I feel I should have so much to say about Hunger because it is such a powerful read. Instead I'm left completely blown away and nearly speechless at t...moreI feel I should have so much to say about Hunger because it is such a powerful read. Instead I'm left completely blown away and nearly speechless at this terribly short, yet incredibly intense novel. Kessler has managed to take eating disorders and weave a fiercely unrelenting story without being the tiniest bit preachy on the subject. She doesn't shirk away from the pure physicality or raw emotion and presents Lisa's suffering in a tangible and gripping way.
What initially piqued my interest in the book was the vague description I'd had of it. I'm sure if I'd really searched I could have found out more, but I was thoroughly intrigued by how the author would intermingle these two ideas. (Turns out, as she explains in notes at the back of the book, this isn't exactly a foreign concept in literature . . . or at least comics.) It's a truly fascinating juxtaposition and, aside from the uncompromising nature of Lisa's (and Tammy's) struggles with food, was the main force compelling me to read on further.
Basically, I'm left kind of bereft of words. It really is a fantastic book.
I was very wary of this book because Hunger was such a profoundly good read that I feared this one would fall short. My fears were completely unfounde...moreI was very wary of this book because Hunger was such a profoundly good read that I feared this one would fall short. My fears were completely unfounded because Kessler has written a truly masterful sequel. Much like the author, I have a very limited experience with self-injury and I expected to have a bit of trouble warming to Missy. And it did take me at least a third of the book before I really started to understand her in a way and her turmoil, which I completely attribute to Kessler's skill at exploring the inner-workings of the teenaged mind. While possibly not as visceral as her exploration of eating disorders -- and I can only think that's to be expected given she lacks the firsthand experience with self-injury -- Missy truly comes alive on the page in a way that is raw and gripping. On the outside she may be bottling in all her emotions, but there is a depth to her that practically leaps off the page.
Again, I remain impressed by the scope of the story itself and how completely immersive it is. It manages to retain the feel of the previous novel and continue threads into the ongoing series and still be entirely different in scope and feel. Above all, for me at least, doesn't sensationalize violence or aggrandize the idea of war. While these themes are explored in varying detail, the focus is essentially on Missy's internal struggle with her emotions and essentially her battle to achieve control. I also find it commendable that Kessler has once again written about a tough issue that many teens struggle with and tackle it in a compelling and unrelenting way without proselytizing. Missy's cutting is not without its shock value, but is never presented in any other way but tangible and completely real.
It's not often that I read something so fundamentally astounding that I have to struggle to find words, but it seems to be a systemic issue for me with this series. It's a rare combination to find a read that is purely entertaining, astonishingly powerful and impeccably written; truly, I was swept away. Not that I'm complaining. I am desperately intrigued to see where this series goes from here! And I rather like the ambiguous nature this book has left us with Missy and the quartet as a whole.
I really loved this installment. I've found this series as a whole rather inconsistent and this was a vast improvement from the second book, which I f...moreI really loved this installment. I've found this series as a whole rather inconsistent and this was a vast improvement from the second book, which I found was rather a let down. I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish with this book even though I found the mystery elements a bit obvious.
Laurel has come back into her own and I found her likable again. It's nice to see her progressing along with her faerie studies and feeling confident again. Also, I was pleased to see her finally realizing the weight of her human/faerie dilemma and the difficulty her ultimate decision poses. And while I still don't understand the abrupt change that Luarel's mother had in the second book it was lovely to see her parents back in the caring and nurturing roles that initially endeared them to me. I think my favorite part of the book had to be the parts in Tamani's perspective. There's so much about him that's shrouded in secrecy, especially from Laurel, and he's remained such a mystery that it was truly enlightening to get into his head.
Sadly, I do have gripes and they did greatly affect my enjoyment of the book. First, there's the love triangle. I'll be honest, I don't think there has ever been a love triangle that hasn't made me want to break things. I absolutely detest the trope and so I doubt this will likely ever change. And this particular one is no exception. It probably doesn't help that there's physical violence that occurs because of it, which just reinforced my hatred of it. But Laurel's constant waffling back and forth on it absolutely drove me crazy. And perhaps the bonus of having Tamani's point of view only seems to emphasize how short-sighted she is about the entire thing, especially given how ridiculously irrational David was. I don't know. But it rankled me to have to read and I found myself speeding by these passages quite often.
My other major gripe is the ambiguity of the ending. This has always been intended to be a four book series, which was possibly why I was so irritated by how little the second book seemed to move the plot along. On the flip side, this book moves the story along and not only ends on a cliffhanger, but doesn't seem to resolve anything. Having to wait a year or so for the actual payoff for each plot point both minor and major is a true bummer. I didn't feel that things were being dragged out in any way while reading the book, but I did read it incredibly fast so perhaps that is why? Still without any true conflict and essentially no closure it makes this nearly impossible to recommend as a standalone novel.
In the end, I enjoyed the heck out of this book, but I can't deny that it falls short in a rather major way. While admittedly inconsistent, I have thus far found the series to be worth the read, but I leave it for others to decide if they want to invest in all four books for the entire story. I'm just hoping that the fourth book is a worthwhile conclusion and wraps this all up neatly.
I'm conflicted on this anthology because while the essays themselves are very well done and incredibly informative, I can't help but roll my eyes at a...moreI'm conflicted on this anthology because while the essays themselves are very well done and incredibly informative, I can't help but roll my eyes at all the praise given to a series that I don't feel lives up to the source material that is elaborated on here. It's a poorly written and often poorly executed series of books and all the big words and scholarly gushing doesn't change that for me.(less)
I'll start by admitting that while I enjoyed The City of Ember and found it truly fascinating in the issues it brought up, I actually found it almost...moreI'll start by admitting that while I enjoyed The City of Ember and found it truly fascinating in the issues it brought up, I actually found it almost too simple of a read. A flaw that I can easily overlook given the intended readership. I did not find this an issue with this book and this is probably because of the simple fact that the issues in this book are slightly more complex to break down. But the sheer fact that DuPrau is able to touch upon such massive issues as the roots of violence and war and neither talk down to her readers nor be over their respective heads is truly phenomenal.
I don't think anyone is a fan of war or violence. At least not consciously. As Doon shows so adequately, he doesn't want to be angry or react harshly, but there are situations where it can often seem the only option. Maybe it's the only one readily noticeable or the easiest to accomplish, but it doesn't feel right to him. I have a harder time relating to Tick, but I think that I have a harder time accepting that he's just evil for evil's sake. I'll grant the possibility that such a thing exists, but I still would have liked more of a justification than he was just fueled by the enjoyment of anger or the like.
I also find it noteworthy that what the author has shown here is that the roots of such an awful thing as an outright war are in fact very simple things. Stemming the progression might be a difficult process, but the root of the entire thing starts out as something that almost seems inconsequential. Like a snowball rolling down a hill, it's this nearly insignificant thing that grows until it very likely becomes out of control. I once heard when I was very young that every war could be traced back to this: one important person pokes another important person and the first starts to cry . . . and then of course it just balloons into a huge mess. Now that's probably not historically accurate, but the point is one I fully embrace and certainly the events in this book would justify such a belief. Not only that but she also explores the idea that violence itself -- for whatever reason -- only creates more violence and thus it really doesn't solve anything.
The other major thing that is brought up in this book is the idea of social responsibility. I have a degree in Sociology and I readily admit that this can be a difficult and complex idea to explain even to an adult and yet the author presents it in such a way that it's remarkable in its simplicity. The refugees of Ember are in desperate need of assistance and the people of Sparks are in a position to help them: give them food, teach them the ways of this new world, etc. But does that mean they are obligated to sacrifice themselves for these strangers who seemingly have nothing to give in return? And if they don't, what's to become of the former underground citizens?
Also, in a subtle way DuPrau touches on discrimination and stereotyping. Right off the bat the villagers of Sparks are suspicious of the Ember refugees. History has taught them to be cautious of strangers and then of course the refugees are not used to this new world and seem stupid, lazy and weak. These initial and somewhat unfounded descriptions only feed their mistrust and cause those of Ember to feel ostracized and ridiculed. When they try and stand up for themselves by explaining their limitations, the villagers refuse to believe otherwise and justify any of the eventual misdeeds on the facts as they seem them. And it goes the other way, as well, the refugees are mistreated and feel wronged and so they accept that all of Sparks is that way and will continue to act as such.
Building on the themes of the first book, I also enjoyed that DuPrau doesn't give her characters a simple answer. Just like the Believers back in Ember who were basically waiting around for some higher power to solve everything, Lina discovers that there is no magic solution for the refugees of Ember. She doesn't lose hope, of course, that her people won't find a workable solution to survive. But she does learn that just because she feels strongly that this particular answer -- in this case the shining city of her imagination -- is not going to be their solution.
The most amazing thing I find with this book (and its predecessor) is that the major themes presented can easily be related to our present times. Whether this was intended or not, the end result is a bit eerie and yet incredibly impressive. Truly enjoyable read; I very much recommend!