Showing posts with label Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reviews. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Review: Love Songs & Other Lies






Title: Love Songs & Other Lies

Author: Jessica Pennington

Publisher: Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Books

Release Date: April 24, 2018







I'm back reviewing books for Net Galley! Honestly, I had forgotten about this website until I saw someone mention it on Instagram, and I immediately went and requested some advanced copies. This is one I got approved for almost instantly, and I was really glad; the synopsis sounded interesting and the musical twist on their relationship grabbed my attention right from the beginning.

Virginia (Vee) Miller is looking forward to her summer on the road with her high school rock band friends, now known as Your Future X. What she doesn't know when she decides to join their tour is that her ex will be there; and those wounds definitely haven't healed yet. Now, Vee and Cam are forced to work through the problems that ended their relationship while the entire world is watching.

The structure of this novel is absolutely what works the best. Told in a then/now format, Pennington slowly reveals the beginnings of Vee and Cam's relationship, switching back to now to create even more intrigue. It made the plot more interesting, making the reader desperate to get to the end to figure out what put an end to what seemed like an incredibly compatible relationship. What may have been a predictable plot in a more straightforward novel becomes more interesting with this structure.

Having two points of view also helps in giving the reader a fuller picture of the relationship; if we got only Cam's or only Vee's point of view, we would be likely to be biased toward one or the other. The inclusion of both their voices makes the reader feel empathy for both sides of the relationship. They both have reasons for doing what they do.

With a cast of extremely relatable characters and an immersive plot structure, fans of summer romance and rock bands will find a home in Pennington's story.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Review: Thornhill

"I froze as I heard those sounds. Fear tingled into my neck and down my back as the old feeling seeped into my bones. I don't believe it. What will I do now?" - Pam Smy, Thornhill

In 1982, Mary is an orphan at the Thornhill Institute for Children just as it's getting ready to close. In 2016, Ella has just moved to a house next door to the closed Thornhill where she keeps seeing the ghostly image of a girl. Determined to befriend the girl, Ella begins to learn about Thornhill's past--uncovering its shadowy secrets.

The prose and graphics in this book work together to tell the story of Mary and Ella; Mary's story is all in prose, Ella's story is all in images. The format works really well to show how these two stories are parallel: both girls are incredibly lonely, just looking for someone to be their friend. They're both isolated, though in slightly different ways. Their loneliness and isolation is emphasize through the images and the text, making the reader empathize with both girls.

Though this graphic novel is intended for children, the overall tone of the story is really dark for the intended audience. Especially once you get to the ending. Mary's story in particular shows how terrible children can be to each other, with all the other girls at Thornhill turning against her, making her existence there miserable. Even when she tries to reach out and get help, she's thwarted by the girl in charge.

The images created by Smy also emphasize this dark story; when you look closely at a lot of the images, there are hidden gems that add to the tone of the story. Everything works together seamlessly to create the story of Mary and Ella. 

5/5 stars

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Review: Speak the Graphic Novel

"When people don't express themselves, they die one piece at a time."
-Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

Melinda starts out high school as an outcast; she was the one who called the police at the summer's biggest party, and no one is going to forget that. But she's afraid to speak up about the reason why. Her art is the only way she's able to express herself and finally get her story told.

Speak was first published in 1999 and has long been considered a classic of young adult literature. Laurie Halse Anderson wrote about rape before the time of the #MeToo movement, and she did so effectively and accurately. Reading this story, you feel immense empathy for Melinda--you just want her to be able to get the help she so desperately needs. You want her to find friends; you want her to fit in. Anderson creates such emotion with this story, and it's important that everyone reads it.

The graphic novel version just came out this year, and the images compliment the text beautifully. Emily Carroll does an excellent job with her artwork and does justice to the love Melinda has for art in the book. One of the things I liked the most about the art is the way that Carroll plays with shadow throughout. Melinda is haunted by what happened to her at that party, and this is portrayed through the shadow of her attacker. Everything works together really well in order to bring this story to another level.

After reading the graphic novel, I definitely want to revisit the book. I'm interested how close the text is between the both of them. Overall, I absolutely loved this and believe it's a great adaptation of a great book.

5/5 stars

Monday, April 9, 2018

Review: Modern Romance

"Why do we all say we prefer honesty but rarely give that courtesy to others?"
-Aziz Ansari, Modern Romance

The reason Aziz Ansari gives for writing this book is that he was looking everywhere for a modern book about dating, but couldn't find one. So this is where his book comes in! In Modern Romance, Ansari examines the ways that dating has changed over the years with the implementation of technology. His driving question was: since technology has theoretically made dating easier, why are so many people frustrated?

A lot of the points that Ansari brings up are interesting and valid. One of the sections I found most interesting was about the power behind texting conversations. Since texting is many people's main mode of communication, there are a lot of implications behind a variety of things in text messages, especially when it comes to time. How long do you wait before texting someone back? What does a wait to return a text mean when you're dating someone? Ansari examines all these questions, and I just found the communication patterns fascinating.

The book was a bit tainted, though, with the recent allegations that came out against Ansari. If you're someone that's seen Ansari's show, Master of None, he didn't seem like one of those people who would have these sorts of allegations come out about him. Even his comments about dating in his book seemed that way, so learning of his behavior on that date tainted the book slightly for me. The information he was presenting was still interesting, but perhaps I won't take some of his advice to heart.

Overall, a fascinating look at the modern dating realm.

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

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Review: March

"Fury spends itself pretty quickly when there's no fury facing it."
-John Lewis, March

These three volumes follow John Lewis's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, book-ended by the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Lewis starts when he was in school and shows the reader how the Civil Rights Movement was created and worked against the power structures in the United States. Lewis himself had a large role in the movement, eventually earning a position in Congress.

A graphic memoir was a really effective way to tell this story, as the images really help to portray the significance of the Civil Rights Movement. Utilizing the Obama's inauguration also put into perspective all the work this movement did--and, in a current context, all the work it still needs to do. 

If nothing else, these books show that young people have the power to create change. Many of the first participants in the Civil Rights Movement were college students, and their fight created the change they wanted to see. It reminded me of the high school students arranging a march for stricter gun control; marches were partly how the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum as well.

This book would be an effective tool to use in schools because of its style and the amount of information that is packed throughout. Giving a first hand account of the Civil Rights Movement in a history class in high school would definitely help to give students perspective.

5/5 stars

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Review: Wingless

"My teacher told me
I was mythology, said I needed a doctor."
-Zachary Riddle, Wingless

Wingless is Zach's second chapbook of poetry, building on the world of mythology that he's created. As a collection, the poems work together in creating a chilling, haunting atmosphere that lingers long after you read it. Zach doesn't shy away from dealing with difficult issues, like grief after a significant loss in life.

The poems presented here are lyrical and full of vivid images that transport the reader into a completely surreal world. One of the poems that best represent this is the titular poem, "Wingless," which begins with a startling image: "Wings burst from my back when I was ten years old." It's images like these that pull the reader into this mythological world, and also keep the reader thinking long after the book is finished. The images contribute to the horror-themes seen throughout the book, emphasizing the nightmarish quality of grief.

Raw and unforgettable, Wingless is an emotional journey filled with vulnerability that is sure to haunt your dreams.

5/5 stars

Wingless is currently available for preorder from Finishing Line Press, and you can get Zach's other chapbook (written with Riley Nisbet and illustrated by me!) here.

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

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Review: Spill Zone

"People think there's something hidden in the Spill, fairies in those wisps of light. They're wrong...The Spill Zone shows everything."
-Scott Westerfeld, Spill Zone

No one really knows how the Spill came about. Since no one can figure out its origins, only government scientists are allowed inside. But Addison knows how to get in, and she uses the images she creates to her advantage. It's the only way she can support herself and her little sister. She's desperate to find out what happened the night the Spill Zone was created.

I was intrigued by the concept of this, and it definitely was a quick read. You're thrown into the world almost immediately, and are forced to use visual clues in order to figure out what's exactly happen in this dystopic universe.

On its own, I don't feel like much happens in this volume. You're introduced to Addison's world, and introduced to future conflicts, but that's pretty much it. I was frustrated with the lack of explanation we got in this volume, explanation that I know will probably come later. There wasn't much wow here for me, but there is enough interest for me to pick up the next book and see where it goes.

Overall, there were too many threads that weren't tied up here, and while I'm usually a fan of that, this felt too incomplete to me.

3/5 stars

Monday, February 26, 2018

Review: Watchmen

"All we ever see of stars are their old photographs."
-Alan Moore, Watchmen

Superheroes have been banned from the US, forced to go back to their lives as civilians. But a killer starts to stalk those who have previously lived lives as vigilantes; and Rorschach is determined to find them. As he tries to unravel the mystery behind the killer, the lives of other superheroes are brought to light.

This is a layered narrative that absolutely deserves all the praise that it gets. All of the layers work together in order to give you the full picture of the characters, and of the desperate situations that they're facing. The influence of the narrative is absolutely apparent, given that the book itself was written in the 80s. We owe a lot to Watchmen, especially if you're an avid graphic novel reader.

As an exploration of the superhero genre, much of the story is dark and doesn't include much hope. All of the characters are psychologically complex, and none of them can be labeled as completely good. Adding all the elements together, the narrative is complex and it's clear why this graphic novel is studied so much more than all the others.

5/5 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

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Review: This Darkness Mine

"All imperfections glare in the spotlight."
-Mindy McGinnis, This Darkness Mine

For all appearances, Sasha Stone's life is perfect: she's first chair clarinet, at the top of her class, and has a loyal boyfriend. Her path to Oberlin is still in place, at least until Isaac Harver comes into her life. When she's around him, she's trouble; when she learns that she absorbed her twin in her mother's womb, she's convinced it's her sister's heart that's in love with him. Sasha quickly begins to lose control on the perfect life that she had--will she be able to get it back?

I'm reviewing this a bit out of order because ever since I read this book, I needed to write something about it. It's....weird. Mindy McGinnis also wrote Female of the Species, which I absolutely loved, but this book was very different from that, for me. While the writing is strong and well-done, the overall effect of this book is odd, which you can definitely see by looking at the other reviews.

Though the plot itself is odd (and at times violently graphic), there's a message underneath the text, showing how terrible people can be to others. In fact, I would argue, the main character has almost no redeeming qualities. As you learn more about Sasha, the more you dislike her. She might be one of the least likable narrators that I have ever read, which most likely contributed to the fact that I feel so mediocre about this book.

The plot of this book is twisty and shocking, and the less you know about it, the better. There were parts, however, where I went back a few pages to re-read, because I thought: "did that really happen?" Every time, it did. It made the plot confusing at times, because some of the twists were jarring, but this didn't take away from the quality of the writing. The writing is extremely well done, I just didn't connect with the characters or the plot, taking away much of my connection to the narrative.

Overall, if you're looking for something weird, dark, and shocking, this book would probably be for you. For me, it's probably not something I'll ever revisit.

3/5 stars

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Review: All American Boys

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."
-Jason Reynolds, All American Boys

Wrongly accused of shoplifting and assaulting a woman at a conveince story, Rashad is badly beaten by a police officer, all because of the color of his skin. Quinn observed the beating, from someone he thought was a friend, and knows that he can't stay silent about the injustice of it. As the situation takes their school by storm, everyone takes a side--Rashad and Quinn might have to risk everything in order to change the world.

This book has been on my to-read list for ages, because I've only heard good things about it. And it certainly didn't disappoint. Both of the narrators here were extremely well developed, and each of them had their own unique voices. The inclusion of two narrators also creates the opportunity for more teens to find themselves within the narrative, and see how they can create change (especially important in our current moment in history). 

As we're beginning to see a rise in diversity in young adult literature (check out my article about it here!), books talking about social justice and social change are becoming more commonplace. Young people are often the ones that bring about social change (something that the series I'm currently reading is definitely showing me), and reading these narratives are inspirational and eye opening. These things happen in real life. Reading these narratives and speaking up about injustice are the only ways that we can instill change the way we want it.

My only wish for this book is that we could have seen some of the effects of the protest at the end of the novel. Was it effective? Including a bit at the end would show readers that they can affect the world around them, just like the characters within the novel.

5/5 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

Monday, February 5, 2018

Review: Superior Spider-man


In Superior Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius) switched minds with Peter Parker on his death bed. Now he's determined to be better than Peter Parker ever was; he goes back to school, starts his own company, and configures a way to keep eyes on the entire city for crime. But those close to Peter quickly notice that something's different--will Peter be able to fight his way back?

This is one of my favorite Spider-man stories so far. I've been reading a lot of Spider-man comics lately, as my ultimate goal is to eventually catch up from the original comics to the current run. Doc Ock is probably one of my favorite villains thus far, and being able to get into his head within this run was fantastic. 

Superior Spider-man also complicates the notion of heroism and villainy. Otto takes a different strategy as Spider-man than Peter Parker, as he's more ruthless than Peter ever was. He does things for Peter that Peter never would have done himself, like earning his doctorate and beginning his own company. But Otto also alienates people that Peter deeply cares about, like MJ and Aunt May. While things look up for him for awhile, Otto's ruthless nature as Spider-man paired with his narcissism and loss of Peter's memories causes his empire to start to crumble as Norman Osborn gains control.

For me, volumes 3 and 4 were probably my least favorite, as they felt like they dragged a bit to me. I loved how Peter Parker was still incorporated ghost-like within the text, and we know that he'll eventually regain control of his body and make things right once again. The ability to see another side of Doc Ock makes him a well-rounded villain, and by the end, we can almost call him a hero. The introduction of different story lines throughout also makes me want to find out even more about the universe.

Definitely a must read for any Spider-man fans.

Volume 1: 5/5 stars
Volume 2: 5/5 stars
Volume 3: 4/5 stars
Volume 4: 3/5 stars
Volume 5: 4/5 stars
Volume 6: 5/5 stars

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Review: Sex Criminals Vol. 1

"The bank'll take everything you love sooner or later."
-Matt Fraction, Sex Criminals

Suzie discovered her gift when she was in middle school: when she has sex, she stops time. After college, at a party, she meets a guy who has the same gift: Jon. To save the library that Suzie works at, the two decide to use their gift in order to rob the bank that Jon works at. But doing so opens them up to a whole new world they were never aware of.

I've loved Matt Fraction since I read his run on Hawkeye, and this is a comics series that I've been meaning to get to for a while. I read this first volume in one sitting while visiting friends in Detroit one weekend, and it definitely didn't disappoint! Fraction's writing is witty and exiting, and in Sex Criminals, he quite often breaks the fourth wall, directly addressing his readers. After reading the Unwind Dystology, which is quite dark, this was definitely a breath of fresh air.

The artwork by Chip Zdarsky was also phenomenal, fully immersing the reader into the story. The visuals were goregous, especially when Jon and Suzie stop time, moving about in a frozen world. The way Zdarsky does this makes the reader feel like time has actually frozen.

Overall, this is an original story filled with entertaining dialogue and plenty of funny moments. Since I've only read the first volume, I'm excited to see where the story will go after this one.

4.5/5 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.