This book was surprisingly bleak, and I didn't actually like a single one of the characters. It was interesting in a Slytherin-girl-joins-Magneto's-siThis book was surprisingly bleak, and I didn't actually like a single one of the characters. It was interesting in a Slytherin-girl-joins-Magneto's-side-in-the-human-mutant-conflict way (shh, that totally makes sense), but with no one for me to really root for, I'm not real eager to get my hands on book two....more
I read this for a book club, and the other book club attendees loved it. They loved it because it was new and different and fresh, because it compelleI read this for a book club, and the other book club attendees loved it. They loved it because it was new and different and fresh, because it compelled you to continue reading because you just had to know what was going on, and because it was beautifully written.
I concede all of the above points. It is new and different and fresh, it's beautifully written, and this isn't a book you can really bring yourself to DNF. But when I reached the end, my reaction was, "Huh. Well, that was...weird." I spent the day leading up to my book club discussion trying to figure out if I thought it was good-weird or bad-weird, but in the end, it was just...weird. I didn't like it, but I didn't really dislike it either. I just find it kind of bafflingly odd.
If you like weird, you might love this. This book is weird from top to bottom, inside and out. It's got a weird structure, weird characters, weird interconnected stories, and a weird blend of myth and reality. The book is divided into seven parts, and each part is weird in its own unique way.
This isn't something I would have picked up without the book club impetus, and this is one of those times when I really could have lived without that extra push. I don't feel like precious hours of my life were wasted with this one, but I don't feel like they were really put to good use either.
In sum: Just really strange, leaving me with feelings of ambivalence.
P.S. I also have no idea why this is marketed as YA, other than the length and the fact that Marcus Sedgwick had previously published in that genre. It's really not YA in theme, tone, or the age of its central characters, so, uh, what else is there?...more
I struggled for a long time about how to rate this book and how to write this review, because here's the thing: Even though this book wasn't my favoriI struggled for a long time about how to rate this book and how to write this review, because here's the thing: Even though this book wasn't my favorite, reading this book and seeing things here and there on the internet has made me a huge fan of its author, Corinne Duyvis. And even though this was a "meh" book for me, there are several really awesome things about it that make me absolutely sure I'll be recommending it over and over in the coming years.
Otherbound has two protagonists, Nolan and Amara. Nolan lives in our world, and from the time he was very young, whenever Nolan closes his eyes he finds himself riding along as a passenger in another person's life. It has cost him a normal life (and, when he was younger, his leg, gone in an accident caused by one of his "seizures" when he blinked), and his entire family has suffered. Nolan's unwitting host is Amara, and she inhabits a completely different world, where she's an indentured servant on the run with a cursed deposed princess. For over a decade, Nolan has been a helpless passenger, tagging along with Amara. But then, something changes, and Nolan is able to take control of Amara's body. Suddenly, Amara becomes aware that not only does she have a shitty, dangerous life, she's got a parasitic person tagging along in her mind, and her body isn't completely her own. As Amara's life takes a turn for the even more dangerous, Amara and Nolan must learn how best to work together to ensure that both of them have safe and happy futures.
The first thing I loved about this book is that it had a new and interesting premise. I've always loved the mental connections trope, and this was a completely different spin on it, with characters who share a mental connection across worlds. I haven't read anything like it before, so that was refreshing.
The other thing I loved about this book--and the reason I wholeheartedly recommend it despite my three stars--is that Duyvis made a clear and conscious decision to write protagonists with racial, ethnic, sexual, and body diversity. In a single book, she's got a Mexican-American boy with Nahua heritage who has one leg, and a bisexual dark-skinned girl who had her tongue cut out as a child and communicates via sign language. And none of those characteristics really define or overwhelm the characters--this isn't an "issue" book, this is just a book with characters who happen to be the most diverse protagonists I've ever read in YA. Amara is bisexual? No big deal, just a fact. Nolan speaks a mixture of English and Spanish with his family and misses out on Nahuatl language lessons because of his disability (the "seizures" that land him in Amara's world, not his leg).
I was so prepared to love this book. And yet it took me two and a half months to read. Yikes. I kept setting it aside to pick up other books. It was easy to set aside. Things were happening, but it felt like they were happening in slow-mo. For whatever reason--and I still can't put my finger on any one thing that was wrong--I just couldn't engage with this book. This isn't a particularly huge book, but when I finished, I breathed a sigh of relief that I was finally--finally!--done with the Book that Wouldn't End.
But despite the fact that this book ended up not being my cup of tea, I will champion it because it represents what I dearly hope is the beginning of a wave of diverse, original speculative fiction written by people who are committed to making the fiction landscape one that is representative of our diverse world.
Thanks to Amulet for providing me with an ARC of this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway....more
I won the paperback reissue of this book in a FirstReads giveaway, and I am really happy I did.
For me, this book is the epitome of YA litera4.5 stars.
I won the paperback reissue of this book in a FirstReads giveaway, and I am really happy I did.
For me, this book is the epitome of YA literature. By which I mean it takes practically all of the most pervasive and important tropes of young adult lit and handles them really, really well. Identity, coming of age, monstrousness, feelings of not fitting into your own skin and your own life, the realization that life isn't as black and white as it seems, etc. I could write papers about this book and how it tackles the teenage experience, teenage fantasy, and coming of age.
It is also really, really fucking well-written. There is practically no easier way to scare me away from a book than to tell me how beautiful the language is. To me, beautiful language = plotless bore. I had heard a lot about how pretty this book's words were, which is probably one of the reasons I held off on reading it for so long. But this book's lyrical cadence, tone, and language are in aid of a story about a war between angels and monsters, with a quirky teen girl caught in the middle. There is humor and fun alongside darkness and moral ambiguity.
I have read books I enjoyed more. The fact that this book tackles so many familiar tropes meant that at times I was bored. Karou is the stunningly beautiful and magically powerful protagonist who has just enough of a quirky loner edge that readers want to be her instead of hating her (she is an ~artist~ with ~blue hair~ who hangs out at a hipster coffee shop with her spunky sidekick BFF). It's not my favorite archetype. But even that aids in making this the perfect example of young adult literature. So when someone asks me, "So, what is young adult literature all about, anyway?" I can hand them Daughter of Smoke & Bone and say, "This. All of young adult literature is contained in this book: the good and the bad, the powerful themes and the cliches. This is everything you need to know about YA."...more
This book surprised me. I don't know why I wasn't expecting much. Possibly it's because I'm skeptical of any book that claims to be similar to two ofThis book surprised me. I don't know why I wasn't expecting much. Possibly it's because I'm skeptical of any book that claims to be similar to two of my favorites (Graceling and Seraphina). But it was quite good! I actually think the comparisons were apt, which is a huge compliment coming from me.
Cécile has always dreamed of traveling the world and singing. But on the eve of her departure for the big city, she's kidnapped and carried deep underground to a subterranean city of trolls, where she's expected to fulfill a prophecy by marrying ("bonding") the trolls' prince, Tristan, and freeing the trolls from the spell that keeps them trapped under the Forsaken Mountain. Soon Cécile becomes enmeshed in troll politics, earning friends and enemies and being forced to decide between freedom and justice, safety and bravery.
I have exactly one bone to pick with this book, and it's this: Jensen shows us a race of people who have become deformed physically and mentally due to inbreeding, especially in the upper classes (who remain untainted by cross-breeding with humans). There are trolls with two heads, conjoined twins, trolls with lopsided faces, trolls with mental issues, and trolls with bleeding disorders. But our love interest, Prince Tristan? Totally perfect. Dreamily handsome, not so much as an ugly birthmark. OF COURSE. I am so sick of reading about perfectly beautiful people who are beautiful by default because they're the protagonists. Gag.
But once I heaved my giant sigh of despair over the state of YA beauty tropes and moved on, the book was grand. I loved how nuanced the politics of Trollus were, and how the solutions to the trolls' problems aren't as simple as they first appear. I love how conflicted Cécile and Tristan both are, and how Cécile doesn't assume Tristan's views automatically once she learns to trust him, but rather does her own independent research to try to figure out what she believes the best course of action is.
I read this page-turner in just a couple days and am super excited to continue on with the series. However, shortly after this book was published, the publisher, Strange Chemistry, announced it was folding effective immediately. I so hope this series is picked up by another publisher! It deserves to be read. (Danielle Jensen has announced that book two, Hidden Huntresswill be released, but not the hows, wheres, and whens.)
I won a copy of this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway....more
Gretchen's father died when she was young, taking bullets meant for his old friend from the war, Adolf Hitler. Ever since, Gretchen has been the "littGretchen's father died when she was young, taking bullets meant for his old friend from the war, Adolf Hitler. Ever since, Gretchen has been the "little sunshine" of her "Uncle Dolf," a frequent guest of Herr Hitler and the well-known darling of the National Socialist Party. But when a mysterious young journalist--a Jewish journalist--appears claiming that her father's death wasn't as straightforward as she has been told, Gretchen soon finds herself doubting Uncle Dolf, his past, and his plans for Germany's future.
When I saw the description for this book, I was so, so hoping that it would have the same sort of depth and emotional resonance as Code Name Verity. Alas, this book fell flat for me.
What I hoped for was a girl struggling to cope with the idea that the propaganda she's been fed at Hitler's knee for her whole life might not be truthful, that Jewish people might be actual humans deserving of respect and equal treatment, that maybe, just maybe the National Socialist Party isn't the best thing for Germany. I hoped for a historical thriller full of danger and daring. I hoped for a mistrustful, tentative, slowly growing romance between the Aryan darling Gretchen and the outspoken-but-afraid Jewish boy Daniel.
What I got was Daniel telling Gretchen that "you're different from the others" because he saw her stop her brother from beating a helpless Jewish man to death. (Which she did, mind you, because Hitler frowned on street fighting because he thought it made the Party look bad, and also because she had never seen violence--or a Jewish dude--up close. Not because she fancied herself a defender of innocent Jews.) I saw Daniel immediately trusting and freaking inviting into the home he shared with two younger cousins one of Hitler's closest companions whom he had no reason to trust. I saw Gretchen shedding her beliefs as easily as she chopped off her hair.
I got an author making clumsy comparisons between Gretchen's Evil with a capital "E" sociopath brother and Hitler, a veritable SS and SA name-drop-fest, and friendships with Eva Braun and Geli Raubal that could have been meaningful but were instead just more historical figure cameo fun times.
I got a protagonist who was overall reactive instead of proactive, and who just kind of went with the flow. I got stakes that managed to feel really freaking low in pre-WWII Germany surrounded by Hitler and his cronies WTF how is that even possible?
In short, I got nothing that I hoped for and a lot of things I actively do not like in my fiction. It could have been worse--there was nothing I was truly offended by here--but I wanted it to be so, so much better....more