This is a review of an ARC provided by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This is a very, very hard review for me to write....moreThis is a review of an ARC provided by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This is a very, very hard review for me to write. I finished The Testing almost a month ago and since then I’ve been sitting down periodically, going through pages on my e-reader and trying to put into words exactly what bothers me about this book in a way that doesn’t sound mean or petty but still gives a good idea of what I perceive to be the book’s flaws, and without providing any spoilers.
These days you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a YA dystopian novel that isn’t being touted as The Next Hunger Games. This is the blessing and the curse of the Hunger Games trilogy: On the one hand it is an amazing series that has spawned a resurgence in dystopian fiction, which is fascinating even without throwing teenagers and their crazy hormones into the mix. On the other hand we now have more of The Next Hunger Games than we know what to do with.
And it doesn’t really seem fair to all of these other dystopian books to be comparing them to the Hunger Games all the time. It sets certain expectations, kind of like when you have two kids and you’re always asking one of them, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” And then when the books fail to meet these expectations, everyone is frustrated.
When it comes to The Testing, though, calling it The Next Hunger Games isn’t totally off the mark. Because when it boils down to it, this basically is The Hunger Games: You’ve got your war that destroyed the old way of life, your dystopian landscape where people struggle to get by, your Big Brother government who wants to take a selected few of the chi’drens for their own nefarious purposes, and your survival-savvy hero and heroine who fall in love but maybe can’t trust each other.
And if I hadn’t read this same story so many times by now, it wouldn’t be so bad. Cia isn’t exactly an engaging character—she is analytical to the point of almost being a machine and her voice is for the most part very sparse and flat—and the complete lack of background on Tomas makes it pretty much impossible for me to care about the Cia/Tomas relationship, but this book would’ve probably wrangled a three-star rating from me. The two of them are thrown into a strange situation where they have to use their intellect to survive, and there are a couple unexpected betrayals and alliances. I like survival stories and I like YA. This should technically be a match made in heaven.
But I have read it multiple times just in the past year, and The Hunger Games did it better, and more importantly did it first. Calling any book The Next Hunger Games at this point is only doing it—and any potential readers—a disservice. The cliffhanger ending shows potential for the next book to take a more original turn, and I hope it does. (You do you, The Testing!) I’m also left with the feeling that Cia will be more multidimensional in the next installment, what with all of the secrets and discoveries and other things I can’t talk about here. For the last quarter of the book, she was starting to feel more human and less automaton; the story ended right when I started to get sort of excited.
If you liked The Hunger Games and Divergent and are looking for something a little less gritty and don’t mind a lack of new material, The Testing may be for you. As a dystomance it’s pretty middle-of-the-pack, but that isn’t uncommon with first books. So I will be back for book two! I always am.(less)
This is a review of an ARC received through Goodreads First Reads.
When I initially read the synopsis for Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone on the First Rea...moreThis is a review of an ARC received through Goodreads First Reads.
When I initially read the synopsis for Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone on the First Reads giveaway page, I just knew it was for me. It seemed like a murder mystery-cum-coming of age tale wrapped in a YA package. Perfect!
Once I started reading AAIDaG, though, I realized it wasn’t so much a murder mystery as a book in which a murder has happened. There is a large focus on the closeness of small-town life and the need for (and fear of) escape. I was initially put off by this blow to my expectations and moved on to other books, not returning to it until a few days ago, when I started my vacation.
More fool I, because AAIDaG is for me.
Much of the story is told from the POV of Becca, a recent high school graduate whose boyfriend, James, dumps her the night of graduation. She has lived in tiny Bridgeton all her life and is on the brink of going away to school, finally escaping the miserable monotony of living in a place where everybody knows your name, your history, your business. But the dead body of a mysterious young woman is found, shaking up the town and causing Becca to further question where she truly belongs.
Becca’s small-town claustrophobia is mirrored by Amelia’s “small” life before she finally realizes what she wants to do with her life, both of which I found very relatable. Who among us hasn’t questioned where we “ought” to be in our lives? I reveled in Amelia’s triumph at finding her strength and pursuing what she really wanted to do, but—having known Amelia’s fate since the beginning of the book—it felt so poignant, really fueling the sense of futility so prevalent in the novel. As for Becca, I remember feeling very similarly when I was preparing to go away to college, as though I didn’t really belong at home or at school. So big points to the author there.
However, that was pretty much where my ability to relate to Becca ended. She spends so much of the book feeling confused and despondent, floating through the summer on waves of suspicion and fear, that I just couldn’t quite get a handle on her personality. Amelia and James were the most interesting characters to me. Much of my interest in Amelia was based on how alive she seemed in “her” parts, as well as the mystery surrounding the circumstances of her murder. And how we see James is constantly changing. I started the book unable to figure out why anyone would date him, and by the end of the novel my heart was completely broken for him.
This is a strong first novel, written in beautiful, atmospheric prose. I definitely look forward to seeing what else Rosenfield will write. It is without doubt a mature YA novel, making it a perfect read for both mature teens and adults.(less)
This is a review of a copy won through First Reads.
This book was hard for me to categorize. It takes place in Victorian-era New England but it's like...moreThis is a review of a copy won through First Reads.
This book was hard for me to categorize. It takes place in Victorian-era New England but it's like an alternate universe Victorian-era New England, so I don't feel I can call it historical fiction. It's about three sisters who are witches but the witchcraft receives far less attention than the romance, so I wouldn't it's paranormal. I finally decided to just put it on my YA, romance, and fiction shelves and leave it at that re: categorization.
It is a light, quick read and I was absorbed enough that I finished it in a day and found myself thinking about it the next day at work, wanting to read the next installment and feeling peevish about having to wait. But I was a bit disappointed because I had gone into it expecting more of a supernatural, magical story and ended up reading largely about a girl who is stifled by society because of her second X chromosome and who is living out the plot of "Torn Between Two Lovers." It was like a watered-down version of Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy (which I love).
Those things aside, though, it is a solid first installment and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. I've already added the second book to my "to read" shelf.(less)
I am by nature a very awkward person, so I was beyond excited to win an ARC of this through First Reads. And it's full of useful advice! For example:
...moreI am by nature a very awkward person, so I was beyond excited to win an ARC of this through First Reads. And it's full of useful advice! For example:
* What to do if you change your Facebook relationship status and your new flame doesn't. * How to handle the STD talk--I have one, I just found out I have one, you gave me one. * When you say something snarky about a friend/coworker/family member and that person overhears it. * How to handle communal fridge wars (this is one I particularly appreciated, since human decency seems to completely break down in the face of a shared refrigerator). * When you are dating two or more girls at once and at #1's office holiday party you guys meet up with #2 (favorite hypothetical scenario: Neither girl cares, so "propose a threesome immediately. Opportunities like this don't come around every day.") * How to let someone down on a first or second date when you realize there's no way it'll work out. * What to do when you spill pinot on your girlfriend's parents' new white suede couch during your first Thanksgiving at their house ("look up 'how to remove red wine from a white suede couch' on your phone. Contemplate, while the answer is loading, whether or not you should be concerned that your girlfriend's parents just bought a white suede couch"). * What to do when someone confesses their love for you and says they'll hurt themselves if you don't reciprocate.
Scholfield also shares humorous awkward stories from herself and others. It was a fun read that had me laughing out loud quite a few times. Though she does make some tongue-in-cheek suggestions on how to deal with awkward situations, there are also many realistic and truly helpful ones and I imagine I'll be referencing this book many times in the years to come.(less)
This is a review of an ARC won through a First Reads giveaway.
It is an indisputable fact that unsupervised teenagers in a store/mall are hu...moreThis is a review of an ARC won through a First Reads giveaway.
It is an indisputable fact that unsupervised teenagers in a store/mall are huge pains in the butt. They rarely buy things, and when they do it's usually something that costs $5 or less. They are loud and they always make you feel like they are laughing at you because you're old and uncool. They run amok and leave things out of order and they molest and break the neck of the giant stuffed giraffe corporate sent your store for no discernible reason. And just as werewolves always come out during a full moon, teenagers always go out on Friday and Saturday nights. Damn kids! Get off my lawn!
With that in mind, imagine you go to the mall to buy something small on a Friday night. It's just a quick trip; you wouldn't even go tonight because you're worn out from your work week and just want to relax at home, but this item is very necessary and you must have it now. This is a big, fancy mall, with an ice rink and several levels and lots of skylights. It's swarming with families and, of course, those damn unsupervised kids. You're just going to go in, get that thing you need, and get out as fast as possible.
So you're inside, heading for the store most likely to have that thing you need, and an announcement comes over the loudspeaker. There's a security issue in the parking garage and everyone has to get in a store and stay there until the issue is resolved. Grumbling, you go into the nearest store with all the other sheeple and wait for the all-clear so you can get home. Okay, it's a hassle. But you'll be out soon, right?
No Safety in Numbers is told through the eyes of four teens, ranging in age from fourteen to probably about seventeen. Dayna Lorentz does a good job of making sure each individual has his or her own distinctive voice and I found it easy to switch from one person's perspective to another's. But the characters seemed very superficial at first--the jock, the politician's nerdy daughter, the bitter guy from the wrong side of the tracks, and the ethereal, artsy exotic-looking girl the boys swoon over--and I thought it took a while for them to really flesh out into "real" people. To me, none of them were very sympathetic characters, although I found aspects about each of that did make me care about their survival. Shay's main focus is to protect her family. Lexi is brave enough to do things many of the adults won't even consider. Marco, cunning with impressive survival instincts, discovers he has a softer side. Ryan was probably the hardest character for me to like; his who am I, really? struggle is something everyone can relate to, but most of his choices turned me off to him. The description on the back of the book describes it as "Contagion meets Lord of the Flies." If this is Lord of the Flies, Ryan is Ralph.
That said, the novel doesn't really go Lord of the Flies until nearly the end. The plot was slow at first, and since I didn't realize it was the first of a series I was nearly put off the book altogether. Much of the beginning of the book consists of the four main characters being their stereotypical selves, although we do get glimpses into how the government is handling the situation (hint: poorly). But after a couple days the announcement is made that it isn't a security issue keeping them in the mall with no way of contacting the outside world, but the outbreak of a highly contagious disease. And that is when things get interesting. The adults basically check out and the teenagers, who have been running wild in the mall for days already, get pretty hardcore. Like, (view spoiler)[murdering people (hide spoiler)] kind of hardcore. The sociology nut in me did a little happy dance watching the complete breakdown of society as we know it in the microcosm of this mall. Mass hysteria after being quarantined in a shopping center really brings out the worst in people. As the reader, I know they can't get out no matter what they do, but I can't help but wonder how I would behave in that scenario. At what point will your survival instincts completely override your sense of human compassion?
My ARC says this is recommended for ages 12 and up; the current Goodreads description says 13 and up. HOWEVER. There is a lot of not very nice language in this book, something that has been pointed out by other reviewers already. The profanity lends realism--I know if I were in this situation I wouldn't really be concerned about keeping my language clean, except in front of small children and then only to avoid causing them panic. But there is enough usage of the f-bomb alone that if this were a movie script, it would not be able to get a PG-13 rating. There are also a lot of deaths, some more gruesome than others. If you're looking for a book for your kid to read, I wouldn't recommend it for anyone younger than fourteen, or maybe mature thirteen-year-olds.
The only thing keeping me from giving this a 4-star rating, besides the slow plot buildup, is the minor grievance of the store names, Chopsticky Buns and PaperClips and PhreshPharm to name a few. It really is so minor I probably shouldn't even mention it, but they were repeated enough to really annoy me. Overall, though, this is an enjoyable read (I read it all in one sitting) and a solid beginning to the trilogy. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
"People, I have discovered, are layers and layers of secrets. You believe you know them, that you understand them, but their motives are always hidden from you, buried in their own hearts. You will never know them, but sometimes you decide to trust them."
I did not like Divergent. I gave it two stars. But I always intended to read the second book, because in my experience a lot of first-time authors get better with time. So I hopped on the library waiting list. And then I won an ARC through Pub Writes. (Brief sidenote to talk about how much I love ARCs, both for the excitement of reading something so new and for the accompanying sense of smug superiority. They're one of the things I miss most about my bookstore days.) Everything was conspiring for me to read this book.
I considered giving four stars just based on content, but it got an extra star for how completely riveted I was the entire time. I read nothing else for two days.
Roth picks up right where she left off in Divergent--no ten pages of rehashing everything that happened in Book One here, which I appreciate. There is not a single lagging moment in this book. Everything is fast-paced, the characters are more fleshed out and less robotic, and I was constantly wondering what was going to happen next. There are plot twists, betrayals, fights, losses... and the ending. Holy crap. Let's just say I can't believe I have to wait another year(ish) to find out what happens.
Things I liked: I have theories on the Divergent universe, which it turns out were supported by mentions of (view spoiler)["outside the fence" (hide spoiler)] a few times in the course of Insurgent--and the ending confirmed them further. I loved that the Big Bad never really seemed to be who I thought it was. And Tris was far easier to relate to this round, at least for me. The dialogue made me cringe less (except for one really corny part (view spoiler)[between Tobias and Tris (hide spoiler)], and the banter actually made me smile. Also: (view spoiler)[CHRISTINA. I was really worried about her after Divergent, and I liked her more in this book, too. (hide spoiler)]
Things I still don't get: How stupid are these people? In Divergent, I thought they were pretty dumb as a society for splitting up like they did. In Insurgent, I thought they were pretty dumb as a society because apparently (view spoiler)[most of them can't recognize notorious criminals or famous faction leaders as long as they change the colors of their clothes and go by fake names (hide spoiler)]. Apparently their disguises are the equivalent of putting on those Groucho glasses and everyone is somehow okay with this.
And here is my lament: This book doesn't come out until May 1, which means I can't talk about it with my friends yet. ARCs are a double-edged sword and now I must wait impatiently for the release date despite already having read the book. Indeed, nobody knows the trouble I've seen.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I was given an ARC of this in 2009 by my manager, who said "this sounds like something you'd like." Given the topic matter, I wasn't sure whether or n...moreI was given an ARC of this in 2009 by my manager, who said "this sounds like something you'd like." Given the topic matter, I wasn't sure whether or not to be offended. It was very difficult for me to read because I cannot imagine how a person could do something like what Devon does. At the time my little sister was three years old, which made it even harder for me to stomach. It is a very powerful book but wasn't my thing. However, I plan to reread it eventually, once I get through my current "to read" pile.(less)
I won a copy of this through First Reads and was pretty excited about it because I love Greek mythology. But I'm abandoning it (for now) because I'm j...moreI won a copy of this through First Reads and was pretty excited about it because I love Greek mythology. But I'm abandoning it (for now) because I'm just not getting into it. I'm withholding a star rating since I only read about a quarter in. It isn't bad but it's a bit "younger" YA than I was expecting and doesn't really mesh with my current reading proclivities.(less)