Content/Trigger Warnings: Incurred racism, alcoholism, mentions of human experimentation, public execution, descriptions of graphic injuries, colonization, mentions of fertility issues, chronic fear, anxiety and panic attacks
“But they don’t know that rebels are made in the worst of circumstances, and even death can’t stop them. Us.”
I’ve been putting this review off for so long. Normally, I know exactly what I want to say and write, but… this book, this powerful, beautifully written book has my thoughts turned into scrambled eggs. I loved it. I loved every second of it. I could barely put this down and when I did, I was thinking about this book all over again. My reading experience was also different. I listened to this on audiobook and read it at the same time with my physical copy. Friends, I don’t have the words to describe all the emotions, all my thoughts, but I hope that somewhere within this review, you’ll be able to understand my love and affection for this book.
Our story takes place during the Ilori invasion, an alien race that has declared Earth it’s new vacationing spot. Janelle or Ellie Baker handles this in an entirely different manner than most people do. Her whole life she’s lived in a dangerous, unsafe world for her and her loved ones, but now it’s just different circumstances. But her situation is just as dangerous as she runs a secret library to help her fellow prison-mates even though she knows the penalty, if she were caught, would mean death. M0R1s or Morris is a lab made Ilori who was raised to be emotionless, but still manages to fall in love with music. Then one fateful day, Morris discovers a secret library and soon crosses path with Ellie. With their love for literature and music, they’ll put everything on the line in a deadly world to enjoy the things they love, the company of one another, and somehow find a way to save humanity from the invasion.
🌠 Janelle aka Ellie – Plus sized, 17-year-old Black teenager, who’s also pansexual and demi-ace, with anxiety and a secret library. She’s fierce, strong, and brave, though not in the most obvious way. Her strength and rebellion are more subtle, until she’s forced to run for her life.
🌠 M0R1s aka Morris – Lab-made Ilori, who’s demi-ace, with a deep love and appreciation for humanity. A true cinnamon roll who only wants peace. Though he tries to hide it, he’s an Ilori who feels the depths of emotions and gets so overwhelmed by those feelings that he doesn’t know what to do with them.
The first thing you need to understand is that I don’t usually enjoy sci-fi, but oh, oh did I fall in love with this book. The world building was absolutely beautifully chilling. There were often times as I was reading that it felt like I was there, experiencing it, feeling the weight of the situation, and yes, I cried a few times. When I read sci-fi books like this, it makes me wonder why I’m so quick to pass up a sci-fi book that isn’t Star Wars related. I can’t emphasize how powerful the writing is and how there are so many moments that will punch you in the gut, but it’s all woven together so gorgeously. The author also delivers such in-depth detail about the aliens and the information is given to us when we need it, there’s no sense of information down pours. And I loved how there was a cast system setup among the Ilori. I really appreciated the amount of detail that went into the two casts, the True Ilori and the lab-made Ilori.
What really surprised me was the fact that this is a standalone. I briefly mentioned that I was really hoping for a second book especially the way the ending had concluded, kind of sets things up for a second book, if the author wanted to. Despite that, I was shocked to find out it was a standalone because so much was done within the pages of this book. Alechia explores social issues drawing comparisons from the way the alien occupation treats humans and the systematic racism Black people face in our society today (which if you read this right now with everything happening in the world, there will probably be a lot that hits really hard for many readers, so please make sure you practice self-care). It’s powerful and emotional, and it’s so very important.
“If we get separated and you have to choose between life and joining us, choose life, okay? Live. Live for us. Breathe for us. Survive for us.”
I think what I loved most was the way literature and music brought Ellie and Morris closer together. But most importantly, anyone who reads this book will be able to tell this is a love letter to the arts, more specifically music and literature. I have always said since I was very young that arts have the ability to bridge gaps between people, between countries, and cultures. I still stand by that statement today. My heart can’t help but growing warm and fuzzy from the amount of love radiating from the pages for music and books. The fact that music and books in this book truly show that these tools can spread hope to one another, fill in the spaces between us as people, and even guide us to love.
Then we have that ending. It knocked me right out of the park. I think this will be a love it or hate it type of ending for many readers. Obviously, I loved it and I was constantly holding my breath. I’m not going to lie, I was ready to throw the book across the room and I may have gripped it so tight that pages crinkled a few times while reading those last few chapters, but it all felt worth it. It wrapped up in a way I never expected, it left me wanting more, and honestly, I mentioned this already, it felt like the ending was left open enough where this book could have a sequel (I’m still holding out hope that this turns into a duology instead of a standalone). I would even settle for a spin-off series, a mini series, something because I truly can’t believe this is the end of the adventure for our main characters.
“If music is a story, it comes alive with love. The more love it has, the more likely the story will never end.”
Overall, it’s so hard for me to say that this book is over. I truly fell in love with everything within this book. There were times where I thought about Mass Effect, times where I was thinking of a girl with Ellie’s personality (the one that got away), and so many times I reflected on the little things. You want to know what it’s like to listen to Crashing Cars by Snow Patrol and Heroes by David Bowie for hours on repeat while laying on the floor after finishing this book, reflecting and recapping everything happening in the world, go read this book and find out because that’s what I did. Do I recommend this book? Absol-freaking-lutely!