Review: The Apollo Illusion by Shari Lopatin

“Where nothing is ever what it seems”

Genre: Dystopian Suspense, Sci-fi, YA, Speculative fiction

Similar to: The Hunger Games.

Could be enjoyed by: Fans of YA, especially if you feel like you’re growing out of the genre a little.

Publication date: 19th May 2018

Disclaimer: I was approached by Shari to review her new book, The Apollo Illusion and although I usually turn requests like these down (“it’s about a spatula that turns into a person” – no thanks) I read through her biog and the blurb of the book and thought “actually…this sounds pretty good”. Then I read that Shari was nominated as Cat Mom of the Year so I said yes immediately. I just want to make it clear that even though I was directly approached by the author and I’ve had some correspondence with her, my views are entirely impartial, these are all my own words, obviously I’m not being paid etc. etc.

Good ☺. Glad we’ve cleared that up.

So, The Apollo Illusion. After reading oh-so-many YA books recently that made me realise I was far too old to connect with them, I was really hoping for a novel that still spoke to me even though I’m (eek) 15ish years older than the main characters – and this book doesn’t disappoint. Yes, it’s dystopian YA and yes, it’s a crowded marketplace and yes, there’s a lot of similarities and tropes but I really felt like The Apollo Illusion brought something new to the table. More importantly, I really enjoyed it.

Flora and Andrew are best friends from the year 2150, living in Apollo; an isolated city surrounded by a wall – and you’ve guessed it, they’re not allowed to know what’s on the other side. However, unlike every-other-dystopian-fiction-ever, Apollo itself is, well, actually pretty amazing. It’s an odd mix of 1950’s grow your own veg charm, with the socialist ideal of free education/healthcare etc. and all the technological and societal advances of 2010. The residents send text messages, have libraries, read print newspapers, and use phrases like “bros over hoes” (I really hope that phrase has died out in 130 years time). However, despite living in such a utopia, Flora wants out. She’s got an insatiable thirst for knowledge and wants to know what’s on the other side of that damn wall. Her curiosity gets her into hot water with the authorities, and with a sudden change in her fortunes (plus a meeting with a shady emo boy who looks like a member of My Chemical Romance) she realises that escape might be her only option. Cue drama, plot twists, a will they/won’t they relationship and a frankly terrifying version of the future.

At first, I was a bit unsure about this book. I really liked the writing, the characters and the literary references (gotta love a bookish character) but the world building seemed a bit off. I mean, print newspapers 130 years from now? Surely a book set ten years in the future wouldn’t have those – let alone text messages or photocopiers? All I can say about this is – go with it. I can’t reveal too much but suddenly, everything becomes clear. It’s a proper “ohhhhh, I get it” moment. 

I loved the main characters of Flora and Andrew. I really liked that they were both a bit older than your average YA characters so their relationship was more complicated – and therefore more interesting. It allowed for deeper emotional issues and there was even some casual sex thrown in for good measure which made the whole thing feel far more realistic. I especially loved how Flora grew from a bullied young girl to a gutsy heroine with her fearless quest for the truth and I was so pleased to see the feelings that she and Andrew had for each other grow organically, with setbacks, insecurities and basic dumb bloke stupidity all hampering their burgeoning relationship. No insta-love here!

I found the way the The Apollo Illusion presented two alternative versions of the future (one for the residents of Apollo and one for the other side of the wall) to be really thought provoking. I loved how the good and bad in each setup was explored and the questions that this threw up: is it better to live in blissful ignorance of the lies, corruption and amount of control that the government has or is it better for citizens to have free will – even if that extends to being able to act in ways which are detrimental to society? Should you trust the government to “control” the population, and is the loss of your freedom ultimately worth it if it means you can live in a peaceful society? Weirdly, I found a lot of parallels with the current Facebook scandal as well as the wider political climate and I’m still thinking through my feelings on these issues. 

On the downside, there were a couple of plot points that kind of niggled at me whilst I was reading – I found a certain encounter between Flora and another character a bit too coincidental and there were a couple of instances where I would have thought the authorities would have been all over them but I loved how the story played out and how the action just kept coming. I have to say that I did feel a bit let down by part of the ending – it felt to me like a kind of compromise was reached between characters who would have had a more all or nothing approach – but it made for some lovely subsequent scenes that rounded things off nicely.

Overall, I couldn’t believe that The Apollo Illusion was written by an indie author – it’s so professional and flowed far better than many novels put out by major publishing houses. I loved the characters, their relationships with each other and the action packed storytelling that kept me engaged all the way through. I thought it was a really exciting, enjoyable read – especially if you’re a fan of dystopian YA.

Rating: Four emo boys out of five.

Pacey, exciting storytelling with great characters, loads of action and a super cute romance. What’s not to love?

Look! Links to where you can pre-order The Apollo Illusion!

You can also sign up for The Readers Club to be notified the moment that print copies go on sale ☺

7 thoughts on “Review: The Apollo Illusion by Shari Lopatin

  1. hehee I always love your rating system! Also ROFL at typical review requests! I’m very glad this didn’t disappoint, especially cos, yeah, the market is incredibly saturated. Sounds like an interesting premise and I’m very curious about this “ohh I get it moment” now 😉 Glad it’s more of a realistic romance and not insta love too. Other than the niggling issues, it sounds good overall and it’s awesome that it was so professionally done! Amazing review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe thank you! No offence to Shari but I really didn’t expect to read a manuscript that was so well crafted and formatted. You know I love picking up on storyline inconsistencies (Everless I’m looking at you) but there really wasn’t much to be negative about. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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