Book Review: The Polaris Uprising by Jennifer Ibarra

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Title: The Polaris Uprising
Series: Polaris #1
Author: Jennifer Ibarra
Publication date: October 30th 2013
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult



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The Polaris UprisingThe Polaris Uprising
Polaris #1
Jennifer Ibarra
Tiwala Books, October 2013
ISBN 978-0-9894992-0-0
Trade Paperback

From the author—

In less than seven years, eighteen-year-old Ryla Jensen will succeed her father as the president of Neress, a nation where all citizens are cared for from the moment they’re born. Fed, sheltered, even educated—every need of theirs is met.

The only price they pay is their free will.

Groomed since childhood to take on a role she’s not even sure she wants, Ryla’s only escape from the pressures of duty is her sister, Alanna. But when her eyes are opened to the oppressive regime her father built, she begins to question everything she’s set to inherit—and finds herself at odds with her sister’s blind allegiance to their father.

Torn between loyalty to her family and the fight for freedom, Ryla must decide just how far she’s willing to go to make a stand and risk losing the person she loves most in the world: Alanna.


In the early stages of reading The Polaris Uprising, I was a bit concerned that this was going to be just another dystopian that’s only slightly different from every other one out there. I love this subgenre—it’s one of my favorites—but I’ve read so much of it that I’m often left feeling as though there’s nothing really new in the field. In this particular case, I picked up on a couple of distinct similarities to The Hunger Games and Matched as well as the feeling that Benedict is a clear representation of such dictatorial megalomaniacs as Hitler and Stalin, men who are absolutely sure they know what’s best for everyone else and will stop at nothing to retain their power.

And then…

One after another, the surprises began to mount and Ms. Ibarra showed herself to be one of the most imaginative writers I’ve come across in quite a while and I don’t mean in a flashy or sensational way. No, this author delivers her unexpected elements so subtly that even something that should have been obvious is not; as an example, it took me some time to notice that two pivotal characters are people of color even though that fact was right in front of me all along. I probably wasn’t aware of it at first because their ethnic background makes absolutely no difference to the story but it’s not all that common to find nonwhites in such important roles and yet not be the main characters.

Another thing I appreciated was that I was well into the tale before knowing whether this is our own Earth in a future time or somewhere else entirely. This isn’t because of a lack of worldbuilding—Ms. Ibarra does a great job with that, giving the reader just enough but leaving more to be discovered later—but because it’s not crucial that the reader have that piece of information. Of far more importance is the rather universal behavior and motivations of the people. The growing awareness of the people that their utopian world is not so great after all and the relationship of the sisters to each other, to their father and to everyone else make for an intriguing story full of political intrigue, secrets and heartbreak.

When it comes to character development, I found the prime players such as Ryla, Alanna, Owen and Tyson very appealing, each in his or her own way. At the same time, those characters that most would view as the “bad guys” in other novels all have their own complexities that make them interesting and not always predictable.

Oh, and by the way, there is no romantic triangle and only shades of the dreaded insta-love plus, in another departure from the norm, there’s more than one kickbutt female character. It’s so nice to have a heroine who’s not just a token! There’s also plenty of emotional connection between the characters and between the characters and the reader. What sets this author apart, though, is her complete fearlessness in what she’s willing to do with her characters and plot. I can’t be any more specific without major spoilers but, suffice it to say, she blew my socks off, not once but TWICE.

As a side note, let me just say the editing of this book is nearly impeccable, with so few errors they made no difference. That really added to my pleasure in reading this book because it’s always such a shame to find a good story and appealing characters mired in poor grammar and typos.

The Polaris Uprising is Jennifer Ibarra’s debut and is the first in a trilogy. Technically speaking, the ending of this story is not a cliffhanger but it might as well be because I hate that I have to wait for the next book. In the meantime, this is going on my list of favorite books read in 2014.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2014.


About the Author

Jennifer IbarraJennifer Ibarra grew up on a steady diet of books, Star Wars, and other fantastic feats of the imagination. Her debut novel, The Polaris Uprising, is the first book in a trilogy and mixes dystopia with family drama, romance, and political intrigue.

She lives in Silicon Valley, where she does marketing for a tech company and spends her time running, cooking, baking, and keeping up with celebrity gossip.

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