Book Review: “Children Of Eden” by Joey Graceffa

Cover of "Children of Eden" by Joey Graceffa.

Happy June, everyone! I hope May was awesome and that June is just as awesome or even better!

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Children of Eden” by Joey Graceffa! This is the first book in a while that I’ve read by a Youtuber (I previously read “Dream House” by Marzia Bisognin) and this is also the first book in a trilogy. Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:

What would you do to survive if your very existence were illegal?

Rowan is a second child in a world where population control measures make her an outlaw, marked for death. She can never go to school, make friends, or get the eye implants that will mark her as a true member of Eden. Her kaleidoscope eyes will give her away to the ruthless Center government.

Outside of Eden, Earth is poisoned and dead. All animals and most plants have been destroyed by a man-made catastrophe. Long ago, the brilliant scientist Aaron Al-Baz saved a pocket of civilization by designing the EcoPanopticon, a massive computer program that hijacked all global technology and put it to use preserving the last vestiges of mankind. Humans will wait for thousands of years in Eden until the EcoPan heals the world.

As an illegal second child, Rowan has been hidden away in her family’s compound for sixteen years. Now, restless and desperate to see the world, she recklessly escapes for what she swears will be only one night of adventure. Though she finds an exotic world, and even a friend, the night leads to tragedy. Soon Rowan becomes a renegade on the run.”

Plot development: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Worldbuilding development: 5 out of 5 stars

From start to finish, I think the plot was well-paced overall, with it just being a little slow in the middle section just after Ash escapes. The only complaint I’d have is the sudden cliffhanger ending, though it does give me a lot of questions regarding the worldbuilding, what the truth of the whole situation with the EcoPanopticon (EcoPan for short), and whether Earth itself is actually restored or not in reality. Also, it’s a good cliffhanger in the sense that it immediately wanted me to read the next book, “Elites of Eden,” so I’ll give it a pass for it being rather effective in that sense. I also thought all the plot twists in the book were effective as well.

While on the subject of worldbuilding, I think it was very well fleshed out. It was quick to learn, in the beginning of the book, about Rowan’s situation as a second child and what privileges she missed out on. This is particularly highlighted well when she asks her brother what colour a fellow friend of his was wearing, and then tries asking for specific colours. Because Rowan is an illegal second child that shouldn’t exist in the world of this book (only first children are legal citizens, second children aren’t allowed), there’s an obvious class division between ‘legitimate’ citizens (First children like Ash, Rowan’s twin brother) and ‘illegal’ citizens (like Rowan for example). There are also other tensions in this world-building including a black market where second-born children are sold to replace any dead ‘first’ children, the class disparity between the rich people that live in the centre while the poor live on the outer edges of the EcoPan, the eyes being used for ID (though it does make me wonder how they would apply this to people that lose their eyesight or literally lose their eyes for whatever reason), and the rebel groups that want to take down Eden. I think there will be a lot more that’s elaborated on further in the next book, such as the class divisions of the rich and poor and so on, as well as the fates of those Second children captured by the government or even by the black market. There’s so much set up here that is so rich and well-explained to me as a reader that I want to know more about this world, and with this I argue that the world-building is the strongest point of this book.

Character development: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading Rowan a lot. Yes, she probably was a lot more reckless than she should be, especially given how her actions earlier in the book resulted in the government finding out about her existence and such, but I also sympathize with her wanting to know more of the world around her, given her massive restrictions due to her being a Second child while Ash, her twin brother, is the first one. I liked how she had to quickly adapt to the dangers of being outside (with help from Lachlan and Lark, but mainly Lachlan), and how she started being so much more open to learning more about her world in the process and realizing that there are more flaws than the obvious ones (such as her being a Second child for instance, and then she later finds out more about what happens to Second children if they were caught by the government).

One of the main flaws for character development in this book, however, is the fact that this book was in Rowan’s point of view—in first person, meaning we see everything from her eyes. Because of this, all the character development mainly worked through her and  a lot of the other characters didn’t get the same depth and treatment compared to her. Despite Rowan getting most of the spotlight in character development, however, we do get to see more rounded development in characters such as Lark, who accidentally had a hand in Rowan’s predicament while simply trying to help her (and Lark completely regrets it afterwards), and Lachlan, who becomes a mentor figure of sorts for Rowan, and a guide to teaching her more about the world around her. I look forward to reading more of Lark and Lachlan in later books, and I hope to see more development on their parts. I also would like to see more of Ash, too, and I hope he made it out of jail according to plan at the end of the book, even if Rowan got caught.

Character relationship development: 3.5 out of 5

I liked the variety in Rowan’s relationships with her brother Ash, her own mom, and her own dad. I liked how deep the bond Rowan and Ash had with each other, to the point that Rowan was willing to risk her own safety to get Ash out of jail when the government arrested him. I also enjoyed Rowan and her mother’s bond with each other, though I would have liked to see more of how Rowan’s mother’s death affects her (though it does also make me wonder if the more reckless things she does late in the book, such as trying to break her brother out of jail, might also be fueled by her not wanting to lose more family).

Though I liked Rowan’s platonic relationships, I can’t quite say the same for the love triangle that developed between Rowan, Lark (who happens to be a friend of Ash), and Lachlan (who saves Rowan on the night she ends up in serious danger and introduces her to the outside world and the band of Second children rebelling against the government). It felt a bit sudden in development, and I honestly didn’t think it was needed in the story. Tension between the three as friends would be fine given plot-related circumstances, but upping the ante to a romantic love triangle (props for having a bisexual love triangle, though) didn’t quite work the chemistry between the three as well as I hoped it would.

Overall, I’m rating this book 4 out of 5 stars!

This is a great start to the trilogy, and I can’t wait to continue reading with the next books!

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