Showing posts with label Young Adult Literature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Young Adult Literature. 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.

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

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

Monday, April 2, 2018

Books for Campus Pride Month

Though Pride isn't officially until June, April is when a lot of college campuses celebrate Pride--mostly due to the fact the majority of students aren't there in June. With the popularity of Love, Simon, there have been lots of lists floating around on books to read after you see the movie, and many of these lists feature LGBTQ characters. The movie opened up a visibility online (though, I admit, I'm in a lot of book communities on social media) that is hopeful, showing that hopefully change is happening.

Admittedly, I've read a lot of the books that are circulating on the internet--and they're all wonderful, you should read them! You can find some of these lists here, here, and here. As someone who's done a lot of academic research in this area, I thought I'd chime in with some of my favorite books that represent the LGBTQ community.

1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Ari and Dante don't really have anything in common, at least when they first meet at a swimming pool over the summer. But as they start hanging out, they realize they're more alike than they could have ever imagined and their friendship blossoms into something more. Set in Texas in the 1980s, Ari and Dante struggle with stereotypes around the gay community, and as Ari is Mexican American, his culture is brought to the forefront as well. An emotional examination of a coming-of-age story.


2. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Death-Cast calls people on the day they're going to die--but it doesn't tell them when or how. Matteo and Rufus both receive this call on the same day and end up connecting via a friendship app for those on their last day. Rufus is able to help Matteo to come out of his shell and experience life, while Matteo is able to help Rufus deal with the death of his family. Silvera's stories are always incredibly emotional, and this one is no different.




3. The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

Quinn's sister, Annabeth, was killed in a car accident, and now Quinn has lost his desire and motivation in writing his movie script. Geoff, Quinn's best friend, is finally able to pull Quinn out of his isolation by bringing him to a party, where Quinn meets and falls in love for the first time. A mixture of humor and grief, Federle's style feels similar to Beck Albertalli's. You'll fall in love with Quinn right from the beginning.




4. Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Riley is genderfluid, meaning sometimes Riley identifies as a girl and sometimes as a boy. But not being out is putting a strain on Riley's emotions and anxiety, especially being in the spotlight during their dad's campaign. Not only should Garvin be commended for never gendering his protagonist one way or another (which is incredibly difficult!), but the emotions and anxiety throughout the text feel very real. Riley's predicament is one that many teens will relate to.



5. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

The only fantasy book on this list, Carry On follows the story of Simon and Baz at the Watford School of Magicks, something that was referenced in her book Fangirl. As with any of Rowell's books, Simon and Baz's relationship is the reason to read this book. The tension is built up and built up until you're like: just kiss already! I plowed through this book so quickly, it might be time to go back and revisit it.

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

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

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

Saturday, January 27, 2018

5 YA Books to Add to Your 2018 TBR

Young adult literature, as an industry, had a fantastic year last year. New authors debuted remarkable texts, like Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give, and well-established authors came out with new work, like John Green's Turtles All the Way Down. I read a lot of fantastic books last year (you can check them out here!), and there are so many books that I'm looking forward to this year as well.

Many authors I follow on social media are working on new books, which has me super excited (Adam Silvera, I'm looking at you). There are lots of books I'm looking forward to reading this year, but here are 5 that you should definitely add to your TBR list.

1. Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Release date: January 9

Shusterman's sequel to Scythe is sure to satiate fans of young adult dystopia. Set in a future where we have cured all diseases and put an end to death, Scythes must work to control the population. Rowan and Citra have taken different sides on the morality of Scythes, so what does this mean for their future? I've been anticipating this book ever since I read Scythe last fall, and I can't wait to get my hands on this one.

2. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Release date: May 1

The highly anticipated second novel from Angie Thomas will return readers to Garden Heights, this time following the story of an aspiring rapper. Thomas's voice as a person of color becomes increasingly important as these stories are actively silenced by the current administration. Her second book is sure to be as good as the first.

3. Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau

Release date: March 13

Charbonneau's most known for the Testing trilogy, a Hunger Games-esque dystopian trilogy focused on critiquing America's higher education system. This standalone novel follows a group of students trapped in a school being threatened by a bomber--a bomber known to be someone inside the school. They must rely on each other in order to make it out alive.

4. Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

Release date: February 27

Inspired by the story of Anastasia, seventeen-year-old Ana was found adrift in space as a child in an android called D09. D09, however, is the last of a rare metal, and now that he's glitching, Ana must find a way to save him. I've been seeing this book on a couple of different platforms, and the premise sounds absolutely intriguing. I'll definitely be looking for this one once it's released.

5. And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness

Release date: September 4

Ever since seeing him speak last fall, Patrick Ness has skyrocketed to the top of my authors list. When he announced that he'd be releasing a new illustrated text, this immediately went on my to-watch list. A Monster Calls is one of the most beautiful books I've read, and this one is sure to not disappoint.

There are obviously many more fantastic books being released this year, these are just books that I'm personally excited about. What about you? What books are you looking forward to reading this year?

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.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Review: The Raven King

"He was a book, and he was holding his final pages, and he wanted to get to the end to find out how it went, and he didn't want it to be over." 
-Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven King

In the last book in the Raven Cycle, Blue and the Raven Boys are getting closer and closer to finding Glendower as a darkness starts to takeover Cabeswater. Their interference with the ley line has expanded to the town of Henrietta, and each is as desperate as the other to save the life of Gansey, Blue's true love and in mortal danger. By the end of the series, so many different stories are intertwined that it's difficult to tell who's the real hero of the story.

Oh my goodness. Where to even begin with this series? This past month has been my foray back into Maggie Stiefvater's work, and I forgot how absolutely lyrical her writing is. She's often given the title "Master Storyteller" and for good reason. Every single one of her books is woven so smoothly together, giving the reader all of the right pieces at the right time, inserting a magical quality that's entirely believable. If you haven't read any of her work, I highly recommend it.

One thing I specifically like about this final book in the series was the way that you could see the development in the characters. Blue, Gansey, Ronan, and Adam all bear marks of their journey toward finding Glendower, and by the end, they're all trying their best to save Gansey. Always Gansey. Ronan was probably my most favorite character (check out my playlist for him!), just because he put up such a hard shell, but you knew he would do anything for the people that he loved. Absolutely anything. The well-developed characters help to flesh out the emotions that emanate from the book, the emotions that draw you into the story and won't let you go until it's over.

The structure of the plot will have you on the edge of your seat until the very last breath of this story. Stiefvater expertly shifts between characters throughout the text, showing how the darkness seeps into each aspect of the story. Stiefvater's plot is poetic and original, living through the complex characters she creates. Overall, a fantastic ending to a well-crafted series.

5/5 stars 

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: They Both Die at the End

"No matter how we choose to live, we both die at the end."
-Adam Silvera, They Both Die at the End

Both Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio receive a call from Death-Cast that tells them they're going to die today. They both download the Last Friend app, desperate for a friend on their last day. Together, they're able to conquer their fears and pack a bunch of new adventures into their last day on Earth.

Death was a theme in the books I read this summer, apparently. Adam Silvera is currently the king of writing emotionally devastating books, because every single book he's written makes you feel. He has a way of writing this book that gives you hope that maybe Mateo and Rufus will find a way to defy the Death-Cast call even though you know that that's probably not the case. This is an Adam Silvera book, after all. You often end the book with a lot of different emotions.

The characters in this book are so relatable and well-developed, with characteristics that I think many teens will be drawn to. What's interesting about this book, and connected it to More Happy Than Not, was that we get no explanation as to how we get this technology that predicts death, it's just there. And while that might be frustrating and confusing to some people, I think Silvera's writing allows us to just accept that there's this new technology, and new vocabulary, which allows us to focus on the characters and the story.

Adam Silvera's books are so emotionally driven, and I'll definitely keep reading everything that he puts out. None of his books have disappointed me so far, and I hope that continues to be the case in the future. A beautifully written story about living life to the fullest.

5/5 stars

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

Review: Our Dark Duet

"I'm willing to walk in the darkness if it keeps the humans in the light." 
-Victoria Schwab, Our Dark Duet

The monsters have taken over Verity. Kate hasn't stopped fighting them--August has finally decided to become one of them. In order to win the fight against the monsters, Kate has to return to Verity once more. To fight the new monster, the monster that feeds on fear and chaos, both Kate and August have to forget the past and create an alliance. But will it be enough to pull Verity into the light?

Schwab doesn't disappoint in this second book of the Monsters of Verity duology. She somehow makes the tone darker and grittier in this book than the first book, with both Kate and August battling demons that threaten to overtake them. The world of Verity is dark and menacing, and crafted beautifully.

One of the things that I absolutely loved about this series was that while there was definitely chemistry between Kate and August, it never evolved into a full-fledged relationship. It was mostly left to the reader's imagination, leaving Kate and August to fight the darkness of Verity together. Because the vast majority of young adult texts feature a romantic relationship of some sort, the lack of one in this story is a breath of fresh air. Not to mention each of their characters are beautifully constructed.

Overall, I'm glad that I received the first book, This Savage Song, in an Uppercase box. Schwab is not afraid to play with the emotions of her readers, gorgeously crafting a dark, twisty world, underscored by the light of hope. The plot is fast-paced, accented with new, unique monsters that haunt the night. If you're looking for a book that doesn't back down, this one is definitely for you.

5/5 stars

Friday, December 1, 2017

Review: One of Us Is Lying

"Some people are too toxic to live. They just are."
-Karen M. McManus, One of Us Is Lying

Five unlikely students go into detention: Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, Cooper, and Simon. Simon, the creator of the school's most popular gossip app, doesn't make it out alive. Word on the street is that the day after he died, he was going to post juicy secrets about each of his four fellow classmates in detention, secrets that would shatter each of their reputations. Their secrets make them suspects in his murder. Or are they being framed? As police dig more into Simon's death, one thing's for sure: who would go the furthest to protect their secret?

I listened to this book on audio, and I actually really enjoyed it in that format. There were four different speakers for each of the narrators, making it easy to tell who's story you were on. Listening to it on audio also helped to build the suspense--who really did it?

The suspense was built really well with the plot, intertwined with plot twists and red herrings that drew your attention away from who the real killer was. At the surface, the characters seem to be just portrayals of typical high school stereotypes: the nerd (Bronwyn), the popular girl (Addy), the bad boy (Nate), the jock (Cooper), and the outcast (Simon). But as we learn the secrets each character is hiding, we learn there's more to their story than meets the eye. McManus artfully reveals each of her characters while the suspense is unfolding.

McManus's book is a bit like a modern day Breakfast Club with a murder mystery thrown in. If you're a fan of the show Riverdale and are looking for a twisty, high school mystery, this is definitely the book for you.

4/5 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