Release Date:January 3, 2012 Publisher: HarperCollins Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 400 ForYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 3, 2012 Publisher: HarperCollins Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 400 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from Harper Collins Canada
Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.
As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.
They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.
+ Setting. I loved everything about the Never Sky! These days, it seems as though the weather is the only thing we can't control with technology, and the world that Veronica Rossi writes about seems all too possible. I definitely want to know more about how the Aether developed and when it became necessary for the people to inhabit the Realms instead of the outside world. While I'm not a nature girl by any means, I found myself enthralled by the challenges that this kind of habitat would pose to its inhabitants. I loved that it played such a big part in how certain characters developed and changed, for better and for worse.
+/- Characters. Having heard so much about the brilliant story and vibrant characters in this book, I'm sorry to say that very few of them were actually compelling to me. Aria's personality felt hollow, a shell of what it could have been. The story moves her along more than anyone else. For most of the book, it seems as though she simply reacts to the things around her and never takes charge. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Perry who is simultaneously passionate and cold. As a reader, I never felt as though he was someone I could invest in, because he seemed so fickle. His devotion to his nephew Talon is remarkable, and I admire him for that, but I wasn't sold on Perry-and-Aria.
I think a lot of the tension comes from the fact that we're meant to believe that they fall in love with each other. I hoped--even though it was probably silly--that they would become and remain friends. Opposites attract, sure, but neither of them seemed right for the other person. The way the relationship comes about feels contrived and when I finished the book, I couldn't tell you for sure that they're meant to be together. I do want to know more about them, and maybe the second book will give me reasons to like them as a couple.
The final say: Dystopian and sci-fi fans will be pleased with this horrifying look at a world gone wrong and the people fighting for survival.
Release Date:February 21, 2012 Publisher: Dial Books (Penguin) Age Group: Young Adult PageYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 21, 2012 Publisher: Dial Books (Penguin) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 400 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from Penguin Canada
Tell Me More: Dying of a literally broken heart? It's the stuff Lifetime movies are made up of, and while I would normally avoid similar plots like it's my job, I had a hunch that TCHOYAM was going to be the exception to my rule. Jess Rothenberg has written one of the strongest and most heartfelt contemporary YA novels I've been privileged to read in my entire life.
One question I always ask when it comes to books about the afterlife: why should I care about this character, post mortem? If their lives have already ended, what is there left for me to read about? Seeing the family deal with their loss isn't enough--there has to be a truly compelling reason to convince me that this painful reflection on a life taken too soon is worth it. Brie Eagan is worth it all.
I haven't connected with a character so completely since Anna and the French Kiss. Brie is funny and clever, but she can also be selfish and reckless--in other words, a real teenager. Her inability to accept her death at the hands of her boyfriend (though indirectly) is understandable, and her insistence on finding the truth is admirable. I've seen reviews where people complain about how whiny she is, and all I have to say is she died when she was 16. Expecting adult, mature behaviour isn't fair, and I believe that she is a truly dynamic character who continues to have wonderful potential to grow even after her death.
Another aspect of the story that made me a bit anxious was the hint of a love triangle involving Brie, Jacob and Patrick. My own feelings about love triangles are enough to fill a whole other blog post, but thankfully, Rothenberg steered her characters in the right direction. While the reason behind Jacob's defection is a little predictable, it didn't take away from Brie's heartbreak and served to flesh out Jacob's character as well. In fact, the vibrancy of the characters is this book's greatest strength. And Patrick, oh my dear sweet Patrick Darling. Let's put it this way: given the choice between Augustus Waters of The Fault in Our Stars and Patrick? I would refuse to choose and keep them both with me forever.
Writing-wise, Rothenberg has captured the teenage voice to a T. Her commitment to telling Brie's story the right way is obvious from the first page, and I couldn't think of anything that needed to be edited down for clarity or to improve the pace of the novel. Her editorial skills must have been a blessing while writing this book. I never felt that the story could go any other way, and having that kind of faith in an author (a debut one at that!) is wonderful. I look forward to Ms. Rothenberg's future books with the same enthusiasm I give to John Green, Maureen Johnson and Stephanie Perkins. She deserves it.
That's Not All:
> That plot twist about 3/4 into the book? I burst into tears and would not be comforted. Granted, I am a crier, but I was so emotionally attached to the characters that I couldn't help myself. > I have gained a newfound respect for cheese, despite the fact that I don't eat it. > Brie's little brother Jack and dog Hamloaf are now two of my top ten supporting characters in YA.
The Final Say: This is the start of a long and loving life with The Catastrophic History of You and Me. Thank you, Jess Rothenberg, for giving me a contemporary novel that will never break mine or other readers' hearts.
Don't forget to check out my interviewwith Jess, in which we discuss theme songs, writing vs. editing and that amazing title.
Release Date:January 5, 2012 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Age Group: Young AdulYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 5, 2012 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 416 Format: Hardcover Source: Finished copy received from Penguin Canada
Discovery: In the last few months, I've been really interested in young adult fantasy novels. With its unique plot and mix of dragons and faeries, Dragonswood seemed like a book that would give past fantasy stories a run for their money.
+ Fantastical elements. The saying "go hard, or go home" is something that fantasy novels need to subscribe to if they want to succeed. Dragonswood hit early and fast with its references to witchcraft, a mysterious and magical forest and the appearance of dragons. I didn't have a hard time adjusting to the setting or the way the characters spoke. Carey's prose is peppered with sentences that set up the mood of the book well. The reader is immediately thrust into a world where no one can truly be trusted, and you never really know what to expect.
The romance is just as beautifully wrought as the rest of Tess' world. I loved the way Garth and Tess developed feelings for one another, and I especially admired how Carey took it slowly. Readers don't need a love story that develops at NASCAR speeds--they need a relationship that they can believe in and Carey delivers.
+ Voice. Tess is a bright narrator, afraid but unwilling to succumb to that fear. She does things no regular girl should ever have to do, and she does them without a single complaint. Her courage is unmatched, which has the effect of making her friends Meg and Poppy seem less than worthy of the reader's attention. I never connected with them as well as I did with Tess. She carries the story so well that I can't imagine any other character taking her place. That strength of character is capable of making the reader believe in anything Tess says or does, and hope that she succeeds.
The final say: Dragonswood is the kind of story you read over and over again, because there is always some new detail that adds colour to its rich tapestry of words.
Release Date:January 24, 2012 Publisher: HarperCollins Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 400 FoYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 24, 2012 Publisher: HarperCollins Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 400 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from Jen (Library Gal Reads)
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.
She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.
Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.
As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...
Discovery: I've always been fascinated with the darker side of mythology, and the Hades/Persephone myth is one of my favourites. When I heard about Everneath, I immediately put it on my wishlist--modern retellings are always interesting to consider.
+ Creepy factor. The story opens with a chilling description of the Everneath, and Nikki's captivity is uncomfortable to witness. Cole is a smarmy, almost perverted presence, and it's easy to imagine him wrapped around her mind, warping it with his own selfishness. I loved Brodi Ashton's theatrical writing style and attention to detail in these scenes, both of which link Everneath to its mythological roots. I definitely wish there had been more fantasy and less contemporary scenes, because this is where Ashton's story shines.
- Characterization. Despite the strong start, I quickly grew disappointed with Nikki. For a girl who presents herself as untouchable and distant (which necessitates confidence), she's not as strong as she thinks she is. I've noticed a pattern in stories like these: the main character often feels that they can't tell anyone their secret for some important reason. That's all well and good, but in this particular case, I didn't really see why Nikki had to allow her family to believe that she was doing drugs or just running away. As much as this is a paranormal fantasy, the events are still based on reality. Sixteen-year-olds aren't allowed to just disappear and then come back for no reason. I never got thought that her family hated her, but I do think that Nikki treats them and her friends unfairly and it doesn't make sense. Martyrdom for the sake of martyrdom is tedious to read about.
- Pacing. Six months, four months, two weeks after, three weeks before--I was extremely frustrated with the pacing and structure of this novel. By the time I got halfway through the story, I was experiencing whiplash from the fast switches between time periods. Nikki's indecisive nature and constant backtracking made it difficult to keep track of the story. I often had to reread previous pages to remember if I was supposed to like Jack or hate Jack. As much as I would have wanted to suspend my disbelief regarding certain events and attitudes in the story, the structure was just too unwieldy to follow. The last 15 pages were slightly easier to understand, and I will consider reading the second book if it's more straightforward.
The final say: While I don't believe that Everneath will become a classic retelling of the Persephone myth, its fantasy and romantic elements are sure to please teen readers.
Release Date:February 7, 2012 Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (Penguin) Age Group: Young AdultYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 7, 2012 Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (Penguin) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 326 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from Penguin Canada
Tell Me More: Out of all the paranormal entities in popular culture, the witch has to be my favourite. The word itself conjures (pun very much intended) up images of cauldrons and broomsticks, but it's their role as female icons that draws me in.
At first glance, the feminist dialogue seems to dog your every step--the reader can't go a page without being told that Cate and her sisters are different, that the Brotherhood would kill them if they knew their secret, that they are trapped in a patriarchal society, et cetera. The foreshadowing is also quite obvious. This emphasis does make the first half of the novel a bit tedious, and it's the reason I couldn't read the book in one sitting. I believed in the message from the start, however, and it was awesome when Cate finally grew into her own voice.
Born Wickedis a curious novel in that it never really gives the reader a charged climax. I see similarities to Marissa Meyer's Cinder: both novels are the first book in their respective series, they are narrated by wonderfully strong young women and more than anything else, they are there to set up the story for an extensive and detailed conclusion. It didn't take much to get me invested in Cate's life and I appreciated the care Jessica Spotswood took in molding her character. Her confidence and willingness to dance to her own beat is something young women should see in their own female role models. I never worried about her, because I myself was confident that she would be strong enough to deal with anything that came her way. It's so refreshing to be able to say that about a character in YA fiction.
And of course, no review of Born Wicked can go without mentioning the illustrious Finn Belastra. When I first heard about the book, my initial reaction was "Of COURSE, Cate falls in love with their gardener." It's a very common trope in romance novels, especially ones set in the Victorian or Regency era (which Born Wicked is based on). However, I was quite pleased with the direction Jessica Spotswood took in her story, and I do feel that the love story is a fulfilling one. I'm crossing my fingers against any love triangles!
That's Not All:
- So much LGBTQ love! - Okay, can I just talk about how smooth Finn is? He's redeemed that name for me.
The Final Say: Wonderful character development, intense romance and a protagonist that leaps off the page in all her glory--Born Wicked has it all!...more
Release Date:January 17, 2012 Publisher: Walker & Company Age Group: Young Adult PagesYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 17, 2012 Publisher: Walker & Company Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 264 Format: Hardcover Source: Personal copy
Eleven minutes passed before Delaney Maxwell was pulled from the icy waters of a Maine lake by her best friend Decker Phillips. By then her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead. And yet she somehow defied medical precedent to come back seemingly fine —despite the scans that showed significant brain damage. Everyone wants Delaney to be all right, but she knows she's far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can't control or explain, Delaney finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her altered brain now predicting death, or causing it?
Then Delaney meets Troy Varga, who recently emerged from a coma with similar abilities. At first she's reassured to find someone who understands the strangeness of her new existence, but Delaney soon discovers that Troy's motives aren't quite what she thought. Is their gift a miracle, a freak of nature-or something much more frightening?
Discovery: The first time I heard about this book, it was being compared to If I Stay by Gayle Forman. I hadn't read that book yet, but I was interested, and when I finally got to read it, I became even more nervous about Fracture. Thankfully, all my fears were put to rest.
+ Characterization. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Fracture's Delaney Maxwell. The cover copy made her seem untouchable, one of the popular girls whose life changed in an instant. I doubted that I would actually like her, despite the hook of the story. Delaney surprised me, not just with an inner strength that made me admire her, but a concrete desire to be a good person. Sure, we can throw around words like "flawed" and "struggling," but neither of those words can encompass the full spectrum that is Delaney Maxwell. She's a girl who doesn't quite know what to do with herself, but she never tries to bring others down. She is introspective and stoic, but she is also afraid. Miranda captures all of the contradictions of the teenage existence in one voice. She made me want to be Delaney's friend, and that is the greatest compliment I can give a character.
+ Writing style. To best illustrate my point, allow me to quote from the book itself--
“I hadn't known that a light could be a feeling and a sound could be a color and a kiss could be both a question and an answer. And that heaven could be the ocean or a person or this moment or something else entirely.”
Megan Miranda's writing style is deceptively simple. These two sentences may not have any SAT words, but when you read them aloud? Pure music. Too often, we see writers that try to impress readers with their extensive vocabularies. Language is powerful when it is used sparingly, giving each word the power to knock a reader off their feet. Fracture is full of beautiful paragraphs and lines that you don't realize are strong until you actually shed a tear without knowing it. (I cried on the subway. No lie.)
+ Friendship. Where have all the friendships in YA gone? Many of the books I read today showcase friends who are fun to read about, but not really realistic. They're all so witty and snarky and I get that teens want that smartass (excuse my French) attitude, but let's be real. Friendship is also about the quiet moments. Decker and Delaney are not only Best Friends Forever, they are also the best friends FOR each other. They care for each other deeply, and they are not afraid to say "You're being a jackass, stop it" to each other. That requires bravery and strength, and they both make the story worth reading.
The final say: What else could I possibly say? Fracture is a book I'll be talking about to every reader I meet.
Release Date: May 1, 2012 Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 384 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from author/publisher
Tell Me More: Over the last six months, mermaid novels have multiplied, quickly being touted as the new "angels" of YA. After all, the ocean is the last great frontier, and no one knows exactly what is to be found in its deepest corners. Zoraida Cordova's debut novel The ViciousDeep is a crackingly honest story about a boy who discovers just how many secrets can lie under the waves.
There is no one like Tristan Hart. At once irreverent and introverted, passionate and shy, he is just one of the story's many enigmas. His narration is well-paced, his voice unmistakable and vibrant. Zoraida's characterization sold me on this boy who is, quite literally, in the middle of two worlds and made me worry and cheer for him. I am hesitant to label him as a "jock," even though he heads the swim team, because he doesn't seem like he cares enough about it. But neither could he be termed an "outcast"--his moments of arrogance will have you rolling your eyes more than once. The complex nature of his character kept me interested even in chapters where I could pick out the next few plot twists.
Speaking of plot, the initial exposition was a bit tedious and unevenly paced. You aren't given enough time to let Tristan's world sink in before some major changes start to happen, and if you're a fast reader like me, it's double whiplash. Once the plot hits its stride, however, it steadily builds to the climax with lots of great scenes between Tristan and his family and friends. I appreciated how Zoraida took the time to give each of her characters both shining and rusty moments--it helps to solidify their voice in my mind, especially Layla. She took shape almost immediately in my head and I loved that she was confident and comfortable speaking her mind. She could have easily been overshadowed by Tristan, but I got the sense that they are each other's halves in a way. There's something each of them need to be a whole person and they haven't quite realized what it is yet.
Lastly, the mythology that Zoraida creates in The Vicious Deep is remarkable, because it is at once familiar and novel enough to turn heads. I loved the structure and clarity of hierarchy that is displayed. When a story's background is thought out well, it becomes invisible to the reader. It wasn't easy picking out things that could have been improved, backstory-wise, and that's something to be lauded.
The Final Say: The Vicious Deep will draw readers into a realm of skin-prickling mystery and brilliant characterization--I dare anyone not to find something to like in this thrilling new YA series....more
Release Date:January 10, 2012 Publisher: Delacorte Press Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 400You can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 10, 2012 Publisher: Delacorte Press Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 400 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
St. Petersburg, Russia, 1888. As she attends a whirl of glittering balls, royal debutante Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, tries to hide a dark secret: she can raise the dead. No one knows. Not her family. Not the girls at her finishing school. Not the tsar or anyone in her aristocratic circle. Katerina considers her talent a curse, not a gift. But when she uses her special skill to protect a member of the Imperial Family, she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue.
An evil presence is growing within Europe's royal bloodlines—and those aligned with the darkness threaten to topple the tsar. Suddenly Katerina's strength as a necromancer attracts attention from unwelcome sources . . . including two young men—George Alexandrovich, the tsar's standoffish middle son, who needs Katerina's help to safeguard Russia, even if he's repelled by her secret, and the dashing Prince Danilo, heir to the throne of Montenegro, to whom Katerina feels inexplicably drawn.
The time has come for Katerina to embrace her power, but which side will she choose—and to whom will she give her heart?
Discovery: Which nine-year-old girl in the 1990s wasn't obsessed with Anastasia? Is it any wonder that as soon as I heard about this reinvention of Imperial Russia, I jumped on the chance to read it?
+ Setting. It's been close to 200 years since Russia was ruled by a glittering monarchy, but it seems as though the world's fascination with this mysterious country hasn't faded. As a kid, I loved reading about the palaces and summer homes that the nobility traveled to, and the holidays they celebrated. The Gathering Storm does a marvelous job of painting that world for its readers. Unlike the stoic British Empire and its ilk, the Russia we read about in Bridges' novel is volatile and dangerous. You can almost hear the ice crackling in conversations between the royals, and the tension in each scene is perfectly set.
- Narration. With such a dizzying cast of characters and longer names than most readers are used to seeing on the page , The Gathering Storm needed a strong voice to leap off the page and guide the reader (and make the constant repetition of _____ ______vna a little less tedious). I liked Katiya the moment I met her, but sadly, her voice was drowned out by the story. The narration isn't as tightly written as it could have been. At times, it feels as though Katiya is simply repeating what she's heard from other people instead of taking control of the story. She is an interesting character, but the writing doesn't reflect enough of that uniqueness. It also makes me wonder why Danilo is written as an all-powerful force and someone Katiya cannot ignore. She's rather scathing and fearful of him when he's not around. I'm hoping that the second book will give Katiya more control over her fate.
The final say: Bridges does a wonderful job of setting up a terrifying world of intrigue and supernatural creatures, and I'll definitely be picking up The Unfailing Light!
Release Date:January 31, 2012 Publisher: Henry Holt Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 272 FormaYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 31, 2012 Publisher: Henry Holt Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 272 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from Raincoast Books
Discovery: Jay Clark can thank the wonderful people at Raincoast Books for bringing this novel to my attention! As most of us YA readers know, female protagonists can take over the YA section, so it's always awesome to come across some boys.
+ Voice. Jay Baker may be dealing with some crazy drama llamas, but his identity is never in question. His wit is bitingly sharp, his sense of humour relentless--there's not much in this world that Jay can't handle. It's a rare fifteen-year-old who knows exactly who he is at that age, and I loved getting to know him. I'm especially intrigued by how pop-culture savvy he is! The writing style isn't as clunky as one might imagine with all those celebrity/TV/movie/music references. Jay (both of them) know exactly how to keep readers turning the pages: the paragraphs come fast and furious, and the story is cleverly related.
+ Cross-audience appeal. I'll be honest: when I first started reading this book, I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it. The tone felt a little too close to MG novels and there were moments when I started to get bored because Jay's problems were so far away from my own at his age. I also grew concerned that the rapid-fire pop culture mentions might turn off younger readers who won't know what Jay is talking about. That said, I think this is a perfect book for tweens who are transitioning from MG to YA. Jay's POV will be familiar to them, as will his concerns (finding a girlfriend, passing Algebra, dealing with his parents' estrangement). His voice isn't that of a ten-year-old, but of a boy who's starting to really grow up, and the results are fantastic.
The final say: Young teens will thoroughly enjoy this snarky romp of a story, and root for Jay as he strives to figure out what to love in this crazy world.
Release Date:January 3, 2012 Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin Age Group: Young Adult Pages:You can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 3, 2012 Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 293 Format: Paperback Source: ARC received from publisher
Discovery: I was given an ARC of this book to review and I originally thought that it was about a faery changeling, which would have been awesome.
+ Interesting premise. Kudos to Hocking--she wrote a shocking prologue that would draw even the most reluctant reader into the story. I liked that she didn't shy away from the violence and that Wendy's confusion was palpable as she related what had happened on her sixth birthday. The cover copy might not have hooked me, but I definitely wanted to know more about Wendy and why her mother would risk going to jail to kill her own daughter.
- Flat characters. With the way Switched opened, I was expecting a fast-paced plot and vibrant, witty characters. Unfortunately, I got neither. Wendy talked the talk, sure, but I never really got a sense of her personality or saw anything unique in her perspective. For someone who is touted as "special" and "one of a kind," she's very dull and indecisive. She wants to know what's going on, but she doesn't actually try to find out. She is content to let Finn or Rhys or Elora tell her what to do, and in the few instances that she isn't content, she just lets it all go anyway. I don't see any reason to cheer for her, because it doesn't seem like she knows what she really wants.
My main reaction to the other characters was "...so?" Again, the way that they're written makes them seem hollow. Elora makes proclamations and condescending remarks, but they have no real sting behind them. The reader is told, not shown, that Finn "loves" Wendy. How? How did they fall in love? What real bonding experiences have they had? The dialogue seems forced, all smoke and mirrors.
- Uncompelling plot. I've noticed a trend in YA paranormals where the boy has to steal the girl away to keep her and/or her family safe. This trope doesn't convince me of anything, much less that they belong together. And let's be realistic, characters in YA are teenagers. They are legally restricted from doing a lot of things, and if they go missing, authorities are informed. That's why I can't suspend my disbelief over the events in Switched. Wendy's mother tries to kill her and is sent to a hospital--that's all well and good. But Wendy runs away from home and her older brother and aunt--who claim to love her dearly--don't tear up the city trying to find her? They're okay with a sixteen-year-old girl's declaration that she "has to leave?" It's baffling.
I also didn't find much of the Trylle world to be interesting. Frankly, it seems the label "troll" was just tacked on after writers had run the gamut of paranormal creatures. Other than the Trylle's fascination with jewels, I found nothing to suggest that they were really trolls. It takes more than a paranormal creature to make a book worthy of the term "urban fantasy," which I believe Switched might have fallen under had it been written well.
The final say: As an intended successor to the tiers of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, Switched falls far from the mark with lackluster characters and a shallow plot.
Release Date:March 1, 2012 Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 367 FoYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: March 1, 2012 Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 367 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: In writing a story set outside reality (paranormal/dystopian/fantasy/etc.), the writer runs the risk of never giving enough information to justify that story. Reading is considered a form of escape--we pick up books to experience different worlds, but if the author isn't careful, the illusion is easily shattered and they are left with dissatisfied readers. Embrace is a clear example of that pitfall.
Within the YA sphere, there are an awful lot of books that exist because the main character is special. Sometimes the MC is thrust into focus because he/she is the only one who can defeat the bad guy (Harry Potter, anyone?), sometimes it's because he/she is the long-lost descendant of another special person. Sometimes it's just because, as it is in Embrace. Violet's mother died when she was born, so she is automatically part-angel. I find this problematic because it seems careless and unfair to people like Violet. Funnily enough, the reluctance to accept her "destiny" that she displays throughout much of the novel is one of the few traits that remain constant about her. As a reader, I need more than the special powers tag to care about a character or want to see that character succeed. I need characters that are more than the sum of their parts: seventeen-year-old, motherless, super pretty, well-off (or at least middle class), part angel. Violet is average, and I don't see any latent potential to be anything more.
The structure of the story itself is as average as Violet. Each chapter, instead of moving along at the quick pace I'm used to from paranormal stories, drags and extends each scene until I felt like I was just watching a really long movie. And it's a shame, because Embrace had the capability to be a commentary on free will and the human privilege vs. right to choose a certain kind of existence. The mythology behind the angels is introduced fairly early on--though it was delivered in a very cliche manner--and I wanted more of that backstory. Instead, Shirvington chooses to introduce another hot boy and have him and Lincoln represent the choice that Violet needs to make.
It's that kind of lazy conceptualization that I find most disappointing in YA. Teenagers are not shallow, and when stories like this are put out there for them to consume, it only adds to the cycle that the general public laments on a daily basis. When a story about the power of choice and knowledge dissolves into nothing more than a love triangle, it is massively disappointing. This is not to say that a well-written love triangle has no place in YA. But if the situations were reversed, if Violet was a boy, torn between two girls, would it be as appealing? Would readers still want more romance or would they be more interested in the themes of the story? What if Lincoln and Violet had become best friends, partners and comrades in the fight against fallen angels? And my biggest question: why does a romantic relationship have to exist in order to make the plot move along?
Embrace is not an awful book. But it is a symptom of the general consensus that many readers are making about their own society and relationships. Love is grand, love is great, and yes, it even makes the world go round. But love in itself can be wrong and it can be damaging. A story about the dangers of wanting too much and not loving yourself enough to know your limits should know better than to perpetuate an illusion.
The Final Say: Readers looking for predictable, casual YA paranormal fare will find much to enjoy in Embrace, but otherwise? Skip it....more
Release Date: January 17, 2012 Publisher: HMH Books Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 204 FormaYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 17, 2012 Publisher: HMH Books Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 204 Format: Paperback Source: Finished copy received from Thomson Allen, Ltd.
Tell Me More: I used to be a sickly kid, so stories about the terminally ill have always appealed to me because I could relate to them.
Selflessness, courage, compassion: all of these are traits that most people associate with the sick and dying. We laud them for their strength and sympathize with their challenges, but it's clear that no one can really understand illness unless they are in its throes. Does that viewpoint change once we know someone is sick? Do we automatically afford them those traits once they're stuck in a hospital bed? How fair are we really being to them?
The story itself is misleading: it opens with Austen Parker telling his mom he's going out and meeting up with his best friend Kaylee. There is nothing to suggest that Austen is days away from dying. He banters with Kaylee as they drive around to see some of Austen's current and ex-friends/girlfriends, and he tries to talk some sense into them. Reading his impassioned speeches, I was more than a little confused and skeptical. How are readers supposed to be sold on this kid who, for all intents and purposes, just seems to want to preach to people who hurt him/were hurt by him? If I had been one of the characters in the book, I probably would have just said "See you later" and closed the door. Furthermore, it seems strange that Kaylee doesn't continue to ask Austen why she has to drive him around for a weekend. It doesn't even have to be out of concern, just simple curiousity.
Despite the questions that the novel brings up, I enjoyed reading it. Never Eighteen made me reconsider how terminally ill kids and teens are viewed by society, and the expectations that we press onto them. I may not have understood why Austen wanted to spend his time trying to reconnect with people when he felt he was going to die, but I can't begrudge him that opportunity. Call it cliche or maudlin or whatever you like--when was the last time you did something just because you wanted to? Or because you wanted to be a good person? I do wish that we had seen more of Austen's struggle, because he doesn't seem like the kind of kid to naturally decide to journey on like this, but I admire his tenacity. He made his story worth reading.
That's Not All:
- Unrequited love! I won't lie, I cried over Austen and the way he pined over Kaylee. Though I would definitely tell him to just confess--he's taken risks, this is just one more.
The Final Say: A sweet nugget of a book, Never Eighteen will leave readers reflecting on their own mortality and time with loved ones....more
Release Date:March 13, 2012 Publisher: Random House Children's Books Age Group: Young AduYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: March 13, 2012 Publisher: Random House Children's Books Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 262 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: Before I say anything else, I have to express my disappointment over the change in covers. The previous cover--which you can see here--was beautiful and atmospheric. It had the feel of a Renaissance painting, which tied in wonderfully with the story. The new cover, however, feels derivative and might actually make casual bookstore browsers believe that it is a paranormal novel. Sometimes I agree with the need for a new cover, but this book didn't need it.
The reading experience itself is difficult to describe. Laura's story is full of mountains and valleys of revelations, but you are never quite sure which one it is. Conversations that seem innocuous turn out to be damaging, events meant to save reputations destroy them. And in the middle of this quiet chaos is a sixteen-year-old girl who has to learn to lie and cheat and keep deadly secrets, not only to save her life but her family's as well. "Intense" doesn't even begin to cover it. Gould's talent for atmosphere serves her well--you can almost hear the lapping of the water against the gondolas as you turn the pages. Laura's world is an easy portal to enter, and shadows lurk everywhere. I was extremely impressed with the details Gould included in the story, and my attention never wavered while I was reading.
I cite this book as an excellent example of well-written teen literature for many reasons. One of them is the impeccable combination of parts that turned into a magnificent story, otherwise known as organic unity. It is one of the standards I hold books up to when I read them. Should the author drop the ball, so to speak, by including unnecessary scenes or confusing plot twists, it becomes harder for the story to remain whole. Cross My Heart is a powerful book for many reasons: because Gould takes care to mold her characters well and make their actions believable; because her atmosphere reflects her setting and vice versa and; because the themes of secrecy and loyalty are played out in mysterious ways. I never once asked myself what the point of a particular scene was, nor did I think there were any unnecessary characters or descriptions. Gould said exactly enough of what she needed to say to provide a tightly woven and intriguing read.
The Final Say: Historical YA has found a bright new voice in Sasha Gould--Cross My Heart is not a book you should miss if you love chilling revelations and emotional intensity....more
Tell Me More:Much of the conversation regarding termYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: Much of the conversation regarding terminal illness has focused on the patients themselves, understandably so. They are the ones that struggle through every breath, even as they try to live normal lives. Sarah Wylie's poignant debut novel highlights the parallel journey of a girl watching her sister be consumed by cancer, and the risks she takes to try to stop it.
The challenges posed by this novel are two-fold: 1) can the reader hang on through what can seem like lackluster prose? and 2) can the reader refrain from judging Dani before the story is over? I initially found both difficult to do, because All These Lives is not a book that vies for one's attention. The prose is quiet, unassuming, and surprisingly, not as emotional as I was expecting. Wylie is not a writer who tries to shock her readers, but neither does she fall into the tried-and-true cliches of stories about cancer. It's a tough, deadly business, and I appreciated her determination to keep it from falling into blatant sentimentality. The reader is never far off from the touch of death, and Wylie leaves nothing to hide behind. You either face the truth of Dani's family's life, or you give up.
Dani is one of the most flawed individuals I've ever met in literature, and her true nature is so carefully hidden in the story that I feel it will take me at least three more rereads to really understand her. There is a hesitation in everything she says and does that can go unnoticed, because readers may latch onto her reckless decisions. The way Wylie balances Dani's doubts and courage is a stunning act, and it reflects on how many of us live our lives. I would never recommend that teenagers follow Dani's path, but certainly they can find something to relate to in her determination to save her sister's life.
The Final Say: All These Lives is a novel that won't grab readers' attention straightaway, but those who stick with it will find much to consider and reflect upon, especially when it comes to the bond of a family.