I can't with good heart give this less than four stars. I liked it as much as I liked A Handmaid's Tale and I don't think this is inferior to that. Th...more I can't with good heart give this less than four stars. I liked it as much as I liked A Handmaid's Tale and I don't think this is inferior to that. The writing style is about the same. The characterization is on par as well. As with A Handmaid's Tale, I suppose I'm rating it more for the premise and the message, and the fact that it was a classic that I was able to get through in one setting.
There was quite a bit of violence and gore, but I found the emotional environment to be a bit lacking. As with all of Butler's novels, she delivers on her premise, but the characterization is rather weak. Her prose, while minimalistic and descriptive, is somewhat dull at times. Also, as I make my way through her catalog, I'm noticing certain unsettling trends with the way she handles romance/rape/pedophilia.
That being said, she treats racial issues with a graceful hand without coming off as preachy or condescending. I'm surprised that I didn't read this book in high school. My first Butler novel was Dawn, which I read when I was ten.
While this isn't as good as Butler's other works, I feel like it deserves its place in literary canon. And, judging from some of the commentary I've seen on negative reviews, more schools need to teach it.
I don't know how I feel about the blurb, but Phoebe is pretty passionate about spec fic so I'll give it a shot. Two years is a helluva a long time to...moreI don't know how I feel about the blurb, but Phoebe is pretty passionate about spec fic so I'll give it a shot. Two years is a helluva a long time to wait though. Perhaps GalleyGrab (if they remember I exist) will release it in 2012 before the world ends. (less)
I didn't think it was possible, but Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler managed to fuck up one of the best ideas of 2011.
It's 1996, and less than half of
...moreI didn't think it was possible, but Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler managed to fuck up one of the best ideas of 2011.
It's 1996, and less than half of all American high school students have ever used the Internet.
Emma just got her first computer and an America Online CD-ROM.
Josh is her best friend. They power up and log on--and discover themselves on Facebook, fifteen years in the future.
Everybody wonders what their Destiny will be. Josh and Emma are about to find out.
How do you fuck up an epic idea like that? I'll tell you how -- you focus on two vapid teenagers and their relationship issues.
I loved Thirteen Reasons Why, despite the various issues I had with it. So you can imagine how much I was anticipating The Future of Us. I pre-ordered it, and I never pre-order books. Now it's sitting on my bookcase like an evil step child, laughing at me for my foolishness. I thought this collaboration would be brilliant. I'd never read My Butt, the Earth, and Other Round Things, but it was a Printz contender, which must have set it apart from vapid chick-lit like The Princess Diaries and All American Girl. So why does this read like a David Levithan/Rachel Cohn Collaboration?
ETA: I read My Butt, the Earth, and Other Round Things a few months ago. I didn't like it. In fact, it was rather vapid, in league with All American Girl or The Princess Diaries. Give me Ruby Oliver over whatshername any day. I don't know why the hell it was a Printz Contender.
It's quite possibly the most disappointing book I've ever read. Even more disappointing than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. It takes an epic premise and fails on every mark. And then it doesn't even give us an ending. It trudges along, through the mud of false suspense, and dies before it even gets out of the sludge.
Now, before I continue this review, I should let you know that I am a teenager. I'm seventeen and I have friends who are just as, or even more, vapid than the teenagers in this novel. Problem is, I have no interest in reading about idiots, no matter how realistic they are. I want dynamic, well written characters, not whiny teenage girls who worry about old condoms their best friends keep in their wallets. Hell, that doesn't even bother me -- when it's done the right way. Sara Zarr does it well. Elizabeth Scott does it well. These authors, in this book, failed on every account.
As a contemporary novel, it fails.
As a science-fiction novel, it fails.
As a fantasy novel, it fails.
As a snap-shot of the 90's, it fails.
This reads like a bad PBS special, or that Groundhog Day rip-off Nickolodean ran after Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide ended. I'm calling Miranda Cosgrove and Nathan Kress to star in this because at least they'd make it interesting. And that's not saying much.
I'm not even a real 90's kid, and this reads like a fake rendition of what the 90's were.
I have so many issues with this novel, I have to make a list.
If you're suddenly given a portal into your future Facebook account, what do you do?
a) Look into the politics of the future. b) See how you can make a quick buck off of future companies by investing in the stock market. c) Find out who wins the future Superbowl/World Series/March Madness so you can win a bunch of money. d) Worry about who your future husband is 24/7.
Once you've changed your future and you're happy with your husband, what do you do now?
a) Figure out possible career paths for yourself. b) Check up on your family. c) Use knowledge of the future to your benefit, while avoiding the butterfly effect. d) Whine because you want a hotter guy.
After you've generally screwed everything up to the point where you're depressed and living in an unhappy marriage, what do you do now?
a) Leave the future alone because, you, idiot that you are, can change it simply by not marrying who your Facebook page says you will. b) Realize that the future is constantly changing and that there are millions of outcomes that become void once you're aware of them. c) Realize that because you've seen this outcome, that means your future self wants it. d) Whine about how unfair everything is.
Now that you've really fucked up your future, you decide to kiss your best friend, who absolutely adores you, in the hopes of having a drastic change in your future. What do you do when he calls you out on your bullshit?
a) Apologize b) Ask him out. c) Feign confusion. d) Blame him and make him apologize to you.
If you answered d) to any of the above, please defriend me and stop reading this review. I have no patience for you in my social sphere.
Emma is quite honestly one of the most shallow characters I've ever had the displeasure to read about. Her thoughts revolve around guys, 24/7. Which guy is hot, which guy isn't, and who she's going to marry. Seriously, her big (one chapter) resolution was about how she never gave herself to her boyfriend completely and she resolved to be more committed. Eh, no. Her real problem is that she was a shallow bitch who didn't really care who she used to get what she wanted. And she didn't really have goals outside of getting a hot husband, unless you count her fleeting commitment to getting into a decent college, which is dropped halfway through the novel to focus on her relationships.
There's nothing wrong with a novel that focuses on relationships -- when those relationships are interesting. The character development here is barebones at best.
The award for biggest hypocritical misandrist goes to Kellan, Emma's best friend. Honestly, I couldn't have cared less about her plot line. And, strange enough, it's never resolved.
Just remember this bit of wisdom -- if a girl is leading you on and jerking your chain left and right, don't ever think about moving on because she might want you back. And if you go on a date, she has the right to be pissy, especially when she decided, that very week, to break up with her boyfriend and go on a date with another guy she talks about constantly. Because you're her back up plan. Don't ever forget that. It's not manipulation. It's love, girls and boys.
I liked Syd. Unfortunately, she's the placeholder girlfriend. Why Josh likes Emma over her, I have no fucking idea. Sydney is hot. Sydney is nice. Sydney is rich. And Sydney is way more interesting than Emma. In fact, I wanted to know the details of her relationship with Rick and what might have lead to her being the only girl in their class to stand up for No means No and Yes means Yes.
4. The Plot
Plot lines are mentioned and dropped like 2012 republican candidates. It's ridiculous. One moment, Josh is worried that his brother might be gay. The next? Nothing. One moment Emma think Kellan is pregnant. The next? Nothing. As for the main plot line? The only reason I finished this book was because I wanted to know if Emma would be unhappy in her future, and if Josh would move on. That's a piss poor way to keep the story moving.
5. The End
There was no end. It's like someone left out the third act because they were too lazy to finish writing the book. And I'm guilty of that. But I expect more from Printz honor authors and NYT Bestselling authors.
6. The Science, or Lack of
If you're reading this because you want a decent spec fic read, don't bother. This is a Degrassi special that desperately wants to fit in with the Animorphs.
This is why people don't like YA. Along with Across the Universe, this novel is everything that's wrong with the genre. Instead of focusing on, I dunno, the story, the characters, or, hell, an interesting romance, we're once again given a boring tale of Mr. And Mrs. White Teenager and their Oh So Dull First World Problems. Save yourself the effort. Just go watch The N. (less)
I didn't read The Giver in elementary school. It was presented several times, and each time I decided to read something else. Perhap...more**spoiler alert**
I didn't read The Giver in elementary school. It was presented several times, and each time I decided to read something else. Perhaps because the cover bored me? Because I thought it would be slow and dull? I don't know. We were never told what the book was about. So I decided, in my second year of college, to read The Giver. It was on sale for Kindle and it's short -- a nice intermission between Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exhiles.
Up until a year ago, I didn't even know it was science-fiction, let alone a dystopian novel. I didn't know that the author was female, either. Color me surprised to find a dystopian novel with no love triangle that preceded the YA glut of sci-fi light with a young MC that still managed to keep me interested in ways that 1984 and Brave New World did not. This kind of book is far and inbetween. Yes, yes, the previous novels are filled with interesting ideas and concepts, but the language puts me to sleep. I forced myself to finish them when my father assigned them to me years ago. I'm sorry to say this, but I have no attention span.
Now I want to read Number the Stars and Fahrenheit 451 -- two other novels I thought would be boring in fifth grade, that were also on our reading list, though we were never told what they were about. I feel like revisiting upper MG -- and adult sci-fi -- since modern YA sci-fi is currently oversaturated with drippy love triangles and non-sensical worldbuilding.
In a way, this reminds me of Animal Farm, or the inevitability of a society like Animal Farm, sans the egoistical leaders. I've read AF several times, it's something of a favorite of mine. Books like it, and Lord of the Flies and The Chocolate War are primers for dystopian novels. They try to convince you of the inherent evil (or rage, or whatever) in society, and the necessity for more control.
It's interesting that this is thought of a novel about individuality. Yes, Jonas is spechul (I have no idea how the magic in this novel works, but I take it that his powers are some kind of genetic mutation due to the multiple experiments done for the sake of sameness), but his spechulness doesn't make him seem like a Christ-figure. He's no Jack, no Snowball. He's just a boy. He desires for everyone to hold the same amount of wisdom. Yes, we could say that The Giver is God and Jonas is Jesus, but that would be a vast oversimplification.
I didn't read The Giver as an attack on socialism. Perhaps a simplistic take on socialism, but Lowry never portrays the society as evil. In fact, there is no true "villain" here, in any mustache twirling sense. The antagonist is society, or dare I say it -- The Giver himself.
I would assume that Lowry has read Plato's Republic because the society in her novel mirrors that of what Socrates describes to Cephalus. In the beginning, Jonas is strangely unsatisfied -- empty. He is like Thomas Anderson, but less obvious. Given the choice, before The Giver came into his life, he would've chosen the blue pill. He would've chosen happiness. Now, we can argue that it isn't true happiness, that with no understanding of pain and lust and love, you cannot have any true meaning in life. And, certainly, that is what the novel appears to argue. But I'd disagree.
If The Giver is to be seen as Morpheus, he who wakes Jonas from the dream, then he is also to be seen as the serpent in the garden. He who uproots Jonas from his life of safety, and the "appearance" of free will. But that's what it really comes down to. Choice. And I wouldn't necessary say that Lowry argues in favor of it. Her protagonist dies with a child in his arms in a scene reminiscent of "give me liberty, or give me death." I can see why this novel is so popular, as it rings true with a belief that founded this country.
But is free will truly the better option? Would Jonas, like Thomas Anderson, continue his life of emptiness if he stayed within the community, unaware of love and all other emotion, if he continued to take his pills? And if he remained content, free of suffering, is that a lesser existence? After all, that is what the Jehovah of the bible intended for Adam and Eve. Christianity is the leading religion of this country.
Now, I've watched The Matrix several times, and while I'm rather disturbed by Lewis Carroll's *ahem* interesting biography, I've read Alice in the Wonderland. For those of you unfamiliar with The Matrix, here's the famous line that Laurence Fishbourne delivers --
"You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."
So many times have I watched and read Alice in Wonderland, I'm not convinced that Wonderland is analogous to the fake world, or the illusion. After all, staying in Wonderland means accepting that The Matrix is an illusion, and therefore, lesser. But, if we are to believe The Giver (and Morpheus) are not Jehovah, but the serpent, then we know that he is able to lie. Wonderland is the escape, the world with true emotion that makes Alice's life pale in comparison. Now, Carrol took a variety of drugs while writing the novel, which is why there are terms like "k-hole" and songs like "white rabbit" and books like "Go Tell Alice," but Wonderland is not simply a mirror of our world. It is our world. Note that nothing of consequence happens in Alice's "real" world, yet Wonderland is overtaken with wars and prejudice and consequence (even if it is seen as non-consequential, or silly). But Morpheus does give partial truths, even while we know that Wonderland is Zion.
Anyway, on the matter of choice, Jonas is forced to take the blue pill. And I'm not quite sure Lowry portrayed this as the "better" choice, unlike The Matrix. While Neo is so obviously the christ figure, Jonas is not. He does not stay to redeem his people. He doesn't sacrifice him. He selfishly steals a baby, unaware of the consequences that it would have for the child's life. The Giver actually shows a dystopian/utopian society in a much more positive light than any of its predecessors.
Lowry actually offers no real reason as the why living a bland life is worse than having free will, other than that having a full range of emotions provides richness. But if you are unaware of these emotions, you miss nothing. Yes, Socrates argues that lack of variety (sameness) does not present an opportunity to feel happiness, but happiness isn't exactly a good thing in her society.
We're raised to believe that freedom and free will are good things (recently, psychology says that more choices lead to unhappiness, fyi), but that's what I find so brilliant about this book.
It argues against that.
By offering having no emotions, people are free of guilt, and love, and jealousy, and hate -- those which create the "evil" dystopian that we all have read about, with the dictator and the mustache and the twirling and the wars. But here, Lowry doesn't bother demonizing the society. She presents it somewhat honestly.
So, I'm kind of amazed that this is taught as the novel on free will and independence, that Jonas is a christ figure, and that it is seen as the "children's" version of 1984. 1984 never explores the positives of no free will. It's very black and white. Same with Brave New World and Animal Farm and A Handmaid's Tale. This novel is taught exactly like the others, but I feel like the message is misinterpreted.
For me, this novel is so much deeper than the others because it challenges your preconceptions about freedom without using a heavy handed brush stroke of American "choice." One could argue that lack of free will with no suffering is meaningless, but according to determinism, there is truly no "free will."
There are some horrors present here -- such as the "release" of infants, the elderly, and those who commit three crimes -- but it's never seen as "wrong" except through the eyes of Jonas, who's overcome with emotion (remember, he is the only one who feels strong emotion). And it's not as if Lowry argues against free will either.
One of the more interesting ideas in this book is that people are restricted from lying, and that conciseness of speech is taught from an early age. Really, only freedom of thought and imagination are restricted. And while they are good things, she makes no argument as to why we need them.
I suppose that's why I'm conflicted. This society can't be compared to Nazi Germany, or Communist Russia, or Mao's China. There's no propaganda, no hatred. The people are content and fed. Their leaders, the Elders, truly believe they are protecting their people by shielding them from "reality" and have no true malice.
She has not created a malevolent Totalitarian society. And, to conclude, I'm not truly convinced that the "message" of this book is that freedom -- whatever that means, as not even we, Americans, have "true" freedom -- is better than complacency with no suffering. That a "meaningful" life, is better than none with no meaning at all. Who decides what is meaningful? And is better to feel and to choose or to never experience suffering? The story or Rosemary, The Giver's daughter, would side with the latter, in my opinion.
And that scares me. I've been raised to believe it without ever being offered any alternative. From an early age, we're taught that choice is good, control is bad. But how much control do you really have over your life? And does that control always bring you happiness? Perhaps this is why Ayn Rand puts me to sleep.
Note to self, get a copy of Jacking into The Matrix.(less)
When I'm reading a book, especially a speculative fiction book, the first thing I look for is illogical plot holes...more The Hunger Games didn't impress me.
When I'm reading a book, especially a speculative fiction book, the first thing I look for is illogical plot holes. I hate them. They ruin books for me. Take Death Note for instance, or even Glee. They are so full of plot holes and illogical inconsistencies, they aren't worth my time. If the author was too lazy to do a bit of research why should I invest myself in their work?
That is how I feel about the Hunger Games.
Sure, the writing isn't bad. I guess Katniss could be considered a strong female character. She kept it together and didn't freak out. She was tough and resilient. But sometimes you want more than that. I like snark, I like humor, I like cynicism. I know there isn't a place for that in most dystopian novels, but you have to make me love the characters. You have to give them some heart. Look at the Animorphs. We had humor and science. I think that's the thing most serious writers miss out on.
But I digress. I started the Hunger Games with high expectations. I thought it would be mind blowing.
Anyone who's read Octavia Butler or Philip K. Dick won't be impressed. Sure it's YA but honestly, is that an excuse for lazy world building?
Panem is the remnants of the US divided into thirteen districts. The entire political and economical situation of Panem is highly illogical. This is my problem with Avatar: The Last Airbender. When you try to make sense out of the world, nothing fits. Then you're told that you're looking too hard into things, that it's a fantasy world. Sure it's a fantasy world, but we still have rules. If this were and alien world with an alien culture, maybe I'd agree. But this is still Earth. Last time I checked, they were still human.
During slavery times in the US, slaves were looked at as less than human. Now I know the people of Panem aren't slaves. So why are they following this system? In Santa Domingo, the people were enslaved and forced to work for 300 years. They didn't have the freedom the people of Panem have. They rebelled, and after 10 years or so they won. They had to fight again and again, but they maintained their freedom from the French. Those people are the Haitians of today.
Let's look at any civil war situation on the globe. The closest situation I can think of is in Southern Africa. There, children are forced to fight in wars and carry guns. They kill each other. There, they have their hands cut off if they refuse to fight. Did I mention that they're also in a complete system of disarray? I don't believe that Americans can safely travel there. Why isn't Panem like this? I could have accepted the Hunger Games as a whole if, and only if, their country was in a complete state of havoc. It isn't. Apparently each of the districts get along just fine, supplying the capital with goods. What's with that?
And the kicker is, their Ghandi figure, their Martin Luther King Jr., is a teenage girl and her boyfriend. This is our symbol to teens. Apparently, teen love does stop wars, the Earth, and the universe. Look over here, teens fall in love and the gods present us with peace and tranquility for years to come. Yes, the books only continue to get even more illogical.
For a system like this to work, I'd have to have a lot of back story to explain the country's situation. I understand that district 13 was blown off the face of the Earth. So was part of Japan for a period of time. You know, some say they don't even teach their kids about WWII over there. But did that stop the Korean War? Did that stop Vietnam? No. And you can bet those wars weren't started by the love of two teens.
This series could have been brilliant. It had excellent potential. Unfortunately, besides the illogical world building and the gaping plot holes, there's a problem with pacing.
The actual Hunger Games doesn't start until at least one third of the book is over. That's bad pacing. If this were a movie, that's like Nemo getting kidnapped one third of the way into the movie. Also, we waste time building up Gale and Priss, only to find out that they're not even major players in this book. I know it's a series, but a book should be able to stand on it's own. The Chronicles of Narnia do. The first three Harry Potter books do.
Instead, we're stuck with Peeta. He's okay, but he's not interesting. The romance felt tacked on. If the capital is swayed by their ridiculous love story, I swear, they're no better than a bunch of Rose/Dimitri fan girls. Also, we're introduced to interesting characters, such as Haymitch, Cinna, and so on, only for them to be left out of the rest of the book. Either this is a post-apocalyptic/action novel or a character study. It can't be both unless you write it well. It certainly can't be a romance if the heroine isn't even sure she likes the Hero. It was kind of obvious from the first few chapters that Katniss liked Gale. It was even more obvious that he liked her. Of course it has to be strung out into a love triangle for the next few books. *Spoiler* Of course he goes evil and she ends up with Peeta.*End Spoiler*
There was so much hype behind this book, I expected it to be fantastic. Maybe if it wasn't so popular, I'd have a different opinion. But as it is, bad pacing and stupid world building are not the hallmarks of a fabulous novel.
3.0 stars. It's about as average as they come. (less)