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The Chaos

3.03 of 5 stars 3.03  ·  rating details  ·  255 ratings  ·  67 reviews
An acclaimed fantasy author navigates the world between myth and chaos in this compelling exploration of identity, told with a Caribbean lilt.

Sixteen-year-old Scotch struggles to fit in: at home she's the perfect daughter, at school she's provocatively sassy, and thanks to her mixed heritage, she doesn't feel she belongs with the Caribbeans, whites, or blacks. And even mor...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 17th 2012 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
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Insurgent by Veronica RothCity of Lost Souls by Cassandra ClareThe Fault in Our Stars by John GreenPandemonium by Lauren OliverRapture by Lauren Kate
YA Novels of 2012
411th out of 1,283 books — 10,122 voters
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2012 YA/MG Fantasy Books
78th out of 233 books — 589 voters

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Community Reviews

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I freakingADORED this book. I'm really heartbroken that it's just a touch too mature for my local middle school booktalks.

It starts out as a quite realistic urban Canadian story about a black girl and her dance team drama. Her brother's been in prison for drugs, her parents are superstrict, and she's having serious friend troubles.

And I woulda been fine with it staying that way, to be perfectly honest. Scotch has a strong voice. She's got some serious conflict going on and I was interested in s...more
“Know Yourself”, says 16 year old Sojourner “Scotch” Smith’s English teacher as though Scotch has not been struggling with the issue of identity all her life. Her father is a white Jamaican, her mother a black Canadian. She thinks of herself as black but her skin tone is so light, she can easily “pass” for something else (not that she wants to but it has been pointed to her by clueless people who think they are helping ). She also deals with the unfair expectations from her traditional father on...more
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

My Summary: Scotch just wanted to spend the night at a poetry slam with her brother after a long day. But things are never easy for Scotch, whose mixed-race heritage makes her feel like an outsider in every social group. But race is the least of her worries when strange things start to happen: a volcano appears in the Toronto Bay, and her brother disappears. Scotch's world turns to chaos a...more
There were many, many things I really liked about The Chaos. I loved how real Scotch's voice was and her interactions with her brother and family rang very true for me. It may be a cliche for the teen girl to change into more conservative, parent-approved clothes before heading home, but it helps establish Scotch's character and family dynamics. The Chaos is certainly an original end-of-the-world scenario in a sea of other YA apocalypses. The distorting, manipulating, oozing rolling calf was a g...more

I received this ARC for review from the publisher. I did not receive any compensation for my review, and the views expressed herein are my own.

This is a very bizarre book!

Sixteen year-old Sojourner (nicknamed Scotch after the Scotch Bonnet Jamaican pepper for her red-hot dance moves) is the biracial daughter of a white Jamaican father and African-American mother. People often do not believe that she is “black”, and she feels that her skin is not dark enough and wishes that her contrived Jamaica...more
Aug 23, 2013 Sarah added it
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy
Things I liked about this book:
The realistically diverse cast of characters. Nobody was a token anything. There were multiple characters of color, multiple queer characters, multiple characters with disabilities. Felt like Toronto.
The very, very creative ways in which the city fell apart when the Chaos hit.
Sojourner/Scotch,a strong and capable protagonist.

A few characters felt superfluous, like they were only introduced to make a point. The Thompson Twins, who appeared at the beginning and...more
I read this book in an afternoon.

I know people say that this book is too chaotic, but I don't think that it suffers for that. Who else but Nalo Hopkinson would have a rolling calf and Baba Yaga in the same book? And- no spoilers, but let's just say she finds a very neat way to poke a hole in the idea that lighter skin is better.

The only complaint I have at all is that it wasn't long enough, which is why the characterizations of people other than the main character felt a little bit flat and on...more
I love that this YA novel has a mxd race protagonist, I love that most of her friends are queers of color, I love that the book confronts racism and ableism as a matter of course. The sci fi/fantasy elements are intense; being in this book kinda makes it feel like the world outside is disintegrating - it was pretty emotional for me (also I read the entire thing in one day, practically one sitting). I was surprised at the cheesy ending - it felt like things wrapped up a little too easily. But mos...more
Very original mythological figures. I read a lot of fantasy, urban fantasy, and a decent amount of non-fiction about folklore and mythology. I've never heard of a rolling calf or creatures like the Horseless Head Men. That and the diversity of the characters are all this book has going for it. Openly gay characters are pretty common now, less so with characters experimenting with sexuality, and even less common are characters with disabilities. This book has them all, and they feel like actual c...more
Sometimes when adult writers pen a YA title it works, and other times, well . . . It takes more than just placing your character in the teen age range. There has to be a genuine feel for the teen audience, and sadly, with cookie cutter observations like boys who sleep around are studs, and girls are sluts, Ms. Hopkinson just doesn't get it. One of the few books I DNF - which is a bummer, given the dearth of decent characters of color in YA fantasy, I was really hoping to love this one.
Adryan Glasgow
I don't like young adult literature. I do, however, LOVE Nalo Hopkinson. I found this narrator completely unlikeable and was annoyed at the incoherence of The Chaos, which features a mash-up of images whose only meaning, as far as I could see, was a vague sense of eerieness with occasional efforts at horror. In that way, The Chaos is much like Gaiman's American Gods - lots of potential, many images that will stick with you and the occasional flash of speculative brilliance that would be fun to d...more
Lisa Jenn Bigelow
Daniel Pinkwater meets Hiyao Miyazaki meets David Lynch. This is one weird book. Pluses are the many imaginative, fantastical details and strong, diverse characters. The major minus is that the plot itself is chaotic, with little forward propulsion or suspense; it barrels forward until it stops. At times it reads like a text on Privilege 101. Points for addressing racism, ableism, and heterosexism. Deductions for lack of subtlety on those counts.
I really hate to have to give a Nalo Hopkinson book only two stars, especially her first young adult novel. I looked forward to it for so long, AND it was political and talked about queers, ableism, and racism. But, it really was only "ok." I couldn't really connect with the main character, the dialogue was stilted and didactic, and, well, it was... chaotic. Eh.
Farzana Doctor
What happens when a volcano emerges out of Lake Ontario, billowing gray smoke and changing everything on the planet? Nalo Hopkinson vividly imagines a teen world full of adolescent angst and strange new realities. What's particularly lovely about this YA novel is how well it describes Toronto (well, Toronto on LSD, perhaps), and its diverse citizenry.
I didn't finish this book. I really wanted to like it. At first, I totally did. The characters felt like they were from a queer world I lived in and a world I didn't see much in YA fantasy lit. POC, QPOC and queer people with disabilities, poetry slams, YES. GR8. I also very much appreciated how body-positive and sex-positive the protagonist was. Really, I liked this book a lot at first. But once the sci-fi fantasy parts started happening... it just got very weird. I could see how some people mi...more
I really don't understand the unusually low rating this book has here. Especially puzzling are the reviews that essentially say a book called "The Chaos" was too chaotic. I feel like the author was pretty upfront with that element.

While the characters endure chaos, the characterization and plot structure are anything but. I enjoyed the company of the young woman at the center of the story: not perfect, not even heroic, but compassionate and willing to learn. The plot is tight and the story is hi...more
Sojourner's life is everything a teenager might expect. She is at odds with her friends, her parents, and her brother. She's dumped her boyfriend, and now she is seeing things. Is her world falling apart? Yes. This becomes especially true when a volcano erupts just off shore from Toronto, and the world is thrown into chaos.

I picked this book up on the recommendation of Liberty who works at A Different Booklist. She always has some interesting books for me to read.

I finished the book despite the...more
A.C.E. Bauer
In a book where fairy tale and fantasy creatures come chaotically to life, the main character felt entirely real. She had all of the bluster, the insecurities, the wishful/magical thinking that comes with being a teenager. For all her faults she was likeable and believably brave, even while afraid of what was happening all around her. And though the chaos that overwhelmed the world remained unexplained, it provided a twisted mirror of what people in our regular world do and think, giving an adde...more
sixteen year old sojourner smith, nicknamed scotch by her friends (after the jamaican pepper), doesn’t know where she fits in in the world. the daughter of a white jamaican man and a black canadian woman, scotch isn’t sure that she belongs anywhere: later in the novel, she reflects (after a man tells her she could be “anything”) that she is a “daughter of the world.” how lonely, she thinks. in the first few pages of the book, we meet scotch’s friend ben, who is gay and seems to have found himsel...more
The book starts off pretty slow, but, when it picks up, boy does it!
Weirdest. Book. Ever. And I have read a lot of books.
Giselle at BO-OK NERD Canada
Scotch is half Jamacan and half white. And all her life people claim her to be part of every kind of race just because her skin colour is such a light brown. She feels like he never fits in. Her parents are too strict, her best friends Ben and Glory are wrapped up in their own lives and her brother Richard is busy trying to stay out of trouble. One night after her parents go on a trip, Scotch and Richard go to an open-mike bar and try to have fun. Only that’s when a volcano explodes in the middl...more
The Young Book Collector
Before I go any further with this review, I want to let y'all know that I really tried to like this book. Some are probably wondering as to why; it's just a book, right? Okay, to be honest, I get excited whenever I get my hands on a fantasy novel written by a black author, so it's very comforting knowing there are some out there. I was searching the internet for black authors who wrote speculative fiction and, with various others, Nalo’s name came up. Then I got a chance to read her short-story...more
Okay I thought this book would be amazing since it was located in Toronto (close to where I grew up). It proved to be an interesting location for this novel, but mostly so because of the areas of Toronto that it covered and the heritage of the characters as well. The Chaos starts out with some teen angst about having had to change schools due to bullying at Scotch's previous high school and her fears that she just might be going crazy because of the things that she is seeing and the crazy skin i...more
Jan 19, 2013 Tine rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
The Chaos is een heel gepaste titel voor dit boek. Ik bedoel, ik heb al heel wat boeken gelezen waarin rare dingen gebeuren, maar deze is toch wel van een heel ander soort. Aan het begin van het verhaal ontmoeten we Scotch en komen we te weten dat ze kleine, zwevende paardenhoofdjes ziet die niemand anders kan zien en dat haar huid langzaam maar zeker bedekt wordt door zwarte, kleverige plekken. En, weet je? Dat is nog maar het begin. Pas daarna breekt de hel los: Izbushka (een huis op twee voge...more
Getting the negative out of the way first: I'm not fond of the inclusion of things like "omg" and "wtf" in prose (or even in dialogue, unless the characters are texting/msging/etc., or are huge dorks actually saying "oh em gee") and find it distracting. Also, while I liked how inclusive this story was, at times the recurring "Scotch learns to be less of a clueless jerk about Issues" theme seemed a little anvilicious and didactic. I mean, this story did deal quite a bit with themes of identity an...more
I may add stars later - still trying to decide!

From LJ:

Well, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed at the thought of writing anything coherent about this one, so have a Goodreads synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Scotch struggles to fit in—at home she's the perfect daughter, at school she's provocatively sassy, and thanks to her mixed heritage, she doesn’t feel she belongs with the Caribbeans, whites, or blacks. And even more troubling, lately her skin is becoming covered in a sticky black substance that can't
Originally reviewed on reutreads, a young adult book blog.

Let me give you a warning: while reading The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson, do not expect anything to make sense.

With that in mind, let's review, shall we? (Did you see what I did there?)

So The Chaos is a very original book. Like the blurb says, it's a blend of fantasy and folklore. I know very, very little about Caribbean culture so I completely had no idea what was going on in this book. I mean, I understood what was going on but the interwea...more
Basically the book is about a girl called Scotch who is biracial and feels like she doesn’t fit in. She was bullied at school and broke up with her boyfriend recently. She’s in a dance team behind her parents’ back and she keeps seeing shadowy creatures everywhere that no one else can see. Oh, and her skin is beginning to turn black and blotchy in places, and she doesn’t know how to stop it from spreading or make it go away.

Scotch is at a bar watching her brother perform at a slam poetry night w...more
*ARC courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada

Scotch's life hasn't been easy lately : she's having weird black and sticky spots growing on her skin and she's seeing bodiless horse heads wherever she goes. When her parents are out of town for a few days an underage Scotch and her brother go to a local bar for poetry slam. What promised to be an uneventful night turns out to be far worse than anyone would've dreamed of. A mysterious bubble of light appears out of nowhere and when her brother touches...more
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Nalo Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born writer and editor who lives in Canada. Her science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories often draw on Caribbean history and language, and its traditions of oral and written storytelling.

More about Nalo Hopkinson...
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