Note: If you have problems with anxiety, depression, and/or self-harm and are avoiding triggers, this book is not for you. You may also want to avoid...moreNote: If you have problems with anxiety, depression, and/or self-harm and are avoiding triggers, this book is not for you. You may also want to avoid this review, since I touch upon those topics.
When I first heard about The Program, I was excited. I’m not 100% sure what I expected it to be—certainly not the World’s Most Realistic Depiction of Teen Depression and Suicide, considering it’s a young adult dystopia—but I wasn’t anticipating the amalgamation of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets Delirium that it turned out to be. It was an intense story, one of those “stay up late and read it all in one night” novels, but there were a few factors that kept this from being a four-star read.
As with most young adult dystopias, the premise is interesting, if not entirely realistic: In the world of The Program (which seems fairly close to our current world, timing-wise) teenage depression and suicide has become an epidemic, believed to be a transferrable disease, and having your mind wiped clean by The Program is the only way to ensure survival. Sloane and her boyfriend, James, vowed when Sloane’s brother killed himself that they would take care of each other and protect each other from The Program. Unfortunately The Program’s reach is everywhere, and avoiding it is an exercise in futility.
The description on the dust jacket pitches this as a book about surviving unavoidable depression, suicide, and/or memory-wiping, the main focus is the romance. The big question Suzanne Young seems to be posing in The Program is, “Does love conquer all?” When your memory has been wiped clean and your friends and your boyfriend selectively and systematically removed from your brain, once you’re sent out into the world again—will you find your way back to your old life? Will those people and emotions from your previous life, the ones you swore they’d never take from you—will they return?
The characterization was a little weak. As a protagonist, Sloane didn’t have a whole lot to set her apart from everyone else; the majority of the focus of the book is on her memories as they are being relived and erased and those are, for the most part, about her relationship with James. So they are sweet, and at times they are heartbreaking, but there’s just not a whole lot going on with her beyond that. I felt for her, I really did, especially when she was trying to fight The Program and losing. Sometimes no matter how strong and determined you are, you can’t win. But she was a pretty generic white bread type, all tragic for most of Part I, letting James fight for her, and that negatively colored my perspective of her for the majority of the rest of the book.
But oh my god, the emotional aspects of this book left me raw. In case the note at the start of this review didn’t put you off, let me say I’m in an excellent place right now, mentally and emotionally, and parts of The Program made me feel claustrophobic and panicky and brought up past feelings and experiences that were almost overwhelming. The Program was so gripping, though, that I didn’t want to give up on it. Instead, I took some time at a few points to put the book down and sort of breathe through it and remind myself it was fiction.
And reflecting on it now, I think that is an indication that Young knows how to write about depression and fear and helplessness in a way that fully immerses you in those feelings. Even though I didn’t necessarily agree with the way The Program presented these issues as something that just happens to you, completely unavoidably, and the only cures are to either let the Big Bad erase your memory or commit suicide, I can’t help but applaud Suzanne Young’s ability to take the feelings of depression and isolation and render them so raw and realistic that I doubt anyone could read this book and not say, “Wow, so that’s what it feels like.”
The sequel, The Treatment, is set for an April 2014 release, and it’s going on my “like white on rice” TBR shelf because despite The Program’s flaws, I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. I can’t wait to see what happens to Sloane & Co., whether anyone beats The Program, and if there are any explanations regarding what led to the major flaw in logic that convinced adults the best way to treat an epidemic of teenage depression was to put more pressure on them to appear healthy and, if they failed at that, take them away from their lives and erase their memories and personalities. (Because really, guys? Really?)
Sometimes when I review a book I spend a ridiculous amount of time waffling about what rating to give it. Usually if I give something five stars it’s...moreSometimes when I review a book I spend a ridiculous amount of time waffling about what rating to give it. Usually if I give something five stars it’s because it’s a 4.5 star book and I rounded up. But The Lost Girl is not a 4.5 star book. It is not a book whose rating and impact I had to consider. The whole time I was reading this book, I knew. I knew I loved it and that Eva’s story would stay with me for a long time. It isn’t five stars “for what it is”; it is five stars because it is an incredible book and deserves every bit of that rating. I have never encountered such an engrossing, beautifully-written novel which deals so poignantly with the topics of love, grief, and humanity.
Eva is an Echo, made in the image of her Other, Amarra, with the intention of taking Amarra’s place when she dies. Created at the Loom by one of the Weavers, Eva’s entire life is spent learning to be Amarra. She watches videos, reads notes, takes tests, perfects Amarra’s accent, studies Amarra’s family and friends. Eva’s life is not her own and for her to be herself is an unpardonable crime; to try to escape it all could result in a Sleep Order and her destruction. If anyone finds out Eva’s an Echo, she’ll be treated as an outcast and possibly killed—and that’s assuming she’s in a country where it’s even legal for her to exist. To the world, Eva is an abomination.
Despite all this and in spite of her restlessness, Eva has a relatively peaceful existence in England. She has a loving family in Mina Ma and her Guardians and a friendship/forbidden love with Sean, a Guardian roughly her age. She considers herself real, individual—human. When she is unexpectedly called to India to take Amarra’s place, Eva tries to be a good Amarra, but through a series of unfortunate events she is faced with a choice: accept her fate or fight for her freedom.
This was a heartbreaking read. Within the first two chapters, I felt claustrophobic on behalf of Eva. I can’t imagine being in that position, having everyone hate me just because I was made at a Loom instead of in a womb. It’s the ultimate in “I didn’t ask to be born!,” only instead of fighting with your mom about curfew you’re fighting for your right to exist because some people you’ve never met had you made to take their daughter’s place when she dies so they’ll never have to live without her. And how must it have felt to be Amarra, knowing every day of your life that someone out in the world is ready to take your place the moment you die? I felt the injustice of being created as a replacement and of being so easily replaced right along with the two girls.
Frankly, the idea of creating a person who looks and acts exactly like your child to come in and take her place in the event of her death is gross. But the way Mandanna wrote it, I could see where Amarra’s parents were coming from when they made that decision, and my heart ached for them when having their daughter’s Echo around didn’t turn out to be anything like what they’d hoped. When we suffer the loss of a loved one, our grief can become almost sentient—a big, hulking shadow following us everywhere, breathing down our neck. Our loss is always there. Mandanna captured that feeling perfectly, and because of that it was impossible for me to view Amarra’s parents as the bad guys. They were merely two brokenhearted parents trying to do right by their daughter. Their choices were selfish, yet that selfishness was hopelessly interwoven with love.
Oh, and you know how I loves me some beautiful prose? Here, have a taste:
But maybe that’s what the dead do. They stay. They linger. Benign and sweet and painful. They don't need us. They echo all by themselves.
“Your life is dangling by a thread. And I’m scrabbling to hold on, but it keeps slipping through my fingers. I’m here because I can’t stand not to be. It’s not some big noble sacrifice. I want to be here. I don’t like the world without you. I need you to be alive.”
The cottage by the lake is now over the hill and far away, and Jonathan and Ophelia and the other little ducks are there, and if I dream hard enough maybe, like the song, I will go after them and find them and one day all the little ducks will come back.
Sangu Mandanna is definitely an author to watch. With The Lost Girl, she has created a vivid world in which Frankenstein’s Monster is born every day. She explores what it means to love, to grieve, to belong, and to be human. Every character, from Eva down to Sasha, had an impact on me. The ending is written so the story can stand on its own; however a sequel would also fit. So I’ll be over here, re-reading this book and keeping my fingers crossed for another one. Or another Sangu Mandanna book about anything. The life and times of a speck of lint, maybe. I’m not about to be picky.(less)
“What was it she’d said to her dad? None of us knows each other. Question: If a room has thirty people in it, how many secrets are in the room? Answer...more“What was it she’d said to her dad? None of us knows each other. Question: If a room has thirty people in it, how many secrets are in the room? Answer: Infinity.”
It is very difficult for me to write a review of You Against Me. Reading this book is a complex experience, because everything is so murky and undefined. Most books which deal with the subject of rape focus on the victim, making everything very clear-cut. But this one is told from the dual perspective of the brother of the victim and the sister of the accused. Everything is hearsay.
And of course if you are in that position, if your sister says she was raped and is obviously suffering or if your brother says he’s innocent and you can’t imagine him ever trying to hurt someone like that... of course you are going to believe your sibling, defend him or her. Not only is it what you think is right; it’s what your family expects from you. Blood is thicker than water and all that. Mikey and Ellie are loyal to their siblings, often to a fault, trying to protect their families the best they can.
And while that loyalty is admirable, it also means there are no truly sympathetic characters. Instead of dealing with the issue and trying to help Karyn cope with being attacked, Mikey turns to old skool physical retribution to make himself feel better, while becoming increasingly frustrated with Karyn and wishing she would just get back to normal. Their mother actually says at one point that maybe it would’ve been better if Karyn had only kept her mouth shut. No one in the family tries to discuss the events of the night with Karyn or truly encourages her to open up to the investigators and seek help from the various resources “her” police officer has offered. And though Mikey seems to be a bit more sensitive in his dealings with girls after what happened to his sister, growing uneasy when his best friend does whatever the British slang equivalent of hollering at a couple girls from the car is, he is still careless with the emotions of the women in his life.
As for Ellie’s family, the parents blindly support Tom, sometimes at their daughter’s expense. Ellie’s father is full-on Mama Bear Protecting Her Young, and I get that and to some extent I do find it commendable. However, how do you choose which child is more important to you? How can you possibly destroy one child to save the other, seemingly without batting an eyelash? Ellie, as the only witness to the events in question, has the power to make a statement that would easily be the nail in the coffin for Karyn’s case—or in her brother’s. Yes, that is absolutely a huge responsibility to have and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to be placed in that position. But as the story wears on and Ellie becomes increasingly unsure about how the events of the night actually unfolded, she has multiple opportunities to stand up for what is right and consistently chooses to sit by idly instead. For a girl who is allegedly so smart, she makes some pretty dumb decisions. But she also nuts up and makes some quite good ones and manages to break even; she isn’t heroic but she isn’t evil, either.
The book also deals with the way too common way sexual assault victims are treated and the pervasive “boys will be boys and the girl’s a slut” attitude. Tom is a good guy, everyone says. Even if he did have sex with Karyn, he definitely didn’t know she was underage and she obviously was into him and must have wanted it. She was drunk. She dressed provocatively. She was all over him. She must’ve panicked the morning after and claimed she said no to get back at him. Even some of the adults in this story have that attitude—most notably Ellie and Tom’s father, who not only pooh-poohs the idea of his son assaulting Karyn but also calls her a bitch and a slut—and though I am very aware that line of thinking exists, it is still difficult to read.
Stylistically, I thought Jenny Downham had it down in this book. Her writing style was perfect for the topic, stark and simple for the most part, and then she would bust out some beautiful prose that just blew me away and made me feel hopeful that everything would work out in the end. For me, much of it had to do with the descriptions of the landscape. Give me a good, wistfully beautiful description of the seaside and I’m sold. There is also such poignancy in how Mikey and Ellie’s relationship is written, small moments that made me really root for them as a couple despite how annoying they could be as individuals—the whole cottage scene and then lines like this:
“Was this love? Because it hurt. It was like a bit of glass stuck somewhere important—his heart or his head, and it was throbbing. Already he missed her and they were only just out of the door.”
Amid all the darkness, the hopelessness, and the horror, Downham manages to weave in some light and hope, making me genuinely believe all the people involved will be okay no matter how things turn out in the end. She created a group of beautifully flawed characters I actually cared about, balancing their good and bad qualities perfectly. I wanted to believe Karyn, but at the same time I wanted Tom to be telling the truth. I cared about Ellie’s parents while mentally kicking them for being so self-absorbed and unbearable. I admired Mikey’s and Ellie’s strength even when I wanted to give them both a good shake for folding so easily. It’s rare that I read a book with characters who can evoke such strong positive and negative reactions from me and who I love despite their myriad bad qualities and I was genuinely upset when I closed the book on the last page.
I’ll let Ellie and Mikey finish this one off for me:
“I don’t know about you,” he said, “but I want to keep going.” “Yes,” she said, “me too.”
“If you stay, I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll quit the band, go with you to New York. But if you need me to go away, I’ll do that, too. Maybe...more4.5 stars
“If you stay, I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll quit the band, go with you to New York. But if you need me to go away, I’ll do that, too. Maybe coming back to your old life would just be too painful, maybe it’d be easier for you to erase us. And that would suck, but I’d do it. I can lose you like that if I don’t lose you today. I’ll let you go. If you stay.”
That was Adam’s promise to Mia in If I Stay, and in Where She Went we see that he has been forced to keep it. Three years after the accident that killed her family, Mia has left for Juilliard and completely cut ties with Adam. It was more an abandonment than a breakup, and Adam hasn’t been able to move on. He can’t enjoy the success of his band, Shooting Star, or his super hot famous girlfriend. He has become an isolated mess, having panic attacks just thinking about going on tour and no longer finding any solace or joy in music. One Friday the thirteenth, Adam refuses to fly from New York to London with his bandmates—it’s an unlucky day, you see—and through the subsequent fortuitous chain of events, he and Mia are given one more day together.
I actually liked Where She Went more than its predecessor. Both novels are very character-driven with little action, and both have themes of love and recovery. But something about Adam’s narrative made it easier for me to connect with him. He seems so much more involved in life, despite his isolation. Where Mia was detached, Adam was emotionally—and sometimes physically—responsive to everything. My heart was breaking for him the entire time as he tried to figure out how to cope with everything in his life—with unwanted fame, with the loss of a family that wasn’t technically his to lose, with Mia taking him up on the promise he’d never told her he made, with finally and truly letting her go.
And I get that Mia’s story is partially about that detachment, about having to step back and make an unbearably difficult decision. But she still seems emotionally distant in Where She Went. As much as Adam doesn’t want to feel, he does, and he does it passionately. And his lyrics, which opened most of the chapters, made me wish he actually had a CD out for me to listen to as I read.
Reading this left me feeling gutted, and though the ending is beautiful and hopeful and the extras after the Acknowledgments are happy, I won’t lie: There were points when I’m pretty sure my tears had tears.
My feelings about these books are complex, because I love them so much. They are just so wonderfully written and poignant and I know Mia’s and Adam’s stories will stick with me for years. But they also left me so emotionally drained that I doubt I could ever reread them.
On a final note, I’m not sure why this mini-series keeps being compared to Twilight because honestly I just don’t see it. Please don’t let that blurb on the paperback cover of If I Stay keep you from reading these books.(less)
I can't. I can't even. I'll be back with a review when I have more to say besides "holy friggin' crap."
I read this because of all the g...moreI can't. I can't even. I'll be back with a review when I have more to say besides "holy friggin' crap."
I read this because of all the glowing GR reviews. I wasn’t sure how much I’d like it—rape is of course a sensitive subject and I was concerned it might be treated somewhat cavalierly. Additionally, damsel in distress stories really grind my gears and this felt like it could easily turn into one of those. But I went for it, and it turned out to be such an amazing book that I didn’t even have the words to write a review until today (two days after finishing it).
Easy made me do a lot of this:
And some of this:
And then more of this:
I don’t want to spoil any of it, but I do want to address the main reason I’ve seen for people not wanting to read it: the rape. It happens in the first chapter, practically on page one. It isn’t pretty and it is hard to read through. But Webber makes sure it is an Important Issue, not a minor plot point to bring about a romance. And rape isn’t treated as the end of the world or as something to be swept under the rug. At first Jacqueline is afraid to tell anyone what happened; when she finally confesses to her best friend, Erin signs the two of them up for a self-defense class and helps Jacqueline get through it. Yes, Lucas initially saves her, and he shows up at a few other convenient times, but there’s no damsel in distress plot; with help from her friends and through her own motivation, Jacqueline learns to defend herself. Her reputation is tainted, of course, because obviously she must have wanted to sleep with Rapist A. Douchecanoe. You know how it is: Boys will be boys and the girl’s a slut.
At one point, Jacqueline has to discuss the attempted rape with a sorority. Here, the issue of whose reputation matters more and whether or not it was really rape is addressed in a speech that made me start fist-pumping like a Jersey Shore castmember.
And oh yeah, there’s Lucas.
I want him to be a real person. He is complex and wonderful and sensitive without being a weenie and he has a lip ring. And he draws, so there’s one of those really smolderriffic sketching scenes.
Their romance is slow, sweet, and considerate. And when he tells Jacqueline about the first time he noticed her? Wow. Turn the Swoon Factor up to 11, guys.
Anyway, I ended the book by doing this:
And then I spent an hour making unintelligible noises of joy. You should all go read Easy RIGHT NOW so we can have a roundtable discussion consisting almost entirely of happy squeaks. Then we can go kick some ass, because GRRRRL POWER!(less)
This has been on my physical to-read shelf for about a year now. I picked it up at the used bookstore because the premise seemed so interesting, a...moreWow.
This has been on my physical to-read shelf for about a year now. I picked it up at the used bookstore because the premise seemed so interesting, and then it languished on my shelf for nine months. I’m not sure what drove me to pick it up the other day, but I could not put it down once I started. I read this novel within 24 hours on a workday, and it completely broke my heart.
The story is told through three women: Iris, Esme, and Kitty. Esme Lennox, who is being released from a mental institution after 61 years, tells her story mostly in flashbacks. Kitty, Esme’s sister and Iris’s grandmother, narrates through stream-of-consciousness ramblings due to her battle with Alzheimer’s. Iris’s narrative is perhaps the easiest to follow and also serves as the link between the present and the past; she is the one who takes Esme in when the asylum closes and who eases her great-aunt back into the world.
As a child and a young woman, Esme was high-spirited and independent, a noncomformist if ever there was one. She was the only witness to a family tragedy and in some ways her parents seem to blame her and are angered when she continues discussing the event rather than pretending it never happened. Nothing particularly damning by today’s standards, but the price she pays for her refusal to conform is a lifetime in an insane asylum. The way her story is told, through her flashbacks as well as Kitty’s, is masterful to say the least, and the ways in which her life is interwoven with Iris’s are heartbreaking.
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is a story of family ties, love (and the lack of it), and the lengths to which we will go to protect our secrets. It is also a look at the bleak world of asylums in Esme’s time; another great depiction of this is the nonfiction Annie's Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret, which I read a few years ago and found very impactful. I withheld a fifth star from my rating for Vanishing because of the abrupt ending. I was left feeling too uneasy to give a full five stars.(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)
Whenever I read a series, I always worry that as the books progress they will become less impressive. I liked Wither more than I liked Feve...more4.5/5 stars
Whenever I read a series, I always worry that as the books progress they will become less impressive. I liked Wither more than I liked Fever, and my grievances with the latter had me concerned that Sever wouldn’t live up to my expectations. But boy oh boy, was I wrong. And there is no way I will be able to do this book and the way it made me feel justice in a review, but I will certainly try.
This is without a doubt the strongest novel in the trilogy. I was bracing myself for Rhine’s story to go out with a whimper but I got the bang I was hoping for and then some. In fact, I thought Sever was so well done that I am actually a little less impressed with Wither now. It’s like Wither and Fever were just setting the stage for this book and Lauren DeStefano was biding her time until she could blow me away. Sever is way more character-driven than its predecessors, while still having the poetry and aching beauty of the first two books. There’s more dialogue than in the first two installments and a few new characters (I absolutely adored Reed and his relationship with Linden, Rhine, and Cecily), as well as the return of some older ones. Questions I’ve had since book one were answered and it turns out I wasn’t entirely right about why it is called the Chemical Garden trilogy, but I wasn’t quite wrong either.
A huge theme in this book—in the whole series, I suppose—is how painful it can be to love someone. In the Chemical Garden universe nothing is permanent, and that is where much of the suffering comes from in relationships. The only certainty to loving someone in this world is that you will lose them. But the agony of love goes deeper than that in Sever; Rhine’s affection for Linden and why he clings to her is better explained and, for lack of better phrasing, more acceptable in this installment. Their relationship is still sort of twisted and strange, but the fact is that they are two people who can offer each other something no one else can. Their love isn’t an easy love, nor is Rhine’s love for her brother, Gabriel, or her sister wives. Not even her love for her parents is simple. No person is simple, and things will always come up that make it difficult to fully give ourselves to someone. And yet we do. Just as we keep on living in the face of overwhelming evidence that it might be easier to just let go. That is the thing I most admired about Rhine and which is showcased best in Sever: She is brave enough to live and love in a world where the only certainty is that she will die young.
It isn’t quite a five star book for me—I do wish DeStefano had expanded more on some parts, like the Chemical Garden project—but it’s definitely in the high 4s. The ending managed to break my heart and mend it, all in a few paragraphs, and the book as a whole just felt like the perfect end to this trilogy, as though even the sad or bad parts could never have been any other way. Is it silly to say I’m proud of Lauren DeStefano? Because I am. This book makes me want to throw confetti at her and blow those annoying bleating party things.
Also, I am not usually a cover gusher, but I loved the covers for these books. I think this is probably my favorite one; there is so much hope on that cover. You’ll understand once you read it. Go read it!(less)
I finished this book on 3/9/12 at 4 a.m. and am only writing the review now (3/23/12) because it took me several days to process the ending. Then I we...moreI finished this book on 3/9/12 at 4 a.m. and am only writing the review now (3/23/12) because it took me several days to process the ending. Then I went out and bought the box set (I had been reading the series as ebooks and was seized by a burning need to have physical copies) and reread everything. I am currently about a third of the way through Mockingjay (again) and am just getting to the point where I'm able to organize my thoughts.
I don't want to be a spoiler-sport, so I'll be a bit vague on the plot and try to focus on my feelings on the series as a whole. Here is the general idea of the book: Katniss has been the figurehead of the revolution since she and Peeta used the berries to escape the Arena, but it isn't until this book that she chooses to be the Mockingjay. And with that choice comes revolution, war, loss of life, and loss of innocence. (And you thought after the first two books there wasn't any more innocence to lose. Ha! Oh, ye of little faith.)
You may notice I only gave this book 4 stars, as opposed to the 5 for The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. And after a lot of thought, I've figured out why I rated this one lower. I think the reason a lot of people (myself included) didn't like the third book as much as the first two is because of the ending. Logically, we all know it can't all be unicorns and sunshine. But so much of the series is a form of escapism (despite the premise of the first book) and then suddenly in the last book we are faced with the harsh realities of war and its effect on children, families, innocence, etc. Characters I loved died tragically. I found out the horrible reasons behind why so many of the victors are mentally and emotionally shattered. There is a small glimmer of hope in the epilogue, but it's still very raw and real. And even though we don't have hovercrafts and we still live in a democratic state and so far no one is dumping kids in an arena to duke it out, similar suffering can and does happen now.
Also, it was the last book and I never handle endings well when I'm this emotionally invested in something.
I read a review on Goodreads that said Katniss wasn't a good role model for young women because of the ultimate decision she makes in regards to her romantic life. (Which I'm not going to write here, because that reviewer did and the spoiler wasn't hidden and I pretty much LOST IT because I had only just started Catching Fire at the time.) I completely disagree. She is one of the strongest female characters I've read about in a long time, especially in YA literature. From a psychological standpoint, Katniss is a freaking miracle. Throughout the series she has to cope with being starved, tortured, abandoned, and manipulated, as well as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. There are points where I thought, "Oh waah, two boys are in love with you, boo fricketty hoo. Did you also clog your toilet when you crapped a gold brick this morning?" But for the most part I really liked and respected her. She is a survivor. I mean, shall we compare her to Bella Swan? In New Moon, Bella goes catatonic for several months because her boyfriend dumped her and skipped town. After the death of her father, Katniss has to support and provide for her sister and severely depressed mother. Then she sacrifices herself to a Battle Royale in order to protect her sister. And then she does all kinds of heroic stuff in the Arena, triggers a revolution, etc. Plus she's a certified BAMF with a bow and arrow. I really think her reneging on a pact she made with herself as a child in regards to love can't do much to overshadow all the rest of that.
But I've said too much. I can't guarantee you'll love the series as much as I did, but I strongly suggest you read it.(less)
A review has been a long time coming. I actually finished reading it for the second time today. The first time I read the series,...moreOkay. So. This book.
A review has been a long time coming. I actually finished reading it for the second time today. The first time I read the series, I did so in three days because I just had to know what would come next. I didn't have time to stop and write a review for this one, and after I finished Mockingjay I needed a couple days to process everything. Then I just started rereading the entire series again and now I'm back, trying to describe this book and why I loved it so much without divulging any spoilers.
Catching Fire picks up shortly after The Hunger Games left off, with Katniss and Peeta about to embark on a Victory Tour of the Districts. Having survived the Hunger Games, Katniss should be safe. But the trick she and Peeta devised to both escape the Arena alive is being viewed by the rest of Panem as a spark of rebellion, and now the Powers That Be in the Capitol will do whatever it takes to keep the spark from catching fire. (See what I did there? Does it make sense? I don't even care; I need to finish this review so I can go read the last book again.)
As with the first book, I didn't really consider this YA so much as good fiction. The social commentary in this series on war, poverty, global politics, and the impact on children is very strong, but it doesn't overpower the story and never comes off preachy. And I'm still floored by how well Suzanne Collins wrote her characters. Good or bad or in-between guys, I'm emotionally invested in their lives. It makes reading some parts very difficult, sure, but as a writer and a bookavore I am so impressed with and appreciative of what Collins has done.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to somehow wrench myself away from Mockingjay long enough to shower. The Reaping starts in 5 hours and 20 minutes. Gotta look my best!(less)
It's been a while since I read a book that gripped me this much. I started this book yesterday, staying up until my eyes wouldn't cooperate...moreHoly. Crap.
It's been a while since I read a book that gripped me this much. I started this book yesterday, staying up until my eyes wouldn't cooperate any longer and then devouring the last four chapters this morning. And for ten minutes after I finished, all I could think was "Holy. Crap." and derivatives thereof.
The action takes place in Panem, in what was once known as North America. The country is composed of a Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. There was a District 13, once upon a time, but the Capitol destroyed them after the rebellion--just to show they were the bosses of everyone else. Ever since, each year the twelve remaining districts must pick a boy and a girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to go to the Capitol and fight in the Hunger Games. The Games are broadcast throughout Panem, the way we broadcast things like Survivor (you knew that comparison was coming) or The Bachelor. Only one child can survive. When Katniss's twelve-year-old sister, Prim, is the female tribute picked during the District 12 reaping, Katniss volunteers to go in her sister's place.
There were a few points when I felt sick to my stomach imagining a society in which children are expected to do something like this and the adults literally stand by and watch. There were more than a couple points where I teared up. And I never stopped wondering, Could I do this? If I had to, if it was me in the Arena and I knew there could only be one survivor, would I be able to play this game for their entertainment? Or would I just give up? The only flaw I found with the book was the lack of background on Panem itself. I would love more history on how they came to be. How does a society form in which people make a sport of watching children kill each other? What kind of people could possibly create an Avox or "muttations" like the ones Katniss must face in the Cornucopia at the end? I hope to find more details in the next two books.
My only regret is that it took me so long to read this book. It came out back when I was at Borders and I remember thinking, "Eh." Don't be like the horribly dismissive Nicole of the past, people! Give this book a chance! Whether you enjoy it or not, the story will stick with you.(less)
I finished reading this one this morning and have a had a vaguely unsettled feeling all day.
This book deals with a horrifying topic--the kidnapping, r...moreI finished reading this one this morning and have a had a vaguely unsettled feeling all day.
This book deals with a horrifying topic--the kidnapping, rape, and subjugation of a girl three days shy of her tenth birthday--in a non-exploitative and minimally graphic way. It deserves five stars for that.
This book is well-written, if a bit heavy on the "once upon a time" device. It deserves five stars for that.
And from a psychological study standpoint, this book definitely deserves five stars.
But it was painfully hard for me to read. I had to skim over a part in the middle (no specific one, just about 20 pages that I knew I couldn't handle) because it was impacting me too personally. I am the woman who found a lost preschooler in the store who was crying too hard to tell me her mommy's name so we could find her, and I felt so bad for the kid that I almost started crying with her. A friend of some friends disappeared my freshman year in college and was found murdered a couple months later, which still gets to me six years later. I have a six-year-old sister and I can't read about these things without wondering what if? It was just too nauseating.
I usually feel cheesy about writing plot summaries, but I feel like anyone who wants to read this should know more about what they're getting into than I did. Living Dead Girl is no The Face on the Milk Carton or Baby-Sitting Is a Dangerous Job. It is about a fifteen-year-old who has lived as "Alice" for so long that she has basically shut down. She goes through life in a haze, minute by minute, fighting to survive but wishing her kidnapper would just kill her already so she can be free. Ray likes little girls, in an icky way. So he tries really hard to keep Alice from growing up. But it happens. Which means he needs a new Alice. And it's Current Alice's job to find her replacement.
Should this really be categorized as YA? I don't know. It's certainly not for the faint of heart and if I had kids of my own I wouldn't want them reading this book unless they were older teens with a certain level of emotional maturity. And even then I would want to discuss it with them; I wouldn't hand them a copy and say, "Here, this happens, deal with it." I certainly don't feel it should be banned, though. It can't serve as a cautionary tale--as karen said in her review, "a teen audience is a little old for the caution, and any younger readers would be traumatized beyond therapy"--but I think it is a powerful story and an excellent vehicle for promoting awareness of the cases of missing and exploited children that happen every day.
This isn't a bad book. It is just not my kind of book.(less)