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America Pacifica: A Novel Hardcover – May 18, 2011

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Editorial Reviews Review

Eighteen-year-old Darcy lives on the island of America Pacifica--one of the last places on earth that is still habitable, after North America has succumbed to a second ice age. Education, food, and basic means of survival are the province of a chosen few, while the majority of the island residents must struggle to stay alive. The rich live in "Manhattanville" mansions made from the last pieces of wood and stone, while the poor cower in the shantytown slums of "Hell City" and "Little Los Angeles," places built out of heaped up trash that is slowly crumbling into the sea. The island is ruled by a mysterious dictator named Tyson, whose regime is plagued by charges of corruption and conspiracy.

But to Darcy, America Pacifica is simply home--the only one she's ever known. In spite of their poverty she lives contentedly with her mother, who works as a pearl diver. It's only when her mother doesn't come home one night that Darcy begins to learn about her past as a former "Mainlander," and her mother's role in the flight from frozen California to America Pacifica. Darcy embarks on a quest to find her mother, navigating the dark underbelly of the island, learning along the way the disturbing truth of Pacifica's early history, the far-reaching influence of its egomaniacal leader, and the possible plot to murder some of the island's first inhabitants--including her mother.

Author One-on-One: Anna North and Kelly Link

Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners, interviews Anna North about writing America Pacifica, blogging vs. writing fiction, and her favorite books. Anna North

Kelly Link: What was the starting point for America Pacifica?

Anna North: First of all, it's so exciting for me to be talking to you about writing! I was actually inspired to write America Pacifica by another writer, whose work I encountered in a sort of unlikely place. I was at an exhibit at the St. Louis Museum of Art called "Remote Viewing: Invented Worlds in Painting and Drawing," which included some accompanying text written by Ben Marcus. I was totally fascinated with his story of a man reading accounts of his own movements through a post-apocalyptic landscape. Recently I contacted Marcus and he sent me the text -- a story called "The Later Peril." This is the part that really stuck with me:

"I read accounts of myself ostensibly accompanying a family to the market on Saturdays. I may have been their assistant; I may have been their captor. The wording is vague. Some sentences depicted me handling the bread in an aggressive manner, as if searching for something inside it."

I was attracted to the idea of someone investigating his (or in my case, her) disappearance in an unfamiliar world, and America Pacifica started out as the story of a young woman investigating a criminal who turns out to be herself. Later I changed things around so that Darcy was looking for her mother, but I hope the feeling of piecing together clues about a half-destroyed world remains.

Kelly Link: What kind of research did you do?

Anna North: This is a really interesting question. I'm always really curious about the kinds of research people do when the world they write about isn't exactly our world.

I actually did relatively little research for America Pacifica. In some cases I drew from experience -- moving to Iowa after living in Los Angeles can be sort of like going through an Ice Age. In a few cases I had to make changes to make things more plausible -- for instance, I initially had the islanders eating a lot of krill, but a teacher told me krill were very fragile and would probably be one of the first organisms to go in any kind of environmental disaster. So I switched to jellyfish.

More than research, I did a lot of planning. I made lots of maps -- maps of the whole island, and details of neighborhoods like Little Los Angeles. I had to keep re-drawing the maps to make sure that Darcy's movements made sense. And I had to keep track of things like naming conventions -- people born on the island are more likely to be named after cold months or aspects of winter, because people started to miss the cold. But nobody on the mainland would ever have named their kid "Snow."

Kelly Link: Are you a fan of dystopian novels, or science fiction? What kinds of books do you read for pleasure?

Kelly Link

Anna North: I love dystopian novels, though I had to declare a moratorium on them when I started writing America Pacifica, to make sure I wouldn't be overly influenced. The last one I read before I started writing was The Road, which I found really beautiful and chilling and sad, and I recently started letting myself read dystopias again, starting with Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, which I also loved. Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age was hugely influential on me when I was younger (I especially liked that it had a female hero), and my favorite novel of all time is Infinite Jest, which has a lot of dystopian elements. I used to read more straight sci-fi than I do now (I was a big fan of Arthur C. Clarke), but these days my reading is sort of all over the place. I spend a lot of time re-reading poems by Anne Carson and Li-Young Lee, and, lately, Amy Bloom stories, and I read a ton of contemporary novels -- a recent favorite is Marcy Dermansky's Bad Marie. I read a fair number of graphic novels too -- I love Fun Home, and recently I really enjoyed Leslie Stein's Eye of the Majestic Creature.

Kelly Link: As well as adult readers, I'd strongly recommend America Pacifica to young adult fans who fell for Paolo Bacigalupi's Shipbreaker, M. T. Anderson's Feed, or Carrie Ryan's zombie novels. Why do you think so much contemporary dystopic fiction is tackled from the point of view of a younger protagonist coming of age? Do you think this kind of genre is a different experience for young adults than for adult readers? (To be fair, I grew up reading John Wyndham, and later on, books like The Giver. This trend has been going on for quite some time.)

Anna North: I definitely became obsessed with the apocalypse as a young teenager, so this makes a lot of sense to me. One reason I've always been attracted to stories about the end of the world is that they provide opportunities for ordinary people to face extraordinary challenges and become heroic, and I think that's a theme that really resonates with young adults -- at least it did with me. Adolescence is a time when your character is still being formed, and it's exciting to read about young people who, by facing really extreme hardships, are formed into something great. I think the appeal of dystopian fiction for young adults is sort of similar to the appeal of survival stories -- Hatchet comes to mind. The idea of identity formation in response to great adversity can be really powerful.

Kelly Link: You're a writer for the website Do the two kinds of writing -- fiction vs. professional blogging -- feed each other?

Anna North: I'd say the two kinds of writing complement each other. Blogging allows me to be topical and timely and overtly political, and it also allows me to make jokes, which is harder for me in fiction. And fiction lets me make things up, obviously, but it also allows me to play with the kind of lyrical language I don't always have time or space for in blog posts. Often one can feel like a respite from the other -- when I get tired of reading and writing about the news, I can escape into a fictional world, and when I get stuck with my fiction it can be a relief to move back into a more regimented, earthbound form. Also, as much as spending all day on the Internet can get exhausting, I end up reading so much every day that I get a lot of inspiration. And my fiction does deal with some of the issues I write about on Jezebel -- specifically, with challenging the roles that have traditionally been assigned to women, and with exploring what it's like when girls and women do things (like going on quests, for instance) that have often been reserved for male characters. In both cases, I get to explore the things I care about in writing, which is an enormous privilege and a joy.

From Publishers Weekly

In her dark, page-turning debut, North tells the story of Darcy, an 18-year-old girl in a dystopian future whose mother goes missing. For as long as she can remember, Darcy has lived on America Pacifica, an isolated island nation, home to refugees from a mainland ravaged by drastic climate change. Their government is run by a Big Brother–like autocrat named Tyson whose strict social hierarchy allows the richest residents to live in luxury while most citizens live in hovels and can barely afford food. Despite these circumstances, Darcy and her mother, Sarah, are otherwise happy until one day when Sarah doesn't return from work. With no resources or leads, Darcy vows to find her mother, a mission aided by a tip from one of America Pacifica's first arrivals and the help of a dissident named Ansel. As Darcy follows a trail of clues and lands in some tense situations, North cleverly combines elements from other popular modern stories—a brave young heroine on an against-all-the-odds quest on a strange island with shocking secrets. Although the narrative and prose don't always excite with originality, the story—and the wealth of detail in a vividly imagined world—is memorable. (May)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books; 1st edition (May 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316105120
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316105125
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,927,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Renee Chaw on May 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Generally I'm a fan of dystopian fiction and I'm usually always a fan of a story with a different than usual take. When I saw this book with its awesome cover of a world turned upside down and back cover blurb of an America covered in ice, I jumped. I was thinking that America Pacifica would be a cool young adult story of a teen overcoming a world of poverty, disease, and violence but this book had a tone that was a lot darker and seedier than I expected. America Pacifica is indeed a world full of tyranny, violence, and dark deeds, the experiences that Darcy faces throughout this book are hard to imagine. That said due to the violence, graphic language, drug use, and sexual content I'd recommend this only for mature audiences.

Aside from the cover I must say however that I didn't really care for this story. Why? I didn't like Darcy at all. She was entirely too bitter and negative about everything. Granted she did live on an island that was pretty much hell on earth but up until the very end I felt like Darcy didn't really care about anyone but herself. The ending itself was rather rushed and didn't really answer my questions about the fate of the residents of America Pacifica and Darcy. I think that the conclusion that we do get leaves this book open for a sequel. I will say this, Ms. North definitely knows how to build a world. If she can make me, a small-town girl, feel like I was in the world's darkest, dirtiest, most violent alleyway, that's saying something.

All in all it was a decent story and probably a story that fans of dystopian fiction without the feel of a YA book will enjoy. It was a rather quick read so if you see it in the library you might want to check it out.

*I received my complimentary ARC from the publisher in exchange for posting my honest opinion of the book.*
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jessie Potts VINE VOICE on May 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
America Pacifica is an intense and disturbing book. Be forewarned there are a lot of gross and disconcerting acts of sex/masturbation/etc in this book. It isn't an erotica but rather a really harsh look on a teenager's life as she's desperate to find her mother by whatever means necessary. Though the main character is a teenager this book should be only read by adults or those that are mature enough to handle more grown up things. Now to the book....

I love dystopian novels, both young adult and adult. I was pleasantly surprised with America Pacifica, this is a new author and an interesting situation the characters find themselves in. There has been a deep freeze and only a small tropical island is the safe haven for any wishing to survive. Like humanity does time and time again throughout history a sort of caste system forms, one where the inhabitants who were on the island before are rich and living in luxury while the remaining people live in squalor and filth. There are things that go on in the poverty stricken island that we can see in any country today in the lower income/homeless communities, only in Darcy's world it happens everywhere all the time.

Darcy is an interesting character herself. At times she seems so strong and willing to do anything, at other times, she seems like a child, rudderless without her parent. The secondary characters also come and go without being fully fleshed out or developed. While I don't feel I should `know' every character, sometimes the people she speaks to become faceless and identical. There was also the problem of details. At times the author doesn't use enough detail (other characters) and at time uses too much (some of the sexual encounters). This is a debut novel, so I fully believe that she will grow, with such a vivid imagination, how could she not? I love Dystopian novels and this is a definite plus to my collection, so enjoy, but be aware of the darkness and adult elements in the novel. Enjoy!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. M. on September 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Without diminishing past masterpieces, I'd like to start by saying that I don't really like the recent dystopian books trend, I find it cold and with little to say about human condition or the human spirit or anything that pulsates underneath today's psyche -- anything that I could really relate to. The recipe of this trend seems to be - take a grand theme, (i.e. the end of the world) draft a shockingly bleak alegory, and you have a great American novel. Not so fast, if only it could be that easy. I won't comment on the not so new story, a girl looking for her mom, nor on the often simplistic and unpleasantly souless character development, because other reviewers already touched on this. The entire gritty, dark, bleak, unsentimental style that the young author employs was definitely revolutionary a few decades ago, but it has become just a cocky mannerism for a mediocre readership (that most probably never read 'the classics). In short, the book is depressing and makes the world look dirty and ugly. If you are looking for books that will enlighten your mind, lift your spirit, feed your soul and have something worthwhile to say about life, then this is not your novel. I wish next time the author will try to write something less 'deliberated shocking' and more genuine.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E.M. Bristol VINE VOICE on March 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
At the beginning of "America Pacifica," which takes place in a dystopian world where the US is now in an Ice Age, eighteen-year-old Darcy and her mother, Sarah, have an odd visitor to their apartment. Shortly thereafter, Sarah disappears without an explanation, leaving Darcy to piece together the mystery of her disappearance and how it ties in with the revolutionaries plotting to overthrow the current government. As she gets closer to solving these mysteries and meets people from her mother's past, she realizes that is not only her mom's life in danger, but hers' as well. Although she's never considered herself particularly heroic before, Darcy discovers strengths she didn't realize she had and qualities that may or may not help her find a better world to live in.

I had to admit the protagonist in "America Pacifica" reminded me very much of Cynthia Voight's Dicey Tillerman of that young adult series, not just in first name similarities, but in personality, income bracket and the odd abandonment by her mom, with no help from the authorities at the start of the book, (plus she even sails a boat, if you want to stretch). However, this is definitely a novel written for adults.

The gritty bleakness of America Pacifica is well portrayed. Though there were a few loose ends I wondered about, the author did a good job of creating a believable dystopia in which the gulf between the rich and the poor seems uncrossable, and even the "good guys" have ulterior motives and are willing to switch sides for less than noble reasons. The ending is ambiguous - it reminded me of Lois Lowry's "The Giver," and may not satisfy all readers. There is a lot of backstory, which means scenes where the protagonist is basically sitting around listening to other people's stories.
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