Much of what I said for the first book, Slated [review], still applies to Fractured- Kyla is still this intriguing little enigma of a person,4.5
Much of what I said for the first book, Slated [review], still applies to Fractured - Kyla is still this intriguing little enigma of a person, and the book is still compulsively readable, with a very skin-crawlingly plausible (as an extreme) basis for a dystopia. As the series goes on and the reader is given more information and more of an insight into what's really happening, everything gets a little darker and more worrisome in a really interesting way. The more that is revealed, the more questions there are to ask.
I love the layers Teri Terry has presented in this story. There is intrigue, terrorism and patriotism, politics and science and double-crosses, all muddled up together into a full, tension-fraught, scarily real world. These elements play off of each other, each heightening the next and creating more tension and anticipation for what is to come - there are so many places things can start to go wrong, and the reasons things have come to this extreme are both horrifyingly believable and just-enough over the edge as to be almost too much. Kyla is an excellent representation of all of this; she is all these different people, stacked one in another like matryoshka. She's naive and innocent, but also strong, smart and uncanny. She's incredibly vulnerable and broken, but fierce and seemingly unbreakable. The things that have been done to her - and not just the Slating, but the layers and layers of things, which are hinted at in book 1 and explored more in book 2 - have created in Kyla quite an enigma, which doesn't quite fit anywhere, but has pieces of every aspect of this intricate world reflected in her.
The more Kyla understands about her world and herself, the more intriguing and dangerous everything becomes, and I love it! Of course, it helps that Terry's writing pulls you along at high speed. As with Slated, I Didn't intend to read this in a day, but I damn near did. Terry just makes it so easy to keep flipping pages; I had to know what Kyla was going to remember next, or how she was going to get out of every predicament. As the series progresses, new characters pop into Kyla's life with greater frequency, and who they are and their motivations are always suspect. With each new interaction, the stakes are raised, and you're left constantly wondering how things could possibly end well. And the beauty of the book?
Sometimes they don't.
That may sound strange to you, but think about what a beautiful thing that is, to not have everything clean and nice and tied up with a bow. Life isn't always clean and nice; life is hard. Sometimes things suck. Sometimes good people get hurt and bad ones keep on doing the hurting, and very little adds up or makes sense or feels right. That's life. In a dystopian society? It should be just that, but more. Things should be heightened, danger should be real, and it should feel as though maybe there just isn't a Happily Ever After. That's the only way I can really buy in, and I'm so glad that Teri Terry gets* that and doesn't cop out and wave a magic wand so that everyone comes out unscathed and perfect**, happy and whole. I appreciate that so much. I appreciate the danger and the questions and the tension, and just GAH! is it time for book 3 yet?!
So many italics!!
in this review. **But as I write that, I have to admit, there is one instance of some pretty serious magic-wand-waving where a character really does seem to come out of something unscathed. However, the other ways in which the scenario goes wrong make it work, so I'm okay with that. But it bears mentioning....more
One of mybiggestselling points in any book is tension. I talk a lot in my reviews about tension, and generally it's because I'm talking about the lackOne of my biggest selling points in any book is tension. I talk a lot in my reviews about tension, and generally it's because I'm talking about the lack of it. But what I mean when I talk about tension is a lot of things, actually. It's not just the internal tension in the story, between characters, say, or two factions. That's only part of it. When I'm talking about tension, I'm also talking about the way your gut reacts to a story. The best stories have tension you can actually feel. They cause an actual physical reaction inside of you, making you sit up straighter or curl in on yourself, feel butterflies or feel terror. They make your heart race or give you chills. They making reading a sensory experience, make you feel like you're more in the story. I could feel this story; the tension was beautiful.
This companion novel to Ship Breaker* has a very dark and hopeless atmosphere and is almost unrelenting in that darkness except that there are these bright moments to balance it: trust, love, companionship, hope - things that somehow manage to live on against the odds in the face of child soldiers and fanaticism and all manner of unspeakable atrocities. Don't get me wrong, nothing here is sugar-coated; the story remains incredibly dark, but not so relentlessly grim that you just can't bear to read it.
And the storytelling - the writing and tactics and plot devices - were very well done. This is a great example of shifting narrators that actually worked for me. In the past, I've talked about how this can be hit or miss for me, but this time it was a big hit. It's also a great example of anti-heroic characters that work and that still remain sympathetic and rootforable. Bacigalupi juggles things well and shifts seamlessly, and weaves each character's storylines together to make them more meaningful than they would be on their own. There were so many things that I stopped to read over, not for clarity but for the sheer power of it. It was sometimes breathtaking, but not in the way of any kind of beauty, really. More in the way that a punch to the gut is breathtaking. I just sometimes had to set the book in my lap and just linger over some things, process them or prepare myself for what I knew was coming. I love a book that engages me on this level, because it's rare enough on its own, and rarer still to have that last the whole way through the book.
It's fascinating from the dystopian/post-apocalyptic aspect, and I think those who have gotten used to the watered-down dystopias and post-apocalyptic books flooding the market lately will appreciate the vitality of this. Everything felt very critical, very authentic and very tenuous, with that skin-crawling layer that comes with well thought out dystopias. Vital, truly disturbing dystopias rely on things that could happen and/or do happen, and intelligently distill a future of what could be from what is. Good dystopias/PAs give you glimpses of insight into where everything went wrong, and then how they kept going wrong, and they shock your system with how easily it could all happen. Bacigalupi does this really well, sort of meditating on the choices we make and their snowball effects.
I don't know if there will be a third companion book, but there are loose ends in The Drowned Cities that could leave it open for one. I don't mention this as a drawback, however, as I think the loose ends were done in a good, believable way, and I like to have stories like this left up in the air a little bit. It gives something to discuss, something to think over and work out. This is not the type of book to have everything come together completely in the end, or to have a Happy Ever After for every character; it would have felt inauthentic if this had been the case, and a lot of the power of the story would have been lost as a result. As it is, the story is bittersweet, not bow-wrapped, and that's exactly as it should be.
*Note: To my understanding, The Drowned Cities is a loose companion to Ship Breaker, so if you haven't read Ship Breaker don't let that stop you - it didn't stop me! And I never felt like I was missing anything or not comprehending the scope of things; it definitely works well as a stand-alone, but makes me even more excited for when I finally do read Ship Breaker... Also, this is marketed to YA but there's no real YAness about it. It's just a book, well-written and as such I think will appeal as much or more to adults as to the teens it's marketed to.
Curious about The Drowned Cities? Read the first 11 chapters here for free! I doubt you'll want to put it down......more
3.5ish. Stormdancer was one of my most eagerly anticipated reads of this year, between the excellent premise and the endless rave reviews I kept seeing3.5ish. Stormdancer was one of my most eagerly anticipated reads of this year, between the excellent premise and the endless rave reviews I kept seeing of it - but it almost didn't make it out of the gate. ...more
I am bound to judge any story that uses Persuasion pretty harshly. I can't help myself; I'm a huge Persuasion fan, and there haven't been enough adaptI am bound to judge any story that uses Persuasion pretty harshly. I can't help myself; I'm a huge Persuasion fan, and there haven't been enough adaptations of it to dull my senses to the inconsistencies yet. So it's a risk - as much as I look forward to stories that make use of it, there's a good chance that I just won't be able to let things go. I think I probably was harder on this that I would have been if it didn't use Persuasion and instead was just another dystopian YA. But it was inevitable that I would judge it harshly - though even then, I couldn't help but love it.
It was unputdownable. It had that indefinable something working for it, and the heart of it, the way it mirrored Persuasion but adapted to fit a wholly different environment, was really compelling to me. There were always parts of me saying, Anne wouldn't say what Elliot just said, Anne wouldn't do what Elliot just did - but then I'd catch myself thinking, but she would feel it... And that was why it worked. No, Elliot is not a carbon copy of Anne. She has Anne's basic traits (she's loyal, she's smart, reliable, and compassionate, and everyone pushes her around), but she is also a product of her environment, and the two work together to create a character that strongly resembles Anne (is very Anne-like), but is also her own creation. I really have to applaud Peterfreund for being able to balance the two so well. The story is at once a clear retelling of Persuasion, and its own very different story entirely. It's not just a regurgitation of Persuasion in an exciting dystopic setting. It's its own creation, and though there are these changes in the core of who the characters are, I think for the most part, they're suited to the story Peterfreund created. It feels more "inspired by" than a straight retelling. I think you can really tell how much Peterfreund likes Persuasion and Austen, and respects her source material, and that's part of what really makes it work as a whole.
That isn't to say there weren't things that bothered me, or that didn't work from a retelling standpoint. Because this is written for YA, the timing doesn't have the same impact. In Persuasion, Anne and Wentworth fall in love and are separated when Anne is 19, and then meet again nearly a decade later. Moving up the timetable to suit a YA audience means that Elliot and Kai are separated at 14 and come together again at 18, and I have never been enough of a romantic that I would consider separated 14 year olds to be tragic lovers, and a reunion at 18 to be a triumphant return... It lessens it somehow; lessens the tragedy and the sadness of pining and being alone for almost 10 years, takes away the pain of feeling like the character will always be alone, like she's lost her only chance... It makes it all a little lighter, which is sad because there's really nothing that Peterfreund could do differently and still have it suit the audience. The way, too, that they are separated - with Elliot first of all in mourning, and second, legitimately making the right decision for everyone around her - means that it becomes a lot harder to like Kai. I did like him, don't get me wrong, but I think that was maybe only because I knew who he was supposed to be, and how he was going to turn out. Otherwise, I think I would have found him really callous and almost cruel, both in the manner and timing of their separation, and in his treatment of Elliot on his return.
Other things that niggled at me: It feels like the beginning to a series. I don't think it will be, but that's just because I know it is a retelling. If I picked this up just as a sci-fi read, I'd be sure it was going to be a trilogy. There's so much that feels like it could still be explored, and for all of the doom and gloom of the situation, and Elliot's internal debates over what's right and what the future should hold, things are far too easily wrapped up once she's (re)secured Kai's affections; in fact, the entire book ends too abruptly for me, with it feeling like Elliot is being rash, and a number of characters being ushered quickly off the stage... Also, I didn't like the letters that begin and punctuate the book. I got used to them, and I like what Elliot did with them, and the knothole, etc., but the letters themselves felt forced on the story to me, and they didn't work as a way to draw me into the story.
See? See how nitpicky this all turned out, when I really do want to push this book into everyone's hands? Ugh, okay: Despite my obsessive attention to this as a Persuasion retelling, and my too-harsh judgement as a result (because I have to, I can't not, it's one of my all-time faves), Peterfreund crafted a really compelling story that: a) is one of the most unique Austen adaptations I've ever read. And I mean unique in a good way - P&P&Z was "unique" too, but my god, was it ever terrible. This is both unique and functioning as a story, compelling and interesting, very very different from other adaptations, but showcasing the same love of the original as the best adaptations do. b) works both as a retelling and as a complete original, which I don't know I have ever said - or even thought - about any other adaptation. It can be read by fans of YA, fans of Austen, and fans of both, and each group will get something different out of it while also enjoying it for what they came to it for, adaptation or YA sci-fi (And they won't feel like they're missing anything by not being familiar with Austen and/or YA). c) presents a really interesting, engaging world with characters and conflicts that intrigued me.
So yes, as much as I notice all these little things, and feel compelled to say "But wait - but what about - but then - " I really did thoroughly enjoy this and think Peterfreund did a fantastic job of making it work so very far out of the box. So get it. Read it. And enjoy it immensely with me even while we pick it apart......more
INITIALLY:4.5 Maybe even a 5. And I couldn't even tell you why...Though of course, when I get around to reviewing it, I'm certainly going to try. ;D
IINITIALLY:4.5 Maybe even a 5. And I couldn't even tell you why...Though of course, when I get around to reviewing it, I'm certainly going to try. ;D
I ended up rounding up after consideration. Growth, my friends. Still can't quite put it all into something coherent, but I connect to Anya a lot for some reason. Review to come closer to the release. :)
AND THEN: After being told about Gabrielle Zevin for years (after having her relentlessly pushed on me by certain people, and 1 in particular, who shall remain Naughty Librarian Ashley nameless), and resisting for no apparent reason, I finally sat down to read something by her last year: All These Things I've Done, which, lo and behold, I loved. Anya's cold-fish narration won over my blackened, shriveled little heart with ease. Needless to say, I was looking forward to book 2. (Even more so when info was released about it, because ohmysweettitleobsession, if that isn't a damn good title!)
I was hesitant, though. Of course I was. I'm ever-leery of the sophomore slump, and Anya's life has undergone some big changes in a very short time, which could mean the magic was going to be lost. But this was one of the rare cases of me liking a 2nd book just as much as the 1st, though for completely different reasons (which is also a good thing, because that means it's not just a regurgitation of book One). This was also an even rarer case of me liking something more after sitting with it for awhile than when I first finished. Anya is different in this, but understandably so. She's starting to lose a little bit of her cold-fish tendencies and put herself out there more. It's growth, and though I'll miss cold-Anya, it's good growth; she begins to move away from her Daddyisms (another of my favorite things from ATTID), even going so far as to question some of the things he told her, and question why she so blindly held to them rather than figuring things out for herself. She's still very long-suffering, but she's starting to grow out of that. She's becoming a little more ruthless and a little less afraid of being so (which pleases me); she understands and is embracing what being Anya Balanchine - being part of her Family (intentional capital F) - really means. By the end, she's not running anymore. (And this really pleases me.)
Because It Is My Blood finds Anya in Mexico, learning more about the chocolate trade, the history of the Prohibition, and just what it is her family does. I loved this new facet to the story - the detour to Mexico, the cast of Mexican characters*, Anya's growing familiarity with chocolate, all of it. It helps facilitate her growth and questioning, and it gives her some sense of purpose - a measure of self-understanding that she didn't quite possess before. The family/Family drama is still good, but it's less about that now, and more about Anya coming into her own. I mean, family/Family drama is still a big a part of the plot, but the filter is even more through Anya, and making tough choices, growing up, letting go and standing strong. This aspect was there in ATTID but it wasn't fully realized because Anya wasn't ready yet. Now she is, and Zevin confronts things beautifully.
*I mean, Theo might be my favorite person of ever.
But not all of this book takes place in Mexico, as much as I love the expansion of the world and that little bit of escapism. Anya still has to deal with things (a LOT of things) at home, and I like how Zevin confronted these issues, too. I'm not going to lie, I'm still really mad at Scarlet and I STILL REALLY HATE Gable. [And honestly, I'm starting to not give a shit about Win...I like him, but more because of Anya's reactions to him - the slightly-tortured, definitely in love, but not willing to compromise who she is** aspect of their relationship is excellent, but as I said above: Theo might be my favorite person of ever.] But mostly, I REALLY loved where this went with Charles Delacroix. I don't want to risk spoiling anything, but it actually went where I was hoping it would go, and even though I was expecting it, it was still really nice to see it happen (but also unsettling). A lot of YA authors wouldn't have dared. And while we're being cryptic - the same is true with Kipling/Yuji, etc. Zevin didn't pull punches with the relationships, and they had me feeling all turmoily and anxious and FEELS. I'm curious to see where things stand in the future with all of the characters/relations, as many are very open and very tenuous. But I loved the handling for now. It was very adult, very unforgiving, and yet another sign of Anya's development that I both liked and bought.
All in all, I liked the expansion of the world, and the better explanations of the chocolate/caffeine prohibiton, and I really liked Anya's conclusions/goals. I'm definitely curious to see where the series goes from here. Garbielle Zevin and her cold-fish-Anya have won me over. You win, Naughty Librarian Ashley world. You win.
**Do you know? Do you know how much I love this about her?!...more
With dystopian books being as popular as they are right now, it always makes me a little wary when I pick one up. I mean, I love them, don't get me wrWith dystopian books being as popular as they are right now, it always makes me a little wary when I pick one up. I mean, I love them, don't get me wrong. But it's inevitable when you have a lot of something that they each get a little farther from the core of what makes that something good. Each dystopia seems to be a little...fluffier than the last, and a little more farfetched. To me, you can see the truth in a good dystopia. As bizarre as the society portrayed may be, some little part of you is made extremely uncomfortable while reading it because it feels like it could maybe happen. Dystopias hold up a mirror to some aspect of our society, and then project that aspect to its logical extreme.
While Slated may occasionally fall into some of the fluffy-dystopia traps (not every book needs a romance, dammit!), it generally wiggles itself right back out of those traps, and more importantly, touches on what makes dystopia dystopia - it feels like it could happen.
The idea of Slating, of a forced mind-wipe, is intriguing because it's something I could easily see being researched in a lab somewhere right now. I mean, it's reprogramming, essentially, and we already do that in one form or another. But what makes it so eerie, what makes it seem so plausible, is the idea of it being presented as something altruistic and just - the best, boldest, kindest solution to a problem. Why lock criminals away and let them rot? What good is that doing? What if instead we could simply remake them? What if we could reach into their brains, give their memory Etch-a-Sketch a little shake, and begin anew? And as a failsafe, we'll just have this little brain monitor that would zap the hell out of you if you tried to hurt someone - and maybe even if you get too sad...Wouldn't everyone be better off then? The criminals would get a chance to be productive and happy, and the criminalized would get to feel safe again. Problem solved. See how easy it is to justify something like this? I guarantee there are people in our society now who would absolutely see the benefits in this and would even promote the science.
That is, if it weren't for one little thing: abuses. Because let's be honest, there's NO WAY this wouldn't be abused. And there you have it: the crux of dystopia. How far can you go before the potential good is outweighed by the potential bad? Terry walked this line really well and as the book went on, was clearly able to convey the snowball effect something like this would have, and the way this kind of legislature/propaganda would creep up on the general public until they find themselves having agreed to a totalitarian society with no real recourse to change things back.
But getting beyond the dystopian aspect, the book is just thoroughly readable. It's engaging right from the start, and Kyla is an intriguing main character. She's fascinating because she doesn't know who she is now or who she was before, but she lives in fear of her unknown past - what must she have done to be slated? The reader is right there with her, wondering if Kyla was part of a terrorist organization, wondering if she was an abused child who turned the tables - wondering what could possible have gotten this bright, artistic, seemingly sweet child slated. As a character with no past, she could have seemed substance-less, but she didn't at all. In fact, she is a sharp counterpoint to many of the other slateds around her, and she only becomes more complex and intriguing (and even more mysterious) as the story goes on.
Now, as I mentioned above, there is a romance, and frankly I could have done with out it. But that's because I'm heartless. I think it was actually pretty well handled (for the most part) and didn't seem forced on the story for the sake of having the Obligatory YA Romance. And there was one thing that happened in the end that redeemed the story-as-far-as-romance-goes for me, and it's spoilery so I'm not going to tell you what, but when you read it you're going to say, Man, she wasn't kidding about being heartless...
And that's all I'm going to say, other than this: When I started this, I stayed up very late into the night and read the first 100+ pages in one sitting. But this was just before Fairy Tale Fortnight, so I really had to put it down, because frankly I should never have picked it up yet. I didn't mean to read the first 100+ pages, I just wanted to get a feel for the story. Putting it down and not coming back to it for almost a month could have really backfired. Sometimes a story grips you in the beginning and you read it voraciously and LOVE IT at the time, and then once you've had some breathing room, you're like, What exactly did I like about that again? It's book crack, and though you love it initially, you regret it later. Putting this down could have revealed this as book crack, if it wasn't a good story. But when I came back to it, I was right back in it like I'd never left. It engulfed me again, and when I was finished, all I could think was how l o n g the wait was going to be until the next book. So. Long.
So now I need you to read it so we can commiserate. ;D...more
When The Sea is Rising Red was a little bit of an odd reading experience for me. It was one of my most anticipated reads of 2012, so when3.5-4 range.
When The Sea is Rising Red was a little bit of an odd reading experience for me. It was one of my most anticipated reads of 2012, so when I got my hands on it awhile back, I was super excited and maybe holding it to too-high a standard. I think it suffered a little for that, because it couldn't quite live up to my enthusiasm and was a little lackluster as a result. It grew on me but it wasn't as powerful or gripping as I was hoping for. There are times when I thought it was going to be, little moments that shined or things that Hellisen does well that made me almost fall for it, but there was something always holding me back just a bit.
Mostly, I think the thing holding me back was Felicita. As a protagonist, she is hard to like. She's spoiled and self-centered, and even though she does take this huge, admirable leap to take control of her fate and be strong, she's still very much a product of her upbringing throughout. Though I can't really fault her for that (or Hellisen; it is realistic, after all), it does make it hard to root for her. But she does grow considerably, and part of me knows that this was the point of her character, but it still was hard to cheer for her or want to read her story at times. It always made sense that she'd think the way she does, that she'd look down on people and be somewhat narrow-minded, but chances are it will put some readers off - those who are not fans of anti-heroes or aren't patient or willing to wait for things to come around and for her to get with it. But even beyond that, I couldn't help but feel that Felicita was sort of incidental at times, that she wasn't really needed; that she was just the gateway into the story, and that things probably would have happened exactly the same with or without* her. This is not necessarily bad; it can be kind of intriguing, actually. But I didn't get as much out of her as I would have liked, other than that she brought me to these other characters that I loved. But she can be introspective and she is curious, so she does bring things to light and allow us to see this world through her eyes. I was able to forgive her most things because of that.
[*I'm sorry if I just put Bono in your head...]
What made up for Felicita, though, was Pelimburg and the creatures who populated it. The world-building was excellent (for me, at least. I'm sure some will find it confusing and frustrating, but I ate it up.) Pelimburg was genuinely interesting and felt very lively and full. I liked Felicita's exploration of it, and her attempts to let go of "Felicita" and become "Firel" so that she could escape into something else (even though she can never seem to leave Felicita behind). The rest of the characters are fun and I adored a number of them. They made me wish for a longer book because I wanted more pagetime for them; I wanted to get more of their stories, more of their thoughts and actions and how they came to be together (even though the slight mystery, always-has-been-ness of it all really worked). I also really liked the take on magic and folklore, with different cultures, backgrounds and superstitions adding a really nice layer to the story. And it all had a sort of desolate, dreary, hopeless feel to it, which I loved, and which kept me going where Felicita sometimes did not.
Another thing I absolutely did love was the treatment of love - or not so much even that, but attraction. Hellisen avoids a lot of the pitfalls of most YA, portraying attraction and romance in a much more realistic, muddled, confusing way. It's not the stereotypical YA romance, even though there is a love triangle(ish). What love is there, what romance and triangularness and flirtation and confusion, etc., felt more human and authentic in its treatment than you generally find; it's bumbling and cringe-worthy in that really good, awkward, realistic way, and (thankfully) completely ignores the idea of swooning, mushy lovestuff. This alone means that I'll be keeping an eye on what Hellisen does in the future.
But the fact remains, when I finished the last page and closed the book, I didn't feel the need to immediately tell someone about it or push it on anyone. I knew that any pushing I did do would be qualified ("Read this, it's neat, but..."). Again, I think part of this was just because of my own expectations and inexplicable excitement for the book, and that's not really fair of me. And there's part of me that wonders if I may appreciate it more on further readings. There is something there that lingered with me, and there is certainly a part of me that wants more of the world and its cast of characters. So it did sort of worm its way into me, and that's a plus in my book. (I mean, it stuck with me well enough that I'm able to review it and recall things months after reading it, which can be a rarity for me.)
As I said, it was an odd experience. In the end, I do recommend this, but with qualifiers - know yourself as a reader. If you aren't put off by the negatives I've listed, and are intrigued by the rest, definitely pick this up. But if you're easily confused or frustrated with complex, unusual world-building or oft-times frustrating MCs, or you like your romances immediate and swoony, you might want to skip it. As for me, I think I might read it again at some point, when I can come to it with fresh eyes. And I'll certainly be keeping a lookout for what Cat does next, since this was her debut and all; I'm intrigued to see what she'll do next and how she'll grow. ...more
I'm resting around 3.5 stars right now, and haven't decided whether to round up or down, so rating to come whenever the review does. Things I really lI'm resting around 3.5 stars right now, and haven't decided whether to round up or down, so rating to come whenever the review does. Things I really liked, things I really didn't... I think for many, this will be a very polarizing book, based almost solely on the style, which I think is interesting, 'cause that's not something that is discussed (over plot/characters/Team Blahblah, etc) very often, honestly....more
It's hard to know where to start with Dark Parties. There were times I really liked it and times I had serious reservations. Dark Parties starts off iIt's hard to know where to start with Dark Parties. There were times I really liked it and times I had serious reservations. Dark Parties starts off interesting (if a little weird) with a literal "dark party" - Neva and her best friend Sanna organize a party held in pitch blackness. It's a little bit random makeout session and a little bit teenage rebellion. Two things happen at the dark party that are basically catalysts for all of the action of the story: Neva accidentally makes out with Sanna's boyfriend in the dark, and the teens plot a protest. We'll start with the protest, which starts as a vow not to have sex (so they don't bring more babies into the Protectosphere - though if you have a vow to not have sex, why are you tempting yourself with a "dark party" group makeout sesh?) and evolves into vandalism and plans for a rally.
I couldn't really tell you what the early rebellion was against. Ostensibly it's against the Protectosphere, the dome in which they live. But really it's just against The Man and everything the governement represents. We're given glimpses throughout the story of the governmental control, resource shortages, propaganda,missing people, etc., but I never really saw the motivation for the teens' rebellion. I mean, with Neva, there is some substance there because she lost someone close to her, her grandmother, who fed her a steady diet of secret righteous indignation. Neva keeps a list of the people who go missing (mostly girls), and she's unsettled by the things her grandmother taught her and her grandmother's disappearance. So on the one hand, I get a bit of her rebellious inclinations. But for the group of teens as a whole, I never really got how they all came together and why they were all so anti-government.
I mean, there are legitimate reasons to distrust their government and even to rebel. But the thing is, they don't know that through most of the story. They seem to just be a little pissed off that life isn't pretty, but if that's what they've grown up knowing...do you fight if you don't know any better? The reasons behind their rebellion and their vehemence never really gelled for me. They seem angry that they all look alike (a product of the limited gene pool imposed by the Protectosphere), but again, if that's what you've grown up knowing - would it really seem strange to you, or a reason to get angry? Maybe there is a case to be made for an innate desire for individuality, I don't know. But I think, as the reader, I could have used a little more guidance or a little more back story early on to understand where the rebellion comes from.
But maybe I just wasn't getting the full impact of the rebellion because it felt like it was muddled by the relationship, which brings me to the second point: Neva makes out with Sanna's boyfriend, Braydon, whom she claims to distrust and actively dislike until she makes out with him. Apparently his kisses must be magic, because the rest of the book from then on is basically Neva waffling back and forth between "But I like him! We can't, he belongs to Sanna! But I just want him so bad! But Sanna, but Sanna, but what if we make out in this abandoned shack? Oh noes, Sanna!!" I know a lot of people have expressed dislike for the story because they can't like Neva since she's screwing her BFFFFFF over by (almost) screwing her boyfriend. I could care less about this, her emotions regarding the betrayal are actually done pretty well, even if I do make light.
It's just...I don't think it was a necessary layer for the story. It didn't add anything to me, and more often than not, it detracted. As the story goes on and Neva begins to find out some disturbing things that actually make a rebellion seem more plausible and even necessary, she becomes more and more distracted by her desire for Braydon, a boy she hated but suddenly can't stop kissing. (And (view spoiler)[The truth about Braydon being an undercover cop sent to bust up the rebellion was completely obvious (hello, Neva, he has a GIGANTIC house, drives a motorcycle, flouts the rules - all this in a repressive and broke-ass society? AND you distrusted him from the beginning, but you didn't see this coming? REALLY, NEVA. (hide spoiler)]) It just all felt unnecessary to me. Look, not EVERY book has to have a romance, and not EVERY romance has to be angsty. It needs to serve the story, there needs to be a reason for it, and in this case, I didn't feel there was a reason, and it did a disservice to the story. It lessened the impact of the story: these two things (dystopian revolution/cheating with your BFs boyfran) were held up side by side, and if I'm supposed to believe they are just as important as each other, well then, in the scheme of things...it makes the dystopia less compelling which was really the point of the story. It showed a lack of focus, Grant was trying to do too many things, and it just didn't work for me. I kept seeing things that couldhave been taken advantage of, and things that should have been cut.
But here's the thing: in spite of all that, the muddled focus and the not always compelling dystopia/world-building and the potentially hard to like MC, I actually did enjoy reading this. It's a very quick read, and there are some compelling things going on that do make sense as a dystopia once you finally get to them. With the popularity of dystopia these days, a lot of them are becoming really watered down and the label dystopia is being applied to just about everything. This, once it gets going, actually works for me as a dystopia, and the idea of the Protectosphere and the homogenization of the population, and (view spoiler)[the idea of the forced breeding of young girls (hide spoiler)], these things actually make for a really compelling dystopic theme. When Neva finally gets her head out of her ass and finds out what's going on - I felt like the story should have started there. Even though it didn't, I did enjoy this. If it sounds interesting to you inspite of the somewhat dubious lead and the muddled focus, I do think you should pick this up. It may not be the best, most focused and impactful example of dystopian lit out there, but it has its moments and it's certainly entertaining.
*Dark Parties was provided to me by the publisher, Little, Brown Books in exchange for a fair and balanced review.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more