The story begins with the main character Anika pedaling as fast as possible toward some ominous, unnamed disaster. Throughout the narrative, pepperedThe story begins with the main character Anika pedaling as fast as possible toward some ominous, unnamed disaster. Throughout the narrative, peppered every now and then, come these chapters with Anika getting closer and closer to whatever disaster has her freaking out. It adds narrative tension and an element of mystery that the novel would otherwise lack. It makes for an action packed first chapter, but I think the story would be just as strong without it.
The main story is about Anika trying to figure out her life and her place in the school pecking order. Anika is #3 on the social rung, a place she's lucky to occupy and that is precarious at best. Anika hates mean girl Becky, social position #1, but doesn't dare cross her. Anika's best friend is an airhead who sleeps around and occupies social position #2. Just as Anika's beginning to consider challenging Becky's evil plots, uber nerd Logan rolls back to school on a moped, looking really hot and determined to win Anika's heart. If Anika admits she likes Logan, Becky will eviscerate her. Suddenly Anika has to decide whether to choose her heart or social acceptance.
These days, as a writer and YA reader, it's impossible not be knocked over the head with people talking about voice. It's that elusive quality that no one can quite define, all the publishers want and that can make or break an otherwise decent novel. This book has enough voice to fuel the entire YA genre for a year. It's the perfect example of how voice makes a story. Edgy, raw, sarcastic, deprecating, honest and authentic. Every aspiring YA writer should read this book for the voice alone. Added to that amazing voice, however, is a genuinely great story. There are plenty of books out there that deal with kids trying to navigate the rocky waters of the high school social scene, however very few of them do it this well. There's just something that drags you into the story and makes you want to keep reading, makes you care about the characters.
None of Portes' characters are perfect and their flaws and virtues makes each of them real, brings them to life. I also appreciate that Portes resists the urge to wrap her ending up in a pretty neat bow. I won't give away what the disaster hinted at throughout the book is but it's compelling and authentic to the story line. It fits and in the end is more than just a gimmick. The ending is raw and genuine, but still satisfying. It brings the story full circle to the issues that were introduced at the beginning of the narrative. ...more
When Cate was 12 her sister Violet died and Cate's parents picked up Violet's clone the that same week. Somewhere in a lab, Cate's own clone is waitinWhen Cate was 12 her sister Violet died and Cate's parents picked up Violet's clone the that same week. Somewhere in a lab, Cate's own clone is waiting, downloading all of her thoughts each day, prepared in case Cate dies. Four years later, Violet is accused of murdering a fellow high school student and caught in the middle of a violent debate between the pro-cloning and anti-cloning factions. Cate refuses to believe her sister could ever do something so awful and sets out to find the truth.
The Good *No love triangle. Is it possible? Could this be? A YA novel where the main character ISN'T torn between two boys? Thank goodness. There is a love interest because that standard trope at least can't sit on the sidelines, but at least there's only one. *The premise. There was so much promise in this story and it's a great idea. The book jacket was divinely promising. Gorgeous cover, intriguing premise. And like so many books before it just didn't live up to that premise. *Pacing. I know others have complained about the pacing but I didn't mind it. The beginning is a tad slow but it picks up quickly and keeps a fairly even pace throughout. Gaither does a good job of ending her chapters in a way that makes you want to turn the page and find out what happens next. *Good story telling. I thought the writing was fairly strong. Nice descriptions, good range of characters, enough back story to fill out the plot. There were many nights I stayed up reading much later than I should have because I couldn't put the book down. For a debut novel this was a really nice strong beginning. Gaither will grow as an author and I think her future books will be wonderful.
The Bad *Conflicting themes. I felt like this book was a mishmash of two different plots/themes and it suffered for it. On one hand we've got the Romeo/Juliet love story going on with Cate and Jaxton, caught on opposite sides of the cloning debate. On the other we have Cate's love for her sister and the question of what makes someone human, what makes them family and what makes them the person that they are. For me the later plot point was the more interesting one and it was too often over-shadowed by Cate and Jaxton's romantic shenanigans. I wish that Gaither had spent more time following the intriguing questions she raised, in the end, however, she lightly brushes them aside. *Character inconsistency. (view spoiler)[As hard as Cate fought to save her sister, to find her and protect her and just understand everything that was happening, her calm acceptance of the fact that Violet's mind was wiped and her sister in essence completely gone just didn't ring true unless Gaither's ultimate message there was that it's the body and not the mind/spirit that makes a person who they are. Cause if it's just the body then I guess the CCA could load a serial killer's brian into Violet and it'd all be okay because she still looks like Violet. The ending would have been so much stronger if Violet had been allowed to stay dead. Also, given the rabid nature of the CCA at the beginning of the book I don't buy that they'd suffer a clone to live AT ALL. Prejudice is prejudice and runs deeper than just the surface. Sure a few CCA people might be able to see the benefit of bringing clones over to their side, but most of them joined CCA because they passionately believe that clones are not human beings and should not exist, that they are abominations. Maybe Jaxton's mother, as she's a scientist and initially worked on the cloning program, might see the use of having clones around, but 99% of her underlings would not and that's sure as heck not the foundation she built the CCA from. In that sense the ending really fell flat for me because the characters were inconsistent, not through natural character growth during the story, but by authorial dictate. (hide spoiler)] *Insta-love. Like so, so, so many books the main characters are unrealistic in how quickly and deeply they fall in love. Yes, Jaxton has had a crush on Cate for a long time. Yes, Cate has had a crush on Jaxton for a long time. But the events in this book take place over the course of roughly a week and in that time we go from interest to "I won't ever leave you, will follow you anywhere, will walk away from my family and risk certain death for you." That's moving a bit fast and I found it unrealistic in both characters.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Afterworlds is two stories rolled into one, told in alternating chapters. In the first story, Darcy Patel just graduated high school and she's managedAfterworlds is two stories rolled into one, told in alternating chapters. In the first story, Darcy Patel just graduated high school and she's managed to land a literary agent, a huge book deal from a New York publishing house and enough life changes to make anyone's head spin. Determined to be a 'real' writer, Darcy moves to New York, leaps into the literary scene and struggles to figure out who she is as a person and a writer. In the second story, Darcy's soon-to-be-published novel, 17-year-old Lizzie survives a terrorist attack by playing dead so convincingly that she falls into the afterlife and meets a hot Vedic death god. When Lizzie returns to the world of the living she discovers that she can see ghosts and that everything about her life has changed. Torn between her mom & friends on one side and the call of the hot Vedic death god on the other, Lizzie tries to get her life in order.
This book is a perfect example of meta-fiction (fiction ABOUT fiction). It's basically a very long and tongue-in-cheek ode to the YA writing community, the book publishing industry, the YA reading community and life as a young New Yorker. It's one part satire, one part love note to an industry Westerfeld has been entrenched in for years and one part literary romp. I loved it, but then I'm a bit biased as I love most of Westerfeld's books.
Unsurprisingly, the book has drawn some harsh reviews and some pissed off people. I figure those people probably haven't spent much time in YA land wallowing amid the books, following authors on Twitter, YouTube, at conferences and book signings. Their loss. For anyone who has, you will recognize aspects of your favorite YA authors in these pages and get a fascinating glimpse at one aspect of the publishing industry.
That isn't to say this book is perfect. Because there are definitely a few issues, but they're minor. A few reviewers are howling about how unrealistic Darcy's story is, in regard to her publishing experience. That is a legitimate gripe. I attending a book talk by Westerfeld just after Afterworlds came out and he said that he and his friends know young authors like this who get fabulous book deals. He also told another attendee that it's not that hard to get a literary agent. Here's the thing guys, Westerfeld and his friends, at this point, are like YA royalty. They're part of a group of highly successful authors and they've been publishing for years. The book market today is lightyears different than it was just five years ago even. I am certain that the young authors Westerfeld meets, and therefor partially based his book on, do get fabulous crazy deals, but he's meeting them because they are the outlyers and not the typical author who gets a book deal these days.
The hard truth is, getting a literary agent is tough and it takes luck, talent and persistence. Six figure book deals use to be, if not common, then at least not scarcer than hen's teeth in the literary world for a debut author. These days, however, most authors have day jobs and don't earn enough from their writing to write full time. A $15,000 advance is far more realistic than a $300,000 advance. However, as I said, their are always exceptions and Darcy is one of those - she gets lucky, basically.
On the one hand, I think that Afterworlds may encourage a lot of young writers and that's never a bad thing. On the other hand, I have a feeling it's going to create some unrealistic expectations among those same young writers. But in the end, this book is fiction after all and as far as I'm concerned it accomplished it's main goal: it entertained, enthralled and dragged me into another world. Two of them as a matter of fact. I'm not complaining about the journey....more
Cath & Ren are twin sisters off to attend their freshman year at university. Cath is set in her ways, shy, anti-social and unwilling to take on neCath & Ren are twin sisters off to attend their freshman year at university. Cath is set in her ways, shy, anti-social and unwilling to take on new experiences. Her twin sister, on the other hand, can't wait to jump into college life. Ren has moved on and Cath is left floundering, clinging to the only thing that she loves in life just as much as her sister - the Simon Snow book series and the fan fiction Cath writes.
I desperately wanted to like this book. I met Rainbow Rowell and she's a lovely and funny person. Her characters are interesting and not your typical YA stereo-types. Her descriptions are unique and memorable and I had a few giggle moments while reading. However, this style of book, and Rowell's writing style in general, just aren't for me. She's a good writer and tons of my friends love her books, but I just can't connect with them. For me the pace is too slow, the books largely character, rather than plot driven. The overt references to fan fiction and the fan subculture were a bit heavy-handed, but that's most likely because I'm a huge Harry Potter fan, have written fan fiction and am intimately familiar with the subculture in question and all its foibles and craziness. I'm curious how someone outside the Harry Potter fandom, who's never read fanfic, heard of fanfic or slash or the general zaniness of fandom, reads this book. Perhaps for them that's the fascinating piece that makes this book irresistible. In the end, for me, I wasn't emotionally invested enough in the characters and plot to continue. I know, however, that tons of other readers loved Fangirl.
Fangirl is notable for falling into the New Adult genre - an emerging genre that is still trying to establish itself. I think that this book will appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen and similar authors. Certainly if you enjoyed Rowell's first book, Eleanor & Park, you'll enjoy this book as well - it contains the same sort of quirky, off-beat characters, and has a similar pace and feel. ...more
Charlotte Silver's parents are famous paranormal investigators and skeptics. When the family ends up in Charleston, they encounter a very strong spiriCharlotte Silver's parents are famous paranormal investigators and skeptics. When the family ends up in Charleston, they encounter a very strong spirit that attaches itself to Charlotte and begins complicating her life. Adding to Charlotte's woes, after moving to a new town, starting at a new school and somehow landing a new bestie who just happens to be the head of the popular crowd, Charlotte finds herself embroiled in a mystery surrounding said bestie, her absentee boyfriend, Adam, and resident bad boy Jared James.
The book started out with a lot of promise but ultimately fizzled. Right from the beginning there were some serious disconnects. We're told that Charlotte's parents don't believe in the paranormal, that they drive around in a van labeled "Doubt" and yet they have ghost detecting equipment, speak the ghost hunter lingo and get really, really excited about paranormal indicators like EVP, light orbs and energy spikes. For supposed skeptics they sure as heck act like they believe in ghosts, despite their weak arguments to the contrary. Next we're told that Charlotte's sister, Abby, is chum - a ghost magnet used frequently during documentary shoots. While I laughed at the term and love the concept, Abby was way to jumpy for someone who's occupied that position most of her life. The same goes for Charlotte. Supposedly they grew up being dragged through haunted houses, dungeons, creepy dark places, and yet Abby freaks out because she gets a deep sense of sadness from a location shoot? It doesn't track.
Another pet peeve for me was Charlotte's sudden and intense friendship with Avery. Charlotte moves to town and magically makes friends with the head cheerleader? Because NONE of Avery's otherwise apparently attentive friends are around in the weeks before school starts? It just doesn't fit. More-over, not one of those existing friends has a problem taking Charlotte into their tight-knit clique when school starts. And the mystery surrounding Avery's boyfriend and what really happened to him? Utterly ridiculous. [spoiler]For goodness sake, Jared isn't willing to admit he crashed his car because he swerved to avoid Avery's dog? Really? He's just going to be vilified and not say a word? And because he swerved to avoid hitting the dog, Jared somehow believes he murdered his best friend in the accident? He believes it so much he TELLS Avery he murdered Adam. But of course he won't tell Avery he crashed because of her dog - that would be too traumatic for everyone. I felt like there was a lot of lead up to the reveal of what happened to Adam and why and then to have it be something so ridiculously simple felt very disappointing.[/spoiler]
The actual writing wasn't bad, nice descriptions, excellent scene-setting and a good pace throughout the novel. The characters were distinctive and dialogue was well done. The plot holes and stumbles, however, were too much of a distraction and the decent writing style couldn't rescue the overall story. I think that Mara Purnhagen shows a lot of promise as a writer and I'll be interested to see what she writes in the future. This particular book just wasn't to my taste. ...more