Monday, July 14, 2014

A Dose of Dystopia

I guess I've been on a bit of a dystopia kick lately, given that is one of my favorite genres, probably. The first, Legend, I've been wanting to read for a while, and the second, The Testing, was recommended to me by a friend. Both very different visions, yet probably just as scary and probable. I think that's why I love dystopia so much. I like seeing the different ways people envision the way our world is going, even if it's in a horrible disaster.

Legend by Marie Lu follows the story of two different 15 year-olds, set in the distant future of the United States. The US is now known as The Republic, and at the age of 10 (I think? If I remember correctly), everyone has to take a test, which basically determines where you fall within society. Day failed the test. June is the only one to get a perfect score. Day is a known criminal, stealing from the wealthy and giving to the poor, while June is known as a prodigy. Their worlds collide when Day is the only suspect in the murder of June's brother. However, through the chase, June quickly learns that he world isn't as perfect as she originally thought. Which makes her question everything she's ever known.

At first, I had a difficult time getting into this book, because the author jumps right in with all of the new language and new vocabulary for this future world, and it took me a bit to get into it, to learn what everything meant. However, once I got it down, the book was very fast paced. Things just kept happening, making me want to keep reading, to find out what happens to Day and June. While there were a few plot points that I found predictable, for the most part, I rather enjoyed the book. It was a quick and easy read, definitely one that is fitting for the summer. And I'm left wanting to read the next book, which will just get added to my ever growing list of books to read.

Another thing I liked about the book was how well the characters were developed. I thought Day and June were good mirrors of each other, one coming from privilege and one coming from wealth. It also reminded me somewhat of an Aladdin story, with Day having to steal to survive, colliding with a girl who's never known that kind of life. The book was also written in two different colors of ink, gold for Day and black for June. I found that gave the book a unique edge, and really helped me to keep the two characters straight.

The Testing by Joelle Charboneau follows the story of 16-year-old Marcia (Cia) Vale, who is just about to graduate, and have her fate decided for her. As the entire Five Lakes Colony celebrates, all Cia can think about is getting chosen for the testing, the highest honor that can be endowed. When Cia gets chosen, her father finally tells her about his own nightmares from The Testing, warning her of the dangers in come. With this in mind, heading off to Tosu City, away from her friends and family forever, and forced to face the danger of The Testing on her own.

Like I said, this book was recommended to me by a friend, so I picked it up from the library. I hadn't really heard anything about it until she read it, and then I saw the third book in Barnes and Noble, a place that I frequent (surprised that it's a trilogy? I can't say that I was). I wasn't disappointed. This reminds me of a combination of Divergent and The Hunger Games, with the test that everyone has to take, and the survival aspects that are in The Testing. There's never really a dull moment in the book, either. It's fast paced and suspenseful, leaving me to not really want to put it down. I also thought that Cia was a very well-developed character, and very likeable. While not everyone would do what she did in her situation, I think she was well-rounded, and this made me want to keep reading. I wanted to know what happened to her. I can't wait to pick up the next book.

Next, I will be reading Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter Cameron. Until next time, happy reading! :)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Leonard Peacock and Love Letters to the Dead

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick follows the story of Leonard Peacock, who has plans for his 18th birthday. He plans to kill Asher Beal and then commit suicide. Leonard has always been an outcast, where Asher has always been the popular one, the jock, the one that everyone likes. Something happened when they were kids that Leonard can't forget. And he doesn't have anyone to confide in, his father is gone and his mother seems to forget that she has a son. He goes through and gives the four people he cares the most about presents, and no one seems to pick up on the signs. No one seems to care about Leonard Peacock. And he knows about it.

I don't really have anything but good things to say about this book. First, Matthew Quick is known for the way he handles mental illness in his novels, and I don't think this one is any different. The way he deals with depression, and suicide, is very realistic and believable. And he writes about it beautifully. There really are some absolutely gorgeous moments in this novel, and I just couldn't put it down. Not to mention, I think Leonard Peacock is a very complex, well-crafted character. He is relatable, and throughout the novel, you can't help but feel for him. Not to mention the footnotes. Throughout the novel, Leonard interjects his thoughts, or history about some event or person, throughout the novel. I think this was a clever way to provide background information without really bogging down the reader too much. Overall, I think this novel was well-crafted, and definitely one that I would read again.

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira follows the story of Laurel, who falls into a school assignment of "Write a letter to someone who is dead." It becomes a sort of comfort for Laurel, who writes to people like Kurt Cobain, Amelia Earhart, Judy Garland, and River Phoenix, all people whose lives ended as abruptly as her sister's. The letters are a way for Laurel to work through her emotions as she begins high school, makes new friends, falls in love for the first time, deals with family issues, and grieves for her sister. The letters allow her to find some common ground, and eventually work through her issues. 

While I was reading this book, I couldn't help but think of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. While it's not exactly the same story line, and doesn't deal with quite the same issues, Ava Dellaira writes with a similar quality to Chbosky. Not to mention, the novel is formatted like letters. Love Letters to the Dead is beautifully written, and Laurel is a character that a lot of teens could relate to. She deals with depression, her first love, making new friends, not wanting to be completely alone in high school. Once I got into the novel, I couldn't put it down. It was unique, and definitely one worth taking a look at. 

Next, I will be reading Legend by Marie Lu. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

Elizabeth has always known that he was a guy, and once he gets through graduation, he can finally live his life as Gabe. He's trying to transition, but without acknowledgment from his family and with all of the harassment from his peers, the transition is difficult. He only gets support from his friend Paige, who he incidentally has a crush on, but can't act on it without the risk of losing their friendship. So all Gabe is really left with is his music, his radio show, "Beautiful Music for Ugly Children," and his neighbor, John. But is that enough to get him through the end of high school and onto the next step in his life?

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kristin Cronn-Mills is probably one of the best novels I've read this summer, so far. The story was engaging, as were the characters. Gabe was probably my favorite. And what I liked was that he is a trans* character who was complex, who worried about transitioning, but worried about other things as well. I think it's important to have characters like this in the young adult genre, because teens need to be able to see themselves in the literature, no matter what.

I don't normally comment on the cover art, or the design of the book, but the design of this book particularly stood out to me. The cover is visually pleasing, and that element of design can be seen throughout the rest of the book. It really drew everything together. I really think this is a powerful book, one that everyone should read. And teachers, I think this is one to keep on your shelves. :)

Next, I will be reading Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. Until next time, happy reading!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Eve & Adam

Eve & Adam by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant follows the story of Evening (Eve) Striker who ends up in a horrible car accident, and is rushed to the hospital with terrible injuries. Before anything can be done, a strange boy named Solo whisks her away to her mom's lab. While recovering from her injuries, Eve's mom gives her a task. To create the perfect boy. Through the technology from her mom's company, Eve builds a boy from the ground up. But will he be the perfect boyfriend?

I originally picked up the book because I've read stuff by Michael Grant before, and the story concept sounded interesting to me. And I wasn't necessarily disappointed. The story pulled me in from the beginning, and kept me interested right up until the end, especially with Solo's story intertwined with Eve's. I almost think I liked his story line better, because it was less predictable than Eve's. I also felt his motives made for a better story than Eve's.

I think I was also a little put off by Eve's character. Don't get me wrong, I thought she was interesting. And a good, strong character. But the fact that even though she often talked about not needing or wanting a boy in her life, and then still ended up with one seemed like the easy way out. There was potential here to actually make a story without a romance, without the main character ending up with someone at the end. And for a moment at the beginning, I truly thought that was where it was going. But alas, it followed the conventions of most young adult novels. And while that isn't necessarily a bad thing, I was hoping this would be the exception to the rule. Perhaps another book in the future.

So overall, while there were some things I didn't necessarily like about the book, I think it was a decent book. I probably won't read it again, but I would recommend it if you are looking for a fun summer read that's fairly fast paced and doesn't require much thinking.

I guess that's it for now. Next I will be reading Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kristin Conn-Mills. Until next time, happy reading! :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield follows the story of Kendra, a girl who has survived sexual abuse and is currently in therapy to help her cope. Despite the therapy, Kendra feels that she has to cut in order to not feel the pain. Despite her pain, she meets a girl named Meghan and falls in love. But when her abuser seems to be catching up to her, Kendra must face her past in order to overcome it.

So this book was recommended to me by one of my professors, and I have to say, while it deals with issues that are important to address in young adult literature, I wasn't exactly impressed with the writing in this book. A lot of the dialogue seemed forced to me, and the story line seemed like something that has been done many times before. I believe there are better books that deal with this topic available out there, that are better written.

I also didn't really seem to connect with the main character in this book, and I don't think this helped my reading. While I do think there are people who would connect to this character, I think Kendra was too defined by her cutting. To me, she seemed like a flat character, one that needed more complexity as the main character of the book. And while this book can be applauded for it's inclusion of a lesbian couple, I felt it was too closely connected to Kendra's abuse, like that was the reason she liked women more than men, which is problematic when it comes to LGBTQ literature.

While there were a lot of things I didn't like about this book, I do still think it can be a powerful book for someone who can strongly relate to this character. It still deals with issues that teens need to read about in literature, and I still think that's important.

Next, I will be reading Eve & Adam by Michael Grant. Until then, happy reading! :)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The 5th Wave

So it's been a while since I've posted, being busy with school and work and other things. But now that I've graduated, and it's summer, I finally have time to read again, which means that I have time to blog again!

I've started out my summer by reading The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. The book starts out following Cassie, who has survived the first four waves of the alien invasion and is one of the last people left on Earth. Her family survived the first two waves, her mother died in the third, her father in the third, and her brother is missing. Now, finding her brother is her only mission. Until she meets Evan Walker, who may be Cassie's only hope. What does the 5th wave have in store for Evan and Cassie? And can they survive it?

At first, it was difficult for me to get into this book. I couldn't really connect with Cassie, the main character, and it took a while for things to be explained. The novel starts out right in the middle of the action, which I typically like in a book, but I was confused for a good 100-150 pages into the novel, which made it difficult for me to get into the story. But, once I got into the second half of the novel, I found it was difficult to put down. There were a lot of twists and turns I wasn't expecting, and looking back, it was really well written. Things fit together perfectly, and I think if I read it again, I would have a different opinion.

One of the things I definitely like about this novel is the fact that it is told from different points of view. While at first, I was a little confused. And typically, it would take me a paragraph or two to figure out exactly who was talking, but by the end, I liked trying to figure out who was talking by the little clues, what was happening, the other characters who were around. I also was able to figure out the voices of each character by the end of the novel, and I think this is a true mark of a good writer. Overall, I think I've decided that I like this novel. It's well written, an interesting concept, and I might consider reading the sequel when it comes out in September.

Up next: Scars by Cheryl Rainfield. Until next time, happy reading! :)

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Matched Trilogy

The Matched Trilogy is one that has been on my to-read list for a while, and since I found all three at the library, I figured that it was finally time to check them off my list. Matched, the first book is set in a future where the Society decides everything that you do; who you love, how long you go to school, where you live, what your job will be, etc. All her life, Cassia has never questioned the Society. So when she's matched with her best friend, she knows that he is the best possible match for her. Until another face appears on the microcard that she brings home...another face that she knows, Ky Markham. Even though the Society tells her that it's a glitch, Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and begins to question if the Society truly knows what's best. Will Cassia choose the path that Society thinks is right, or follow a new path that no one has taken before?

Crossed and Reached are the books that follow Matched, and they are all just as exciting as the first. Ally Condie has created an interesting future, one that explores a lot of different questions about our present society. In the Matched universe, the people believe that they are free, but how can they be when they aren't making any of their own decisions? They can't decide where they want to go, or what path their life is going to take. It is all based on data, which is composed by the society. And while it may be obvious to a reader that these people have no free will, they have been brainwashed to believe that the life they are given by the society is the life that is the best for them. But if you look underneath the surface, nothing is really as it seems. As it is with most things.

The Matched Trilogy has everything that readers want in a young adult dystopian novel, love, rebellion, strong characters, an interesting view of the future. The only complaint that I really had was the relationship between Cassia and Ky. I understand that this is what drove the whole story, the whole plot line, but I wish that Cassia's thinking behind this relationship would have been provided. It seemed a little forced to me, at least at the beginning, and since the story is told from Cassia's point of view, I wish more of her reasoning would have been provided. But other than that, I loved the story and believe that other people will too. I guess that's all for now. Until next time, happy reading. :)