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Day One

January 25, 2021

Day One, by Kelly Devos, is the sequel to Day Zero, which I liked very much when I first read it in February 2020. Day Zero had an exciting plot, well-drawn Young Adult characters, and a lot of topical relevance. Day One has less because it’s a middle novel–the characters don’t grow and change much while still running for their lives, and political events have lapped the fictional events. None of this is the author’s fault; I will look forward to her next novel, but I found this one something of a slog. Too much is happening in too many different places, and some of the same ground is covered as a result.

Even in terms of politics we’re going over the same ground. The main character’s step-sister, MacKenna, is still trying to write about what is happening to their family, but her thinking hasn’t progressed; she’s stuck remembering “how it brutally sucked that Ammon Carver was gonna be president and that the only upside was that us journalists would have plenty to write about. But really, I thought things would be okay. I mean, all the stuff they told us in school about the power of democracy and the checks and balances of the Federal system has to mean something, right? And my dad had a good job, and we had a nice house.”

In this second novel unrest has turned into actual war, but Jinx and MacKenna and the rest of the young characters are shuttled from one place to another with relative immunity from harm, mostly because Jinx is thought to be able to access her father’s computer systems. After one side drops a cold fusion bomb on the coast of California, the other side leaves thousands of people to die on an aircraft carrier off the coast and takes Jinx and her cohort to an undersea base, where they discover that there’s no real “right” side to take in this war. The teens keep escaping, and they keep trying to escape being used as pawns against their parents and the other side, even as their perspective on the “sides” keeps switching back and forth. They all get very disillusioned, especially when Jinx is assigned a journalist to cover her story and they find that “the Spark gave away our location. Because it would look good on TV.”

The impetus that has kept Jinx going since the end of the first novel—finding her little brother—is gone at the end of this one, when telling the good guys from the bad gets even harder for Jinx, who has to improvise her own ending, saying that “the world can survive only when one person loves their friends more than they hate their enemies. When hope for the future equals nostalgia for the past.”

There will be a third novel in this series; maybe it can overcome some of the middle novel problems of this one.

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