Veronika, Caroline, Isobel, and Eleanor have lived on a deserted island for as long as they can remember. The four girls do everything together and loVeronika, Caroline, Isobel, and Eleanor have lived on a deserted island for as long as they can remember. The four girls do everything together and look identical except for their hair color. Irene and Robbert tell them that their parents all died in a plane crash and do their best to take care of them and provide them with an education. Despite their tragic circumstances they live a relatively happy and normal life. Or at least that's what they always believed. Then one day a very different girl appears on the island who makes them question everything.
I know the language will turn a lot of people off but I absolutely love books that are written in a stylized way or in dialect. The story is narrated by Veronika and her inability to understand figures of speech and use metaphor is part of what is so intriguing about her character and what makes the narrative so unique. Her limited knowledge and belief that she is normal creates a delicious tension as little hints are dropped which left me constantly guessing and trying to extrapolate to figure out what was going on. It's clear from the beginning that something is off both with the world at large and these girls particularly but exactly what is never entirely revealed--even at the end. It's wonderfully atmospheric and combine that with the science fiction angle and it reminded me of The Twilight Zone. It makes perfect sense that Veronika talks the way she does and even though it does feel stiff and strange it is hauntingly poetic at times. What starts as a quiet, introspective novel turns into a tense thriller as the novel approaches its climax and the stakes are raised. This is not your average YA dystopian thriller. It is something quiet different and wonderfully refreshing.
Fans of psychological science fiction like the Twilight Zone will love this story. The difficult language will draw some in and turn others off. Read the first chapter to get an idea of whether or not you'll like it or see the quotes below for a taste. Content wise I'd say it's fine for 5th grade but the writing style makes it more likely to be enjoyed by teens.
When World War III ravaged the world a small group managed to survive in the remote Alaskan wilderness. Juneau is one of the children of these survivoWhen World War III ravaged the world a small group managed to survive in the remote Alaskan wilderness. Juneau is one of the children of these survivors and has learned how to live off the land and tap into the heart of nature to work magic. When her tribe is taken while she's out hunting she ventures out of the safe zone for the first time and what she discovers shakes her to the very core: a whole city, completely untouched. Is everything she was ever told a lie? But her tribe is still missing and she must find them. Now she has to survive in an environment she is completely unprepared for in a world where she has no idea whom to trust.
This story is told in the alternating perspectives of Juneau and Miles. Plum does a great job making Miles unlikable at first. She contrasts the serious problems Juneau is dealing with to Miles's melodramatic reaction to having to work in a mail room after being caught cheating on a test. When Juneau first meets him she sizes him up with the quip "a fortunate life, unfortunately for the rest of the world." At first Miles just plays along with her so he can earn points with his dad for turning her in but as anyone who's ever watched a high school rom-com will be able to predict he soon starts to fall for her. Despite being a bit cheesy it's nice to watch him gain empathy for Juneau and start to grow as a person and expand his world view (although it would be nice if he could have had empathy for someone without having to fall for them first.) The pacing is quick and fans of Katniss will enjoy the capable Juneau. An added supernatural element as Juneau works her nature-based magic will draw additional fans as will Juneau's pets including dogs and a wild bird.
At one point Miles says "Suddenly, and randomly, I have this flashback to history class, when we learned about how afraid the Native Americans were when they saw the European explorers’ rifles for the first time, calling them magical ‘fire sticks.’" Juneau's group also refers to shoes as 'moccasins' but has no stated connection to any native peoples. I found it odd and problematic to have these brought up without any commentary or other mention of native peoples.
Juneau uses homeless individuals as a conduit for her magic and I have torn feelings about it. On the one hand it's clear that Juneau treats them with kindness, values their help, and is saddened by the way society treats them. On the other hand the author always depicts them as insane, alcoholic, or both: “A hat sits in front of him with coins inside, and empty metal cans with BEER printed on them are scattered around him. I approach. His odor is pungent. Rancid.”
One final warning that the book ends on a complete cliff hanger. Plum easily could have ended the book a chapter or so earlier and left on a good note while still leaving curiosity over the sequel. Instead she chose to go on so that it would end on the most dramatic scene possible.
I'd recommend this to fans of supernatural and survival stories.
When Maisie's father gave her the middle name 'Danger' he thought he was being funny. He didn't know how apt it would turn out to be. Maisie has wanteWhen Maisie's father gave her the middle name 'Danger' he thought he was being funny. He didn't know how apt it would turn out to be. Maisie has wanted to go to astronaut camp ever since she was a little girl, so when she sees the contest on her cereal box she figures that it couldn't hurt to apply. She is shocked to win and even more so when she's selected to be part of an elite group that gets to visit the space elevator built by the eccentric genius who runs the camp. But what starts as a prize loses its luster when things go horribly wrong. All of their lives will be changed forever as they come to grips with new abilities and try to decide who, if anyone, they can trust.
Aliens, superheroes, cool gadgets, and epic fight scenes: this book has it all. This book breaks the mold in many ways. The characters excel in science but spout off memorized lines of poetry. They are multilingual and diverse and resist easy categorization into good and evil. Maisie actually has a good relationship with her parents and they are willing to drop everything to help her (plus the Dad has a fondness of puns that won me over.) There is a strong romantic element and a bit of a love triangle but the triangle is quickly dealt with instead of drawn out. Cheesy pick up lines are properly rebuffed (" Do girls usually respond to that kind of talk?"/"You'd be easier to woo if you were dumb.") in favor of emotional engagement and banter involving references to Greek mythology, poetry, and science. Now that's a trend I can get behind! ("You be Europa, and I'll be your Jupiter" is my favorite pick up since Eleanor & Park's Bobba Fett analogy) Even the supporting characters show surprising sides like the muscle-bound head of security singing Opera in a faux soprano when he's alone.
A few characters are still disappointingly two dimensional like the stereotypical greedy villain willing to go to any length for a profit. There are some issues brought up that I wish Hale had spent more time with like the abuse in the back story of one of the supporting characters. There were moments where characters die or other horrific things happen that I felt should have had more of an impact and emotional weight than they did because we didn't get to know the characters well enough or the context was sped through. These were probably sacrifices made to keep the plot moving quickly which plenty will appreciate but given the choice I'd have preferred a more thoughtful examination of these elements even if it meant a slower pace.
I'd give this to fans of science fiction and super heroes looking for a fast-paced thriller.
Before Nyx was born her father made a deal with the ruler of their cursed kingdom. He has many names such as the Gentle Lord or the Sweet Faced CalamiBefore Nyx was born her father made a deal with the ruler of their cursed kingdom. He has many names such as the Gentle Lord or the Sweet Faced Calamity, but despite his handsome face he is centuries old and rules the kingdom through terror and tricks. Only the desperate or the foolish bargain with him because it always ends in tragedy. Nyx knows this all too well. The price of her father's deal was that one day Nyx would marry the Gentle Lord. While Nyx's sister grew up coddled and loved Nyx was raised as a weapon crafted to destroy the Gentle Lord when her wedding day finally came. So Nyx steeled her heart to her purpose and prepared to marry a monster. But when she finally comes to live in his enchanted castle killing him proves harder than she expected and the Gentle Lord is not the monster she anticipated.
I love a good Beauty and the Beast story and have long been a fan of Greek Mythology so I was glad to see them combined in such a creative way. The tension between the Gentle Lord and Nyx is palpable and their banter all I could hope for. Speaking of the Gentle Lord is it just me or is he basically Benedict Cumberbatch? ("Sharp nose and high cheekbones framed with tousled, ink-black hair and stamped all over with the arrogant softness of a man just out of boyhood who had never been defied.") The twists of the enchanted castle and the plot provide an interesting puzzle to solve while the characters struggle to overcome their pasts and see the world complexly.
Sometimes I wanted to shake Nyx by the shoulders and say "We know! Move on already!" Her life growing up was legitimately messed up but after a while I grew tired of hearing about it and the constant mention of the word 'monster' and how she's bound to a monster or married to a monster or eating breakfast with a monster grated on my nerves.
I'd give this to fans of fantasy, romance, greek mythology, and fairy tales retold. Fans of Beauty and the Beast will particularly enjoy the dynamic between Ignifex and Nyx.
I had a few problems with this book. First of all Cas's cockiness did not win me over. He acts like a jerk but he believes his actions are completelyI had a few problems with this book. First of all Cas's cockiness did not win me over. He acts like a jerk but he believes his actions are completely justified. Secondly a big deal is made about how Anna is a super powerful ghost and yet she still cowers behind Cas when baddies show up. Apparently even a practically omnipotent supernatural woman needs a mortal man to protect her when things get scary. The mortal female love interest at one point complains to her male companion that everyone has some sort of power to fight the ghosts except her and is comforted not by being reassured that she can fight too but by being told she's "the voice of reason." Cas is sometimes compared to Buffy and unsurprisingly he has a low opinion of the iconic, powerful woman and takes it as an insult even when it's meant as a compliment. Even his mother who is a witch mostly just contributes by washing the special knife and cooking and mixing herbs. It is entirely possible that I am overthinking things but things like this just kept pulling me out of the narrative and prevented me from enjoying it.