Released February 28, 2012
Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island. But sixteen-year-old Kira is determined to find a solution. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that that the survival of both humans and Partials rests in her attempts to answer questions about the war’s origin that she never knew to ask.
Playing on our curiosity of and fascination with the complete collapse of civilization, Partials is, at its heart, a story of survival, one that explores the individual narratives and complex relationships of those left behind, both humans and Partials alike—and of the way in which the concept of what is right and wrong in this world is greatly dependent on one’s own point of view.
I find that many authors are either good at characters or they’re good at world-building, but the mark of a truly talented writer is that they are equally adept at both—such as Sarah J Maas or Leigh Bardugo. I believe that I’ve stumbled across another one of these rare talents in Wells. He crafts a very detailed dystopian world, which is made even more vivid by his attention to its historical and political elements. These elements start off quite simple in the beginning of the book—humans were killed by Partials, Partials are the enemy, and there is a group of terrorists called the Voice which exists on the fringes of normal society—however, all of this becomes deliciously more complicated as the story moves forward.
Meanwhile, Wells’ attention to his characters is just as evident as his attention to his world-building. Every one of his characters is created with purpose and intention, and even the most minor of characters is somehow given traits that make them feel like an individual rather than a means to an end. For example, I was able to get a sense of personality even from one soldier who was never named and was only present for about 5 pages—so much so, in fact, that I actually felt sad when he died. I never got the sense that any of Wells’ characters were unnecessary or replaceable. I particularly enjoyed seeing the world through Kira’s perspective, because she is such a strong and intelligent character; I really appreciated the moments when that strength was tested and she was made to feel very vulnerable and weak, because her strength was made even more apparent through those moments.
One trait of this novel that I was very happy about was the inclusion of people of color. Oftentimes, if a character of color is included in a novel, it feels like they are a token character who is simply made black or Asian just for the sake of saying “Yes, this book has diversity!” However, Wells’ novel truly does have diversity; the protagonist is described as being “mostly Indian”, her adoptive caretaker is also Indian and often wears a sari, one of her adoptive sisters is of Native American descent, and multiple characters are Asian (described as Japanese and Chinese). In addition, there is reference to the religious diversity in their world, as one character is stated as being Buddhist and another belongs to a Christian minority. However, my one critique is that there was no explicit black representation (that I could recall), but I’m hoping there will be some in book 2.
The pacing of the story was fine. There were some times when I felt that it could have been paced a little faster, and could understand how it might potentially bore other readers, but I never personally felt bored or wanted to skip ahead at all. In addition, the battle/fight scenes were well written. Also, since this book is pretty heavily placed in the science fiction realm, there is quite a bit of reference to genetics, biology, and physiology; as someone who generally dislikes the “hard sciences”, I was pleasantly surprised that Wells did a good job of making his science easy to follow for the average reader. I can’t say that I was able to understand 100% of what was said, but I could follow enough to understand the overall implications for the storyline.
I had a hard time putting this book down,and I stayed up several nights past 1 AM just so I could find out what happens next. Thanks to Wells, this reading year is off to a fantastic start!