America Pacifica by Anna North

From Goodreads: 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.

America Pacifica, Anna North’s debut novel, is a gritty, richly detailed post-apocalyptic look at one of the last outposts of civilization. After North America is covered in a second ice age, mainland scientist Daniel argued that the humans needed to adapt to the climate change instead of fleeing, while Tyson (future dictator of the island) argued that they should search for warmer climates. The island is inhabited solely by those who supported Tyson. Unfortunately, the amount of people that the island can support in comfort is pitifully few. The rich live in mansions, eating fresh produce, and wearing real clothes. The poor barely subsist on food and clothing manufactured by jellyfish and seaweed, in homes that cannot even keep out the rain. North builds a fascinating world in which the social class divide governs all aspects of the residents’ life. Despite this novel being dramatic, there are quite a few witty class-based observations.

Darcy begins the novel as an 18 year old high school dropout working six days a week in a nursing home cafeteria. She is not concerned with the larger fate of her island. What she worries about is the ability to pay her rent and make it through each day. She is essentially ignorant of her surroundings (as is appropriate for a struggling 18 year old). It is only when her mother goes missing that Darcy, determined to find her, begins to come to terms with reality on the island. As Darcy’s search leads her into the underbelly of the island, the novel thematically touches on class, revolution, and feminism during Darcy’s rise to “fame”.

America Pacifica is a well written, literary post-apocalyptic dystopian novel populated with strong female characters and sociopolitical themes. The latter are not reasons to read the book, though they are well done, America Pacifica should be read simply because it is an intriguing book set in a richly constructed, fantastical world. I would recommend this book for fans of literary fiction and dystopian fiction (but be forewarned: This is not The Hunger Games).

*Please note: I also write for Book Savvy Babe. This review was written for and originally appeared there.

Photo: Goodreads

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