**spoiler alert** This is not so much a review as it is my thoughts upon re-reading The Hunger Games. I'm going to assume that nearly everyone who had...more**spoiler alert** This is not so much a review as it is my thoughts upon re-reading The Hunger Games. I'm going to assume that nearly everyone who had any interest in reading this novel has done so already so beware of SPOILERS!
This book is fantastic. You know that, I know that and (hopefully) after the movie release next week, the rest of the freaking world will know that.* The first time around, I was so caught up with anxiety and fear for Katniss' life that I missed some of the more subtle nuances of this incredibly intricate book. I discussed some of these points with my book club but I wanted to get some feedback from other people.
1. SHOW, DON'T TELL: Collins really got this one right. This was clear right from the start when Katniss spoke about Prim's cat. The startlingly powerful image of a young girl attempting to drown a worm-ridden kitten because she didn't need "another mouth to feed". We are never bogged down with info-dumping or forced to listen to Katniss whine about her circumstances (even though some whining is probably warranted).
2. ACTION: There is very rarely a dull moment in this book. The only time that I can think of it even slowing is while Katniss and Peeta are in the cave. Instead, this is where a lot of the relationship building occurs and where we learn even more about both of the characters.**
3.HAYMITCH: The first time I read this book, I saw only the surface character of Haymith: the bumbling drunk who was jaded by watching years of unsuccessful tributes meet their death in the games. After re-reading, I was able to see the intelligence in Haymitch. I no longer believe that his falling off the stage was an accident and now see it as a carefully orchestrated move to distract from the fact that Katniss was about to cry after receiving the salute from the crowd. The way that he communicated with Katniss via what he did or didn't send was pretty incredible. I was really able to see the parallels between the two characters and it was a little chilling to have a constant reminder of what Katniss could become if she didn't have the influence of her friends and family.
4. ROMANCE: The romantic arc in this story is very well done. There is no insta-love and it is made very clear that Katniss has difficulty separating her feelings for Peeta from her actions as part of the game. Even though we do see evidence of a love triangle, the two boys are never in direct competition and Katniss shows fierce loyalty to both of them but undying love to neither.
5. AUDIENCE: I am constantly looking for books to recommend to my male students. The hardest sell is usually grade 9. Last year, I suggested The Hunger Games to one boy and he went on to rave to his fellow students about how "Awesome" it was. Shortly thereafter, nearly all of the class, boys and girls, had read the books and I was able to interest many of them in other books like The Giver and The Maze Runner. There is an old trope that boys will not read books about girls (rumor has it this is why J.K Rowling chose a male protagonist in Harry Potter) but Suzanne Collins crushes this when she created a world that interested both genders and a character that all readers can root for.
So, what do you think? Do you agree with my points? Disagree? For those who have re-read, did notice anything new the second time you read it? Are you ready to cheer Katniss on when the movie is released (not to mention ready to bawl your eyes out when Rue dies)?
*Seriously, have you seen the trailer? I say "trailer" because I am so excited that I have limited myself to only watching the first one so EVERYTHING is new to me when I finally get to see it.
**I wonder if we had been given a chance to get to know Gale this early on, would we have been more split in who Katniss should end up with?
In this sequel to The Hunger Games, Katniss is forced to live with the consequences of her actions within the arena. While starving to death is no lon...moreIn this sequel to The Hunger Games, Katniss is forced to live with the consequences of her actions within the arena. While starving to death is no longer an issue, violence, anger, rebellion and the emotional fallout from her pseudo relationship with Peeta, are.
The first 1/3 of this book are rather slow going. If you are reading the books back to back, this is a difficult change of pace from the action of The Hunger Games. Instead of defending her life from other competitors, we watch as Katniss attempts to reconcile with Gale and deal with not only an ever increasing violent presence within District 12, but also with her own expanded understanding of just how bad things are under the rule of the Capitol.
The action eventually picks up again and the reader is left questioning each character's motives and wondering what exactly is going on. The plot holds many twists and turns and things do not become clear until the last few pages. As the middle book in a trilogy, Catching Fire does a fantastic job of leaving you yearning for the third book. The first time I read it, this was infuriating. The second time around it is less so (mostly because the third book is waiting for me rather than forcing me to chew my nails for months wondering what is to become of my beloved characters).
Age: Grade 8-9 Gender: Both Sex: None Violence: Lots. Multiple Beatings, Fights, Murders. Inappropriate Language: None Substance Abuse: Continued heavy drinking by an adult character. One instance of heavy drinking by a teen character (followed by a painful hangover).
How does one even begin to sum up the emotional roller coaster that is the end to the Hunger Games series? In this book, we find Katniss safely enscon...moreHow does one even begin to sum up the emotional roller coaster that is the end to the Hunger Games series? In this book, we find Katniss safely ensconced within the walls of District 13, the headquarters for the rebellion against the Capital. Once again, Katniss is expected to play a role in other people's agendas and, once again, she refuses to play by anyone's rules but her own. As the rebellion wears on, Katniss struggles against the capital, her own inner turmoil and the morality of what she must do.
Within the pages of this book, more so than either of the others, we trespass on Katniss' inner thoughts, feelings and fears as she faces the suffering brought on (at least in part) by her actions. Unlike many in the YA genre, Suzanne Collins presents a character who is often unstable, emotional and all together, human. It is this that sets her apart from many YA authors. Her characters have realistic weaknesses that they overcome not once but over and over again, facing the very worst in themselves and crawling, bloody and broken from abyss of self-loathing in order to fight for the people that they love.
Mockingjay does not shy away from the big issues, exploring humanity, and our ability to inflict pain and suffering of the highest caliber in the name of whatever cause we believe to be just. In forcing the reader to question their own belief system, Collins displays a confidence in her reader's ability to think critically. She never panders to young adults or assumes that she needs to spell out her message so that they will "get it". An increasing number of YA authors and publishers do not show this same level of respect for their readers.
Mockingjay not only presents an action packed and emotional ride, but it also forces us to examine our view of the world and the atrocities that play out every day in our own backyards and around the globe.
Age: Grade 8-9 Gender: Both Sex: None Violence: Beatings, Use of guns and other weapons, many, many deaths due to violent means. Inappropriate Language: None Substance Abuse: Alcohol abuse by an adult. Discussion of addiction to painkillers. Other Issues: Contemplation of suicide
Cover Impressions: I really like this cover. The 'eye in the sky' grabs your attention a...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: I really like this cover. The 'eye in the sky' grabs your attention and works well with the color scheme. The city and marshland add to the tone and set this novel clearly as a dystopia. In my physical copy, the title and author's name are raised, giving the book a polished, expensive, feel.
The Gist: The world has split into factions based on what each group values above all else. Each teenager will be tested for aptitude in each of factions and then must choose one. This means leaving behind everything they have ever known, including family. Beatrice Prior makes this choice and struggles to conform to a new set of ideals in a world that isn't as secure as she once thought.
Review: Tris (Beatrice) is not your typical YA character. She doesn't wait for the boy to save her, she doesn't plot and scheme or use her womanly charms to survive. She kicks ass and takes names. She doesn't start off as strong, she doesn't have some special ability that lets her play with the big boys, she works at it, she practices and this is why I love her. Tris walks the line between compassion and ferocity. She is able to empathize and show mercy one moment, while being hard nosed and unforgiving in the next. Her reactions speak to me as Human, no where near perfect, but trying to survive while upholding her own set of morals. Some of the other characters are not featured as well and do come off as a little one-dimensional, but I have hopes for redemption on this point as the trilogy continues.
Roth creates a very distinct and interesting world. It is one that appears calm and orderly on the outside but, after further investigation, begins to show the cracks underneath. Once those flaws begin to be revealed, the novel moves from slow and steady tension building to all out downhill run. The last 100 pages or so are impossible to put down (unless, like me, you have an infant who waits for the best part of the book to decide that he needs you NOW NOW NOW!). There are scenes that are hard to read, there are deaths that I wish didn't happen and others that I wish did. There are also a few things that I found unbelievable (but can't discuss without spoilers) but I was able to move past them and concentrate on the action.
This book was hyped. And I mean HYPED with all caps. I believe it deserves some of that hype. It is not the be-all, end-all of dystopian novels, but it really is a fun, exciting and exhilarating read. Both boys and girls will love the adventure and the fast pace. I do have some concerns about the level of violence and would not recommend it for young readers. The groping scene has caused some controversy but I do think it was written well, though I would have liked to see Tris reflecting on it now and then.* The kissing scenes get a little steamy but nothing above PG13 (I will be reviewing Insurgent later and have a feeling that things may get a little more racy).
Age: 16 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing, Unwanted groping Violence: Death by falling, knifeplay/stabbing, death by drowning, gunplay, execution-style murder, mind control. Inappropriate Language: None Substance Abuse: Drinking
* For those teachers out there, Veronica Roth wrote a blog post about it, discussing the mistakes that writers make, that may be interesting for older students to explore. It can be found HERE
Closing Thoughts: This is my second reading of Divergent and I enjoyed it just as much this time around. Veronica Roth has gained a fan in me and I am sure I will continue to read anything that she decides to write. (less)
This novel is inspired on The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, however, rather than use the story as a map for her own, Hillary Jordan jumps off...moreThis novel is inspired on The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, however, rather than use the story as a map for her own, Hillary Jordan jumps off from this point in order to create her own unsettling and disturbing world.
To me, the descriptions of the over-arching power of the church were just as frightening as the treatment of the chromes. I found it very interesting to read of the power of the "Texas Internet Authority" on the same day that many sites had willingly shut down in protest of SOPA. Clearly, a world such as Jordan writes about, is not that far removed from our own.
As a character, Hannah shows immense growth, though her epiphanies sometimes seem to come unprovoked and are a little difficult to believe. I found Kayla to be more interesting and wish that she had featured more. As for Aiden, his acceptance of Hannah and willingness to give up everything that he has worked for doesn't feel real to me. I simply don't see a man that created the ultimate public image as allowing that to be threatened by an illegitimate child and illicit affair.
Overall, the novel is very well written and the reader remains enthralled while Hannnah experiences one terror after another, forcing her to take control of her life in a way that she never expected.
> Some discussion of adult themes such as sex, rape and murder makes this novel inappropriate for young audiences. I recommend Grade 10 and up.
Cover Impressions: The cover does an excellent job of expressing the dark and foreboding mood of this novel. I am a fan of the oppressive fog and the...moreCover Impressions: The cover does an excellent job of expressing the dark and foreboding mood of this novel. I am a fan of the oppressive fog and the red highlights that provide a sense of mystery. The title font is PERFECT, antique-looking but clearly legible.
The Gist: Araby Worth spends her nights chasing oblivion in the Debauchery District. She seeks solace from the world outside, a world of death, disease and fear. The plague that decimated the city left her family elevated in society but shattered and haunted. When a night of revelry brings Araby to the attention of Will, the well-meaning older brother and Elliot, the reckless leader of a rebellion, she must shake off her stupor and finally decide if there are people in this world worth fighting for.
Review: Bethany Griffin is one brave lady. It takes guts to take on a master like Edgar Allen Poe. I love using Poe in my grade 7, 8 and 9 English classes, especially around Halloween. The kids enjoy the foreboding tone and dark imagery. Griffin manages to elicit the same ominous feel and sense of decrepit grandeur in her book. There is a beautiful dichotomy between the peasants ravaged by plague and the sheer opulence of Araby's lifestyle.
As a character, Araby is beautifully flawed. In the beginning, we see an empty, thoughtless shell of a girl. One that is guilt-ridden and bent on wasting away slowly and painfully. She is unable to recognize love and caring in those around her. Araby is easily led into betraying her father and endangering the entire city. It is as if she were waiting for someone to ask her to do something, anything, to tilt the precarious balance that the city has reached. As the story progresses, Araby begins to drop some of her carefully constructed walls and we get the merest glimpse into the strong and selfless individual that she might become.
For most of this novel, the action creeps along with a few tense moments here and there, much like the city, seething slowly but steadily until it erupts into a cacophony of violence that last until the final pages. There are some dull moments in the middle but if you persist and push through, you will be rewarded.
Teaching/Parental Notes: Age: 15 and up Gender: Female Sex: None Violence: Murders, Riots, Beatings, Swordplay, Gunplay. Inappropriate Language: None Substance Abuse: Underage drinking, Use of needle drugs(less)
Cover Impressions: At first glance, this cover falls into the category of "pretty girl in a pretty dress". However, upon closer inspection there are s...moreCover Impressions: At first glance, this cover falls into the category of "pretty girl in a pretty dress". However, upon closer inspection there are several elements that tell a lot about the story. These elements are tied together by lines and circles, the reader is enticed to follow. I am a big fan of covers that beg re-examination and allow for exclamations of "Oh!" as the text and the cover begin to meld together in a wonderful stew of symbolism.
The Gist: Rhine Ellery's life is ebbing away. She knows that, like all young women born of her generation, she will die at the age of 20. No longer believing in the possibility of a miracle cure, she was content to live out her days struggling for survival with her brother, Rowan. However, the Gatherers had different plans. They swept her off the streets of New York and put her on display as a child bride for the wounded Linden. Now, surrounded by wealth and opulence, Rhine sees the damage and decay beneath the beautiful facade and begins her fight to escape and to live the meager years she has left, as she chooses.
Review: On the surface, it appears that Rhine has found paradise. A sprawling mansion, a gentle and caring husband and fellow wives whom she grows to love as sisters. However, this world is based on an illusion, nothing on the surface is real and it is only when one ventures below that they finally see the sharks that have been circling their legs the entire time. Rhine must decide whether it is better to live (and die) in a beautiful illusion or to risk her life escaping to a world that is harsh and cruel, but real.
Destefano does not allow for one dimensional characters and presents each of her creations as a unique individual with motivations and desires that are the reader can understand, even if we don't necessarily agree with them. Vaughn, in particular, is an incredible villain. He is singularly focused and willing to sacrifice anyone in order to further his cause. His every word is cold, calculating and dripping with double meanings. But, even in such a cruel an cunning man, we are able to see his motivation and to question what levels we might stoop to in the hopes of finding a cure. In Wither the plot does not explode like a firework but rather unfurls slowly but steadily, enveloping the reader and investing them in the lives of each character. Unfortunately, there is a lack of tension that tempers the excitement level. I adore books that leave the reader holding their breath, willing for fate to step in an ensure success for our heroine, this was not one of those books. There was simply not a strong enough sense of danger to make me actually fear for Rhine's life.
This book is a strong opening to the trilogy. I look forward to seeing what other horrors this world holds.
Teaching/Parental Notes: Age: 15 and up Gender: Female Sex: Spoken about but not described. Violence: Kidnapping, poisoning? Inappropriate Language: None Substance Abuse: Underage drinking Other Issues: Child brides, polygamy, pregnancy in a young girl and her giving birth(less)
Cover Impressions: This cover screams Dystopia. The ruined buildings and rising waters do an e...more This review can also be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: This cover screams Dystopia. The ruined buildings and rising waters do an excellent job of introducing the reader to the ruined world that Jo Treggiari has created for her characters. I was a little disappointed at the portrayal of Lucy. Another version of this cover showed her in the hoodie and leather jacket that she wears for most of the novel and I much prefer that to the pristine white tank top that she dons in this version. I also wish that the cover model had Lucy's curly, unruly hair rather than the slightly wavy hair that is featured. For all the complaining that Lucy does about her hair, I would think it is an important feature.
The Gist: Lucy is struggling to survive the post-apocalyptic world. Plague, floods and droughts have ravaged the human population and taken away everyone that Lucy loves. On the run for her life, she encounters the mysterious Aiden and is forced to consider whether or not she is willing to open her life to another human being. Forced from her makeshift home, Lucy is sent on the run and discovers that the threat from the Sweepers scouring the land is more real to her than she ever imagined.
Review: Ashes, Ashes presents a wonderfully terrifying wilderness where dangers lurk around every corner. Here we meet Lucy, a typical American teenager, struggling to survive with her meager supplies and the skills she has gleaned from a survival handbook. I was behind Lucy 100% and watched with fascination as she went about her daily routine to find food, maintain her shelter and stay warm enough in order to wake up and do it all over again. When she encounters Aiden, the first human being she has seen in months, we see the first tendrils of a crush wrap themselves around Lucy's heart. However, our little survivalist will not let these new-found emotions distract her from the task of living. This is a dystopian adventure with just a smattering of romance and this fact keeps it appropriate for a young audience and allows it to appeal to teen boys as well.
The characters are real and relatable. I found the camp life to be interesting and loved the no-nonsense approach of Grammalie Rose. Here we get to learn about the Sa'an or plague survivors who remain marked and social pariahs. There was a considerable amount of time spend here developing the world building aspect of the novel, which would have been understandable if this were the first in a series, but to my knowledge, this is a stand-alone. As it was, these sections slowed down the action and dampened the sense of urgency that our time alone with Lucy had created. We learn about the threat to the remaining humans fairly early on, however, it takes a great deal of time for the characters to decide to do something about it.
Once action has been decided upon, things happen almost entirely too quickly and then suddenly slow to a near stop. This is where the novel started to fall apart for me. The pacing seemed off and the reactions of the characters were questionable. The fight scenes were extremely odd, with moments of action followed by moments of standing around - talking or preparing - then back to action, over and over again. In the end, I was left with more questions than answers and was, ultimately, unsatisfied.
Jo Treggiari's world building is spot-on. She creates a realistic and terrifying world and a group of people willing to face it head on. While the plot fell apart for me, I do believe it will appeal to fans of post-apocalyptic novels.
Teaching/Parental Notes: Age: 12 and up Gender: Either Sex: None Violence: Plague, Dog Attacks, Stun Guns, Knifeplay Inappropriate Language: None Substance Abuse: None(less)
Cover Impressions: I am a big fan of the covers for this series. The first featured the...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: I am a big fan of the covers for this series. The first featured the Dauntless flames and this one shows the tree of Amity. The colors are muted but effective and the misty city (with train this time!) adds to the mysterious tone. The raised letters adds texture to the hardcover copies and makes it feel that much more luxurious.
The Gist: Insurgent picks up exactly where Divergent left off, with the train ride away from the Dauntless compound after Tris and Tobias destroyed the simulation. The factions are on the brink of war and Tris must decide where her allegiances lie, in defeating Erudite and punishing them for their discretions or in searching for the truth at all costs.
Review: Insurgent is considerably slower than it's predecessor. However, I thoroughly enjoyed getting a look at how the other factions lived and learning that, despite appearances, they all have some deep dark secrets. In this book, the characters begin to reveal how their faction upbringing continues to influence their actions (though even they will not admit it) and how each person can be seen as a little bit divergent. We also have to deal with some personal issues and emotional setbacks as Tris deals with the guilt of killing one of her friends and Tobias struggles to trust Tris' instincts.
Urgh - this is starting to sound like a plot summery. Ok, reboot. This book is good. Very good. It concentrates more on character development than action. There is still plenty of fighting and lots of secrets. As with Divergent, Roth writes good action sequences; snappy and exciting without the "he hit me, then I hit him, then he hit me again" drain that makes me steer away from many adult fantasy novels.
At about the halfway point, I found myself lying awake at night wondering if my predictions for "The Big Reveal" would be correct. In the end, it was well done and left us in great suspense for the next novel (though I am not quite sure why Marcus felt he couldn't explain this without showing them the information itself). I did find the ending a little unsatisfying, but that is pretty typical when I read the middle novel in a trilogy, so I forgive it.
Age: 15 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: Gunplay, Knifeplay, Hand to Hand combat, Execution-Style Murder Inappropriate Language: None Substance Abuse: None
Closing Thoughts: I am not quite happy with the way this review turned out but that is due to my own writing failure rather than the books. Basically it boils down to this: If you like Divergent, Insurgent makes a solid addition to the series. If you didn't like Divergent, Insurgent is probably not going to change your mind and you might want to consider moving on to something else. (less)
Cover Impressions: Very nice cover. Dark colors that portray the overall mood of the boo...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: Very nice cover. Dark colors that portray the overall mood of the book and eye-catching imagery. Can't wait to see how this theme continues through the rest of the series (Dear God, please let this be the first in a series).
The Gist: When children begin to die from a mysterious disease, it is discovered the those survivors are left with dangerous and frightening powers. A new special forces is quickly formed and the children are rounded up for "rehabilitation". At the age of 10, Ruby enters Thurmond and witnesses unspeakable horrors. When she escapes at the age of 16, the is quick to realize that it is not just the camps that had been the setting of these atrocities, but that the entire country had transformed into a dark and dangerous place.
Review: I can see already that this is going to be one of those reviews where I simply cannot do justice to the fabulosity of this book. Just a few chapters in, I found myself exclaiming "holy crap this is good!" and that didn't cease until the last page was turned. I am beyond excited for the upcoming release date and cannot wait to get a copy for my classroom. The Darkest Minds transcends issues of gender and genre preferences in the same way that The Hunger Games did. It is exciting, fast-paced and full of genuine emotion.
The world of this novel is horrible, but all too possible. Terrifying parallels can be drawn between the rehabilitation centers and concentration camps during WWII. It seems that danger lurks around every turn and almost no one can be trusted. The world building is intense and details are slowly unraveled as we move forward in the plot.
The characters are wonderfully well written and developed so that the reader comes to love them, but also recognizes that they are flawed in a very realistic way. Their relationships are so genuine and the romantic angle is weaved into the plot so that it supports the action, rather than stealing center stage. The villains (about whom I cannot give many details without spoiling the storyline) are equally well written and aided the plot in becoming one of the more exciting and horrifying ones that I have read this year.
I do not even know what else I can say. I am still reeling from the ending and wishing I was able to spend more time with these characters. Books like The Darkest Minds, are the reason I continue to love YA and why I get excited about bringing titles like these to the attention of my students. Alexandra Bracken, the YA world awaits news of the next release with baited breath - please hurry!
Age: 15 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: Gunplay, Knifeplay, Mind Control, Concentration Camps, Execution, Possible Rape Inappropriate Language: Asshole, Shit, Piss, Bullshit, Fucking, Bastard Substance Use/Abuse: None(less)
Cover Impressions: The cover is interesting but I do feel that it is missing something....moreThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover is interesting but I do feel that it is missing something. Perhaps it is the lack of color that is throwing me, though I do understand the purpose in washing it out in order to reflect how Eva had faded to nearly nothing.
The Gist: In the world of the Hybrid Chronicles every body is born with two souls, each with a distinct personality. Through their younger years, these souls exchange use of the body and are treated as two separate individuals. However, as they grow older, one soul rises and dominant and the other fades away forever. Once in a while, there is a soul that hangs on: a Hybrid - feared and hunted. This is Eva and Addie. For three years Eva has hidden away, locked inside Addie's mind while she tries to pretend that they have settled, that they are normal. But Eva sees a chance to live and be known and it will drag both of them down a dangerous path.
Review: I will admit, this book took me longer than normal to finish. Admittedly, the munchkin and I were visiting my parents which does not make for the most friendly of reading environments, but I still feel like there was something missing.
The world was interesting. The concept of two souls in one body is unique and opens the door for a lot of exploration. I did find it difficult to piece together the history that led to this particular place and time. A war was mentioned a time or two, but I would have liked some more details (perhaps they will be forthcoming in subsequent novels?) The writing was fast paced and exciting and I cannot quite put my finger on what kept me from diving for this book at every free moment.
Perhaps it was the characters. I found it difficult to connect with Addie and Eva. They had spent so much time trying to blend in and not be noticed that they came off a little bland. The secondary characters were not much more exciting. I would really have liked to have been able to tell simply through dialogue and actions, which soul had taken over the bodies at which point. Instead, I had to be told by Eva who was in control and it took something away from this unique premise.
In the end, I was a little underwhelmed. There was some character growth and a set up for the next novel but nothing that really left me satisfied in the outcome. The book was enjoyable enough that I will be coming back for the second in the series and hoping for some more dynamic characters to go with the roller-coaster plot.
Age: 16 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: Physical restraint, unnecessary surgery Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None(less)
Cover Impressions: The color covers are pretty but it feels like someone went a little o...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The color covers are pretty but it feels like someone went a little overboard in photoshop. The tattoo and violet eyes would have been much more impressive if they had been part of the original photo shoot rather than being added later. I do like the stark, unfeeling expression on the model's face.
The Gist: Elysia is a Teen Beta Clone. Her entire purpose is to please the family that has bought her - by whatever means necessary. Living in the island paradise of Demesne, life is idyllic and easy. But, as Elysia starts to learn about the underbelly of the island, secrets begin to unravel and she learns that the life of a clone may be more complicated than she ever imagined.
Review: Beta had a great premise: a world where clones are created to serve the elite, where slavery is allowed because the clones do not have a soul. Against this backdrop, we meet Elysia, one of the first Teen Betas - an experimental type of clone that has not been fully tested. Entering the world at 16, Elysia becomes the companion for a group of teens and is allowed a glimpse at the secrets underlying this tropical paradise. The first few chapters showed a great deal of promise, however things went downhill from there.
I could not develop any feelings for the character of Elysia. I could understand the flat affect at the beginning of the book as a result of her being newly "born", however, I was looking for growth over the course of the novel and I didn't get it. I felt no connection with her, or her predicament. I also found that Elysia made a rather large leap from complete compliance to utter anger and violence with little indication that this was coming.
The relationship factor in this book was maddening. We have a case of insta-love, followed by a completely one-sided infatuation that bordered on being completely pathetic. In an attempt to make her paramour feel something, Elysia encourages sexual exploration and drug use. To me, it felt very much like a "if I just do this, then he will love me" situation and that made me sick to my stomach. That being said, once the first love interest is out of the picture, Elysia very easily accepts a new man, proving that she clearly does not have feelings for anybody - despite her arguments to the contrary. This weird love triangle at the end felt like it had been tacked on simply to garner interest in reading the sequel.
The first few chapters were rife with infodumping, but, beyond that, there was some action and time to learn about an interesting world. However, once Elysia finds her love interest the plot grinds to a virtual stand-still. I can barely even remember what happened during these chapters other than playing a weird video game, doing drugs and eating. Despite the politically charged atmosphere and Rogue Clone issues bubbling beneath the surface, we are forced to endure trips to the beach and endless talk about swimming (I get it Elysia - you like the water, now MOVE ON!). I was very disturbed by the unnecessary drugs, nudity, sex and rape in this novel. It seemed like every few pages featured a mention of 'Raxia or of someone getting near naked for no reason. Even if I loved this novel, there is NO WAY I could recommend it for my students.
I will not be sticking around for the sequel to Beta.
Age: 16 and up Gender: Female Sex: Kissing, Nudity, Sexual Experimentation Violence: Rape, Murder Inappropriate Language: Slut, Whore, Bitch Substance Use/Abuse:Use of imaginary drug, 'Raxia Other Issues: Cutting, Slavery (less)
Cover Impressions: I seem to recall that, when this cover was released, people were less...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: I seem to recall that, when this cover was released, people were less than enthusiastic. But I kinda like it. It isn't all the awesomeness of Darkest Minds, but it is still a solid cover. I like the colors and the star (compass??) under the ice. I do wish the imagery linked more closely with the book itself.
The Gist: Ruby's time with the Children's League is cut short as she is sent on a secret mission to recover a flashdrive. The information she is seeking could change the world as she knows it and, naturally, it rests in the hands of Liam Stewart - the boy she thought she left behind for his own good. Tracking him down means exposing herself, and her terrifying abilities, to those she loves and trusts. As she crosses the country she encounters danger at the hands of adults and teenagers alike and must decide whether her loyalty lies with her friends, or with her promises to the League.
I am a huge fan of The Darkest Minds. I have read it twice and I recommend it to all of my students and colleagues. I loved the way that Bracken managed to fill a young adult novel with cruelty and brutality but still maintain a warmth for her characters and a sense that things could get better. Though this theme continues in Never Fade, things do tend to seem a little more bleak. Ruby thought she had seen the worst that humanity had to offer, but she soon finds she has been mistaken. Nothing with the league is what it seems and her ability to trust has been destroyed time and time again. I still rooted for Ruby, and I love that she is a wonderfully broken character who continues to grow, but I found it a little difficult in getting to know the new characters. Perhaps, it is a testiment to how well Bracken wrote the characters in the last book, as I was simply awaiting their arrival. As such, I wasn't able to develop a love for the new characters while still mourning the old ones. Once we meet up with Chubs and Liam I almost sighed in relief and was finally able to relax into the story.
I almost wish I had done a re-read of The Darkest Minds before picking up Never Fade. There are very few reminders in the beginning of the book and I had a little trouble remembering the details of what had taken place already. I did really enjoy getting to see the inside of the League and the intrigue involved in determining exactly who was in charge. As the novel continued, it proved to be just as action packed as its predecessor, and just as poignant in its observation of the cruelty, but also the glimmers of kindness, possible by mankind. The ending did an excellent job of setting up for the next book in the series and leaving the author wishing the time away until the release date of #3.
I am most definitely in this series for the long haul. Buying a copy of this book for my classroom, recommending it to my student book club and anxiously awaiting my next foray into this world.
Age: 13 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: Fist Fighting, Gunplay, Knifeplay Inappropriate Language: Frequent: Jesus, Fuck, Shit, Dick, Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking (less)
Cover Impressions: Pretty. Yay, no whitewashing. Natural hair on a woman of color!
The Gist: Summer king gets elected, summer king gets killed - still don't understand why. June is spoiled brat who causes trouble and calls it art.
WARNING: This will be ranty. If you don't like swearing, please move on to another review - this one is not for you.
This book broke me. And not in the "oh my god this is so good nothing will ever compare" kind of way. More in the "reading has become a huge disappointment and I will now spend my time watching reality tv instead" kind of way.
I hated every minute that I spent with this book and, now that I have finally quit, I don't even want to read anything else. I am that annoyed.
I hated this world. It was futuristic and fucked up and nothing made sense. To go along with the nothing making sense was the fact that the author chose not to explain anything. I made it 3/4 of the way through the book and I STILL have no idea why the hell they choose a summer king or why the hell they kill him some years and not others. And you know what? I don't fucking care. That is how little these characters affected me.
The kids were spoiled and entitled. June spent most of her time glorifying a father who committed suicide and blaming her mother for this, despite any evidence that she did anything to cause it. When she wasn't being a heinous daughter, she was pulling pranks making art for some weird ass contest to which no one ever explained the rules. Oh, and did I mention that any other free time she had was spent at lavish parties?
That was the gist of the plot, no danger, no immediate cause to work towards, just an episode of The Hills set against the backdrop of an alternative future.
Despite all these issues, I might have managed to get past it. However, then came the sex. I understand the desire to have sexual situations and language in a young adult novel, I really do. I do not, however, enjoy the way that this author chose to use sex in such a casual manner. June actually told us of how she and her best friend took care of their "virginity problem". We hear of the Summer King sleeping with anything and everything that moves and then, to take the literary cake, June strips off OUTSIDE, masturbates, is revealed to have had an audience to her little show and then acts as if it meant nothing. No. NO NO NO NO NO!
I can't even.
If I gave this book to one of my students, I would end up fired.
Fuck this. I'm out.
Age: 16 and up Gender: Female - I guess. Sex: See review - this shit's fucked up. Violence: Fist fighting. Knifeplay Inappropriate Language: Whore, Shit, Ass, Bastards Substance Use/Abuse: drug use(less)
Cover Impressions: Pretty. Not quite as interesting as the cover for Cinder, but it fits the theme well and I do love that color red.
The Gist: While Cinder attempts to escape from prison and her upcoming execution by Queen Lavana, Scarlet Benoit is desperately searching for her missing grandmother. She meets up with Wolf, a street fighter with a mysterious tattoo that may be connected to the disappearance and the two plan to take on an entire gang of mercenaries. As Scarlet searches for the truth, she uncovers secrets about her grandmother, her family and their mysterious connection to the missing Lunar Princess.
I listened to both Cinder and Scarlet as an audiobook. I have to admit, I found the whole Sci-Fi/Fairy Tale Mash Up little predictable in Cinder. I felt like Cinder was always two steps behind and I was just waiting for her to catch up. In Scarlet, however, the plot did not follow the fairy tale quite as closely and I found it to be much more suspenseful. I had a vague idea that eventually the characters would find one another but I really was in the dark about how the rest of the story would develop and how the grandmother and wolf elements would be incorporated.
The romance develops quickly, but is not instant and, by the end, is very believable and sweet. I am a big fan of multi-faceted characters and Wolf certainly fits the bill - one never really knows where his loyalties lie. I loved the character of Thorne; thief extraordinaire and lover of all things female, he was an excellent addition to the cast of characters and added some well-needed comic relief. Scarlet was not my favorite from the very beginning and I found myself anxiously awaiting Cinder's chapters, but she did grow on me. In fact, when she finally met up with Cinder, I was cheering on her take-no-prisoners attitude and giving her kudos for being the only character to tell Cinder off.
Meyer still doesn't shy away from killing off important characters. One particular death left me sad and angry in a way that only the best books can. The manner of deaths vary and are often gruesome. Scarlet features some very tense scenes involving some truly terrifying characters. The pacing is well done and I was on the edge of my seat for much of the book. This novel clearly set up for the third installment in the series but had a strong enough plot to be satisfying all on its own.
Scarlet featured quite a few accents and the narrator of the audiobook did a very good job of the distinguishing the characters without allowing them to overpower the dialogue. I was very happy to note that there is a marked difference between the voices of Scarlet and Cinder.
Time to start counting down the days until Cress is released!
Age: 13 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: Gunplay, Knifeplay, Mind Control, Torture, Animalistic Attacks Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None (less)
Title: World After Author: Susan Ee Publisher: Brilliance Audio/Skyscape Release Date: November 19, 2013 Rating: 3/5
Cover Impressions: The cover works ver...moreTitle: World After Author: Susan Ee Publisher: Brilliance Audio/Skyscape Release Date: November 19, 2013 Rating: 3/5
Cover Impressions: The cover works very well with the one for the first novel. I love the difference of the bat wings this time and am hoping that is an indicator that we will get lots of Raffe this time around as well.
Review: World After picks up directly where Angelfall left off, with Penryn back with her family - but paralyzed and left for dead. As she begins to stir, the member of the resistance are shocked to find her alive and wary of both her, her taser wielding mother and her stitched and strange baby sister.
When the hunger drives Paige to unspeakable acts, a mob chases her away and Penryn sets forth once again to reunite her family. This time, without Raffe. Her search takes her deeper into the Angel's territory and reveals their nefarious plans for human beings and the world.
The world, this time around is especially bleak. I couldn't seem to find any hope that the human race is going to survive and it is made the book a little difficult to get through. There were very few moments of triumph or even simple success, compounded by the fact that any gains made by the human race in the last book are quickly revealed to have had no impact whatsoever.
This novel is incredibly dark and has some really disturbing scenes of violence. I found it particularly difficult, as a mother, to listen to the scenes involving parents being separated from their children. About halfway through, another blogger mentioned that this series is meant to be 5 books. I am entirely sure that I could handle this level of hopelessness for that many more novels. I feel like the battle between angels and humans is like a man and a mosquito and I seriously need a win on the human's side before I die from frustration.
Wow, did this one ever take a long time to get through. I started with audio book, stopped multiple times and then finally switched to the ebook. I th...moreWow, did this one ever take a long time to get through. I started with audio book, stopped multiple times and then finally switched to the ebook. I think I just didn't connect with Cress the way that I did with Cinder and Scarlet in the last two books. I was also a little bored by the story. I know it was necessary to get the group together and reveal some secrets, but I didn't feel like the secrets were particularly mind blowing and the plot advancement was a bit slow.(less)