Book Review: Something Blue by Kristy Nicolle
I need to start this book review of Something Blue by saying this book is a gem. Honestly, I went in blindly; I don’t even read a lot of dystopian books, let alone dystopian romances. I knew the author’s style because I read two of her fantasy novels earlier this year, so I trusted the author. Something Blue by Kristy Nicolle is a standalone, a dystopian romance, and a read well worth your time.
(Review contains spoilers.)
My rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
Summary: In the city of Monopolis, only a few individuals enter the program of Bliss Inc. to get matched with their soulmates. The matching is based on a scientific formula to guarantee healthy offspring and a happy life. When it’s Valentine’s turn, she’s, of course, elated. Until she meets Clark Cavanaugh and starts doubting the formula…
Genre: Dystopian, Romance
Audience: Young Adult and Adult
Themes/potential trigger warnings: arranged marriage, use of alcohol, acid burns
Characters that will hook you
This book starts with a rather simple premise; in a world where only a selected few can marry and have children based on a scientific formula matches you with “the one,” would you actually marry a stranger?
And yet, there is so much more to this book. The characters initially seem like stereotypes. We have the ignorant main character, who believes in fortunate marriages and lovey-dovey husbands, and the aloof/dark-haired/mysterious romantic interest, who doesn’t like to talk much. From there, you watch them develop a lot more personality. Valentine often reflects on this “secret formula” for love on her own, and Clark doesn’t just sit there to look pretty. He’s actively trying to make things better, not for him or Val, but for the entire community. People are blind to the real meaning of this secret formula and the government that promotes it.
While being a romance novel, this book raises valid questions and points that one could apply even to our world. The dystopian context is not overflowing with details. However, the ones the author hands out are more than enough to draw many parallels with our own society. Ultimately, this story is about two individuals and not a corrupt government. But these elements intertwine finely.
I thought I would cringe at the beginning because Valentine grew up believing in this picket fence dream that Bliss Inc. was feeding the population. I was ready to see her gush over everything. It surprised me to find her drowning in anxiety first when her match never showed up. And when it finally did.
There was a lot of suspense there as from the moment Valentine gets matched. She must prepare her entire wedding with the help of her overbearing family, and she doesn’t even get to meet her husband until the day of the ceremony. It really de-romanticized the entire process, which was good. It set the tone for the rest of the story. A refresher, considering the whole idealization of marriage that exists even today in many cultures.
I thoroughly enjoyed the chapters that followed Clark’s introduction. Although he remained cold and indifferent, there was no odd or whiny drama ensuing. I appreciated the fact that the main character could speak her mind without pitying herself too much.
I think this phase is underrated. I see many people comment on the fact that the story dragged on, that Val and Clark were awkward. Frankly, I’d like to see anyone else in Valentine’s shoes, having to share space with someone they don’t know. Someone they should sleep with sooner than later. It’s true that Clark appears moody and flip-floppy and sometimes annoying. However, his actions are not ambiguous. Never was I under the impression that he was trying to hurt Valentine or toy with her feelings for the hell of it. Valentine was quick to notice it too and follow him when he wouldn’t reveal his secrets to her.
(Side note: I need that device that reveals fantasies! What was that?! I honestly laughed so much at the whole counseling phase. The transfer of shame was real.)
By the time Clark’s secret is out, the story really shifts into something bigger. When it turns out Clark’s not some sort of superhero but just another man working with the ones exiled by Bliss Inc., I was so relieved. Sometimes less truly is more. The man has been taking care of his mother and a bunch of other people, all the while trying to bring down Bliss Inc. But it’s not only him. And the idea doesn’t seem to be his. I thought it was a perfect balance. In the same fashion, I loved that Valentine, despite her crucial role in exposing Bliss Inc., was not the typically overpowered character. She didn’t become smart as fuck overnight. She executed someone else’s plan and got her own set of injuries.
I particularly enjoyed the part where Val goes to Egypt, her only friend, and we learn (although there were hints before) that Egypt used to love Valentine on a romantic level. The talk they have is genuine, and the way the author wrote this lesbian character was far from politically correct or any other form of “tokenization.” Egypt’s role in the story wasn’t to just support the main character. Egypt is often more proactive than Valentine and calls Val out on her nonsensical denial frequently.
An Applause-Worthy Ending
What made me put full five stars was definitely the ending. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times a romance author broke free from the, “and they got married, and had babies, and lived happily ever after,” ableist bullshit you find everywhere.
Bliss Inc. sterilized Clark after seizing him, and he tells Val they cannot have children. And it’s fine. She’s fine with it. She says they can adopt a kid if one day they wish to have kids. And you know what? That’s the fucking spirit. If they’re happy on an island while the rest of those fertile couples end up divorcing after they realized the system lied to them, doesn’t that tell you enough about what a HEA truly can be?
To end this book review of Something Blue by Kristy Nicolle, I want to say that this might as well be one of those rare books I will put on my shelf for “comfort rereads.” It was fantastic.