I’ll be blunt, shall I? I’ve read cereal boxes that were more exciting than this book.
I might have been able to chalk this up to just another case ofI’ll be blunt, shall I? I’ve read cereal boxes that were more exciting than this book.
I might have been able to chalk this up to just another case of Insta!Dystopia and moved on, but my disappointment is compounded by the fact that I’ve read Crossan’s The Weight of Water, and it’s really good. So I expected more from Breathe. And it did not deliver.
Something called The Shift has caused oxygen levels to plunge and as there are no trees, the drastically reduced population live inside a Pod city. Society is divided into a caste system, with Premiums at the top being able to afford extra oxygen to do things like exercise, dance and have sex whenever they want to. The Auxiliaries, on the other hand, are basically underlings who have their lifestyle strictly curtailed by their inability to purchase extra oxygen. Quinn is a Premium with a powerful father. Bea is his Auxiliary best friend who spends a lot of time gazing at him longingly. Alina is a member of a rebel group, creatively named The Resistance, who do incredibly subversive things like stealing cuttings and growing plants, because it turns out this worldwide oxygen famine is pretty much a BIG. CONSPIRACY.
I found the worldbuilding unconvincing. Crossan gives a very bare bones explanation for the state of the world in Breathe and it made no sense to me. I don’t think it’s a bad premise, but I do think the flimsy way it’s presented undermines reader investment in the concept. When the book’s response to any probing questions is basically: “Because THE SWITCH”, I stop being interested. Breathe raises more questions than it answers, and while it’s arguable that the premise will be expanded upon as the series progresses, I really think it was necessary in the first book. I won’t believe an earth-altering cataclysmic event unless you give me a reason to. Otherwise, it seems like lazy writing. If you’re going to take shortcuts on the worldbuilding, expect that I will poke holes in it.
The story is narrated in first person by Alina, Quinn and Bea, who unfortunately sound identical. Perhaps third person perspective might have been more successful, because first person was simply bland and confusing. Despite the differences in their circumstances, and ostensibly their personalities, there wasn’t much here to differentiate between them and make their individual motivations clear. While Quinn’s perspective includes some helpful cues like how he enjoys staring at Alina’s arse, the voices of the main characters feel interchangeable.
In contrast, the secondary characters seem almost caricature-like. The Pod Minister, whom I assume is the main antagonist, is cartoonishly exaggerated and rendered ridiculous by clunky dialogue and a contrived whiskey-drinking habit that is just bizarre. Other characters, including Quinn’s mother and Alina’s helpful neighbour, appear to exist solely as plot devices, cropping up when the story needs a helping hand.
With such patchy characterisation, it’s difficult to care about their predicament, or the relationships between the characters. Quinn, Bea and Alina brave the outside world in search of the resistance, with dwindling oxygen supplies, the threat of capture and a generous helping of unrequited love serving to for dramatic tension. But honestly? I felt apathetic about all of it. There was something so wooden and flat about this entire book, that even the action scenes felt stilted at best and comical at worst. (When someone shouted “Fight with gusto!” I actually laughed. Apparently, I’d make a poor rebel.)
Despite what might have been an interesting premise, Breathe lacked depth. The complex environmental issues are not explored in any meaningful way, and the climax and resolution felt too convenient. Even the final battle scenes are sort of skimmed over, brushed aside for a neatly wrapped ending and obligatory segue to the sequel.
I know I’ve come down hard on this book, but I expected more from it than it ultimately was. After enjoying Crossan’s verse novel, I had anticipated good things from Breathe as a character-driven, intelligent dystopia. Unfortunately, I don’t think it was either of those.
Yeah, so now it’s time for me to be irritatingly contrary.
Because I know full well that I have a lot of gripes about the current dystopian/d2.5 stars
Yeah, so now it’s time for me to be irritatingly contrary.
Because I know full well that I have a lot of gripes about the current dystopian/dystomance/post-apoc/futuristic trend in YA right now. And I know that while I generally enjoy these genres, sadly few books actually deliver for me, in terms of solid worldbuilding, logical plot, interesting premise etc.
And now here comes a book that actually has most of those things and... I don’t really... like it.
I could raise my rating on the basis on the last 50 or so pages, but that feels disingenuous. Because honestly, I felt almost completely unengaged and dare I say it – bored – during the preceding 400. And it’s frustrating and disappointing to say that, because I feel that Terry’s ideas are good and the basis for her novel is a sound one. It’s just that this book, the first in a series, essentially felt like a lot of stretching and foot-stomping – a warm up for the actual story that only really begins to hit its stride in the final couple of chapters.
In Slated, terrorists and criminals under a certain age are rehabilitated by having their minds wiped clean of memories of their former lives. Placed with families, they are installed with a Levo to monitor levels of emotional stress (with a safety net of blowing their heads off should they fall too low, because you have to keep your former criminals in line, natch) and reintegrated into society.
Essentially, the bulk of Slated is concerned with the internal ruminations of Kyla as she begins to realise that something is amiss with her slating, and that her past may not be entirely lost to her.
As I mentioned before, I think this is a concept with great potential, especially to explore issues of choice, human rights, nature vs nuture and control. And this series may yet deliver a more articulate commentary on these themes. I just feel that Slated itself lacked the substance I was expecting. The focus was on Kyla’s development as she began to uncover the truth about herself, yet I didn’t find this as compelling as it needed to be to really carry the story. Similarly, despite the vaguely threatening presence of the Lorders (enforcers of law and order), a few unexplained occurrences and shifty types, I felt that the plot lacked a sense of urgency. The repetitive nature of the story (school, running, Group, home, and repeat etc), while serving to show Kyla’s increasing awareness, didn’t really lend itself to gripping reading.
Or maybe it’s just me. The fact that the first few chapters didn’t really grab me is probably a sign that it wasn’t my thing. (Also, once I noticed the lack of contractions, that’s all I could really focus on. Amazing how my brain is hijacked by such trivial things..)
I don’t think Slated is a bad book by any means, it just didn’t speak to me in a way that makes me keen to pick up the sequel. That said, anyone looking for a thoughtful, more introspective take on dystopia may find this a solid, enjoyable read. ...more
I’d like to be able to say that this is one for those readers seeking a solid dystopian YA with strong sci-fi elements, but in truth, this Glitch is nI’d like to be able to say that this is one for those readers seeking a solid dystopian YA with strong sci-fi elements, but in truth, this Glitch is not that book. At best it’s an on-trend, marketable novel aimed at fans of Matched and the like. At worst, it’s a formulaic, cliché-riddled book I feel like I’ve read several times before.
While the premise of a community hooked up to a shared network that essentially rids them of individual emotional and thought seems promising, the inconsistencies in the writing are too glaring to overlook. Glitch is ostensibly about a teenage girl who finds herself “glitching”, that is, experiencing anomalous (good lord, but I am sick of that word) events in which she involuntarily disconnects from the Link and begins to experience emotional responses and develop telekinesis.
What’s problematic about this is that Zoe’s first person present tense narration doesn’t seem consistent with her circumstances. She is apparently able to recognise and process some emotions without a thought, while experiencing dramatic reactions to others. The Link gives her little exposure to colour, yet she is able to describe in detail in the shades of aquamarine in her love-interest’s eyes. Given that Zoe has lived her entire life tethered to the Link, I didn’t find her voice realistically rendered. Anastasiu seems to use Zoe’s lack of experience with emotion and individual thought when necessary for dramatic effect, then ignore it at other times.
Despite the potential in the concept of dawning emotional intelligence in a programmed and controlled world, Glitch rapidly resorts to tired romantic tropes and flimsy plot devices to progress the story. Very little feels organically developed, but rather, convenient or forced. Character X just happens to show up at a certain place, and just happens to have X device and X ability.
However, the most difficult to swallow of these revelations is the “love” that springs up between the characters. I don’t know about you, but when I’m removed from my home into an alien environment by a stranger, suffer a violent allergic reaction, then spend a few hours unconscious – upon waking the last thing on my mind would be gazing into said stranger’s eyes and kissing him. When I don’t know what kissing is. Or who this stranger really is. Even if he has indeed seen in a vision that I will lead The Resistance (of which I also have no prior knowledge) in uprising because I am special with super special powers (of course). But what do I know. Love conquers all, apparently.
Seriously, these kind of “Instant! Just add water for True Love” romances feel like lazy storytelling to me. Compounding the issue is the appearance of another “glitcher” and rival for Zoe’s affections. This character feels slightly more realistically rendered in terms of his reaction to physical/emotional impulses. Character discovers sex = character wants to have sex, fair enough. But while his actions are believable, there’s a slightly squicky subtext to Zoe’s responses. Realistic or not, this element of the plot felt poorly handled and lacked the nuance and considered treatment it required.
What Anastasiu does well is write graphic, tense scenes of action and violence. An event that takes places on a train, wherein the full power of Zoe’s ability manifests, is gripping and vividly depicted. What baffles me then, is that given Anastasiu’s capability to portray violent death and exploding rats, why the ridiculous cuss words? Adrien’s repeated use of expressions like “crackin’” “shuntin’” and “godlam’d” do little else but pull the reader out of the story unnecessarily and make them cringe. They are awkward snags in the flow of the dialogue and the irritation doesn’t lessen with repeated use. If the intention was to highlight the difference between those in the Community and the Resistance, I found it unsuccessful. However, I did laugh a lot whenever Adrian made an exclamation along the lines of “We’re all shuntin’ cracked!” I don’t think that was the intention.
Although there are some good ideas in Glitch’s premise, it fails to deliver on its potential. The result feels, honestly, underdeveloped and poorly executed. I can’t help but feel that a sound concept went to waste here, which is a real shame.
An ARC of Glitch was received for review from Netgalley
The description of Starters immediately snagged my attention: teenage donor bodies, elderly renters, a vaguely sinister business commercialis2.5 stars
The description of Starters immediately snagged my attention: teenage donor bodies, elderly renters, a vaguely sinister business commercialising on desperation, poverty and the allure of eternal youth for hire.
I think it’s a strong idea and ripe for ethical discussion, in this case examined through the lens of a post-apocalyptic/dystopian world where the fallout from biological (I assume) warfare has rendered life precious, and youth a commodity. The balance of power has been drastically shifted by removing an enormous segment of the population, and the divide between poverty and wealth is vast and unbridged.
Unfortunately, I can’t really say that Starters delivered on my high expectations.
The story is told from the viewpoint of Callie, fending for herself and her younger brother on the streets, who against her better judgement accepts a contract with Prime Destinations to rent out her body, in order for the rich and old to briefly experience virtual youth. What seems to be a painless means to money and security for herself and her brother goes awry when Callie wakes up in her renter’s life – and discovers that not all at Prime Destinations is what is seems.
I think I wanted a more nuanced and thought-provoking look at the premise of body-rental, physical "perfection" and the ramifications thereof, when what was actually on offer was more of a mystery/action-movie in book form. And that’s not a bad thing, especially when the story kicks into high gear during the final 20% or so. The plot begins to twist, the pacing is genuinely gripping, and Price throws some good curveballs.
The lead up, however, lacked punch for me, and was riddled with plot weaknesses. This is another case of an extremely improbable scenario (everyone between 20 and 60 falls victim to the “Spore Wars”) as a backdrop to a murder plot, a chance for the heroine to experience life on the other side and drive fast cars, and muse on her various romantic entanglements. While I actually really quite enjoyed the final section of the book, so much of the mid section just seemed a bit ridiculous (view spoiler)[ - was the Cinderella shoe scene really necessary? (hide spoiler)] and flimsy.
My main issue with Starters, however, is that the fact that too many problems and solutions in the plot feel convenient. There are too many plot devices that seem like exceptions and technicalities for me to buy into them. Characters “just happen” to have [insert skill, object or motivation] or “just happen” to know [insert information] and just happen to be [insert right place, right time] and it feels forced, not fluid.
The main villain in Starters is sufficiently interesting and creepy. Additionally, Starters packs some ambiguity in it’s ending which makes the sequel quite enticing. However, the characterisation fell a little flat for me – I didn’t feel much of an investment in any of them – so I think the appeal of this book hinges directly on the plot.
In summary – some great ideas, a really strong ending, but a set up that takes some buying into and relies on some all too familiar tropes.
An advance review copy was provided by the publishers via NetGalley ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Start with your randomly selected future date at room temperature. Add an ambiguous Plague (capitalised is bInstant Dystopia: Now With 50% Less Logic!
Start with your randomly selected future date at room temperature. Add an ambiguous Plague (capitalised is best). Stir briefly to create a drastic population reduction, thereby ensuring wombs are a hot commodity in your new society. Heavily indoctrinate your characters to keep them in line and create exploitative scenarios, especially for teenagers. Insert an Improbable and Unexplained System of Government.
Got Plausibility Problems? Just add Romance! (Instant or QuickLuv is recommended). Sprinkle with Yearning Gazes, Electrifying Touches and Heaving Breaths to taste. Season liberally with Tension, or better yet, add Love Triangle and bring to the boil.
Huzzah! You have an Instant Dystopia! Plate up with a pretty cover (Shiny Locks and Flowing Dress optional). Serve while this trend is still hot! ~
Oh, Eve. Where do I start?
Despite a promising, albeit somewhat unoriginal, premise – it all went horribly wrong for me when Eve climbed aboard the Trope Train and didn’t know when to get off. Rushing straight past the stops of “frighteningly plausible” and “sound world building”, Eve charges down the well-travelled tracks of tru luv, flimsy backstory and convenient yet improbable scenarios. Throw in a thoroughly unsympathetic heroine and a head-desk inducing cliffhanger, and the resultant wreck claimed a few rating stars as casualties, along with my interest in reading the sequel.
One of the major issues I had with this book (I’ll get to the biggest in a minute) was the version of a “dystopian” world Carey presents. The scaffolding holding this world up was simply too rickety to stand up under questioning. We’re presented with an unexplained plague that has almost depleted the population, and a rigid system of schools and labour camps funnelling the remaining youth into sinister service to the “King of the New America”. Which for girls means, you guessed it, forced breeding. (Is it just me, or is this “girl’s value is in their baby producing ability” topic coming up a lot lately?)
Very little is provided in the way of explanation to flesh out this bleak vision of the future. I was distracted by this thinness of the world building throughout, struggling to visualise and accept the set up at face value. (And an immature inclination to chortle at the mention of the “King”.)
But the crux of my disengagement from Eve was Eve herself. I cannot recall a recent YA heroine that I have more vehemently disliked than this girl, who spends the entire book lurching from selfish decision to selfish decision. This in itself was perplexing to me. Although she was raised in a cloistered school with no contact with the outside world, and is actively educated in the “evils” of men and love, Eve purportedly has close friends of several years, and ample opportunity build meaningful relationships with her peers.
Despite this, Eve seems to have little compulsion to act in a compassionate or thoughtful manner, instead being so absorbed in herself that she causes harm to those around her. Further, Eve’s drastic flip-flop from fear of being raped to being basically affronted that she was not her rescuer’s “type”, was infuriating, not to mention ridiculous.
Granted, Eve has no understanding of how to survive in the wild, due to the closeted world she has been raised in. However, Eve’s continued abandonment, ignorance and outright endangerment of those around her boggled my mind. She leaves a trail of destruction in her wake as she stumbles through this story, and I simply couldn’t find it in myself to sympathise with her. On the contrary, I was frustrated, annoyed and entirely uninterested in her pity-parties. By the time she actually took pause to reflect on exactly what kind of havoc she had wreaked, I was so disconnected from her as a character that it was a struggle to muster any interest in her self-analysis.
Conversely, Eve’s former schoolmate and fellow escapee, Arden, was a girl I warmed to. Although initially cast as the suspicious outsider/mean girl, she was straight-talking, tough and intelligent, and frequently had scenes that made me want slap her a high-five.
The romance aspect of this story fell equally flat for me. Commencing when Caleb rescues Eve from an imminent bear attack, the two inevitably exchange meaningful gazes and heart-pounding touches. While I didn’t dislike Caleb as a character, and the life he and the other orphaned boys lived was somewhat intriguing, there was too much here that felt contrived and implausible. Not the least of this was the ease with which Eve assimilates into their world. Years of propaganda, fear and manipulation by her Teachers are swept away in mere days. Half-wild boys comport themselves, for the most part, like mild mannered school boys. And naturally, Eve falls in “love” with her dreadlocked, “ball song” singing saviour.
I can’t even write about Leif here, and the situation that unfolds during the raid, because I’m afraid I’ll punch my computer.
Below is a visual representation of my like or dislike of the main characters, relative to some of the major events. (Within a spoiler due to the naming of plot points):
On the positive side, Carey’s writing is fluid and holds attention, and she changes up the scenery and events regularly enough to keep the story well paced. It’s a fairly swift read, with a plot that keeps turning consistently.
Yet, just when I was beginning to soften, beginning to feel some interest in what would become of the characters and feel an investment in their goal: the ending. Although it is rather in keeping with the way Eve has behaved throughout the entire preceding story, it still seemed illogical and out of place to me. Frankly, it felt like the entire slog through Eve’s story was met with a slap in the face, and a cheap ploy to generate investment in the sequel.
However, I’m sincere when I say that I hope the continuation of this trilogy gets stronger. I certainly hope more of the world is explained and detailed. I hope some of the minor characters play a larger role, as there is real potential for their stories to be interesting.
That said, the bear is still my favourite character. High five, Bear!
This tersely told short story is somewhat startling in it's brevity, yet does not lack in impact. Thought-provokSuccinct. Dark. Powerful. Unsettling.
This tersely told short story is somewhat startling in it's brevity, yet does not lack in impact. Thought-provoking and resonant, it's a grim vision of the future - the matter-of-fact style of narration adding to the bleakness of the setting.
“Dystomance” doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon, and the appetite for YA romance playing out against a backdrop of government oppression remains“Dystomance” doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon, and the appetite for YA romance playing out against a backdrop of government oppression remains healthy, judging by the titles storming my goodreads feed. I’ve had varying degrees of success with this particular subgenre, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer those where the romance takes a back seat to the plot and worldbuilding. It’s a personal preference, but I find that the opposite scenario, with the romance centre stage and the world set up to fuel romantic angst, makes for less of a satisfying reading experience.
So while I approached Article 5 with some trepidation, and I would still shelve it along with its apocalyptic and dystopian romance companions, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked this book. I don’t love it and it’s not without issues, primarily of the worldbuilding variety, but this is a solid contender with more substance than a case of tru luv gone awry.
Lately, it only takes accessing the internet or broadly keeping up with global political developments to see that Simmons’ vision of an ultra / neo-conservative (thanks Angela!) United States is not exactly unimaginable. While the book is somewhat sketchy on the rise of this government, the Moral Statues and the war that preceded, the underlying ideas make for a plausible, interesting premise. If the book is rather lacking in explanation (and it is), it does a decent job of creating a stifling atmosphere of control and surveillance by a regressive right-wing government.
During a systematic sweep of the nation to reinstate strict moral codes and “reform” it’s citizens to traditional gender and family roles, Ember Miller and her mother fall afoul of “article 5” of the Moral Statutes, by virtue of Ember’s illegitimacy. Present at their arrest is young officer and Ember’s former neighbour, Chase Jennings, apparently having been completely indoctrinated by the Moral Militia.
The sparseness of back story will doubtless be a major roadblock for some, and that’s understandable. However, to Simmons’ credit, she has crafted a compelling dynamic between the main characters that keeps the book engaging.
Rather than relying on an instant connection born out of inexplicable chemistry, Ember and Chase’s relationship is tied to their shared history and complicated by their present circumstances. Ember is an impulsive, scared teenager fearing for the life of her mother and her own safety. Chase is a conflicted young soldier suffering the effects of PTSD and a burdened conscience. While the development of their story is predictably hindered by one of my pet peeves – a willful lack of communication – the plot maintains a brisk pace and the focus is not entirely on the will-they-won’t-they element.
The characters are better fleshed out here than some comparable reads of late, and Simmons’ incorporation of mental health issues is insightful without being obtrusive and bludgeoning the reader with cumbersome messaging. Chase, in particular, is strong, well-developed character, gradually revealed in more detail throughout the story. And while Ember was not always a character I cared for, I appreciated the fact that she had agency and motivation independent of the romance subplot. As she gains understanding she becomes a more sympathetic character, and one that I warmed to as her story progressed.
The writing of Article 5 is brisk and even - and as the conduit of Ember’s voice, it’s articulate and aware. It’s a fast paced story and a relatively quick read, with compelling stakes and an ending that avoids cliffhangers, yet leaves the way open for Simmons to further develop her characters and the world they live in.
While I would have preferred more detailed development and solid explanation for the premise, I still found Article 5 held its own in a crowded field, and I look forward to reading the sequel.
I’m not really sure what to say about this book. On one hand, I did actually enjoy this a fraction more than The Line. On the other, it was a2.5 stars
I’m not really sure what to say about this book. On one hand, I did actually enjoy this a fraction more than The Line. On the other, it was a case of “more of the same” in terms of the writing, pacing and overall issues I had with the first book.
Away picks up the story shortly after the conclusion of the The Line. Rachel has Crossed and is living with the Others in their camp. Vivian and Mrs Moore are back on the Property, unsure whether they have been betrayed. Rachel finds out that her father is alive and is being held captive by another group of Others.
But honestly, I just found both of these books far too thin and flat to really hold my interest. The prose is impersonal and distancing, told in third person and leaping from viewpoint to viewpoint of the various characters. Again, we are told what each of these characters are feeling, but it doesn’t translate into engaging storytelling. The characters purportedly feel pain, loss, love, hope – yet it all felt blandly monotone to me.
For such a captivating premise, I also wish the world had been better fleshed out. The scant detail provided about the way of life of the Others raises more questions and than are answered. The ending itself was outright abrupt and rang strangely hollow, which is an odd sensation after the investment of reading the two books in their entirety. I’m unsure whether there is going to be a third book in the series, but the ending of Away doesn’t really provide closure, nor does it linger all that much.
But onto what you really want to know. What about the sheep-cats?
They do, in fact, exist on the other side of the Line. But I was expecting something like, maybe, this:
The “sheep-cats” of rumour turn out to be Woollies, which are described as something like a woolly lynx.
That said, Nipper was my favourite character of the book. He definitely exhibited the most personality, in my opinion.
For all the promise of the synopsis, I ultimately felt somewhat underwhelmed by both The Line and Away. However, as a lower YA dystopia, they are adequately thought-provoking and offer a slightly different take a sobering situation. ...more
Unfortunately for me, The Line was a definite case of a premise I loved, and execution that I did not.
Despite it’s recent glutting with offerings (soUnfortunately for me, The Line was a definite case of a premise I loved, and execution that I did not.
Despite it’s recent glutting with offerings (some better than others), dystopia is still a genre I love. Because amid the lacklustre, the poorly conceived, and frankly absurd, every now and then I find a YA dystopian novel that completely blows me away.
This book was not one of them.
The Line takes some familiar aspects: a divided and reconstructed former US, war, heavy restrictions on citizens, and adds a sinister slant in the form of the invisible barrier that separates the Unified States from Away. Away is rumoured to be populated by the bizarre and superhuman victims of weapons used during the conflict. The Line ostensibly keeps these unacknowledged beings out, while locking citizens in.
The story revolves largely around three female characters, each of a different generation, who live on The Property that backs onto the Line. Vivian and her daughter Rachel have sought the relative safety of isolation after the death of Vivian’s husband, while their employer Mrs Moore harbours secrets of her own.
It was a concept that piqued my interested (*cough* along with the gorgeous cover), yet my initial enthusiasm waned fairly quickly. As with most readers, I have certain preferences when it comes to writing style. That’s not to say that I’m not open to new things, but I know generally what works for me. This didn’t. The writing is clinical and somewhat formal, keeping the reader distant. As a result, I simply could not engage with the characters at all. At the end of the novel, I still feel like I have no real idea who they are, what they’re like as people. Hall frequently tells us what emotions they are experiencing, but at no point did I actually feel this for myself. There was something rather methodical and detached about the manner of storytelling in this case.
Also, to put it bluntly, not a lot actually happens in this book.(view spoiler)[In a nutshell: A girl crosses a forbidden line. Literally. (hide spoiler)] This makes me think that the perhaps the purpose here was to build an incredible amount of tension and suspense through a deceptively slow-paced plot and a richly realised atmosphere of menace, keeping readers on their mental toes and unsure of what to expect. That’s all well and good, but there is a fine line between achieving this and.. not. To be completely honest, I spent a large portion of this book feeling vaguely bored and wishing something more would happen.
Despite this, and without spoiling the ending, there is some hope that things may get more interesting in the sequel. I’m keen to see some of the elements that initially drew me to this book be further developed, and I hope this is the case in Away.
Finally, my favourite thing about The Line? “Sheep-cats.” Is that not the coolest thing you’ve heard all day?
I suspect that for some, the amount of enjoyment and/or engagement they experience while reading Bumped will be directly proportional to the manner inI suspect that for some, the amount of enjoyment and/or engagement they experience while reading Bumped will be directly proportional to the manner in which they approach it.
It’s just a theory, and I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I do think that an analysis of Bumped needs to take into account the angle a person has chosen to read it from. Taken at face value, there is content and style to the story that some readers may find problematic or even objectionable. Read as a satirical take on current trends, though, Bumped presents some intelligent, relevant commentary on social and economic pressure and the extent to which it shapes our views.
I’m not sure that I would say I “liked” this book, in the sense in which I would normally apply the word. But I was quite fascinated by the themes and interested to see how they would be developed. In truth, at times it was an uncomfortable book for me to read. But perhaps that was entirely the point.
Bumped takes place in a not too distant future, where a virus has caused the onset of infertility between the ages of eighteen and twenty, and teen pregnancy has become a matter of profit and prestige. “Bumping” and “pregging” are governed by contractual obligations, managed by agents, watched avidly through the hyperactive lens of extreme social media. High school is divided not so much on the lines of the “popular” and the “unpopular”, but the amateurs and the pros. The girls with six figures riding on their six-month baby bellies, and the girls hoping to profit on an un-contracted knock up. The guys who are stud material, and the guys who don’t make the “reproaesthetical” grade.
For the most part, I bought this as a premise. McCafferty’s world has its roots in our own, amplifying the present reality into an exaggerated future possibility. I could get behind this concept more than I could, say, love is a disease! Every female dies at 20! I mean no disrespect to those books, but by comparison, I found this vision of the future more plausible. Or least, I didn’t have to suspend as much belief. This is ’Sixteen and Pregnant’, peer pressure, social media, and economic upheaval dialled up to eleven and heavily distorted.
Hand in hand with this setting is quite a lot of stylised slang and terminology. Bumped is thick with future-speak and technological references – it took me ages to work out what all the winking and blinking was about (although maybe I’m just exceptionally slow on the uptake) – and this can be somewhat distracting, as there is not a lot of accompanying explanation. Given its prevalence, you either won’t mind the language and will adjust quickly, or it will drive you absolutely crazy. Aside from this, I did enjoy the writing. The chapters are quite short and while occasionally this caused some blurring between the characters for me, I did like the flow and rhythm to the book.
Bumped is told through the dual perspectives of identical twins Melody and Harmony, separated at birth and unexpectedly re-united at sixteen. Melody is a trailblazer of the pregging for profit trend, holding a lucrative conception contract and awaiting the selection of a suitable partner to “bump” with, under pressure to seal the deal before her days of fertility are up and she enters her “obsolesence”. Harmony has been raised in a fundamentalist community, and believes it is her duty to convince her long-lost sister of the sinfulness of her choice to procreate outside of marriage.
The way both Melody and Harmony are presented may not be easy for all to stomach. Taking a step back from these characters, though, there are more similarities than differences. I think it may be a little short sighted to see this merely as the “religious” and “secular” going head to head. Let’s face it, very few would step out of that ring not nursing some wounds of offence, regardless of which side their personal convictions are more closely aligned with.
To me this was more a story about two girls who are each confined by the (wildly opposing) moral and social strictures governing their societies. Two girls undergoing a shift in perception, both of themselves and each other. Learning to recognise the influences and demands on their lives, and whether to choose to embrace or reject these.
This is not to say that I either agree or disagree with the portrayals of the characters, teen pregnancy or religion in this book, as I found parts in both narratives to be problematic at times. However, I could appreciate that a large part of this story is about gaining insight into other viewpoints, and becoming self-determined in the face of incredible pressure from peers, parents and society. To vilify one side of the world McCafferty presents would be to overlook the fact that both tie the value of women to their ability to conceive and bear children, and both inflict some extreme levels of pressure on young people to conform to the accepted 'procreative-norm'.
Interestingly, there is not a lot of detail around whether there are people who don’t fall within either the “Goodside” or “Otherside” communities, as they are referred to by Harmony. These are two narrow extremes, and I can’t help but speculate that there must be others who would not claim affinity with either set of beliefs, just as there are today.
This is a polarising book in many ways. The writing, style, subject matter, and the depiction of the characters will court strong opinions either way – not all will find it accessible. There are some scenes that are (deliberately, I suspect) incredibly skin crawly – like young girls trying on fake baby bumps, the rampant sexualisation and (view spoiler)[a pregnant pre-teen (hide spoiler)].
While the darker side of the world is gradually presented, this is quite subtle and some readers may not care for the deceptively light tone and handling of such subject matter. In their In this way though, it’s a bold book, not flinching from controversy, but being quite upfront and unabashed about its content.
You’ll note beside the title the: “#1”. I really do wish this was a standalone book. I could have done without the dun-dun-dun (that’s my attempt at ominous music) final page, and still been happy with the somewhat untied ends of the story. In fact, the rather ambiguous resolution would have lent the climax quite a powerful impact, and realistic tone.
However, there’s a clear segue into a further instalment of Melody and Harmony’s stories. But frankly, I do think that if anyone is to handle this adroitly and write a great follow up, Megan McCafferty is more than up to the task. ["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"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
There are any number of cracking ways to open a novel, but I am going to argue that (view spoiler)[dismembering a turtle (hide spoiler)] is not one ofThere are any number of cracking ways to open a novel, but I am going to argue that (view spoiler)[dismembering a turtle (hide spoiler)] is not one of them. <--That’s not really a spoiler. But it’s gross. I put it in spoiler tags because I’m conscious that this might show up in people’s news feeds while they’re eating.
Sure, this makes a pretty impactful point about the desperation of Lucy’s situation. But what immediately follows is a several pages long, point-by-point description of the current state of the world (or New York at least) and how it got there. This almighty heap of information clunks down in the opening chapter, making the beginning of Ashes, Ashes very unwieldy. It’s hard to feel engaged in this kind of story when the pacing is bogged down with so much exposition, which could have been more effectively threaded through the narrative.
Likewise, chunks of Lucy’s back story and personal history are pushed in awkwardly, with the purpose of...what? Making the reader sympathise with her? Understand her plight? Set up the “reveal” about Lucy? I’m not sure that any of these were achieved particularly effectively.
I’m afraid I found much of this book afflicted by similar info-dumping, abrupt transitions, awkwardly staged scenes and moments that were just jarringly out of place.
For example - Lucy has been surviving on her own for over a year. Then she meets a boy. And suddenly she’s having thoughts about being embarrassed by her wild hair. Alright. I do get this, up to a point. I have curly hair myself. I know that some days it’s less like hair and more like having a small, unruly child attached to the top of your head. But seriously? Over a year not knowing whether you’ll make it through the next day, outrunning tsunamis, being chased by hunting dogs and eating salamander stew (if you’re lucky), and you’re worried about your hair frizzing out? It felt contrived and very “insert budding romantic tension here”.
On the whole, the strings that the author was pulling, or the scaffolding of the plot, always felt visible. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the story felt heavily orchestrated, that the characters were maneuvered into situations to progress the plot, but did not feel particularly organic.
Case in point, the chapter about hunting rabbits in which nothing much happens except a few non-verbal cues to show us who is in which corner of the romantic boxing ring and who is most likely to throw the first punch in the form of a jealous hissy fit or passive aggressive jab. Unfortunately, the love angle of this story left me completely cold - as the relationships are not particularly substantiated with conversation or connection - so I found myself frustrated with these kind of scenes.
For such a heavy premise – the majority of the population being decimated by a plague, earth’s climate completely haywire – the story is rather flimsy and often feels uncertain as to what direction it should take.
The opening chapters, detailing Lucy’s solitary life and efforts to survive, turned out to be the strongest in my opinion. From here, the plot takes several turns, raising issues that are either not explained fully, or simply don’t come to fruition in terms of relevance to the story.
Ultimately, too many questions felt inadequately addressed, making the climax fairly difficult to buy into, or feel much of an investment in.
I’m aware that this review is not very forgiving (or at all). But if I’m totally honest, I simply don’t feel like I could recommend this book. If you are looking for a strong, compelling dystopian novel – I’m not convinced that this will be it. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This kind of review never fails to bring out my shifty, shyster side. (Yes, I certainly do have one).
I tend to think of my reviews for this genre asThis kind of review never fails to bring out my shifty, shyster side. (Yes, I certainly do have one).
I tend to think of my reviews for this genre as shoddily assembled, incoherent rambles. And I use the word “genre” there without a modifier because if you take a peek at my shelves for this book, you’ll see that I have absolutely no idea where to put it. That’s right, I probably couldn’t tell the difference between speculative and sci-fi if they walked up to me on the street and punched me in the face.
Let’s just say, I’m out of my comfort zone here. So I do my best to distract people from my complete lack of knowledge with a barrage of emotional response and long tangents.
Look, over there! Adverbs!!*runs away*
Whenever I get the chance to read an entire book in one sitting, I inevitably emerge from it feeling a little drunk and disoriented. (view spoiler)[Not drunk and disorderly, although that’s happened after some books. (hide spoiler)] Surfacing too quickly after being submerged in a foreign fictional world, I find myself in a bit of a daze, squinting at my flatmate like I can’t remember who she is and having to be reminded to “use my words”.
I loved the experience of being in the world Veronica Rossi has created in Under the Never Sky. She drops the reader in with little in the way of backstory or explanation, to an extent leaving them to stumble around blind and gradually get a feel for the place. But for me, this wasn’t a frustrating experience. It was intriguing - I needed to know more, to push on, to search out answers in the text. And the detail that Rossi does provide is fascinating. She’s taken some familiar concepts and put her own unique slant on them, pushing together two very different worlds to create a setting of extremes.
I’m poorly equipped to examine the technical strengths and weaknesses of Rossi’s worldbuilding, as I’ve already admitted upfront this genre is not exactly my strong point. However from a lay perspective (so to speak), the world of Under the Never Sky reminds me a little of Blood Red Road. Not in that the settings are strikingly similar, but in the sense that both are rich with atmosphere and a curious blend of familiar and strange. The Outside, or the Death Shop, is definitely better realised than Reverie, but that’s probably attributable to the simple fact that the majority of the story takes place there.
Possibly the greatest weakness I found with Under the Never Sky was its opening, and I fear that the first few chapters may struggle to hold the attention of some readers, if not lose them altogether. It wasn’t the loud, punchy, gripping opening I was expecting. The book gets going at more of a saunter than a sprint, and keeps this relatively sedate pace for some time. When the story really hits its stride, it’s good, but the slower build up isn’t going to win over everyone.
On the other hand, the characters are so well developed and carefully crafted that they’re more than up to the task of carrying this story. Both Aria and Perry have the substance that I’ve found lacking in some comparable novels. While I didn’t find both immediately compelling (read: it took me a while to like Aria), they are both strong characters and their interactions felt believable. However, I do want to mention that (view spoiler)[I wish the element of "rendering" had not been a part of this story. While I think I understand how this could work amongst the Scires, I disliked how it detracted from the element of choice and free will in Perry and Aria's relationship. (hide spoiler)]
Perry’s story and motivations in particular came across loud and clear, probably why I felt invested in him as a character almost straight away.
Add to this the fact there’s more on offer here subject-wise than romance-masquerading-as-dystopia, namely: loyalty, trust, respect, family and visits from “Aunt Irma”, and it’s an entertaining read with some depth.
This could be the read-a-thon high speaking, which I’m yet to come down from, but at the end of the day this book is just a lot of fun to read, and one of the stronger contenders in the recent field of YA sci-fi/post-apoc/dystop (view spoiler)[(just covering all bases) (hide spoiler)] that I’ve read. Although, having just made such a big song and dance (er, disclaimer) over how little I have to substantiate my opinion, take that as you will.
As for me, I regret nothing! ["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"]>...more
**spoiler alert** How much of your humanity can you sacrifice, before you become a monster?
Enclave opens on the naming day for Girl15 (thereafter, Deu**spoiler alert** How much of your humanity can you sacrifice, before you become a monster?
Enclave opens on the naming day for Girl15 (thereafter, Deuce) who has survived fifteen years in the underground system of tunnels that form her world. As a huntress, Deuce joins the faction of her society responsible for providing food and protecting the enclave from Freaks – a role she has trained for fiercely. Paired for duty with Fade, an aloof fellow hunter of mysterious origins, Deuce discovers her world is not all that it seems, and is forced to question her loyalties, her beliefs and make a decision that will change her existence.
Unlike some other recent dystopian offerings, where the worldbuilding is entertaining yet highly implausible, Aguirre’s speculation is anchored solidly in recent history and current events (with the exception of the Freaks). A perusal of the Authors Note reveals the sources of inspiration for this projected post-apocalyptic world – and make no mistake: it’s not pretty. This is a violent, amoral place, and Aguirre’s prose is steeped in blood, gore, references to abuse, hopelessness and patriarchy gone to hell in a handbasket.
Against this grim backdrop, the characters are confronted with situations that call into question their core convictions. And in a world where survival is paramount, where is the line between good and evil? When do the ends stop justifying the means in a place that no longer has a measure for brutality, where social and moral mores have disintegrated? And how much cruelty divides the bad from the not so bad?
Deuce is but one of the substantial crop of “kickass” heroines currently populating YA shelves. And she is certainly not the first who has struggled to reconcile her fighting, survivor instinct with a burgeoning empathetic side. However, I felt that the blend here was handled more successfully than in some other cases. Deuce’s evolving principles still feel in keeping with who she is, and what she has been raised to believe. While she begins to experience new feelings and twinges of conscience, she does not lose who she is as a huntress. Rather, the broadening of her perspective makes her a stronger character, both as a fighter and a person in general. The development of compassion and attraction doesn’t cut her off at the knees, or incapacitate her with romantic dithering.
On this note, I have to mention the fact that Deuce experiences interest from opposing angles (yes, otherwise known as a love triangle). I have to say though, that I don’t believe it was a trope-tastic triangle, as such, and that I felt Deuce’s actions and lack of intuition regarding Fade and Stalker were in keeping with her character and the life she had lead up to that point. Basically, while it caused me some anxiety as a reader, being able to see what Deuce couldn’t, I didn’t mind its incorporation into the plot.
In a similar vein, I found the way that Deuce viewed herself was rather refreshing. In one passage, (I can’t recall exactly where, I was too engrossed to mark pages as I read) Deuce notes that she feels beautiful when she is fighting. It was an interesting deviation from the general rule to see a protagonist tie her sense of beauty to her skills and the strength of her body rather than simply the way a guy looks at her. (Not that I would mind Fade looking at me. I adored that guy).
On the subject of strength, I enjoyed the way Aguirre explored the different forms this takes in different characters. In particular, Deuce’s gradual understanding and recognition of Tegan’s strengths, and the development of their friendship despite starkly contrasting histories, was an interesting addition to Deuce’s character growth.
Enclave strikes me as a book that is going to divide readers along some quite distinct lines, and I can see some disliking it with a fervor equal to (if not greater) than my like. There is a lot of ambiguity and greyness and plain ugliness to this story, as it hypothesizes on life in a world with little or no system of ethics. However, it’s this intensely challenging nature that made me engage with it and Deuce in a way I couldn’t some other post-apocalyptic stories.
To say I found Enclave gripping would be a bit of an understatement. I sat immobile on the couch, I fought sleep to read into the early hours, I resisted the urge to shout at anyone who tried to speak to me while I was reading. And I felt a little crestfallen to discover I have more than a year to wait until finding out what the future holds for Deuce.
Regardless, Enclave is a strong opening to the trilogy, with interesting and compelling characters that I felt an investment in, and a complex, frighteningly believable world. ...more