Morning Glory Academy is one of the most prestigious prep schools in America—as the collection opens, six tr...moreFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Morning Glory Academy is one of the most prestigious prep schools in America—as the collection opens, six troubled teens pack their lives into a single suitcase each and tie up loose ends in their hometowns. Casey's thrilled with her scholarship, while Ike's mother can't believe the school would scout her psychopathic son. Zoe's a serial dater with a disinterest in school, Hunter's a Canadian sweetheart from a broken home, Jade (formerly Jane) has an obsession with vampires and a clear stalker streak, and Fukayama Jin has a quick wit and a killer's instinct. However, once the teens arrive on campus—in a drug-induced blackout, no less—their fight for survival begins, and the mysteries behind these hallowed doors reveal themselves one by one…
Nick Spencer's written quite the introduction to his series, and his main cast possesses quite the loveable crew of anti-heroes. I took an immediate shine to Casey, the blonde bombshell who's also the leader of the new recruits. She's clever, organized, and she puts a bit of fear into her über-sadistic teachers. Also, I will have to honour fellow Canadian, Hunter—his talents have yet to be seen at this point (aside from his good-natured, beta-male approach to this murderous new life), but I get the sense he's got a few tricks hidden up his sleeves.
I found Joe Eisma's panels were well-structured and the pacing of the horrific scenes was good—the nightmarish images averaged about one-per-comic and tended to occur after a page flip (again adding to the general warning at the start of this post…). I did find some of the artwork became repetitive at times and duplicate panels or panels with minimal differences between them were regular features.
I expect I'll pick up the next volume in the series, if only to delve deeper into the dark secrets of Morning Glory Academy. Of course, next time around, I'll make sure to start reading well before 10 PM…
Ideal for: Readers craving a labyrinthine mystery in their sci fi horror; Teens looking for clever, convoluted, sixteen-year-old protagonists; Fans of secret societies, government training programs, or other sinister (and lowdown) groups.(less)
Winter break arrives with its usual patterns—snow drifts form on sidewalks, coloured lights brighten the eve...moreFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Winter break arrives with its usual patterns—snow drifts form on sidewalks, coloured lights brighten the evening hours, and Evan's Dad starts building his elaborate, mechanized winter town throughout the house. Upcoming papers and parental pressures are bearing down on Evan, but his routine's rattled after receiving a single text message from his childhood friend who's back in town…
Lucy moved south with her mother following her parents' divorce, and the last year has fostered nothing but silence between the two best friends. This time, the girl next door has morphed into New Lucy—a sullen girl with a nose stud, cropped black hair, and a strange Goth aesthetic. Evan dedicates himself to coaxing Old Lucy back into the world, even if it means pissing her off in the process. The two re-enter their fantastical childhood world, Aelysthia, and spin out new jam strips (one-page collaborative comics) to communicate where conversation fails. Slowly, the duo rediscover one another and fall into familiar patterns—until Lucy kisses Evan. Then, childhood friendship becomes ever-so complicated…
I was thrilled to find a North American example of a light novel—a YA book that incorporates original artwork and other graphic embellishments. I'm familiar with the Japanese conventions behind the light novel (which works as a wordier manga), but Emond creates a lively, indie-inflected work for all us North American kids. In particular, I loved the moment where Evan and Lucy create their first jam strip since Lucy's return home—the two sit in a diner, struggling to hold a decent conversation, yet their creativity and their comic panels allow them to speak where words won't form.
I also loved Aelysthia, the fantastical world the two created during their childhood. Each chapter ends with a fictionalized account of both Evan's and Lucy's current struggles, reframed through the elaborate lens of Aelysthia. Evan's comics were an excellent addition to the book and made for a lovely, multi-media reading experience overall.
Winter Town offers the perfect read for teens facing the crossroads of adulthood, and for childhood friends fighting to make their bonds stronger than before.
Ideal for: Comic book kids and manga fans who'd like a text-ier reading experience; Readers enamoured with pop culture shout outs, or folks who'd like to discover some excellent bands and fantasy books; Anyone with a childhood best friend they'd love to reconnect with in the future.(less)
At twelve, Hazel Grace Lancaster was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer and was prepared to die. At four...moreFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
At twelve, Hazel Grace Lancaster was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer and was prepared to die. At fourteen, an aggressive, long-settled satellite colony of tumours was discovered in her lungs. As a last resort treatment, Hazel enrolled in a clinical trial for a new drug called Phalanxifor—and now, she's living on borrowed time.
As the novel opens, sixteen-year-old Hazel's closest "friend" is An Imperial Affliction, a novel written by the reclusive author Peter Van Houten. She re-reads the novel because of Van Houten's complex portrayal of a young girl's struggle with cancer and his careful understanding of what it means to be dying and to not have died yet. Her parents decide to send Hazel to a church-based Cancer Kid Support Group in an effort to get their daughter engaged with the world again—and there, her life is re-written by a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters.
Brilliant book that did, in fact, make me feel all of the things. ALL of them. John Green offers a multi-facted view of Hazel and Augustus, and reminds readers that every one of us cannot be reduced to a single condition or social label or whatever the case may be. Green doesn't humanize a social or health issue here—instead, he shows us the complicated lives of three kids who learn to live despite their cancer. A subtle shift, no doubt, but a remarkable one to witness on paper.
As well, I love that John Green expects more of his readers than the standard YA author. While Green writes for teens, he never writes down to them. And, when it comes to the emotional spectrum and the honesty written into The Fault in Our Stars, Green proves his work needs to be read by teens and adults alike.
Ideal for: Nerdfighters (or Nerdfighters-in-training); Clever teens who need a lesson on real-life romance; Adult YA diehards who don't mind crying openly on the morning/evening commute; Readers looking to remember the transformative power of the written world; You, if you're reading this.(less)
Katniss Everdeen survived the nightmarish Quarter Quell and finds herself absorbed into the rebel group of Di...moreOriginally posted on Across the Litoverse
Katniss Everdeen survived the nightmarish Quarter Quell and finds herself absorbed into the rebel group of District 13. Her home in the Seam was burned to ash, along with ninety percent of its population. Gale survived. Katniss's mother and sister, Prim, escaped. Peeta was captured by the Capitol after the second Games came to an explosive close. And the spark of revolution in the districts has caught into a towering inferno of dissent.
Despite her fragile state, Katniss is called upon to lead the rebels as their symbolic Mockingjay. The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn in District 13's game, to accept responsibility for the countless lives lost, and to alter the future of Panem's governance. To do this, she must pledge herself to Alma Coin, the woman destined to become the new president of Panem, and rid herself of the anger that comes after leaning her life has been planned out since the first Hunger Games.
She must become the rebels' Mockingjay, no matter what the personal cost.
I definitely felt there was too much plot for one novel to handle—between Katniss's mental damage, the sinister agenda of District 13, and the offensive launched against President Snow and the Capitol, Mockingjay was bursting under the weight of its excess. Plot lines were condensed for the sake of forging one compact package as opposed to two well-balanced novels, and I could sense the narrative floundering therein. And also, the fact that Katniss kept getting knocked unconscious at the peak of each battle became quite frustrating—she's the girl on fire, not the girl on morphling.
Overall, a mixed reaction to the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, though I'm still glad to have the conclusion in place.
Ideal for: Readers who knocked off the first two books and need some resolution; Dystopian teens who like a quick read and who don't pull at loose threads; Folks who like convolutions and darkness in their teen romance novels.(less)
Against the odds, Katniss Everdeen survives the Hunger Games after her split-second decision forces the Gamem...moreOriginally posted on Across the Litoverse
Against the odds, Katniss Everdeen survives the Hunger Games after her split-second decision forces the Gamemakers to crown two victors. She and her fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark return home with new riches in hand and real estate in the Victor's Village, but Katniss finds little relief in the spoils from the Games. Gale, her longtime friend, freezes Katniss out of his life after watching her "fall in love" with Peeta on national television. In addition, Peeta turns his back on Katniss after she confesses their relationship was nothing more than an act to keep them both alive. As she navigates the distance between her friends, Katniss hears rumours of unrest in the districts and whispers of rebellion against the Capitol—much to her shock, her role in the Games has fuelled an unrest she cannot stop. But Katniss is left wondering one treasonous thought: if she is responsible for igniting the fire, should she even attempt to put it out?
As Katniss and Peeta prepare to visit the districts on the Capitol's sadistic Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If Katniss cannot prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that her love for Peeta motivated her actions in the arena, she will lose everything in a heartbeat…
Even though The Hunger Games deals with a brutal televised sporting event in which children are forced to hunt one another, I found Catching Fire offered A) far better descriptions of the excess and the casual violence taking place in the Capitol and B) a bloodier and more sinister dystopian story than the first book. Catching Fire had an unrelenting pace to it, which made for fast reading and delightfully bittersweet shockers at the end of most chapters. I also found Katniss was even more cunning this time around, and I appreciated that her mind was occupied with more important matters than strange clothes and rich meals. She's also more vicious this time around, most likely because she's now a confirmed killer. She's had to witness what evil she's capable of enacting, which allows her to push further into her darker side when the need arises. And man, does the need ever arise in book two…
Ideal for: Tentative fans of The Hunger Games (trust me, keep reading the books); Current teens and former teens interested in dystopian fiction and apocalyptic promises; Kids who like their relationship statuses complicated; Folks who dig a little mental torture in their violent prose; Readers who like their heroines tough, brooding, and armed with arrows.(less)
Runaways chronicles the lives of six "normal" Californian teenagers who are forced together each year due...moreOriginally published on Across the Litoverse
Runaways chronicles the lives of six "normal" Californian teenagers who are forced together each year due to their wealthy parents' annual (and top secret) business meeting. On a whim, Alex Wilder offers to relieve the teens of their boredom and suggests the group spies on their parents' charity fundraising initiative; however, their nosiness reveals a shocking truth: their parents belong to a secret criminal society known as The Pride, a collective controlling all illegal activities in Los Angeles. As if their criminal tendencies weren't foul enough, these duplicitous adults are also ritualistically murdering young women from the city—an act their children witness from behind a two-way mirror. With their true natures exposed, The Pride will take all measures necessary to protect their organization—even if it means destroying their own children to do so.
"GAWD, Mom and Dad—why do you have to ruin my life like this?!"
Brian K. Vaughan imagines the ultimate comeuppance for the under-twenty set—he takes those victimized and angsty kids, infuses them with otherworldly powers and tools, and sets 'em loose against the world order envisioned by their parents. Runaways offers the ultimate revenge fantasy of wayward teens jonesing for their chance to outwit the authorities and rise up against the status quo. On that note, Vaughan delivers in spades.
However, due to a massive principal cast (re: six teens, twelve parents, and numerous secondary figures), a large portion of the characters were underdeveloped and offered little to the story arc. In particular, Victor Stein proves to be an one dimensional meathead versus the gang, and Molly Hayes, an eleven-year-old girl, often acts as though she's in fact seven-years old.
Though I had a mixed reactions to this first volume, I'm willing to hold out for Runaways in the long run—maybe I'm hearing the echoes from my own teenaged years buried within me, but I have the sense these kids aren't finished their revolution just yet…
Ideal for: Superhero junkies looking for a fresh spin on the good vs. evil dynamic; Rowdy adolescents who are either comic book–obsessed or rarin' for their own rebellion; Folks who like a little surrealism in their graphic reads.(less)
Oppressive regime + brutal televised sporting event + one feisty, romantic heroine = one primo read for the d...moreOriginally posted on Across the Litoverse
Oppressive regime + brutal televised sporting event + one feisty, romantic heroine = one primo read for the dystopian teen crowd out there. Amid the ruins of the former North America lies Panem, a nation comprised of twelve isolated, though highly specialized, districts is ruled under the iron fist of the Capitol. In the aftermath of a failed rebellion among the districts, the Capitol created a televised spectacle known as the Hunger Games to further subjugate the districts and to appease the violent appetites of Capitol citizens. Each year, one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen are selected by lottery from each district and are then forced to participate in the Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Out in District 12, Katniss Everdeen upsets the 74th Annual Hunger Games when she volunteers to take her younger sister's place as tribute. Thus begins her dangerous journey to the Capitol and the arena, where she must weigh her own survival with her sense of humanity…
I admit, I was a little mixed with The Hunger Games. On one hand, Katniss friggin' rocked the world at the start. She's cunning and outspoken, and she had a nice bit of crazy in her while training for the Games (re: shooting at the distracted Gamemakers during her private assessment). But I was left with a slew of questions that were never satisfied: how does one buy real estate in the Capitol? Why are their children never sacrificed for the Games? How do tributes not just breakdown during the pre-Game interviews and costume parades? How do any of the remaining tributes believe the whole "if both people from the same district survive, you both win the Games!!" ruse? Though, to be fair, I think if I'd been a preteen in 2008, I'd have been all over these books in a heartbeat.
Ideal for: Dystopian junkies of all ages; Preteen readers who like a little rebellion and gore with their romance; Lenny Kravitz fans who think he'd make a killer Cinna (holla!)(less)