The book brings to mind the plot of The Night Circus with the setting of A Thousand Pieces of You. In fact, I had to put this book down for a bit to rThe book brings to mind the plot of The Night Circus with the setting of A Thousand Pieces of You. In fact, I had to put this book down for a bit to reread some of the Imperial Russia chapters of Thousand Pieces; oh how I hope the second sequel spends way, way more time there than the first sequel.
I don’t see myself reading a sequel to this book though. It’s not very original or exciting. The magic isn’t that cool, and the central romance is unconvincing, not helped by the shallow characterization of the leads. Still they’re better than the poor little rich boy who, if whining doesn’t get his will done, resorts to being a total ass. They have the main three POVs and his is definitely the worst.
But there’s also an over-the-top and out-of-place zombie who narrates here and there; she at least brings some energy to the narrative - energy from a completely different genre, but whatever. She’s my fave, followed by the sweet Renata and the ruthless Galina. Alas, their combined pagetime is not large and they never go beyond feeling like props for the main characters’ stories.
Mmm, and the plot is pretty obvious, with both OmgTwists conforming closely to tropes....more
Sometimes I bump up a book a star just because of the gay content. But the author isn’t a gay male, and the main character is not a gay male, so I’m nSometimes I bump up a book a star just because of the gay content. But the author isn’t a gay male, and the main character is not a gay male, so I’m not giving it that benefit. Sometimes a perspective outside of the queer character actually works for a book, but certainly this book has many other factors going against it.
This feels like the work of a well-meaning lady who read a few ya novels about gayness and suicide, which gave her zero insight or understanding about being queer. It’s certainly not like the only people who can write good queer works are queer themselves.
After just a few chapters I could tell that the writing and characterization would be on the mediocre side throughout. I stuck it out because it’s on top of Goodreads’ 2016-queer-best-list right now, for reasons as unfathomable as most of the characters’ motivations.
The tone is all over the place, and very first-time-novelist. Some times I couldn’t tell what I was supposed to be feeling, and others I knew but was nowhere near. One particular nitpick is that the technological and cultural references are very weird in their relevancy timespans; Myspace, Instagram, AIM, and The New Normal co-exist happily apparently.
Both of the main characters are huge idiots. We can’t really tell this about Robbie till late in the book, but oh boy does the stupid come on strong and fast. Luckily we get a magical deus ex machina that doesn’t make sense, leading us to an absurd climax.
Positives: Representation of a queer athlete. Interracial romance. Um...it’s the thought that counts....more
Hmm. Mixed feelings, but overall it is a good book. The main minuses are ones I find in the vast majority of YA books - uncompelling romance which takHmm. Mixed feelings, but overall it is a good book. The main minuses are ones I find in the vast majority of YA books - uncompelling romance which takes up too much of the narrative, and a shallow bench of characters with real complexity. Grant’s pretty generic; he has his Personal Issues in a way that reminds me of a Sarah Dessen book, but the lack of time spent on them helps me not care about them. Well, plus him being boring anyway. The way their romance blossoms is very, very standard, though how Amanda feels about what’s happening is non-normative. We only get to know five other classmates of theirs, and I don’t like it when a high school set book skips over so much of the school part so as to make it more convenient to establish the Characters Who Matter. Some authors skate over this by setting their YA books mostly during the summer. Literally everyone who’s relevant Amanda encounters on the very first day of school, and she basically never feels the need to meet anyone else. Of these 5: Layla is the least established; she...likes clothes, I guess? Anna is churchy, though not as singlemindedly so as her parents. Chloe struggles with her sexuality. Parker is an ass. Bee is...troubled, and loud; she comes the closest to having a personality outside of Amanda. Might not be a particularly likable one, but it’s something. Oh, and Amanda’s parents are common in this subgenre - pretty accepting and loving mother, slowly coming to terms with his queer child father. Now that I think about it, I can’t remember her father’s name or occupation. Hmm.
So that leaves Amanda. Who is a great character and makes up for the rest of them being just props in her story. There are some things I can’t personally judge about her, but I feel that the note from the author is unusually helpful to know where she’s coming from and what the reader is meant to take. Russo has a section for cis readers and one for trans readers, and for the former she clarifies that she’s “cleaved to stereotypes and even bent rules to make Amanda’s trans-ness as unchallenging to normative assumptions as possible...to have no possible barrier to understanding Amanda as a teenage girl with a different medical history.” She makes sure that we not “take Amanda’s story as gospel, especially since it comes from a trans woman...but rather as inspiration to pursue an ever broader understanding of our lives and identities, as well as your own understanding of gender and sex.”
The plot is unsurprising as soon as you read the description, but thanks to the good writing and the richness of Amanda’s character, it tends to be compelling. The awful experiences Amanda’s faced in the past (some of which are described in flashback scenes), and her continued struggle with being part of a world obsessed with following norms, make her real, sympathetic, and engaging. And despite it all, her ability to try to carve out as happy a life as she can make it keeps the book readable. It’s definitely not one of those books purposefully meant to be a downer for the sake of it.
I will totally pick up the author’s next book whenever it’s released. If my count is correct, this makes my second good book published this year - both queer YA novels.
(view spoiler)[He assumed I had a boyfriend. He assumed I was a girl. Under different circumstances, that would have thrilled me. “I fell down,” I said. His smile turned sad. “That’s what my mom used to tell the neighbors,” he said. “She deserved better, and so do you.” “Okay,” I said, nodding. Maybe he was right, but what I deserved and what I could expect from life were two different things.
If I’d had the strength to be normal, I thought, or at least the strength to die, then everyone would have been happy.
“You just tell me if any of the boys get too fresh, now, and I’ll loan you my rifle.” “I don’t think that will be a problem,” Dad said haltingly. “Oh, trust me,” he said, winking, “I had three daughters, not a one of them half as pretty as this one in their time, and it was still all I could do to keep the boys away.”
“What if your son told you he was your daughter?” My mother was quiet for a moment. I thought of the words I wrote down for the counselor: I should have been a girl. Finally, she brought her eyes to meet mine. Her expression was fierce, despite her round, red cheeks. “Listen to me.” Her hand squeezed my leg hard enough that the pain broke through the fog of my meds. When she spoke next, I listened. “Anything, anyone, is better than a dead son.”
People who looked like Grant had never spoken to me without secretly planning to hurt me. For so many years I’d been on the wrong side of too many jokes, too many pranks, too many confrontations. I’d been knocked down a hundred times in a hundred different ways.
I wondered if joy could ever be felt by itself without being tainted with fear and confusion, or if some level of misery was a universal constant, like the speed of light.
“It’s fine,” I said, closing my eyes and feeling the pain radiate through my body. I didn’t mind it; pain reminded me I was alive. For years I had been so numb, desperate to feel anything at all.
I looked up at the cross again and wondered if I was supposed to hear this particular sermon at this particular moment for a reason. I decided that the people who had said God didn’t love me, who said that I didn’t have a place on Earth—they were wrong. God wanted me to live, and this was the only way I knew how to survive, so this was what God wanted. This was what I wanted. I had chosen to live, and it seemed like, finally, I was doing just that.
I felt like an ungrateful bitch for thinking like that at all, but a hateful little voice at the back of my head screamed that if my friends saw me with her, and if my friends figured out she was trans, then they might figure me out next. “What?” Virginia said. She looked over her shoulder and then looked at me, her shoulders tightening as she bit her fingernail. Then, as I sat mute, her expression began to darken. “Oh,” she said finally. “Oh, I get it. Amanda, hey, don’t look so stricken. It’s okay if you don’t want me to meet your friends. You don’t have to worry about my feelings.”
“I’d be real happy to have my daughter back.” I nodded, a lump in my throat. I had been waiting my whole life for my father to want me, for him to want his daughter. I blinked back tears, but this time, they were tears of joy. (hide spoiler)]["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"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I can see what the people complaining about the stupidity of the main characters are saying, but I don’t really understand why several of them still tI can see what the people complaining about the stupidity of the main characters are saying, but I don’t really understand why several of them still think the book is great. It’s not like the writing or the storyline is original or striking. Ruler dies from some grand conspiracy, ancient enemies involved, the heir and band of allies presumably defeat them to usher in a new reign.
Some of the side characters are cool, but they’re not developed enough to make up for the lacking of Kaden and Adare in particular. Usually I would complain about the female pov getting so little pagetime, but she has so little in the way of redeeming qualities that it’s fine.
The best part is probably Valyn’s training and trials; while nothing new, action abounds to keep the narrative pretty engaging. Given the contrast with the other two siblings, I wonder if this trilogy could have been a duology if the unnecessary bits were sliced off......more
Another review already described this as a rehash/mashup of Court of Thorns and Roses & Wrath and the Dawn, two other books with pretty covers andAnother review already described this as a rehash/mashup of Court of Thorns and Roses & Wrath and the Dawn, two other books with pretty covers and disappointing contents. Well, Court is okay on average but peaks pretty early, like this book except at no point in Star Touched do I think “hey, this is pretty good.”
Amar’s super dull and for many chapters it’s mainly a two-hander with him and Maya, with some pointless interjections from their...court...scholar? Maya herself has a little bit of personality, but she mostly uses it up when interacting with her family at the beginning and on being stupid at the wrong times.
The writing tries really hard but mostly makes me sleepy, and I can’t help but think it’s supposed to mask the incredibly slow plot I can’t seem to care about. Maybe this would have worked better as a short story to cut out all the pages lacking worth?
I'm going to predict that the "non-sequel" companion novel is about (view spoiler)[Maya's sister. Who is likable enough I suppose, but it might help that we spend too little time with her for her to require any nuances. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
So much of the world building is in endless infodumps that go from serving the story to disrupting it, neeTons of potential especially in the premise.
So much of the world building is in endless infodumps that go from serving the story to disrupting it, needlessly and seemingly endlessly. The main plotline itself is surprisingly simple given how many things it's a mishmash of. The only character who has layers is the protagonist, but she's ridiculously overpowered and suspiciously smarter than everyone especially given how she has that pesky amnesia. I'm not entirely convinced that the amnesia is necessary though it certainly facilitates the infodumps. The writing tries, but only occasionally really comes to life; flashes of action and humor are welcome when they're around....more
The book starts out with a surprising amount of potential for quality, but it devolves into a less exciting, younger VC Andrews as it goes along. Of cThe book starts out with a surprising amount of potential for quality, but it devolves into a less exciting, younger VC Andrews as it goes along. Of course I kinda thought that as soon as I saw the premise - a poor girl finds out that thanks to having secret/long-lost family she’s secretly rich, thrown into a new world, and also has sexual experiences with someone who’s in theory a fraternal figure.
The best part is Ella, with her resilient personality and sympathetic backstory. But at least for the most part, what she does in the course of the book is fall for a boy, ignore mean girls, and hang out with the one friend she makes. So she doesn’t have that much room to show how strong she is. Also the ending makes her come off very...damselly, though it’s clearly there to sustain the soapy antics for multiple books to come.
That boy is unlikable and unexciting aside from the “omg rich and hot” thing, and while Ella correctly realizes that “liking men who treat you badly is—was, dammit—Maggie Harper’s calling card” she does it anyway. Oh, and his little secret is super predictable and dumb. Gideon seems set up for a book of his own in the future, largely because the book seems to indicate that he’s important even though he doesn’t do anything. Though, I’m not really sure why the twins exist at all when they also don’t do anything and there are no implications of them playing larger roles in the future. Easton and Callum are likable enough but too thinly drawn to care about that much. Same goes for Val. ...more
Certainly engaging. But... I didn't really care about any of the characters. Deuce comes off as especially unrealistic, even if in theory her achievemeCertainly engaging. But... I didn't really care about any of the characters. Deuce comes off as especially unrealistic, even if in theory her achievements are impressive and way better than certain heroines of certain other speculative fiction. My favorite is...Gavin, I suppose, and he has 1-2 personality traits.
The setting feels very familiar for the dystopian genre, especially the zombie apocalypse subgenre. This is in contrast to the enclave in the first book, which was built up well enough that it came off as fresh and original, even though I've read other books set in underground cities/societies. (view spoiler)[I also hoped we could get some scenes in the enclave instead of it being destroyed sometime during a previous book off-page. (hide spoiler)] And I wanted to know about the world beyond the region we stick to throughout the series, what's happening to it?
The ending. So incredibly convenient. I mean, I suppose it gets the intended message across, but still.
Loved the Harry Potter reference though.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more