Tag Archives: dystopia

Playing Catch-Up

Tap and Gown – Diana Peterfreund

Just as promised, Amy finally stopped acting like an idiot about her kidnapping in this book.  But it took her way too long to stop acting like an idiot about her relationship with Jamie.  I did not love-love-love this the way I did the earlier books in the series, but it also didn’t make me angry like those books sometimes did.  I think I’m ready to move on from Amy, but am very happy that as I do, I have a soon-to-be-released YA book of Peterfreund’s to look forward to.  I think, like Fire below, that my passionate crush on this series did this volume in it no favors.

Fragile Eternity – Melissa Marr

I don’t think I ever recorded here the related novel in this series, Ink Exchange, which I really liked.  But I loved this one and Wicked Lovely.  The plot goes to surprising places and I didn’t even mind that the budding romance of the first book was no longer as budding or romantic (which allowed the plot to move forward and the relationship to mature).  If I ever read another modern Fairie story again it’ll just be because I’m chasing after the appeal of this one.

Fire – Kristin Cashore

I know I’m pretty much alone in liking Graceling more, but I keep reminding people that it’s only because of how much of a crush I have on that book and not because this isn’t a stronger book.  I agree that this probably is.  And it tackles the male gaze, which is one of my favorite things ever to think about.  But I love the way that Cashore writes banter and sexual tension and those were missing from this book.  So I’ll just anxiously await whatever bits of Katsa and Po I’m given in her next book.

Once was Lost – Sara Zarr

I don’t personally find faith interesting, but I find Zarr interesting enough to go along for the ride when she explores it.

Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

I’m sad that the first book in the series lived up to my expectations but this couldn’t handle the pressure.  I didn’t hate it, or even dislike it, I just hate that I only liked it.  The spoilery text of an email I sent to a friend in white text:

But one of my biggest frustrations with Catching Fire was the pacing of her “radicalization.”  That she was intuitive enough to read intention into the timing of the gifts she was receiving in the arena, but not to understand that her pin had become a symbol of the resistance.  And that an organized resistance was clearly forming but that it took her until the end to see it.  And I didn’t buy that the resistance would trust using her without her knowledge to go well, when that clearly didn’t work out for the government the first time around.  I did like the way she adjusted to the arena, that she realized things were going on that she didn’t understand and went with it.  I just felt more manipulated by the plotting of this story than the first one.

Lips Touch: Three Times – Laini Taylor

This book had the great premise of three fairytale love/forbidden desire stories that hinge on a kiss  and ended up being so much better than I expected while not really fulfilling the promise of the hook.  Another instance where David Levithan lied to me (I’m writing this bottom-up, see the review below) but I’m happier this time to have listened to him anway.  And as much as like Jim Di Bartolo’s illustrations, I don’t like the cover design.  Because it’s a much more serious, even grown-up, book than it seems.  And yes, each story in some way revolves around a kiss and the manifestation of physical desire, but I often related more to the other wishes and dreams of the characters.  The third story is an epic love story crammed into 110 pages that improbably has you siding with the evil witch-type by the end.  I’m not entirely sure how that narrative flip was even accomplished, but it was very skillful.  The first two stories have their charms, but the last is the one that really wowed me.  I don’t know if I’ve ever bought myself a real copy of a book after having read the ARC, but in this instance I might just for the illustrations.

Shiver – Maggie Stiefvater

Ultimately, I don’t think I liked this book.  At Day of Dialog, David Levithan swore up and down that this book transcended the otherworldly creatures (werewolves in this case) genre but I don’t think it does.  I think it was just okay with hints of being something wonderful.  Maybe someone else will read this and see what I’m missing.  There’s another story of doomed love that this reminds me of, but I can’t figure out what. *UPDATE.  The Universe just handed this to me on a plate: The Time Traveler’s Wife. It’s got the same “when will he disappear..possibly forever” tension.* It is very moody and atmospheric, but I never became fully invested in it.

Ash – Malinda Lo

Other than the lesbian love story aspect of this, it’s a pretty traditionally told Cinderella story.  The Fairy Godfather is actually a tricky, non-altruistic fairy, and it’s here and with the love story, where Lo carves her own space, that the book is the most successful.

Juliet, Naked – Nick Hornby

Technically this book has no business being here, as it has zero teen appeal, but I really enjoyed it.  And will stretch and say that it explores the flip side of the “Nick and Norah” music-obsessed-teen coin.  But it’s all about being a grown up, the disapointments and compromises and joys, and how not even a rock star can escape that.  This is the first Hornby book in years that I’ve enjoyed as much as I wanted to.

Scott Pilgrim vs.the Universe – Brian Lee O’Malley

I didn’t mind that Scott’s life kind of falls apart during this volume, I guess I’m turning into a cold-hearted grown up who didn’t expect his slacker lifestyle to be sustainable.  The cover is also very shiny and pretty.

Gregor the Overlander and Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane – Suzanne Collins

I’d been interested in this series ever since reading Hunger Games, but didn’t want to read a library copy because the paperback is both cheaply printed and very popular.  So I finally bought my own copy and once I’d finished, went out and immediately bought the second, which I read in one sitting.  I think the strength of these is Gregor.  He’s really likeable and resourceful.  And if too many of the books in this roundup feature kids who are destined to save the world, having a character who doesn’t act too stupid about the whole thing helps the over-used conceit go down easier.  I’m a little bit worried, and will have to be careful not to get too spoilery, that Collins may rely to heavily on formula with her plots.  These two books both follow similar arcs and this worry of mine is related to the aspect of Catching Fire that I wasn’t too impressed by.  I really wish these were collected in one volume, something with higher quality paper, so that you could easily read the whole saga in one go.

Blackbringer (Dreamdark) – Laini Taylor

I’m upset because I thought the sequel to this was already out but will instead have to wait until September for it.  So while that’s lame, I really enjoyed the story.  I like the way it maintained internal logic really well, how the strength of the god character was used to trick it, how the evil character was as much an important part of fairy history as anyone, how it feels like a complete story while making you want more, and how it might have the first fairy world I’d actually want to live in.  It would be really easy for me to talk about appreciating this book for all of the pitfalls it avoided, but that’s not very exciting.  This books seems to have initially been marketed as middle grade but then as YA for the paperback edition.  Which is funny, because I think it’s an easy sell to adults as well.

Review: Running Man

The Running Man – Stephen King

I had seen this recommended as a good readalike for the Hunger Games, that it deals with a lot of the same themes and ideas. Which is absolutely true.  I also liked that it would appeal to guys.  I found it a little hard to get into, and maybe it was a little ironic that I spent a few afternoons reading it while sipping a glass of wine in a fancy hotel lounge, but ultimately I enjoyed it.  Ben Richards is compelling, and his fight-the-man attitude would definitely resonate with teens.  And televised blood sport is not all that hard to believe. 

The one huge caveat with this book is that the introduction reveals the denouement.  You might as well read the last page as read the introduction.  Thanks for nothing editors!

(I’m both sick and crazy busy with work stuff that I can’t talk about yet, but am dying to share with the world, and so I’m trying to get any kind of backlog of anything done because if I don’t do it now I’ll never do it. )

Review: Hunger Games

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

This is the book that made me want to finally catch up on my reviews.  I’d been hearing about it for months and it was being reviewed all over the place in the mainstream media so once I got my hands on it, I was shocked not to have been disappointed by it.  I could not put it down except to tell other people they should read it.  Never having read Battle Royale, and having only hazy memories of the movie, I don’t know how the two compare and how much was stolen from the earlier book, but I’m guessing it had quite a bit of commentary on post-war Japanese society.  Hunger Games takes place in our post-apocalyptic future, and the only easy comparisons are to our celebrity and reality television culture.

Briefly, the country is divided into districts that supply the capitol with different goods and services.  Every year, a lottery is held in each district to pick a boy and a girl to be sent to the capitol as a reminder of and penance for their recent(ish) civil war.  The 24 teenagers are put into an arena where they fight to the death while televised across the nation.

Katniss is from District 12, the poorest region.  Which has given her an upper hand because she knows how to hunt and has been fighting for survival her whole life.  She also proves to be expert at manipulating her situation: with cameras on her 24/7 she knows that winning the battle for the public’s sympathy is as important as hand-to-hand combat.  The deus ex machina aspect that Stephen King criticized in his review to me was a critical part of showing how Katniss was skilled at manipulating her situation.

Because of Katniss’ skill at just about everything thrown at her (yes, she’s hypercompetent, but not egregiously so) if the ending seems clear, the twisted ways Collins gets there are the real fun.  There are supposed to be two more in the series, and I’m dying to know where this story goes.  There’s romance and relationships and lots of death and danger, and I really think (thanks in part to the cover art) that boys and girls will be willing to read this book.

Review: People of Sparks

The People of Sparks – Jeanne DuPrau
Very different in tone and setting than the first book in the series, The People of Sparks is a kind of in-between book.  The people of Ember have to learn to make their way in the world, a hostile place where they can’t understand the simplest things and their survival is dependent on the largesse of others.  It continues to have a lot of big ideas about human nature and overcoming our baser selves.

The plot doesn’t really seem to be the point of this book, it’s more about establishing new places and characters.  The first and last parts of the book were interesting and exciting, while the middle dragged.  Such care was taken with the sequence of events that the story got bogged down and moved too slowly.  Which is a shame, because the first hundred pages were full of ideas worth chewing on.  And not the big obvious themes of the rest of the book like cults of personality and war and greed and generousity, but there was room for the reader to make comparisons between Ember and Sparks.  Luckily, the end picked up and stuff happened and the very end was exciting and hopeful and makes me want to keep reading.

Review: City of Ember

The City of Ember – Jeane DuPrau

I’ve been in the mood for a good dystopian novel and the release of the movie reminded me that I’d been wanting to read this. I like how straight from the beginning, Ember is set up as a dying city that has outlived its usefulness but the people there don’t know it. It’s not a very big city, and the people there live with a strange mix of socialism and black markets with a little bit of capitalism thrown in. There’s no sun, no moon, and when the lights are turned off (or during the increasingly frequent blackouts) the world is plunged into absolute darkness. Lina and rediscovered-friend Doon are the only ones who seem serious about finding a way out. Lina thinks she has the answer, but it’s inadvertantly turned into a puzzle by her teething little sister. The mechanics of this puzzle are skillfully handled and answers reveal themselves at opportune moments believably, a “the knowledge will come when you need it” sort of thing.
I really enjoyed this and am already a hundred pages into pt. 2. The worldbuilding is good and becomes more interesting as its contrasted to…other spoilery things in that second book. Also, I really liked the end of this one, but can’t talk about the specifics of why without giving too much away or it seeming overly simplistic. Faith takes a bit of skewering, as does complacency and greed. There are a lot of good-hearted people in Ember, but also a lot of people falling prey to a mob mentality, I would guess that the extremes of human nature (for good and bad) will continue to be a focus of the series.