Pearl’s Number by Bethany Atazadeh
Evalene Vandereth’s adventure continues in the fast-paced second installment of the Number Series.
Evalene struggles to adjust to un-Numbered life, along with the rest of Eden. But the moment she learns her mother is still alive, it doesn’t matter anymore.
Discovering Pearl Vandereth was smuggled out of the country during a failed rebellion ten years ago shakes Evalene’s whole reality. There is only one thing she can do: find her.
Hunting down a cold trail, she travels to the Divided States from one territory to the next. But she never expects such an advanced nation to be so uncivilized. Between liars sending her in the wrong direction and hostile citizens, Evalene fears she’ll never locate her mother. And secretly, she’s terrified Pearl may not want to be found…
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Four Stars – A tale of twists with an unexpected ending that will make your jaw drop
This sequel of Bethany Atazadeh’s debut novel was filled with adventure, shock, intrigue, and even a little bit of romance.
Bethany did an amazing job helping the reader connect personally with each character. Just like Evalalene’s Number, Pearl’s Number is written in third person but chapters are broken up by the viewpoints of Evalene and Jeremiah. We see these characters develop further by not only getting an insight into their thoughts and emotions, but also getting to see them through each other’s perspectives. Another point of view that this sequel incorporates though is Pearl, Evalene’s mother. Who by the way, was an incredible addition to the characters because of her personality, bravery, and downright skill.
The thing that stood out the most to me in Pearl’s Number was the spectacular world building. Bethany does an amazing job depicting the intricate details that comprise this dystopian world. My already active imagination was easily able to soar above the pages as I pictured myself standing right there next to Evalene, taking on the dangers and twists of this crazy adventure with her. Plus the beautiful map – that Bethany actually drew herself by the way – helped provide the bigger picture that really makes the world building exemplary.
While Evalene’s Number was spent largely on developing the main characters of Evalene and Jeremiah, it was refreshing seeing some more development of the side characters in Pearl’s Number. The sparks that fly between Olive and Sol were especially cute and I found myself cheering for their coupling even more so than I did Evalene and Jeremiah, which probably wasn’t what the author planned, but I’m okay with it.
On the topic of things not really planned, the whole quest to find Evalene’s mother, Pearl, seemed a bit fortuitous, which is why I’m giving this book four stars over five. Something just seemed amiss throughout the entire middle section of the book when the journey to find her is in full force. I kept finding myself thinking, “Okay, where is this leading?” While some mystery of the end is of course important to keep you reading, it felt too much like a sequence of events and not enough like an overarching plot line. Therefore, the ending, while incredibly suspenseful and exciting, seemed to come out of nowhere for me and wasn’t set up enough.
Despite the rocky middle parts I did thoroughly enjoy this book. There were very few lulls between scenes which made for a really exciting read that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Pearl’s Number was a tale of twists and turns with an unexpected ending that will make your jaw drop.
After reading Pearl’s Number, I had the pleasure of interviewing its author, Bethany Atazadeh to learn more about her, the book, and what went into writing it.
1. What inspired the idea for your Number Series?
I think the initial inspiration was actually from my current job at the time… I worked in a hospital where the staff wore scrubs in different colors that clearly defined your role. It was supposed to make it easier to get help from the appropriate staff, but it also created some strange tensions. I remember the nurses looking down on housekeeping (which I was at the time), and that led to thinking about the different “classes” in India, which led to studying other cultures like North Korea, and it just grew from there.
2. Evalene is stubborn and sassy, but also caring and brave. Do you think parts of you are inside her? If so, what parts specifically? (Feel free to name others I didn’t mention.)
Oh man, I tried not to craft her after myself, but I feel like in some ways I did what a lot of new authors do and gave her a lot of similarities to myself. I don’t know about the other qualities you mentioned but I’m definitely stubborn! I also went through a very shy stage and kind of found my voice the way Evalene does, so I pulled from my own experience (minus the dystopian world) a lot in that area. ☺
3. The Number series is unique in that it is written in multiple points of view, but also written in third person, rather than first. What went into your decision to write the story like that? And what (if any) was your biggest struggle when writing that way. Was there a favorite POV you had when writing the series?
It was very trial and error. A lot of people don’t know I actually started writing the first book in college over ten years ago now. It was for my last semester where I got to choose a project, and I was supposed to write the first three chapters. I wrote them in 3rd person first, starting in some garden (no idea why), then in first person which was horribly whiny and quickly made me go back to 3rd person, where I started the story in what is now (in the published novel) the middle and proceeded to write almost completely in flashbacks. (Facepalm.)
All that to say my biggest struggle was just determining what was right. Sometimes you need to try your story the wrong way before you know the right way. There are struggles to writing in both first and third person, but you have to do what’s right for the story.
And I feel like I should say my favorite POV was Evalene, but the truth is it was Jeremiah—he was modeled after my husband in a lot of ways and that was a lot of fun.
4. The thing that stood out the most to me in Pearl’s Number was the spectacular world building. Were there any specific places or cultures that helped influence your creation of this dystopian world?
Thank you!! And yes definitely. It helps me a lot to have some basis in reality. I remember thinking how the United States is so diverse and pulling a lot from that. Some of my favorite world-building techniques are 1) to get really specific and 2) to use comparisons that will automatically create a picture in the reader’s mind.
For example, since they were traveling across the continent, I decided to get specific about the roads in the different territories. Instead of trying to tell the reader that the government was refined and classy, I showed it through their roads being well-maintained and organized. If the people were wild and untamed, you could see it reflected in the way the roads practically disappeared. For the people up in the mountains who kept to themselves, the roads had weeds coming up and they curved constantly so that you couldn’t see too far ahead.
Or an example of using comparisons was when I considered all the different speech patterns and inflections across the U.S. and described them as they traveled by inferring, using words like a “drawl” which is a common word for southern accents like Texans or “rapid speech” which makes me think of New Yorkers. I’m not saying that’s what they actually were, but you can find yourself picturing someone you know who drawls or talks really fast and that comparison can create more imagery in a second than you could with paragraphs of description.
5. Are there any specific moments when writing where the story became too real and you found yourself feeling emotional at all? If so, can you describe those feelings and what parts of the books made you feel that way?
Not really to be honest. If you’ve heard of the Myers-Briggs personality test, I’m the personality type called ISTJ, which means that I often approach things a bit more logic-based than feelings-based. Not to say that I don’t have feelings lol, because someone else’s book could definitely make me cry! But not my own, at least, not so far. ☺
6. Is there anything you edited out of Evalene’s Number or Pearl’s Number that didn’t fit quite right? If so, what was it?
Heck yes! Haha, I edited a LOT out of both books. In Evalene’s Number I can’t even count how much I threw away… three partial drafts were tossed for sure. I know I also threw out the prologue at some point. And then in Pearl’s Number I tossed the ENTIRE second half of the first draft. That was a major bummer lol… It was probably almost 50k. But I had to write that sucky ending to know what had to change. (Suffice it to say, when Pearl showed up in the original version, she was the worst and it led to a very anti-climactic ending…)
7. What have you liked about writing dystopian fantasy? What other genres do you want to explore? Is there a genre you likely won’t ever dive into?
World-building is probably my favorite thing about both dystopian and fantasy. I’m currently exploring both fantasy and non-fiction, which I think I’ll probably stick to from now on. Hmm… there’s actually a lot I wouldn’t write (I was just doing keyword research and there’s hundreds of genres out there!)… But if I had to pick one, I’d say I could never write horror… the suspense would drive me insane before I ever finished lol.
8. Is there a message in your books that you hope to convey to the reader? If so, can you explain your intentions?
I think Evalene’s Number is really focused on her learning to accept herself and be proud of who she is, not worrying about what other people say. So that’s probably the main theme for book 1. And Pearl’s Number is, in a lot of ways, about accepting who other people are, as they are—which I’m realizing as I type that they kind of go together with an acceptance theme!
Now for some fun ones….
9. What celebrities do you picture in your mind, who would play Evalene and Jeremiah in a movie version of the Number Series?
Oooh! I have people on my Pinterest board, but I don’t actually know their names… Jeremiah would have to be Persian though, because I based him on my husband and whether or not that came through well, that’s how I envision him! ☺
10. In Pearl’s Number a love connection sparked between Olive and Sol. Which relationship development was the most fun to write? Evalene’s and Jeremiah’s? Or Olive’s and Sol’s?
I LOVE that people like Olive and Sol because their spark was a complete accident. I think multiple betas pointed out how cute they were and that they hoped something would happen, and I was like… okay, I can do that! I think Olive and Sol were a bit more fun because I didn’t have to plan as much, it sort of happened more naturally, if that makes sense? And then funny enough, there’s a lot of me in Olive as well and other characteristics of my husband in Sol, so I think I sprinkled bits of my own relationship into both couples…