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What’s Your Deathday?

Twin authors Krista and Becca Ritchie explore deep (and literal) emotional bonds and what it really means to live life to the fullest in The Raging Ones.

What’s Your Deathday?

BOOK REPORT for The Raging Ones by Krista and Becca Ritchie

Cover Story: Cover Not Final
BFF Charm: Eventually, Yay x2
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: He Said, She Said
Bonus Factors: LGBTQ, Emotional Bonds, Fear Of The Unknown
Relationship Status: Solid First Date

Cover Story: Cover Not Final

Oh, wait, you mean this is the final version? Hmm. This doesn’t feel finished or very representative of the book. Yes, it’s a book about trying to get into space but space itself is very incidental until the end. And I see where they were going with the purple clouds (which block all sight of the sky), but it’s repeated many times that they are lilac clouds, and last I checked lilac is a light purpley-gray. If I were to make this cover, I would go with a white and lilac winter vibe, after the world they live in. Take notes, paperback version.

The Deal:

This is it for Franny Bluecastle. Her deathday is upon her. Seventeen years is not much of a life, at least not according to the Influentials (those who live past 29 and sometimes even into their 100s), and she’s spent her Fast-Tracker years working hard and playing hard. So it doesn’t come as a grand surprise that she’s going to die out in the cold, snow-covered streets by herself. But then, the day after her deathday…she opens her eyes.

Court Icecastle and Mykal Kickfall know Franny’s secret—because it’s theirs too. All three teens have dodged their deathdays with no sensible explanation why, but the simple act of still breathing has fundamentally changed them. They are in each other’s heads, able to feel one another’s physical sensations and emotions, right down to the food they eat and the nightmares they dream about.

Theirs is a harshly divided world between those who have time and those who don’t; those who will freeze in the never-ending winter and those who can afford to warm themselves with a product that covers their world in a perpetual smoky haze. Court knows that to live in this world beyond their deathdays would involve unpleasant outcomes like torture and experimentation. He has dreams beyond this dying world, to get himself and Mykal—and now, Franny, too, apparently—onto the Saga 5 space mission with StarDust (the world’s only technological agency that has the power to see beyond the smoke and find the stars). Can he make them into astronauts in time? And with all the secrecy surrounding this mission, it begs the question: just where exactly would they be going?

BFF Charm: Eventually, Yay x2

Court Icecastle got his name because he was in Vorkter prison, a place where most people go to die. Instead, he escaped and found Mykal Kickfall through their new and strange bond. Court is close-lipped about his past, and singularly focused on getting into StarDust to the exclusion of everything else, including people’s feelings. He’s a person with some trauma in his life, but his prideful exterior makes him a tough nut to crack.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mykal Kickfall is a sweetheart. He’s confident in who he is, and that is not a person who wears silks instead of pelts and uses a thing called a bread plate. But he knows what is at stake (see: their lives), and has spent two years trying his hardest to take in Court’s lessons about being an Influential so he can fool his way into StarDust. He accepts Franny right away and even cares deeply about prickly Court.

Franny is freewheeling at the beginning of the book. She had a very specific expectation for her life, and she has no idea who to be if she isn’t defined by dying at seventeen. She’s also saddled with two very intense (in very different ways) people who can sense her emotions and make her ribs feel creaky when they practice their hand-to-hand combat (on each other, the loons). But Franny’s rough-and-tumble life has made her fairly adaptable and non-judgmental, and more than a little lonely for true human connection. 

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

You may be worried that this was a YA Love Triangle book thanks to this feelings-sharing between the three protagonists, but never you fear—there is none of that nonsense here. Mykal and Court have pants-feelings for each other, but it’s messy: they didn’t know each other until the link was already in place, and physical touch heightens the connection, blurring the lines between their sense of individual identity. Franny appreciates the trio’s bond in a purely platonic fashion, for which I was extremely grateful. She does get a few moments with another character that may build into something in the next book, but it was very early stages.

Talky Talk: He Said, She Said

It only makes sense to alternate viewpoints for each character when they’re already roaming around inside one another’s minds. Each person felt distinct, for the most part, and I liked the conflict that arose between the character’s inner intentions and their external personalities (their bond allows for them to sense feelings, so it can be impossible to lie to each other, but they can’t necessarily read each other’s private thoughts). This was a long book, and by the time it finished I was left feeling a bit perplexed when I tried to desribe it to my husband (boy, did he regret casually asking what I was reading). Was it a character study? Dystopia? Part sci-fi boarding school, part Tri-Wizard-Cup-style competition? So much time was spent on Franny, Mykal, and Court working on their new friendship and discussing how they would get into the Saga 5 selection pool that the book was already two-thirds over by the time it actually happened. Don’t get me wrong—I wasn’t bored during these quiet parts, or wishing it would hurry on, but it simply isn't a book that can be pinned down to one sort of thing.

My impression of this fictional world was filled in with pretty broad strokes; I didn’t feel there was any one area of knowledge that was particularly lacking, so I'm wondering if perhaps this was the point. I basically knew as much as the main characters, but I got the sense that there is a LOT more going on under the surface that will ultimately flip the script. The second book is where we’ll see if this was an intentional move on the authors’ part or…not.

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ

Not a lot of fuss seems to be made about sexuality in this society. The obstacles in Mykal and Court’s relationship are more about their strange link than anything external. I don’t even think it’s explicitly mentioned if both knew they were gay before their bond or if these feelings are new for either of them; they just are who they are, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  

Bonus Factor: Emotional Bonds

Learning that the authors are twins makes this emotional bonding plot device make a lot of sense. Twins are often said to have an unexplainable connection IRL and this seems like the authors’ way of exploring that in a sci-fi setting. Sometimes it sounds kinda cool, like when you are allergic to things and your partner isn't, so you can taste the sweet, sweet deliciousness of ice cream sans stomach cramps through them. But what if they hate the food you love? You'll try to eat it and feel them gagging; no bueno. Also, there are plenty of other downsides, like...they know what you're doing and feeling during sexytimes (the alone and with-a-partner kinds). Awkward.

Bonus Factor: Fear Of The Unknown

Franny is completely terrified of what life looks like now that she is going to live for an indeterminate amount of time. Is that car over there going to crush her? Will this rickety ceiling cave in on her head? Maybe this cheese she’s about to eat will choke her! It is kind of amusing (and, I suppose, panic-inducing) to realize how many ways you can die in a day, and that this is just how we normally live our lives. We’re so used to the low-level stress of danger that it becomes background noise (and I’m sorry in advance; try not to think about this too much or you won’t want to get out of bed tomorrow).

Relationship Status: Solid First Date

I’m not ready to scribble our names together inside a heart just yet, Book, but our first date was a good start. You took me to interesting places I’d never been and intrigued me with your quiet intensity. I’d be totally willing to give you a second date. Call me, okay?

Literary Matchmaking:

  

• Looking for more metaphysical and mental gymnastics between two hot teenagers? Sarah Rees Brennan’s Kami and Jared hear one another inside their heads and definitely did not ask for this particular (sexy) bond in Unspoken, the first in the The Lynburn Legacy series. 

• Alexandra Monir’s book, The Final Six, also takes a look at the competition for a spot in a humanity-saving space mission. 

• Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Midnight at the Electric is another book that starts off focusing on teens-going-to-space (Side note: Is this YA’s new vampires?) but ends up being a lot more about humanity and our connection to one another. Also, it’s just beautiful. 

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Wednesday Books. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. The Raging Ones is available now.

Blog Tour

This review is part of The Raging Ones blog tour! Read below for a Q&A from the authors. 

1. Working with another author is hard, let alone WITH YOUR TWIN, what was working together like and how did you address differing opinions on the work? What are your favorite and least favorite things about writing with each other?

We’ve been writing together since high school, so we’ve been able to really fine-tune our process. Being sisters seems like we’d bicker a ton, but we find our bond a huge strength. We understand each other’s vision and welcome varying opinions and ideas. We always describe what we have as a mini “writer’s room” where we constantly bounce thoughts off one another and try to improve our work. When we have different opinions, it kick-starts discussions, which often ignites better stories. Our favorite part of working together is definitely collaborating. We value our time together and our discussions surrounding our projects. Always having someone equally passionate and invested in the book fuels our love of writing. Least favorite part: honestly, there aren’t a lot of negatives! Maybe our three-minute silent treatments when we’re frustrated, and then we make up almost immediately.

2. When did you first get idea for The Raging Ones? What was your inspiration for this book?

Back in college, one of us (Krista) had this concept about a world where everyone knows the die they’ll die, but three teens don’t die on their deathday. We’re huge fans of science fiction and fantasy, and we’d written several Young Adult novels that never saw the light of day. But we wanted to write a new story together with new characters, and I jumped on board once she agreed to add a fantasy element. While writing The Raging Ones, we were really inspired by character-driven stories with science fiction backdrops. From movies like Interstellar to television shows like The 100

3. The Raging Ones is your first YA novel. What made you decide to move into the genre, and was the transition difficult? Was writing in a different genre/for a different age group hard? Was your process different?

Even though The Raging Ones is our first published YA novel, it isn’t the first one we’d written together. In our childhood, high school, and college, we mostly only wrote YA. The harder transition for us had been going from writing Young Adult fantasy novels to writing contemporary romance. In a lot of ways, The Raging Ones was like returning to something we’d started but hadn’t finished yet. We always attribute our romance books as the reason why we’re better writers, and when we went back to this other genre, we realized how much more we could do and push ourselves. Our writing process is pretty much identical across the map for Young Adult and Adult.

4. What is the weirdest thing you had to research for the novel?

Since The Raging Ones takes place on a frozen planet, we had to keep jumping down an Animal Planet rabbit hole. We paid close attention to the animals that could exist. It’s not too weird, but there were a lot of times we had to double-check each other and be like, “Cotton isn’t a fabric here” and “You can’t make them eat chicken. There are no chickens.”

5. Did The Raging Ones have a certain soundtrack you listened to while writing?

Yes! We always listen to music while we’re writing, and we complied a public Spotify playlist for the book, which includes songs that were in our earbuds as we were typing. We love the dramatic scores from Gravity and Interstellar, but we always say “Keeping Your Head Up” by Birdy is the essence of the book.

6. What is your dream cast for The Raging Ones?

We love dream casting our books and making Pinterest boards! For The Raging Ones, we can imagine Lyrica Okano as Franny Bluecastle, Henry Zaga as Court Icecastle, and Noah Teicher as Mykal Kickfall.

Stephanie Johnston's photo About the Author: Stephanie is an avid reader who moonlights as a college Educational Advisor. Though she now calls Orlando home, she grew up all over the U.S. Aside from her obsession with YA books and book-related activities, Stephanie loves watching way too much television, reading organizational/DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.