters like Katniss, Cinder, and Ana as examples from other existing popular series). However there should a limit to how "poisonous" one's personality is. Sol's anger reaches a point where it's difficult to sympathize with her and you begin to wish that she'd approach things more rationally for a few minutes instead of throwing her own anger into it. And this is only the first quarter of the book where I already formed a dislike for her. Her personality switch also comes rather sharply which doesn't help her case much.
D'Arcy was, for me, a very positive and pleasant character to follow, one that I can't complain about and can be used as an example of a male love interest that should be encouraged in YA literature. His and Sol's romance was a no brainer, especially throwing in the variable of the doodles on the desk (which, although very easy to predict, was still a very well written detail that added to their relationship instead of taking away from it). Their whole relationship I would say was generally a very pleasant and "healthy" one when you look at YA romances, where you get that idea of "star crossed lovers" (no pun intended) that actually is explained.
Now between the beginning and ending you have a whole lot of question marks spring up, as well as a whole lot of confusion arise, primarily with the whole baby switching story and the Nomas. I was tempted, upon finishing, to even say that this whole book would've been better if it was rewritten but leaving the beginning and ending more or less as they are, because a lot of the things in the middle just don't add up or boggle your mind so much that it's easier to go along without questioning them.
This isn't the drama of individual liberty and social rights that the book cover promised - this was 95% focus on Sol and D'Arcy as they fall in love with each other, with the mess of the baby switching and the bizarre Noma thrown in as what felt like space fillers.
I still don't understand the whole point of what happened, or what exactly happened, for that matter. Why was it so important that all the characters were running around like crazy near the beginning and the end to get that baby, but in a large middle chunk it was just forgotten about? What the hell was up with the Noma, besides the fact that they were the obvious examples of outcasts who's motto was ultimately "fuck the system"? Especially with the Noma the story took a much more aggressive and uncalled for turn that I didn't expect and also couldn't quite link to the rest of the story. It's like the author decided to take a totally different writing style for that section of the book. Sol's bargaining near the end was the worst part of the book, by far. It was a terrible mush where it was difficult to understand just what the hell she was using as her bargaining chip, or whether or not she was even in a position to authorize this bargain. Maybe the original plan for this story was much clearer on paper, but in it's final product form it was utterly messy and confusing.
Another personal irk of mine was how i couldn't understand the significance of "Plus One". As far as I could tell it wasn't touched upon in the book, and the closer it got to the end the more I realized I wouldn't get my answer. It's difficult to even come up with a personal explanation for the term because of everything that's being thrown in here left, right, and center.
My one hope is that there won't be a sequel. I was very satisfied with the ending - it matched the story very well and left on an ambiguous note that, unlike the rest of the book, actually made sense.
So don't go rushing into this one thinking you'll find the next "Hunger Games" - you definitely won't, and this has virtually no common ground with it. This isn't any revolutionary kind of book either, despite the very promising premise. What this ultimately is is a YA romance that's neatly folded into some social justice issues and potential leads that could get you thinking, and is a rather well-written romance if I do say so. But there's a rather unsatisfied feeling after finishing this one, like there could've been more. It also feels fitting to try rewriting the story in your head, seeing as how there are so many details either out of place or too bizarre to understand, and you're left feeling more confused than enlightened.