At the center of this book is a sort of epic, star crossed lovers type romance. The backstory that we learn through letters as we read along is that four years ago, this boy who was essentially a slave wanted to run away to a better life, and he was in love with the daughter of the slave-owner, who wanted to run away with him but knew she was the only thing standing between her estate's slaves and horrendous treatment and probable starvation at the hands of her capricious and idiotic father. So she sacrificed love for the good of her people, and stayed behind when he left.This would be a much better love story if the boy hadn't come back four years later and proceeded to be a complete asshole to her for months and months while she mooned after him like a puppy dog repeatedly being kicked but still returning for more abuse in the hope that he'll eventually stop being an asshole and love her again. The idea is that he thinks she "betrayed" him and is just a snobbish rich girl who couldn't give up her life of luxury. Which is utterly ridiculous, because they had been best friends from the time they were like six, and he knew better than anyone how much she cared for the people on the estate and what would happen to them in her absence.So that whole love story is resolved when he's all, "I was just a jerk because I love you so much!" and they sail off into the sunset.Great story, right? Yeah.The thing that saves this book and earns it three stars is what goes on around the romance. Elliot, the "rich girl," is struggling to keep the estate financially viable, and to just make sure everything gets done properly when almost all of their skilled labor has run away just like Kai, her former love. Her father cuts her off at every opportunity, seemingly just for the pleasure of putting his uppity, slave-loving daughter in her place. She doesn't blame the runaways, and indeed urges some of her "slaves" (they're not called slaves in the book, but whatever, it's what they are) to go and join them. But there's a huge mass of slaves who have basically extreme mental disabilities who can't function on their own, and Elliot is terribly worried about what will happen to them if they don't harvest enough wheat to get them through the winter. There are inheritance issues with the estate, and Elliot's beloved grandfather, who owns the neighboring estate, is dying. And Elliot is struggling terribly with a secret she's keeping that could change life on the estate for the better but could lead down the same slippery slope path of genetic modification that resulted in this dystopic world to begin with. That internal moral conflict was ten times more compelling than the romance, but Elliot spends way more time mooning over Kai than she does worrying about the estate and her treasonous experiment.Overall, this one was kind of a dud. It could have been so awesome, but just wasn't. Oh well.