I was a bit worried when I saw the Jonathan Franzen blurb on the cover, but all in all, I thought this was a damn good read: weird and overwrought, bu...moreI was a bit worried when I saw the Jonathan Franzen blurb on the cover, but all in all, I thought this was a damn good read: weird and overwrought, but also touching and funny and profound. Like Jaclyn Moriarty for grownups. (less)
Oh, how I wish I could have loved this book. There were many things for me to love: the action is excellent, the characters are heartbreaking, the his...moreOh, how I wish I could have loved this book. There were many things for me to love: the action is excellent, the characters are heartbreaking, the historical detail is believable, the prose is top rate, and the author is one I have liked in the past. The frequently awkward epistolary structure of the book and the meandering, slow-moving plot did not work well for me, though, and I might not have stuck with this one if not for the hype it's been getting. Obviously a lot of people do love it, and yes, with good reason! I just wish that the execution – ha, of the storytelling -- had been a little tighter, a little more focused.
The book starts with the desperate written confessions of Queenie, a captive British female officer who has spent weeks in the hands of Nazi interrogators (that’s not a spoiler – read page one). Sounds like it would suck you in right off the bat, right? It did me at first. Unfortunately, this isn't actually a fast-paced book, which becomes clear as the story abruptly shifts back in time to Queenie’s unlikely secondhand account of the events that influenced her best friend, Maddie, to become a pilot. All of this happens looong before the girls meet; it’s actually quite a while before our narrator appears in Maddie’s plane-riddled story at all despite the fact that she’s telling it. Once she does make an appearance, there’s even more tedious backstory to get through, because of course Queenie and Maddie must become BFFs before the real action can get rolling. This relationship is developed beautifully, but I was wondering about things like what the hell had happened with the dressmaker’s pins (!), for example, and had a hard time caring about the time Q and M went cycling and had lunch with the Land Girls or whatever.
I do understand that the format of this first part of the book is essential to the effectiveness of many of the reveals in the second half; it is nonetheless convoluted and overwritten. I think this story could have been handled just as well and would have worked better for readers (or just me?) if there’d been more than just the one change in POV, and if a hundred or so pages had been edited out entirely.
CNV by and large just wasn’t what I wanted or expected it to be. I suppose I can’t blame the author for my expectations, but the way people talk about this book you’d think that it’s impossible to put down and that you’ll cry yourself half to death before it’s all over. For me, the many layers between our narrator and Maddie’s history distanced me from the not altogether captivating plot in a way that made it all too easy for me to put the book down, sometimes for days at a time. I was a couple of weeks in and nearly halfway finished before I finally found myself interested in what was going on, and by then I had to go back and reread a lot of the book because I had apparently been skimming, which I do only when I’m bored. In general, I’d prefer to care the first time around.
As for all of the weeping I was expecting to do: I didn’t, but that mysterious shocking thing that everyone keeps referring to IS absolutely shocking, and very moving, too. Oh, so much of this book is SO GOOD. I know I’ve done a lot of complaining here, but it’s because I am frustrated that I didn’t get to enjoy this one as much as everyone else seems to be doing!
Ultimately, though, I do think this is a book worth reading, particularly if you like any combination of the following: friendship, spies, torture, planes, WWII, characters who are brave, characters who are cowards, slashy subtext.
My question, now, is what on earth makes this a YA novel? Has adult readership of YA books finally surpassed YA readership of YA books? That’s the only reason I can think of that a book about adults doing adult stuff would be marketed as YA… so that adults would read it. (less)
Star rating lowered for the author half-assing at least a couple of the destinations visited. I didn't notice until Matson hit th...more3.5 stars, probably.
Star rating lowered for the author half-assing at least a couple of the destinations visited. I didn't notice until Matson hit the east coast, but once I did, I started worrying that she'd been faking it all along. It seems to me that she could have done at least a little, tiny bit of research on each of Amy and Roger's stops, maybe at the very least checked out their Wikipedia pages. Richmond is not some small town with a generic main street and a single Dairy Queen, for instance. And there's nothing, NOTHING by Richmond's Greyhound Station that would inspire (view spoiler)[a first kiss (hide spoiler)].
Still, I thought this was a better than average road-trip book and a good dealing with grief book and a very good romance. A pleasant and engaging read all around, especially if you aren't familiar with/invested in any of the locations visited.
Is it too much to hope that there's not a sequel coming? I loved the open-ended conclusion. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Ambitious but over-written. Profound but heavy-handed. Hilarious but tiresome. There were plenty of ideas that I loved, but ultimately, I did not love...moreAmbitious but over-written. Profound but heavy-handed. Hilarious but tiresome. There were plenty of ideas that I loved, but ultimately, I did not love this book. Not even close.
Things I wish:
I wish that this book had been about half as long. There wasn't so much plot that it couldn't have been.
I wish that there were more YA books dealing with feminism in a meaningful way so that I could stop feeling bad when overtly feminist YA books disappoint me.
I wish that Libba Bray would consider a career change. She is a fabulous voice actor, maybe the best ever. (less)
This one really, really worked for me, and against ALL odds. I never would have picked this based on its sy...moreThank you, Shannon, for recommending this!
This one really, really worked for me, and against ALL odds. I never would have picked this based on its synopsis -- who hasn't had enough supernatural, forbidden romance by now? But aside from some looong, problematic information dumps, this is high quality YA fantasy. Excellent worldbuilding and characterization and, yes, a delicious cliffhanger.
Books that have sucked me in this way in recent years include The Hunger Games, Revolution, and Jellicoe Road. It's not a genre thing, it's an engaging story thing. THIS is an engaging story. I'm not even sorry that it's the beginning of a series. Here's hoping the next book delivers. (less)
VERY silly, but a fun read. No, it doesn't come anywhere near The Hunger Games, but it's engaging and action-packed, with snappy writing and actually...moreVERY silly, but a fun read. No, it doesn't come anywhere near The Hunger Games, but it's engaging and action-packed, with snappy writing and actually a pretty appealing romance. I'll probably read on in the series.
One, and this one is the biggest, the Dauntless train hopping. That has to be THE dumbest thing I have come across in any book ever. A train line that never stops and has no purpose except to give the Dauntless, even Dauntless children, a chance to nearly kill themselves every day? Makes no sense. And speaking of children, are there any? I mean younger than sixteen? Because we don't see them at any point. I kept waiting for some tiny punked out Dauntless baby daredevil to steal my heart, but no.
Two, dividing an entire society according to personality type is a TERRIBLE idea. It didn't work in Hogwarts, why would it work in Chicago? And it's never really explained. Obviously, the division allows the plot to develop, but I can't think of any other reason for it. Apparently, neither could the author.
Three, is there a world beyond Chicago? I guess we're going to find out later, but how could anyone successfully fence in an entire city? There's no history in this world, apparently, but it seems like at the very least the Erudite might have thought to look into this...
Four, three faction names are nouns and two are adjectives. SO INCONSISTENT. This drove me CRAZY throughout the book.
Five, the parent deaths at the end of the book read sloppy and feel contrived. I guess we're supposed to feel sorry for Tris here? Ho hum. That was about the point that I realized I don't feel much of anything for her. I might not have noticed without this ending.
This one breaks my third rule of good romance (see Not Quite a Husband), and that's that the plot shouldn't be driven by a character's hopeless stupid...moreThis one breaks my third rule of good romance (see Not Quite a Husband), and that's that the plot shouldn't be driven by a character's hopeless stupidity. Sorry Chastity.
Icky food sex, also. There should be warning labels for this.
However, there were parts of the book that I enjoyed quite a lot, and it was only as the book drew to its insanely overly-complicated conclusion that I knocked this from three to two stars. I'd probably give this author another try.(less)
**spoiler alert** I was already in love with this series, but now with the detailed, realistic and no-regrets teenaged first sex! This is edgier, more...more**spoiler alert** I was already in love with this series, but now with the detailed, realistic and no-regrets teenaged first sex! This is edgier, more contemporary and relevant to teens than anything of its ilk being published today, at least in the U.S.
The only part I didn't really like was the Harvey's Heroes bit. I suppose we need an enemy with a face to carry us forward for the next five books, but the whole setup with his camp was so over-the-top and hokey.
It kills me that the editions we carry in the library are so ugly and dated. With sexier covers, these would be such an easy sell. (less)