Tell Me More: When you're on your very first proper train ride and it's going to take five hours to get to your destination, there's nothing better than an engaging and intense book to remove you from the cramped seats and boredom. I'd been putting off reading The Hunt for a few days before my trip to Windsor, Ontario, but faced with a dying iPod, I decided to give it a shot. Quite honestly, it was the best decision I'd made all week.
Fukuda yanks readers into The Hunt like they're about to be hit by a train--the first fifteen pages are elemental to setting up this bizarre world where people drink blood, scratch their wrists in joy and crack their necks. Or are they people in the first place? The word "vampire" immediately comes to mind, but you'd be hard pressed to actually find Fukuda throwing out that familiar life line. Instead, Gene (whose name readers won't even spot until well into the book) makes two things clear: people are dangerous, and he is not one of them. I loved that I wasn't sure if I could trust Gene or not; after all, couldn't this just be part of our future evolution (as uncomfortable as it is to think about it)? But Fukuda deserves another point for infusing the first few chapters with a sense of dread and unease. Something isn't right in Gene's world, and if my reaction means anything, readers won't like what they'll find bubbling under the surface.
Many of the twists in The Hunt were obvious from a mile away, but I still enjoyed the breakneck speed at which I experienced them. Gene is a strong character, but he is also a bit obtuse--I had a couple of moments where I wanted to shake him and convince him not to make bad decisions. I also had a few moments where I wanted to curl up in the fetal position on my seat and hide from the awful situations Gene found himself in, time and again. The titular Hunt was horrifying to watch unfold, but its power could have only come from the little details. From every step of the preparations for the Hunt, Fukuda reveals more and more of the society Gene is hiding from and it adds to the suspense.
Thematically speaking, the horrors that come to light in The Hunt are ones that are smarter than most people give YA authors credit for. There is an obvious condescension when children's literature is discussed, but if you don't start kids thinking about their society and actions early, when can you start? I loved that Fukuda presents his readers with questions on humanity, acceptance and truth, and that he doesn't dictate, but creates scenarios that his readers will respond to. Again, if my reaction is anything to go by, they will respond in a myriad of ways. Beyond the tongue-in-cheek nudges towards the fetishized vampire culture we live in today, Fukuda asks smart questions about cultural and political issues we tend not to notice.
The Final Say: The Hunt is an automatic choice for readers who want their horror served with slices of realism, dystopia and socio-cultural commentary. Also, it's one of the wildest and terrifying rides YA could ever offer.
Release Date:February 14, 2012 Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (Random House) Pa...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 14, 2012 Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (Random House) Pages: 272 Format: Hardcover Source: E-ARC on NetGalley
Tell Me More: I don't know if you can tell, but I freely admit that I'm drawn to stories about art and the people that pursue it. Whether it's highly praised classical music or rough sketches of landscapes, I believe that art is a reflection of the person who chooses it, and the way that they see themselves.
Glass is fragile. Everyone knows it, and we all turn into cautious tiptoers when surrounded by glass. But Lucy is a glassworker, and a talented one at that. I loved that she values her work and doesn't just see it as an after-school chore. Her choice of artistic output is interesting to me because it reflects her own state of mind. She sees beauty in uncertainty (you never know what a piece of glass might become), and she is willing to go through fire to find it (as in her quest to find Shadow). She is unpredictable and smart, and she knows what she wants out of life. To me, she is the perfect compliment for Shadow's desire for something real to hold on to.
The night that Lucy spends searching for Shadow is vibrant, absolutely pulsing with laughter and life. Australian authors seem to have a knack for creating casts of characters that are so very real. If Jazz, Poet, Daisy and Dylan walked into my house right now and asked me to hang out with them, I wouldn't think twice. And oh, to spend a night wandering around Melbourne (or any city, really) with Ed. They are brilliant and colourful and just the right characters to populate a story of wonder, risks and love.
That's Not All:
> I'm hoping that maybe a paperback release will have illustrations of Shadow's art. It seems a shame to have such gorgeous descriptions and not be able to see the real thing.
The Final Say: Take a risk and find love with Cath Crowley's breathtaking Graffiti Moon, and a whole host of characters who will welcome you no matter what you dream of. (less)
Release Date:March 13, 2012 Publisher: Random House Children's Books Age Group: Young Adu...moreYou 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.(less)