Book Review

Rising Up – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.75 / 5 stars)

 Welcome to Tranquility. Here, everyone is happy. 

Or so it seems.

With the death of her mother, Ember Vinata’s life is turned upside-down. Suddenly battling an emotional crisis, Ember is placed on the watchlist by the city. But there is more to Ember than meets the eye; highly empathetic, she is forced to monitor her emotions while perceiving everyone else’s. Can she keep herself in control as her world is flipped upside down? Or will it threaten her safety?

Meanwhile, Will is enjoying his new “heroic” life as a Plauditor – a peacekeeper of emotions. Upon meeting Ember though, he begins to questions his own role in Tranquility: is their “happiness” real? Is there something “evil” afoot? And when a rebellion takes root in the center of the government, led by Xander, can Will stay loyal to the city he vowed to protect, or will he choose to fight for the greater good?

Rising Up by Tanya Ross is a dystopian world riddled by false happiness. It doesn’t seem that far off really: everyone wearing smart watches that monitor their emotion, placed into a hierarchy based on how “obedient” and “calm” they are, with a government keeping firm control. It’s a fascinating concept, and one that I fell in love with immediately.

The concept as a whole is a very strong one. I could feel the dystopian world merely steps away, and part of me sensed the stress all the main characters went through. Ross’s ability to play on emotions is a strength here. Tranquility is not “tranquil”; it’s stressful, filled with fake happiness, the type that rubs off on the reader, and when they lift their head from the page, 

As much as I loved the concept though, some parts of the story’s execution didn’t work for me. It “told” rather than “showed” too much in the beginning, in a way that felt like ongoing exposition. Some of the dialogue between characters, as well as some of their physical actions and decisions, felt a little flat or strange, not quite how teenagers would behave. This might be due in part to their trained emotions, so they don’t quite behave like the teenagers of today. Also, as with a lot of YA stories, I’m always left wondering: what about the adults. These are a bunch of 16-18 year old kids leading change, which is admirable, but what about any of the adult figures who might join them? 

This of course is an issue with the genre, and not necessarily with the book though. I’ve found that, personally, I’m not a big fan of the common YA tropes (love triangles, 2-guys-1-girl situations, teenagers leading rebellion, the “super unique beautiful girl”), but for the most part Ross has executed these well (although I hope we avoid a love triangle in book 2). As I discovered while reading Rising Up, YA Dystopian is not my favorite genre…but it IS the genre that pulls me in. So will I stop reading? Nope! Even though it’s not my all time favorite, there are so many good things about the genre, and Ross has brought to life many of those in her novel.

I absolute cannot wait for the sequel and definitely recommend it to those who like YA Dystopian. Definitely an interesting concept…and worth the read! 

What’s it about?

A city under glass. A girl under pressure. When secrets come out, which one will break first?

Sixteen-year-old empath Ember Vinata is devastated by her mother’s mysterious death. But in a disease-free domed metropolis where happiness is electronically monitored and enforced, expressing her grief means exile to The Outside.

The only person who can help her is a smoking-hot government agent.

When strange prophetic dreams compel her to investigate, and she discovers the source of the fatal illness, Ember is stunned to discover the perfect city in which she lives is nothing like it seems.  And when her new boyfriend appears to be torn between seeking justice and remaining loyal to his oaths, she fears there is no one she can trust…

…Or would her world be rocked by a criminal from The Outside?

Ember’s quest for the truth could set her free – or make her a captive pawn.

Rising Up is the thrilling first book in The Tranquility YA dystopian sci-fi series. If you like determined heroines, the power of emotions, and fighting injustice, then you’ll love Tanya Ross’s raw crusade.

Featured Author, News

A Discussion of Creativity & Writing: An Interview with Tanya Ross

Today we are talking with Tanya Ross about her creative process. Tanya Ross is the author of Rising Up.

About Author

Tanya Ross was born and raised in San Diego County, her “happy place.” Although Southern California is a particular kind of paradise, she desires a world where everyone is kind, compassionate, and upbeat, which became one of the themes of her new novel, Rising Up. For thirty-two years she was an educator of English, history, AVID, and student leadership.  She loves teaching and kids, her students a daily inspiration. Her exit from the educational arena allowed her to indulge her hopes, dreams, and goals in what she taught for so many years–writing. This first novel begins her lifelong dream of writing meaningful novels for young adults. When she’s not creating new worlds, you can find her reading, spending time with her husband and two kids, or walking her golden retriever, Honey.  

So let’s get into the questions!

First, tell us about your book!

My novel is the first in a series. It’s about a girl (Ember) who is an Empath. She lives in a domed city called Tranquility. Everyone who lives there wears a device to monitor their emotions. Those who are happy and can stay positive earn points to rise up in society. Those who resist are banished. When Ember’s mother dies, and she is not allowed to grieve, she uncovers secrets about the city that set her on a path to revolution. With the help of Will, a city hero, and Xander, an exiled resistor, she pursues a quest to answer the questions that no one wants to ask. And the answers no one wants to believe.

How did you come up with this idea? What inspired you?

I once wore a data-collecting device from Arbitron, a company that determined the ratings for radio and tv. I wondered what would happen if it could measure other things, like emotions.

Tell us a little bit about your main character(s). Were you inspired by anyone particular when writing them?

My main character, Ember, is an extension of my 16 year old self. She is shy, does not believe she has the courage to make changes, and is very emotional and vulnerable. She looks to others for her strength. My second character, Will, 18, is based on a former student from my student leadership class when I was a teacher. He is gorgeous, friendly, ambitious, humble, and heroic. He wants to rise up in society, but when he meets Ember, he has to re-examine his priorities. My 3rd character is Xander. He is the ultimate rebel. He hates the city and all he’s expected to embrace as a citizen. He resists so much, he’s branded as a criminal and expelled from the city. He’s not based on anyone per se, but I had Adam Lambert in mind when I came up with his physical look. Both boys fall in love with Ember.

What about your setting? What inspired you to choose where the story took place?

I wanted a protected environment where people had no choice but to agree to the requirements because the alternative (living outside the city) made it almost impossible to survive. The city is perfect. It’s a place where any of us would hope to live—no crime, no negativity, no dissension. Who doesn’t yearn for that?

Obviously, stories change from their initial inception. How has your story changed while working on it?

I never imagined my MC would have supernatural powers beyond her ability to feel other people’s emotions. When she had the ability to rewind time, it was a surprise.

What is your writing process like?

I only use mind maps. I run ideas in front of my family. I like to go where the characters take me, so it’s a definite seat of your pants approach.

What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most?

When I get into the flow and I am completely in other place with people I know intimately!

What was the most difficult part in writing your book? How did you overcome it?

Self doubt. I didn’t think I could finish it because I was always worried about whether it was any good.

Now let’s talk personal inspiration: did anyone or anything inspire you to be a writer?

I have always wanted to write a book from the time I was in high school. I don’t even know why…I know I’ve always been good with words. Also, my students inspired me. I wanted to write YA books for them.

Finally, do you have any words of inspiration or tips to new authors?

Don’t give up. You can do this.

Thank you for joining us today! If you’re interested in Tanya Ross, check out the links below!

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Until next time,

E.S. Barrison