ARC Review: Essence by Lisa Ann O'Kane

Title: Essence
Author: Lisa Ann O'Kane
Series: Essence #1
Genre: YA Dystopia
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: June 3rd, 2014
Page count: 384 pages
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

Book Summary:
Autumn escaped a cult, but now she realizes she's fallen into another.

Growing up in San Francisco’s Centrist Movement, sixteen year-old Autumn Grace has always believed emotions—adrenaline, endorphins, even happiness—drain your Essence and lead to an early death. But her younger brother’s passing and a run-in with a group of Outsiders casts her faith into question.

Ryder Stone, the sexy, rebellious leader of the Outsiders, claims Essence drain is nothing more than a Centrist scare tactic -- and he can prove it.

Autumn follows Ryder to his Community of adrenaline junkies and free spirits in Yosemite National Park, and they introduce her to a life of adventure, romance, sex, drugs and freedom. But as she discovers dark secrets beneath the Community’s perfect exterior, she realizes the more she risks in search of the perfect rush, the further she has to fall.

     *The Reader's Review*

     My rating: 4/5 stars

I can't believe this book won't be a series anymore. 

I think Essence is an awesome, well written book that's different from other dystopian books out there. I liked how instead of focusing on the state of the whole world, it focuses on two small societies, or rather cults, where the people living in them think that's all there is to life.

The story begins in San Francisco, CA. with Autumn, a girl who has just lost her little brother and is struggling to bottle up her grief because the Centrists don't allow her to display her emotions. They believe in their motto "Neutrality is the key to longevity", which means that if a person doesn't want to lose their Essence and die, they must abide by their rules of no laughing, crying, running or any other thing that makes you feel alive.

This cult is sick. The people who abide by its rules live a very plain life in fear of ending their lives prematurely for feeling something. And, because the leader, Cedar, also prohibits relationships inside the cult, he assigns the centrists brothers (other leaders) to get involved with the women, ensuring the preservation of the cult (yuck!). As Autumn tries to escape this way of life, she stumbles with Ryder who lives in another community settled in Yosemite Park where they try to do the opposite of the Centrists. Their motto? "Abundance is the key to longevity".

The vast majority living in this community are reckless and bordering on stupid, trying to comply with the leader's demand to prove their cause. These people risk their lives on a daily basis to get their heart rate up in the clouds because they must live their lives to the limit. Really, I can't decide which cult is crazier.

For me, the characters were the biggest highlights of this book. I enjoyed so much the company of Jett, Javi, Kandace and the rest of the secondary roles. They were cool and had common sense, so much more than the main characters. Even when they were treated unfairly, they still cared for Autumn's safety, and also a bit for Ryder.

Autumn is not the best main character I've ever read, but I liked her for being more normal. She makes a lot of mistakes, trusts the wrong people and more than once she needs a hard poke in the eye to make her see sense. Eventually she comes around and after that, I can say I'm proud of what she accomplishes. However, I didn't like her relationship with Ryder because he's kind of a jerk and she was better off without him. Javi, on the other hand, was a sweety and I could totally see myself falling for him. He's from the same Centrist movement as Autumn and right from the start he was honest with his feelings for her. Damn Autumn and her blindness!

Overall, I think Essence is meant and deserves to be a series. It's not fair to be left hanging with so many questions unanswered! There's just so much that can be told and so much left to be discovered about the Centrists, about the Outsiders and of the mess the big earthquake made 40 years ago that started everything. If the author ever gets to write the second book, I won't hesitate to go back and continue with Autumn's story. I must know what's next. 

I won't stop begging until I get what I want. Publisher, you have been warned.


  1. It does sound like a great book! I hadn't heard of it before, but now I am sure to read it. I take that Autumn and Ryder are the main characters, who form somewhat of a romance... but who is Javi and why would you fall for him? :)

    1. It's good! ;)
      Javi comes from the same Centrist community as Autumn, also running from it like Autumn,but unlike her, he doesn't drop his guard around the outsiders because he also doesn't buy their way of life. Really interesting character, but he's not always around, especially on the second hañf of the book. :/ Wish we had more of him.

  2. How sad that you don't get to read more of something apparently you REALLY loved :( ...Still, stand-alone or series, it does sound like a great book! I'm really intrigued and perhaps I should check it out ;)
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Melissa!