I have found a first book in a series that completely eliminates any burning need I may have to read the subsequent books.
The 100 caught my eye at the library because the cover had one of those little "this is going to be a TV show!" stickers on it, and then I read the dust jacket and it looked like a futuristic dystopia survival story, and when they're done right I really like those.
But the dust jacket doesn't do the best job explaining the plot, which is basically:
– There is a space colony of people who escaped Earth after a nuclear war finally wiped out the planet 300 years ago. (Even though it isn't explicitly stated, I feel like these people were probably all Americans, since (view spoiler)[when the delinquents make it back to Earth someone says that they are on the east coast of what was once the US (hide spoiler)], and when they were evacuating the planet they made sure to leave enough time in the schedule to (view spoiler)[stop by Paris and take some relics (hide spoiler)].)
– So now they live on a giant spaceship in the sky, which is divided into three parts and full of classist strife.
– The colony has a bunch of laws in place to keep population down and ensure the survival of the human race on the spaceship until such time as Earth is deemed habitable again, but apparently no sex ed information available to teens.
– Juvenile delinquents are the best gauge of whether or not Earth is habitable again, because they were all terrible and (view spoiler)[going to die anyway because of another major plot point (hide spoiler)].
– So 100 of them are sent to Earth. (Hence, the name!)
– Everyone is concerned with saving his or her own ass and there's pretty much no one to root for (although I did like Clarke). It's a sort of futuristic Lord of the Flies vibe, but minus a conch or any real excitement.
– The few choices that aren't made for selfish reasons are mostly done for teenage love, and it's the kind of teenage love that makes you think that if they had time to take a breather and gain some perspective—if they spent a little bit of time together in a non–life-or-death capacity—they probably wouldn't be so willing to kill and die for each other.
– Four narrators is too many.
– Glass is a terrible name.
This is a book driven by everyone's seeeecrets, so I was willing to overlook some of the cheesier lines in order to finish it and see what they were and where everyone stood. But it ended on a pretty predictable plot twist and with Clarke still the only character I even sort of liked, so I'm tapping out.
I haven’t always been this series’ biggest fan. I thought the world of Divergent was silly, with its factions dividing society to supposedly make it s...moreI haven’t always been this series’ biggest fan. I thought the world of Divergent was silly, with its factions dividing society to supposedly make it stronger. While I liked Insurgent a lot more it was very emotional compared to the first book, and the more I thought about the plot the less impressed I was by it. I was ready to write the whole series off soon after starting Allegiant because sometimes I am a judgmental and terrible person when I read, and dual POVs in YA novels tend to trigger it, since the device rarely seems to exist to do anything other than show how much the MCs loooove each other.
But I kept reading, because I am above all else a completist, and I needed to know how it ended, dammit. And once I hit my stride and got past the first 100 pages or so, I was completely hooked. So many things make sense now that didn’t before. Allegiant somehow manages to fill in all the blanks left by its predecessors in a way that actually enhances the other books, while still being an enjoyable read in its own right.
Not only do we finally find out the true meaning behind being Divergent, we also find out that (view spoiler)[Chicago is actually part of an experiment in genetic engineering (hide spoiler)], and once you know that, the intent behind the factions and the blind devotion to them become clear. Tris seemed far more badass in this book than in the others. In Divergent and Insurgent I never felt fully on board with her decisions, but in Allegiant I was always in her corner, though at some times she seemed a little too perfect. (She hardly second-guesses herself anymore in addition to being Divergent and all that entails. She is basically Wonder Woman, and just one book ago she was this very flawed, emotionally damaged young girl.) Happily, alternating her POV with Tobias’s didn’t detract from the story as I worried it would; it actually enhanced the characterization in a way that made the ending seem right. We really get an idea of who they are, together and alone, and what fears and desires motivate their actions.
And that ending. So many people are going to be angry about it, which I understand, but (view spoiler)[Tris’s death wasn’t an emotional exploitation and it wasn’t unnecessary or self-sacrificing. It was a noble death, in keeping with her character and goals, and it honestly surprised me (most YA authors don’t make this kind of move with their protagonists), and because of all those things it actually did resonate with me. It wasn’t something I could just brush off and add to the body count or roll my eyes at, because it meant something(hide spoiler)]. Revolution requires sacrifice and personal growth requires learning to stand on your own. (view spoiler)[Killing off a minor character would have been cheap, while killing Tobias wouldn’t have meant as much. Tris had more than proved what she was made of at that point, whereas Tobias obviously still had a ways to go before his death would be anything other than a tragedy. (hide spoiler)] Had it ended any other way I wouldn’t have liked this book half as much.
Granted some of the science bits can still be a little hard to swallow (pretty much everything can be explained away with a serum) and there are so many new characters and old ones I didn’t remember hearing about that at times I got confused and had to google things, which does detract from the reading experience. And some of the secondary and tertiary characters are still unbearable. But on the whole, Allegiant was a fantastic end to the trilogy and left me satisfied, not only with the individual book but with the series as a whole.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Okay, first can I just say that I’ve had this stuck in my head the entire time I’ve been reading this book. Which isn’t the worst song in the world, t...moreOkay, first can I just say that I’ve had this stuck in my head the entire time I’ve been reading this book. Which isn’t the worst song in the world, thankfully, but yeesh.
So much about this book is appealing to me: It takes place in the future but has a 1920s bootlegger vibe to it, as well as a touch of the Gotham City, with the criminals basically running the place and the DA letting it slide. There’s a dash of romance, which isn’t too cheesy or Romeo and Juliet-ish (although there is a bit of that element as well), and a girl who is just trying to protect her immediate family—her older brother (who suffered a head injury as a child that affected his mental development), her younger sister, and their invalid grandmother—from being sucked into the illegal activities of their mafiya Family. And there’s a dash of Essence of Soviet Russia thrown in for good measure, and not just because the Balanchines are Russian mafiya.
Anya is a strong character. The titles of the chapters had me smiling (sometimes grimly), and her narrative style is never dull. She is a smart cookie, hell-bent on survival and protecting her family, but there are also moments where she seems very much sixteen and it is overwhelmingly sad that she’s living with all of this on her shoulders. Her friendship with Scarlet isn’t overly angsty or competitive, although there is some discord. And Win... oh Win. He starts off so flat and blah, and I was thinking, Oh great, this again, but then he turns out to be funny and sweet and I get the feeling there will be so much more to him in the next two books.
There are a lot of loose ends, though. I’m not sure if this is a dystopian future or what, but basically the government is perpetually broke and there are taxes on everything, from water to paper to emails. Pretty much no new clothes are being manufactured, paper books are officially a thing of the past, and coffee and chocolate are illegal. Coffee can be found at speakeasies, and chocolate is supplied by “the big-five chocolate families,” one of which is Anya’s, the Balanchines. There’s no explanation as to how the world got this way, and the only reasoning behind why chocolate is banned in the US now is Anya’s recollection of her father explaining to her that it was just something the Powers That Be found easiest to live without and so it was made verboten. Not very solid world-building, but not entirely illogical either.
Truthfully, I thought the book started out very strong, lagged a bit in the middle, and then picked back up in the last 70 or so pages. I toyed with the idea of giving a 3.5 based on how intense I found the ending, but I couldn’t bring myself to bump it up when the middle bits fell so flat with me. Before I’d even really begun my personal race to the finish, however, I had already requested the second book in the trilogy from the library. (Yes! It is! A trilogy! I thought it was a standalone until I consulted GR. I! Am! So! Excited!) I should get it in the next two days, but I will have to savor it slowly, like a good bar of Balanchine Special Dark, as the final book doesn’t come out until October.(less)
This is wavering somewhere between 3.5 stars and an unprecedented 3.75 stars for me. I’m leaning more toward the 3.5, which is partly because I...moreOh boy.
This is wavering somewhere between 3.5 stars and an unprecedented 3.75 stars for me. I’m leaning more toward the 3.5, which is partly because I had such unbelievably high expectations for this book and quite honestly it was a bit of a struggle to get through parts of it, while other parts had me all, “Whaaaaat?”
I don’t even know where to start. I guess I’ll begin with what I felt was right with The 5th Wave and go from there.
I’m not usually a sci-fi fan but I’ve noticed myself leaning more toward alien-type books recently. Up until about a year and a half ago I was pretty much strictly a realistic fiction kind of girl. Then I got into dystopias and apocalyptic fiction. Then I read the Lux series (which, sorry, I know I bring it up a lot) and I started getting more into the idea of aliens. So The 5th Wave is a winning combination for me in that it brings me into the middle of the beginning of the alien apocalypse and everyone is struggling to survive while the Others keep watch. Score!
The book is also told from several different perspectives: Cassie, the bold high school girl who lives only to keep her promise to her younger brother, Sammy, and reunite with him; a Silencer; and Zombie, whose real identity is pretty obvious from the get-go but his portions of the book are so action-packed and interesting that I didn’t care. Sammy’s narrative didn’t do anything for the story, the Silencer’s basically served as a massive spoiler, and Cassie really grated on me, but Zombie—wow. All the action, the psychological trauma, the internal battle between what he wanted to be and who he still was... this guy had it all going for him, and I was more able to lose myself in his chapters than in anyone else’s.
But alas, nothing gold can stay. My problems are thus:
Firstly, if every narrator you have is going to be telling me not to trust anyone, I’m not going to trust anyone. The very intriguing idea of who to trust when you don’t know what the enemy looks like is brought up time and time again, and yet when it came down to it, I was the only one not trusting anybody. All the characters were toting around their weapons and lamenting the fact they were all alone in the world, and then the moment someone else comes along and offers them a lifeline they take it.
Second, when the interchanging narratives are set up the way these are, it’s basically Spoiler City. I knew the identity of the Silencer long before Cassie did, almost immediately after his chapter ended, so there was zero suspense there. I knew Zombie’s pre-alien apocalypse identity at the open of his chapter. There were a few plot points that kept me guessing—what Cassie saw at Camp Ashpit vs. how Vosch explains it later to Zombie; the twist between Zombie and Ringer out in the combat zone—but for the most part it was a matter of me slapping my forehead and yelling the alien apocalypse novel version of “don’t go into the basement!” at all the characters.
There is a lot of repetition—of the Milgram tests, of the theme of a person-as-battlefield, of a silver chain linking someone to something—and while some of it did serve nicely to tie the narratives together, some of it seemed like a bit of a stretch. How many people talk about feeling linked by a silver chain? It makes sense if you are the person who happens to own said silver chain; then you may see ways you are “chained” to other things, ideas, or people. But if you have no idea of the significance of a SILVER chain, why are you going to drop that line? Cassie.
And finally, my biggest grievance: Evan Walker, y u so creepy??
I’m reading reviews where people love this guy, and I got a distinctly Edward Cullen/Christian Grey feel from the dude. He (view spoiler)[lurks outside doors, changes Cassie’s clothes when she’s unconscious, dresses her in his dead sister’s clothes, talks about the dead girlfriend he loved so, so much right before kissing Cassie, tells a girl he hardly knows how she saved him, reads her diary, does some weird soul-meld with her, and, oh yeah, he stalks her for months while trying to summon the willpower to kill her(hide spoiler)]—and I can’t even blame Stockholm syndrome for why Cassie falls under his dubious spell. Any respect I had for her was pretty effectively squashed when she started getting hearteyed over Evan.
[Side note: I keep seeing things in reviews about a love triangle. The entire time I was reading I dreaded the advent of the love triangle, but there isn’t actually a love triangle. It’s more like an unrequited love line which serves no purpose to the narrative. Can’t we all just kick alien ass without getting weird feelings in our pants for people who don’t like us back? And while I’m doing side notes, did anyone else keep misreading Camp Ashpit as Camp Apeshit? Because I did. Every. Single. Time.]
So The 5th Wave wasn’t nearly as good as I thought it would be, but I’m still very much looking forward to the rest of the series. There was incredible tension in the narrative, because I knew when the characters were being stupid even if they didn’t, and I kept proverbially leaning forward in my seat waiting for them to realize what I already knew. Children being trained up for war creeps me out in any context, even if the logic behind it is a little shaky. And while there are flaws in the logic of the 5th Wave, Waves 1 – 5 are just ingenious. I mean, if aliens were to come to our planet and try to take it over, honestly these are great ways to divide and conquer humanity.
Which makes me suspicious that Rick Yancey might actually be an alien. Do we actually have any proof that he is who he says he is? Sure, he’s smiling all innocently in his author photo, but (view spoiler)[Dr. Pam was super smiley, too (hide spoiler)]. Can someone please get Mulder and Scully on this?["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
It’s weird to me that this series isn’t more well-known. It seems like something a lot of people would enjoy: cute, humorous, a creative take on the w...moreIt’s weird to me that this series isn’t more well-known. It seems like something a lot of people would enjoy: cute, humorous, a creative take on the whole time-travel thing, with a bit of romance and a lot of mystery. There are ghosts (including the very funny ghost of a gargoyle demon), some age-old secret societies, and a heroine who, while sometimes painfully naïve, handles the majority of what comes her way with spirit and good humor, if not grace and serenity. And these books are quick reads, a nice palate cleanser between heavier stuff, but still real page-turners.
Sapphire Blue does have its weaknesses—Gwen and Gideon’s romance has the whole instalove thing going on, seeing as they’ve only known each other a week by the end of this book, and sometimes I feel like something was lost in translation when it comes to characterization—but the pacing is good, the mystery is intriguing, and I laughed out loud a few times. Here’s an example of a report from the Annals of the Guardians:
1312h: We see a rat. I am in favor of running it through with my sword, but Leroy feeds it the rest of his sandwich and christens it Audrey....
1524: Audrey comes back. Otherwise, no unusual incidents.
There are these little jokes throughout the whole book (and its predecessor, Ruby Red) that serve to lighten the mood and break up the heavier bits. The best way I can think of to describe Gier’s writing style is that if JK Rowling, Louise Rennison, and Eva Ibbotson’s books had a baby, it might come out looking a little like this. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, which frustrated me because I have to wait until October for the final installment! What madness is this?!
Since my review of Ruby Red I have figured out that (view spoiler)[Gwen and Gideon are most likely sixth cousins (hide spoiler)], which is a little less disgusting than I thought it would be. In case that’s been keeping you up at nights.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This book surprised me. I honestly wasn’t expecting very much from it; I figured it would just be a cute time-travel book, not very unlike Caroline B....moreThis book surprised me. I honestly wasn’t expecting very much from it; I figured it would just be a cute time-travel book, not very unlike Caroline B. Cooney’s Time Travelers series (which I was completely addicted to in my youth). And yes, Ruby Red is very cute and fluffy, but it is also fun and fairly fast-paced—I read the entire thing in about four hours.
The weird thing is that not much seems to happen in this book. Yes, Gwen’s mysterious powers are discovered and there is some time traveling and, of course, budding teen romance, but the majority of the book raises questions rather than answering them. But still I kept compulsively turning pages, unable to put this book down. Even when I was in the shower I was thinking, I wonder what’s going to happen next! and How mad would the library be if I read that book while washing my hair?
There are some funny bits—I liked the Reports from The Annals of the Guardians in 1949 and 1953 (“The boy told us it would be a good idea to buy shares in Apple, whatever that may be”). Aunt Maddy is delightfully quirky and Gwen’s classmates, however briefly they were seen, were fun (especially Lesley). I honestly think most of what kept me hooked, though, was that I was hoping I’d get answers to my questions sooner rather than later; unfortunately it looks like I’ll have to read the rest of the trilogy before I can even begin getting to the bottom of such mysteries as “what is the deal with that Transylvanian dude?” and “who is Mr. Squirrel, really?”
So yes, loads of questions were asked and none were answered. Another small complaint: some of the language is a bit awkward at points, but I think that may be a side effect of it being a German-language book about an English girl which has been translated by someone other than the author to be published in These United States. So I will let that go. There’s also an author interview in the book in which she talks about the characters and their names are different from in the book (Gwen is Gwyneth in the book, Gwendolyn in the interview—and on GR, interestingly enough; Lesley is Leslie). Is this also somehow a translation thing? I don’t see how that could be. It’s weird.
My biggest gripe, which I didn’t even have until the epilogue, is how confusing these family trees are. I’m attempting to write them out and I’m still completely baffled. I have a theory that (view spoiler)[Gwen is actually Lucy and Paul’s illegitimate daughter (hide spoiler)], and if that is the case and Paul and Gideon (view spoiler)[share a common grandfather (Paul’s great-great and Gideon’s great-great-great) (hide spoiler)]... well, correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t that mean that (view spoiler)[Gideon and Gwen are cousins? Or that Gideon is somehow her uncle? How incestuous would their relationship be? (hide spoiler)] Should I be alarmed and/or grossed out? Is (view spoiler)[kissing your maybe-niece-or-cousin (hide spoiler)] a normal thing in Germany and/or England? More than the Transylvanian guy, more than the telekinesis, more than even Mr. Squirrel’s potential secret identity, I need to get to the bottom of this particular mystery, and I’m not sure I can wait for October for the release of Emerald Green, so I really need these things cleared up in Sapphire. Or I need to learn German and read the original before then. Because this is going to drive me crazy.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I am an Unraveling convert! I wasn’t crazy about the first book, but once I got my hands on this one I could not put it down. This was what I exp...more3.5/5
I am an Unraveling convert! I wasn’t crazy about the first book, but once I got my hands on this one I could not put it down. This was what I expected from Unraveling. I stayed up until 2 a.m. to finish it; I kept doing the “one more page... one more page...” thing and finally I decided to just be honest with myself and admit that no sleep would be had until I got to the end. The Shenae Woodley cover didn’t even bother me that much! (Seriously, what is with the US covers? The UK ones look so much cooler.)
Does anyone else think these books read like they could be movies? The entire time I was reading Unbreakable I felt like I was watching a film on the big screen. The sparse yet descriptive narrative style, the nonstop action, the different backdrops—futuristic and somewhat bleak New Prima (which I imagine as similar to Gotham City), the abandoned alternate Earth where the Cuban Missile Crisis was never resolved (eerie!), and post-apocalyptic San Diego—all of these things made reading Unbreakable a very immersive experience. I’ve never considered myself much of a sci-fi girl, but something about this book grabbed my attention and would not let go.
Happily, this book resolved most of the issues I had with the first. My biggest gripe—how unbearably elitist Janelle could be—is no more. Maybe it’s all the personal losses she suffered in Unraveling, but she seems to have matured and begun to realize that people aren’t always what they seem and that it’s unwise to underestimate them. Norris uses the same device to divide chapters as she did in Unraveling, and there are still some bits that probably don’t need to be split off from previous ones—lots of one- or two-page chapters that are supposed to illustrate how intense a revelation is, I guess—but they seemed better placed in this installment; most of them served their purpose of keeping me on the edge of my seat and the pacing felt smoother. The characters are fantastic, especially Barclay, and Elijah seems to have toned down his usage of the word “fuck” so that it is more humorous than it is like sweet Vishnu, dude, do you not know any other words?! The body count is considerably lower and thus the deaths are more poignant. And hey, did I mention that there is ALL OF THE ACTION?
But oh, the romance! It is still the Achilles heel of this series. I don’t like when females are all ridiculously meek and obsessive, and the Unraveling books have taken that in a different direction: The girl comes off as emotionally distant—like how Janelle is all “oh, I’m so worried about him!” and then when they’re together she seems like she isn’t as into the relationship as Ben is—and the guy seems clingy, and I don’t like it any more than the Bella/Edward dynamic. The whole thing feels false to me, sort of cheesy and emotionally overwrought, with them knowing so little about each other and then making declarations like, “We save each other” and “You’re my home.” Compared to the incredibly well-done action scenes, the slower romantic bits fall flat. And that is why I’m only giving 3.5 stars instead of a full four: It’s all nonstop action for hundreds of pages and then all of a sudden the plot hits the brakes and we come to a screeching halt for an awkward romantic interlude.
Overall, though, I think it’s worthy of a giddy Jon Stewart gif. So here! Giddy Jon Stewart for everyone!
This is the second fairy tale retelling I’ve read in two weeks, and much like The Sweetest Spell, Enchanted is more a fairy tale mash-up than it is on...moreThis is the second fairy tale retelling I’ve read in two weeks, and much like The Sweetest Spell, Enchanted is more a fairy tale mash-up than it is one tale retold. The main story used is that of The Frog Prince, but there are homages to so many other tales in there—Snow White, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and The Twelve Dancing Princesses to name a few. The overall effect is a little bit muddled at parts but on the whole very fun.
Sunday Woodcutter is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter and a seventh son. Her eldest brother, Jack Junior, died years ago as the result of an enchantment cast on him by Prince Rumbold’s fairy godmother, and as a result her family holds a grudge against the royal family. Sunday’s mother is a laconic woman who always warns Sunday of the power of words, and since anything Sunday writes tends to come true—and not always in a good way—she sticks to true stories about her family. One day in the Wood she is writing one such story when she meets a frog named Grumble. The two strike up a friendship, and shortly after Sunday realizes she is in love with Grumble he disappears.
When Prince Rumbold’s fairy godmother cast her enchantment on Jack Junior, Jack’s fairy godmother cast one right back: On his eighteenth birthday, Rumbold would become a frog for a year. Instead of fearing the transformation Rumbold embraced the freedom it would give him from his past. As Grumble he has no memory of who he was, but once Sunday’s love transforms him into the prince he was before, Rumbold realizes becoming a man isn’t as easy as getting a kiss.
Together and apart, Sunday and Rumbold fight evil, receive missives from the Pirate Queen, learn trade secrets of the fey, fall in love, have their hearts broken, uncover family secrets, and right wrongs committed long ago.
I read this one as a palate cleanser between dystopian novels. I picked it up the night before my final thinking it would be easy for me to put down when it was time to go to sleep and I was very, very wrong; I ended up staying awake into the wee hours reading it. (You’d think after 20+ years of late-night reading I’d know better, but noooo.) It’s a quick, cute read, with lots of great lines, well-written characters, and a sweet love story. Some parts were confusing (the golden egg over the head scene, anyone?) but I powered through with the belief it would all make sense at the end—and it did! After reading I found out this is the first in a series, but Enchanted is also a wonderful standalone. I definitely recommend it for anyone who likes retellings of fairy tales and is looking for a light, fun read.(less)
I understand that YA dystopian romances are hot sellers right now, so if you’re a publisher and someone comes along with a relatively good one yo...more2.5/5
I understand that YA dystopian romances are hot sellers right now, so if you’re a publisher and someone comes along with a relatively good one you’ll most likely give it the go-ahead. But that means there’s a glut of them, and no one is separating the wheat from the chaff, and we need Goodreads now more than ever. I thought about buying this one on Kobo because it seemed like my kind of book, based on the description and preview. Fortunately I consulted my personal GR gurus first and went with the library option, which saved me a lot of rending of garments and yelling, “I paid $7.15 for THIS??”
So now Aunt Linda and I are here to pay it forward! You ready, Linda?
1. How did this happen??? A common plot device to explain a dystopian world is War. A5 is no different: There was a war a few years ago, and NYC, LA, and DC are all gone. End of story. I don’t recall ever being told anything pertaining to who fought the war, what it was over, or how and why this moral majority was able to completely take over America, abolish the Constitution, and start systematically killing off rule violators. Was it over resources? Was it a civil war or did it involve other countries? At no point was I able to go, “Yes, this could happen!” because there was never any background given and I didn’t know what happened.
2. The characters—and their “romance”—were short on depth but long on angst. Ah, the old “star-crossed lovers who have so many feeeeelings but won’t talk about them so there’s a series of misunderstandings and near-death experiences before they actually discuss anything, and it takes so long to happen that by then I have lost all ability to care” plot device!
There is a dizzying amount of “I love you—I hate you! I need you—leave me alone! You’re still the same—oh how you’ve changed!” in this book. I got whiplash trying to keep up with Ember’s and Chase’s mood swings. Half the problems they had could have easily been resolved by sitting down and having a sensible conversation. I get that teenagers as a group aren’t good at the sensible conversations, but these two were trying to survive in a totalitarian wasteland. Sometimes it’s necessary to sit down to discuss the issues at hand and do some problem-solving, and I feel like when you’re on the run for your life from the Moral Militia is a really good time to start. On the whole, the romance felt artificial and awkward, just there so the dustjacket can proclaim that there is a romance.
While I didn’t care much for the Chase/Ember pairing (Chember?) and I wrote Ember off as a lost cause pretty early on (more on that in #3), I did feel like Chase had potential. The author is a social worker and mental health advocate, and the Chase elements of the novel hint at PTSD, brainwashing, etc. Since A5 is the first in a series I’m hoping this is delved into more deeply as the story goes on, because Chase just comes off as unstable for most of this book, with brief moments of being a sympathetic portrait of the harsh realities of mental health disorders and physical and psychological abuse.
3. Darwinism isn’t working. Being the delicate flower that I am it’s not very often I can read a dystopian novel and honestly say I would do a better job at surviving than the protagonist. I mean, I definitely don’t have the skillz to make it through the Hunger Games. But the USA of Article 5? I would be amazing there. Unlike Ember, who had to use her smarts to keep herself and her mother alive for the nearly-eighteen years before the novel begins, but never shows any evidence of those alleged smarts in the course of the book.
For example, when you are wrongfully incarcerated you don’t make scenes and brand yourself as a rebel, thus drawing attention and damning anyone who tries to help you; you play the game and keep your head down while working to escape. When you are being tracked by ruthless killers you don’t run away from the only person who can keep your dumb butt alive. And if someone is trying to rape and/or kill you, you do not let them go so they can either rat you out to the FBR or come back later for another attempt at gutting you like a trout. These are pretty basic concepts and it annoyed the crap out of me that Ember never grasped them.
Yes, there is a moral element to this story that shouldn’t go entirely unexplored, a question of “if we kill to save ourselves from The Man, won’t they have won?” But self-defense isn’t a sign of weakness or a lack of mercy or that you are turning into the people you fear. Yes, taking a human life—even to save your own—is unsavory, to say the least, but the world of Article 5 is kill or be killed and you need to act accordingly. If you aren’t willing to defend yourself, you aren’t going to live very long—perhaps deservedly so.
4. So many conflicted messages about gender roles. On the one hand, Ember is appalled that the FBR is promoting traditional gender roles. She and her mother are strong, independent women—a walking Destiny’s Child song! They are freebirds and these birds cannot be tamed! Laaawwwwd knows they cannot change!
On the other hand, so. freaking. much. of this novel consists of Ember getting pissy at Chase and doing something boneheaded and then him coming along to save her. To paraphrase what Steph said in her review, it’s like watching Bella Swan tripping her way through a dystopian world, with Edward swooping in to defend her at every turn. Except instead of swooning like Bella would, Ember internalizes her anger at Chase for using physical means to defend the two of them and gets pissy again, thus continuing the cycle.
So which is it? Are females helpless damsels who think they can survive on their own but actually can’t, and who use their womanly wiles to lure the big strong men to their deaths? Or are they strong, smart survivors? I can tell Ember believes she is the latter, but everything she does indicates otherwise.
Article 5 does have its good points, and for what it is—a YA dystomance—it isn’t terrible. I’m from the DC area and have traveled to most of the places they went to, so it was definitely creepy for me to read about things like Baltimore as a ghost town and places I’ve been having gone back to the land. And the concept itself—that one day you wake up in violation of your country’s moral statutes and are no longer a citizen—is interesting. But the complete lack of world-building and the unsympathetic and highly unlikeable MC made this book more of a chore to get through than an enjoyable read; all the potential the story itself had was lost in Ember’s stupidity and woe. Overall, Aunt Linda and I give it a “whaaat?” However, being an optimist/completist I got Breaking Point from the library today. My fingers are crossed for better characterization and some kind of backstory for the nation in the next installment.(less)
Guys! It’s more Australian dystopic fiction! (I mean, technically it is Australian dystopic fiction. Karen Healey is from New Zealand, but W3 takes pl...moreGuys! It’s more Australian dystopic fiction! (I mean, technically it is Australian dystopic fiction. Karen Healey is from New Zealand, but W3 takes place in Melbourne.)
Australian! Dystopic! Fiction! With a pretty cover! And oh, so many Beatles references!
In 2027, seventeen-year-old Tegan Oglietti is having a great day: The boy she has long loved from afar has just professed his love for her; she has a happy home life with her mom and older brother; and she, her boyfriend, and her best friend are heading off to a political rally where the Prime Minister will be in attendance, so the chance their voices will be heard is high. But Tegan is shot on the steps of Parliament when a sniper’s bullet misses its intended target, and she wakes up one hundred years later as part of a science experiment.
Sadly, the future is not the beautiful one she and her friends fought for in the past. Some things have changed for the better—Muslims are accepted without question now and LGBTQ people and relationships are part of the norm—but global warming has only gotten worse, resources are scarce enough that Australia isn’t allowing immigrants anymore, and—chillingly—eating meat is considered irresponsible and something only “thirdies” (a derogatory term for people from third-world countries) do.
This is a lot for any girl from the past to take in, and making matters worse is that the project Tegan is part of seems (unsurprisingly) to not be entirely on the up and up. The military and the scientists told her it was part of an initiative to revive dead soldiers, but Tegan is finding evidence that suggests otherwise. Duhn-duhn-duuuhn!
W3 has a “setup” feel to it, in that there is a lot of world-building and introducing of characters, but it is all done so well that I didn’t mind. I’m not sure how many books are going to be in this series, but this one has provided a good, solid backdrop for all future books. Part of it is that since the events take place in 2127 I didn’t have to do a whole lot of suspension of belief; the state of the world in Healey’s novel seems totally viable.
The characterization is solid. Tegan is a fierce, positive MC who achieves a good balance of independence and trust in others. Her emotional responses to waking up in the future—when she allows us to be privy to them—were so raw and real that my heart hurt for her. I can’t imagine the pain of knowing that your friends and family went on to suffer, love, and live great and terrible lives without you, and that you didn’t get to share that with them, will never be able to see them again. But Tegan doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on this; she has pressing business to attend to in her new present and she does a great job of carrying on, even when fundamentalists are urging her to commit suicide and reporters are twisting her words. On the whole Healey has written a complex, interesting cast of characters, strong in their convictions and intelligent enough to keep things exciting.
The first-person POV definitely works for this novel, describing events in a realistic teenage voice with a dash of longing and just enough “if I had known then what I know now...” to keep me turning the pages. The only thing that was a little off to me was that a few times Tegan seems too hasty about how cool and accepting she is: “Oh, you’re Muslim and that’s totally cool with me; my boyfriend was Muslim. Oh, you’re trans? You don’t even know how okay I am with that.” It reminded me of people who say things like, “I’m totally cool with gay people! Some of my best friends are gay!” And then there is always a “but.” I kept waiting for the “but.” I know this is such a small gripe, but it just rubbed me the wrong way.
Overall, When We Wake is a gripping, emotional novel, a strong kickoff to the series, and I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be big. Personally, I’m waiting for the official release date of While We Run so I can put a heart around it on my calendar.(less)