This was lovely in so many ways. I really enjoyed the true-to-life year-long simmer of Anna and Etienne's relationship-- I feel like every high schoolThis was lovely in so many ways. I really enjoyed the true-to-life year-long simmer of Anna and Etienne's relationship-- I feel like every high schooler goes through this: not knowing how to express feelings, or feeling held back by barriers that aren't there. So I appreciated a book that acknowledged that and elevated it to something worth exploring. It's the basis of real-life drama, anyway.
You can tell that this is a first book-- Anna and Etienne and their friends aren't as singular as Lola and Cricket in Lola and the Boy Next Door, for instance. Their speech isn't character-specific in a way that makes you know exactly who is speaking before any attribution. And sometimes Anna does things that seem out of character-- I think she's meant to be more exuberant than much of the book allows her to be, and so when she leaps onto the concierge's desk and dances across it during Thanksgiving break, for instance, it doesn't seem to mesh with how often she's alone, or doing quiet things with her friends. Also, the Etienne/St. Clair thing was strange. I understood the reasons for it (without the double-name thing, you don't get that delicious moment when Anna first sees him as Etienne, the boy she loves, rather than St. Clair, her buddy), but when the names switched over, he just didn't seem like an Etienne. It took me awhile to think of him that way. The end, too, wrapped up in a way that made me feel like the other characters-- Josh, and Rashmi, and Meredith-- were sort of an afterthought. That they didn't matter as much to the story as the Anna/Etienne relationship did, when I thought they were pretty important to Anna's overall growth as a person who can make and keep friends even when there are conflicts. I wanted more of them, and more depth.
Despite these quibbles, I enjoyed the story immensely, and felt compelled to return to it again and again while I was reading (it did not want to simply be a gym book). I appreciated how Perkins just went all out with the real-life-is-worth-writing-about thing. Yes, it takes place in Paris, and yes, Anna is lucky. But her inner life is not so different from other teens', and I liked that....more
I know this book won the Stonewall award, and I think it covers an important issue, but while listening to the audiobook, I kept cringing and questionI know this book won the Stonewall award, and I think it covers an important issue, but while listening to the audiobook, I kept cringing and questioning. Logan falls in love with Sage, a transgender girl who transfers to his school during his senior year, and he grapples with what that means-- about him, about sex and gender, about friendship, etc. All of this is great (and the story ends up with what I felt was a realistic and complicated conclusion, where Logan grows up a bit-- aka, no fairytale), and I think the ultimate message of listening and friendship and support that the novel ends on is necessary.
But there's very little set-up in terms of the town, which is small and, according to Logan, kind of backward, to prepare a reader for his initial reaction when Sage confesses that she has male genitalia (he freaks, almost hits her, and wonders if this makes him gay; to that point, we don't have any inkling that this might be something to expect). Some of the plot points also seemed convenient, rather than serving the story (um, so Sage's parents move her to a hick nowhere town when she insists on going to school, even though they're afraid for her safety? Sage just happens to have a fat bank account to pay for illegal estrogen from Mexico? AND UM, OKAY, ILLEGAL ESTROGEN FROM MEXICO).
Logan's internal struggle / waffling attitude about how to deal with Sage, while in some ways necessary, got tiresome after awhile (it was sentence-to-sentence attitude whiplash for much of the middle of the book), and there were also some troubling moments where Logan's attitude toward women- not just Sage-- revealed some weird tensions (like when he tells his buddy Tim to "try it and see what she does" when Tim is wondering how to tell if his girlfriend is ready to make their relationship a sexual one-- UMMM. MAYBE ASK HER?)
But the treatment of Sage as a character was wonderful-- her personality, her self, really leapt off the page and made her real. Getting to know her on the page paralleled Logan falling for her and ultimately recognizing her as a person (not just a girl or a boy or a body or anything so neatly black and white). So, yes, in the terrible dearth of LGBTQ YA lit, this is a compelling story, and ultimately embraces complication in a way that I appreciated. But I found the execution to be lacking and spent much of my listening time frustrated....more
I think what I love most about Maureen Johnson is her ability to write headlong, to plunge you right into the heart of the story and never let up. YouI think what I love most about Maureen Johnson is her ability to write headlong, to plunge you right into the heart of the story and never let up. You'd think with a writing style that was so straightforward, and with a premise that was a speeding holiday romp through Europe, the story would be completely plot, but it's not. I actually cried at the end when Ginny finally pulls together the pieces of her aunt's last artwork--becomes part of the art itself-- and reads the final letter. I felt I'd gotten to know her so well, the way you know people you travel with, for better or for worse, merely by dint of proximity.
This was a wonderful follow-up to 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and I ended up liking Oliver much more than I liked Keith in the first installment. The other thinh Maureen Johnson does incredibly well is to bring you along on a character's transformation, and then wrap the story up with a marvelous sense of possibility. When Ginny decides to apply to schools in England, to stake out her future in this place that launched her into a series of crazy adventures, you know that she's become something new. It's a great way to end a book....more
I lovedI Hunt Killers. Jazz was complicated and kind, a good friend and a manipulative weasel, terrifying and screwed up and real and I loved him. II lovedI Hunt Killers. Jazz was complicated and kind, a good friend and a manipulative weasel, terrifying and screwed up and real and I loved him. I also appreciated a YA book that wasn't afraid of actual (versus stylized) gore or really messed up psychology (I know I felt really messed up as a teenager).
This sequel delivers in terms of body count. I liked the premise of serial killers playing a game with their kills, and the fact that the NYPD brings Jazz in as an expert-- it pushes against his complicated obsession with and discomfort over having an inside track on how serial killers operate. The proximity also allows some of Jazz's more terrifying tendencies to rise to the surface in a chilling way: he manipulates people more often, seriously contemplates killing people, and has little to no reaction to seeing dismembered victims, so focused is he on figuring out the mystery.
What I missed in Game that I found so compelling in the first installment was Jazz's internal conflict-- how hard he is trying to outrun his demons and be a good person, and how impossible that seems (his mantra from book one, for instance-- people are real, people matter--only surfaces here and there in book two). A lot of Game felt like set-up for a third installment, and the plot was so complicated I felt like that was almost all I was getting. I think the departure from the exploration of character we got in I Hunt Killers ultimately does a disservice to the story, but it won't stop me from snapping up book three the moment it's out....more
This was one of the best series finales of 2014 for me. It didn't shy away from terrible situations, or try to make a perfect happy ending, and the reThis was one of the best series finales of 2014 for me. It didn't shy away from terrible situations, or try to make a perfect happy ending, and the result is an ending that is truly satisfying to read. The characters are changed irrevocably-- they have lost something significant, but they survived. It felt far more real that the series finales for Daughter of Smoke and Bone and City of Bones did (especially because the latter, and possibly the former clearly set up for new spin-offs rather than telling the story at hand)....more
Second read: Audio, March 2015 Not a fan of the narrator (Will Patton) for the audio. Stiefvater's music intro/outro for the produFirst read: Jan 2012
Second read: Audio, March 2015 Not a fan of the narrator (Will Patton) for the audio. Stiefvater's music intro/outro for the production are fantastic as usual, but Patton's voices for all the characters were terrible. All the women sounded either querulous or like someone you'd call "broad." His voice for Ronan was especially terrible-- he makes him sound like a thug, not a the brilliant, tortured lunatic he is.
Still, the story is so good I kept listening, and now that I've read The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue, returning to the beginning of the story connected lots of details I had forgotten and revealed just how intricately plotted this whole series is. Big ups. ...more
An interesting take on the Persephone myth, this time with Nikki Beckett as the girl who gets sucked under and then returns. Not as good or as fully iAn interesting take on the Persephone myth, this time with Nikki Beckett as the girl who gets sucked under and then returns. Not as good or as fully imagined a take on a myth as Laini Taylor's stories, but fun to read nonetheless. I do think some things were lost in translation in the audio performance; on the page, Nikki is kind of kick-ass / tomboyish, and I felt the narrator portrayed her as weaker than she's meant to be. I also found the "surface" life that Nikki left behind kind of boring-- Jack, her love interest, is a star quarterback, she's the nerdy girl who thinks he'd never go for her, blah blah blah. The love triangle aspect between Nikki, Cole (the Everliving who took her to hell in the first place), and Jack was necessary, given the myth, but still kind of annoying, with lots of male posturing I found kind of unbelievable. I mean, if you were a powerful immortal, you're probably not going to stoop to posturing with a 17 year old quarterback, right? You're going to think he's beneath you. Basically, all the main characters could have been more compelling and complicated, but the basic thrust of the story is interesting, and I liked the spin on the original myth....more
I gave up about 150 pages in. The first in this series, The Darkest Minds was really promising. But this second installment lacked any of the interestI gave up about 150 pages in. The first in this series, The Darkest Minds was really promising. But this second installment lacked any of the interesting world-building, discovery, or characters that had me plowing through the first. I was surprised that this was bad enough for me to put down, considering that this is a planned trilogy, presumably with a trajectory worthy of a massive book deal. I just didn't have the patience to wade through chapters that made no sense or Ruby's wishy-washy ideas about The Children's League / Liam's brother Cole / her minder, etc. The final straw was when I couldn't stop editing sentences in my head for concision-- many of them could literally be half as long. Poor editing, poor pacing and plot continuity, poor character building, and none of the people I fell in love with the first time around. This was frustrating to try to read because I felt like I was being taken for a ride and someone out there was making money off of it. Readers-- particularly teen readers-- deserve better....more
Wow. So. The Shatter Me series is one of those love it or hate it stories. The writing in the first installment is almost excruciating (bizarre metaphWow. So. The Shatter Me series is one of those love it or hate it stories. The writing in the first installment is almost excruciating (bizarre metaphors, scratch outs, internal rhymes that read like a bad slam poetry, and let's not even get into the logistical holes), but there was something incredibly compelling to me about the story, and about Juliette as a character. I kept reading. I actually also listened to the audiobook, which did a great job of softening some of the worst writing and making it less stilted, more real.
Unravel Me was, as second books go, a lot of plot building after the first book's set-up, and Juliette didn't seem to progress much as a character-- it was classic (and annoying) love triangle territory.
What amazed me with this final installment is the massive turn-around in the writing. No scratch-outs. No cringe-worthy metaphors. And Juliette herself is the focus. I loved the turn this story took toward actualization. Juliette realizes that she was never in love with Adam-- that she couldn't be if she felt like there was no one else she could touch, no one else she could choose.
She's also not helpless anymore. She knows what she wants to do (you know, save the world), and she has a plan. And she's no longer losing her mind (hence the huge turnaround in style). And she realizes she needs to fix herself before she can come to a relationship and hope to make it work.
I could criticize the amount of narrative backpedaling it clearly took to change Warner as a character and make him a hero rather than an insane villain. (An entire novella-- Destroy Me-- is devoted to this before we even get to Ignite Me). But I have to admit I always liked him best. I was rooting for him to win somehow, because he was just so sharp and exacting and thrillingly menacing as a villain with a soft spot for this lethal girl. He loses some of his appeal without the menace, but I cared so much about whether Juliette could pull this off and become a whole person on her own, that I didn't much care.
The ending was fast. Almost an afterthought, but that, too, I could accept, because the real work had happened in Juliette's character. The big showdown in which she takes out the supreme and makes herself the leader of the world (yeah, no joke) is just the obvious denouement that follows when she becomes herself-- her complete, actualized, invincible self. It's awesome....more