If you don’t want me to be in love with you, you’re going to have to stop looking so lovely. First thing tomorrow I’m having your maids sew some potato sacks together for you.
This is the most enjoyable YA book I've read in a long time. I missed that feeling of urgency you get when a book excites you so much that you just cannot wait to know what happens. You can't read fast enough, and you wish you could just "inhale" the book and have it over with. The Selection gave me that feeling. It's not a literary masterpiece, it's not a Pulitzer prizewinner, but it's fun, it's well written, and I'm so glad I read it.
America Singer is a very likable character. I know people say that all the time. What does it mean? In this case, it means that I always understood her motivation, admired her morality, and found her funny, quirky, and very real. I would want her as a friend, particularly if I were a part of The Selection. Her loyalty and willingness to be herself are the qualities I admire most, as they're ones I hope to develop. They, along with her sense of humor, are what make her stand out in The Selection, and standing out is hard to do when you're up against 34 beautiful women, most of whom have more money, better looks, and higher rank than you.
Though the Bachelor-meets-Cinderella element is fun, the most intriguing aspect of the book is Illea, the country that consists of what was once the United States and Canada. Within Illea is an eight-caste system, the details of which have been posted on Kiera Cass's website, here. This system is both fascinating and disturbing, and America's situation (spotty employment, hardly enough food, etc.) as a Five makes the dysfunction of Illean society evident, though I wish the hardships of her life had been discussed in more detail. It isn't long before she's the only five left in the competition. The tension surrounding the caste system, not to mention the frequent rebel attacks and the many clues that there is more behind the rebels' anger than meets the eye, provides the book with a seriousness and gravity that it would otherwise lack.
One of the most controversial elements to the caste system is the way it limits interaction. There is no way a Five would ever interact with a One, let alone a member of the royal family, as anything more than a nameless employee - if it weren't for The Selection. Similarly, very few people marry below their caste, and America's mom would never hear of it. However, America has fallen in love with a Six, Aspen, and has met with him as often as possible - past curfew - for years. This forbidden love becomes more of a problem when she is selected and even more of a problem when America must reluctantly admit to herself that Prince Maxon is not the stuck-up jerk she expected him to be.
In other words, yes, there's a love triangle.
I've made my feelings about love triangles quite clear, and I'll admit that this is the most frustrating part of the series for me. I'm Team Maxon all the way, and my silly anxiety over who America will choose is eating away at me. However, this love triangle is less maddening than some, as America seems to have greater control over her heart and senses than many female YA protagonists, and for that, I'm grateful.
Overall, The Selection is addictive, entertaining, and a delightful addition to the world of dystopian YA. It's a fairy tale in a dystopian world, and what could be more fun than that?(less)
Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish is, I’m afraid, the sort of book I would probably never pick up of my own accord. Thankfully, my mom...morePlain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish is, I’m afraid, the sort of book I would probably never pick up of my own accord. Thankfully, my mom convinced me to do so, and any book recommendation from her has great weight, considering she doesn’t read much. To my delight, Plain and Simple turned out to be one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read.
I think one of the reasons the book resonated with me was its applicableness to issues I’m dealing with in my life, but its message is one that anyone could benefit from. It’s full of the sort of anecdotes that will be lodged in your brain, ready to be accessed when a need arises. Bender’s struggle, sort of a mid-life crisis, really, is so relatable. She’s not going through a drastic, dramatic change, but she’s dealing with the confusion and muddled nature of everyday life, trying to figure out what her place is in her family and where she belongs in this world. The dilemma may sound mundane, but upon reading Bender’s story, I realized that these are the issues that we inevitably face, often over and over again. I also realized that I’ll be reading this book over and over again when I find demons of self-doubt have risen once again.
A qualm I have with many books of this nature – self-helpy books – is monotony. It seems they always repeat the same “epiphany” in every chapter. The fact that this book weaves narrative with self-reflection helps eliminate this issue, but Bender also shows the reader how her epiphany evolved over time. Sometimes, in fact, she found that what she thought was a wise conclusion was, in fact, not, and she must keep looking for answers. In this way, Plain and Simple becomes less of a self-helpy book and more of a journey, an adventure.
I also appreciated the insights into the life of the Amish. It was fascinating to learn that there is much variation between different towns and families. Bender relates her visits with various Amish families in such a raw, unpretentious way that I felt like I was discovering and learning alongside her. She never judged their way of life, forcing her perception of them on the reader, instead displaying all that she saw and allowing the reader to form an opinion of their own.
This unpretentiousness is another factor that I loved. So often, I feel like the author of a self-helpy book is preaching to me. Bender never does this. She never proposes that she’s found the key to success and eternal bliss. Instead, she concludes with, “This isn’t a story about miracles, instant transformations, or happy endings. My journey to the Amish did not deliver a big truth. I’m not radically different. No one stopped me on the street and said, ‘Sue, I don’t recognize you. What happened?’ … And I am not wise. Not knowing, and learning to be comfortable with not knowing, is a great discovery. Miracles come after a lot of hard work.”
This simplicity is what makes Plain and Simple plain and simple. The messages of this book are not going to go over your head or be too abstract to apply to your own life. There isn’t really just one message. This book is a buffet of ideas and food for thought, and you’re left to do whatever you’d like with it. I love this. I love that it means this book can be something different for anyone and that it can be something new every time its reread. Plain and Simple is whatever you need it to be.(less)
COPIED FROM MY BLOG: WORDBIRD (FORMATTING WAS LOST)
Their smiles are lies.
Most smiles are.
As you all should know if you’ve been...more COPIED FROM MY BLOG: WORDBIRD (FORMATTING WAS LOST)
Their smiles are lies.
Most smiles are.
As you all should know if you’ve been reading Wordbird for a while, I’m a huge Kiersten White fan. Not simply because her first series was a delightful breath of fresh air but because she’s an awesome person. Just awesome. There’s no adjective that describes her better. It should come as no surprise, then, that though I was flustered by school, I made sure I read her newest book, Mind Games. It’s so unlike her first series that I was a bit wary – you see, I love the Paranormalcy books so much – but I’ve definitely come around.
Mind Games is unusual, to say the least. For the first time, I read from the perspective of someone who is blind (Annie). This is not a common disability for a narrator to have, considering narration usually relies heavily on descriptions of what can be seen. I think the fact that Kiersten managed to paint a picture without actually using color is pretty magnificent, and she did a fine job of it.
However, Fia, the real protagonist, does have her sight. The flip-flopping narration between Fia’s point of view and Annie’s was one of my favorite aspects of the book. The POVs would shift just at the right moment to drive you crazy and motivate you to keep reading. I definitely preferred Fia’s POV, primarily because I found her snarkiness amusing. Initially, said snarkiness may seem irritating, but I found that 1) it is funny and 2) as a reader, I sympathized with her as I learned about what troubled her, and suddenly her rough edges made a lot of sense.
Fia’s character was immensely popular with the girls in my book club (we read this recently), and they all agreed that, though they enjoyed Paranormalcy, too, Mind Games is their favorite book of Kiersten’s. Part of this preference may be attributed to the fact that Mind Games is definitely the “edgier” of the two. In a sense, Kiersten’s books are maturing alongside her readers, which I think is fantastic. Mind Games deals with older characters, grittier action, and has a generally darker feel. It’s for this reason that, though I can’t seem to stop doing it, a comparison between Paranormalcy and Mind Games isn’t quite fair (one protagonist gets excited about lockers, the other about dance clubs) – they are very different books and each great in their own ways.
One low-point was the fact that the book is feels like it’s building up to the rest of the series. This is typical of a first installment, but I do wish that this book could operate as a decent stand-alone as well as a fixture in a series. All the same, Kiersten doesn’t let all the background information bore you. Instead, she weaves it into the present. For instance, one chapter may be set in the present, but the next is set four years before. For this reason, it’s essential that you pay strict attention to the chapter titles. A friend of mine failed to do this until about halfway through the book, just as the confusion was about to make her give up – which would have been both silly and disappointing, as the jumping between one year and another is perhaps one of the book’s best features.
In the end, I have mixed feelings about Mind Games. I, unlike most of the book club girls, can’t swear that I love it more than Paranormalcy, which totally stole my heart, but, as I said, the books are each excellent in their own right. Mind Games is fascinating, introducing readers to a world that is technically our own but feels totally alien. I love that aspect of it and am absolutely bursting with questions. The moment I finished, I looked up the release date of book two because I can’t wait. Kiersten White has, yet again, created a fantastically unique cast of characters in an extra cool version of our own world and blessed us with yet another great series. Kiersten, you rock.(less)