**spoiler alert** There has been so much hype about The Hunger Games that I wanted to read it myself to see what all the fuss was about. I enjoy dysto**spoiler alert** There has been so much hype about The Hunger Games that I wanted to read it myself to see what all the fuss was about. I enjoy dystopian fiction so I was hoping that it would live up to the good reviews I have read.
The story takes place in a future nation called Panem which is composed of a wealthy and controlling Capital and twelve poorer districts that each specialise in a different trade. The main character, Katniss Everdeen comes from district twelve, a very poor mining district. As punishment for a past rebellion against the Capitol in which district thirteen was obliterated, one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen are selected from each district to be participants or ‘tributes’ in the Hunger Games -a fight to the death in an outdoor arena which is watched by the citizens of Panem like a reality TV show. Despite only having her name in the drawing once, Katniss’ little sister Prim is selected, and Katniss volunteers in her place knowing that it will probably be her death sentence. I could really relate to her need to protect her sister and her pain at having to sacrifice herself.
Also selected from district twelve is Peeta Mellark, a kind baker’s son who once gave Katniss bread when she was starving. Their drunken mentor Haymitch convinces them to present themselves as ‘starcrossed lovers’ to gain sympathy and sponsers from the Capitol. Peeta seems to be genuinely in love with Katniss, but she is confused by her feelings for him-never sure whether she is acting for the cameras or not and aware that she will have to kill him if she is to survive the arena. She also has conflicting feelings her best friend Gale who she has grown up hunting with in district twelve, so a love triangle develops. I liked both Gale and Peeta as characters, so I could sympathise with Katniss’ difficult decision as well as disliking her for stringing them both along at times. Katniss is a refreshing heroine as she is brave and in control of her own destiny rather than being dependent upon the male characters in the novel. Her need to protect her family is admirable, but she is not morally flawless. She has her moments of weakness and selfishness which make her human and easier to relate to than other angelic, self-sacrificial heroines that I have encountered in YA fiction.
The games themselves are brutal and many of the tributes are killed in the first day alone, but Katniss relies on her hunting and outdoor skills to survive and it was interesting to read about her techniques. She doesn’t make many killings herself, except ones that seem justified, and conveniently most of the other tributes kill each other off until only her and Peeta are left, which is a little unrealistic and predictable. However, the book is filled with enough exciting moments (like the trackerjackers, the muttations and the fireballs) and poignant moments (with Rue and Peeta) to make up for that. After her clever trick with the berries at the end of the novel, Haymitch warns Katniss that she has become a political target, which hints at the difficulties she might face in the next book. The love triangle is also unresolved as Katniss has to return to district twelve to face Gale after he has seen her pretend to be in love with Peeta, and Peeta is heartbroken when he discovers that her love was just an act. It’s unclear whether she has real feelings for Peeta, so it will be interesting to see what happens in the sequel, Catching Fire.
The Hunger Games was very different from other YA novels I have read, and I can see why it has received so much attention. I enjoyed the fact that it had plenty of action and suspense and that the romance supplemented that rather than dominated it. Although it was unrealistic at times, it provided welcome escapism and, at times, an interesting commentary on our own society. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series. ...more
I’d wanted to read Paranormalcy ever since I started to follow Kiersten White’s blog and fell in love with her witty writing style. The cover is alsoI’d wanted to read Paranormalcy ever since I started to follow Kiersten White’s blog and fell in love with her witty writing style. The cover is also gorgeous and I am a big fan of the YA paranormal romance genre. Finally I got the book for Christmas and dived straight in with high expectations, as it had been raved about by many of my friends in the blogosphere.
The novel is about a girl called Evie who works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, set up to confine and control paranormal beings. She is the only person there who can see through paranormal’s ‘glamours’-their magical appearances-to reveal what they really are underneath, so the agency use her to track down vampires, werewolves and hags and ‘bag and tag’ them. She’s fairly happy with her life until a shape-shifter called Lend shows up and she finds out that someone is killing off the paranormals. She begins having dreams featuring a mysterious faerie prophecy and starts to discover more about her mysterious identity and abilities as she tries to keep herself and those she loves safe. The premise is fairly simple, but the plot is filled with hooks and suspense that kept that me reading to find out if my suspicions about what happened next were true.
The characters are all really unique and interesting (even if they are far-fetched). Evie’s best friend Lish is a mermaid who also works for the agency, and her ex-boyfriend Reth is a faerie who seems to be constantly trying to win her back. One of the best things about the characters is they are multi-dimensional. Evie’s boss Raquel makes a lot of bad decisions but is still likeable, Reth is mysterious and it’s unclear whether he can be trusted, the heroine is by no means perfect and even the ‘villain’ of the novel has sympathetic qualities. Evie herself is not your average innocent damsel in distress, fawning over an impossibly perfect love-interest. Instead she is strong, fiery and brave and admits to being selfish and human. The relationship between Evie and Lend is subtle, natural and realistic and didn’t have me reaching for the sick bucket like some paranormal romances.
The novel is written from Evie’s first person perspective, and her voice is funny, dramatic and snarky, just like your average teenager. It’s easy and fun to read, making it accessible to all ages but not particularly challenging for an older reader, and I couldn’t always relate to the pop culture references. At times Evie seemed very immature and shallow, and I tired of her sassy voice. However, some of the imagery is beautiful and very memorable. I found myself repeating the following quote over and over in my head: “Eyes like streams of melting snow, cold with the things she does not know. Heaven above and Hell beneath, liquid flames to hide her grief. Death, death, death with no release. Death, death, death with no release.”
Unfortunately, the main reason I only gave it three stars is that it is aimed at a much younger readership than other YA books I have read. The swear words are beeped out, there is no violence or anything slightly above PG and it just seems to lack the depth of other YA books I have read. However, I would recommend this to younger teenagers looking for something different from all the vampire/werewolf novels out there, and to parents seeking a fun but safe read for their teenage daughter....more
**spoiler alert** I’d read many good reviews about Divergent, and heard that it had been hailed as being on par with The Hunger Games. As a big fan of**spoiler alert** I’d read many good reviews about Divergent, and heard that it had been hailed as being on par with The Hunger Games. As a big fan of dystopian fiction, I decided to give it a go.
The novel is set in a future Chiago made up of five factions that each represent a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity and Erudite. The story follows Beatrice “Tris” Prior, a sixteen year old girl brought up in the selfless faction Abnegation, but bored and restricted by their way of life and unable to truly fit in. The results of a test to determine which faction she is suited to prove inconclusive and she is told that she is Divergent and must tell no one about it as it is a dangerous thing to be. At the choosing ceremony, in which she must select the faction she will join for life, she surprises herself and her family by choosing Dauntless- the faction that represents courage.
The rest of her novel follows the tough initiation process that she must face to become a full member-which involves risking her life by jumping off buildings, beating up other initiates and trying not to get murdered by her rivals. I didn’t agree with Dauntless’ way of life at all-they seemed like a bunch of reckless, uncaring thugs to me, so I found it difficult to relate to Tris and understand why she would stay with them when they put her through such hell. I preferred Amity myself, although I doubt that would have made an exciting book. The gradual romance building between her and Four was interesting to read. He seemed like a complicated character, always trying to hide his emotions and seem like a tough guy, but he is one of the few caring members of Dauntless, which made me wonder why he belonged there at all. This is partially explained by the fact that Dauntless used to stand for something different- for being valiant and standing up for what you believe in and not just being stupidly reckless, but it didn’t seem to make sense that Four had lived with something so against his principles for so long.
Tris goes through such a lot in the book, yet is offered little sympathy from anyone but Four, and it is a wonder that she is so excited about joining Dauntless for good. But although I couldn’t always understand the character’s motivations, I did really root for them and couldn’t put the book down as I wanted to find out what would happen next and how Tris would get out of such a bad situation. The whole book is full of conflict, hard choices, moral conundrums, violence, grief and drama. It has depth and is not just a wishy-washy romance tale.
The action-packed climax came as something of a surprise and was cleverly written-full of drama and suspense and a terribly tragic ending. I am curious as to what the next book holds- Tris will have a lot of demons to face and hopefully more fighting to do. It reminded me of The Hunger Games somewhat, which is a big compliment and I can’t wait to read the sequel, Insurgent. ...more
**spoiler alert** I’ve had this book on my shelf since Christmas, and finally got around to reading it last week. I was intrigued by the premise as it**spoiler alert** I’ve had this book on my shelf since Christmas, and finally got around to reading it last week. I was intrigued by the premise as it sounded similar to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which I enjoyed reading at university.
The novel is set in a future in which a virus causes men to die at the age of twenty-five, and women at twenty. At sixteen, the main character Rhine Ellery has only four years left to live, and she intends to spend them with her twin brother, Rowan. Since her parents were murdered they have been living together in a barricaded house, protecting each other from the world of poverty and crime outside. But one day Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride to a man named Linden, along with two other girls. The story follows her captivity and escape attempts, and the strange things going on in the house. At first she hates her husband for robbing her of her freedom and being responsible for the other girls who were killed in the back of the van on the way here. She avoids being intimate with him, although he tries it on a number of times and impregnates his youngest wife, Cecily, who is only thirteen years old. It is quite sickening to read about her pregnancy, and the way the wives are kept there like slaves or baby-making machines.
But Rhine soon comes to realise that her young husband is just as much of a prisoner in the house as she is- he is manipulated by his controlling and sinister father, Housemaster Vaughn, who reveals himself as the real villain of the piece. Linden knows no other way of life and is deluded about what goes on in the house. He believes he scattered his wife Rose’s ashes in the orange grove, but really his father has been dissecting her corpse in the basement to try to find a cure for the virus, and although he was told that their son was stillborn, there are hints that Vaughn may have lied to him about that too. Linden becomes more of a sympathetic character as the novel progresses. He seems to genuinely care for Rhine, despite not appreciating her rights to freedom, and he is ignorant of where she and his other wives came from. He is naive and vulnerable, still grieving for Rose. Rhine’s sister wife, Cecily, is similarly blinkered. She is so young and innocent and ready to embrace this strange marriage and bear Linden’s children. At times she is unlikeable, rude and ignorant but I sympathised with her as she didn’t know any better, and gradually she seems to come to realise that this life is not so perfect.
Destefano cleverly and realistically portrays Rhine’s mixed feelings-longing for escape yet feeling guilty towards Linden and afraid of being caught, hating and mistrusting her sister wives yet caring for them too. There is also romance between her and Gabriel, a young servant working at the house. He really cares about her but they try to keep their friendship as a secret, afraid that Vaughn will find out and punish them. She wants him to come with her when she escapes, but he is almost so used to this life that he can’t imagine what freedom will be like. Eventually though, she does convince him to escape with her and the book ends with them sailing out to sea, heading back to Manhattan to find Rhine’s brother and discover what awaits them as free people.
Overall the novel was very thought-provoking and made me question the reasons behind a lot of my own values, and what exactly is justifiable in certain situations. It did remind me a lot of The Handmaid’s Tale, and would be valuable to student’s studying the themes of feminism and the representation of women in literature, although I would warn parents of young teenagers that they may want to discuss the sexual aspect of the book with their children to make sure they understand about women’s rights in this respect. I very much look forward to reading the sequel, Fever, to discover if Rhine and Gabriel can find a way to cure the virus and achieve happiness. ...more