". . . Without knowledge that life can be different, there can be no desire to change it."
In the land of Quill, all thirteen-year-olds are sent to t". . . Without knowledge that life can be different, there can be no desire to change it."
In the land of Quill, all thirteen-year-olds are sent to the annual Purge where they will be divided into Wanted and Unwanted. For twin brothers Alex and Aaron, this day is especially daunting as they are both now thirteen and reluctant to separate. Or at least Alex is and would like to believe his brother reciprocates this sentiment. On the day of the Purge Alex is unsurprisingly categorized as Unwanted and his brother Aaron is chosen as a Wanted. Feeling scared and helpless, Alex goes off to meet his death along with his fellow Unwanteds. But when he arrives at the Death Farmer's doorstep, he is surprised to find a land where magic and creativity thrive. Animated origami dragons; giant talking tortoises; and a montrous, winged cheetah named Simber are just a few of the many astonishing creatures that can be found in Artime. Still, when the Unwanteds arrive in Artime they expect to be executed momentarily. But instead all of the children are quickly assured by Mr. Today that this shall not be their fate. Known to the people of Quill as the "Death Farmer," Mr. Today has spent many years perfecting Artime and making it a safe haven for the Unwanteds. As you can imagine, this revelation is as surprising as it is a saving grace for the kids. But if any members of the Quilitary found out of their rebellion, it would mean a sure death for all involved. This, of course, means that neither Alex nor any of the other Unwanteds are allowed to contact anyone — friends, relatives, authorities — in Quill. Although sad at the prospect of never seeing his brother again, with his friends supporting him, Alex moves into Artime and begins a whole new life.
Kirkus Reviews hails The Unwanteds as "the Hunger Games meets Harry Potter." After having read it myself, I must agree. This is not to say that I believe McMann is attempting to subtly copy the two bestselling series as a means to gain more attention for her fledgling series. No, I believe that she has — whether knowingly or not, I won't speculate — taken some of the very best aspects of each series and used them as the underpinning for a new middle-grade dystopian fantasy series that will surely gain many fans.
The Unwanteds turned out to be a rather pleasant surprise for me. Despite my having enjoyed some of McMann's earlier works, I somehow felt that her voyage into the dystopian genre wouldn't turn out to my liking, thus making my expectations low going in. Luckily for me, I was wrong. Albeit lacking a little in the personality department, the characters are fresh and full of potential. I can see them growing and coming into themselves as the series progresses. For being so young, Lani — Alex's new friend/potential love interest — hasn't had an easy life. Having her father, Quill's mayor, pull strings to get her into the Purge at the premature age of twelve in order to be rid of her (view spoiler)[(or so she believes) (hide spoiler)] has left her with only feelings of resentment and hatred for her father. But when she begins learning the art of magic — and the magic of art — she soon excels and finds new friends and a sense of belonging in Artime. With the head of an alligator and the appendages of an octopus, Alex's art teacher, Ms. Octavia, is rather startling at first. But soon she teaches him all the tricks of the artist's trade. In Artime's school, Alex learns everything from how to use paper clips as a potentially lethal weapon to turning flowers into music boxes.
I'll freely admit that, had The Unwanteds been more dystopian than fantasy, I'd probably not have enjoyed it nearly as much. The majority of the story is set in the beautiful and magical world of Artime, and so it doesn't have the bleak and depressing atmosphere of some dystopias. It is for these reasons that I'll be eagerly awaiting the release of its sequel due out next September, Island of Silence. 3.5 stars
P.S. If you're interested in The Unwanteds, may I suggest the audio verison? I believe Simon Jones's narrative adds an extra-special something to the story....more
Enclave's premise drew my attention more than a lot of the other, more hyped YA dystopias. And I believe that most of it lived up to my expectations.
EEnclave's premise drew my attention more than a lot of the other, more hyped YA dystopias. And I believe that most of it lived up to my expectations.
Enclave starts with Deuce - or rather, at the time, Girl15 - en route to her naming ceremony. In the enclave, your name is merely your gender and an exclusive number. But if you're lucky enough to make it to the age of fifteen, you get a real name. Six cuts, three on each forearm - these are the marks that make you a Hunter or Huntress. It has been Deuce's ambition to become a Huntress for as long as she can remember, but soon after she is inducted into the ranks of the Hunters, she begins to realize that maybe the ways of the enclave and the elders that have raised and trained her aren't what they seem; that maybe their teachings and rules are as misleading and corrupt as they are false. And if that isn't disconcerting enough, the Freaks - the terrible monsters that lurk in the tunnels outside of the enclave, the very ones she has been trained to kill - have begun to show signs of intelligence.
Almost immediately after Deuce becomes a Huntress, she is paired up with Fade. Fade is aloof and mysterious, and because of that he is ostracized from the rest of the Hunters, and when Deuce becomes his partner she soon realizes that she will forever be treated in kind simply because of association. Deuce's character is much more practical and level-headed than most heroines in YA lit. She reminds me of Katsa from Graceling. It's amazing how much Aguirre doesn't focus on the romance. I don't know if it's because of the genre, or simply because the author isn't trying to cash-in on the current romance fad, but Deuce doesn't spend the majority of the novel fantasizing about Fade's physique and having fifteen-year-old hot flashes over his mere proximity. I found this fact very refreshing. And there's no love triangle! I was very pleased that there's no love triangle. (view spoiler)[Or at least until the author decided to add one! Why? There are so many love triangles in the YA genre. I think the interlude with Stalker wasn't called for. However, I did like Deuce's reaction to Stalker's impromptu affections. She didn't seem very interested in him - but I do wish that the author would've left that out. (hide spoiler)] Deuce seems to have her head on her shoulders and she has a lot of strength and determination that I think a lot of authors, unfortunately, aren't adding to their heroines. The romance is still there, but it doesn't overwhelm the rest of the story - it's just enough to add a little spice that a lot of readers (including myself) are looking for. Think of it as a perfectly seasoned pumpkin pie (and if that's not your kind of dessert, feel free to use a different analogy).
FAVORITE QUOTES: "I have your back. I didn't mean only when it's easy. All the time."
"He pushed away from the wall, skin gleaming pale in the torchlight. For a moment I wanted to put my hand over his heart so I could feel it beating, and the impluse frightened me. I took a step back."
This quote is kind of spoilery - click at your own risk. (view spoiler)["It doesn't burn," I whispered. In fact, it felt amazing. I hadn't bathed recently, and this was the next best thing. I started to smile. I turned slowly, admiring the flashes of light. Rain pounded against the ground until it sounded like a chorus of running feet combined with shushing whispers. I'd never heard anything so lovely."(hide spoiler)]
While Enclave is Aguirre's YA debut, it isn't her first foray into writing. Aguirre has two other adult urban fantasy series - Sirantha Jax and Corine Solomon - and her experience shows.
I must say that I utterly detest zombies. And that is basically what the Freaks are. However, Aguirre doesn't describe them as moaning, relentless, brain eating stragglers - therefore they didn't bother me. So, if you're like me and hate zombies, don't avoid this for that reason.
One of the best things I can say about Enclave - besides the writing and the characters - is the atmosphere: I didn't find it horribly depressing and/or disturbing. I tend to stray away from dystopias because of their often bleak and disquieting themes, but Enclave was anything but the aforesaid.
Sadly, Enclave - thus far - doesn't appear to be garnering the attention that a lot of other dystopias are. Especially when you compare it to the Goodreads' ratings of Matched (11.000+), Delirium (4.500+), and Wither (1.900+) - compare those to Enclave's 300+ ratings.
And with all of that said, you're probably wondering, why not five stars? Well, Aguirre does a good job of keeping the reader engaged, but there were times when I found myself wondering where exactly the plot (or, perhaps, lack thereof) was headed. Enclave is split into two parts, and the first half is considerably better than the second. And when things finally started to get interesting again in the second half, BAM - it was over. The ending is probably one of the most annoyingly sudden I've ever read. It's what my GR friend, Tina, would call "evil cliffy". And I wanted more of an explanation as to why (view spoiler)[almost (hide spoiler)] all of humanity chose to move underground. Not much detail is given about what exactly happened to change the world so drastically. Deuce doesn't really know, and therefore neither does the reader.
All in all, Enclave is a great start to what will hopefully be a great dystopian series. And I'm very much looking forward to its planned sequels, Outpost (currently set to release in September of next year - which I think is a really long time to wait) and Horde (set to release sometime in 2013).
And I'd like to give a shout out to the librarian who checked this out for me, who was so enthusiastic over this novel. I hope she can read it soon. :)...more
Blood Red Road delivered exactly what I'd hoped it would: a richly atmospheric YA dystopian thriller with a non-stop pace, action sequences executedBlood Red Road delivered exactly what I'd hoped it would: a richly atmospheric YA dystopian thriller with a non-stop pace, action sequences executed by kick-ass chicks, and a light, slow-building romance that is sexy and promising.
Saba has just had the one person whom she's been closest to since birth — quite literally, in fact, for he is her twin brother — snatched from her life in what seemed like the blink of an eye. One moment they're skipping stones in what little water remains of the lakebed near the small shanty they live in, and the next her twin brother Lugh is gone. Determined to get him back from the Tonton, fierce and lethal men garbed in black, she sets off into the unknown with little but the clothes on her back. But what she finds is much more than what she set off for.
This series isn't titled "Dustlands" for nothing: while immersed in the story, it is as if the reader is walking right along with Saba on her journey to reclaim her idol, her twin, and her best friend. I positively love books that make you feel as if you're breathing the same air the main character is, and Blood Red Road does just that.
One of the things you'll notice right away with Blood Red Road is the language. Because the majority of the people in Young's dystopian world haven't received a proper education, they speak quite differently. Bitten-off, miss-spelt, and miss-placed words make up the language. This may make it a bit harder to read for some people, but I didn't have any problems adapting to it. I actually felt that it added an extra-special something to the story, that it added to the originality and even made it more enjoyable.
I mustn't forget to mention the author's inclusion of familial love and relationships. You see, in lieu of focusing the better part of her story on a romance, Young chooses to showcase the depths of devotion and love that can be between siblings. That, my dear reader, is the story at the heart of Blood Red Road; everything else comes second. In fact, the lead character, Saba, doesn't even run across her potential beau until midway through the story; the first half is focused on Saba trying to get her brother back from the clutches of the bunch of crazies who took him from her, as is much of the latter half. Honestly, I couldn't be more pleased with the progression that this novel takes. The balance between Saba rescuing her brother, Saba finding herself and realizing her true capabilities, and Saba slowly and somewhat reluctantly falling for Jack is executed to perfection.
Lugh got born first. On Midwinter Day when the sun hangs low in the sky. Then me. Two hours later. That pretty much says it all. Lugh goes first, always first, an I follow on behind. An that's fine. That's right. That's how it's meant to be.
This particular quote, which is the opening to the story, struck me in the gut immediately. I felt that it conveyed a level of low self-esteem that I could, at one point in my life, sympathize with. Saba puts herself in her brother's shadow, and is happy with being there. But of course, this isn't right. And I think that Saba gradually learning to put herself first was one of my favorite aspects of the story.
Blood Red Road is the first of a trilogy, and its sequel is already out, Rebel Heart. I will be reading it very soon....more
I started Wither fairly certain that I'd not like it. Please don't misunderstand — I never start a book thinking I'll dislike it, but choose3.5 stars
I started Wither fairly certain that I'd not like it. Please don't misunderstand — I never start a book thinking I'll dislike it, but choose to read it anyway for some reason; I usually avoid books that sound as if I'd be disappointed by them. In the case of Wither, I'd decided to steer clear of it because of negative reviews and because of some of the content it is said to have. And while there were things I was bothered by and things I wish could've been different, I'm pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
DeStefano paints a bleak portrait of the future in her 2011 debut, Wither. Scientists were able to concoct a cure for cancer and other fatal diseases, flus and colds, and sexually transmitted diseases; consequently giving humans much longer lives. But as good as this prospect may sound, it comes at a terrible price: the offspring of those who partook of the scientists' panacea only live a fraction of the time people do today. With women living only to the age of twenty and men the age of twenty-five, the only way to prevent the extinction of the human race is for young women to dedicate their lives to polygamous marriages and having as many children as possible in the short window of time they have. This is exactly the kind of life sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery wants to avoid in favor of living out her last four years with her brother, Rowan, whom she loves dearly. But when the Gatherers take her she is helpless. Soon she is married to Linden Ashby, along with two other girls, Jenna and Cecily. It isn't long before one of her sister wives, as they are so dubbed, is swelling with Linden's child and Rhine is having to pretend that she herself loves him. But Rhine soon bonds with a young male servant named Gabriel and starts to plot a way to escape this compulsory life, and hopes to take him with her. But there are many dangers in attempting an escape, and it may end in both of their deaths.
Wither is one of the most hyped YA dystopias released in the last few years, and I can see why: it's content is controversial, it contains many things which could (and did for me) repulse its reader, and, of course, since a little series called the Hunger Games came along, the dystopian genre has skyrocketed to the top spot on many reader's favorites list. (I think it's even surpassed the paranormal genre now. What a feat!)
Rhine's helplessness really struck a chord within me. I can't imagine having lost your parents, and then being dragged away from your brother, the only person you have left, to be forced into a marriage with someone you don't even know. Gabriel, although a character that wasn't in the story nearly as much as I'd have liked, was something special. He is the reason I'm most looking forward to the sequal. The writing has a quality that I wouldn't normally expect from a debut author, but I'd heard may good things about DeStefano's writing before starting Wither, and they were all true.
And now for the negative: The science in Wither seems a little off to me. This, along with one other key point I'll mention later, is what keeps me from giving this four stars. Here is my logic: If the government (or scientists) were ever able to produce a cure for potentially fatal diseases like cancer and whatnot, should it backfire and cause a sort of self-destruct effect in the children of the people who use it, as it is said to in DeStefano's world, wouldn't the government then be able to stop it almost immediately? Eradicate the problem, or at least come up with some sort of drug to lengthen the lifespans of those who are affected by it? Think about it: Whatever could stop fatal diseases as harsh as cancer, if such a thing exists, would be very hard to find (obviously, since this is the twenty-first century and we're still using chemo, which is horrible in itself); and I would think that if scientists were ever smart enough to find it, they'd be able to deal with any repercussions that may arrise after the fact; I especially don't see them ever lying down and just saying, Oh, well — I guess we'll just have to live with the fact that none of us will make it to thirty and that the human race could easily become extinct in the next decade. Perhaps it is just me, but the science seemed rather warped and uncalculated. For my other qualm, read the spoiler if you don't mind being spoiled. (view spoiler)[The youngest of the three wives, Cecily, is thirteen at the start of the novel. She is soon impregnated by twenty-one-year-old Linden, who apparently is no less attracted to her than the eighteen-year-old Jenna or sixteen-year-old Rhine. This was sickening to me, and I wish the author would've handled this differently. The author could've easily kept the three wives sixteen or older and still conveyed the severity of the characters' situation in the harsh reality they live in without using a thirteen-year-old child. At least, IMHO. (hide spoiler)] Other than these two points, I really have no complaints; I enjoyed the writing and characterization just fine. And I am certainly invested enough to read Fever in the near future, and, if Fever doesn't disappoint, the trilogy's finale, Untitled.
Notice: Although the back of the audio says it's for readers thirteen and up, I'd recommend this book for fifteen and up. The rather mature subject matter and some of the content seems more appropriate for an older audience IMO....more