The Stranded by Sarah Daniels (Book Review)

Title: The Stranded

Author: Sarah Daniels

Publication Date: 21 July 2022

Genre: Young Adult Dystopian

Publisher: Penguin


I would like to thank Penguin and TheWriteReads for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and for including me on this tour.

This book is a very interesting YA dystopian in the vein of The 100! A future when multiple generations are stranded on cruise ships just off the coast of America (or what is known as the Federated States). I devoured this book!

Welcome to the Arcadia.

Once a luxurious cruise ship, it became a refugee camp after being driven from Europe by an apocalyptic war. Now it floats near the coastline of the Federated States – a leftover piece of a fractured USA.

For forty years, residents of the Arcadia have been prohibited from making landfall. It is a world of extreme haves and have nots, gangs and make-shift shelters.

Esther is a loyal citizen, working flat-out to have the rare chance to live a normal life as a medic on dry land. Nik is a rebel, planning something big to liberate the Arcadia once and for all.

When events throw them both together, their lives, and the lives of everyone on the ship, will change forever . . .

My Thoughts

This book is so complex but also a wild ride. I didn’t think it would be possible to have such a layered society within the confines of a cruise ship, but Sarah Daniels create an incredibly detailed world with class divisions, gangs and hierarchies all based on ship levels, ticket holders (or not) and some misplaced ideas about loyalty or disloyalty. It was such an interesting world to read about and completely unlike any dystopian society I’ve encountered before.

This book really starts off with a bang (although not quite literally). In the very first chapter we see Esther (one of our protagonists) getting caught up in a leaflet drop (which is illegal), and these leaflets tell of how another cruise ship has been destroyed further up the coast. The first glimpse we get of Esther is her panic at her being found by the Coalies (the police force) in this scene of rebellion and the fear that she might lose her place as a medical cadet, her only chance to one day get ashore and off the ship The Arcadia. Esther, at first, is quite an insipid character. She’s a rule-follower, a stickler for protocol and the kind of character that you know would just snitch on anybody. You see this when she actually abandons a poor girl to the Coalies to save her own skin at the leaflet drop. I really didn’t like her character at first, but as the story progressed, she became one of my favourite characters in the book. She is driven and sometimes impulsive, and the way her storyline develops is really intriguing.

Our other protagonist, Nik, is seemingly at first your typical bad boy, but later on proves to not necessarily be that. I wasn’t sure about Nik at the beginning, he comes across quite immature and selfish which kind of put me off him at first. He’s an upper decker, with the privilege of that. But his father had ties to the Neaths (a below deck gang) and he’s involved in the rebellion. His connections make him complicated, but his character wasn’t that complex to me, at least not until the story started to pick up. He really is defined by his relationships to other characters and it isn’t until he has to break away from them and choose his own path that he really becomes his own person.

The thread that ties these two characters together is Esther’s sister May. I won’t say much about May as it would give away too much of the story, but she joins Nik and Esther together in a way that they cannot break.

The real shining thing about this novel is the story itself. This is very much a mixture between a character and a plot driven novel. The first half is about the characters, about their place in society and how they react to different situations. But, under the surface of the first half bubbles the plot that bursts into the forefront in the second half of the book. This is a twisty tale of gangs, rebellion and spies all mixed up together. Hadley (the third POV character in this book) is an interesting enigma that brings the characters, plot and explosive moments in this book together until they collide in spectacular fashion. It’s a really fast-paced read.

About the Author

Sarah Daniels is an ex-archaeologist who escaped academia and now writes stories from her home in rural Lincolnshire. Her work has been published in various online magazines and has been nominated for best British and Irish Flash Fiction and Best Small Fictions.

If you want to contact her, you can do so at the following locations:


Instagram: @sarahdanielsbooks

TikTok: @sarahdanielsbooks

Twitter: @sarahdanbooks

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