I liked the ideas in Grasshopper Jungle. Smith seems to be exploring the excitement and frustrations of being a teenager along with a whole bringing a...moreI liked the ideas in Grasshopper Jungle. Smith seems to be exploring the excitement and frustrations of being a teenager along with a whole bringing about the end of the world through the unleashing of unstoppable bugs, but the way they were executed and the way the story jumped all over the place left me feeling perfectly "meh." Teenage boys would love it, though. Did not really love or hate it, just "meh."(less)
With Afterworlds, Scott Westerfeld has written a genre-bending metafiction that does not always work. There are two stories told side by side. Plot A...moreWith Afterworlds, Scott Westerfeld has written a genre-bending metafiction that does not always work. There are two stories told side by side. Plot A is Darcy Patel's story, the author of Plot B, or the story within the story, aka Lizzie's story. Darcy is fresh out of high school with a massive two-book deal that even established author are in awe of. So, of course, she has to move to New York City despite being from Philadelphia. Lizzie is Darcy's protagonist and has survived a terrorist attack by willing herself into the Afterworlds where she meets a Hindu death god by the name of Yamaraj. After that Lizzie can travel to the Afterworlds on her own and occasionally other places. Oh, and she can see ghosts. So, Plot A = more or less realistic YA fiction. Plot B = paranormal romance.
Darcy's part of the book has a nice coming of age/fish out of water arc which features some truly interesting insight into the publishing world along with some obvious, but clever, references to writing and authorship in general. Lizzie's part of the book, unfortunately, does not mirror Darcy's very well other than references made that can be easily traced to discussions between Darcy and her fellow writers. The street seems very one-way from Darcy to Lizzie in terms of strength and influence which creates some imbalance between the stories at times. The plot and character development of Lizzie;s parts feel like amateur hour at times. I don't know if this is on purpose or not, but considering how in love with the book most of the characters connected to Darcy are, I was expecting something better from Plot B.
Weird quibble on my part, perhaps, but when I realized halfway through that all the important characters were mostly filling diversity check boxes and the males were mostly not present or there for the purposes of hotness (actually discussed at some point during Darcy's bits) or villainy (only in Lizzie's bits, but rather more noticeable then), it seemed worth noting. I feel the book would have been better served to start with Lizzie and end with Darcy. My advance copy is in the reverse, which I find a bit odd because Lizzie's first chapter really is that good and Darcy's last chapter has an equally strong ending.
There's enough here to recommend to fans of Westerfeld assuming they'll appreciate the metafictions in play. Given the many fiction elements in play, Afterworlds could be a hard sell outside of the author's fans, though. At times I just found it to be a long slog through a lot of cheap and unnecessary cliffhanger chapter endings in the 600 pages of text. A solid 2.5 stars which I'm willing to round up to 3 stars for the conceptual nature of the work and discussion of issues that authors deal with. Really, though, this feels like it was rushed to a deadline and could have used more development time.
Note: ARC obtained via Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.(less)
Disclaimer to start: I won this through First Reads. Thanks MacMillen. On with the review.
Well, Swain at least gets points for coming up with somethin...moreDisclaimer to start: I won this through First Reads. Thanks MacMillen. On with the review.
Well, Swain at least gets points for coming up with something different for a dystopian YA novel. The truth is that I was really enjoying this for a while. Hungry is the story of Thalia Apple. (Yeah, if you're reading the title and that name, it's more than symbolic.) She's seventeen and a privy, aka, her parents are super important scientists in the inner loops of society and she's got a whole lot of advantages as a result. Surprisingly, or not, Thalia has a hard time accepting that the society she's living, basically a technological utopia where the corporation One World provides for everyone's needs and no one is hungry because of some crazy genetic manipulation. But she's feeling these pangs and having these weird dreams which lead her to meet Basil (more symbolism!). He's from the outer loops and is really not privileged. Basically, the world that Thalia believes exists is not what actually exists. Existential crisis? Yeah, no, she's pretty good about accepting that. It's only later when she starts really wondering where her worldview went wrong and, well ...
One of the strengths of the book is that Thalia, as narrator, eases readers into the crazy of things. If she thinks something is normal, then we kind of go along with it. If she thinks something might be a little funky, then yeah, we really start to question it. The first half of the book is pretty interesting in comparing the good and the bad of the whole hunger, not needing food thing. It's later when we're basically forced to trade one evil for another and believe that Thalia hasn't at least allowed certain thoughts to cross her mind that the trouble begins. Basically, the book is three sections, the first and last of which are two sides of the same coin and the middle one is the journey there.
But on the plus side, this book does not seem to be sprouting a whole series. I hope, anyway. There's a lot of the usual teen drama and angst. There are, surprisingly, main characters of color (Thalia's grandparents are African American and Vietnamese, respectively). Swain attempts to create something new and different that allows for dialogue about things like corporations being in charge of running the world and world hunger. The book is not really a great conversation starter, though. By the end everything feels rather familiar. I think it's time we retire the YA dystopian genre because even with "new" ideas, this book proves the same things seem to be repeated.
Good, not great. If you're looking for YA Dystopian settings, try it out. If you're tired of that, don't try it out.(less)
Apparently I love to torture myself because I hated having to read Wuthering Heights in school, so I really should have avoided this one. It was just...moreApparently I love to torture myself because I hated having to read Wuthering Heights in school, so I really should have avoided this one. It was just as awful and maybe more so since it's a pretty close re-imagining of Emily Bronte's book. So, that's your first warning. If Wuthering Heights was not your thing, this definitely will not be either. Warning number two, I do not have a clue who the target audience is aside from E. Bronte enthusiasts. The characters are largely grownups, though the middle section does feature the early years of Damek and Lina to some degree. Mostly they're just spoiled, selfish adults. Warning three, you will not like any of the characters which I believe is sort of the point but does not for comfortable or necessarily enjoyable reading make.
Okay, enough warnings. I'm going to be nice and give this book a two star by sheer virtue of the fact I was able to read in an afternoon. Beyond that, however, I found it largely incomprehensible as it had no discernible plot, the writing was pretentious every time Hammel (responsible for the prologue/epilogue basically) was narrating, and Black Spring is largely a long rambling exposition rather than a sensible story. Seriously, it feels like a Bronte or someone from that time period was writing, which is the other reason I give it two stars, for the weird almost authenticity of the writing. There's little dialogue and not very much I found likeable in this book. Enough said.
If you're curious about plot, the best I could figure out was that Lina likes Damek and Damek likes Lina but circumstances get in the way as much as they do and some awful things happen to both of them. All terribly depressing. Oh, and the villagers keep killing some folk from another village as part of a vendetta so basically everyone's dying of something. See? Cheery... or not. I cannot in good conscience recommend this book.
Disclaimer: free ARC obtained through Amazon Vine for an honest review.(less)