When I read Derting's The Body Finder, I was not impressed. After reading the start of her second series....I am still not impressed.
The marketing is...moreWhen I read Derting's The Body Finder, I was not impressed. After reading the start of her second series....I am still not impressed.
The marketing is all there. Gorgeous cover, creative dystopian premise, the promise of romance....All of this is very in right now. Unfortunately.
The weakest part of The Pledge was the world-building. As a dystopian, it was very weak. There is no reason for this world, no how, no why. Supposedly, it was set sometime in the future, as it alludes to current cities, but no world I know would end up like this. This world has magic powers, evil queens, lost princesses, and hidden princes. Sounds like a fantasy, right? Perhaps thats what it should have been: a fantasy. As a dystopian, there are too many logic gaps, which Derting doesn't even begin to explain. Where do the powers come from? What's their purpose? Why the matrilineal monarchy? It's possible she'll get around to it later, but I doubt that. I believe she's hoping we'll just close our eyes and go along with it.
What originally was an intriguing concept, the idea of languages being barriers, soon got mushed into typical YA tropes. The book was basically set up for a romance, one I didn't particularly enjoy. The main character, Charlie (love that name for girls, btw), is a level-headed enough girl in the beginning but quickly dissolves at the first sign of a hunk. It goes as far as there is bombs going off, and Charlie doesn't know if her parents are alive, but all she can focus on is being jealous of some innocent hand-holding. Really, now. And sure Max is good-looking, but he's borderline stalker, and he always tries to get the narrator to do things she doesn't want to do because he wants it for her. And his only excuse for this is he finds her "beautiful and intriguing." Charlie overall isn't particularly special, sure she's got powers, but she doesn't have much personality besides. Her most admirable trait is how much she cares for her sister. But I feel like whenever authors have a lack-luster character, they just make them caring or self-sacrificing, as if that's going to make up for a lack of personality. Derting's other characters were equally flat. They all had one, maybe two good traits, but they didn't feel like real people. Some characters were practically just names on the page.
The plot and writing was easy to slip into, and this book makes for a quick, absorbing read. The plot, while not entirely predictable from the get-go, had twists that smelled from a mile away. Still, it was satisfying to see my predictions come true. It makes me feel ahead of the game. Now that I look back on it, the book was fast-paced, but it wasn't particularly exciting and didn't have much action. The ending was also rather abrupt. As the pages drew closer to the end of the book, I was like "How is Derting going to finish this? We haven't even reached a climax yet..." Then it was over. And I was like "...that was it?" It just wrapped up rather quickly and safely, but there is more to come, this being a series and all.
And on a side note, I was immensely amused that the Queen, an elderly woman, had Darth Vader choking powers. I just wished she was more intimidating.
I knew something about this book before I cracked open the pages, even though I was reading an ARC. That's the kind of buzz this book has been getting...moreI knew something about this book before I cracked open the pages, even though I was reading an ARC. That's the kind of buzz this book has been getting. Honestly, I would have read this book for the cover alone. God, that is some gorgeous cover art. And I was prepared to hate this book. I thought it was going to be a book with a pretty cover, titillating premise (OMGzzz polygamy!), but with no substance. Overall, Wither exceed my expectations.
Let's start out with the bad things.
The world building. I am not the first person to point out how much this sucked. Dystopia's are so successful and interesting, because they set up the possibility of maybe. In a good dystopia, we are able to see some aspects of our society magnified and twisted in a way that terrifies us and makes us question the world we live in. There really is no basis for polygamy or child brides that is present in our society. I'm not going to say that it doesn't happen, because we've all seen the Lifetime specials and newsreports. But one reason why polygamy and child brides are so interesting is because, in Western Society, they are considered obsolete and taboo. I feel like the premise was just designed to intrigue readers, and if the story, with the prose and the characters, were under different circumstances, this book would have garnered five stars from me
Don't get me started on the science of this book. It is nothing but pseudo-science, and curious and careful readers will get pissed off at the impossibility of it all. Supposedly, this book takes seventy years in the future (or sixty, or something like that). Scientists have issued a "cure" for cancer to all individuals (Which is highly unlikely. Some people refuse the flu vaccine, what basis do they have to receive a barely test cure?), but with disastrous results. The first generation grew up fine and hardy, but their children, and their grandchildren, are dying off after adolescents, girls at twenty, boys at 25 from some mysterious infection. There is absolutely no basis in science for a disease that kills off people so suddenly, or so without a cause. Even for the most fatal of hereditary diseases, the victims are usually given decades of wiggle room. It just doesn't make sense, especially that women die younger than men. Statistically-speaking, men die from more diseases than women do, and generally have a lower life expectancy. Clearly everything is a plot device, which does not make for good world building.
Also supposedly, the whole word except for the smallest bit of North America has been killed off in some cataclysmic war, in the process melting all the ice caps and sinking all the continents. Yet, North America appears to be functioning just fine, albeit with better technology than nowadays........I really hope people understand how IMPOSSIBLE this is. Common sense demands it. For the sake of DeStefano's intelligence, I really hope this turns out to be a rouse. Kind of like how Linden is shielded from the world outside of his estate, I hope Rhine has been shielded from the rest of the world entirely.
And one more random nitpicky comment......why would the snatchers (is that what they are called? I forget...) wear uniforms? Wouldn't it make more sense for them to wear street clothing? That is like a serial killer walking around with a bloody knife and a t-shirt that says "I KILL YOUR CHILDREN".
Now unto the good things. Obviously, from my rating, the good things win out. If the good things weren't as good, I would have absolutely detested this book.
The prose......oh, it was lovely. Beautiful, and delicate, it grabbed me from the first page. I was expecting some serviceable, generic words-on-a-page, but instead there was just pleasantness. DeStefano has a way of making the most desperate situations hopeful, and Rhine's emotions bled off the page. I strongly recommend listening to wistful instrumental music while reading this book. It's reaaaaaally nice.
I cared for all the characters, even the ones I was initially supposed to hate. DeStefano made me feel for the characters before I even realized what she was doing. The oblivious, charming Linden, the overeager, selfish Cecily, and the exotic, melancholy Jenna......the only character I really didn't care about was Gabriel, the love interest for Rhine. He wasn't really established enough yet, something I am looking forward to in future books. He wasn't a bad character, and Rhine and he were at least friends initially, and not the "I shall die without you"-type couples that so often populate today's YA novels.
I expected to feel nothing for this book, but instead I felt my heart breaking and my lips smiling.
Yes, the book has copious faults, but please try to look past them. For me, the writing and character building triumph over the sucktastic world building. Wither is a prime example of a fine young talent trying too hard to make her book marketable.
Alas, I am eagerly waiting for the next book. (less)
Ship Breaker takes places in a gritty, grim future, where the divide between the rich and the poor is deeper than ever. The poor grow up like Nailer,...moreShip Breaker takes places in a gritty, grim future, where the divide between the rich and the poor is deeper than ever. The poor grow up like Nailer, a youth who lives in a little shack on a beach off the Gulf Coast with his abusive, drugged-up father. Like everyone else on the beach, Nailer must work hard to survive, stripping washed-up oil rigs for the raw materials, but even hard work is not enough to guarantee survival in his dog-eat-dog world. Nailer can rely on hardly anyone, besides his crew boss Pima and her mother. His father doesn't care, and even his own crewmates, blood-sworn to have his back, will betray him if it means being rewarded by the Fates with their own "lucky strike".
Nailer's beach has people from a hodgepodge of cultures and ethnic backgrounds. One thing I loved about this book was that the people came in all shades of colors, and none of the characterizations resorted to stereotypes. Unlike most books, white is not the default. Such a mix of characters also paved the way for an interesting culture, one that thrives on luck and "the Fates", with gods and deities from all religions, as well as some made-up ones like the Rust god. I just found this interesting because it emphasized the fact that everyone was poor, no matter their color or beliefs. Everyone had to struggle, with no one being that much better off than another.
One theme that this novel explores pretty well is how some people lose their sense of humanity in the face of adversity. No one in this book is nice. They are all willing to kill if they have to, but with each person having a different way of determining when they "have to". Nailer has more humanity than most. When a city-killer storm ravages the beach, it leaves behind the wreck of a clipper ship, a vessel for rich people. Nailer and his best friend, Pima, are the first to discover the ship, and are determined to scavenge all they can from it. In one of the rooms they discover a beautiful "swank" girl, who appears to have been crushed by toppled furniture. Noticing the girl's gold jewelry, Nailer and Pima have no qualms about taking it from her, perhaps cutting off her fingers in the process in order to get her gold rings. Things become complicated when the girl turns out to be alive. Pima is all for cutting the girls throat and taking the loot. Pima is not a bad character. She is fiercely loyal to Nailer and the rest of her crew and family, but she has no sympathy for characters outside her circle of loyalty. Nailer is more conflicted, convincing Pima that the girl is worth more alive than dead, for people are certain to come looking for her.
Through out the novel, Nailer is torn between being "smart" (aka doing what he can to survive and get ahead), or doing what is right. He constantly finds himself doing what he can to save the swank girl, Nita, and returning her to her family, although that is difficult because they are being pursued by enemies of Nita's father, who want to use Nita as leverage, as well as Nailer's own father, a killer who wants revenge.
The world that Ship Breaker is set in is one of YA distopia's best, as it is well-concieved and imaginative, while remaining plausible. The plot was extremely fast-paced, violent, and action-packed, and the writing had moments of insightfulness. But one thing that was missing from the novel was empathy. I felt it lacked heart and an emotional punch. The characters felt more like roles than actual people. There was potential for some extremely heart-wrenching moments that was ignored, and the small romance between Nailer and Nita could have been fleshed-out more. I don't intend to be sexist, but I just believe this is because the author is male and this book is geared towards a male audience. Not that females can't enjoy it too, its just if they are hoping for some intense romance, they will be disappointed.
One more small quirk I had with this book was how Nailer learned to read so fast. I just found that highly unbelievable, and it took me out of the story.
But overall, it was quite a good novel. It wrapped-up nicely, leaving room for a sequel (I understand it's to be a trilogy), but no cliff-hanger. Nonetheless, I am eager for the next installment.
17 yr old Maddie lives in the year 2060, where everything, from dating, schooling, and going to the movies, is done online. Ever since her disastrous...more17 yr old Maddie lives in the year 2060, where everything, from dating, schooling, and going to the movies, is done online. Ever since her disastrous rebellion two years before nearly caused her and her father to go to jail, Maddie has lived compliantly with this life, never complaining or yearning for actual physical contact. One day Maddie meets a boy online in school chatroom, and he invites her to actual go to a real tutor session. Maddie agrees and that is how Justin enters her life. Justin is wild and unpredictable, being here for one minute and leaving the next. He hates everything about society nowadays, and embraces actual social interactions. Justin shows Maddie that the best things in life aren't behind the computer screen. Maddie can feel herself falling in love with Justin, even though her father, the founder of Digital School, forbids it. Maddie is torn between doing what is right for her family, and doing what might be right for the world.
This was a good piece of YA dystopian fiction. The world-building was excellent, probably because it is not too hard to imagine a world like Maddie's, seeing as society seems to be heading there anyways. I know I am lazy. I know I depend too much on my cell phone and my laptop. I know that's bad for me. But unfortunately, one of things I disliked about this book is it preachiness. I felt I was getting beamed on the head with my Mac. COMPUTERS BAD. PHYSICAL EXPERIENCES GOOD. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it. At least I've seen fire and live music and I have real trees unlike Maddie SO THERE. It's kind of ironic though, because I was reading this book online.....
Maddie was a good narrator. She actually had some hutzpah and wasn't some passive, dependent troll. She actually proved she was intelligent instead of just reading Wuthering Heights for the four billionth time, like that means anything. I liked Maddie. Justin.....eh. Yeah, he was hot, I guess, but most of the preachiness came from him. If he goes on a rant one more time....I also didn't like that he had "I will be aloof to the woman I love because I am not good enough for her" syndrome. Dude, come one. Have some respect. I don't like it when protag love interests think that they know what is better for the protagonist more than the protagonist does.
I really liked the first half of the book, but something threw me off about the second half. It's like someone poured cold water on the book and yelled WAAAIIITTT. I think the sexual tension between Maddie and Justin was drawn out too long. Every time they walked away kiss-less from each other, I let out a frustrated sigh. The second half of the book was mostly on Justin/Maddie romance, and that was Maddie pining for Justin most of the time. The final action scene also felt really contrived.
And guess what! There was a character named Clare that I didn't hate! I'm improving!
Overall, a decent YA dystopian fiction. I wanna know what happens next realz bad.