Ethan was kidnapped nine years ago from his front yard, not that he remembers. Just walked right up to the black van. He was seven years old. Blake, h...moreEthan was kidnapped nine years ago from his front yard, not that he remembers. Just walked right up to the black van. He was seven years old. Blake, his younger brother, remembers--thirteen now, he still holds onto the grief and anger that his brother would just go with the men in the van. Ethan only knows now, of course, now that he's back with his family, sixteen years old and having lived more than half his life with a mysterious woman named Ellen. Of course, it's not easy to slide back onto the life he would have lived--Ethan doesn't remember anything from before he was kidnapped, and tensions rise within the family as Ethan, Blake, his parents, and the "replacement child" Gracie, age six, try to fit Ethan back into the group and town as if nothing ever happened. Oh, and there's a girl, too. They used to take baths together. When they were six. Her name is Cami. Needless to say, Ethan likes her. A lot.
I had a hard time getting into this one, to tell you the truth--after reading Lisa McMann's first book, Wake, I've read three more of hers and keep waiting to hear the same staccato, fragmented style. It's present still in Dead to You, but not as strong. Less obvious, but carries the story along quickly, dramatic without seeming put-on. The book opens with the family reunion, split across two chapters, gorgeously descriptive... the next bit, not so much. It wasn't until the first f-bomb was dropped that it I felt the story settle into a rhythm, the same language and style that carried through the rest of the book, and I stopped thinking about other things (twenty lines of Ovid to translate, five hundred lines of poetry to be read to a class tomorrow afternoon) and was fully sucked into Belleville, Minnesota. (Might should have mentioned--labelled for mature audiences 14 and up.)
It's definitely a page-turner once you get into it, this one--each chapter leads into the next, and it reads quickly. Things move fast. I don't have a real sense of the timeline after finishing it, how many days elapse over the course of the novel, but the vast majority of the plot, I think, occurs over about a month. Things move fast--particularly the romantic aspect of the whole story. It's funny, because while Ethan is so quickly head-over-heels for this girl he's just met and constantly reminds us that she's beautiful for x, y, and z reasons, Cami is the one who annoys me. I like Ethan. He's easily impassioned and has a background story which is gradually revealed and personality and is somehow upfront about all the good and bad. Cami is just sort of the perfect person. She makes 150 peanut butter sandwiches for the homeless with her mother every Saturday night and has no flaws. There is no way this person exists.
Dead to You runs about 250 pages and I read it in an afternoon. The loose ends aren't all wrapped up. We don't get told who Ellen is, we don't get any of the details about this girl Tempest who Ethan hooked up with and mentions occasionally. Ethan is not interested in explaining everything he remembers about his childhood, which was great, because I wasn't really interested in reading it. It's a fantastic experiment in character development, watching perceptions of characters shift as more is revealed, because almost nobody is who Ethan assumes them to be on first sight (with the glaring exception of Cami). The concept, the plot, are vastly entertaining, and Ethan is a character I came to care about. The ending is dramatic, if a bit of an irritating cliff-hanger, particularly since I can't find any indication of a sequel coming out any time soon. Pick it up for a quick read with an intriguing premise and good writing--but prepared to be unsatisfied and wish for more.(less)
Let's have a chat about Miss Peregrine's. A real chat. In which I am the only one speaking. A chatty monologue. In which I refrain from caring about m...moreLet's have a chat about Miss Peregrine's. A real chat. In which I am the only one speaking. A chatty monologue. In which I refrain from caring about minor spoilers, because frankly, I don't feel like your enjoyment of this book will be effected by them--this not necessarily being the norm.
It takes maybe a hundred pages for the title to fully make sense. Riggs is unconcerned with what one could call "the usual rules," you know, in media res and getting right to the thick of things and explaining anything in a timely manner. Miss Peregrine's pulls as much from sci-fi and mystery as it does fantasy, bearing almost no resemblance to the majority of fantasy in the YA genre. It's delicious. The writing itself is delectable, with words I recognise from old SAT practice tests mixed in with more modern slang. Riggs writes like he knows how to write, and reading this after reading books and essays for classes, it is duly noted. There are references to The Inferno as well as general pop culture-y matters, some of which I understood and some of which I didn't. Again, duly noted. At the same time, it's first person--rather than immediately appearing just that Riggs is writing like some obnoxious professor, Jacob, aforementioned narrator, sounds extremely clever.
Which is sort of necessary when considering the plot, which is straightforward until the new mythology comes in. Riggs invents a new brand of people, peculiars, which have subcategories and are themselves a subspecies of Homo sapiens and there is some Welsh involved. Meanwhile, I'm fairly pleased that I read the book straight through in a day, because otherwise I would be vastly confused and/or have spent time wondering when an explanation would come for, say, the hollows (met reasonably early on, not explained until around 250 pages in), as it's... complex. Not necessarily in a bad way. But in a "yes you are going to have to think" way. There are time loops. And magic. It is not called magic. There are incongruencies--if they experience time as it passes, how do they not age?
And, no, I wasn't bothered by the amount of time it takes Riggs to explain things. Combination of speed and recent rereading of Kafka's The Metamorphosis. Good God, if that isn't an exercise in suspending disbelief.
Jacob, as I've mentioned, is a clever and completely charming individual, though he spends a good chunk of the book diagnosed with acute stress disorder because he keeps imagining things (or does he?). The other characters, also, are all lovely, multi-faceted, some appealing and some not. Miss Peregrine herself I appreciate, some of her charges I want to stuff in their own sock drawers. It's wonderful.
There are exactly two portions of the book I guessed beforehand and were disappointed when they came to pass, the romantic aspect and the identity of the master 'villain'. Each were distinctly obvious; the villain has no readily apparent redeeming qualities, and the romance follows the general "kiss the first chick" sort of theme, though with an interesting twist that Emma was in love with Jacob's grandfather. Riggs plays around with the elements to an extent, as if trying to make them not quite so obvious, but it doesn't pan out terribly well. Still, didn't bother me too much.
There are pictures, I might should mention. They are vintage photographs. They are quite eerie. Some of them don't make as much sense to be added, but the vast majority are instructive and interesting additions, particularly in the beginning of the novel--even when disruptive, they are intriguing, and I'd enjoy just flipping through an album of the originals.
It's not a stand-alone novel. There will be a sequel, sometime in the nearish future. I'll read it. But I can't see myself enjoying it as much as Miss Peregrine's. Such is the problem with sequels following stunning débuts. (less)
I got one of my first impressions that I wouldn't like the book when Julie, the first narrator of four, managed to insult her best friend and needless...moreI got one of my first impressions that I wouldn't like the book when Julie, the first narrator of four, managed to insult her best friend and needlessly argue use of the word “ironic” by the fourth page. A couple paragraphs down, Julie and Katie's mother is introduced as this demon mom from Hell who favours her older daughter on the grounds that Katie's pretty and Julie's not. The trend continued through the rest of the book: Almost every character felt like a paper doll cut out of a stereotype, rather than a real person. They change, but they flow from stereotype to stereotype, only occasionally gaining some depth. The various characters' evolutions struck me as being well-planned and well-executed, but that didn't hold up well against the way all of the characters seemed fake.
To keep the story going over both states and see all sides, each of the main characters serves as a narrator for a total of four. For the most part, it was pretty easy to tell the characters apart by context (and the label at the head of the chapter identifying the speaker), but a couple of the narraters bothered me. While most of the book is in plain first-person prose, Kyle's sections are narrated in second person, and Katie will every now and then break into verse. These sorts of “creative” narration can work well for a book (case in point: everything Ellen Hopkins has ever written and easily half of David Levithan's novels), but it didn't do anything for me here, instead feeling like a cheap trick used just because the author could. More than the characters themselves, though, I was bothered by the plot, which revolves entirely around their sex lives. There is hardly a point throughout that doesn't involve one or more of the characters in a sexual relationship, which considering that the oldest character starts at eighteen and the youngest fourteen, bothered me. I have nothing against sex in books, but there's a point when I wonder what the motivation behind the novel was—write a book about teenagers, or write a book about teenagers having sex?
While Pieces of Us wasn't my cup of tea, if you're in the market for a steamy read that's not graphic and chock full of drama, you might want to look here.(less)
I need to get a real copy of this. Saw about an hour ago that it was up free on the official website until 6 March. I was only intending to...more4 1/2 stars
I need to get a real copy of this. Saw about an hour ago that it was up free on the official website until 6 March. I was only intending to read a couple pages. Finish it eventually. Maybe. Probably not.
And then I read it in something like an hour hunched over my laptop.
It is quite good and I liked it very much, y'all. Comes quite recommended. Will probably go back and reread sometime soon.(less)