In "Falling & Uprising," Natalie Cammaratta skillfully combines the old Hollywood glamour and witty banter of a classic Marilyn Monroe film with the suspense and worldbuilding of "Catching Fire," all in an apocalyptical setting that is all too real after the recent UN report. Like most YA apocalyptical dystopian novels, "Falling & Uprising" touches on inequality, governmental control, and environmental issues, but Natalie veers from a typical YA dystopian by making the protagonist a privileged, rich, and famous teenage girl. Serenity's worldview crashes when she learns of the other islands, and we follow her as she uses her privilege to take down the system that created it. This switch in perspective is both interesting and challenging. It's hard to create a sympathetic character in a teen who has everything, yet Serenity's sense of justice and loyalty makes her relatable.
It helps that we also get the oppressed's perspective through Bram, a grumpy marshal who was mysteriously saved from the system. Bram expresses the reader's doubts toward Serenity, which pushes the reader to feel defensive. Serenity in turn keeps Bram uncomfortable; she forces him to see that most Kaycians are not the enemy but a duped people. The tension between Bram and Serenity adds dimension to their perspectives and their world.
While the lead characters are male and female, Natalie left plenty of room for the Bechdel test. Not only does Serenity recruit her best friend Vogue to the uprising but she also unites and befriends all the Kaycians working with her toward the end of the Establishment. Although there is romance in the air (team Bram), the girls in the cast brainstorm solutions and discuss societal issues and technology. It's definitely a STEAM-friendly book.
However, the one thing I didn't notice was any persons of color. Whether there is truly a lack of people of color in Kaycie or if it was my fault as a reader in picking up descriptions, I'm not sure. It will be interesting to see how the character descriptions expand as Bram and Serenity's worlds expand in Book 2.
Overall, this book made me think, and it also made me want to drink merlot and martinis while thinking. I enjoyed reading it and ruminating over it. I recommend it to anyone who loves the glamour of Downton Abbey and the first half of "Catching Fire."
Visit Natalie's website and purchase "Falling & Uprising" through Bookshop and Amazon.