Your One & Only is the debut novel by Adrianne Finlay. It was released on February 6, 2018. It’s young adult, post-apocalyptic sci-fi. I have to say the standard shpiel about spoilers, so in this opening paragraph I’ll just say that I really liked it. I recommend the book, five stars, etc. If you’re worried about spoilers, go out, get a copy, read it and then come back and finish reading this. I’ll wait for you.
There. Now that you’ve finished it (or if you just didn’t care about spoilers to begin with) we can move on. Full disclosure, I should let you know that I know Adrianne. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I knew her. We were good friends in college, but we really haven’t talked in twenty-plus years. It would have been nice to keep in touch, but we were nowhere near each other and it was before social media and cell phones. In fact, I didn’t even have my first email address yet. It was tough keeping in touch in the mid-nineties. Don’t think that my knowing her influences my review. I would have enjoyed the book no matter who wrote it.
The story itself is compelling. The plot moves at an incredible pace, and each new thing comes logically from the previous thing, which is all to the good. Nothing feels contrived or like a twist for the sake of a twist. Basically, Homo sapiens has died off from “the slow plague.” The story is set three hundred years later and the world is populated by modified clones, Homo factus (made man). There are nine different clone models and ten copies of each model in each generation. There are ten generations at a time, so each city has 900 individual clones. Only they don’t think of themselves as individuals, they think that each individual from a certain model is interchangeable with all the others of that model. The clones superficially seem human. But, no one has been born from sexual reproduction in over three hundred years. They are just copies of copies of copies. And they have the ability to “commune” with each other, it’s a form of telepathic communication that always keeps their emotions in synch.
Add to this mix one real human, Jack. Technically he was cloned, but he is an unaltered clone of a real human from around our current time. When Jack is a teenager, his “father,” Sam, tries to integrate him into society. It does not go well. All of the clones are either afraid of Jack or hostile to him. Only Althea-310 is somewhat sympathetic and intrigued. When there is a series of thefts and sabotage, everyone blames Jack, even though Jack is innocent. Althea and Jack solve the mystery, but it is too late for the society, it is falling apart. The story ends with Jack, Althea and a group of clones leaving the city to start a new life in a new way.
Jack and Althea-310 are the main characters. They are well developed. I cared about both of them as I was reading the book. Jack is obviously an outsider, but he is a good kid. Like any kid, he wants to fit in, but can’t. I think everyone had at least a moment of not fitting in as a kid, so he is easy to relate to. Althea is more alien than Jack, but she is also a bit of an outsider. She has a scar on her wrist, so she is visually distinguishable from her sisters. This seems insignificant to us, but it is the thing that allows her to understand Jack so they can fall in love.
The point of view is interesting. It is always third person, but the chapters alternate, chapter one is Althea and chapter two is Jack and it goes that way for the entire book. The Althea chapters tell the story from her point of view while the Jack chapters tell it from his. The Althea chapters make the lives of the clones seem normal while the Jack chapters make humans seem normal. It is effective for this book. The only downside is that almost none of the other characters are fully developed. We only get snippets of what Jack and Althea think about them. I’m honestly torn as to whether that’s a downside or not. I was certainly curious about Sam and the Nylas, but I really appreciate a tight point of view.
The language works well for the book. It’s unobtrusive, not overly flowery or ornate. But it does have a distinct style. It’s very visual and the images are nice. They are often unexpected, no clichés here. My favorite is, “Jack noticed how the word mother rolled in Sam’s mouth, foreign and strange. Not unpleasant, just something to work his tongue around, like a sour candy,” from chapter two.
The few quibbles I have with Your One & Only, I think, come down to the fact that I am not the intended audience, I’m way too old. The relationship between Jack and Althea seems more like Romeo and Juliet than Anthony and Cleopatra. I absolutely understand how this would be more appealing for a younger audience, but I would have liked to see some deeper conversations. At this point in my life, I’d rather read about a relationship built on mutual respect and shared values than one about passion and curiosity. I’m also torn about the pace. It is relentless. A huge part of me loves that. There is no waste. It’s the type of book that could be read in one sitting if you’re not careful. But there’s another part of me that wanted some pauses, some quiet moments to reflect and feel the consequences of the action.
Overall, I really enjoyed Your One & Only. It’s exciting and interesting. She did a nice job of building a new world. The ending is deserved. And I really cared about the characters. I just hope they don’t mess up the movie. (I have no idea if someone’s going to make a movie of it, but I would go see it.) I can’t wait for Adrianne’s next book.