Plot: Forgotten in a stasis tube in a sub-basement, 16-year-old Rose slept through The Dark Times that killed half of Earth’s population. She is awakened from 62 years in stasis by a kiss from a gorgeous boy only to find that her world has been completly changed and everyone she knew is dead. She is now heir to an interplanetary corporation and desperately trying to adapt to her new life. But few people seem glad that she has returned and someone wants her dead enough to set an unstoppable robotic asssassin on her trail.
This review is based on an Advanced Reader’s Copy received at Book Expo America.
At its most basic level this novel is a sci-fi retelling of sleeping beauty. I started reading with some mild interest but no high hopes. I expected a futuristic fish out of water story with a heavy romance slant but Sheehan delivered so much more. There is romance, of course. In fact, Sheehan explores several different kinds of love and all are touching because her characters feelings are complex and evolve over time. Though the romantic focus of the novel is on Rose’s childhood friend/boyfriend Xavier and her prince charming, Bren, I found her growing friendship with Otto, a human genetically modified with alien germs, to be as, if not more, beautiful. I looked forward to their nightly conversations as much as they did and read them with real pleasure. Meanwhile, the mysteries of what has happened to the world, of why Rose was left in stasis and of who wants her dead made me keep turning the pages well into the night.
Most interesting, though, is Rose’s internal journey. Sheehan really delves into the idea of stasis and what it has done to Rose and her life. The unfolding horror of her life with her parents and the tragedy of her lost love are absolutely heartbreaking. I was weeping openly towards the end. It helps that Rose is a truly likable and layered character: she is artistic and kind but also self-effacing and almost pathologically unable to cope with emotional turmoil. She grows a great deal over the course of the novel. She comes to understand herself better and starts to deal with what has happened to her so that in the end she is no longer a damsel passively waiting for rescue from a charming prince. Ultimately she saves herself and her friends with real cleverness and courage.
This is Sheehan’s first novel but, if it is a measure of what she can do, I really hope it is not the last one.
A Long, Long Sleep will be released by Candlewick Press on August 9th, 2011.
Challenges: Futuristic/Sci-Fi Challenge (6), 2011 Debut author challenge (4)