Tell Me More: If you know me, you know I'd be hard-pressed to resist any tale that uses period elements, even if the main genre that the story residesTell Me More: If you know me, you know I'd be hard-pressed to resist any tale that uses period elements, even if the main genre that the story resides in is dystopian. So yes, my hopes were high for Landry Park, but unfortunately I found it predictable at its best and offensive at its worst.
The life of Landry Park, literally, is dependent on the class issues that permeate the story. The reader is introduced to this peculiar new world through Madeline Landry, who enjoys the lifestyle powered by abuse of the lower classes, even as she expresses a vague desire to change it. In various exposition paragraphs, the reader learns that Jacob Landry, Madeline's ancestor, invented Cherenkov lanterns as a power source after a devastating war with the Eastern Empire. What's left of America is miserable, save for the 1%, now known as the gentry, who are not the government but more powerful.
Madeline is not a very memorable heroine, and neither are many of the other characters. She fits into the trope of a dissatisfied rich girl well enough, and I understand her desire to educate herself. But what is it all for? She tells her father that it will make her a better owner of Landry Park in the future, but even her attachment to the estate feels half-hearted. I never really felt like she was a fully-formed character, capable of standing on her own. I have read of heroines like her before, and she does not do much to distinguish herself from the rest. I never felt like she was in true danger, and I was not emotionally invested enough in her to worry either way. Even the relationship between her and David was dulled by how obvious it was that they would end up together.
On a more serious note, I am particularly bothered by the seeming demonization of Asians as the Eastern Empire, even as a character espouses that "race is no longer a factor" in this futuristic world. I believe this is the first book in a series (correct me if I'm wrong), so there may still be more information to be gleaned about this war in future installments, but what I have so far is just that China, Japan and the rest of Asia decided they'd had enough of America's environmental overreaching and invaded. If this is the war that has changed the landscape of the globe, describing its impact requires more than a few passing sentences. Race can never not be a factor. Including token black and Indian characters among the gentry is not enough to claim that, especially since America's "enemy" in this story is made up of Asians. The difference alone establishes that race is a factor. Frankly, I find it is easiest for those for whom race has never been a factor to imagine a world where it isn't. So why the Asians? Why this cause? I would love to know more about the background of this war, so that I can ground myself further in the story.
The class issues that Hagen attempts to address also fall flat because there just isn't enough solid worldbuilding to hold them up. So much of the book is set in a very small area, because Madeline herself is isolated from knowing much about her life. As a reader, this can quickly become frustrating, because there isn't enough ground covered to stabilize the world the author asks us to believe in. At the very least, why did fashion in this future world return to that of the 1800s? Was it meant as a sign of how out-of-touch the gentry are with the rest of the world? I can't be sure because we get no hints as to how the social norms developed hand-in-hand with the rise and fall of certain classes. Reading this book felt a lot like being surrounded by gorgeous, filmy curtains that aren't actually hiding anything substantial or valuable or even new.
The Final Say:Landry Park may dazzle readers new to the genre, but there is not much to see past the first few fireworks, and less to remember.
Tell Me More: There's something to be said about a series that starts with its protagonist at her lowest point
SPOILERS AHEAD--Read at your own risk!
Tell Me More: There's something to be said about a series that starts with its protagonist at her lowest point. Most dystopian novels beckon readers in with comfort and familiarity, but Shatter Me was different from the start. Juliette Ferrars is a heroine who is on her knees, broken and undone. Two books later, she becomes a force of nature in her own right, much like the young woman who first created her. Ignite Me is not only a satisfying ending to the trilogy, but a story that illustrates Tahereh Mafi's growth and undeniable talent on every page.
Going into Ignite Me, I was absolutely terrified that I would hate the book. Unlike other final books in dystopian trilogies, I didn't know what to expect out of this novel, and I couldn't decide if that lack of expectation was better or worse than my other experiences with books like Delirium and Divergent. Once I started reading, however, I forgot all of my anxiety and worries. The story is just as tightly woven as its predecessors, possibly more so now that Juliette understands what she is capable of, and the battle at the end is all but guaranteed. Her journey is clear: Shatter Me was Juliette learning about the extent of her powers, Unravel Me was the reveal of the choices she has to make knowing what she can do, and Ignite Me is where those choices are made, for better or for worse.
That kind of story requires a writer who knows her characters inside and out, and is willing to follow them through the hard choices. Tahereh Mafi's prose is raw and unflinching, and it captures the conflict that lies in Juliette's very being with authority. Juliette might be powerful beyond her own imagination, but she is also seventeen years old, and Mafi's writing style reflects Juliette's youth and determination. Even when she doubts herself, her thoughts are lined with steel, and I never once doubted that she is capable of paving her own path, even if no one is at her side.
But while Juliette is strong enough to stand on her own, it is comforting to see that she doesn't have to. Kenji and several other Omega Point residents return in Ignite Me and their presence brings a necessary lightness to the story's intensity. I loved that Kenji and Juliette's friendship grows stronger in this book, and that there is someone that isn't a potential love interest who makes the effort to understand her. I loved that Juliette learned to appreciate the support system that Omega Point created for people like her, and I loved that she valued them for who they were.
In my review of Unravel Me, I hypothesized that "Adam’s desire to keep [Juliette] safe blinds him to the fact that she still has agency." (view spoiler)[I wasn't pleased to find I was right about this halfway through the book, but I do think that it's that same point that shows that if Juliette should choose to be with anyone, it should be the man who sees her for who she is and accepts her. I don't think that Warner takes pleasure in the pain Juliette can cause, but he also won't pretend that it's not a fact of her life. He won't coddle her, and he'll help her in any way she asks him to, because he believes in and trusts her. Mutual respect is far more appealing than overprotectiveness, and I think Kenji makes that point far better than I ever could in a conversation with Juliette halfway through the novel. Warner and Juliette are both aware of what the other is capable of, and once they realize it, they make a conscious choice to use those abilities to help rather than harm. They are both capable of sacrificing parts of themselves, but neither will let the other do it. (hide spoiler)]
The best part is that Juliette knows all of this, and she comes to her own conclusions. Her sense of self-awareness has developed over the course of three books, and she is willing to face the battle ahead with open and clear eyes. She won't end up with someone because it's what is expected of her. She won't take action just because it's the right thing to do. Her every movement is done to set herself free so that she can make those choices on her own. And frankly, it would have made perfect sense to me if she hadn't ended up with anyone at all. (view spoiler)[I loved that her final battle was to save her best friend's life. (hide spoiler)] I loved that Mafi made her feelings and her choices matter.
Ignite Me does not end on an ambiguous note. Juliette, as she's done in the previous books, commits to a path and sees it through. There is devastation, but there is also hope. (view spoiler)[Warner tells her to "ignite," and she does light a flame that destroys the world they knew. But she also brings light and perspective, and their world is never going to be perfect, but it does become a world of potential. (hide spoiler)]
The Final Say: With its focus on Juliette's self-discovery and claim on her own freedom, IgniteMe is a satisfying and powerful ending to the Shatter Me trilogy.
Having grown up with the Royal Diaries and Disney Princesses, my fascination with royalty won't comPosted on Seashell Reviews at Mermaid Vision Books!
Having grown up with the Royal Diaries and Disney Princesses, my fascination with royalty won't come as a surprise to anyone. One of the things I loved most in books about princesses was the attention to detail, the way authors could make you feel as though you were the princess in the story, be it about Anastasia, Elizabeth I or Sara Crewe. Sadly, this was not the case with Galaxy Craze's The Last Princess. A raggedy plot combined with pacing that could give one whiplash does not make for a pleasing story. I wanted desperately to like Eliza and cheer for her, but I could barely find a moment to gain my footing in the story, much less understand her plight or her sudden romance. As a post-apocalyptic stories go, The Last Princess fails to impress or elicit any strong impressions....more
Release Date: February 28, 2012 Publisher: Doubleday Canada Age Group: Young Adult Pages:You can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 28, 2012 Publisher: Doubleday Canada Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 459 Format: Paperback Source: Finished copy received from publisher
Tell Me More: Most of the buzz I've seen surrounding this book are consistently focused on its similarities to The Hunger Games. To which I say: what similarities? Where THG is a dystopian society, with touches of sci-fi, Blood Red Road is more like a Western thriller. If I had to draw parallels to any sort of media, the closest might be the late, great television series Firefly. As a reader, I didn't appreciate the blurbs' attempt to condition my mind into seeing something that isn't there, even if that illusion would sell more books.
That small grudge against the blurbs can explain why I did find it difficult to enjoy the story at first. As I began reading, my brain kept trying to point how dissimilar Blood Red Road was to THG, and if it was distracting to me, it'll be distracting for other readers. I can see how Saba might be compared to Katniss, but I see them as two completely separate and unique characters. Saba is angry, dependent and reckless. She might be the most challenging character I've ever encountered, and she doesn't make it easy to know her. One aspect of her personality that I found confusing was her attachment to Lugh, her twin. While it's easy to say that twins share a kinship unlike any other, I never really felt that kinship. If anything, Saba seems to be more dependent on Lugh, rather than an equal relationship. It did get to the point where I started to wonder if Saba was a little bit in love with Lugh. While that doesn't bother me at all, I would have appreciated more indications either way.
Overall, the character development strikes me as uneven and the plot races along without it at times. My interest was peaked, but I couldn't quite care for any of the characters, and the ones I was concerned for weren't given enough page time to really win me over. The plot is unique and overwhelmingly complex at certain points. Young has a tight control over Saba's story and her eye for detail is superb. There is always something at risk in Blood Red Road, and you are never quite sure what you could lose next.
Another salient point that should inform your decision to read is the writing style and dialogue. Moira Young employs a Midwestern style of narration, and if readers aren't familiar with that way of speaking, it may be difficult to proceed with the story. Quotation marks are also missing from the story, which may bother some readers. Interestingly enough, I also believe that Blood Red Road can stand on its own. It is meant to be a series, but should you decide to stop after this book, you won't feel like something is missing. Frankly, I am glad for it, because I don't see myself continuing the series at this point.
The Final Say: Blood Red Road was an okay book, interesting but not intense and a challenge to invest in. Readers interested in a high-stakes story with unique elements will find much to enjoy in this series....more
Discovery: While searching for books that were similar to The Hunger Games for a blog post I wanted to write, I happened upon Eve. I was lucky enoughDiscovery: While searching for books that were similar to The Hunger Games for a blog post I wanted to write, I happened upon Eve. I was lucky enough to win a copy from Karen at FWIW.
+ Reality. I can pinpoint the moment I decided to read this book: the second I read the words “The Handmaid’s Tale” on the cover. While I’m very wary of any books that are marketed as “blank-meets-blank,” it takes a lot of guts to compare a new YA novel to a classic dystopian, especially one written by Margaret Atwood. The world Eve lives in is deliciously creepy and the descriptions of her real future are horrifying. I would have loved to know more, and in that way, the novel succeeds. Dystopians rely on a strong background to draw the reader in.
- The “huh?” factor. With such a strong start, I was expecting the novel to be an excellent look at the dynamics of a male-female relationship when so much is at stake. I was very disappointed. Nothing about what Eve is taught in school comes across as unpredictable, and after a few pages of “Men are evil!,” I got bored. It becomes more confusing as the book goes on. Eve and her encounters with men aren’t anything to write home about and the cave scenes were lackluster at best. All in all, I found it very difficult to care about the story, but I was hoping that Eve and the other characters would make up for it.
- Lack of character development. I’ve heard comparisons of Eve to Kathy H. of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. As a reader who adores that book with the fire of a thousand white-hot suns, I would say no. I can see where the comparison might have arisen, but Eve has none of the inner passion that Kathy H. has and none of the smarts either. Kathy is not nearly as naive or reckless as Eve. This book isn’t the worst I’ve ever read, but it doesn’t help that Eve is simply too naive to be likeable. She doesn’t think about her actions and still expects things to work out the way she wants them.
I’m not sold on Caleb either. For a character who’s supposed to be dreamy enough to sweep Eve off her feet, he’s surprisingly bland. I finished the book without seeing any proof that he’s worth Eve’s time or mine. Arden, on the other hand, makes an excellent case. She is smart, but isn’t given enough credit by the author (in my opinion) to become a truly vibrant character.
Recommendations: I don’t hate this book, but I do feel hoodwinked into believing that it would be a jaw-dropping story. The problem might be that I’ve read so many dystopians that it’s difficult to refrain from drawing parallels, but Eve doesn’t match any of the books it’s been compared to. In conclusion, it’s just not for me, but maybe other readers will enjoy it.
Release Date: January 24, 2012 Publisher: Disney-Hyperion Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 30You can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 24, 2012 Publisher: Disney-Hyperion Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 304 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from Hachette Book Group Canada
Discovery: I hadn't heard too much about this book before October last year, but I loved the premise and was looking forward to the Canadian setting.
+ Science (!) A confession: between the ages of seven and 14, I was obsessed with diseases. You name it, I read about it: ebola, AIDS, scarlet fever, smallpox, sleeping sickness, the list goes on. So imagine how thrilled I was to have a YA novel that dealt with the fallout of an epidemic. Megan Crewe doesn't overwhelm the reader with scientific jargon, but that almost makes it worse. No one knows what's really going on, and human nature doesn't do well when it's kept in the dark. While I thought it was a little contrived that Kaelyn's father was a doctor and a scientist, I was glad to have a front-row seat to the work he was doing and the effects on his family. As terrifying as diseases are by themselves, what they do to society is just as scary.
+ Structure. I unabashedly love epistolary (read: written as letters) stories. There's not a lot you can hide in a letter, and Kaelyn's own mental and emotional state are out for display in each one that she writes to her best friend Leo. It was easy to trust Kaelyn, to understand everything she's going through, and even the fears she won't name. I also like that her letters represented hope: she's writing to someone, unconsciously willing him to know about her life. The letters help her keep her sanity and fight for survival. This kind of organic unity (hello, creative writing terms) makes the story even better.
> O Canada! I've never been anywhere except Toronto and Ottawa, so reading about the maritimes was lovely. > Mysterious boys! Who says nice guys finish last? I'm sold on the specimens we have in this novel.
The final say: Granted, you won't be able to look at chatty people the same way again, but The Way We Fall is a must-read for anyone who is fascinated with epidemics and the myriad ways they change our lives.
Release Date: February 8, 2012 Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Age Group: Young AdultYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 8, 2012 Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 448 Format: Hardcover Source: Finished copy received from publisher
Tell Me More: The sudden influx of dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels over the past year has made contemplating the future rather terrifying. Most plots center on the things we take for granted and lose--freedom, safety, emotion. The main characters in many of these books often live comfortable lives, before coming face to face with something outside their experience. It's that catalyst that begins an "epic saga" that will change the world forever. As much as I thought the characters needed a bit more vibrancy, Pure does answer to the call of the dystopian epic in a massive way, by pointing the finger at our governments' actions today.
Pure suffers from what I personally like to call the Tolkien Syndrome: an overwhelming amount of description and detail in otherwise lackluster scenes. Note that I didn't say the writing was horrible, nor were the descriptions poor. Tolkien was a wonderful writer, but he also had a tendency of describing blades of grass on a mountain individually for paragraphs on end. Baggott's strength lies in this love of detail, and her world comes alive because of it. Unfortunately, because there is so much that she chooses to describe about Pressia's world, the pacing of the novel takes a huge hit. Getting through the novel took me longer than I thought it would, simply because I had to keep stopping when I got bored with the slow-to-nonexistent movement. Plodding through the story takes more patience than what most YA readers may be used to giving, so it only makes sense for me to recommend this as an adult novel.
As for the plot itself, readers won't see much action until about halfway through the novel, a point which some of my fellow readers confess they never reached before giving up. Once it begins, however, Pure takes off running. The theme of the story I found most interesting was the consideration of nuclear warfare and its consequences. As children born in the late 1900s, we are all very familiar with the fallout of World War II, and if last week's North Korean nuclear launch is any indication, there is a healthy fear among the world's populations of what could happen in a nuclear war. Power and control have become overwhelming forces in society, and each day brings a new limit to push. I was highly impressed with the message Baggott chooses to tie into her story, and her writing is a chilling testament to her talent. Here's hoping the following books are also infused with that same strength and honesty.
The Final Say: Though it may require more of a commitment than other novels, Pure is a worthwhile read which will leave you looking at our society through a clearer lens....more
Release Date: January 3, 2012 Publisher: HarperCollins Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 400 FoYou 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.
Discovery: I’d never heard of this book before May, which was a pleasant surprise. I like actually discovering new books without having previous opiniDiscovery: I’d never heard of this book before May, which was a pleasant surprise. I like actually discovering new books without having previous opinions in the back of my mind.
+ Narration. Tris’s voice was perfect for the book, her different attitudes reflecting the characteristics she values. I was immediately engrossed in her worries, her problems and her joys. I liked the focus on family and her relationship with her brother and mother. Tris is clear-headed, which makes it easy to follow her journey from Abnegation to Dauntless. Her handle of the actions scenes is impeccable and never confuses or loses the reader.
+ Romance. While I’m on the fence about Four, I will admit that the romance in this novel made me giddy more than once. Taken at face value, Four is sa-woon worthy, as Sarah Dessen would say. It’s very clear from the start that Four and Tris have an inexplicable chemistry between them, but the events of the novel seem to work against them more than they should. I’m not sure if that was deliberate or if it’s just how things worked out. That said, there were a lot of cute scenes that will make any girl want a Four of their own, just maybe without the emotional baggage.
- World-building. In the last few weeks since reading Divergent, I’ve read a few reviews that talk about how it’s a dystopian that functions on the absolute bare-bones of the genre. It’s true, and while I enjoyed the rollicking ride this novel gave me, I can’t quite get past that. The five factions are interesting to be sure, but does the whole world function that way? Human beings can’t be boxed into certain factions, because we have all of those traits. To disregard them in favour of just one characteristic is a disservice to our own potential.
- Divergence. To be quite honest, I never really felt like this was a bad thing. Usually dystopian societies are able to rationalize their rules or commands–in The Giver, memories were considered dangerous because they complicated the people and the world around them. It’s the desire for a simple life, free of complications, that serves as a driving force for those governments to do what they do. I didn’t feel like that was a priority for this particular government. If anything, with Abnegation people running it, shouldn’t they be pushing for people to live freely as themselves? After all, they’re the selfless ones. Tris seems capable and if there are other divergents, they don’t seem to be doing much harm to the people around them, whether it’s the government’s definition or not.
Recommendations: Regular dystopian readers may find a lot of issues with this novel, but the entertainment and romance factor is high. I would definitely pick up the next book, if only to have a bit more information.
Release Date: February 28, 2012 Publisher: Harper Teen Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 375 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: Around page 301, I posted this status update on Goodreads: "I think--no, I KNOW--that everyone who I forced to read Delirium is going to hate me forever." While most people who read Delirium loved it even as they cried over its horrific twists of fate, Pandemonium is going to be a polarizing story for many readers. Those who are looking for familiar footholds in Lena's world will find themselves lost--the entire mood has shifted. This is not the hopeful side of amor delirianervosa we knew in Delirium,but instead readers will be forced to endure its pain, its struggle and eventually, its loss.
Lauren Oliver opens Pandemonium likening Lena's difficult journey through the Wilds to rebirth and a new life. While I can see why she chose to compare it to giving birth, I see Pandemonium (or Pandy, as Ms. Oliver and my fellow fans like to call it) more like an ode to grief. The ending of Delirium stunned many readers, and like Lena, I found myself crawling along trying to deal with what had happened. It didn't seem real, and Oliver doesn't expect readers to forget that loss. The Lena we follow in this book is war-torn and beaten to within an inch of her soul, and yet she is expected to pull herself together and continue to live. I think it is easy to forget that the characters in books like these are only seventeen, eighteen, barely old enough to move out, let alone fight in a revolution. And yet it is that indomitable quality, that spark of bravery that we admire so much in them. Pandemonium forced me to consider whether I could be that brave, if I could lose everything dear to me--my friends, my family, the boy I love--and still be willing to fight for the rest of the world.
And where in the world could Lena find hope after what she's gone through? The most polarizing aspect of Pandemonium, in my opinion, will be the introduction of a new character and their connection to Lena. While I can't say much without spoiling much of the book, suffice to say that I was a whirlwind of emotion throughout much of the novel. I felt deeply for Alex in Delirium and the new developments in this book both confused and enchanted me. After all that's happened, I find myself extremely invested in Lena, because I trust her to know the right thing to do. She alone still sees love as love, and not a weapon or a disease or an inconvenience. That unwavering faith in her heart assures me that my adoration for this series isn't going to waste, and that Requiem will be a conclusion worth waiting for.
That's Not All:
> That first chapter tricked me and then made me cry. Basically, you'll need tissues for most of the novel.
> Lauren Oliver's writing is even more superb in this installment. The description of the Wilds is breathtaking, despite its physical ugliness.
The Final Say: Lauren Oliver is truly a tour de force when it comes to dystopian novels--Pandemonium will leave readers breathless and amazed once again....more
Release Date: February 21, 2012 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Age Group: Young Adult PagYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 21, 2012 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 352 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher at Ontario Blog Squad meetup
Tell Me More:Wither was a novel that snuck up on me in the best way. Though the similarities to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale are unmistakable, I saw great potential in this dystopian series despite having never heard of it before I bought it.
As I mentioned in my review of Wither, Lauren DeStefano's prose is utterly brilliant. Where Wither may have fumbled a bit in the middle of the story, Fever is superbly written and pulsing with action and revelations. DeStefano's knack for description knocks everything out of the park and she pairs it with plot twists that will appall readers. Rhine's life is almost always in jeopardy, but she is a resilient main character. That said, some of her actions were perturbing at best, and ridiculous at worse.
Without giving away any spoilers, I'd like to discuss Rhine in connection to the extremely powerful male characters in the novel. As readers will discover, what Rhine goes through in this book makes Wither look like a trip to a daycare. The abuse she suffers at the hands of the carnival ringmistress and Vaughan is truly horrifying. Unfortunately, I'm starting to feel like there is no way out for Rhine. The love triangle holds no interest for me, because I think she is better than both men. This is one case in which I am Team Rhine more than anything else. No matter where she goes, it seems there is always going to be a man who wants to control her in one way or another. And sadly enough, rape becomes a trope in this novel.
Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed reading Fever. But I am bothered by how rape was used to "advance" the plot, when really all it does is add more scars to Rhine's soul. While I would love to see this series earn its happy ending from a bath of fire and blood, there were times when I felt as though those scenes were there for shock value. I can't see Rhine ever becoming truly happy with Linden or Gabriel, because both of them see her the way they want to see her, and not who she really is. I want Rhine to be happy, but I don't see how that can happen in the world they inhabit. My anticipation for the third and final novel is tinged with anxiousness for her future, and I'm starting to believe that I want more for Rhine than the story is willing to give.
The Final Say: Chilling and terrifying, the Chemical Garden trilogy pushes on with a harrowing account of Rhine's next steps after leaving the mansion. Readers' hearts will break for Rhine and her seemingly impossible search for a real life and happiness....more
Oh God. I am not coherent enough to write out a review right now. I'm just going to go crawl into a sockMy original post:
CRYING ALL THE TEARS FOREVER.
Oh God. I am not coherent enough to write out a review right now. I'm just going to go crawl into a sock drawer and sob for days.
A proper review:
Discovery: Early buzz on Goodreads and book blogs that I follow. Oliver’s first novel, Before I Fall, was an excellent read and it interested me enough to want to check out her follow-up books.
+ Gorgeous, intricate language. The novel deals with the subject of love in a very clinical manner, going so far as to medically label the “disease” amor deliria nervosa. It’s reminiscent of Lois Lowry’s The Giver in this way, though Lena is a far more introspective character than Jonas. She is whip-smart, but there is a deep sense of loneliness and distance in the way she sees the world around her.
+ Alex and Lena’s relationship. It’s obvious from the first moment that Alex and Lena meet that a relationship will develop, but the reader is never quite sure about who falls first. Alex’s introduction is intriguing and fits his mischievous nature really well. Their relationship is written in a way that suggest their feelings for one another–the reader is taken along on an unpredictable ride, filled with uncertainty, fear and a stark and unavoidable fascination.
+ Friendship. It’s easy to forget that Lena has an important relationship before Alex: her best friendship with Hana Tate. Oliver managed to touch the innermost fears of most girls–not looking pretty enough, not being talented enough, not being daring enough–and relate it to how they approach friendships with people they believe embody the traits they want to have. Lena is a brave character, but it’s only when she is with Hana that the true Lena shines.
+/- World-building. Dystopian novels depend on a solid world, and if an author is lazy or indifferent, even the best writing will fall apart. I did think that The Book of Shhh was named rather strangely, but I’m willing to give Oliver the benefit of the doubt and hope that it’s explained in the sequels. As for its contents, I was amazed by the detail and reinterpretation that she came up with, as it’s creative enough to pass for a real book. I’m also curious about the examinations and how exactly they were created.
- Pacing. While I was very quickly caught up in the book, I did think that there were slow chapters. Lena’s scenes with her family are jarring compared to the dreamy mood of the rest of the novel. Some chapters move extremely quickly, while others take their time.
+/- The ending. It was brilliant. Really. But I have to put it down as a negative point too, because after reading it, I had to put the book down and actually reconsider picking it up again. I read this book five days ago, and I still haven’t decided whether or not I’m going to read the sequel.
Falling in love is beautiful, but it is also painful. The ending of this book is much the same way. It’s difficult to describe that pain without spoiling the novel, but suffice it to say, the last pages of your copy may experience heavy torrents. It’s the kind of ending that makes you throw your book across the room, even as you want to hold on tight.
Recommendations: Not for the faint-hearted. I would recommend this book to everyone who has ever wondered about love. Just be prepared to cry.
Discovery: I’ve loved Libba Bray’s books ever since the first Gemma Doyle, A Great and Terrible Beauty.
+ Humour. Everyone and their mothers will say tDiscovery: I’ve loved Libba Bray’s books ever since the first Gemma Doyle, A Great and Terrible Beauty.
+ Humour. Everyone and their mothers will say this, but Libba is truly one of the funniest women I’ve ever encountered in literature and in real life. Her signature brand of crazed humour is the biggest stamp on this novel, keeping it from tipping into preachy territory. Miss Rhode Island’s secret is a particular favourite subplot and I love the not-so-subtle digs at popular culture. This book seems custom-made for 90s kids.
+ Characters. The Miss Teen Dream pageant is populated by colourful characters, each of whom bring a whole set of insecurities and goals to the island. Each of them are forced to face more than their fears: they also have to come to terms with what they want out of life. Miss Texas is the key example, and while I can’t talk about her too much without spoiling anyone, I will say that I’m pleased with her ending. A desert island changes people, as we all know from countless castaway books and films. Libba Bray reminds us that that change is also a choice.
- Length. To be honest, I’m on the fence regarding the length of this book. It was longer than I expected, and keeping all the names and plot lines straight was challenging. Bray quickly switches from using the state titles to the girls’ names, sometimes in the same paragraph and it can get difficult to keep up.
- Lack of focus. I also thought that certain subplots were unnecessary and/or not explained very well. I’m still a little confused about the Corporation’s role and the motivations of certain antagonists. The book’s focus was on the girls, but I think I needed a bit more exposition to really understand the underlying story. Going Bovine may have been stream-of-consciousness but Cameron tied the story down excellently. This book seems to flit from one theme to another without ever really settling down.
Recommendations: This is a satire of everything feminine, so take it with a grain of salt. I would recommend this to the older end of YA readers, who are better equipped to follow the references and inside jokes with which Bray fills this novel.