So I first heard about this book back in August, and when I got my new library card it was the first book I requested for inter-library loan. That was...moreSo I first heard about this book back in August, and when I got my new library card it was the first book I requested for inter-library loan. That was early September, and I only got the book on November 12th, and there are still people waiting in line for it! I read the first 147 pages in fits and starts, thanks to having to work the day I got the book. However, once the Hunger Games actually started (page 148), I sat down and couldn't bear to set the book down. It's a book that had me audibly gasping and cheering - driving my fiance up a wall while I was at it.
Suzanne Collins has created a fantastic world here - we are given details describing Katniss' life and the country of Panem as needed, so there's no awkwardly long passages of exposition to catch us up on the world. It is simultaneously familiar (the idea of barren wastelands and people living in resource-poor areas are all too common in real life and in literature) and yet horrifyingly different (a government keeping its citizens in line by forcing them to sacrifice children to battle to the death for the rest of the country's entertainment).
Many people have brought up that this isn't a wholly original book - it has bits of "The Lottery" and "Battle Royale" and even "Survivor" sprinkled in. But what makes this story fantastic and feel utterly original and compelling is the combination of those familiar elements, and the excellent characters Collins has created. I utterly enjoyed being in Katniss' head for almost 400 pages; she is bitter, she is cynical, but she is also incredibly smart, resourceful and caring. She takes risks constantly, and it's that quality that has kept her and her family alive, both in the Seam of District 12 and in the Hunger Games themselves. Accompanying Katniss are a cast of colorful characters, from Peetra, her fellow tribute from District 12 in the Hunger Games, to the variety of people who help prepare her for the Games themselves. Everyone is distinct (well, except the three women in charge of making Katniss "presentable" via an extreme makeover, but I have a feeling that was intentional).
I was completely incoherent when I finished the book. In fact, when I reached the last page and discovered this was merely the first book in a trilogy, all I could do was drop the book and have a minor freak out because I wasn't ready for the story to be over! Waiting for the second book is going to be painful - I have absolutely no clue what is going to happen next and already I'm going crazy - but if it's half as good as this book was, it'll be worth the wait!(less)
Wow. I could not put this book down. This book is absolutely heart-wrenching, and a real page-turner. While logically I find some problems with the fo...moreWow. I could not put this book down. This book is absolutely heart-wrenching, and a real page-turner. While logically I find some problems with the format (few diarists I know transcribe full conversations. And I know when I'm tired and hungry, my blog entries get shorter and less coherent, not longer and more dramatic. and my version of tired and hungry isn't anything close to what's described her), they weren't nearly enough to keep me from LOVING this book and starting in right away on the sequel.(less)
Holy crap, a book (a young adult book, even) that doesn't treat 'feminism' as a dirty word!
This book perfectly captures the frustrations of being a yo...moreHoly crap, a book (a young adult book, even) that doesn't treat 'feminism' as a dirty word!
This book perfectly captures the frustrations of being a young woman in a male-dominated world. From being dismissed as cute and adorable, to being shut out of old boys' clubs, Frankie experiences it all in the microcosm of her elite boarding school. And she comes up with absolutely ingenious ways to fight the patriarchy.
I loved the word play and social-consciousness throughout the book. Frankie's play with "neglected positives" (removing the negative prefixes from words that don't really have positives, so the opposite of impugn is pugn or dulge from indulge) reveals early on that she thinks deeper about things than others (especially her copy-editor, and mindless follower, of a boyfriend), and thinks about them differently - the perfect precursor to her orchestration of epic pranks that always have a deeper meaning.
The narration of the book was interesting - it's never clear who exactly is telling this story. But the story telling style was great - the book opens with Frankie's letter of admission for planning several pranks, and then the story goes back to the beginning of the school year to show how Frankie went from a mildly-geeky and fairly forgettable freshmen to a potential criminal mastermind.
1/23/2011 edit: this is still one of my favorite books ever. For more commentary on its feminist properties, check out my list of feminist YA novels(less)
I usually can't get into fantasy books, but something about this one captured my attention and I didn't want it to end! I would occasionally force mys...moreI usually can't get into fantasy books, but something about this one captured my attention and I didn't want it to end! I would occasionally force myself to take (short) breaks so that I could stretch this book out longer.
While Katsa sometimes came across as overpowered, I really liked the feminist undertones throughout the book. Less fun was the sometimes heavy-handed explanations of how Katsa's and Po's Graces worked - at first they felt like really obvious foreshadowing, but then when these details never came up for the rest of the story they felt more like the author trying to hold off any nitpicky questions about how their Graces operated.
But otherwise? Really, really enjoyable. I can't wait for more!
Edit 1/22/11: It's been two years since I read this and it still sticks with me! For my commentary on the feminist aspects of Graceling (and its prequel), check out my list of feminist YA novels(less)
Here was an excellent use of alternating POV in different chapters. Scarlet's chapters read more like a horror/thriller, with her descriptions of the...moreHere was an excellent use of alternating POV in different chapters. Scarlet's chapters read more like a horror/thriller, with her descriptions of the joy of hunting werewolves. Rosie's chapters are more unsure, and as her romance with Silas blossoms, we get more of a paranormal romance story - but Rosie's no damsel in distress and is more than capable of taking care of herself.
While overall Scarlet was my favorite sister (I have a soft spot for girl warriors), Rosie gets two of the best scenes in the book. If this ever becomes a film, I can't wait to see the tango scene played out - it could be epic if done right. And I don't want to give too much away, but Rosie's method of taking on a whole pack of werewolves had me on the edge of my seat, cheering for her victory.
Edit 1/23/11: It's been about six months since I've read this and it still sticks with me as an excellent title. Thanks to its feminist elements, I've added it to my list of feminist YA novels.(less)
An epic ride. Excellent action-adventure science fiction of the sort that isn't seen often in YA these days. Perfect doses of humor. And a character i...moreAn epic ride. Excellent action-adventure science fiction of the sort that isn't seen often in YA these days. Perfect doses of humor. And a character is named after an internet meme. Reader, I LOLed. And I couldn't ask for more in a science fiction book. Easily one of the best reads of the year, and Gill is officially one of my favorite authors - I can't wait to see what he comes out with next, and I'm sure I'll be picking it up on day one!(less)
So...I think this might just be better than Leviathan.
Leviathan is a must-read before you tackle this monster book. The story begins in the middle of...moreSo...I think this might just be better than Leviathan.
Leviathan is a must-read before you tackle this monster book. The story begins in the middle of the day on the great airship Leviathan but within a few pages, a battle is raging, and there's no time to explain to newcomers what is going on - that Dylan and Deryn are, in fact, one person and the feminine pronouns are no mistake; that Alek is actually Prince Aleksander, heir to the recently-assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand; and why the Leviathan is headed into Istanbul (not Constantinople).
There are some great supporting characters this time around. We learn more about Alek's guardsmen and meet a feisty young woman in Istanbul with grand ideas about women's equality. And there's an incredibly cute, and possibly creepy, new beastie tagging along with Deryn and Alek. The two young people are slowly beginning to share their secrets with each other, facilitated by the growing friendship between them (and from Deryn's end, the possibility of a bit more).
Deryn began to get a little on my nerves with her insecurities about her feelings for Alek. This might be because this is the third book I've read recently with a girl dressing up as a boy, and all of them are falling into the trope of the girl putting herself at risk of discovery over the silly boy. So far Deryn's reason has prevailed, however, so I have hope for Goliath. (less)
Most readers will know going in, either because they've learned about it or they read the jacket copy, that one of the major events in this book will...moreMost readers will know going in, either because they've learned about it or they read the jacket copy, that one of the major events in this book will be the explosion of the Challenger shuttle. But even knowing that, Moss was able to get my heart to leap into my throat when it was actually described. I was barely a year old when Challenger happened, but through Taking Off I felt like I was right there with Annie.
But remembering the Challenger and her crew (especially Christa McAuliffe) isn't the sole point of this book. The star is Annie, a senior in high school facing large, looming questions, like where is she going to college and what will she do with the rest of her life. Surrounded by engineers who work with NASA, and fellow students who know that college is the next step, Annie isn't even sure she wants to go to college. She loves poetry, and has tried her hand at writing a few times, but is pretty sure she's actually terrible and knows there's no money in the endeavor. She hides her passion from everyone - her divorced parents, her best friend, and her boyfriend of two years.
Meeting Christa, and roadtripping with her dad and his handsome young friend Tommy to see the Challenger launch, inspires Annie to start taking risks. Small ones first, but bit by bit Annie draws strength and inspiration from Christa's memory, and is finally able to take off for herself.
I also have to say, I really liked how Annie and Mark's relationship was handled. I've gotten burned out on the number of YA books that end with the teens finding their soul mates. Annie is content with Mark, but knows they're not soul mates. So refreshing to see a girl exploring her options!
This also feels like a very contemporary book. Some people are scared off by historical fiction, but aside from a few references to cassette tapes and President Reagan, and the historical fact of the Challenger disaster, this could have been set any time. Annie's problems are truly timeless.(less)
Absolutely fascinating. Every few pages revealed some cool fact that I just had to read out loud to my husband. Amazing information packed into a visu...moreAbsolutely fascinating. Every few pages revealed some cool fact that I just had to read out loud to my husband. Amazing information packed into a visually awesome book - even the cover and the title font choice are awesome! Can't recommend highly enough.(less)