Being Amber - Sylvia Ryan Probably closer to 4-1/2, not quite perfect, but this was a really intriguing story. I found myself thinking about the characters when I wasn't reading it. Contemplating their situation.

This is the year 2075, 25 years after a worldwide flu pandemic wiped out 92% of the population. When the US Government pulled the country up by the bootstraps, they noticed that some traits, like blond hair or blue eyes, were on the verge of disappearing, so they instituted genetic testing to split the survivors into three groups based on their intelligence or desirable traits, things like that. It was almost a caste system, where you can't really move up, but you can move down if you're tested and they find something undesirable about you. That's what's happened to Jaci. She goes to get tested, they find she carries a gene for a disease, and she is immediately dropped to Amber (the lowest caste) and shipped off to the Amber zone. No saying goodbye to family. No gathering belongings. Just put on a transport and shipped to Amber. Her first morning was spent being sterilized, because the Gov wouldn't want new Ambers procreating and possibly perpetuating that nasty gene. If you were born and raised Amber, however, you could have one child before sterilization. I wanted to cry for Jaci so many times in the beginning! Then my sadness turned to Xander. So much angst for both of them!

So here is Jaci. Completely on her own. She spent her first night in her new apartment by herself. She knew she had a roommate, but had no idea who it was, and he didn't show up until the next day. She was a bit surprised to find it was a guy. But that's what happens with single people in Amber -- women are paired with men and the idea is for it to be like instant family, the big brother you never had. A man to protect the woman, provide comfort, etc. But Jaci is attracted to Xander. And Xander is fighting his own reaction to Jaci really hard and hurting her in the process. Not that these living arrangements don't ever end up in marriage, but Xander has his own issues and promised himself he'd never fall in love. Funny how love doesn't always listen to declarations like that.

So Jaci has to learn to live as an Amber now, and Amber life is much different from Sapphire. Ambers are very much in tune with their sexual sides. And they're very touchy-feely, which Jaci isn't used to. She has to get used to that pretty quickly. She's a bit taken aback by their laid back attitudes about sex and group sex. It's not unusual to walk down a hallway, see an open door, look inside, and see an all out orgy going on. And you can join in if you want! Very laid back attitudes, lol.

Besides learning to live as an Amber, unbeknownst to Jaci, someone's been killing "fallows" -- women whose rank have been lowered and were forcibly sterilized. As if the sterilization wasn't humiliation and torture enough? And Xander is one of many who have been assigned to make sure Jaci stays alive.

I don't think I can truly summarize this book and (a) do it justice or (b) get it all in without giving too much away. I will say that this was a great start to the series -- it better be the start of a series because there were some unanswered questions at the end. There is an epilogue (bittersweet) on Ms. Ryan's site. But this was such a compelling story. I wanted to know what would happen next. And while there were some sexy times in the story, it was mostly about Jaci getting used to life as an Amber and Xander realizing love doesn't stay away just because you tell it to. Add in a nice conspiracy and some suspense for a nice, well-rounded story. I really look forward to the next one to see where the story goes. I'm also hoping there's an HEA for one of the characters in this one. My heart broke for him as well.

***I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. These are my own impressions, and if I didn't like it, I'd tell you so!***