I really enjoyed Ally Condie's latest, Atlantia, which has a quiet, restrained beauty to it. The language is spare but lovely, and the plot is quiet but moving. Readers who come to this expecting something fast paced--or about mermaids--are likely to be disappointed, but I thought it was well done.
Rio Conwys is a twin, and she has spent her whole life in Below knowing two things: one, that when it's her turn to choose Above or Below, she will choose the world above, and two, that she has to always conceal her siren voice. In Atlantia, the world Below is a carefully engineered underwater city to house humans who fled from the terrible pollution above. But some have remained above, to grow the crops that sustain those below. And each year, those who reach 17 can choose whether to stay Below or go Above--but only one can go from each family. So when Rio's sister Bay chooses to go above, trapping her below to deal with Bay's loss while still grieving the recent death or their mother, Rio doesn't know what to think or do.
Much of the early part of the novel is spent with Rio trying to find her new place in the city and to find a way to reach Bay in the world Above. She tries racing for money, and meets True, a warm-hearted boy who constructs clever machines to attract more viewers (and money) in her races. At the same time, Rio tries to avoid her aunt, a siren who may or may not have been responsible for her mother's death. But the more Rio learns about the politics of Above and Below, the more she begins to question what she's always known, and what her true role is.
I think what I liked most about this book is that, in it's heart, it's not about the romance, but about the relationship between sisters: between Rio and Bay and between her aunt and her mother. And I liked that the slower pace allowed it to be more character driven--the readers see Rio coming into her true voice in more ways than one. There were some things about the world-building I would have liked to understand better, but ultimately, I thought it was lovely.