Frozen by Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston, Heart of Dread Book 1
About the book here.
In December, I went to see Disney’s animated Frozen with some friends. The story was characteristically Disney—happy and light-hearted, with dancing snowmen, puppy-like reindeer, and singing duos. Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston’s Frozen, on the other hand, is nothing like Disney’s movie—Christoph and Anna have no place in the harsh conditions of post-apocalyptic America.
My initial reaction to the book was, Really? Another dystopian, post-apocalyptic book about North America? Frozen fits right in with the typical plots of this genre: there’s been a third world war, leading to the destruction of most of humanity and leaving only a fraction of the population. Civilization has gone bad in many ways: the government is overarching and oppressive, there are limited resources, and the natural environment has been devastated. Yet there is one hope that people cling to—or despair of.
To the authors’ credit, the US/North America isn’t the only part of the world left in this story. The RSA—Remaining States of America—is a third-world country compared to Xian (presumably China). As Americans, we’re haughty and think that we are the center of the world. It’s refreshing to see a realistic depiction of the US falling apart.
While Frozen’s post-apocalyptic element was disappointing, it actually contributed to one of my favorite aspects of the book. It isn’t a replica of The Hunger Games or Divergent series, because it also throws fantasy into the mix. The authors have constructed a creative world that is dangerous and fantastic, yet real enough to get hooked.
The main characters are great. Nat and Wes are vibrant and interesting, with enough strengths for me to trust them as heroes and enough flaws to believe them as characters. Their interactions are clever and entertaining. They’re both likable, and I was rooting for their quest and relationship from the first page. Like most main characters, they find themselves romantically attracted. I appreciated the saltiness of the romance—it had a definite presence, it wasn’t overwhelming.
Nat, the primary main character, is clever and intuitive, but also innocent and wants to trust others. She’s not helpless like Twilight’s Bella, but also not a superhero like Graceling’s Katsa.
Wes struggles with his sense of morality and duty. He wants to be honest and helpful, but the RSA doesn’t allow honest men to also be successful. His continual internal battle makes an interesting plot twist.
I wanted to hear more of Nat’s background. We get enough information to explore Wes, but as the primary main character, Nat’s background should have been more visible. We know she was forced to do dirty work for the RSA, but we don’t get any details. A few more flashbacks would have helped me understand what her life was like before we met her, and how her experiences have shaped her current character.
In general, the authors’ writing style is easy to follow. However, they change their viewpoint from Nat to Wes without letting the reader know through chapter or multiple paragraph breaks. I had to backtrack several times to figure out which character I was following.
Overall, I was impressed with the book. The premise was clever and creative, the plot was engaging, and the characters were likable and realistic. I’m interested to see where the series leads. I hope the authors don’t follow the typical path of post-apocalyptic, dystopian books, but continue to bring some new life into genre.