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I would be lying if I said I didn’t spend the majority of my free time furiously reading ARCLIGHT in an attempt to figure out what was going on and what would happen next. From the beginning, Josin L. McQuein submerges the reader in a haunting and fast-paced, post-apocalyptic mystery about Marina, a girl dragged into the world of the Arclight with no memory of who she is or where she came from. Isolated and feared for her connection with the increased Fade attacks, Marina is left torn between where she had once belonged and her new home, surrounded by those who want nothing more than to throw her back out into the Dark.

"McQuein brings to light the question of how much of ourselves do we retain when immersed in other’s feelings, thoughts and opinions...The strength in this story came from that resonating theme"

My furious reading was due in part to the way McQuein threw her readers right into the action with about as much information as Marina. At once, I was introduced to Anna-Marie, the best friend, Mr.
Pace, the good natured teacher, Tobin, the silent and supposedly hateful classmate that blames Marina for his father’s disappearance, and the Fade, monsters that prey on those in the Light. I found myself pushing forward as I tried to parse out this information overload and figure out what was happening. On the one hand, the quick, but natural introductions reflected Marina’s own sense of place and made me relate to her situation. On the other hand, many things were being introduced at once, and it was easy to lose track of what was going on, who the characters were, how they related to each other and what everyone was like.

As the story progressed, McQuein flushes out the characters very well, making them distinct and believable. The attention she pays to action and voice is excellent and made the characters more relatable, more real. There was a good balance of action throughout the story and a good attention to detail.

Unfortunately, my furious reading was also due in part to my frustrations with the story. As I read, I gradually got more information about the Fade, the Arclight and the area known as the Dark. However, the information was always scattered and came in small parts such that, at times, I still felt uncertain about what was happening and why it was happening, or I felt that the explanations given in the story didn’t make sense. There were many moments where I felt things were left unexplained and unclear, and though they were eventually resolved, I was left hanging for the majority of the book, trying to feel my way through the action.

The intermingling suspense and aspect of romance that emerged also left me both on the edge of my seat and banging my head against the table. Both elements drove the plot forward, but also bogged it down. For instance, when Marina not only finds, but captures a Fade within the Arclight, she is suddenly assaulted with jumbled memories and a voice in her head that asks her to remember something she doesn’t know. Just when she remembers something, a scene or a few words, the chapter ends and stumbles, diverting back into a calm description of a building as an opening for the next chapter. It was a constant suspenseful rollercoaster that stopped right before the big drop at the top. The repetition of this trend became trying as the book was forced to work the suspense up again and again.

As for the romance, it was rushed and abrupt with very little build up. The characters were all done very well, but their relationship to one another --- something that would be pivotal in the later plot ---
faltered in comparison. Most of the time, the romantic elements felt forced and consequently uninteresting.

For me, the most interesting thing about ARCLIGHT was how it created a resonating story about the conflict between individuality and collectivism. This rift highlights some of the struggles teenagers and
young adults face today in finding who they are and where they belong. McQuein brings to light the question of how much of ourselves do we retain when immersed in other’s feelings, thoughts and opinions. Where does the person stand, and when does the person stand up when faced with adversity? The strength in this story came from that resonating theme and, though ARCLIGHT it is not one of my favorites or the most expertly executed story, it is worth reading if only for that.

Reviewed by Ashley Tran on April 25, 2013

by Josin L. McQuein

  • Publication Date: April 23, 2013
  • Genres: Young Adult 13+
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books
  • ISBN-10: 0062130145
  • ISBN-13: 9780062130143