It wasn't what I was expecting, but I can see the brilliant threads of genius that so many of today's dystopian wri...moreOriginally posted on The Authoress.
It wasn't what I was expecting, but I can see the brilliant threads of genius that so many of today's dystopian writers have fastened onto and expanded on. Short, brilliant, remarkable. A reminder that even small things like color are exceptionally important.
It was almost as if I were reading the "original" of something, as if Lois Lowry single handedly crafted the template for young adult dystopian literature. The Giver featured an overly controlling, seemingly perfect world without proper emotions or color, and fields of work are chosen for you, as well as the person you would marry. These are aspects that many of today's writers have taken and toyed with, trying to pick apart and decipher. It was amazing to see what I now consider to be the "original" young adult dystopian.
I was a bit dissatisfied with its length, though. I have become so conditioned to three hundred plus page novels, that it was a touch startling to see a story begin and end all within a hundred and eighty pages. For this reason, I thought things could have been greatly expanded on. (Really, though, that's what today's dystopian has done: expanded on the bare-bones idea laid down by Lois Lowry.)
I didn't connect with it on a visceral level. It had the kind of chaotic, ethereal style that I associate with older books and while I liked the main character, Jonas, I didn't totally connect with his story. I saw it, and appreciated it, from the point of view that this was the book that most likely inspired today's dystopian writers. So while I didn't enjoy it enough to be giddy and excited over it, I appreciate(less)
If I had read Ender's Game when I was eleven, or even as old as fifteen, I would not have come out of the story the same way I have now. The movie brought me to this story, but the book captured me in the way only an excellent novel can. While rife with disturbing elements, it is the effectiveness of the setup and the humanity of the story that makes it such a good book. And while books that try to force uncomfortable things in the faces of the audience are a turnoff, Orson Scott Card expertly wraps the disconcerting themes around Ender, a character, while so high above everyone else, including the audience, is so desperately human like the rest of us. What Orson Scott Card does in Ender's Game is something that is missing in today's novels.
What struck me first about Ender's Game was how well Orson Scott Card understood human behavior. The way he implemented that into the story made it come alive, and I found it fascinating. As a writer myself, I struggle with trying to bring my characters to life by realizing that they have their own opinions. It was easy for me to understand the energy of a character right away, given how well Card presented them.
I've heard people say that it's hard to connect to Ender because he's so young. Also, he's so young and smart. I see where that comes from, because I had a difficult time believing I was reading about a six-year-old, too. I pictured a twelve-year-old in my head, so when I was reminded how young he was, it jarred me out of the story. Yet I feel that it's fitting to have him so young. Some say this makes him had to connect to. To me, it isn't about connecting with the main character, but understanding them. I connected to Ender on a single aspect and that was struggling to successfully integrate into a group of your peers. I still greatly enjoyed Ender's character, despite our differences, because I don't have to be his soulmate in order to get something out of his character and his story.
The plot was straightforward, up to a certain point, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment. To me, the story was about Ender and his internal struggles. Also, Card brings up moral issues, like colonization, the purpose and right to wage war, and the exploitation of basic human rights. Some big stuff. So when I said that Card is doing things that are missed in today's novels, that's what I meant. The Big Stuff. Card goes for the jugular and doesn't let go for anything. That killer instinct for storytelling is what has today's YA novels falling harmlessly into the mainstream.
Ender's Game packed a punch when it came out of the gate back in the late 70's, but it hasn't lost any of its potency. It was a well-crafted and excellent story that is definitely worth a gander, even if you aren't into sci-fi. (And if you aren't, this may be just the thing to pique your interest.) Now that I have read it, I definitely want to continue the story and I most definitely want a copy on my shelves.(less)
I was hesitant to pick this one up since dystopians aren't usually my thing, but I was interested in the dynamic between a bounty hunter and his prey, and how the summary seemed to promise something different, something that would have me falling head over heels for the dystopian genre. Having read it, I'm so glad my spidey senses tingled. With its engaging writing style, depth-defying world and lovable characters, Midnight City is a distinctive addition to the young adult dystopian genre, and a new favorite of mine.
Midnight City was immediately engaging. Mitchell has a masterful command of plot structure, evidenced by the way he starts with external threats that bind the characters together, and then building to a threat that affects them all. And they were threats that mattered to the characters, that affected them directly. Every chapter had a conflict that made sense; nothing felt haphazardly thrown together. This kind of cohesion, in addition to breathtaking action scenes, kept me glued to the pages from start to finish.
The book came alive like a movie in my head. I could envision, with near perfect clarity, how these characters moved, thought, and interacted. What's more, every bond they formed made sense. The progression of their relationships weren't botched by a rush to get them to where the author wanted them. I could fully understand their goals, how they were shaped by their personalities, and how they would come to align. I cheered for them 100%.
My enjoyment of the story was only heightened by Mitchell's edgy writing style. Though a little rusty in some areas, it complimented the story perfectly. I liked how it sporadically alternated between points of view from chapter to chapter, giving the story a depth that otherwise would've been missed.
That was one of the best parts: the depth of the world. I liked how Mitchell built in the history naturally, without having to resort to dedicating a chapter to explaining how the world got to the way it was. I loved the detail that went into the Assembly, and into how the world had changed, without bogging down the story or making it too incomprehensible. It was easy to understand, and to admire.
Midnight City was an incredible dystopian, one that I would love to return to again. I'm so excited for the sequel!(less)
For a long time I've claimed that short stories aren't really my thing -- I don't read them, I don't write them. Now, I find myself doing both! These...moreFor a long time I've claimed that short stories aren't really my thing -- I don't read them, I don't write them. Now, I find myself doing both! These three authors have rekindled my faith in short stories. Each of their pieces are electrifying and exciting. Truly inspirational. Love it, love it, love it!(less)
I read Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac and had attempted Elsewhere but overall, Gabrielle Zevin wasn't on my list of...moreOriginally posted on The Authoress.
I read Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac and had attempted Elsewhere but overall, Gabrielle Zevin wasn't on my list of all-time favorite authors, or even authors whose work I would check out again. So it was with more than a little skepticism that I pulled All These Things I've Done off the shelf of my local library. The very cover captured my interest: chocolate is contraband, caffeine illegal? Already, my spidey-senses were tingling. What All These Things I've Done accomplished was deepen my suspicion of the dystopian genre.
In a word, sassy. From the main character -- Anya (or Annie) Balanchine, daughter of murdered chocolate crime boss -- to the romance to the world. Everything was electric with attitude and rife with the possibility that anything could happen at any moment. Maybe there'll be a rush of teen romance, or maybe someone will die. Maybe both?
Clever from the dialogue to the politics to the world, my only complaint was the writing style. The journal-like prose wasn't exactly unattractive but it was jarring at times, because suddenly my easy reading pace would be interrupted with phrases like "I mentioned about a hundred pages ago et cetera" and "I'll get to this later." To me, if you're going to break down the fourth wall, you've gotta go big or go home, and Gabrielle Zevin didn't seem to really hit this on the head. But I loved Anya's voice, because she was so easy to get behind.
With its clever premise that delivers fully on the awesomeness and the damaged but cheerworthy main character, All These Things I've Done far outstrips the big hits in today's dystopian YA fiction. It is a story that explores, among other things, what it means to protect family and how far should you go to keep a promise, and what sacrifices you're willing to make.
What gets me like an iron poker to the ribs is why this book isn't at the top of the NYT bestselling list and having a movie made of it and being adored worldwide. If someone were to ask me for the most underrated book I've read, it would be this: All These Things I've Done. Gabrielle Zevin created an utterly unique world with realistic characters that would rival any NYT bestseller today.(less)
It is always a sad occasion to see a series end. Trilogies are especially the worst because you know it's coming. With a longer series, there's always something else to look forward to. Trilogies are more "get in, make them love you, break their hearts on the way out." From book one, Veronica Rossi snagged me with her electrifying world, her lovable characters, and exciting plots. Into the Still Blue was a brilliant capper to this fantastic trilogy.
One of the biggest things that sticks out to me about this trilogy is how emotionally involved I get with the story. The characters, with their wit and enthusiasm, turn me into a yelling maniac -- "What?! He did not just saying that! Is he asking to get punched in the face!?" -- whenever I pick up the book. When things get crazy for Perry and Aria, my entire college campus hears about it.
My one complaint about Into the Still Blue specifically is that there seemed to be a step down in Veronica Rossi's writing style. On multiple occasions throughout this book, I thought that a section seemed to be more like a rough cut first draft than something that had undergone death defying scrutiny. There was a lot of telling, an overview of the action, and a lack of internalization on the character's part. This created leaps in a character's thinking when they should be taking baby steps.
But Into the Still Blue was a great read, and a great capper to the Under the Never Sky trilogy. As the climax neared, I didn't realize I was on the very edge of my seat and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, until my dad told me afterwards, "I thought you were going to bite off your knuckle." Veronica Rossi has always managed to pack a ton of action into a mere four hundred page book. She starts immediately with the action, and it hardly stops until the last page.
I was so excited to get to Into the Still Blue but now that it's over, I wish I had waited a bit longer. Aria and Perry and Roar are fantastic characters with a fantastic story, and it's sad to see their stories end. I hope, one day, Veronica Rossi will revisit the world of the Still Blue, for the stories that still lurk there.(less)
This was...amazing. I don't know if I would necessarily recommend this to someone who has yet to read Under the Never Sky, simply because the story is set up under the assumption the reader knows what is what and who is who, etc. However, if you've read Under the Never Sky and loved it, I have a strong conviction that you'll love this, too. Roar was a beloved character in Under the Never Sky for many readers, so given that this novella is set entirely in his point of view will appeal to the many fans Roar has accumulated.
I loved the insight. Veronica Rossi created a whole new voice. Roar was given a breadth that we readers didn't get to really see in Under the Never Sky. There was a whole swath of vulnerability and longing underneath all that wit and bravado. Though I would never have thought Roar underdeveloped before, I still loved the further depth that came from a story from his point of view. He seems much better fixed in my mind now.
With her brilliant writing style, Veronica Rossi captured, and gave depth to, the already-explored world of the Tides, making it come alive within the sixty pages. The world of the Tides had become faded in my mind in the time since I'd finished reading Under the Never Sky. This novella brought it back to life almost instantly. Veronica Rossi has created a world that I absolutely would love to live in.
Roar and Liv is a great sampler of Veronica Rossi's work. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Under the Never Sky.(less)
Everything I loved about Legend, from the brilliantly dynamic characters to the exciting world, was brought back in Prodigy tenfold. In a word, Prodigy was fantastic. I slipped easily back into the world, into the roller coaster plot, and into the heads of two great main characters -- June and Day. From page one, I was captured, and by the end (with its epic twist), I was breathless.
I think my favorite part about Prodigy was a toss up between the way Marie Lu expanded on the world, and the progression of the characters. With sequels, I always worry about a rehashing of the first book. No matter how much faith I have in the author, there's always that little worry in the back of my mind that wonders how much the second book is going to be just like the first. Well, I shouldn't've worried with Marie Lu at the helm. Prodigy expanded the world of Legend brilliantly, and the characters progressed and changed instead of remaining stagnant.
With two of the five Must-Haves of a Story knocked out, it was easy to get back into the story of Day and June, and the exciting plots they seem to always cause. I loved how the stakes were clearly defined, so I understood the gravity of their situation. I never felt like saying, "Duuude, just do ____ and all your problems will be solved!" Marie Lu backed her characters into a corner nicely, so that they had to fight their way out, and they never made it out of that corner without scrapes and bruises and maybe a few broken bones. I liked how the plot challenged them and forced them to change.
Aside from character progression, I liked the characters themselves. I love how their relationship wasn't easy; how they still had to figure themselves out, as well as each other. And when they had an issue, I understood why because it was clear where they were coming from. Their struggles and squabbles made their romance so much more enjoyable.
I also really liked how the writing deftly delivered the impact of the story -- some scenes are seared into my mind. It didn't weigh down sections of the story with unnecessary information, or give anything away prematurely, so it was easy to stay involved in the character's thoughts and motivations and how they were affecting the plot. It was also really easy to see the difference between June and Day's line of thinking. Each of their narrations were unique to each character, which let me enjoy the story even more.
Prodigy was a great second installment, and a book that I would love to sit back and reread.(less)
I love books that surprise me! There's always a thrill that comes along with finding a book, initially thinking that it's gonna suck beyond all belief, and then finding out that "oh my gosh, can't even say enough because it's that amazing." While it was creepy as all get out, it was incredibly entertaining and thought-provoking. While some of the time it was, "Really? That could've been better," I really enjoyed this story.
Dystopian is not my immediately favorite genre. That's not to say I don't like dystopians (the Under the Never Sky series owns my heart), but when I first cracked the cover of Poison Princess, I hesitated. Well, actually, it was more like, "Dear God, this is going to suck," but then I started reading, and started getting into it and ended up devouring it in a day or two.
At first, Evie and I didn't agree on much. In fact, I couldn't fully get into her character for most of the book, but I still winced with sympathy when something didn't go her way. A lot of sucky things happened to her, and I liked how she handled them and kept going. I admired her wit and her quick thinking so I cheered for her a lot, although she did get irritating sometimes. I really, really liked her relationship with Jackson and how it was far -- like, other side of the universe -- from easy and how it wasn't instalove. Their dramatic romance was entertaining and endearing instead of irritating and nauseous. (And really, the Cajun French interspersed in Jackson's sentences? Mm. So fine.)
The plot, and the world Cole remade, was amazing and such a great concept. I got what the problems were and what kind of obstacles Evie would have to face to fix them. I loved the intervention of the Major Arcana cards and how their mysteries weren't ones easily solved -- the way that nothing was in-your-face and obvious made my interest stay intent on the pages.
The writing style, while fitting to the story, lacked some description and details that might've made the story a lot richer had they been in. But the writing style was honed with a rusty edge, and so gave the story a unique and interesting flavor that reeked of creepiness. The story in general was creepy, but it was a brand of creepy that I could get into, even if it wasn't something I would immediately warm up to.
Poison Princess was a fabulous story of the surprising kind. I'm in raptures for the sequel!(less)
When Legend first popped up on my radar, I was turned away by the amateur-style cover. I was intrigued, however, when the hype drove me to read a sample of it. I was impressed by how there was an immediate sense of character and that allowed the also-immediate conflict to take effect. Paired with Marie Lu's effortless writing style and propelled by a both heart-wrenching and thought-provoking plot, I never wanted the story to end.
Legend tells the story of two awesome main characters. June, with her Holmesian-like logic but warm heart; and Day, the guy we girls would all like to run into on the streets. I was pleased (and impressed) with how June, the government's prodigy, didn't come off as a cold-hearted anti-hero. She had a heart -- a big heart -- that wasn't impervious to breaks. The criminal Day reminded me a lot of Han from Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms series, only Day doesn't have silver cuffs branded to his wrists. Mentally, I connected them because they're passionate, flirty, and street smart, and they always take care of their families.
The world of Legend was magnificently displayed. Lu doesn't fall into the trap of having to explain how everything worlds. By letting the world affect (or not affect) her characters in certain ways, she lets the world build seamlessly. It's this showing and not telling that is so effective in creating the swaths of color into the world around the characters. Sometimes it has a fantasy-like feel to it, and sometimes it feels more sci-fi or dystopian, giving it a well-rounded atmosphere.
What I was most impressed with from Legend was the way Lu built the story. I understood what was at stake, I knew the risks, and I felt each obstacle resonate within the characters. It was a story that built stakes like kindling for a fire -- they pushed the characters; they didn't come at a conveniently inconvenient time. At every turn, I would mutter, "What are they going to do now?" or "How are they going to get out of that?" The plot was tightly compacted: nothing was wasted, but there are threads to be continued in other books.
So while there were predictable places, it was the moments that took me by surprise that defined my liking for Legend. With it's fantasy/sci-fi like world and lovable characters, Legend should be a book to get on your shelf. I'm glad it's on mine.(less)
What's Left of Me was a noted release in the blogosphere of the instant-hit variety, one that didn't really interest me until I was seeing it everywhere. The cover art said, "Come hither," and the premise promised literary abandon of the unusual kind. So what went wrong? Because something wasn't working for me. I was expecting something original, especially with such a cool idea, but the characters were "meh" and underdeveloped, the romance wasn't lighting any fires, and I found myself perpetually waiting for something more to happen. So really, the whole thing was kind of boring for me.
I liked the world of hybrids and lost souls, and I thought it was interesting how Zhang rewrote our history to fit this idea, but it was only "interesting." I was hoping for something electric and surprising about the world, some slight contradiction or paradox, but sometimes I forgot that something was supposed to be different. The name-dropping of class lessons and museum visits revolving around the dangers of hybrids wasn't really enough for me to get this world. I loved the idea, but I was hoping it would flourish more.
The bulk of the story rested on the shoulders of the main characters, Addie and Eva, but they just weren't enough to carry it. There was nothing remarkable about them. I liked the interplay between Addie's dominance and desperation and Eva's determination and passion, but I expected a broader swath of emotions to deepen each of their characters. (And neither one of them seemed to possess the ability to open their mouth for goodness sake when they were being accused of something!) Each were too two-dimensional to me, so I knew what to expect from them.
The story was too predictable, also. Nothing to keep me on my toes. It just seemed to follow the same mental case and rebellion direction as every other of its kind. The only original aspect was why they were in the mental institution -- for not settling, for being hybrids. And there were a few surprises in the plot of the "they're sympathizers?" variety, and several exciting action scenes involving scaling buildings and rooftops, but there was still a huge, clear wall between me and the story. I kept wondering, "When's something actually going to happen?" It had its interesting places, but I never felt my body still in anticipation or my heart racing from the thrill. It was just...uninteresting to me.
There was nothing necessarily "bad" about the story, it just wasn't something that engaged my interest. I was left discontent and unsatisfied by the plot and unemotional about the characters. I picked up What's Left of Me to figure out what all the fuss was about, and if I were to hazard a guess, I'd say the idea is what carries the story for a lot of people, but I was hoping for more than just the idea.(less)
Insurgent picks up right where Divergent left off. It continues much in the way that Divergent did, following Tris as she battles with her disintegrating world. Just like with Divergent, I enjoyed the world and the symbolism surrounding human nature being forced into five different factions and how the city reacts to those refusing to be molded. However, the polish wore off in the sequel. Tris's character was almost unbearable to me--I could barely keep myself from throwing the book across the room at her constant stupidity. The plot was chaotic. The romance was irritating. The goal was lost on me. Overall, not a promising second installment.
Tris was a total spazz. She would make a decision one chapter then change her mind in the next. She would leap to new stages of development within the space of a paragraph instead of a convincing build up. That was the core problem with her character: lack of conviction. If her motivations had actually been explained, her Messiah complex might have been believable, but she was useless expect for making trouble. Always doing something inevitably stupid before thinking it through...and everyone got it -- even random Erudite kids -- except her.
The plot was all over the place. I couldn't keep track of who was doing what and where the stakes were. The reasons for one faction to do something were almost never explained very well. I felt like the whole thing was just a collection of events strung together in some semblance of order. The ending was a nice save for me since I was barely holding on. Now, because of the way it ended, I'm compelled enough to figure out what happens in the third book, but if there isn't some kind of character improvement, I won't bother anymore.
What I took for simplistic writing in the first book turned out to be too simple the second time around. There was way too much telling and not enough description. I couldn't sympathize with Tris's pain because it was simply put: "It hurt."
The only part I truly enjoyed was the symbolism behind the five factions and how their world is being torn apart by each other, and Tobias. Though he was a complete spazz right alongside Tris for large sections, he had enough wits about him to be able to put his foot down about their relationship. Thank God. I had cheered for their relationship in the first book, but was not a fan by the end of this one.
I was not impressed, overall. The writing had lost its luster and Tris was just too irritating for the story to be enjoyable.(less)
A stunning, breathtaking read that I did not mind taking the time out of my midterm study schedule to read. This came highly recommended from my best friend who "Oh my god, just love it so much!". In retrospect, the shine wore off a bit around the edges, but mostly, I would recommend this book to anyone.
What caught me was the writing. Tahereh Mafi busted so many writing rules, man. It was awesome. Word vomit has never been so attractive. The style was a highly effective heartbeat to Juliette's wild and dangerous ability and volatile personality. It was all at once distancing and dude-ever-heard-of-personal-space kind of personal.
Juliette herself was so-so. She was awesome enough to warrant my attention but I was hoping for a bit more character development. She seemed more like a child turned super hero by the end of the book, not scarred teenager running from the Reestablishment. Still, I cheered for her and nearly had a few heart attacks at her near misses.
The romance was...well. This is a two-sided issue. My Amelia-be-reasonable side tells me that it was too fast, too furious, too everything but good. My Amelia-get-a-grip side says that there was plenty of foundation, plenty of heat, plenty of time and it was great. Averaging the sides together, I say that I'm interested to find out where her relationship goes in the second book. I hope it lasts, too (no matter what the Amelia-be-reasonable side thinks).
The world scared the crap out of me, simply reinforcing why I don't read dystopians. It was a bit like The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood in that the change between everyday life and Reestablishment was very quick, and very recent. There is still evidence of the world we live in now, which is creepy to the max.
I totally understand the hype around this book. I can't wait for the sequel.(less)
Here we go, folks. Another book that is wildly popular that I have read simply because, if I hadn't done it willing...moreOriginally posted on The Authoress.
Here we go, folks. Another book that is wildly popular that I have read simply because, if I hadn't done it willingly, somebody would've held me at gunpoint. As with any wildly popular book, there is more than a bit of skepticism running through me when I start into it. Very few have had the honor of meeting the expectations I held. Here's the verdict for Cinder.
It was interesting, but. There was the gifted, cyborg mechanic with a heck of a tailspin headed her way. And the ugly plague running rampant through the Eastern Commonwealth. And a crazy queen witch come down from the moon to spread chaos everywhere. But. The prince was a heartthrob and instantly took to our protagonist, which grated on my nerves from the get go because it's so typical. Here it is, Cinderella is reimagined as a cyborg, but the prince is still a lovesick puppy?
My notes for the first half of the book went something like this: "entirely generic," and "nothing overly surprising" and then a little rant about how difficult it is to portray self-pity. Things were headed nowhere fast. My notes are scarce for the second half of the book because finally around the 250 page mark, things actually picked up and started moving forward in a compelling manner and I didn't pause to take notes.
Despite the second half being pretty interesting, Cinder is not my new favorite book. I don't crave its presence on my shelves. I won't be rereading it. But, after the first half of the book, it wasn't half bad. I still thought that Cinder was a bit full of herself, wallowing as she was in her own vat of self-pity and "woe is me"-isms. My lack of sympathy for Cinder is what put a dent in my overall enjoyment of this book. I got that her life sucked, but I was left going "So what? Big whoop. Let's see you actually do something about it."
The writing wasn't overly impressive, but served its function. It was a style that said plainly to me that Marissa Meyer hasn't grown into her abilities as a writer yet. And the storyline was interesting because the combined elements of sci-fi/dystopian with fairytale. I liked how Marissa Meyer incorporated bits of the original tale in with this reimagined one. But because I wasn't a big fan of Cinder herself, my engagement in the plot suffered.
Whether I'm going to pick up the next book is still in question. The second half of the book didn't pick up my enthusiasm enough to have me going "Heck yeah! Next book! Here we go!" I like the concept of the entire series, though. For that, I give Marissa Meyer a thumbs up.(less)
Blood Red Road completely took me by surprise. I was expecting questionable writing, a cookie-cutter main character and a stale story. What I got was a fantastically complex and cheer-worthy main character complemented by an in-your-face writing style that set off both the characters and the world. I was not expecting to fall in love with the world, which is so obviously dystopian, and I certainly didn't expect to be swept up in the plot, buoyed by a writing style so far away from cookie-cutter, it's like a different planet. The journey through Blood Red Road was exciting and belly-dropping and I enjoyed every second of it.
I first discovered Blood Red Road while in Borders (which tells you how long ago it was). I slid the book off the shelf, thinking about how much hype it had garnered in the blogosphere, and opened to the first page. I immediately closed it. I was not going to read a book that was written in dialect. I don't go out looking for headaches. So Blood Red Road went back on the shelf, shrinking away from my fierce disapproval.
Right now, I wish I had grabbed a copy when I had the chance. Moira Young's blatant disregard for conventional writing styles was like a getting a sip of clean, cool water after trekking a day through a desert. The dialect forces the characters and the world in your face -- your brain can't compensate to ignore the way the character speaks and narrates. Blood Red Road calls this quote from Robert McKee's book Story, to mind:
A great work is a metaphor that says, "Life is like this." The classics, down through the ages, give us not solutions but lucidity, not answers but poetic candor; they make inescapably clear the problems all generations must solve to be human.
Set against the backdrop of a richly detailed world, Saba's character popped off the page. If I were to pin a label of "most lifelike" on any fictional character, it would go to Saba. Moira Young covered a corner of young adult literature that is not often walked on. She portrayed Saba with imperfections that most authors wouldn't dare give their characters. Her thoughts showed a darkness that made her realistic, because everyone has those small thoughts that creep in without our knowing and take us by surprise at their immorality. Add on top Saba's -- sometimes uncontrollable -- fighting spirit, and she leaves behind a lasting impression.
The plot, as soon as it caught me, swept me along so quickly, I would look up and the afternoon had gone by, along with two hundred pages. My brain had adapted quickly to the narration, allowing the plot to take charge. It wasn't a complex plot, for which I found refreshing. Most dystopians like to throw in all kinds of government conspiracy subplots, but Blood Red Road dealt with the politics behind getting Saba's brother, Lugh, back, and the many obstacles they faced, both externally and internally. I loved the high adventure and the details that made it come to life.
The romance was first class -- Katniss and Peeta don't hold a candle to the romance in Blood Red Road. But the romance doesn't take center stage, which I liked. While it had a big impact on plot and character development, it's not the very first thing that pops to mind when I think back on the book. Saba's character is too dominant to be pushed aside by a moon-eyed couple.
James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner, blurbed Blood Red Road and I thought he nailed it on the head:
Blood Red Road will capture any reader who picks it up. I love everything about Saba -- her language, her intensity, her heart. Everyone should read her story.
Moira Young is off to a shining start, having carved a name for herself in the world of young adult literature. I hope to see more of her in the coming years. I'm thrilled for the next installment in the Dust Lands series.(less)
Fever was a thrilling continuation of its breakout prequel, Wither, though for me, something was off. It wasn't Lauren DeStefano's clever, thorough writing style or the stakes that rose with every chapter, but it might've been Rhine's character or how the shine was starting to wear off.
I think dystopian trilogies might come with pre-installed slope of success. The first book is amazing and there's a hype over the new story, but when the second book rolls around, there's a lot of iffy-ness and "mehs" and by the third, well... While Lauren DeStefano did so many things right, the shine of the story had worn off for me.
One of the big pluses was DeStefano's ability to make me shiver. In his book Story, Robert McKee has this to say about world building (and, more broadly, creative limitation):
Limitation is vital. The first step toward a well-told story is to create a small, knowable world.*
The "twisted carnival" described in the summary of the book was creepy in the extreme. DeStefano uses the familiar backdrop of a carnival to paint the shadows of a dark, ugly world that goes on behind the curtains. DeStefano has a skill for taking tiny details and building them to make a "small, knowable world".
The stakes were upped, too. This wasn't a rehashing of Wither. Fever stands entirely on its own while maintaining most of the integrity of the first book.
The kinship that I had felt towards Rhine in Wither faded a bit in this book. While there weren't identifiable moments where I disliked her, or her motives or her choices, I felt a slight hesitation when I went to cheer for her. (The ending, however, was appropriately bizarre and really gained her some brownie points.) Though it didn't immediately detract from my enjoying the book, I'm worried Sever may see a degrading of my opinion of her.
Lauren DeStefano was cruel in the way she ended Fever, leaving me practically foaming at the mouth in anticipation for Sever. I'm excited to see what she'll do after the Chemical Garden trilogy.(less)
Alexandra Bracken's work first hit my radar when I picked up and loved her debut, Brightly Woven. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much her writing and storytelling abilities had been significantly upgraded in The Darkest Minds. It was edgy and compelling in a way I hadn't expected it to be.
The main character, Ruby, was solid if a little melodramatic about her powers. (Gain some perspective, darlin, everyone thinks their power is the worst.) But I liked how Alexandra Bracken didn't go easy on Ruby. Ruby had a lot of problems to sort through, and nothing that I would consider "mainstream." By having the problems be character-specific, it heightened my respect for the character when she was forced to make a choice.
The world was excellent. I understood every aspect that was being presented, which I admire because more often than not, in stories like these, I haven't the faintest idea why the government is doing what it's doing. The suspense was heightened because I knew the stakes. It made the action scenes really come alive.
The characters themselves were amazing. All were endearing in so many ways. I love how dynamic the group of them were. I also love how they weren't static. They each had their own story that progressed through Ruby's own.
I was very satisfied with The Darkest Minds and, especially with the way it ended, I am psyched to get my hands on the second one.(less)
I wasn't expecting to enjoy Under the Never Sky period so I was shocked when I LOVED IT as much as I did! The main characters, Aria and Perry, were awesome. Each had their own issues and own distinct voices and concerns--not to mention, worlds. Veronica Rossi has a unique writing style interspersed with light humor and great sense for world-building. I cannot wait to reread Under the Never Sky.
This story was driven by the two main characters, Aria and Perry, and the issues they faced when their worlds were turned upside down. The plot was very simple and straightforward outside of that. So in a way, this story was refreshing in how it stepped back from complex, intricate plots and subplots and dove deep into the characters. Aria and Perry were awesome -- I rooted for them individually before they became a team (though Aria was a bit of a spazz in the beginning -- I forgave her for it).
Veronica Rossi had a wonderfully addictive writing style. It was compact, but expressive. Her clear, concise writing writing put a lot of plot into three hundred and some-odd pages, like it should be longer than it is. I was impressed with that. Most authors take forever to get to what they're trying to say, but Rossi just went for it.
The setting of Under the Never Sky was my second favorite thing about it. I loved the way it switched between the sterile, controlled environment of the Pods and Realms to the wildness of the Outside. Like having sci-fi and fantasy wrapped into one book. Combined with the magic involved -- heightened senses -- I just couldn't get enough of it.
My favorite part though? The romance. I was shocked when I realized how much I liked it. Romance is usually a requirement for me to the like a book (not always) but I usually I don't like romances that dominate the pages. Most of the book was about the blooming relationship between the two MCs but I enjoyed every minute of it. Veronica Rossi can write a fantastic love story.(less)
Possession felt wrong to me from the start. Immediately, I sensed there was going to be a problem: I felt no conviction about the main character, Vi's, rebellious spirit. I didn't feel much towards the world, or the writing style. I only managed roughly a hundred pages, and I didn't see any reason to continue reading.
The main character, Vi, thought a lot of herself, acting "so rebellious" in the face of the Thinkers. She acted like a child, and worse: a rebel without a cause. I had no idea what was so bad about her environment in the first place, so I was lost when she was being arrested. Her thoughts and motivations were all over the place, if explained at all. I didn't care that she was being arrested, or that she was "losing" time with a boy. Her "fire" seemed forced just within the first twenty pages.
The writing was rather weak. Not enough time spent setting things up, so not enough suspense created to make me want to find out how things worked. There was a lot of telling -- a lot of telling.
I can't say much in terms of plot since I didn't very far into it, but even so, a hundred pages in should tell me something. It wasn't that nothing happened, just that nothing that drove me to continue for the plot's sake. I felt that her relationship with Jag was very predictable from what I caught of it.
I was really disappointed by this: I was looking for to it.(less)
Divergent came with insistent recommendation from my best friend. She practically slept with this book--that's how much she loved it. Me? I admit to a bit of skepticism. (1) any book that blows up so violently in the blogosphere warrants a bit of wariness and (2) it's a dystopian, which I tend to stay away from because they're...well, depressing. But my best friend was so determined that I read it that she sent me a copy as a Christmas gift.
Well. Can't let that go to waste.
Divergent was a surprisingly fantastic book and one helluva read. The main character, Tris (formerly Beatrice) was a dynamic character. The romance was well-balanced, if unsurprising, and the world thick with details and intrigue. Veronica Roth knows how the dish out the good stuff. For a debut author, I take my hat off to her. I can't wait to see what she does beyond this series.
Tris was, as I said, dynamic. Meaning with good and bad appeals. Firstly, she felt fear and just because she had her meek moments didn't mean that everything went miraculously her way. She was a fighter. I cheered for her. Until about halfway through the book and she started to piss me off. She started to feel entitled, and it made her arrogant. That was a turn off. My feelings towards her were a tad bittersweet at the end, but I truly want to see where she goes in the next book.
Her relationship was not a shocker, but I like how their romance wasn't perfect. They had squabbles and misunderstandings and reunions. As a couple, I totally cheered them on.
The world Veronica Roth built was incredible. The setting was painted crisply in my mind, it was as if illustrations were included. Also, the trademark of a well-layered world, was the feeling that if I ever lived in their world, I would be at once terrified and thrilled. I like how Veronica Roth took her time and didn't skimp on the details.
The plot was well put together, though some of the major arcs were easily predictable. It still leaves me thirsting for more. Just like the rest of the cool peeps in the literary world, I'm waiting in breathless anticipation for the sequel, Insurgent.(less)
In my mind, "Lena" is nearly synonymous with "pitiful." Though I read Requiem way back in March-April of last year, I cannot forget listening to Cher Lloyd's "Want U Back" to reflect on how ridiculous Lena and the entirety of the romance was throughout this book.
The romance... That entire fiasco just ruined everything for me. I had a tiny bit of (grudging) respect for Lena because the events she's put through in Requiem would fracture anyone, but the conclusion of the romance lost me entirely. Poof. I'm gone.
What bugged me, outside of Lena and the Endless Melodramatic Romance, was the cookie cutter nature of the plot. I felt a little insulted, because things were easy to predict. The ending was exciting, because there doesn't always have to be major dramatic plot twists when a siege is involved, but otherwise, it fell flat for me.
I do have to give it to Lauren Oliver, though: her writing skills are practically unparalleled. She has a frightening ability for word weaving, and this is primarily what saved my opinion of her dystopian series. However, when I bring it up to people, I cannot praise anything about the books except for Oliver's masterful ability to write.
Delirium has captured so much attention since its first descent into the blogosphere, but from very early on, I struggled to see its appeal. It, like so many other series, had a rocketing start but quickly fell flat for me. (less)
Pandemonium was a great follow-up to its prequel, Delirium. If you enjoyed the first book, you'll definitely like the second one. I thought Lauren Oliver did an excellent job continuing with the story, with her signature elegant writing style and thought-provoking themes. Her characters were excellent, the world was fleshed out and realistic. Overall, a great read.
The thing, I think, that makes Lauren Oliver so successful is that she has this ability to suck you in before you realize what's happening. I'm still on the fence about so many things concerning her books and writing, but I can't fault her for her ability to tell a good story.
The main thing that I'm still flitting between is whether or not I like the main character, Lena. There's nothing that I can pinpoint exactly, though maybe it could be the fact she's so driven by romance. She has depth and humor and goals. There's nothing that makes me instantly dislike her.
I thought the plot was excellent. The way Lauren Oliver switched back and forth between Lena in the present and Lena in the past (though after the first book) was brilliantly done. Constantly moving back and forth between two very different stages in a character's development and making it convincing takes skill. Much like her work in Before I Fall, where she took such an unpleasant main character and turned her into a hero, she showed the progression (and sometimes regression) in Lena's character almost flawlessly.
The writing was wonderful, as I've come to expect with Lauren Oliver. I particularly enjoyed the opening segment, where Lena is running through the forest immediately after escaping her home city (picking up right where Delirium left off) and how there is an allusion to a phoenix, and rebirth. These small, compacted themes were littered throughout the story and added great depth and complexity to it. Marvelous.
(For those of you who have read it already, was the ending not CRAZY? In a way, I expected it, just not so suddenly. I cannot believe Lauren Oliver had the nerve to end it like that!)
I can't wait for the sequel, plainly said. This installation was awesome.(less)
For Darkness Shows the Stars was quite a conundrum. Within the first hundred pages, I was irritated. Within the following two hundred, I was on the fence. By the end of it all, I was quite smitten. Being familiar with Diana Peterfreund's work (and yet still unable to correctly spell and/or pronounce her last name), I sought out her new book because I'd enjoyed her previous ones. For Darkness Shows the Stars was a poignant coming-of-age tale about a hard life, heartbreak, and triumph. I think Jane Austen would cheer from her grave at what I'd just finished reading. I was pleasantly surprised with the rich world and stunning characters and with such a bold opening, I anxiously await the sequel.
The main character, Elliot, came very, very close to being chucked across the room. The first forty pages were fantastic, if a bit confusing, but then Kai arrived in the story. I loved Elliot's passion and her determination that the people under her have the best life they can have. I respected her for her audacity and cleverness when so much was going against her. However, I cannot give her an inch when it comes to how she repeatedly allowed her has-been lover to be outright cruel to her. Despite the inevitability of the romance, if she had merely shown a bit of spine and retained some objectivity when it came to anything involving Kai (which was everything), he would have backed down and probably have been proud of her for standing her ground.
There were two tiny hiccups for me, story-wise. I was completely confused by the first fifty or so pages. Not very cool. I was expecting things to be explained a little bit more in depth by the second chapter. Admittedly, everything worked itself out but those first several chapters had me making a peeved face. Secondly, I thought displaying the letters Elliot and Kai exchanged was rather pointless. While it worked for showing what happened however long before the present time, I didn't think it showed anything else: character development, etc. Despite these little setbacks, I thought the story was wonderful. Almost entirely predictable, but wonderful in its execution.
The world was amazing as well, and though I'd wished while reading it that there was less of the KaiKaiKai aspect and more of the world built in, I see in retrospect that everything balanced itself out nicely by the end of the book. I'm very impressed with Diana Peterfreund's ability to create such depth-defying worlds. Nothing was flat in this book (except for maybe Elliot's judgment sometimes). Everything had some slight detail that made it pop off the page.
The romance was...ah, interesting, but Kai wouldn't catch any friendly looks from me at any dinner parties. I didn't like the way he treated Elliot, and I don't think it's right despite how he truly felt about her. In my opinion, it only made it worse. His bullying and arrogance really put me off. I was more into the romance for Elliot's sake since I'd grown to respect her character by the end of it.
I think the thing I was most impressed with was the writing. Very easy to grasp and quite intoxicating in its execution. I found myself pulling out of the book and imagining how everything went in my head. By the end, I was grinning like a total girl.
For Darkness Shows the Stars was a collection of positives and negatives, but mostly positives. I will definitely be picking up the sequel whenever it comes out, though I don't think I'll have this book for my shelves. Not quite yet. Maybe when it comes out in paperback.(less)
When first hearing about Wither through the grapevine, I was sure I wasn't going to like it -- if I ever got around to picking it up in the first place. So it was with some ironic amusement that I slid a copy off the shelf in Books A Million awhile ago and started reading. When my friend tapped me on the shoulder a little while later, I was a little shocked to find myself riveted. When I got home, with the main character still on my mind, I added Wither to my cart on Amazon.
It was surprisingly personal and in-depth. Though there wasn't much to connect us, I felt a kinship with Rhine. I was never irritated with her for any illogical choices she may have made. I cheered for the success of her plans. I was so into the ending that I didn't even hear my dad knocking on my door. Rhine was effortless to understand and enjoy. She never lost sight of her goal, she was never blindsided by a man, which I loved.
Lauren DeStefano's writing was as fantastic as Rhine; it really brought her character, the atmosphere and the idea to life. There wasn't an overwhelming amount of abstract passages -- DeStefano tended to use sensory details that connected with an aspect of the main character's past experiences. There was also an excellent thrill to the suspense. I was absolutely riveted. In dystopian, anything can happen.
I was also impressed by the idea. On Lauren DeStefano's website, I read about how she came up with the seeds for Wither. I particularly liked how she described herself as being "a weaver of what ifs". Her tale of a world where women only live to twenty and men to twenty-five was extremely creepy and thought provoking and fortified by her subtly edgy writing style. Every sentence embodied the world -- no word was wasted. The layers of the setting (and characters) were numerous. Like many dystopians, it very much felt like a dire prediction, so rich was the world in which Lauren DeStefano painted.
Overall, Wither was a very satisfying read. I think seasoned readers of dystopians will find this one a breath of fresh air and I think I will greatly enjoy the second book, Fever.(less)