When the entire world falls into darkness, the US is divided into two halves: the northern half with power, America; the southern half in darkness, the Dark Zone. Star and Phoenix are DZs from the Dark Zone, taking care of their families and each other. When Star’s little brother, Wick, gets a sickness that only the heat from electricity can heal she turns to the Frontier – the divider between their worlds – to give herself up to the Easies so her family will be granted the power they need.
Phoenix has always been taught his family comes first in everything, but he can’t let Star go to America alone. He follows her beyond the Frontier into a world of bright lights, working cars, social media, and a real-deal game of the bachelor/bachelorette where DZs aren’t held accountable for how they play the game. All is fair in love and war, and this is both.
“I might have to make this girl love me. Love me. I can’t be thinking of ways to kill her.”
Henry’s Blackout is the start of differently crafted dystopian series. There’s no fully established and controlling government that needs to be overthrown, there’s no TV show centered around murdering teenagers, and both sides have advantages and disadvantages. At times it almost reminds me of The Outsiders; Socs vs. Greasers, privileged vs. underprivileged. DZs are seen as being from the wrong side of the tracks (Frontier), and Easies from the wealthy side.
Of course there are similarities with other dystopian series as well. A group called the Shadows can be compared to the Careers in The Hunger Games trilogy. And even though the game isn’t televised, the Easies follow their favorite DZ competitors through social media and magazines.
The story moves along at a continuously flowing pace giving a few short flashes into Star and Phoenix’s history together, but there’s never a point where there’s dead space clotting the story’s progression.
Phoenix’s character is in tune to his side of the Frontier when it comes to everything but Star. He’s strong, a hunter, naturally cautious, but still holds the qualities of a 16 year old boy and not a super-human survivor that’s become the predominant protagonist in dystopian novels.
Star’s character is weak, when you’re thinking physically and emotionally. But she has a strong determination that outweighs her weaknesses and balances the heroine’s flaws and attributes. She seems a little air-headed but the way Henry has her playing the game Star might not be as clueless as she seems at first. We’ll just have to wait for the next book to see how her character progresses.
Elektra is the Shadow character, trained in harsh conditions in the Dark Zone to be that super-human survivor. I have a strong feeling that her character will most likely have a good number of followers by the second book.
Overall, Henry’s Blackout is about loving and letting go; loyalty to family and learning your own way, and knowing what is worth fighting for in a world separated by light and darkness. If you like young adult dystopian novels, I recommend Blackout.