Showing posts with label Dystopia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dystopia. Show all posts

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Review: Shatter Me Series

Shatter Me Series Book Covers
"All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart."
-Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Juliette Ferrars has lived in isolation for the last year, for one main reason: her touch is lethal. All it takes for her to kill someone is to simply let them touch her skin. The Reestablishment locked her up in order to protect her and the rest of humanity. But with the world on the brink of war, they've changed their mind. Maybe Juliette can be a weapon. And Warner is determined to make her one.

I had seen this series everywhere on Instagram, so I finally picked it up from the library. And I was surprised at what a page turner the whole series was! The combination of the characters, the society that Mafi created, and the plot drew me quickly in the story; I was also extremely invested in what was going to happen to the characters. What would happen to Juliette? Would they be successful in their overturn of Supreme Commander Anderson? What happens if they do?

The two most successful aspects of this story are the world-building and the characters. Mafi does an excellent job crafting this futuristic society that you mostly don't realize that it's happening, which makes it easier for the reader to just accept it as reality. Her future is also believable; it was something that I could actually see happening. The world has been irreversibly damaged, and people are suffering the consequences.

Similarly, the characters within the novel feel very realistic. We're able to see all sides of the main characters and the background characters, emphasizing their strengths and their flaws. One of my favorite moments was when Kenji calls out Juliette for being whiny and selfish because I was definitely thinking the same thing. Like, get out of your own world and see the way that you're affecting those around you! The fact that her best friend calls her out feels so realistic, and makes you love Kenji even more (he's fabulous, you should read the book just for him). 

If you're looking for a fast-paced book to read at the beach or on vacation this summer, definitely pick this one up. It has action, adventure, suspense, and romance--everything you want in a summer read! The fact that the majority of characters have superpowers is a bonus. 

An excellent series to dig your claws into, no matter what you typically like to read.

4.5/5 stars

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Review: War Storm

"I am different from what my world demands I be. And I am not worse for it."
-Victoria Aveyard, War Storm

Cal's betrayal of the Red Rebellion for the crown shook everyone in his alliance, but Mare Barrow most of all. Now, to protect herself and her heart, so Mare resolves to eliminate the crown and the kingdom of Norta forever. But in order to do that, she needs Cal's help; mostly, his incredibly strong Silver allies. As the war looms on the horizon, Mare is prepared to do anything in order to grant freedom and equality to her land.

To be honest, I felt a bit lukewarm about this series throughout, but I really wanted to see how Aveyard finished out the story. For the most part, I wasn't disappointed, though I think the book could have been a lot shorter. One of my pet peeves about the series in general was that it changed to multiple narrators halfway through the series. Personally, I think that a series should stay in one narration style throughout, so switching to multiple narrators in the third book really put me off. Why'd you have to do that, Victoria?

As I've mentioned in previous reviews of the series, Mare still rubs me the wrong way in this book, mostly because she feels so dramatic, especially when Cal is concerned. Like, we all know that you'll eventually forgive him, so stop complaining that he chose the crown instead. You still love him, just forgive him already. Evangeline was definitely my favorite aspect of this whole book; she rounds out our view of those with silver blood, and her love for Elane is so apparent. She's willing to throw away the life she knew for a life that she never thought possible, plus she can definitely hold her own in a fight. Evangeline comes out as the star of War Storm, as least in my eyes.

War Storm certainly wraps up the series nicely, but still leaves room for the imagination at the end. Once you're invested in the story, you'll definitely want to keep going in War Storm, even if the length is a bit daunting. Red Queen is still the best book in the series, in my opinion, but this is a worthy follow up.

3.5/5 stars

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Review: Otherworld

"My tongue produces words faster than my brain can approve them." 
-Jason Segel, Otherworld

Everyone claims that Otherworld is amazing--it's a video game unlike any other. It's so good, in fact, you'll never want to leave. At first, Simon believed them. But when his best friend is pulled into the dark side of the game, Simon will never see the game the same again.

To be honest, I struggled in reading this book. I picked it up because as I've mentioned before, I'm interested in young adult dystopian texts, but this one just didn't do it for me. It felt very formulaic, not really straying from what you would consider the typical dystopian story line. Nothing about the plot really surprised me.

Additionally, the characters were flat and I couldn't bring myself to really care about what happened to them. I'm all about the characters when I'm reading books--characters are what make me interested in the story. Simon, the main character, was particularly bad for me. He was full of himself, centrally focused on his needs and not really caring about who had to sacrifice in order for him to get what he wanted. He irritated me throughout the whole story, which was a contributing factor into how long it took me to get through this book.

All in all, I definitely won't be reading the second book when it comes out. Simon can finish his adventures without me knowing what happens.

2/5 stars

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Review: Champion

"Sometimes, the sun sets earlier. Days don't last forever, you know. But I'll fight as hard as I can. I can promise you that."
-Marie Lu, Champion

June and Day thought that they had finally been able to work on an effective peace solution for the Republic and that all would be quiet. At least, until a new plague breaks out in the Colonies that they blame the Republic for. Now, the Republic is on the brink of war once again--and they don't have enough resources to win. The only thing that can save them is Day's brother, Eden, but Day isn't willing to give him up to the Republic once again. Will Day and June be able to save the Republic, or will it end in destruction?

Possibly the strongest book in the trilogy, there are new developments at every turn that Day and June have to navigate in order to save their country. But the complicated past of their country makes Day question whether saving the Republic is the right thing to do, or if they should just let it crumble and a new government take over. Lu raises some very valid questions within this ending that could apply to any country or government that is crumbling--and I think the characters within this society deal with it in a very realistic way.

I also thought the romance between Day and June became even more realistic in this one. Given Day's health issues, he tries to distance himself from June to no avail. Their romance also doesn't necessarily have that happy romantic ending that a lot of people expect in YA books--and I like that. Things aren't tied up perfectly in real life, and Lu reflects that within this final installment in her series.

Overall, I'm glad that I finally finished this series--and I'm glad I read them when they were all published! That meant waiting for no cliff hangers.

4.5/5 stars

Review: Prodigy

"All it takes it one generation to brainwash a population and convince them that reality doesn't exist."
-Marie Lu, Prodigy

After the events in Legend, June and Day are now on the run from the Republic--and the Patriots might be their only way to survive. But trusting them might put them in even more danger, especially since the Patriots are willing to go to any length in order to bring down the Republic. Will June and Day go along with their most recent plan, or will they take a different path?

Marie Lu keeps up the action of the first book in this second installment of the trilogy. Day and June's relationship becomes more developed in this one, despite the complications that Lu throws their way. I favor Day's narrative over June's, I think because I like Day as a character better. To me, he has more likable qualities than June has--but that's just personal preference.

The only thing that tripped me up about this installment was the pacing; at times, it felt slightly off to me. The pace overall didn't feel even, making the timeline included within the book slightly difficult to follow. But the end left room for the final book in the trilogy, and left enough open to make me want to read the final book. Overall, the characters made up for the flaws in the plot and the formatting still helped to build the voices of both June and Day.

4/5 stars

Monday, March 26, 2018

Review: Legend

"If you want to rebel, rebel from inside the system. That's much more powerful than rebelling outside the system." 
-Marie Lu, Legend

What was once the United States has now become the Republic, a country that's always fighting both inside and out. June is the Capitol's prodigy--groomed to be an important part of the government from the beginning. Day is the Capitol's most wanted criminal--stealing in order to help his family survive.

When June's brother is murdered, Day is the one wanted for the crime. But as their paths cross, June begins to learn about the Republic she's always defended and the secrets that it is desperate to keep hidden.

Told in alternating points of view, we get two extremes from the Republic--one that has everything and one that has nothing. This helps to not give the reader a biased view of this society, giving the reader a clearer overall view of the new society. As someone who reads a lot of dystopian fiction, this book was able to utilize a different take on the post-apocalyptic future, and one that I'm interested in learning more about in the later novels.

Not only is this book fast-paced, its characters are also well-developed and contribute a lot to the world-building. June is someone who's been groomed by the Republic, so we're able to see a lot of their beliefs and values in her, especially in the beginning. We're able to also see the negative side of the Republic though Day, who has only been hurt by the government who is supposed to be protecting their people.

I also loved how this book was formatted. June's story is told in black, Day's story is told in gold. This is continued in the other books--Day's story is also told in the color of the cover. I like when books do creative things with the formatting, and this one works really well, especially to remind me which character I'm reading. Definitely always helpful for the reader.

4.5/5 stars

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Review: King's Cage

"There are pieces of me, small pieces, still in love with a fiction."
-Victoria Aveyard, King's Cage

In the third book of the Red Queen series, Mare Barrow has found herself a prisoner of Maven, giving herself up to save the rebellion. With Maven constantly suppressing her powers, Mare quickly begins to lose hope. But Cal will stop at nothing in order to bring her back.

Similar to the way I felt about Glass Sword, I was also lukewarm about King's Cage. Quite honestly, the only reason I keep reading these is because I want to see how the story ends. The world is intriguing, but there are flaws and parts of it feel ripped off from other young adult novels (like The Hunger Games). I can see the appeal, in the drama and the intrigue, but it just doesn't seem to hold my attention.

One thing that bothered me about this volume in particular was the sudden switch to multiple narrators. The other two books were just narrated by Mare, and while I understand Aveyard wanted the reader to see what was happening in the rebellion, I'm a firm believer in series staying in the same narration style. Let's use Allegiant as an example. That book changes to multiple narrators in the last book, which gave away a huge plot point. I'm not sure if something similar is happening here, but I think we could have stayed with Mare and the story would have still worked just fine. 

This book just felt like a lot of filler in order to get to the last book, and I think the story could have done without it. Maybe the last one will be better--we'll just have to wait and see.

3/5 stars

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Review: The Diabolic

"A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you've been created for."
-S.J. Kincaid, The Diabolic

Nemesis was created to protect the daughter of a Senator: Sidonia. Sidonia is the reason for Nemesis's whole existence. Now, in order to keep protecting her, Nemesis must become Sidonia and take her place in the palace of the Emperor. Her time in the court shows Nemesis how broken their society has become, as well as one thing never would have ever believed: there's more humanity in her than she could possibly know.

This was a book that was highly advertised when it came out back in 2017, so I finally got my hands on it at the library. Since it's a dystopia, and I'm interested in dysotpias, I figured it was about time I read it. I thought the book started out a bit slow, but as Nemesis learns more about society, the plot begins to pick up. A lot of the information about this new world is dumped on the reader at the beginning, but many of the aspects of this world feel fresh.

There's also a lot of violence in this book that seemed to turn people off, but I thought it fit for the world that Kincaid has created. The opening scene shows Nemesis killing someone in order to show her worth to the family that wants to buy her. She's been engineered to kill in order to protect the person that she's connected to. The violence makes sense, in a world run by a family that literally kills each other to stay in power. Since this was originally intended as a standalone novel, the many deaths in the novel absolutely make sense. I'm curious to see where the story is taken in the second book.

Overall, I thought the action and character development were well balanced here, and Nemesis's voice remained steady throughout the novel. She never wavered from who her character, despite learning new things about herself throughout the text.

4/5 stars

Friday, February 16, 2018

Review: Glass Sword

"No one is born evil, just like no one is born alone. They become that way, through choice and circumstance." 
-Victoria Aveyard, Glass Sword

Mare is part of a new generation, a generation of Red bloods with Silver abilities. After the betrayal of Maven, now the new king, Mare is on the run with the rebellion--the rebellion that has a lot more reach than Mare could have ever imagined. Now, she had to help gather all the new bloods before Maven gets to them, before the darkness overcomes them.

This installment lacks the energy that the first book had, in my opinion. The action was slow moving for the most part, and didn't feel like it was going anywhere to me, personally. Much of this book felt like it could have been cut out, perhaps combined with the following one (which is up next for me to read). So far, the story doesn't feel as cohesive as it possibly could have been. 

The second half of the book is better than the first, pepper with extreme violence at points. I appreciate the rebellion story line, but do think it could have been better thought out; there are pieces of it that felt too much like The Hunger Games to me. Like Mare discovering exactly how far the rebellion reaches, how many resources they have at their disposal. I'm not quite sure where the story is going, and what will happen in the next two books, but despite its flaws, I'm curious to find out.

To me, Mare becomes increasingly annoying as the series goes on, complaining about having to do everything alone, blah, blah, blah. In comparison to other rebellion-driven narratives, her complaints don't seem to be driven by selflessness; for example, Katniss and Harry both feel like they have to do things alone because they don't want to put anyone they love in danger. The same doesn't seem to be true of Mare, though I'm not sure if this will change in upcoming books. Mare doesn't seem to know what she's doing, causing her characterization to be a bit all over the place.

Overall, the cliff hanger at the end of the book does make me want to read the next one, so I'll see if the series does indeed get any better. Once the last book comes out in May, we'll see how I feel about the whole series.

3/5 stars

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Review: The Unwind Dystology

"In a perfect world, everything would be either black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference. But this isn't a perfect world. The problem is people who think it is."
-Unwind, Neal Shusterman

Connor Lassiter's parents have decided to unwind him for his 17th birthday. That is, the government is going to harvest every part of his body and transplant it into another individual. In order to escape his fate, Connor decides to go AWOL, taking two other teens with him: Risa Ward and Lev Calder. Risa was a ward of the state, not talented enough to stand out, and Lev was a tithe, born specifically to be unwound on his 17th birthday. Connor brings the three together in order to escape the Juvenile Authority, and to escape their fate of becoming unwound. As they run from their fate, they're inspired to work against unwinding, to change the complacency of the population of the United States.

After Unwind, we find Connor, Risa, and Lev all in different states of working against the system of unwinding, slowly showing how Proactive Citizenry, the company at the heart of unwinding, is manipulating all of the players in order to keep the population afraid of teenagers and keeping unwinding in business. The further they get into the discovering the truth, the more dangerous it becomes. Will they be able to rid the world of unwinding once and for all?

So this is a series that I've been meaning to read for a while, and I finally actually finished it last night. And it was...interesting. There were parts I liked, and there were parts I didn't. There are four books in this series, so I'm going to give my thoughts on each one, and then give my thoughts on the series overall.

Unwind

This was a good introduction to the world that Shusterman has created, with elements that are eerily similar to our world now. The idea of unwinding is chilling and unsettling, as is the complacency that the US population seems to have. Shusterman definitely has a distinct writing style when it comes to his narratives, never just focusing on the mind of one character but the minds of many (this also happens in Scythe). This helps the reader to be more thoroughly introduced to the world, giving a more general picture to what has happenedd in order to get us there.

As a dystopia, Shusterman's first book is effective, and I honestly think it could have just stayed as one book, as most of the story lines are wrapped up by the end of the book. However, Shusterman wanted to return to the world, so three books (and some short stories) follow.

4/5 stars

UnWholly

This second book is my least favorite of the series. To me, it just felt like filler in order to get to the ending that Shusterman eventually wanted to have. Sure, things happen in this particular installment, but I've lost that sense of urgency that I had in the first book. The Graveyard might be raided by the Juvies. Risa and Connor are having relationship issues. Lev is basically a nomad (kind of?). I suppose I get why this book is necessary, but I think jumping to the events of the next book might have been more effective.

3/5 stars

UnSouled

Despite the problematic elements that begin to creep up in this book particular (more on that in a minute), I read through this third book more quickly because the sense of urgency was back. Connor's on the run. Risa's on the run. Lev's on the run. Starkey is terrorizing the US, eliminating harvest camps with a violent, terrorist fury: killing everyone on the spot. What I liked about this installment was that we see more of how society got to the point of unwinding, and how propaganda played a heavy role in making people believe that they needed unwinding in order to stay safe. Because teenagers are scary.

4.5/5 stars

UnDivided 

I liked this final installment for the most part, but it felt a little dragged out at the end. Like, I kept expecting it to be done and it just kept going. I don't think this story necessarily needed to be told in four books, but by the end, it definitely makes the reader continue to think once it's over.

Overall Thoughts

Overall, I think I can say that I enjoyed this series. Bonus points, it actually fits the theory that I outlined in my thesis for rebellion in YA dystopian novels, albeit in a more twisty way than other novels I've read. One of the things that I liked most were the advertisements that Shusterman inputs throughout the text, which helps to give a political context and are often based in reality. Additionally, I liked the way that he played on the idea of "feral teenagers," as society is quite often looking down on teenagers for acting out, for being rebellious, and for just being teenagers. Teenagers are often characterized as lazy, talking back, and always looking for trouble. Shusterman builds on these views of teenagers in a way that is chilling and creepy and makes you hope that the world never actually gets there.

There are problematic aspects of this series, specifically the way that Native Americans are characterized (and stereotyped) within this new world. Shusterman makes up a lot of new language in his new society, and any of it dealing with Native Americans is derived from stereotypes (ChanceFolk, The Rez, weapon of old, etc.). In the series, they didn't sign the unwind accord, so unwinds are safe there. While much of the story takes place within these reservations, I think Shusterman and his editors could have taken more care with the way that they were portrayed within the series.

Despite the problematic moments, fans of dystopia will enjoy Shusterman's series, though I wouldn't say that it's his best work. An enjoyable, action filled thriller that will leave you interested until the very end.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Review: Nemesis

"The world might be about to end, but what did I care? My world ended all the time." 
-Brendan Reichs, Nemesis

Since she was eight-years-old, Min has been murdered on all of her even birthdays, just to wake up again in a forest clearing completely unharmed. No matter what she does to stop it, the black suited man comes to murder her without fail. Noah has also struggled with nightmares of death and destruction, until a shocking discovery turns his world upside down. Everyone he trusted has been lying to him. As the Anvil, a giant asteroid threatening Earth, looms closer, Min and Noah realize everything is more connected than they could possibly imagine. Min vows to figure out the conspiracy at the center of their town before it costs more people their lives.

I'll start with this: the premise of this book is fascinating, the first third to a half of the book easily pulls you into the world of Min, Noah, and Fire Lake, Idaho. You're in the dark, much like Min is, and you desperately want to figure out why she has to go through these gruesome murders. Events are unfolded at just the right pace to get you interested in the conspiracy at the center of the town, and whether or not the world is actually going to end. 

Once I got to about the halfway point, the book started to get a bit repetitive for me. Min and Noah just kept asking why, without getting any real answers until the very last 50 or so pages. While Reichs keeps up the action between the middle and the end, peppered with a few twists that will keep you hooked in the story of Min and Noah (and Tack), I eventually just wanted to know what was happening. And by the end, I still didn't have any clear answers, meaning that I'll have to pick up the second book when it comes out in March. Maybe I should have just waited until they were both out to read them!

The other thing that bothered me about the plot of the novel was that it wasn't quite believable to me. Most dystopian texts that I read seem to based in reality, expanding on a social flaw or societal fear. This one seemed a bit far-fetched. In turn, this made the plot seem a little disjointed by the end. I was left a little disappointed, but there's hope that this can be changed with the sequel.

Overall, if you're looking for a fast paced book with a lot of twists and turns, the action in Nemesis doesn't disappoint. Brendan Reichs has left enough intrigue to make me want to pick up the sequel when it comes out in March.

3/5 stars

Friday, December 8, 2017

Review: Scythe

"Hope in the shadow of fear is the world's most powerful motivator." 
-Neal Shusterman, Scythe

Humanity has cured every illness--including death. In order to continue to control the population, scythes are the only ones who can bring about death. The wield the most power in this new society, mimicking the nature of death in the best way they can. Rowan and Citra have been chosen to apprentice a scythe, a role that neither of them actually wanted. The apprenticeship quickly turns into a deadly competition, with both of their lives on the line.

The premise of this book was absolutely fascinating, and Shusterman did not disappoint with the plot. The plot took a different turn than I was expecting, and the detail that was put into the entire scythe community was fantastic. Shusterman did everything possible to mimic natural death with the introduction of scythes, and shows very different perspectives on the position: ones that do it for the power, and ones that do it because no one else will.

The multiple perspectives also help in the building of this post-modern world. There's an interesting moral question that sets itself in center of the novel that builds throughout the text, presenting itself differently in each of the scythes that narrates the story. Both Rowan and Citra find themselves thrown into this complex community, navigating it the best they can.

The romance aspect of the story wasn't completely necessary, as the story would have still functioned just as well without it. I was addicted to the story right from the beginning, reading almost the entire book in one sitting. As a fan of young adult dystopia, this book was new and refreshing and I can't want to read the next book in the series. I think more of the "bad" will be expanded on as the corruption within the scythe society is slowly reveal. Definitely a series to keep your eye on!

4.5/5 stars

Friday, October 13, 2017

Review: The Forgetting

The Forgetting Cover
"The past is never really gone. It only lies in wait for you, remembered or forgotten."
-Sharon Cameron, The Forgetting

The Forgetting occurs every twelve years in Canaan, when everyone forgets friends, family, and memories--unless they're written down. Everyone, that is, except Nadia. As Nadia starts to use her memories in order to solve the mysteries at the heart of Canaan, she discovers truths that will alter the structure of Canaan forever. As the Forgetting looms nearer, Nadia and Gray must figure out how to stop the threats at work in the heart of the city, before everyone forgets.

The core idea behind this novel was so fascinating to me. It explores a lot about the importance and truth behind the written word and people's ability to manipulate the truth. At first, it seems like your typical dystopian novel; some event has happened and thrown everyone back into the Middle Ages, they're sheltered from the rest of the world, and hidden behind a wall everyone is afraid to cross. However, when you throw in the Forgetting, everything becomes more interesting--no one knows how long they've been there or how long this cycle has been happening.

While the writing wasn't necessarily the best I've read (it was a little repetitive at times), the characters and the plot kept me going throughout the book, and the need to understand what the Forgetting actually was. The ending was complex, filled with twists that kept me turning the pages until I finally reached the very end. Like any good first book of a series, there's a cliff hanger that's sure to keep you hooked for the next book (which just came out this week!).

Overall, an engaging read certain to make you think about the way the truth can be warped.

4/5 stars

Friday, October 6, 2017

Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One Cover

"Being human totally sucks most of the time. Videogames are the only thing that make life bearable."
-Ernest Cline, Ready Player One

Up next on Amanda plays catch-up on her reviews is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This book got lots of attention in the media, and is getting a movie next year. I made a playlist for this book a few weeks back, and now I'll finally give it my full review.

In the year 2044, pretty much everyone lives in a virtual reality, called OASIS, because life outside of it is miserable. Wade Watts exemplifies this, living in a trailer stacked on top of other trailers, barely scraping by and dedicating his life to figuring out the puzzles hidden within the game by the creator James Halliday. Whoever figures out the clues gets the rights to OASIS, and Wade has just solved the first clue. Thus the race begins--and the only way Wade is going to survive is by winning.

I'm definitely not a gamer, and my pop culture knowledge is often pretty lacking (unless it's about books), but I still absolutely loved this book. It was packed with action, and I love quests spurred by riddles. Cline created a story that I was able to immerse myself, and of course, I always have a weakness for dystopian worlds. And this one is pretty believable, which is...scary.

Cline's ability to build worlds is one of the strongest aspects of this book. He's able to explain things enough so that non-gamers (like myself) can understand everything he's created. There are a plethora of 80s references throughout the book, given that James Halliday is a huge fan/nerd of the 80s. While I didn't understand all of them, I had enough base knowledge to understand most of them. Wade is relatable and realistic, adding to the colorful tapestry that Cline has created in his world.

Though the book is a little on the long side, and drags a little before the end, it's still an a fantastic work of science fiction. Engrossing, entertaining, and great for science fiction fans of all kinds.

4/5 stars

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Review: When She Woke

When She Woke Cover
"She'd crossed into a place where truth, even if it was brutal, was all she had to offer."
-Hillary Jordan, When She Woke

In a not-too-distant future, people who commit crimes are coded by color. In this new America, one of the worst crimes to commit is that of abortion. If you have an abortion, you are dyed red, and considered a murderer. Once you serve out your sentence in prison, you're forced into world, to survive as best you can in your newly acquired skin.

Hannah is a Red--she has been convicted of murder. As she lives out her sentence as a Red best she can, she's forced to re-consider the values she once held true, and navigate her way in a country that politicizes faith.

I originally picked up this book on my trip to London, downloading it on my phone because it sounded similar to The Handmaid's Tale, and I do quite love a good feminist dystopia. I loved the concept of this novel, because it presents a pretty realistic future, and was a somewhat different concept than what I had read before. The idea of chroming (or dying the skin of) people who had committed crimes was interesting, and I wish that the author had delved into more of this particular aspect of the society. We learn about Hannah as a Red, and a few of her other comrades when she's let out, but the colors are never clearly outlined. I feel that if they were, I would have had a better grasp of the society.

Despite the fantastic concept, an issue I had with the text was the pacing. It didn't quite feel even throughout the text, and there were definitely times where the plot slowed way down, almost to the point that it was difficult to keep reading. The ending felt a bit open to me, which I normally don't have a problem with, but in this instance, I felt like there was almost no resolution. It felt like it should lead to something more, like a sequel, but it doesn't seem like that will be happening.

All in all, this is a fascinating concept that I wish was done a bit more cleanly. But, if you're looking for a novel that will make you think about the way we treat criminals, and perhaps the direction our justice system might be going, the core concept is interesting enough that it should drive you through the slow parts of the plot.

3/5 stars

Monday, August 7, 2017

Character Playlist: Wade Watts

Wade Watts Ready Player One

It's music Monday! At least, that's the goal I'm working toward: a new playlist every Monday. This week, given that we just got a trailer for the much anticipated movie coming out next year, my playlist is dedicated to Wade Watts. Get prepared for lots of 80s music!

"Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!
We begin Wade's obsession with the 80s with an upbeat song, to match his optimism (kind of) at the beginning of the novel.

"Dancing With Myself" by Billy Idol
Though often used in reference to James Halliday, this song also fits Wade's predicament. And pretty much the rest of society in this time period, as everyone sits in their house playing Oasis.

"Star Wars Theme" by John Williams
There can't be a bunch of 80s references without referencing Star Wars, am I right?

"Dead Man's Party" by Oingo Boingo
James Halliday opens his last will and testament video with this song, which could be considered Wade's introduction to the 80s. And the rest of the future's obsession with the 80s.

"Wild Boys" by Duran Duran
With no parents, and growing up in virtual reality, I think this describes Wade's situation quite well.

"Star Trek Theme" by Alexander Courage
Wade has a particular connection to Star Trek within the book, the original series of course. Though, all of his obsessions pretty much come from the 80s due to James Halliday.

"Ladyhawke Main Theme" by Andrew Powell
In addition to being one of Wade's favorite movies, this is also an important clue to figuring out one of the keys in the novel.

"Three is a Magic Number" by Schoolhouse Rock
An important clue in Wade figuring out how to get to the last key, and eventually figuring out James Halliday's whole scavenger hunt.

"Monty Python and the Holy Grail Ending Music" 
Another one of Wade's favorite movies, again due to James Halliday's influence.

"Invincible" by Pat Benatar
By the end of the book, Wade feels pretty invincible and able to take on anything in the Oasis. And in real life, too.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: The Girl with All the Gifts


"Melanie thinks: when your dreams come true, your true has moved."
-M.R. Carey, The Girl with All the Gifts

Melanie is brought to a school room everyday at gunpoint, wheeled into a room with other kids that are just like her. They're all under heavy guard, strapped into their chairs, and surrounded by a constant chemical smell. But, they just might be the answer to saving humanity.

I think this book has been out long enough that this isn't a spoiler--Melanie is a zombie. A virus/fungus has taken over the Earth, turning everyone into zombies, and the base that Melanie lives at is one of the last strongholds of humans. At the military base, Dr. Caldwell is studying Melanie and the other children to find a cure for the virus. Because the novel is narrated by multiple points of view, the way morality and the survival of humanity is presented is fascinating.

This definitely isn't your typical zombie novel, and it isn't for the faint of heart. There were passages that I had to skip over because they were simply too graphic for me--and some of the science explanations went over my head. However, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book; the writing was sound and the world created was intricate and well-thought out.

Overall, in my knowledge and reading of dystopia, this one definitely rates at the top of the list!

4/5 stars

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

5 Dystopias to Read During Trump's Presidency

Dystopian Book covers
Lately, it's definitely felt like we've been living in a dystopian world; Trump's lack of experience in the field of politics has created a wave of chaos in the first month of him being president. In fact, many of the news stories that pop up nowadays almost don't feel or seem like they're real--as long as it's not one of the many fake news stories that have been circulating the internet. From Trump silencing the EPA and other scientists to the blatant lies that his press is circulating, it's more important now than ever to stay well-read and informed.

This is where dystopian novels come in. Yes, they are fictionalized accounts of the future, however many of them have an eerie similarity to what the world has become. Reading these fictionalized accounts of dangerously oppressive governments can help us to try to stay one step ahead of the chaos that is unfolding around us. Literature can provide us with the knowledge and hope necessary to make it through the dystopic conditions we have found ourselves in.

Here are five books that you should put on your to-read list to stay ahead of the Trump administration:

1. 1984 by George Orwell

I actually wrote a post about the similarities between 1984 and Trump's presidency for the Radical Notion. The similarities are...terrifying. But they can make use more aware of the way Trump is using language to make the population more compliant.

2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Published before 1984, Brave New World depicts a different kind of society where people desire conformity and stability more than emotion or individual freedom. Brave New World depicts a society that has crumbled because of ignorance,  dominant technology, and an abundance of entertainment and material goods. Sound familiar?

3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Though Trump hasn't quite gotten to burning books (yet) he has engaged in censoring acts; he's silenced the National Parks, made multiple webpages disappear from the White House website (like the LGBTQ page, climate change, civil rights, etc.), and silenced anyone who speaks out against him. Perhaps he isn't burning books--but he's getting rid of knowledge just the same.

4. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's book depicts a society where women are mere vessels for reproduction, only wanted or needed for their bodies. Though Trump's presidency is not quite as severe as the one depicted in Gilead, many of Trump's comments show his inherent misogyny and reflect the misogyny shown in The Handmaid's Tale.  

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Okay, this one might be a little bit of a stretch; after all, Trump hasn't made a spectacle of children killing each other like President Snow does in Panem. In fact, Trump's administration announced a victory tour after his election win, because he loves nothing more than his thousands of adoring fans. Much like citizens of the Capitol in Panem.

While these books might depict a bleak future under Trump, reading them also show a core of resistance in humanity. By staying up to date and making our voices heard, we can be the resistance to Trump's dystopian tendencies. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Hunger Games

So I think I've blogged about The Hunger Games multiple times on this site, but each time I read it, I get a new-found appreciation for it. This read through was specifically for a class that I am taking this semester called the Heroic Tradition in Children's Literature. So far, we have read The Odyssey, Beowulf, The Hobbit, The 101 Dalmatians, and Rilla of Ingleside. It has been an interesting class so far, and the rest of the semester proves to be the same.

Now, The Hunger Games. I think by now, most people know what this book is about, but I will give a very brief synopsis. Every year, Panem puts on the Hunger Games, a competition where children between the ages of 12 and 17 fight to the death in an arena like setting, for the "entertainment" of the rest of the country. Katniss Everdeen has grown up in this society and only worries about one thing: keeping her younger sister, Prim, out of the Hunger Games.

With the third movie coming out in November, The Hunger Games is a hot topic at the moment, though I would argue that it has been a hot topic since it first came out in 2008. And for good reason. The Hunger Games is fast-paced, and always keeps the readers turning the pages. In high school, when I first read the book, I was in a book club called BBYA, where our librarians would get galley copies of books, and we would read them, and then meet on a regular basis to discuss these books. I remember when they got a copy of The Hunger Games and told everyone they absolutely had to read it. And everyone did. And we were all obsessed. While the subject of The Hunger Games is gruesome and at parts, difficult to read, Katniss Everdeen is such a riveting character that we're all drawn to her, to find out what happens. How will the story pan out?

The Hunger Games can't be read without getting any of the social commentary, which I think is more present in this book than most other YA dystopian novels (like Divergent or The Maze Runner for example). With the way Suzanne Collins has set up the Districts in the novel, it can be considered representative of our own class system in the United States. The upper class lives in luxury, in safety, while the lower classes struggle to survive day to day. Personally, I think this is one of the things that draws me to this book every time. The Hunger Games sends a powerful message, and it is so eerily similar to our own society that it isn't hard to picture this happening to us as well. While our society is steadily falling apart (just look at the news on any given day), we read dystopian novels to remind ourselves that it could be worse, that it hasn't gotten quite that bad yet. The government is sending kids to kill each other. The sun hasn't scorched the Earth. There aren't zombies running around trying to kill us. We're still surviving, and dystopian novels give us the hope that if something did happen, we would still have the chance to survive.

But back to The Hunger Games. Writing wise, Suzanne Collins does a good job of setting the scene, and creating a realistic picture of the society she's created. By narrating it in first person from Katniss's point of view, the reader can feel like he/she is really in the story, experience Katniss's experiences firsthand. And why wouldn't they want to be Katniss? She's brave, selfless, and doesn't take anything from anyone. She's willing to do anything for her sister, Prim, who's sweet and kind and the type of little sister anyone would want. Peeta and Gale (while creating that ever present love triangle) are fleshed out, foils of each other. The novel is well-crafted, and hints at things to come in later novels, things that will allow Collins to bring the story full circle.

I could probably go on and on about The Hunger Games, so I will stop here. But if you haven't read it yet, I would highly recommend it. You'll finish it in one night, I almost guarantee it. I don't think we have any reading for this class for a few weeks, so I'm sure what I'll be reading next. I'll pull something off my bookshelf for sure. Until next time, happy reading! :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Giver



Because the movie came out a few months ago, I figured it was time that I re-read The Giver, since I generally like to read the book before I see the movie, and I haven't read this particular book since I was in 5th grade. I remembered liking it then, so I figured that much probably hasn't changed since I read it all those years ago.

The Giver follows the story of Jonas, who lives in an apparently perfect Community. Everything is assigned to its citizens, there are no conflicts, and if there are, they are taken care of quickly. At the age of 12, residents are assigned their career. On Jonas's 12th birthday, he is assigned the role of The Giver, who holds all the memories of the past. Through The Giver, Jonas will learn the truth about the society he lives in.

In 5th grade, my teacher read this book out loud to us, and I remember the whole class being appalled at the end of the book. It's an open ending, one that 5th graders don't respond well to. However, now that I'm older, I've come to appreciate open endings, because it represents life. Life doesn't end perfectly, so why should the stories that we read? This is why I appreciated the ending of the book, because it leaves it up to the reader. What really happened to Jonas? What will happen to the Community he left? These questions aren't answered for us, we must answer them for ourselves.

Other than the ending, The Giver is a short read, but a thoroughly enjoyable one. I think it can be considered one of the first young adult dystopian novels, but don't quote me on that. Jonas was very well characterized throughout the novel, I sympathized with him and wanted him to make it. I also thought that the society was very well constructed, and honestly, one that I could see happening to our own society. Jonas's Community is very controlling, and with all of the restrictions being placed in our own society, this makes Jonas's present a very real future for us. I think that's the thing that keeps people reading dystopian novels. Yes, the state of our future is scary, but we read these stories to know that somehow, we can make it out. That somehow, we'd survive if any of these things happen to us, because the characters in the stories we read did. These stories give us hope.

Overall, The Giver is a fast-paced, quick read, one that would supplement a busy semester perfectly. If you're looking for something to read for enjoyment, I would definitely recommend this book. Next, I'll likely be reading something for class, I think The Hunger Games is next? Perfect timing, with the movie coming out in a month. :) Until next time, happy reading!