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.
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)
“What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person.”
Is there a special place in hell for people who don’t like...more2.5/5 stars
“What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person.”
Is there a special place in hell for people who don’t like a John Green book? Because I feel like everyone and their mom just raves about John Green (and after reading The Fault in Our Stars I can definitely see why, to an extent), and here I was, trudging through this book and thinking how much I wanted to kick Quentin and Margo, but at the same time feeling like they are somehow supposed to represent Me as the Reader so maybe it is me who is annoying and not them.
And then I’d think, No, it’s not me; it’s definitely them. Because Quentin’s attitude throughout the book is that he is just so much better than all his peers, because he doesn’t care about dumb high school things like prom and he does care about what happened to Margo, the girl next door whom he totally loves even though they barely knew each other after childhood. Meanwhile, all those other banana-heads are worrying about prom dresses and breaking keg stand records and writing Margo off as gone forever, which of course she can’t be, because she left all these clues (more on that later).
And I sort of get this. When I was in high school, I know I thought I was better than some of the popular kids, in my own very speshul outcast way. I know more than once I thought, Look at those idiots, all worried about prom and thinking this is the best time of our lives. If this is the best time I’m ever going to get, I’d rather be dead. But I also know (from actual firsthand accounts and not just the rose-colored glasses that come with Reminiscing on My Youth) that I wasn’t quite as big a jerk about it.
The last third of this book is what bumped it up from two stars to a high 2.5 for me. The shift in Quentin’s perspective, the banter in the Dreidel, Radar’s flag shirt, the adrenaline rush of driving all day and all night with your friends to get to somewhere you may not even be able to find... that was the portion that got me excited, that sucked me in so I was sitting at the dining room table, unable to get up and move to a more comfortable reading spot because just a few more pages...! That last third was the part where I needed to know what would happen next almost as much as I needed oxygen, and after my reaction to The Fault in Our Stars this was really what I was expecting to feel while reading Paper Towns.
But the majority of PT just didn’t do it for me. The disappearance felt like a cry for attention more than a mystery (as much as I hated to agree with Q’s irritating and slightly sexist friend Ben, I did there) and the clues read like someone just trying to prove how much smarter she was than everybody else: “See, idiots? I can vanish and even with all these painstakingly thought-out clues you will never find me or know why I’m gone! Or if you do, it’ll be too late!” All the littry tie-ins and the symbolism were cool, and are normally the kind of thing I like, but it felt like John Green was cramming a lot of it into a small space: “Look, Moby-Dick is relevant to this situation! And so is Walt Whitman! And also maps! Keep up!” There were just too many messages being conveyed at once—letting people be themselves, the danger of putting people on pedestals, the Whitman/Melville tie-ins—and after a while all the signals were getting jammed.
I’ve been reading YA for fifteen years or so and during that time I have read some real drivel. Paper Towns wasn’t the worst and it certainly wasn’t drivel, but it is the first book that has made me feel as curmudgeonly about fictional teens as I usually am about real-life teens. Maybe Q and Margo are actually very well-written and “real” characters, and it turns out I am more into caricatures of teens and have actually been living a lie all these years. Perhaps I have officially become old and crusty; perhaps my negative reaction to this book means I don’t actually like “real” YA. But I don’t have time to muse on this, for it is way past my bedtime. Would you be a dear and pass me my cane so I can hobble to bed? Such a good child! Here, have an old butterscotch candy for your troubles.(less)
“You can be Han Solo,” he said, kissing her throat. “And I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.”
Set in August of 1986, Eleanor & Park is p...more“You can be Han Solo,” he said, kissing her throat. “And I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.”
Set in August of 1986, Eleanor & Park is primarily a story of first love. Boy meets new girl; new girl looks, dresses, and acts all wrong; boy and new girl harbor an illogical resentment for one another that gradually gives way to a quiet friendship and, eventually, love. But it is also a story about trying to fit in in the world, and of the light and dark sides of family life. It’s about survival and learning to be yourself, even when you think you’re awful. And it’s about letting someone love you.
It was refreshing to read about a female MC who doesn’t just think she’s a big, awkward loner, but actually is a big, awkward loner. And it was even better to read a teenage love story in which one person isn’t perfect while the other is a walking Fail—Eleanor and Park both have their issues and hang-ups and even though Eleanor is probably the more insecure one (and with her family life and the secrets she has to keep, that’s not surprising), Park is also uncomfortable in his own skin and unsure of his identity.
And wow, reading this was like taking a trip to Nostalgia City. Adolescence and first love, though painful, are such universal experiences—hence the appeal for authors—and even though I wasn’t even born until the end of this book’s events and my teenage years took place in the Aughts, it was so easy to relate to both MCs. I had the Awkward Fat Girl Experience. I dealt with mean girls, changing for gym as quickly and inconspicuously as possible, and the agony of unrequited love and then that weird, semi-flirting when you like someone and they like you, maybe, and you aren’t sure and you’re terrified so you both just kind of dance around it. I remember trying to make a mix CD for someone I liked (even if it was as Just a Friend, the process was still a Very Big Deal) and selecting songs that I hoped they’d love and which would change that person’s world as much as they’d changed mine. I remember listening to my Discman and Walkman until the batteries died and, in the ’90s, painstakingly taping songs off the radio and my parents’ records to make the perfect mix tape. And I remember the first time I listened to “Pictures of You” and “How Soon Is Now?” and the way those songs made me feel.
All that said, this is not quite a five-star novel. Though it deals with other issues, the majority of the book is composed of Eleanor’s and Park’s thoughts about each other. And as sweet as those thoughts are there were some moments where the book, while not really uninteresting or lagging, felt... bland, maybe? I really enjoyed it and I read it in about five hours, but there’s only so much of a teenager’s inner musings on how beautiful his/her significant other is that I can handle before I start to crave more action. Park’s dialogue was sometimes a little unrealistic for a sixteen-year-old boy, I thought, a little too well-spoken with the romantic sentiments. This is also technically Rowell’s first novel (she wrote it before Attachments but published it after) and it just has that feel to it at parts. Not in a bad way and nothing that really detracts from the story; it is just evident in some bits that this was a first go and the writing doesn’t feel quite as comfortable, I guess, as Attachments did.
All in all, Eleanor & Park is a wonderful book about two outsiders in love. If you are a book crier, I suggest you read it with tissues at the ready. There are some sappy moments that might get to you, and the climax had me tearing up a bit.(less)
Harley is absolutely convinced she wants to date and marry Trent, her Mr. Right, and as luck would have it he has recently broken up with his girlfrie...moreHarley is absolutely convinced she wants to date and marry Trent, her Mr. Right, and as luck would have it he has recently broken up with his girlfriend, Stephanie. Then Jason comes into her life, rear-ending her car and becoming her fake boyfriend in order to make Trent jealous, and things get complicated. To make matters worse, Harley’s massage therapist mother is getting suspiciously close to one of her students. Everyone at church is talking, and Harley’s mom and Reverend Dad aren’t doing anything to quell the rumors.
This is a cute book; the author described it as being a “chicklit, romantic comedy,” and that is apt. There’s no real dark side to the plot and the conflicts are all resolved by the end, making this a feel-good, happy-ending type story. Some elements, like the dialogue between Jason and Harley, were reminiscent to me of Meg Cabot or Sarah Dessen. Harley has a very strong sense of morality (sometimes to her detriment) and there were some parts where she came off a little preachy, but overall I liked her voice. And even though I accidentally read a spoiler about Travis before reading TTAF and was able to guess Ricky’s secret fairly early on, I did like how those twists played out, as well as Harley’s reaction to them. I felt like a proud mama when Harley responded to Travis’s secret like she did. And I really liked Stephanie’s “here’s fifty cents, buy yourself a backbone” line.
But as much as I liked some aspects, others bugged me too much for a full three rating. For example, Harley’s BFF Shelly had pretty much no redeeming qualities that I could see. She’s grieving and I understand that, but the way she treated Harley? Maybe Harley can forgive it, but I don’t think a crying jag in the car excuses the things she did. People go through hard times and sometimes friendship is about supporting someone even when they are being horrible, and I imagine that’s where Harley and Shelly were, but since there weren’t many examples of Shelly being a good friend and not a boy-crazy man collector I just couldn’t like her.
I’m not 100% sure how I want to rate this book. It’s not a full three stars but I don’t think it’s really a 2.5, either, because I did enjoy it more than I enjoy most of my 2.5s. Maybe a 2.75? Am I making it too complicated? Probably. I do like a little more edge to my YA, so I never really got that moment where I felt like this book and I were MFEO, but it’s a good, light read for anyone looking for mid-range YA with a positive message.(less)
“We’ve got at least seven hours to get what we want before the sun comes up.”
Taking place over the course of one hot Melbourne night, Graffiti Moon is...more“We’ve got at least seven hours to get what we want before the sun comes up.”
Taking place over the course of one hot Melbourne night, Graffiti Moon is basically a chick flick in book form: Girl is in love with Mystery Man. Girl and her friends go out one night and the Guy She’d Never Date walks in and offers to help her find Mystery Man. Girl goes out into the night with Guy She’d Never Date, not knowing that he is in fact Mystery Man, and the two of them both secretly dig each other and there’s a comedy of errors, etc. “Will they end up together?” we are supposed to be asking, even though we all know the answer.
Because this is such a well-worn plot, I was impressed with Cath Crowley’s ability to tweak it and make it fresh and her own. It would be easy for things to get boring and clichéd and for the characters to be one-dimensional, but that never happened. Ed and Lucy and their friends are quirky and witty; even the few predictable plot points never felt contrived. The characters’ musings on art are woven skillfully through the story—opinions on Vermeer, on Rothko and Magritte—and even though I know next to nothing about most of the artists and art forms they mentioned (a glassblowing aficionado I am not), I never felt lost; only swept away.
Even though Ed and Lucy are both technically MCs, I really thought this was more Ed’s story than Lucy’s. He was more complex, with a harder life and a secret identity and more problems to overcome. His moral dilemmas and the loss of his father figure were more engaging for me than anything Lucy had going on, although I really enjoyed her dialogue. And Leo, who is technically a fringe character, is bumped up to MC status since his works as Poet are placed between chapters. So much is told about Leo in those few lines that I felt like I knew him as well as Ed does.
Though I liked A Little Wanting Song better than Graffiti Moon, GM is still a great book. Everything is so silly and sad in this one night, with everyone going after what they want and finding hope and happiness in unexpected places. There’s enough meat to it to keep it from being brain candy, but overall it is a warm-fuzzy sort of book.
[Note for my Aussie friends: Seriously, what kind of hills does Melbourne have? Is it common to bike off them and need police assistance? I really need an answer to this; it's been bugging me for 24 hours.](less)
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?)
When I first requested this book from the library, I didn’t realize it was by the author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, which...moreWhen I first requested this book from the library, I didn’t realize it was by the author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, which I just couldn’t get into and which ended up on my DNF shelf, in spite of my passionate love for its title and cover. Fortunately I was already in possession of This Is What Happy Looks Like by the time I had that particular epiphany or I might have cancelled the request and then I would have missed out on all of the cuteness that is to be found in this book.
Basically, it all starts with an email being sent to the wrong addressee, one in which Graham asks Ellie to walk his pet pig, Wilbur. This sparks a series of Charlotte’s Web references that delighted me, and they keep up their correspondence for a while, seemingly without divulging much personal information in the way of locations and last names. Except Ellie slips up and tells Graham the name of her town, leading him to bring an entire movie cast and crew to film practically on top of the street where she lives, and triggering a complicated romantic situation.
There is some banter and a glimpse of each MC’s more sensitive side, with a good deal of insight into their behavior. It isn’t a bad book by any means; it was adorable and I liked it, though the plot is a well-worn one. However, I read it less than a week ago and I’ve already sort of forgotten all the little details. I’m not sure if that’s particularly telling or just an instance of my brain being like a sieve, but there you have it.(less)
I trudged through this book for what felt like a month but was actually only six days. The verdict? Reading Beautiful Creatures was the mental equival...moreI trudged through this book for what felt like a month but was actually only six days. The verdict? Reading Beautiful Creatures was the mental equivalent of cheese-grating my fist.
Here are my reasons why:
- This is a book with two authors. In my experience, books with two authors don’t read very smoothly. When I looked it up on the library catalog, Garcia was listed as the only author. Had I known there was also a Stohl, I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up. Then, once I got the book and read the blurb on the back cover, I found out that one of them wanted to write a Southern gothic tale and the other wanted to write a paranormal romance, so they got together and wrote one book. This is the literary equivalent of mixing your peanut butter with someone else’s chocolate, except not yummy. - Ethan is a snob. Ethan tells us how his smart, scholarly parents never let him get an accent. [Note: My mother, from outside Boston, was taught by her accentless parents (from NYC and Alabama) to talk sans regional accent. I know it happens and that’s fine, but you don’t have to sound like such an asshole about it: “Oh, my highly educated parents would NEVER let me talk like these hicks! I’m just toooo smart!”] He talks about all the books he reads and the map he marks with places from said books he’s going to go when he gets out of this hick town, because he is just So Very Speshul and Has Dreams, unlike all those idiots who are satisfied to rot in Gatlin. He talks about how all his dumb stupid buttface peers care about is basketball, cheerleading, sex, and being total sheep, but he is Different and Yearns for More. He thinks everyone in Gatlin is ignorant and that the South is just the lamest place ever. - In addition to being elitist, Ethan talks like a 50 year old woman. Remember all those boys from books who act like they traded in their testicles to get their girlfriends? Edward Cullen, Sam from the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Brooklyn’s paramour in Chasing Brooklyn, Graham from the Between the Lines series, and the dude from A Walk to Remember. I’m all for being sensitive but these are teenage boys. Teenage boys have feelings and urges and generally don’t spend 60 pages repetitively talking about how small and southern and gothic their town is and how uninterested they are in sexuality. I kept thinking of Ethan as a “Sensy,” which is described here by JD in Scrubs. Picture that guy, but boring and superior. And also about two years away from sitting on his porch in a creaky rocking chair, screaming at kids to get off his lawn. - Insta-love!! Insta-love is the bane of my existence. Here, Ethan pretty much decides before he has even seen Lena that she is The One—the Ben to his Jerry, the Yoko to his John—because she is from out of town and is therefore unlike anyone he’s ever known. Then he finds out she’s weird and unhinged and related to the town recluse and that’s all she wrote! It is LUV. - Lena is boring. Lena is a Caster, and that’s certainly different from humans and should be interesting in its own right, but then she’s also some kind of super Caster with powers beyond anyone’s imaginings and no way to control them or her fate. Drama! Intrigue! And yet, she is boring. I don’t even know how that’s possible. - This is basically a blander Twilight. I know! I didn’t think it was possible, either! But Beautiful Creatures meets all the requirements: A bookish MC and a mysterious member of the opposite sex; one of the protags is intimidating to all the boring pathetic losers who populate the small town the MCs live in and everyone fears/reveres them because of their inexplicable love. And even though supernatural things conspire to keep them apart, the MCs’ love will find a way. - As a consequence of the previous four things, I didn’t care about their romance. At all. There’s a part where they find out that (view spoiler)[because he is a Mortal and she is a Super Powerful Caster, they can never physically express their love for one another (hide spoiler)]. All I could think was, “You guys have been together 400 pages and have kissed maybe twice and spent the rest of the time moping around and shunning your peers, sometimes for being sluts just because they like to park. I really don’t think (view spoiler)[not being able to have sex will be a problem for you (hide spoiler)].” - The psychic connection was a real PITA. Look, it’s really great that you guys can communicate without speaking, but maybe try actual words sometimes. They work pretty well for the rest of us. - The book was, as a whole, repetitive and dull. This is a case of “all filler, no killer” if I ever saw one. It took approximately 100 pages for the descriptions of the town to end, and from there it was another 417 pages before the good stuff started. I’m not sure who the editor was, but isn’t his or her job to pare down the writing and make sure the book is good? Did he/she try to read this story and also skipped 100 pages and then say, “Yeah, guys, it’s great!” just so he/she wouldn’t have to read it again?
So why did I finish it? Have you heard of “hate-reading”? Basically it’s when you are completely disgusted by a book but your dislike of it is so strong that you persevere. With BC, it was an epic battle of me vs. book, and I’d be damned if I’d let the book win!
I’m just really hoping the movie is better than the novel, because I hate the idea of Emma Thompson being attached to anything based on this. Maybe it will be better on film?["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Real talk: I’ve never read Jane Eyre. I tried to read it once when I was 11, I think, and I remember it being over my head and getting bored fairly qu...moreReal talk: I’ve never read Jane Eyre. I tried to read it once when I was 11, I think, and I remember it being over my head and getting bored fairly quickly. It’s one of those books I’ve always meant to get back to because it’s a classic and blah blah, but I’ve yet to do so. Anyway, my point here is that due to my literary impoverishment I have no complaints about the way the original manuscript was incorporated into A Breath of Eyre.
I went into this thinking maybe I’d need to have read Jane Eyre to really grasp the plot, but I don’t think that’s true. The plot is straightforward: Modern, lonely, bookish, accident-prone heroine goes into a coma and falls into the book she’s currently reading—in this case, JE. Her adventures as Jane parallel the problems she is facing in her own life, helping her unravel solutions to Jane’s problems as well as her own. And then comes the big question: Is it easier for Emma to remain in Jane’s world than to live in her own?
What with the going-into-the-book thing, I sort of thought this would be more interesting than it was. The Emma-as-Jane parts were actually the weakest bits of the book, though, their purpose being spelled out in black and white in the second part rather than nuanced. Maybe it is the Lit Major Lemur in me, but I like a bit of nuance when dealing with such heavy issues as the death of a mother, feminism, finding your voice, etc. Saying “Bertha Mason represents ____ and this parallels this situation in my real life!” makes the experience less powerful. It did make me want to read Jane Eyre, though, so I’ll give the author that.
I also appreciate nuance with character development (going back to the old “show me, don’t tell me!” adage), and that was sorely lacking here. For example, we never see any reason Emma and Michelle would really be friends, but apparently they are despite being so lost in their own Things most of the book that they aren’t there for each other until the end. As for MC Emma, her bookishness seems to define her, and while I understand part of the point of the story is that she’s overcoming that, at the same time I want to know how many more of these bookish, introverted girls who don’t know they’re beautiful even as they enrapture attractive male leads I will have to endure in my YA. (And Emma! Baby! You’ve lived by the ocean all your life and you claim to be a strong swimmer, but the way you were swimming against the riptide at the beginning makes me question whether or not that is true. Swim parallel to the shore, you fool!)
The ending (especially in the cases of the equestrian competition and the essay contest) and Emma’s various epiphanies about life, love, and friendship all felt very glossy and hurried. “This happened, and then this happened. All right, run along, nothing to see here!” And her discoveries about feminism in Jane Eyre actually would’ve been interesting if they’d been fleshed out more, rather than put in a list and stuck in an essay we never get to read. As it was, though, it came off as if she was judging the behavior of the characters in a nineteenth-century novel with the mind of twenty-first century girl and condemning them for what the characters did or did not do based on knowledge they weren’t capable of having back then. Not very scholarly.
If this were a standalone, I’d take my indifference and move on. Alas, it is the first of a planned trilogy, and the next book has to do with The Scarlet Letter, of which I am a fan. So I feel like I have to read it. And then if I read that one, I may as well read A Phantom Enchantment, right?
Plus, I am pretty sure I have figured out who Michelle’s dad is. And I really, really want to see how that plays out.(less)
Ruby finally won me over, guys. I don’t know if it was the fact Roo finally got a grip and smartened up a bit, or if it was because I was sick and vul...moreRuby finally won me over, guys. I don’t know if it was the fact Roo finally got a grip and smartened up a bit, or if it was because I was sick and vulnerable, or a combination thereof—but Real Live Boyfriends did it for me.
In this, the final installment of the Ruby Oliver series, Roo thinks she has it all figured out. She is dating Noel, and he is behaving like a Real Live Boyfriend. He doesn’t magically fix everything that’s wrong in Ruby’s life, but they are together and they are happy—and Ruby is back to her old my-man-is-my-universe ways. Then Noel goes to New York for a month and comes back as a pod-robot lobotomy patient. In addition to that, Hutch is in Paris playing baguette air guitar, Gideon is back in town, and Ruby has to get her college applications in order, do Reginald, deal with her insane parents and her grandmother’s death, sort out all her friendship issues, hold down a job, and go to therapy. What’s a girl to do?
Well, if you’re Ruby Oliver you might regress. You might flirt with a whole bunch of other boys instead of making an effort with your Real Live Boyfriend. You might think all is lost. You might really upset me for a hundred pages or so before you finally start to wise up and make me proud, opening yourself up to new people and experiences and making attempts to communicate and be yourself. Yay, Ruby!
This book hit me right in the feels a few times. The moment Ruby finds out what happened to Noel and her subsequent interactions with him had me all sniffly (and not just because I had the flu). Roo’s goal is to go into filmmaking, so parts of the book are actually manuscripts of the film interviews she does of her family and friends on the topics of love, friendship, and popularity. At one point near the end, when Roo is particularly down about Noel, this happens:
Meghan pushed her chocolate cheesecake across the table to me. I hadn’t gotten paid yet for November, so I had only ordered coffee. “Here,” she said. “Don’t you want it?” “Sure I want it. I ordered it. But I’m giving it to you.” “Why?” Meghan stood up and got me a fork. “Remember what Nora said about love? In your movie?” “Love is when you have a really amazing piece of cake, and it’s the very last piece, but you let him have it.” “So it’s really amazing cake,” said Meghan. “And I want you to have it.”
I’m not sure what it is about Ruby Oliver that’s so endearing. She is neurotic, self-deprecating, immature, boy-crazy, and occasionally very similar to Mia Thermopolis or Georgia Nicolson (sometimes in a way that is less comforting and hilarious and more whoa, does this count as copyright infringement?). Maybe it is the way we are sistahs in panic attacks and compulsive list-making. Or maybe it is the way she is so zany and resilient. Possibly it’s how good she is with goats who are named after serial killers.
Whatever it is, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this series and I thought this was a great ending to it. These books just got bumped onto my Favorite Series shelf. Also—and most importantly—I am in love with Noel.(less)