2 1/2 stars. Here’s the problem: this is a good book, but I just didn’t really like it that much.
Comparisons between The Last One and Station Eleven a2 1/2 stars. Here’s the problem: this is a good book, but I just didn’t really like it that much.
Comparisons between The Last One and Station Eleven are spot on, in my opinion. So if you liked the latter, there's a good chance this book will suit your tastes more. It's another dense, wordy, literary post-apocalyptic novel. It's clever, and yet I found it emotionally distant.
Oliva presents us with a great premise - a reality TV show turned nightmare. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods with zero knowledge of what to expect. The show is about survival and is meant to test their limits, this they know, but no one knows just how far the producers are willing to go. So when corpses and devastation show up, it's kind of assumed that this is just a twisted, staged part of the game.
Yeah, it isn't.
Unbeknownst to the contestants, a pandemic has broken out and shit has gotten really bad. Communications have broken down and there's nobody out there to pull them from the game. So this survival "game" turns into something very real.
Interspersed with Reddit-like forums, The Last One is a book about the media, reality TV culture and the way our obsession with both impacts us in the modern - and post modern - worlds. It's a fantastic idea.
I also can't argue that Oliva spends a lot of time on her characters, especially Zoo. They get description and development and oh so many words, but as with Station Eleven, I was never convinced that the main character(s) were worth reading about. I appreciated the book in a kind of abstract way, but never engaged with it or cared where it was leading.
For the most part, it's a very slow and dry survival story. It alternates between the present where Zoo is experiencing a dying world and doesn't know it, and the start of the competition where the contestants are referred to by nicknames like "Banker" and "Cheerleader Boy". This way of treating the contestants as things and not people was interesting, but also didn't help me warm to them.
With only a few rare exceptions, I’m just not the type of person to enjoy a story without caring for the characters. I don't have to like them, but I have to be interested. Oh, the world ended! But what does it really matter if there’s no one in this world I find interesting?
A smart book, with a lot of thought obviously gone into it. Probably more interesting to study than it is enjoyable to read.
Another series that opened with a great concept and now doesn’t know what to do with it.
I saw it in series like Ee's Angelfall and Green's Half Bad. TAnother series that opened with a great concept and now doesn’t know what to do with it.
I saw it in series like Ee's Angelfall and Green's Half Bad. These books introduce us to vivid, fascinating worlds that captivate us, and then the sequels begin to wander aimlessly. Ink and Bone was full of secrets, alchemy, villains and books, set in a unique world where the Great Library of Alexandria (Egypt) rules. Paper and Fire is predictable, forgettable and kind of boring.
The first book rode the wave of its premise and world-building. Now that it's time to actually turn an interesting idea into a story arc that can span multiple books, it stalls. Paper and Fire is a sequel caught somewhere between a 2011 dystopia and a book where nothing happens.
Once again, Caine attempts to use her world-building to inject some life into this book… and it sort of works. There’s no doubt this world is dazzling. But is it enough? For me, the answer is no. I’ve already been dazzled by this world in the first book; I’m ready for more now.
What is the plot here? What really happens in this book? There's action scenes, sure, but what do they contribute to the overall story? Aren't we just reading another book with the same old generic plot? No, but really. Teenagers becoming part of a military resistance to try to overthrow a system is literally the plot of hundreds of other YA novels.
And Jess Brightwell simply does not carry this story. He is a dull spark in this bright world and neither him nor any of the other characters are particularly interesting once the novelty wears off. The romance between him and Morgan feels manufactured for the sake of checking off the romance box - the two are so bland together, so lacking in any chemistry that I couldn't understand why the author thought anyone would want them to be together (or care either way).
Yes, I'm in love with the world and the concept behind it... but it's just not quite enough for me when I honestly do not care what happens to anybody. The thought of Jess dying does not even move me. There will have to be some seriously gushing reviews for me to try the third book.
“They were never scared of the kids who might die, or the empty spaces they would leave behind. They were afraid of us-the ones who lived.”
“They were never scared of the kids who might die, or the empty spaces they would leave behind. They were afraid of us-the ones who lived.”
Ever since The Darkest Minds was released at the height of the dystopian craze in 2012, I think I've been subconsciously saving it to enjoy at a later date when the hype died down and I was no longer sick of reading YA dystopias. With an average rating of over 4.3, I was sure that I would enjoy it when I eventually gave in. But now, to be honest, I am clueless to where the hype stems from.
The strongest part of the book is undoubtedly the first 20-25%. Bracken creates a frightening world where a plague tears through kids, killing most of them and leaving the survivors with weird powers. Psi powers, as they are soon called by the terrified adults. Ruby is just ten years old when her powers surface and she is sent to Thurmond - a "rehabilitation" camp for the Psi kids. For six years, though, she manages to keep the extent of her power secret, until one day the truth comes out and she must flee Thurmond in order to stay alive.
This first part kept me hooked, hence the extra star. Thurmond is suitably dire and Ruby's fear suitably realistic enough to make it interesting. But after she escapes, what follows are three-hundred pages of an extended road trip. And, hell, it was so slooooowwwwww.
Perhaps it would have been okay if I'd found Ruby more interesting, less irritating. I found her inner whining, cowardice, and reluctance to use her powers for anything (even when it would have been so freaking useful!) just plain annoying.
I thought the romance was thrown in for no other reason than because people expect it from the genre. Liam was sweet enough, but I never felt any chemistry between them. In fact, Ruby's earlier comments about her being educated to 4th grade level and her obvious emotional immaturity made the romance seem kind of weird to me.
But mostly, I just wished it would pick up. They rode around in a truck called "Black Betty", constantly running from someone or looking for something else. The author threw in a few car chases in an attempt to speed up this road trip, but it didn't work. I'm amazed I actually managed to struggle through those hundreds of pages in the middle, given that at least 200 pages could have been cut from The Darkest Minds and it still would have told the same story.
And - not sure if this is considered a spoiler but just in case - (view spoiler)[the plot comes back to where we started before the road trip, anyway! The plot moves at a good pace until 20%, then there's a road trip where very little happens beyond the romance, then in the last part of the book we end up back at the 20% point. What a waste of time and paper. (hide spoiler)]
The only consolation is that I'd heard the sequel wasn't as good as this anyway, so at least I'm not feeling the need to read it. So disappointing, though.
Seriously, this book. I don't even know how to begin trying to describe how I feel about 5 to 1. Let's look at all the great points. It's a super quicSeriously, this book. I don't even know how to begin trying to describe how I feel about 5 to 1. Let's look at all the great points. It's a super quick read that I powered through in one sitting. It has so much girl power but ultimately imparts the message that everyone is a human being deserving of respect, regardless of gender or anything else. There is absolutely ZERO romance. That's right... none. I really liked both Sudasa and Kiran. It's full of very important issues relevant to both India and the rest of the world...
And yet, the world-building is sketchy, the society poorly-conceived and the ending so... meh.
I think, given the importance of the issues lying beneath this fictional story, the lens was too narrow. The entire book spans a few days and barely steps outside the world of the "Tests". No wonderful glimpses into a culture so rarely seen in YA, no rich world-building. So many missed opportunities.
The plot begins in the year 2054. After gender selection and female infanticide (a very real problem in India) caused a gender imbalance of 5 to 1 and girls became the target of rapists, the women of Koyanagar decided they could build a better society on their own. They erected a wall around their city and established a matriarchal society in which boys must compete in the Tests for a wife. Men are also deemed unfit for law, politics and medicine; they're only purpose in life is to father daughters.
"Boys are taught only useful things. Things that will help them serve the women in Koyanagar."
What the author basically does is reverse gender roles and circumstances - something which had the potential to be fascinating and powerful. However, while the drama of the Tests is compelling, a closer look reveals that this book is built on a very loose premise that only manages to hold up the novel because we are shown such a small amount of this world.
For one thing, how were these women simply able to seize a city and name themselves the leaders? That's like me just deciding one day that I want to build a wall around my home town, declare myself president, and everyone just being all "well, this sucks, but better do as she says". Sadly, that will never happen. Also, we are told that boys are no longer trusted but never told why. I understand how great an idea it is to reverse the gender roles in India and make girls more desired and the boys disposable, but without the whys and hows, it's just an interesting concept that never evolves into a believable story.
It seems like I've been very negative but I did enjoy this book. It was told from two POVs - Sudasa in free verse and Kiran in prose - and I really liked both characters. They were strong, pleasingly rebellious, and I sympathized with both their situations. Oddly, I actually wouldn't have minded a romance between the two of them. Bloody typical. But the lack of romance was a pleasant change. I feel like many authors build up the characterization of their male and female MCs through their romance with each other, whereas Sudasa and Kiran were interesting in their own right.
The ending kind of drifts off and I thought it seemed like a bit of a cop-out, but part of me wonders if the author has deliberately left it open for a potential second book. The many problems aside, if that is the case, then I'd like to read it.
.............................................................. Before reading:
Reasons this could be really amazing:
- It is a dystopia set in a future India - The gender imbalance is a very real issue - It could provide interesting social commentary - It is told in two POVs, one in verse and the other in prose
I am trying not to get too excited that an original YA dystopian concept might exist, but...
...a fast-paced plot? Personally, though I can appreciate the attraction of slow-moving dystopian fic3.5 stars
What makes a good dystopian sci-fi novel?
...a fast-paced plot? Personally, though I can appreciate the attraction of slow-moving dystopian fiction that gradually uses subtle language and events to paint a portrait of the world in peril, I much prefer the kind that drags me in, makes me immediately aware of the danger and forces me to sit on the edge of my seat, freaking out over whether the main characters will ever get through this. Free to Fall does that. I spent the entire novel needing to know what was going on, desperate for answers and afraid for Rory.
...a premise grounded in science? Maybe this isn't important for everyone, but I love dystopian fiction that uses scientific language to enthrall me. I suppose it's hard to keep the balance between scientifically-detailed and not boring, but Miller does it very well. As with her last book, she builds her story close to scientific facts and makes it feel like something that is not only possible, but quite likely for the future. Which brings me onto my next point.
...a believable story? When I say "believable", I don't necessarily mean "realistic", part of the excitement of good sci-fi is to stretch to new possibilities and impossibilities and convince us of their likelihood. And I think Free to Fall's believability is it's strongest quality. This does not feel like a completely alien world that could never happen in a million years, nor does it feel like a mashed together bundle of phrases like "oppression" and "control" without any sense of how it happened. The world Rory lives in feels only a few small steps from where we are now. While some of the technology might be a little ambitious (or not - who knows?), Miller has created a convincing world that I can see happening. It doesn't feel like fantasy; it feels how, IMO, dystopian fiction should.
...good characters? I liked Rory for the most part and was sympathetic towards her situation - it mattered to me whether she would find out what was going on and make it through okay. Most of all, I liked her growth and the way she learned and gained new perspectives as the story moved along. One reason I gave Miller's first novel such a low rating was because I disliked the bitchy main characters who looked down on so-called "slutty" girls and I wondered if this might go the same way at first. But Miller surprised me. At first, Hershey is introduced as a popular ditzy girl who wears revealing clothing and Rory is annoyed to discover they will have to be roommates. But as time goes by, the two very different girls develop an understanding between them that turns to friendship... their relationship was my favourite in the whole book.
So why only 3.5 stars?
In short: a boring love story. I don't know why this is a requirement, I really don't. It seems to appear in almost every YA book, regardless of genre. Romance can be an interesting component in a story and can make you even more invested in the characters, but this one was yet another that was dull, lacking in any chemistry I could see, and pointless. I spent the romantic parts of this book hoping they would soon be over so we could get back to the very interesting science-related mysteries going on. I don't know why every heroine has to team up with some hottie in order to figure things out and save the day anyway.
But, despite this...
I enjoyed the book a lot. It's not often that I return to authors I've mentally blacklisted after a bad experience but I'm really pleased that I gave Lauren Miller a second chance. She writes in a compelling way and weaves a story that is fast-paced, full of constant twists and turns, and actually interesting. The discussions about morality really made me think and Rory's school lessons were almost as exciting as the ones in HP - the classes were all completely new so each one held something to discover. I hope she writes more books I can geek out over soon :)
This book sounds ridiculous. I'm not sure if I'm just adding it because I'm pretty damn hungry right now.
You know, I think I could write a dystopia -This book sounds ridiculous. I'm not sure if I'm just adding it because I'm pretty damn hungry right now.
You know, I think I could write a dystopia - just make something everyone loves illegal and dum, dum, dum... it's the end of the world. Coffee and chocolate have already been taken by Gabrielle Zevin, dammit. Maybe I could outlaw small fluffy animals. Or tea! It could be a British dystopia where all the tea is gone! (what will I do?).*
Now for some foods (you're welcome):
* I will probably need to be saved by a tea-wielding boy with a tortured soul for it to be a bestseller....more
As with Brave New World, I think I'm inviting insults to my intelligence by saying this, but sometimes Mr Bacigalupi is just a little too heavy for meAs with Brave New World, I think I'm inviting insults to my intelligence by saying this, but sometimes Mr Bacigalupi is just a little too heavy for me.
I really like and appreciate what the author tries to do, both the strength of his writing and his focus on the dystopian but not unrealistic futures that could occur due to climate change. I enjoyed The Windup Girl and I especially loved The Drowned Cities. The latter was such a powerful and horrifying book about the effects of war, particularly on kids.
There were things about The Water Knife that I can and will praise highly. Things that made me want to thrust it into the hands of anyone who bothers to listen to my recommendations.
And then there are passages like this:
"Numbers flickering over the various catchment basins of the Rocky Mountains - red, amber, green - monitoring how much snow cover remained and variation off the norm as it melted. Other numbers, displaying the depths of reservoirs and dams, from the Blue Mesa Dam on the Gunnison, to the Navajo Dam on the San Juan, to the Flaming Gorge Dam on the Green. Over it all, emergency purchase prices on streamflows and futures offers scrolled via NASDAQ, available open-market purchase options if she needed to recharge the depth in Lake Mead[...]"
that made me think...
You see, whatever kind of pretty label we try to dress Bacigalupi's books up in - like "dystopian", "post-apocalyptic" or "steampunk" - the truth is that he writes old-fashioned, hard, sciencey science-fiction. It seems wrong to criticize the guy just for being so much smarter than me, but his frequent descriptions of the climate, water scarcity, and its economic impact had me completely lost and made the book so slow at times. I had flashbacks to when I was in college and had to write an essay on the water wars between India and Pakistan.
The reason I probably don't fall in love with a lot of traditional sci-fi is because I like people-based stories. Even the most inventive of plot ideas can leave me feeling cold if I don't give a damn who it's happening to. Which is actually why I still really enjoyed a lot of this book. When we're not learning about the environment, we get to meet some damn interesting characters.
This is a world where water shortages have given rise to the water equivalent of drug lords and the spies/terrorists who work for them - water knifes. Angel Velasquez is one of the best and baddest water knifes and he's been sent to Phoenix to investigate the rumours of a new water source. But he's going to have to get past Lucy Monroe, a strong and badass character who I liked immediately.
In fact, the author has created some fascinating characters here. His action scenes are perfectly-constructed, his dialogue is realistic and a pleasure to read. He adds just the right amount of grit and creep factor to a few chapters that had me on the edge of my seat. It's just a shame that roughly half of this book was a struggle to get through. The fact that I kept pushing through the mind-numbing bits to get to the good stuff should tell you how much I thought it was worth it.
I picture Erin Bow smiling evilly as she wrote this book. I'm smiling now just thinking about the trap - disguised as the safe and old - that this booI picture Erin Bow smiling evilly as she wrote this book. I'm smiling now just thinking about the trap - disguised as the safe and old - that this book lures you into.
Because you know exactly what this is, right? You've read the description and you think you know what’s coming, don't you? A future world where an evil tyrant has taken over and enforced a set of crazy rules. A future world through the eyes of a female narrator who becomes irrevocably changed when a new boy comes into her life. You know this story.
Except this isn't the story you think you know. The Scorpion Rules is a clever, subversive addition to the dystopian genre. It takes the tropes we've all come to expect and it gives them the middle finger. It walks out into a genre where it's almost impossible to be shocked anymore and somehow constantly throws up surprises.
In this world, an artificial intelligence called Talis has taken over. Talis maintains peace by taking a hostage from every world leader - their heirs, known as "Children of Peace". If any government declares war, their child dies. These children are kept in a Talis-controlled centre and taught history and politics. Every day they wonder if their parents will have given in and gone to war. Every day they wonder if they're going to die.
But here's the thing. This book's "evil villain" is not a one-dimensional, mindlessly-cruel ruler. Talis is charming, witty and likable. We might not agree with everything he does, but since when did everyone agree with everything a governing body does? He has essentially taken over the U.N. and acts in its place. He holds children hostage and prevents even the poorest nations from acting out against the system. And yet, he has established world peace.
He's a fascinating character and it's easy to draw parallels between him and real-world leaders who make difficult, unpopular decisions for the good of their country.
And that new boy - Elián - disrupts the faux peace, but he is not the love interest in this novel. No, that would be Princess Xie. Though the book has very little romance, anyway.
Fans of simplistic world-building, fuelled-by-action books like Divergent might struggle with this. It's a complex, sophisticated piece of science-fiction and occasionally becomes a little info-heavy. But I found it so refreshing to see something this original and thought-provoking come to the dystopian genre. I enjoyed it immensely.
Maybe I'm being generous. Or unfair. I can't decide exactly how I feel about Jordan's latest young adult novel - Uninvited. I recently had my low expeMaybe I'm being generous. Or unfair. I can't decide exactly how I feel about Jordan's latest young adult novel - Uninvited. I recently had my low expectations trampled on by her impressive contribution to the new adult craze - Foreplay - and couldn't wait to see what more she had to offer. But Uninvited was a disappointment. It suffered from flaws in the very foundation of the story and the characters, even though the author's writing was compulsively readable enough to make me sail through it in a day and still up my rating to three stars. It's a combination of addictive, fast-paced plotting and a worn out, unconvincing story. It's entertaining, but also has a disappointingly weak protagonist. It wasn't bad and yet it could have been so much better.
There is much to celebrate and Uninvited will no doubt be an easy sell for many teens. The plot moves at a breakneck pace, dragging us into the action and drama from the very first chapter and delivering new punches at every turn. It reminded me somewhat of Divergent in this sense - I found myself simultaneously shaking my head at the ridiculous ideas I was asked to believe and reading on like a crazy person in my need to see what would happen next. Even in this you can see that Jordan is used to writing books for adults or "new adults" in the mature themes she doesn't shy away from incorporating. There are plenty of descriptions of violence that aren't sugarcoated for a younger audience... and I kinda liked that. In fact, this book contains that which is perhaps most important when writing a good dystopian book - a very real sense of fear, frustration and helplessness. I've read plenty of dystopian books that have failed to convince me that things are really that bad, but there's no danger of that here.
The story is about a music prodigy - Davy Hamilton - whose life is ruined when she is tested for and found to have Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS), also known as the kill gene. Abandoned by her friends, feared by her parents and forced to change schools, Davy finds that other carriers like her might be the only people she can turn to. Even though the idea is a bit daft (well, it is), it sort of half works. I can see what the author was trying to do and many interesting ideas are brought to the table... about nature vs nurture, about humanity, about evil and hypocrisy, but I do think the romance dampens all the other powerful messages floating around. So many ideas are pushed aside by the spotlight stealing cliche of a good girl/bad boy romance. I thought we were going to learn something important but it turns out it's another one all about being saved by lurrrve.
And I thought Davy was a weak character. It was probably a deliberate move in a bid to make us more sympathetic towards a girl who'd been accused of being a killer, but it actually made her more annoying. A lot of emphasis is placed on who she's going to find to protect her - and many opportunities are set up for Sean to swoop in and save her ass - and she had a tendency to be mind-numbingly stupid. She stupidly puts herself in a lot of dangerous situations and constantly requires saving by Sean, neither fact particularly endeared me to either of them. But the worst bit of all was when Sean knelt over Davy, pushing her down into the bed, just to prove that she was vulnerable to anyone who wanted to rape her. It made me feel pretty sick.
Hmm, I'm not sure if I'll be continuing with the second book. I think I might just wait and see what the reviews are like before making a decision. But I will look out for more of Jordan's novels.
1 1/2 stars. If this book was written 5-6 years ago and I had read it then, maybe I would have liked it. Maybe. Back before the formula it uses was us1 1/2 stars. If this book was written 5-6 years ago and I had read it then, maybe I would have liked it. Maybe. Back before the formula it uses was used in every single dystopian novel. Back when I was less likely to see the huge gaping holes in it.
I judge a book on the entire story and effect, but also look at individual things - characters, writing, world-building and plot. And I must say that this book doesn't do anything that well.
Let's look at the characters. There are two POVs, Rachel and Logan, a fact that these days immediately gives away the romance that is sure to come. But whatever, that isn't important. More damning is the fact that these POVs seem identical - if their names were not at the start of the chapters, it would be hard to distinguish them from one another.
In general, these are not particularly well thought-out or developed characters. Rachel is an orphaned girl rebelling against the sexism in her dystopian/paranormal (future? alternate?) society. Huh, haven't seen that one before. Logan is her bland, but self-sacrificing love interest.
Rachel is clearly supposed to be tough and brave and yet her actions just seem stupid. Constantly putting your life at risk without having a real plan isn’t realistic or clever. Some people are brave, but most people are self-preserving first. If not, bravery quickly becomes foolishness. Not surprisingly, her rebellions mostly fail.
In fact, the plot moves forward by failures. Every bit of drama is created out of Rachel and Logan constantly screwing up their plans and getting themselves in a load of trouble. At first, it was just cringy to watch them constantly propel themselves into bad situations, later it became boring.
The story is actually pretty vague. Rachel and Logan live in this town called Baalboden, surrounded by a wall, and we learn in the beginning that Rachel's father has not returned from doing something over the wall and now he's been declared dead. Rachel refuses to accept it and decides to go find out what really happened to him. Because of Rachel's idiotic actions, Logan gets caught up in it too.
Then there's this world. What world is it anyway? There is little world-building and it’s hard to tell if this is supposed to be our world in the future, an alternate version of our world, or a completely different world entirely. We are told that the “modern world” was destroyed by the Cursed Ones and this society was formed with its wall to keep them out. And the founders of this society happened to be crazy sexist too.
Lots of books, particularly YA dystopias, use sexism to engage the readers - yeah, make us angry! Make us want to scream at the unfairness! - but here it feels just like a plot tool. There’s no depth to it, no social critique, no examining why it exists in this society or what it means for them. It’s just a bit of added drama to try and draw out sympathy for Rachel (it doesn't work).
The sexism is just one more element of this book that hasn't been thought about. It's just been thrown in. As is also true of the cruel, mindlessly evil antagonist. The Commander is literally the equivalent of a cackling man sat in a high-backed chair, enjoying the doom he is imparting. He flogged Logan’s mother to death, threatens to rape Rachel, and randomly kills his guards for LOLZ. I get it - he's the bad guy.
Also, I've heard other reviewers sometimes talk about "over-writing", but I don't think I've ever really appreciated what they mean until reading this book. There are some very strange phrases, metaphors and analogies used for things that could have (and should have) been said quite simply:
'I’d rather combine every element on the Periodic Table and take my chances with the outcome than humble myself before the Commander.’
That's a really awkward and weird way of saying you don't want to humble yourself before the Commander. So strange.
I'm glad I finally read this just to satisfy my curiosity. Now I can move on to better books and not look back at this series.
What a pleasant surprise! I didn't realise I'd added Landry Park to my mental list entitled "just another dystopia" until it managed to completely pro
What a pleasant surprise! I didn't realise I'd added Landry Park to my mental list entitled "just another dystopia" until it managed to completely prove me wrong. My first thought after finishing this book is that it's probably more suited to fans of historical fiction than the typical dystopia. The style of writing, the plot, the characters and the setting all feel like something straight out of an historical novel. If you ask me, it worked very well.
The story starts as I might have expected. There's a female protagonist, it's set in a future United States (no longer so united), something has happened to change the social order, there's a hot guy, there's a bitchy girl... you know how this one goes, right? Because you've seen all this a million times, yes? Well, apparently not. As the story unravels, more questions arise and characters receive greater development. The world-building is spread over the novel but is refreshingly intricate and fascinating. The story is full of surprises, both in the main plot line and in the cast of characters. And sometimes who can resist a bit of the backstabbing, rivalry and family scandals found beneath the riches and pretty ballgowns of the upper classes?
This "dystopia" (or perhaps "utopia", depending on your point of view) is all about class. It's about wealth, knowledge, power and the relationship between the three. The setting is the beautiful Landry estate in a future United States which is ruled by the gentry. The main character - Madeline Landry - has lived in luxury her whole life and has long known her destiny to be the next ruler of the Landry estate. But Madeline has always been a bit feisty and rebellious. She isn't sure she's ready to walk down the path her family has laid out for her. As she begins to discover the truth behind the society in which she lives, she finds herself obligated to challenge the poor treatment of the Rootless (the lowest class in society). But her good intentions prove to be more dangerous than she could have imagined and she starts to unearth secrets that have been hidden for generations.
What I really liked most of all was the way each character was handled. Hagen introduces us to individuals who we think we know at first, we think we can slot them into neat categories of heroine, love interest and mean girl. But each one is more than that. I love it when YA authors don't neglect complex character development and remember that people are multilayered. Each character surprised me in Landry Park and I especially loved the friendship that grew between Madeline and Cara when it had first seemed as if they were typical teen girl rivals.
Beautifully written, occasionally dark and surprisingly addictive... I hate the term "an author to watch" but I know I'll be keeping an eye out for more books by Ms Hagen.
That's it. No more YA dystopias for Emily. I think I've said this before so I might be lying again, but I am so ready to get away from this exhaustedThat's it. No more YA dystopias for Emily. I think I've said this before so I might be lying again, but I am so ready to get away from this exhausted and overcrowded genre.
Finding some level of originality is a fundamental problem for those authors who decide to jump on the bandwagon and tackle the world of YA dystopian fiction. If you can possibly make a dystopia out of it, then you can bet it's already been written in the past few years since The Hunger Games took centre stage. Every form of tyrannical government has been introduced and overthrown, every possible nightmare world has been explored, every little thing that people love has been outlawed and rediscovered - one of the latest even going so far as to get rid of food!
Therefore, new authors to the genre almost always produce one of two things: 1) a book that is a carbon copy of all the others before it, or 2) a book that has been deliberately over-complicated in a bid to make it seem original. The Murder Complex falls somewhere between those two.
On the one hand, this book seems like nothing we haven't read a million times before. World in the shitter, young lovers from two very different worlds, oppressive government... like a less compelling version of Marie Lu's Legend trilogy, which I do recommend if you haven't checked it out (the first book isn't the best one, though). But in this case, Cummings has also developed a dense plot that left me feeling confused, rather than wowed. One could attribute this to some fault in intelligence on my part, but I feel something less deliberately convoluted would have made the story better. I actually had to go back and read the blurb at times to remind myself of the basic premise.
The narration is split between our two main characters - Meadow and Zephyr. Meadow is a standard YA female MC who is defined by her badassery and willingness to kill if necessary; while I am pleased that seeing women as heroes and fighters is no longer an oddity in fiction, it is hard to care about them when they are so lacking in any real personality and development. Zephyr, on the other hand, is an orphaned Ward whose job it is to clean up the corpses of murder victims. He is also prone to mysterious blackouts and dreams about a silver-haired girl (guess who?). The real problem where the narration is concerned is that the two voices never become particularly distinct - a necessity if multiple POVs is to work.
Plot twists mount up, new discoveries that unmoved me are made, and instalove reigns supreme. I did not hate this book, there were a few scenes that I thought were particularly well-written and engaging. But there was no real spark in this story and, despite the bloody and dramatic plot, I finished it with no interest in what the sequel holds.
I would only recommend this to hardcore dystopian romance fans who want more of the same.
I don't know what I expected from After the End (though probably not much after reading the reviews of Die for Me) but I dWell... colour me surprised.
I don't know what I expected from After the End (though probably not much after reading the reviews of Die for Me) but I definitely didn't expect a book that had me glued to the pages, awake most of the night reading, and laughing out loud on almost every page in the middle section. I had braced myself for "yet another dystopia" and got something more like an entertaining, fast-paced urban fantasy.
Survival. That’s all that’s important. My own survival, and that of my father and clan. I will do anything to guarantee it. And I will use whoever I need to achieve it.
This book starts in the Alaskan wilderness where Juneau has spent her entire life in a small, isolated community. World War III has completely destroyed the world we know and left only this small group of survivors who have managed to stay alive by being at one with nature. Or... that's what Juneau has always been told anyway.
But one day she returns from a hunt to discover that her clan has completely disappeared. Using the powers of nature that she has been taught, Juneau sets out to find them. However, she soon discovers that there is more to the world than what she's always been told. Finding out that the people she trusted the most have been lying to her is a hard pill to swallow, but Juneau has even bigger problems. The people who kidnapped her clan members are after her and she has no idea why. Chased down everywhere she goes, Juneau is forced to team up with an unlikely companion in order to find her family.
I have to be honest: I can see straight away why this book won't be to everyone's liking. Almost all of the exhilarating action occurs in the first and last quarters of the book - this is the heart-pounding, ohmigod-how-will-they-get-out-of-this portion of the book. Despite dystopias being forced down our throats left, right and centre, I found this story extremely compelling and I loved how different the two main characters were. But, yes, the biggest chunk of the book in the middle is about a road trip full of bickering, basic survival/camping skills and the development of the relationship between Juneau and Miles.
And I loved it.
I am so not a big romance person. Or at least not in books that are supposed to be action-packed science fiction. But I found the banter between Juneau and Miles truly hilarious. I had to cover my mouth to avoid waking the whole house up with my giggling. They're just such different people. She's a hardcore hunter who's grown up in the wilderness and knows all about survival and taking care of herself... and he's a guy who got kicked out of high school for cheating on an exam. She thinks he's stupid. He thinks she's crazy. Their conversations were a delight to read.
“The guys who are following you . . . are they dangerous?” Miles asks finally. “Well, normally I would say that Whit wouldn’t hurt a flea. But from what Poe here told me—” “Poe?” Miles interrupts. “The raven,” I say. “You named the bird?” Miles asks, his voice tinged with a note of hysteria. Yet another reason for him to think I’m crazy, I think, and wonder again if that’s not actually a good thing. “Back in Alaska, we named all our animals after literary figures. It was something our teacher Dennis started, so I was thinking that with Edgar Allan Poe’s poem about the raven—” “Yes, thank you . . . I got the reference!” he snaps. His face is flushed red, but he does this deep-breathing thing and calms down a little. “Okay, first of all, we’re not keeping the bird. So don’t name it. I am not driving you to wherever it is we’re going with a wild animal in my backseat.” “He’s not wild,” I protest. “Has it shit on my shirt yet?” Miles asks, his nose wrinkling like he doesn’t really want to know the answer.
I ship them so hard.
And more than this, I really liked the idea behind the story. No spoilers, of course, but I just thought I'd mention how pleasantly surprised I am to find that I can still fall in love with a dystopian book. For me, this book was incredibly addictive and the characters shone with a rare level of personality. My only real issue was with the ending, which seemed a little abrupt. But, oh well, who cares? I really enjoyed it.
I know, I know, I probably shouldn't have read this. But when a series gets to be this popular, I can't help needing to know why. I have friends who LI know, I know, I probably shouldn't have read this. But when a series gets to be this popular, I can't help needing to know why. I have friends who LOVED this and friends who HATED it, so I had to see for myself.
Firstly, the names. Okay, I’d already made peace with America Singer before going into this book. I knew that was her name, I knew it was silly, but whatever, it does not maketh or breaketh a book. But I didn’t know that America Singer was - wait, it’s too good - a singer. Honestly, why did the author think that was a good idea?
People try to excuse her stupid name with “but Katniss Everdeen was a ridiculous name too”. Yes, it was. But let’s think about how much worse it would have been if she’d been Katniss Evergreen, local fir tree.
Secondly, this book really is just like The Bachelor and nothing else. I know we can jokingly compare the competition of beauty pageants and various reality shows to The Hunger Games, but the fact that this is seriously being compared to putting kids in an arena and letting them kill each other is just hilarious. This is about a beautiful girl who gets so pissed when people comment on her obvious beauty:
"Please don't call me gorgeous. First my mom, then May, now you. It's getting on my nerves." By the way Aspen was looking at me, I could tell I wasn't helping my "I'm not pretty" case.
Oh, the pains of people thinking you’re gorgeous.
This beautiful girl enters The Selection - a contest of sorts where the poor competitors volunteer to compete for the heart of a handsome prince.
You’ve probably heard that there’s very little world-building, but I actually wish the author hadn’t bothered with the bit of world-building she tried to throw in. It draws more attention to how bad it is by the vague mention of poverty, children being beaten for stealing food, social castes that are distinguished by numbers, etc. Cass slips in a small mention of these and then very quickly moves onto the smooching.
Also, America’s family are supposed to be a hair’s breadth away from poverty:
“We weren’t destitute. But I guess we weren’t that far off either. Our caste was just three away from the bottom.”
And yet she has makeup products and:
“I had a few nicer dresses for when we worked, but they were hopelessly behind in the fashion department.”
Bloody hell, is this really supposed to be a dystopia to anyone other than Paris Hilton? Oh no, I have only a few nice dresses, what is this world?!
But America’s shallow self-centredness extends beyond her obsession with dresses, makeup and denying her own beauty. She somehow manages to see herself as a voice of righteousness for the people and yet she doesn’t even bother to learn the names of her maids at first. She has some notion (that I assume we’re supposed to accept as well) that she’s a really great person because she lowers herself to hang out with castes below her. Isn’t she a sweetie for mingling with the commoners?
The characters never develop beyond the most shallow archetypes - bitchy mean girls, “nice” best friend, banal love interest - all topped off with a Mary Sue protagonist. And Prince Maxon himself is about as sexy as a doorknob, with even fewer brain cells. How creepy is it that he says:
“You are all dear to me. It is simply a matter of discovering who shall be the dearest.”
Is that meant to be cute? Because it isn’t cute. It’s weird.
Just one more thing. I wasn't going to go into details about the world-building. To be honest, I went into The Selection willing to forgive it for not being very good on that front. I mean, it's obvious that this book wasn't written for people who care deeply about historical, political and socioeconomic factors. But Cass should have continued being vague, she really should have. Things just went even further downhill when she tried to paint in a back story.
How did this world come about? Well, obviously there was a Third World War, duh. And if you had the most basic understanding of history, guess which countries might have invaded - yes, invaded, lol - the United States. China, you say? Bingo! Oh, and maybe the Russians? Yup, those too! I cringe just remembering it.
Also, why would China invade the US?
"When the United States couldn't repay their massive debt, the Chinese invaded. Unfortunately for them, this didn't get them any money, as the United States was beyond bankruptcy."
Is this for real?? Why would China be so stupid? Did they think they could just march in and seize the money the Americans wouldn't give them? And then when they don't get their money, they create "The American State of China." Which then gets invaded by an expansionist Russia!
This was way worse than if the author had simply offered no explanation for this society. It's a completely crazy explanation. Maybe Cass assumed her YA audience would be so history-dumb that it wouldn't matter if countries did stupid things for stupid reasons.
I guess I learned my lesson about trying out those "popular" books I never read.