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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Facing Off by Tanya Ross is the second book in the dystopian science fiction young adult Tranquillity series, preceded by the remarkably well-received first book in the series, Rising Up. The series is named for the land its troubles are centered on, a place called Tranquillity where all negative emotions are suppressed and happiness is the order of the day. Literally. Those who resist and rebel, known as REMs for 'resisting emotional management,' are cast out to The Outside by emotional guardians and enforcers for the ruling Magistrate called Plauditors. Told through the points of view of multiple characters, Will, Ember, Serpio, Xander, and Ava, Ross takes us from a material awakening and uprising in book one to a full-blown revolution in book two. “Nothing is worth the sacrifice here. You’re at the Magistrate’s mercy.”
It is a rare thing indeed when a dystopian science fiction novel offers a fresh new plot point in a genre that has recycled more themes than asphalt. Tranquility does exactly that, and Tanya Ross takes the work leaps and bounds further in Facing Off by executing the idea perfectly. I had not actually read book one prior to picking up book two but made quick work of getting the first in, and my goodness, what a difference it makes. The social structure is complex and Ross shows its hierarchy by way of insiders, such as Ava, a trusted Elite, and Will, a Plauditor. As much as I love a good revolution—and a rebel group called Phoenix gives us that—it is the machinations of the Magistrate and the top-down swings that tie it all together. There is a love triangle that allows for a complicated romance and conflict that, let's all be honest here, a young adult book does need to have. I loved the low-key alliance changes that take place and, of course, the primary protagonist Ember is my favorite. This is a gritty read but one that requires no effort at all, and a Molotov cocktail of an ending. Very highly recommended.