**spoiler alert** In The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, Benjamin Hale introduces us to Bruno, a chimpanzee with language skills (and a knowledge of ar**spoiler alert** In The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, Benjamin Hale introduces us to Bruno, a chimpanzee with language skills (and a knowledge of art, music and literature that would put most Renaissance Men to shame) who considers himself more human than animal. Bruno’s story is absolutely fascinating, with one glaring exception. Fortunately, the good far outweighs the bad. I loved the concept of the book, which was unlike anything I’ve ever read. I loved Bruno as a narrator, despite the fact that he was equal parts insightful and insufferable. I even loved the relationship between Bruno and Lydia. Before I go any further: yes, there is human/chimp sex, and yes, it is described in some detail. In the hands of a lesser writer, this could have been a disaster. However, I think Hale handles it perfectly- their physical relationship is a crucial part of the story, it’s completely believable, and although it makes the reader (understandably) uncomfortable, it is far from the most disturbing aspect of this book. That award goes to the frog- oh God, the frog...
Now for the bad part, which is that this otherwise amazing book took a bizarre and frustrating turn after Bruno escaped from the research facility and found himself in New York City. This part of the story was well written and funny, but it just didn’t fit with the rest of the book. I felt like I was reading a lost chapter from A Confederacy of Dunces, starring Leon Smoler as Ignatius J. Reilly and Bruno the Talking Chimp as his equally ridiculous sidekick. The transition from the seriousness of Bruno’s life in Chicago (complete with a deathly ill love interest and throngs of religious protesters picketing his apartment building at all times) to the absurdity of his life in New York was jarring, and I had trouble focusing on this part of the book because I kept wondering what was happening in Chicago in Bruno’s absence.
That being said, this was still a wonderful book. Hale’s insights on language, evolution, and what it means to be human were fascinating, and Bruno was the perfect narrator for this story. At times funny (“The Gnome Chompy,” anyone?) and at times sad (the heartbreaking backstories of Hilarious Larry and Hilarious Lily), The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is a book I won’t soon forget....more
I loved the premise of this book, and I only wish I loved the actual book half as much. In Uglies, Westerfeld creates a world in which all sixteen yeaI loved the premise of this book, and I only wish I loved the actual book half as much. In Uglies, Westerfeld creates a world in which all sixteen year olds undergo a series of surgical procedures that make them "pretty." The stated purpose of this procedure is to eliminate appearance-based discrimination by making everyone look the same. Like most Uglies, Tally longs for the day when she will become pretty- not only because all Uglies seem to suffer from a special sort of institutionalized self-loathing, but because the Pretties seem so different... so much happier. However, Tally’s friend Shay wants to leave the city and join a small community of runaways living in the wilderness. Why would anyone want to leave the city, you ask? Well, very few people actually know what is involved in turning an Ugly into a Pretty, and as you may have guessed, more is altered than just the Uglies’ physical appearances. In Uglies, Tally finds herself in the middle of an ongoing struggle between the city and the runaways, and she is forced to choose between her friends and her own desire to become a Pretty at any cost.
Again, I really did love the premise of this book. I thought it was a fresh and original twist on the YA dystopian fiction genre, and I was excited to see what Westerfeld would do with it. However, I was incredibly disappointed when I discovered that this fantastic premise was wasted on a very mediocre book. The writing was OK, but Uglies was still a letdown. The characters were mostly unlikeable, especially Tally and Shay. At times, it was a bit heavy-handed, especially when criticizing the Rusties for being stupid tree-killers and what not. The nail in the coffin for me, though, was all the overblown teen melodrama (and this is even more true of the sequels, Pretties and Specials). I’m not trying to insult YA lit here at all- I’ve read lots of teen books that were so well written and had such compelling stories that I never noticed or cared that they were YA- but sadly, this wasn’t one of them.
I’m giving Uglies 3/5 stars because the concept was so good, even though the actual book left much to be desired. I would give the trilogy as a whole 2/5 stars, because the sequels, Pretties and Specials, lacked any of the charm of Uglies. I would recommend this book to teenagers, and only to teenagers. Adults who enjoy YA lit will probably be disappointed....more