**spoiler alert** Finally I'm reviewing a book that I just read for shits and giggles (not a bookclub/challenge pick or a book I read for school.) I s...more**spoiler alert** Finally I'm reviewing a book that I just read for shits and giggles (not a bookclub/challenge pick or a book I read for school.) I signed it out at work because I wanted to make a conscious effort to read more releases from 2011 (I don't know why I had this thought, but I rarely read new releases, so I wanted to try something different I guess.) With that said, I had absolutely no idea what to expect when diving into this novel. Unfortunately, I didn't really buy into this dystopia society, which really hampered my reading.
It's no secret that dystopias have become one of the new "it" things in YA literature, and while I do like me some dystopia, I find that this upsurge in interest has really diluted the quality of dystopia titles coming out in the YA market. The premise of this novel sounded interesting, what with the tattoos and the sex, and how the main character wanted to take no part in it, but there were a few things I just couldn't buy into. For one, why did these girls need to get tattoos when they turned sixteen? It was supposedly as a means to protect their young and innocent selves from being taken advantage of or something, but I never got that feeling; all the tattoos did was make girls targets for sex offenders because they knew that they were "of age". Maybe I'm just not remembering the reasons for the tattoos correctly because I read this about 3-4 weeks ago.
Another thing that bothered me was that the characters dialogue wasn't really distinct. Everyone kind of sounded the same, but their personalities were enough to differentiate them from one another. Speaking of characters, I have to say I did like Nina, and she is a good role model for younger to mid-teens who will probably end up reading this novel, what with her values of not wanting to have sex the very moment she's legal. However, she doesn't completely ignore her feelings and urges; she acknowledges them, but doesn't let herself get carried away. Her best friend on the other hand, drove me nuts, which I guess was the point. There was very little that was likable about her, but I suppose she was meant to be an example of what happens when you become obsessed with sex: you start dressing like a bimbo, putting boys over your best friend, become a brainless airhead, etc etc. She did have some redeeming moments though, which added a bit of depth to her character, until she was killed off.
Another small plus for this novel was the role that the parents had in the story. It's a common complaint that YA books focus too much on the teen characters and there's little to no coverage on the parents of any of these characters. With this book, it's definitely not the case. These kids know that they're in over their heads and ask their parents for help, though the only parents we actually see are Nina's mother (who dies near the beginning of the book), her grandparents, and her asian friend's parents (sorry, I can't remember her name at the moment.) Anyhow, it was still nice to see the inclusion of parental units within the story.
My last complaint is with the writing: there's nothing particularly BAD about it, but there's nothing very good about it either. It's very plain, very simple and rather bland. I don't think that'll bother the target audience too much, but I like a little more something-something in my writing. The overall plot was a little meh as well, but there's definitely enough to keep it going at a decent pace: Nina's trying to figure out who her father is while protecting her little sister from her crazy dad. The sister-sister bond was definitely super-cute and something else I appreciated.
The last thing I wasn't sold on was the romance. Nina and her love interest start off disliking each other (of course) and while their reluctant friendship was genuine enough, the flat writing never really brought it to life for me. Also, I felt like their feelings progressed pretty quickly given how much time they actually spend together. Granted, their in a pretty heavy situation together, so maybe that's what brings them together so quickly, but there was just something off about it, for me.
The book ends on a cliff-hanger of sorts, so I do believe that there's going to be a sequel. I don't think I'm going to continue with this series though.
Final Verdict: I didn't really buy into this dystopic world, or the romance, so while the premise sounded kinda cool to me, it ultimately ended up falling flat. The main protag is someone that girls will be able to relate to and I think she's a good role model for said target audience which is a definite plus, but I think I was a little too old for this book. This was perpetuated further by the simplistic writing, which isn't actually bad, but it just didn't do anything for me. As far as dystopia titles go, I've read much better, but this isn't all bad. Still, I'm a little hesitant to recommend it, unless you're between the ages of 14-17. (less)
**spoiler alert** When I first saw this book, I didn't think too much of it. it's not that there was anything WRONG with it, but it just didn't grab m...more**spoiler alert** When I first saw this book, I didn't think too much of it. it's not that there was anything WRONG with it, but it just didn't grab me. There's so much dystopia saturating the YA market right now, it's hard to discern the good from the bad. However, I started reading a lot of favorable reviews for this book from blogs that I really love. There were enough to change my mind, and quite frankly, I'm glad I did.
I'm not familiar with Snyder's writing; I've never read any of her other series. With that said, this was my first taste of her writing, and I have to say, I'm happy with it. I liked the first-person POV and enjoyed Trella's voice. While she's a very cynical character who was very capable of taking care of herself, I didn't feel like she ever fell into that "kick-ass heroine" trope (which I'm really picky about; I love strong female characters, but I find the "kick-ass" variety to be kind of irritating if not done right.)
The setting was pretty well developed, even if it isn't something that's wholly original (I found it somewhat similar to the movie The Island) and I have to say that the true nature of "Outside" surprised me (in a good way.) After I digested it and thought it through a bit, it made a whole lot sense, but as I'm fairly unfamiliar with the SF genre, it wasn't something that was obvious or apparent to me while reading.
Another aspect I really appreciated of the novel was the relationship one: I found that Trella and Riley's relationship developed at a nice pace, and never did they express feelings of being in love with one another and absolutely needing each other which YA romances tend to do all too much. There's obviously romantic feelings between them, but they don't immediately jump to a desperate and obsessive kind of romantic interest. Snyder also stayed away from the dreaded love triangle that's also rampant in YA fiction recently. I was afraid that she was going to present Riley AND Cog as romantic interests, but thankfully she kept Cog as the older-brother figure. With that being said, I really enjoyed Cog and Trella's relationship as well. Their sibling-like relationship was well-realized.
The main plot is wrapped up well in this novel, but it leaves plenty of room for a sequel, and there is one planned: Outside In which is due to be released sometime this year. The ending left me with feelings of "Really? How are they going to pull THAT off?", so it'll be interesting to see how the sequel plays out. :)
Final Verdict: I definitely recommend this book, especially to fans of dystopia fiction and young adult. I don't know how this compares to Snyder's other works, so I can't say if I would recommend this to her fans, but as a first-timer, I enjoyed it quite a bit and am interested in checking out her other fantasy series. It's a read that's a bit on the lighter side, but I don't mean this in a bad or derogatory way; it's just a lot of fun and does a lot of things right. I'll definitely be checking out the sequel, Outside In, when it comes out sometime this year. (less)
Why I Read It: I actually read this back in 2010 because I had been hearing mad-hype for this series (especia...moreReview can also be found on my blog here.
Why I Read It: I actually read this back in 2010 because I had been hearing mad-hype for this series (especially with the release of Mockingjay looming at that time) and just needed to know what the deal was. To be completely honest, I wasn't blown away. I mean, I *liked* it well enough, but I wasn't chomping at the bit to read the sequel, and I ultimately didn't (until recently). What DID make me pick this series back up was I went to go to see the movie adaptation on opening night. I wasn't expecting to love the movie because of my feelings for the book, but I ended up liking it so much more! It made me need to know what happened in Catching Fire and Mockingjay, but I felt a re-read of this first installment was in order.
Okay, so I actually read this back at the end of March and it's now nearing the end of April (stupid school, keeping my so busy) so this review is probably going to be lacking. Actually, I think I'm just going to review this like I did for The Monstrumologist, in that I'm going to make a list of Pros and Cons to map out my thoughts. Just makes things easier.
PROS - This is an easy, and fast-paced read. The 370+ pages fly by and even though this book has its faults, it's a real page-turner.
- I loved how this was a commentary on reality televsion. [info]calico_reaction talks about this in her review quite in depth, and I agree with everything she said: we get so attached to people we watch on reality television shows, that the whole concept of the Hunger Games as a blown-out-proportion reality show just made so much sense. And the whole idea of the sponsors and having to sell your personality, and to tweak it for the cameras accordingly, to the people was really smart, I thought.
- The ending. It's pretty obvious from the get-go that Katniss is going to survive, but the move she pulls on the Capitol was awesome.
- I actually like how Collins handled the romance. It never takes precedence of the Games, and I liked how level-headed Katniss was about it most of the time, such as using the romance angle developed between her and Peeta to get them sponsors to save their lives. And I like that the thought of liking him back never really crosses her mind (it does at times, kind of briefly, but it's never really a serious consideration), because she honestly has much more pressing matters on her mind, like uhh, her LIFE. I say that because so many YAs are so dependent on the romance angle to make things interesting, and I can't help but wonder if had this very same story been in someone else's hands, if they would have made Peeta and Katniss end up together by the end of this first installment.
CONS - This story is told from Katniss's first person POV in the present tense and I don't think Collins has really pulled it off. Despite it being told in the present tense, it still feels we're being told this story by Katniss after the fact. She's an emotionally distant character, so whenever she's talking about how she FEELS in any given scene, I never felt like her emotions were coming from HER -- it felt like she looking at herself from outside herself and then telling us her reactions/thoughts/feelings/etc. I hope that makes some kind of sense.
- Being stuck in Katniss's head drove me crazy sometimes. Some of the things she thought actually made me mad (like throwing away the bread Peeta's father gives her -- what the hell?) and I understand why she was so mistrustful of everyone, but friiiggg, I wish she had been slightly more friendly.
THE IN-BETWEEN - I'm still on the fence about Katniss. I love a lot of things about her: she loves her family, even if her relationship with her mother is tenuous, but I loved her and Prim, and her alliance with Rue. But because of the emotional distance that I mentioned earlier, I had a hard time warming up to her. I personally preferred the Katniss from the movie adaptation -- there was a much better balance of toughness and vulnerability there, I found. I don't know what how fair it is to compare the book and the movie here, but it coloured my opinion so I feel it's worth mentioning. I definitely don't DISLIKE Katniss though. She's by no means a bad character.
- I'm on the fence about Katniss's involvement in the killing that goes on in the Games. Katniss never really has to face any morally ambiguous choices in regards to who she kills and I think it's too bad that Collins didn't jump on that. At the same time however, I found myself admiring how Katniss played the Games and how she stayed true to herself, which is kind of a running theme throughout the entire series. So on the one hand, it felt like Collins was playing it safe, but on the other hand, it didn't feel super contrived to me, and it actually made me like Katniss's character more. I'm kind of torn.
Final Verdict: I had some issues with this book (though my main issue was with the narrative voice) but it was an overall addictive and fast read. I loved the commentary on reality tv because it rang so true with how we watch reality tv NOW, and I like how Collins handled the romance (or the lack thereof I guess). I never totally warmed up to Katniss's character, and I was kind of iffy about the lack of moral ambiguity presented here, because the novel could have been rife with it, but those things never made me DISLIKE the novel. It was a lot of fun and I'm glad I re-read it. (less)
**spoiler alert** Another book for the Alphabet Soup bookclub over at calico_reaction! I was super excited when this book was chosen for the month of...more**spoiler alert** Another book for the Alphabet Soup bookclub over at calico_reaction! I was super excited when this book was chosen for the month of March because I've actually been wanting to read this series for ages. I've only heard good things about it from bloggers who I trust (or have similar tastes with.) I was almost afraid I wouldn't get to read this during the challenge period because I've been epically swamped with homework (six essays due within the next two weeks, six exams after that, a dozen or so assignments) BUT I made time to read this and I'm REALLY glad I did. By the way, this review of going to have crazy spoilers, so if you plan on reading this, please for the love of god, don't look under the cut.
The first thing I want to say is this: this book is BLEAK. If you want to read something that's going to make you feel good and fuzzy on the inside, don't read this book. It's very, very depressing. Especially the latter half, once you've gotten kind of attached to the characters and you just want them to be okay.
Speaking of characters, I think Ness did a really great job at creating likable and believable characters in a pretty crazy setting. They weren't any typical YA stereotypes in here, which I really appreciated. Todd is a character that is really flawed: he's ignorant, uneducated (though not by choice) and stubborn about some things. However, he's also caring and loyal and giving. He wasn't the picture of a perfect main character, nor was he swoon-worthy, but he also wasn't the typical dorky/quirky/misunderstood male character that I find is prevalent in books that feature male narrators.
Viola was much the same way; Todd never focuses on her looks or anything, so I think we can safely assume that she's not drop-dead gorgeous, and while she's much more knowledgeable than Todd, she isn't super-girl either. She's just *normal* (as one can be within the setting of the novel anyway.)
And then of course there's Manchee. Poor, poor Manchee. :( I loved that dog so much. He reminds me of my dog a bit; kind of stuff, but in the end, so loyal and downright lovable. I really liked how Ness captured Manchee's "voice". It's totally how I imagine a dog would talk if they could, and it actually reminded me a lot of the dog from the movie Up. I cried so hard when Manchee died though, it was terrible. Funny story regarding that actually. Me and my boyfriend (who was over at the time) were having a bit of a tiff, so to distract myself I went and grabbed this and started reading. About fifteen minutes in, I just started blubbering like a huge baby because I got to Manchee's poor demise, and my boyfriend couldn't understand why I was crying so hard over our disagreement (haaa) so I had to try to explain to him how stupidly sad that scene was and that it was why I was actually crying. Actually, ANY time Manchee got beat up I would get a little teary. His poor laments of 'Todd?' whenever he got hurt broke my heart, or when he would apologize for biting Todd after getting hit because he was in so much pain. As you can see, Ness really hit a button with me with Manchee.
The Noise was a really neat element. It's something that's obviously been done before, mind reading isn't new by any means, but Ness approached it from an interesting angle. Having EVERYONE, except women, be able to read each other's minds? Creepy stuff. The fonts used throughout the book to denote the Noise were also all very appropriate and gave a more visceral sense of what it would be like to hear other people's thoughts. It also just raises the stakes of everything and makes the world a whole lot more dangerous, which gave a sense of urgency to everything going on, which was a welcome layer to the story, especially considering it's one where almost all Todd and Viola do is run away, and can't trust anybody.
Now, the pacing of this book is actually fairly slow, which is kind of strange, because Todd has to escape and be on the run very early on in the book. But it felt like there was just so MUCH running. Constantly. When the secrets start to come to light and more and more is revealed about the setting and what's going on, I felt like things really picked up. It was a bit of a slow process though, and how my liking for this book crept on me.
There's some really great world-building going on in this novel too. Ness doesn't info-dump ever, and while I felt at times that he was withholding information almost unfairly (Todd thinking about what happens to boys when they become men comes to mind -- he mentions it very early on and abruptly stops and purposefully changes the subject, which really frustrated me) but even though it was kind of frustrating, I thought he did it WELL, and wrote the first person narration very well. The setting itself kind of reminded me of the Chrysalids: it's set in the future (and in this case, on another planet), but civilization, for many different reasons, has gone backwards as far as technology is concerned. So it's sci-fi without really feeling like sci-fi.
I was annoyed at myself for not figuring some of the secrets out sooner, such as all the women in Prentisstown being murdered, because looking back, it all seems so obvious now. Ah well. Anyway, my point is, is that Ness always leaves a bone at the end of the stick to lead you on to reading the rest of the book, and it worked for me. I needed, and wanted, to know what the hell was going on. The little bits and pieces were revealed at a good pace: not too much all at once, but not too far apart so that I would get bored.
I also have to applaud Ness for being so gritty. Like I mentioned before, this book is bleak and rather depressing. It doesn't sugar-coat anything at all, and things get really brutal. He killed off the DOG for crying out loud; it doesn't get much more depressing than when an animal dies. There's LOTS of death in this book too. It doesn't dumb down the casualties of war, even if this is a smaller scale one.
My last point I want to talk about is the ENDING. ARG. I can't believe he ended it on a cliffhanger, and such a frikken sad one too!! Though that actually isn't that surprising, when you consider the rest of the book. These poor protags have been through so much, and I was so happy they made it to their destination, and then things just spiraled out of control and ended on the worst possible note. *sigh*
Final Verdict: This is a GOOD book. It was slow to start, but as I went on I got really sucked in. It's got a solid cast of characters who are very normal and very flawed people. I seriously just wanted these poor kids to be okay, and while the ending didn't really promise me that (at all), it's only made me want to read the two sequels. There's great first-person narration going here as well; I think Ness made good use of it, and uses the element of the Noise to bring it a step further and I thought it was nicely done. There's a great Chrysalids-esque setting that Ness builds up on nicely, so even if you're not a lover of sci-fi, there might be something here for you. It's a dark and depressing book that doesn't hold back on the grit or violence, so if you're looking for something happy I wouldn't recommend this title. However, if you're not looking for light and fluffy, this is definitely worth checking out.(less)
Why I Read It: I re-read and enjoyed the first book enough to dive right into the second one.
Before jumping into Catching Fire, I already knew that Ka...moreWhy I Read It: I re-read and enjoyed the first book enough to dive right into the second one.
Before jumping into Catching Fire, I already knew that Katniss and Peeta were going to be re-entered into the Hunger Games. With that said, I wasn't particularly excited about this second installment -- I thought it was just going to be a re-hashing of the first book at best. Thankfully, it wasn't, and it ended up being my favourite book of all three.
What was pretty cool about this book was that readers got to have a glimpse (though sadly, ONLY a glimpse) at the other Districts in Panem because of Peeta and Katniss's Victory Tour. Of course, we don't get to see every single district in any kind of detail, but we're still given a lot more information about them then we were giving in the first book. I especially liked the little tidbit in District 11; that part made me tear up a bit, and then really sad by the end of it. I also liked (though kind of sadistically) the sinking feeling in my gut when we finally get to the end of the tour and Katniss knows that she didn't convince Snow that she had quelled any ideas of an uprising. This still isn't my favourite series or anything, but I knew when I felt that same feeling in my gut that I imagined Katniss must have been feeling that I was at least invested in this story.
Another aspect of the novel that I really enjoyed was that we got to learn about past victors from the Hunger Games. Seriously, how cool is that? Learning how Haymitch won The Hunger Games was pretty cool too, though I don't understand why the Capitol would have been so mad that he figured out that the cliff rebounded stuff with that force-field thing -- I don't see how that's defying or mocking them -- but whatever. It felt slightly forced in so that Katniss would know about the force-fields ahead of time, since they were pretty prominent in second Hunger Games Katniss and Peeta are thrown into.
Speaking of that, like I mentioned before, I already knew Katniss and Peeta were going to be thrown in the Arena a second time (I honestly think I read it on the dustjacket a long time ago) so there was absolutely no tension there for me, which was slightly unfortunate -- that could've been a cool and shocking reveal had I not know. But anwyay, the games themselves were different enough from The Hunger Games that I was still glued to the page. It also gave me the chance to get acquainted with Finnick and I loooved him.
Some of the things I wasn't so fond about: this stupid "love triangle". I obviously knew about it before diving in, but seriously, how can anyone be Team Gale? The guy's hardly ever around. He seriously gets hardly any page-time at all until Mockingjay, which is FINE, but it does absolutely nothing to sell me on this love triangle. And, I have to admit it, I was totally rooting for Peeta the whole time anyway. I'm not sure why because I've never been totally invested in Katniss's character, and he really is too good to be true (he loves Katniss so unconditionally, which I think is something many girls fantasize their relationships being like) but I thought he was so damn CUTE. I think it helps that I kept picturing Josh Hutcherson whenever I read about Peeta...
I'm also still not sold on the first-person present tense POV. It still feels like Katniss is just reporting something that's already happened, or like she's observing herself from outside herself and just describing what she's doing. I never FELT her emotions, especially at the end of the novel when she was so PISSED and upset, which is odd because she's supposed to be describing how she's feeling THEN and THERE. I did, however, like her quite a bit more in this installment than the first one. At certain parts, even when the writing didn't seem to be conveying it effectively, she still felt so afraid for most of this novel, and I couldn't blame her. I also liked that she opened up to Peeta more instead of tiptoeing around each other and being angsty about their feelings. No, she's just focused on keeping the people she loves alive and I just found it easier to relate to her and like her overall.
Speaking of the ending, am I the only one who found it totally confusing? I recall reading it very late at night (I had to do that a lot because I'd work on school stuff or work during the day) so that probably had something to do with it, but I was pretty confused. It doesn't REALLY matter in the long run because it makes sense when it's explained to Katniss, but I still thought it worth noting. Also: I was really glad to already have Mockingjay in hand when I finished this. Very cliff-hanger ending.
Final Verdict: Like the first book, Catching Fire is a fast page-turner and I found myself addicted. The first half of the book isn't quite as fast-paced as The Hunger Games, it makes up for it by fleshing out Panem: we get to learn about the other Districts more, and we get to meet a handful of Victors from past Games, which I thought was really cool. I also found Katniss to be largely more likable and relatable, which was good because I already liked her in The Hunger Games, but I still found myself frustrated with her at times because of how suspicious she was of everyone -- this is not the case here. All in all, this is probably my favourite book in the trilogy, though it's hard to say because they are all pretty close together in that regard. (less)
Why I Read It: I had gotten through The Hunger Games and Catching Fire back-to-back, so I may as well finis...more**spoiler alert** Originally reviewed here.
Why I Read It: I had gotten through The Hunger Games and Catching Fire back-to-back, so I may as well finish off the series, no? Also, a warning: there will be spoilers abound in this review for not only the first two installments in the series, but for this final one as well. There's a lot that I liked in this book, but there was also a lot that pissed me off and I can't properly discuss it without being spoiler-y, so venture on cautiously.
Aaahhh Mockingjay, you had a polarizing effect on me. There was so much about you that I liked, but I feel like there was just as much that rubbed me the wrong way. So let's get into it, shall we?
May as well start off with the good. While I've read some reviews that have lamented Katniss's behaviour in this book, I have to say that I was actually impressed with how Collins handled it. These characters, not just Katniss, have been through some gruesome experiences and the fact that they behave like people who are actually suffering from PTSD felt realistic. And while I was frustrated with how Katniss was at times a much more reactionary character than one who took charge, it sort of made sense that she acted the way she did. She never wanted to be the symbol for a rebellion, even when she defied the Capitol during her first run in the Hunger Games.
The whole rebellion isn't painted in black-and-white either. Yes, the Capitol is bad, but the rebellion resorts to method that are at times highly questionable and they aren't the clear GOOD GUYS. To me, they felt me like "the better of two evils" to be completely honest. And I *liked* that, because honestly, just because there's a rebellion and a dictatorship gets overthrown doesn't mean that everything is going to be hunky-dory and made right. And this was made especially apparent at the end of the novel when the Capitol IS overthrown.
This, however, brings me to what I *didn't* like. More specifically, I'm talking about the scene when the rebellion is deciding if they should submit Capitol children to the Hunger Games like the Districts have been and to make ex-Capitol citizens watch. AND KATNISS AGREES TO IT. UM EXCUSE ME??? ARE YOU FRIKKEN KIDDING ME? This actually pissed me off. Yes, Prim had just died and Katniss was clearly upset, but I still could not believe it. Just... no.
Another thing that really pissed me off was how some characters, Finnick and Gale in particular, were just... dismissed. Finnick was easily one of my favourite characters, so when he had that off-screen death during Katniss careless infiltration mission I was not a happy camper. It didn't feel fair to his character, and I get that shit isn't always fair during war, but just... arrggg. And while I was not a fan of Gale in this book, the fact that he just had a "job transfer" and was never again? I think that could have been handled more deftly as well. I definitely don't think that him and Katniss could have fixed their friendship, what with him designing the bombs that probably killed Prim, and then neither of them shooting each other even though they had promised each other they would, their goals and ideals were definitely on completely different wavelengths. But still, he had been such an important part of Katniss's life and he just suddenly disappears?? Meh.
Speaking of Gale, I didn't care for him in this book at all. I don't know if Collins was trying to make him unsympathetic so that she could set up the resolution to the Katniss-Peeta relationship, but either way, he was kind of a dick. I understand his anger towards the Capitol, but he was so ANGRY in a douchy kind of way. Not cool bro. And his whole "well, we'll just do to them what they did to us" attitude rubbed me the wrong way.
Another low-point: while the first two books in the series felt fairly action-packed, this book was pretty dull in comparison in a lot of ways. Like I mentioned above, Katniss is a much more reactionary character and really only acts when she absolutely has to; otherwise she tends to dither. The beginning of the book is a lot of her just avoiding her schedule and wandering around where she shouldn't be. She goes out on the battlefield once or twice and does some cool stuff and that made me happy. But then she'd hole herself back up again. Or, some scenes that I *thought* would be epic ended up being NOTHING AT ALL. Case in point: rescuing Peeta. While it's understandable that the rebellion wouldn't want to bring Katniss on this mission and put her in danger, I totally thought I would get to see him being rescued! But nope. It's glossed over off-page. Another example: when Katniss is put on trial for shooting that person who was supposed to take over when Snow got overthrown... you'd think we'd get to see the trial or something?? I dunno. But nope, that's all done off-page too. It felt like Collins was trying to wrap things up a little too quickly, and while I understand that the page count was already at almost 400 pages, it would have been nice if things hadn't felt so rushed.
I guess I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention my feelings on Primrose's death. There was something about it that felt forced to me, like it was shoved in the narrative as a means to make Katniss REALLY question the rebellion, and it is what ultimately pushes her over the edge. It's also what really cements the irreparable divide between Katniss and Gale. There was still something about it that rang false though... as slightly gratuitous, despite ALSO feeling kind of necessary to Katniss's ultimate decision. As you can see, I'm kind of conflicted about the whole thing, to say the least.
The last point I want to bring up is the epilogue: fans seem to be up in arms about it, but I actually liked it. People were mad that Katniss just gave in when marrying Peeta, contradicting the strong-natured heroine we had been introduced to in the first book. But to me it made sense, because let's face it -- Katniss was BROKEN by the end of the third book. It's sad, but that's what war does to people. Especially to someone who was such an integral part of it and lost so much because of it. It also accentuates again that just because there's a revolution, it doesn't mean everything is going to be all rainbows and sunshine. To me, the epilogue ended the series on a kind of grim note and I thought that was appropriate.
Final Verdict: There were some things that I felt strongly about in this book, but ultimately, it felt like a fitting end to the series for me. While some people were up in arms about the epilogue, I thought it accentuated the themes that this novel was trying to tackle (war irreparably, and sadly, breaks people). I didn't appreciate how some characters were dismissed, and I thought Collins glossed over some scenes that I thought were going to be epic, but other than that, I found myself feeling kind of emotionally gutted after finishing this, which I think is a good thing. Either way, I'm glad I finally read this trilogy, and it was a fun ride while it lasted. :) (less)
Why I Read It: I can't remember where I first heard about Bacigalupi, but I do know that I put him on my radar because I...more Review originally posted here.
Why I Read It: I can't remember where I first heard about Bacigalupi, but I do know that I put him on my radar because I had read a handful of positive reviews for his award-winning novel The Wind-Up Girl. I then looked into him further and found out he had a short story collection which Shara (from Calico Reaction) reviewed favourably (which you can read here). Then I found out he had recently published a YA novel, and well, I love YA. So, this all made me decide to buy ALL three of these books on a whim. I've since then read Pump Six and Other Stories, his short story collection, and I loved it. I don't know what took me so long to get to this book though.. but not matter. With the recent release of the companion novel The Drowned Cities (which I've already read and will be reviewing soon), this was the perfect time to read this!
Something consistent within Bacigalupi's short story collection was that it was grim and VERY pessimistic; the stories take place in very harsh realities that often draw on things going on in our world right now. It makes for sometimes uncomfortable reading, but I mean this as a compliment. Bacigalupi doesn't shy away from tough subjects, and I loved Pump Six for this.
This novel, despite being YA, is no different. Yeah, it's targeted for teenagers, but readers are presented with a very grim and unwelcoming world. Bacigalupi also once again uses real-life actualities, such as climate change, to influence the world he paints for us: this is a world where it's not uncommon for level-7 hurricanes to strike; where cities are have been completely submerged; where class divide is now insurmountable. It's a world that's determined by luck and one's choices, and if you make the wrong decision, you're dead. It's really harsh, but again, I appreciated the novel all the more for that. Just because this book is going into the hands of teens doesn't mean that these issues should be shied away from; nothing is sugar-coated here. All of this is to say that the world-building is some of the best I've seen in awhile. I especially appreciate it when I consider how many dystopias are released every year with ridiculous premises; this one is very much an ACTUAL dystopia in that it presents to us a future that could actually happen.
The characters were lacking a little "oomph" for me, but I can't put my finger on WHY. They were definitely all likable and they're very easy to root for. Nailer is an instantly sympathetic hero not just because of his living conditions, but because of his father, who is a raging psychopath (which is putting it kind of lightly.) The "swank" girl he rescues, Nita, is very well-balanced; she's not a dimwit, despite being a spoiled brat (and she is), but she's also very flawed in how she presents herself. She clearly thinks she's superior to Nailer, and she thinks that the salvaging work her father has Nailer's people doing is perfectly okay and very much a good idea. But she's toughens up when the going gets rough. The secondary characters were all quite good, with Pima and her mother being my favourites. Tool was a badass and I was very happy to see him come back for The Drowned Cities.
The story itself is very much -- and I hate saying this because I HATE making gender divides -- a "boy" book. There's lots of action and the story moves at a clipping pace. It is nice to see a YA book that can appeal to male readers. I'm not saying they're SUPER rare, but I work at a bookstore and parents often have a hard time finding a book for their 12-14 year old boy. I've always recommended this one in the past, even before I read it (in part because my younger brother read it and loved it), and now I can do so with my own love for this book behind it as well. Anyway, things are always happening in this novel and 300+ pages fly by.
The writing itself is very gritty and to-the-point. This makes a lot of sense considering we're reading from Nailer's POV, and he would be a very straight-forward guy, I would think. But just because it's gritty doens't mean it's simplistic. I think Shara said it best when she stated that the book just bluntly SAYS the message its trying to convey instead of trying to hide everything in metaphor, but is all the better for it. No, it's not lyrical or deep or as involved as other books, but I think it's exactly what it needs to be.
Final Verdict: The more I think about this book, the more I like it. Bacigalupi's world-building is topnotch and is easily the best part of this novel. It draws on things that are happening today and projects a future that looks very plausible. The rules of this world are brutal and harsh, but he doesn't shy away from them even though this is a YA novel. The story has a quick pace which keeps the pages turning, and is populated by likable but realistically flawed characters. The writing is gritty and reflects Nailer and the world he's grown up in. Highly recommended. :) (less)
Why I Read It: I actually bought this before I even read Ship Breaker, so it was just a happy coincidence that I ended u...more Review originally posted here.
Why I Read It: I actually bought this before I even read Ship Breaker, so it was just a happy coincidence that I ended up liking the first book set in this world so much. I mostly bought it because this book has been receiving A LOT of favourable reviews from bloggers I trust, and a lot of them claimed that it was even better than Ship Breaker.
Okay, first off, the claims that this book is better than Ship Breaker are 100% RIGHT. This is only third book to receive a 5-star rating from me on goodreads this year (the other two are A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley and Joe the Barbarian by Grant Morrison for anyone who's curious) and for very good reason.
While Ship Breaker's world was grim and ruthless, it looks like a rather welcoming and friendly place in comparison to the world of The Drowned Cities. It's a place plagued by civil war that no one really knows why they're fighting anymore, and it's being fought with children. Once again, Bacigalupi takes a real-world issue and infuses it in his novel that is making a commentary about it without being didactic or condescending to the reader. Child soldiers are a very unfortunately reality of our current world, and this novel highlights that; Bacigalupi doesn't try to cover any of it up, and we can't hide from the reality of it like we do so often in the real world. The whole psychology of child soldiers was dealt with brilliantly and tragically with the character of Mouse/Ghost -- watching his transformation from a kind and resourceful war refugee to a reluctant murderer was heart-breaking.
The pacing of the novel isn't quite at the neck-breaking speed of Ship Breaker; it's quite slow in the beginning, but makes up for it by further fleshing out the world we were introduced to in Ship Breaker. We learn about Mahlia's father, who was a Chinese peace-keeper who came with many others in order to try to stop the war -- which is another social commentary on the futility of peace armies -- but ultimately fled and left Mahlia and her mother behind. We're also reintroduced to Tool which made me, and I'm sure many other readers of Ship Breaker, happy as he was one of the more interesting characters. We get some back-story on him as well, without it being info-dumpy. The second half of the novel had much more action and I only put the book down with great reluctance.
The characters are what really drive the book home. I've already mentioned Mouse and his narrative arc briefly, but the others deserve mention as well. Mahlia was a fantastic lead character: she lives in a world that wants nothing to do with her (people can tell she's half-chinese and the peacekeepers weren't exactly popular) but she still strives to do the right thing. Her loyalty to Mouse, one of the only people to ever show her kindness (aside from the doctor Mahfouze) is touching and is one of the only rays of hope in a world that's so devoid of it. Tool was interesting because you never really find out WHAT motivates him, aside from feeling at home within war and violence. He follows Mahlia and protects her, but WHY he does so is ambiguous (or maybe it wasn't and I'm just missing something?) Regardless, it was touching and is another small spark of hope and goodness. It's an interesting binary that the only way that Mahlia and Tool know how to do good is to perpetuate violence, but NOT for violence's sake: they do it to survive in a world that rejects them.
The writing felt improved from Ship Breaker as well. It's a little more ornate while still retaining that gritty pointedness; it's still layered while also being simplistic, and thus offers a lot to older readers, but will not be lost on younger readers either.
Final Verdict: This companion novel was even better than Ship Breaker (which is saying quite a bit, as that title was pretty fantastic). I really hope that Bacigalupi writes more stories in this vivid and brutal world he's created (but honestly? I'll read anything this man writes.) The story was a little slower this time around, but was made up with the wonderful world-building -- real-world issues are once again applied to create a believable future -- and the conflicted characters were sympathetic. I'd recommend reading this even if you haven't yet read Ship Breaker; it's stands perfectly fine on its own and I don't think readers need the previous novel to truly appreciate this one. Very highly recommended, and one of my favourite reads of the year.(less)