I'd been on a stretch of YA books when I read J. L. Myers' debut novel, What Lies Inside. I was a bit worried at first, I'll admit. After all, I was hI'd been on a stretch of YA books when I read J. L. Myers' debut novel, What Lies Inside. I was a bit worried at first, I'll admit. After all, I was holding in my hands yet another book about a young woman-turned-vampire, forbidden romance, and seething supernatural politics.
Then I started reading. I met Amelia, and my opinion changed right there. Amelia is a strong, intelligent young woman who has just discovered her vampire heritage. She's awkward and angry and utterly human in her struggles to understand what she's become and how she fits into a suddenly strange world. I cheered inside as I watched her mature and grow over the course of the book, coming to terms with the myriad changes in her life.
But the book is more than just Amelia, and more than a story of self-discovery. It's intrigue, danger, and steamy romance. The other characters are just as well written. They felt real, and perhaps more importantly, relatable. Kendrick, her best friend and her rock; Marcus, the boy she doesn't dare trust; and Ty, the dangerous classmate she finds herself falling for, even as she struggles to keep her newborn thirst under control. I was able to put myself in each of their shoes, to understand their motivations and actions - even when the results of those actions resulted in terrible consequences.
Myers does an incredible job of bringing each of her characters to life, of giving them unique and textured voices and full personalities. She draws you into the story. Her own voice is incredible too, with unique turns of phrase that catch at you and make you take notice. I can't wait to read her second book and see what happens to the characters I've come to love. ...more
Yup, another book about zombies and the end of days and all that fun stuff - the YA genre seems to have really embraced the living dead. So if you'reYup, another book about zombies and the end of days and all that fun stuff - the YA genre seems to have really embraced the living dead. So if you're looking for a quick read in the subgenre, here you go! But be warned - if you're looking for the heart-racing, gore, or the adrenaline rush of some zombie works, you won't find that here.
There's some really beautiful moments of description in this book. The short, stark sentences carry the weight of the setting, of the pain and fear and desperation. That and the occasional repetition pull together to paint an image of a broken, bleeding girl who didn't know how to cope with her life before the living dead, and isn't doing any better now.
Events seem to take place almost at a distance. The main character's voice, the voice in which the story is told, is that same cold, removed, uncertain tone that lets you walk half-living through the horrors these teens are surviving. It's what lets you read this story without quite suffering. But it's also what lets you into her head, into her state of mind, into her dying world.
The story itself moves slowly, stuck in the troubling quagmire most zombie stories fall into - what happens between? When you're not running? When you've found shelter and, however briefly, you're safe? The first 3/4 of this book fall into those questions, taking place in the teens' old school, with each door and window barricaded off. There's very little zombie action in those pages, except for flashbacks and dialogue about what happened to the other characters. But the hints and the horror are all there... and eventually, of course, they leave.
I'll also say that when the book ended, it ended well... but I was surprised I'd hit the end already. So there's that, too....more
Let me begin by saying that I had basically given up on YA. There's good stuff out there - I've read good stuff, I've recommended good stuff to friendLet me begin by saying that I had basically given up on YA. There's good stuff out there - I've read good stuff, I've recommended good stuff to friends, relatives, and actual honest-to-god YAs. But I was getting jaded. It had just been SO LONG since I'd read anything good, since I'd read anything I even maybe liked. Everything was sniveling young women in awful love triangles I never understood, surrounded by super-powerful boys and men all while believing (whether they were right or not), that there was nothing special about themselves. With a few notable exceptions, there were no role models, no one I'd want to be friends with, not even anyone I'd want to meet on the street. Yup, I was giving up on the genre.
And then I read Divergent, and put Veronica Roth on my shortlist of authors to watch.
Quickly, Divergent takes place in a... dystopian/utopian future Chicago, post-massive-war - though there's no indication as to how long ago that war happened. It's been generations, certainly, long enough to establish a new way of life - a life where we've learned from our history and taken steps to prevent future wars. Society has been divided into several factions, defined by certain characteristics. At the age of sixteen, young men and women choose what faction they will join, what they will call home for the rest of their lives.
Tris, our main character, was born into a faction that we would today recognize as akin to a conservative religion - her people are selfless, are guided by strong morals and a strict code of conduct that leads them to a certain, almost quaint, way of doing things. It is a stark yet beautiful life, and I can see reflections of Roth's own faith in these people. Though it isn't everyone's cup of tea, Roth does a fantastic job of showing the grace, humility, and beauty of this faction.
But Roth isn't a one note writer. When we are shown life in other factions, she lets the reader understand those people too. She shows us the strength and joy and peace in finding your place among kindred spirits. But she also shows us how that system of factions can have its shortcomings - after all, it's clear from the very beginning that while Tris honors many of the values of her faction, she struggles within its strict confines too.
Is this the perfect book? No. A few aimless plot bunnies wander this world (where are all the old people in dauntless, for instance?) and there are a few logic stumbles (I'm not even remotely convinced that this particular society could evolve the way it's supposed to have evolved) as well as points where a character is clearly in a scene for no reason other than to increase conflict (view spoiler)[(being as vague as possible: in the most glaring case, a character comes along for a specific purpose, then is left behind moments before they can be useful in that purpose... there's also an issue with how long exactly the serum used for placement has been around. Early on, the implication is that it's old, worked into the ritual of faction choice since the system began. Later, you find that it can't be more than what, ten years old?) (hide spoiler)]... but these issues are mostly minor and I was more than willing to shrug and move on rather than nitpick. There was so much right with the book that I was okay with its flaws.
Look - I don't want to give any of the plot away. The big plot points are relatively obvious, but the getting there isn't always, and that's part of the fun. So I'll leave the journey to you. But I will say that almost all of the things that were driving me crazy in the YA genre? You won't find them here.
Weak female lead? Not in the slightest. Tris, though often struggling with her emotions and thoughts someone trying to find her place in a world that's all about order and neatly arranged categories, is a strong and resilient young woman who I would be proud to call a friend or daughter. I understand her, I get her weaknesses, I feel her strengths. She never annoyed me or made me want to call her stupid. She's rough around the edges as she tries to figure out life, and she makes mistakes, but they're mistakes you can understand.
Awful love triangle? Nope - any character who likes Tris likes her for solid reasons. She's strong. She's handling her initiation to the faction well. She embodies her faction, and is a match in every way for the men around her. She even handles possible romance in ways that make sense given her upbringing and current situations. And the ways she reacts have consequences.
Is this book going to be for everyone? No - there is a fair amount of roughness, of violence and the like. I'm not entirely sure if the book was going for shock value, with its piercings and tattoos and guns and fights, but I didn't take it that way. Some people might, and I think those people would have a hard time reading this book. Still, I'd recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who is getting tired of the YA genre and its myriad tropes. This is a fresh and fantastic addition to a the field.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
First - and this has NOTHING to do with the writing - can I just say that I'm not a fan of the cover? I really loved the cover on the first book, andFirst - and this has NOTHING to do with the writing - can I just say that I'm not a fan of the cover? I really loved the cover on the first book, and now I feel like I'm looking at some Twihard fanfic piece of flotsam rather than a work in its own right. Makes me sad.
Second - and this also seriously bugged me but is NOT the author's fault - the copy on the back... who wrote that? Because honestly, it has nothing to do with the plot of this book. This whole "Graves and Christophe must put aside their struggles or Dru will die!" idea *never* appears within the book itself, though there are bits and pieces of love triangle-ish maybe going on in the book.
As for the book itself - I got very tired of sections from books 1 and 2 being basically cut and pasted into book 3 (this also happened in book 2, by the by). I doubt it would have bothered me quite so much if there'd been any kind of gap between me reading each of these, but having read all three in one week, it was a bit much.
I do still like Dru as a female character. She's not super girly (but if she starts crying, then complains about how girly crying is one more time...), she's got this harder side to her, and she's all good with that. I love girls that aren't... well... GIRLS (if I had a flowery, curly script that was pink and sparkly, I'd use that. You'll have to settle for capital letters here instead). Neo-feminine or whatever you want to call it.
I'm warning you now, if you're a bit slow on the uptake then there may be some spoilers following this text. I'm not marking it, since, well... it was stuff I mostly knew in book 2, and the rest is revealed pretty early in this book. You have been warned.
Oh, Anna. How I seriously dislike where you went in this book. I mean, she was a super-feminine cloud of insanity before, but you spent time wondering what her driving force was. And let's be honest here - was there ever ANY doubt in anyone's mind that she was bad news and villain material from the get-go? No? Didn't think so. But I thought maybe she might be more interesting than just "your mom stole my boy, and now YOU'VE stolen my boy, and Wahhhh, I'm angry". Seriously. There were a few other bits and pieces that made her *slightly* more interesting, but when I realized this was going to be her motivation for everything, I just about threw my book across the room. Or would have, if I weren't reading it on an e-reader. God, that made me miss my paperbacks.
Now, I said in my warning that this info about Anna is revealed pretty early on in book 3 - and it is, but much like books 1 and 2, Dru seems to forget what she knew left and right. That girl has a sieve for a brain, I'm telling you. Though in this particular case, it's specified that she doesn't want to remember this, so she buries it. Still, the reveal comes repeatedly throughout the book, Dru keeps remembering or almost remembering, and each time she gets all angry and screamy and... I started to get a bit frustrated with the girl at that point, especially when she hit points of remembering but not wanting to share, so trying not to remember. It sounds confusing as I write it, and it was just as confusing in the book.
And yet, and yet. The book actually read a bit more smoothly than the last, in some ways. But those loose ends from book 2, or things that the author basically keeps promising will return (like those wooden blades... or 5 million other things) remain lost, while other "this is a cool detail" items keep building up only to be abandoned. It makes me more and more frustrated with an author who should have gained a bit more of her sea legs by this point.
All told... It was the same as the last two - a fast, easy read when you don't want to put a whole lot of brain power into your book. Would I recommend the series? Probably not. But will I read the next book myself? Yeah, I think I will....more
My biggest complaint with this book (and the last, come to think of it), may be more edit-based than anything else.
When you're writing, bits and pieceMy biggest complaint with this book (and the last, come to think of it), may be more edit-based than anything else.
When you're writing, bits and pieces of ideas can sneak in here and there. You go "oh, this would be a great time to mention this little tidbit of knowledge..." and in it goes. The problem is, sometimes, 20 pages later, you may go "oh, this would be a great time to mention this little tidbit of knowledge" all over again. In the author's head, it's new - it hasn't come up yet. The author has been sitting on this little nugget, waiting forever to use it, and sometimes... well, sometimes you forget that you already *did* use it.
This is something that ought to get caught in the editing process, either when the author goes back through, or when the editor reads it. Unfortunately, it's something I saw repeatedly in both book 1 and 2 of this series (a particularly glaring one in my mind? Dru was told on at LEAST 3 occasions, by 3 different people, that the schola she was in was (a) a smaller schola (something she also figured out for herself at one point... then apparently forgot), and (b) a schola for the troublemakers, etc. But she keeps forgetting this, and each time it's mentioned, it's a surprise to her. It's all brand new and unexpected, and it drove me crazy. The same thing happened with objects - Dru's mom's locket, her dad's wallet, the swords, the lock of hair... while I'm sure some of these will become relevant in the next book, they were *constantly* referenced here, and I felt that at least SOME of the payoff to those references needed to come now, not later.
I was also once again frustrated by Dru's "we must hit the books and do research!" attitude... that almost never resulted in research. Usually, it resulted in her skipping class and bemoaning her fate. It kind of drove me crazy.
On the other hand, I feel like Dru did learn a little something from the last book, wherein she sat around going "where are the grown ups and why aren't they fixing this?" (an understandable reaction from a suddenly alone-in-the-world teenager)... in this book, she had a greater propensity for saying "I'm going to have to do this myself and stop depending on others to save me." I was a big fan of this change.
I wish a few of Dru's observations had come to something in the book - she's a very observant young woman, but a lot of what she sees seems to disappear into the aether not long after it's mentioned. These little plot ghosts could have been used to great effect... For instance, Dru notes fairly early on that the schola seems to be silently encouraging divisiveness and instability between the wulfen and the part-sucker kids. She notices this, files it away... and then forgets it.
Finally, there are moments of description that just didn't click for me (someone was cheese-pale? What does that even mean?).
And yet it was a light, fun, easy read. Go figure, I still enjoyed it. I just wish there was a bit more polish here....more
Let me begin by saying that I picked up book 3 because, well... book 2 ended with such a massive pseudo-cliffhanger. I say pseudo because you knew exaLet me begin by saying that I picked up book 3 because, well... book 2 ended with such a massive pseudo-cliffhanger. I say pseudo because you knew exactly what was coming in book 3, but something about the setup just made me want to pick it up and see what would come of this new development, in which Taly is turned into a special (which, if you're paying attention at this point, would be obvious from the book's title alone).
I think my least favorite thing about books 2 and 3 is how emotions are just... assumed. The way Taly views the world keeps changing, and we the reader are left to assume the whys and hows. If someone were to come into book 3 without having read the first two, they would assume that the way Taly thinks is the way she's always thought, the relationships she maintains are true to who she is. This isn't the case, and the casual nature with which Westerfeld treats these massive changes in personality is fairly jarring for me. I guess the main issue here for me is that, once again, Taly's brain has been reset and loaded with what the City wants her to believe/think/remember - and these constant resets make it difficult to really identify with or get close to a character. ...more
Once again, I found the plot here to be a mostly (but not entirely) predictable. There were definitely a few twists and turns that I didn't expect, buOnce again, I found the plot here to be a mostly (but not entirely) predictable. There were definitely a few twists and turns that I didn't expect, but enough of the plot was obvious enough to me that I wasn't really deeply enthralled.
I was also a bit irritated by the romance in this book. I know, I know - this is completely a personal thing on my part and not really a comment on the writing, but... well, maybe it is just a bit about the writing. I felt as though the author could have brought a bit more conflict into play here, or could have made a few salient facts about what had happened to the MCs a bit more obvious.
This wasn't a bad book, not by any stretch - there were parts that I deeply enjoyed, in fact. But overall, the book wasn't for me. I think it's a little hard to take shallow characters and make them interesting in the first person, but Westerfeld did his best. ...more
This is NOT a complete story. I liked it, I did - but it's not a complete story at all. It ends with a major cliffhanger and as such, I'd suggest waitThis is NOT a complete story. I liked it, I did - but it's not a complete story at all. It ends with a major cliffhanger and as such, I'd suggest waiting until book 2 comes out to read it. I'm a little sad that I have to wait two more years until I can finish (or... at least get a little further in) the story....more
I adored the premise of this book - in a dystopian (post-apocalyptic?) future, society is devided into two groups, loosely distinguished as those insiI adored the premise of this book - in a dystopian (post-apocalyptic?) future, society is devided into two groups, loosely distinguished as those inside the wall (the well off) and those outside (the have-nots). Those outside the wall go without schooling, without basic healthcare, without the finer things in life. babies are delivered by midwives and each month, each midwife must give the first three babies they deliver over to those inside the wall - but not just any babies, they must be perfect. They cannot have scars or deformities (something that is more common now). Now, any time you have a system like this, you're going to have dissenters, unrest, and the like - and this is where our plot begins.
I really enjoyed this book. There were a few rough patches here and there, but O'Brien has a way with her words, and every now and then I'd find myself sinking into a particular turn of phrase, closing my eyes, and letting out a soft little sigh. Was it perfect? no. But it was enjoyable and promising, and for a debut piece, it definitely let me know that this was an author to keep an eye on. I've added book 2 to my 'to read' pile for when it comes out next year... here's hoping O'Brien brings the same intensity to her next work....more
Oh, good lord. I should have taken note of that tiny little P.C. Cast quote on the front of the book, put it down, and walked slowly away, never turniOh, good lord. I should have taken note of that tiny little P.C. Cast quote on the front of the book, put it down, and walked slowly away, never turning my back lest it attack. Because P.C. Cast? I remember you, P.C. Cast. You're kind of the devil, in my book at this point.
The prologue? That alone was so awful I actually stopped reading and walked away for several months. Then forgot and picked the book back up. Thank god the sacharine writing of the prologue didn't... immediately... carry over into the rest of the book, or I would have put it right back down again.
This book could have been really interesting. It had the potential, buried deep... really really deep - inside. The ideas behind the story could have come together to make a good read. They didn't. For one thing, the VAST majority of this book is the 'OMG, I think I really like this guy, but he's mean to me... but I like him! Maybe even love him! But then there's this other guy, and he's nice to me and all, but he's not the first guy... but he pays attention to me and he's nice, and I swear I'm not shallow or anything, and that's why I just don't feel the same way about the nice guy. Except sometimes, when I do.' I'm not kidding. I mean, I knew something else was going on, but the author was doing her damnedest to hide it. I really, really wanted to scream. I'd figured out WAY too much from the tiny little hints here and there, definitely a lot more than the MC had, but even so - I think at about the 40% mark I stopped for a second and went "wait. Has anything even happened other than 'oh woe is me, I like this boy'? No? WTF?????" Aaaand then, for some reason, kept reading.
The whole thing was made worse by the fact that the author, Lauren Kate, ended almost every chapter mid-scene. I was reading an e-version of the book and honestly had to get online and check to make sure that something hadn't gone wrong with the file, somehow cutting out whole paragraphs at the end of each chapter. Not only did the chapters end literally mid-thought, the next chapter picked up in a completely different time and place, leaving me reeling and confused, trying to figure out what on EARTH just happened.
Then there's the horrible - really, seriously, I stopped reading to tell a random stranger on the train next to me horrible - turns of phrase and bits of description in this thing. Like this gem: "At first Luce thought the sound was more applause, as if a demonic auditorium full of darkness were clapping derisively at Luce and Daniel's love..." Yeah. Wow.
So by the time I got to the end of this story, I felt sorry for the main character, but I didn't like her. I didn't root for her. When she became so obsessed with a guy that she stopped doing her homework and teachers became concerned about her, I grumbled and wanted to hit her upside the head. When a villain went on a rant about her being a selfish girl who was overly obsessed with love, I found myself going "yes! You are so right!" - not... really what you want for your heroine.
And this whole romance thing? Remember when (if) you read any vampire book ever, or saw any TV show ever, and thought to yourself "why does this hundreds-of-years-old guy love this seventeen year old? You think he'd be sick of seventeen year olds by now, right?" - That applies here. To the Nth.
And by the time I got to the end, I was so done with the awful, overly dramatic, horrifically written romance that I wasn't even ready to let the potential I'd seen in three or four sentences per 50 pages influence me anymore. Good for you, there was potential. But you didn't do a damn thing with it, and I'm not going to reward you for what could have been. Ugh.
This book right here is why I miss my paperbacks. This book is a cry for fewer e-readers and more print. Because while I was reading this, there was nothing in the world I wanted more than to fling it across the room, and I couldn't. I didn't want to break my kindle. ...more
**spoiler alert** There's a certain quality about Suzanne's writing that I adore. She leaves you feeling... quiet. Peaceful. Something pretty impressi**spoiler alert** There's a certain quality about Suzanne's writing that I adore. She leaves you feeling... quiet. Peaceful. Something pretty impressive, considering the subject matter of her books.
Writing isn't everything, though. The story itself matters too. And here's where I tripped a little. I think Suzanne's strength lies in the hunger games themselves - and their absence here (and her attempt to recreate them anyways) didn't quite work for me. An odd complaint, given that in Catching Fire, my main complaint was that she'd tossed these characters back into the games.
The love triangle also got a bit old. I wanted someone to give up, or for Katniss to make a real and solid decision. I understand why she found it so hard, but still - it drove me a bit crazy.
I also found the way she dealt with death this time around to be... very frustrating. Katniss was more upset by the scent of roses than by the deaths of her friends and colleagues throughout the story - and more than once, I felt as though Suzanne had basically written "Character x dies. Moving on."
And finally, the book's end felt so rushed and forced, even though the characters and the outcomes felt natural.
In the end, I did enjoy both this last book and the series as a whole... and I'm definitely sad that it's over. This is an author I'll keep an eye on, and give the benefit of the doubt with future works. Here's hoping she has a long and bright career....more