YA Review: The Stranded

Title: The Stranded
Author: Sarah Daniels

Refugees from a war-ravaged Europe have been stuck at sea for more than forty years, confined to the cruise ships that were supposed to bring them to safety. A fractured US refuses permission for them to come ashore, fearful of the weaponised virus that might lie dormant in the bloodstream of everyone on board. On the Arcadia, desperate passengers live their lives in the ruins of ballrooms, crew areas, restaurants, and empty swimming pools. Rival gangs maintain a fragile truce, overseen by a sadistic administrator from the Federated States, and the current captain of the ship. Passengers fall in love, start families, and educate their children within sight of the shore, with no hope of reaching land. It’s a brilliant dystopian premise, and a gripping read.

The story follows Esther and Alex, teenage passengers who were born on the Arcadia, as they train to be medics. The top students in their class will be allowed to go ashore to complete their training and begin new lives. Esther and Alex are planning to marry on board and leave together, finally completing their families’ journeys across the Atlantic.

Esther’s older sister, May, is working towards her own escape, as a member of the military cadets. If she keeps out of trouble, she will be recruited into the on-shore military, and given the chance to make her own new life on land. But her friend Nik is part of the resistance, and while May tries hard to protect her family, it is only a matter of time until Esther and Alex find themselves tangled in gang rivalries and rebel plots – everything they need to avoid if they are going to make it off the boat.

Narration is shared between Esther, Nik, and Hadley – the deliciously nasty administrator who is desperate to impress his superiors enough to earn a placement on land. As Esther’s experiences develop her understanding of the politics of the Arcadia, the reader learns along with her, and the complexity and fragility of her position in shipboard society become dangerously clear.

As the story progresses and the plot twists kick in, we follow the narrators through acts of friendship and bravery, heartbreak, betrayal, and adventure. The action sequences are tightly written and exciting, and there are no guarantees of safety for any of the characters. Esther and Alex are respected for their medical knowledge, and it doesn’t take long for their skills to be in demand.

I loved everything about this book – the excellent dystopian premise, the characters and their relationships, and their adventures as they try to make sense of the events of the story. Hadley’s narration is deliciously nasty, Esther struggles with the path she must follow in order to leave ship life behind, and Nik is doing his best to maintain his precarious position on board while protecting the people he loves. The ending is a cliffhanger, and I’m looking forward to the next book. I’m hooked!

Good news – there’s now a review for the sequel, The Exiled, on the blog!

Have you read The Stranded? What did you think of the dystopian setting? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

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