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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: dystopia, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 193
1. The One (2014)

The One. Kiera Cass. 2014. HarperCollins. 323 pages. [Source: Library]

One thing I can definitely say about all three books in this series is that they are all super-quick reads. Once I start reading, I don't want to stop. That being said, I can't say that I actually think about the books or the characters or the story after I'm done. I don't forget the story or the characters mind you. I've always liked that I can pick up the next book without any worries or confusion. That could be because the books aren't all that complex though.

In the third book, readers spend time with Prince Maxon and America Singer. She's one of four young ladies still in the running to be the next princess. The others are Celeste, Kriss, and Elise. Prince Maxon and America have always, always argued with one another. He brings out the fight in her. And he can't get enough of her honestly. Perhaps because she is so very different than his mother?

America (finally) admits to herself that she is really, truly not-kidding-around in LOVE with Maxon. Does she tell him? Are you kidding? She wouldn't dream of actually communicating with him. She'd rather nag, nag, nag him for keeping the other girls around. His excuse? You never, ever show me how you feel about me, you just yell at me. He has a point. But I suppose she does as well.

Communication is something that America fails at, I have to say. Even though America knows that she doesn't love Aspen anymore in that way, she is not telling him that. And she's not telling Maxon that she loves him. And then she realizes that sooner or later, Maxon may need to be told that at one point in her past, Aspen was a love interest.

The trilogy is definitely predictable and a bit silly. But it's almost an irresistible silly.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. The Decay of the White Savior

Snowpiercer
Let's talk about white saviors, emotions, and endings.

Daniel José Older has an interesting take on Snowpiercer, particularly its ending, likening it to Children of Men:


Children of Men
But both Children of Men and Snowpiercer come crashing down to almost identical final moments. When the smoke clears and the countless bodies are carted off, what we’re left with is the same take-away: Bearded white dude saves humanity, in both cases represented by a woman and a child of color, both helpless and in need of saving, at the cost of his own life.
Basically, Older says, Snowpiercer and Children of Men are white savior movies. He proposes an alternative: "Imagine if the desperate rebels paused and elevated Tanya to leadership instead of Curtis. Snowpiercer would’ve become something truly subversive, a story some of us have been trying to tell for a very long time."

I think Snowpiercer is already pretty darn subversive, so I would replace the "truly" there with "even more", and I wouldn't call Yona in Snowpiercer helpless, really (she's smart and even seems to have some super powers). But yes, Snowpiercer could have offered an alternative to white supremacy (both the structural white supremacy of the train and the apparently internalized and patriarchal white supremacy of the rebels) instead of something closer to a satire of white supremacy ending in its own destruction — a futile destruction if you consider the likelihood of Yona and Tim's survival or the likelihood that some disease would kill off their ancestors. (For more along this line, and for thoughts on the implications of the film's take on revolutionary politics, and much else, see Aaron Bady's "Snowpiercer Thinkpiece".) It could have been a more deeply subversive, even utopian movie. It is not.

But as a savior, Curtis is pretty crappy. He's wrong about the revolution, most of the tailenders he's trying to liberate end up dead, and though he may have sacrificed his life for a woman and boy, the woman and boy are in all likelihood only going to outlive him by a day or two at most. And it's not like he set out to sacrifice his life for them. Nam and Yona caused the explosion. He just chose, along with Wilford, to see if his body might shield Yona and Tim's bodies from the blast. If you're going to die, you might as well make your death a potentially useful one, and that's what he does.

I've already proposed one way of thinking about the racial politics of the ending, and this is at least somewhat at odds with Older's reading, but I like texts that can be interpreted richly, and it's entirely likely that soon I'll think my first take was wrong. I like thinking about the lineage of white savior movies, because when I do, they give me a little bit more hope for progress than the ending of Snowpiercer does, because if we can see such stories as white supremacy talking about itself, then it's having a crisis of confidence and thinks it's going to die pretty soon.

(Obviously, it is the nature of white supremacy to make itself the center of conversation, and I am perpetuating that here. White supremacy's representations interest me. But I entirely agree with Older that we need additional storylines. Please please please somebody give Danny Glover the money to make his Toussaint L'Ouverture movie, for instance!)

There are some noticeable differences between the ending of Snowpiercer and the ending of Children of Men, but before getting to those, I want to bring up one other white savior movie, Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino, which I once called "a white savior movie that questions the whole idea of a white savior movie, or, at least, that wants to put an end to itself."

Gran Torino

One of the things that I think is important to consider when viewing a white savior movie is its desired emotional effect. Where does it want the audience's sympathies to fall? What does the film seem to want us to feel, and how? In a classic white savior movie — think Dances with Wolves or The Blind Side or [insert your own title here] — the white savior becomes ennobled through their encounter with the non-white supporting character(s). They learn to be more caring, less bigoted, etc. (Yay, white people can be better! Hooray for White Guy 2.0!) The journey is fundamentally that of the white protagonist, and the audience's greatest interest should be in the white character. (This is one of the things I thought was so excellent about 12 Years a Slave, which is in the end, yes, literally a white savior movie — without Bass [Brad Pitt], Solomon Northup might never have been freed — but not at all about the redemption of white people. But that's tangential to this discussion...)

Though Gran Torino is at least partly about the end of the old white savior, it nonetheless sticks with the redemption narrative. The future is given to nonwhite characters, and those characters are shown to be the closest to a traditional (conservative) sense of American values, but grumpy old racist Walt ends up not just learning to care deeply for people he'd previously spurned, but sacrificing himself for them. And not just any sacrifice. He lands on the ground with his arms outstretched like Jesus on the cross. Like Snowpiercer, Gran Torino proposes that the future will not be white, but in Gran Torino the white savior is still pretty awesome, even if he's a relic.

In Children of Men, Theo is much less heroic than Walt. He's pointedly unheroic in his presentation. But his character arc is toward heroism — through helping Kee, he discovers something to live for, something to fight for, and he becomes somebody worth shedding a tear for when he dies. For me, it's not as big a tear as Gran Torino seems to want us to shed for Walt, but that's partly because it's not hard to imagine Theo going back to being a cynical or apathetic drunk even if he lived. Walt's death feels momentous, like a tremendous (if necessary) loss; Theo's death is sad for a moment, poignant more than devastating.

With Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón did make interesting changes to counter the whiteness of the source material (a P.D. James novel), but the character we follow from beginning to end is, indeed, a white guy who saves a pregnant black woman and her child. Here, though, Kee is, like Thao and Sue in Gran Torino, a kind of representative of the future — if humanity is to survive, it's surviving because of a black woman, and the white savior is gone from the picture. (Although everyone we see on the Tomorrow ship that picks her up looks white, so who knows what will happen later...)

Snowpiercer also kills off the white savior(s) and proposes that the future of humanity does not lie with white people, but here the journey of the white savior is even less heroic than that of Walt or Theo. At least Walt and Theo are successful saviors.

Curtis's journey is in many ways the opposite of Walt's and Theo's. Walt and Theo begin cynical (or worse) and come to see the value in being a savior. We end up feeling good about them, and proud of them for their sacrifices. Curtis starts out at 2nd in command of the revolution (though Gilliam repeatedly suggests that Curtis is really in charge, even if Curtis doesn't want to face that fact) and ends up finding out that the revolution was a sham and that his actions all served to help Wilford's overall goals. Curtis has helped lead everyone he most cares into death for an illusion. Oops.

Do we shed a tear for Curtis?

I don't know about you, but I certainly didn't. Sure, there was the monologue toward the end where he talks about how he became a savage and then couldn't cut his arm off, etc., but it's important to remember what comes next: Nam's deflating reaction — Curtis clearly thought he was sharing his deepest, darkest secret, and Nam's response was little more than, "Uh huh." He's not bowing down to this white savior, not giving in to his emotional tug.

Curtis was interesting as a protagonist, as a figure to carry the force of the action, but my own emotional commitment was far more toward Nam, Tanya, Yona, and then Tim. (Tanya's death was, for me, the most affecting.) Curtis just isn't a very interesting character; he's a foil for the other characters and a device to get the story out. The relatively bland main character is an old tradition in narrative, and it serves a similar function to a straight man in comedy. So Curtis's death is not a moment that is, for me at least, more powerful than the deaths of so many other people on the train. It's easy for my plot interest to shift to Yona and Tim because that's where my affectual interest has been all along.

Gran Torino gives us the white savior who wants to end all white saviors, but it wants to us to pause and feel real sorrow for his death. Children of Men gives us an unheroic white savior who finds some shreds of heroism and dies to save the (at-least-partially) nonwhite future; we end up sort of sad for him, but the stronger emotion is likely happiness that Kee and her child lived. Snowpiercer gives us a white savior seeking the wrong revolution, ending up a savior as much by accident as intent, and the movie drains much of the emotional power from the savior figure, while proposing that if humanity has any future (unlikely), its future isn't one with white people in it.

The white savior is in trouble.

Well, at least until the next Avatar movie.

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3. Book Review- Bombmaker by Claire McFall

Title: Bombmaker
 Author:  Claire McFall
Published:  1 February 2014 by Templar
Length:  336 pages
Source: publisher
Other info:  Claire has also written Ferryman, which I reviewed here and won the Scottish Booktrust Award.
Summary : The English government have closed the borders with their Celtic neighbours. Any Celt found in England is branded with a tattoo, found twice they are executed. Scottish Lizzie is the 'property' of psychopathic London gang boss Alexander. Can Lizzie escape Alexander's deadly grip and at what price her betrayal?

Review: Following bad economic times, England closes the borders with Scotland and Wales  and brings in  a new policy: Celts found in England are branded. Branded Celts in England are killed. Lizzie is one such branded Celt, who is the "property" of Alexander, a gang boss in London, who keeps her around for her bombmaking skills. as time goes on, Lizzie realises she might like a life outside the gang. Which is something that Alexander does not like at all.
I read McFall's Ferryman last year and really enjoyed it. I was looking forwards to this, especially with everything going on about the Scottish Independence referendum. Extreme nationalist governments make good reading (not real life), and so do gangs. Add in promises of a clever awesome female character and I'm sold.
You very quickly get pulled into Lizzie's world, both the political climate and the gang life that she’s part of. It’s a world that is believable, if you imagine that a yes vote leads to extreme xenophobia on the  English peoples’ part (ie just a huge ramp up of how it is now).
I love the fact that all the characters are well fleshed out really well. You really get close to them, even if that closeness is not something that you really want to be. Alexander’s creepiness seems to know no bounds. Lizzie, I liked a lot; she’s resourceful, and you want things to go right for her, even though they tend not to. I loved reading about them and how they got where they are and where they want to go.
It’s very very different to Ferryman. McFall writes well in both softer afterlife stories and gritty thrillers. I’m looking forwards to see what she does next.


Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a fast paced relevant  dystopia.


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4. DROWNED by Nichola Reilly {Review}

"Review My Books" Review by Emily  DROWNED Drowned #1 by Nichola Reilly Series: A Drowned Novel (Book 1) Hardcover: 304 pages Publisher: Harlequin Teen (June 24, 2014) Goodreads | Amazon Coe is one of the few remaining teenagers on the island of Tides. Deformed and weak, she is constantly reminded that in a world where dry land dwindles at every high tide, she is not welcome. The only bright

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5. Dualed (2013)

Dualed. Elsie Chapman. 2013. Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

My second attempt at reading Dualed went much better than my first. The second time I picked it up, it was an easy read. Easy meaning that I read almost all of it in one sitting. The content itself, well, easy doesn't really describe the world Chapman created in her novel.

West, the heroine, has known her whole life that she'll have to kill or be killed in order to take a place in the community. That's just how things are now. Every person has an alt--a genetic clone of sorts. Every alt poses a threat. When an assignment goes active, both know it's kill or be killed. And both also know that timing is key. They have exactly one month to complete their assignment or both will be killed. West is the only one left in her family. It's a dangerous world, a violent world. Many people are PK's peripheral kills--being killed "accidentally" during the fight between two alts. No street or neighborhood is really safe because of it. There will always be teens who have gone active and are in survival mode. Though West does not have any family in her life--readers do briefly meet Luc, her brother--she is not truly alone. Her brother's friend, Chord, cares about her a great deal. The book opens with Chord receiving his assignment; readers get a brief glimpse of what the book will be like. His assignment is completed very quickly and dramatically. Though some of the drama is lost since readers barely know the characters and haven't come to care yet. Effective for letting readers know that death, violent death, is what this book is all about perhaps.

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West. I didn't like or dislike her really. I had a hard time understanding her, why, she would be completely fine being an assassin and murdering others on almost a daily or at least weekly basis. Yet be so anxious about facing her own alt. After all, the risks to her own life are the same. The fact that she was an assassin meant that she was capable of killing. It also meant that she was not afraid to put her own life in danger. Every job she took, there was risk that she could die if it went bad. Yet West does the opposite of what you'd expect: she hides and waits and hides and waits and hides and waits and mopes a bit.

Chord was a good guy, well, as good a guy as you're going to get in this crazy society where all adults have committed murder at least once. I did get the sense that he cared about West and wanted a relationship with her that was based more on them and less on Luc.

Overall, Dualed is a not-for-me book. Others may enjoy it more, of course.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. In the After: Demitria Lunetta

Book: In the After
Author: Demitria Lunetta
Pages: 464
Age Range: 13 and up

In the After is the first of a two-book series by Demitria Lunetta (the second book was just released, though I haven't read it yet). In the After is set in the wake of a world-wide apocalypse caused by an invasion of predatory, man-eating creatures. 17-year-old Amy has lived for three years in hiding, alone except for the company of Baby, a young girl she rescued from a grocery store. Amy and Baby live in silence, for fear of drawing Them. They use sign language to speak, and have never even heard one another's voices.

They actually have things pretty good, all things considered. Amy's mother held an important government position, and their house is surrounded by an electric fence that keeps the monsters out. Her dad was an environmentalist who kept their home as off the grid as possible. Amy and Baby have electricity and water. But they do have to venture out among the creatures to scavenge for food. An encounter with other survivors on one of their trips starts a process that changes Amy and Baby's lives forever. 

In the After is a compelling read, one that will keep the reader guessing. The first part of the book takes place in and around Amy and Baby's home in Chicago. Without giving too much away, I'll say that the second part of the book takes place elsewhere, among other people. This is where Lunetta's storytelling really starts making the reader think. In brief, italicized scenes, Amy is in a mental ward. The rest of the story is told in intermittent flashbacks, as a mentally foggy Amy tries to pieces together how she got there. Because of Amy's fragile state, the reader isn't always sure how to interpret the flashbacks, which makes the story even more thought-provoking. 

The characters apart from Amy are distinct, though not always highly nuanced. Basically, we get to know Amy very well, and the other characters not so well. But Amy is great. Here are a few snippets, to give you a feel for her voice:

"I only go out at night.

I walk along the empty street and pause, my muscles tense and ready. The breeze rustles the overgrown grass and I tilt my head slightly. I'm listening for them." (Page 1)

"So much of who I used to be was about being good in school and having friends who were also good in school. We were, to put it simply, arrogant little know-it-alls. But I miss that." (Page 78)

"The arts were probably pointless now that everyone was focused on survival. I thought back to all my time alone, reading, as the world crumbled around me. It was the only thing that gave me solace and hope." (Page 191)

In addition to keeping the reader wondering about plot points, Lunetta is good at creating atmosphere. She makes the reader feel the creepiness of walking down a dark street where silent monsters might be a only few feet, and the helplessness of being trapped in a mental ward. 

In the After grabs the reader from the first page, and doesn't let go. Recommend for fans of YA dystopias, particularly of the alien invasion variety. Particularly recommended for those who enjoyed Rick Yancey's The Fifth Wave. Readers who have read many dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories will notice certain universal themes, but I don't think this takes away enjoyment of the story. I think that In the After is a book that will especially appeal to adult readers, actually, though I would expect teens to enjoy it, too. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: HarperTeen (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Source of Book: Bought it on Kindle

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© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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7. You'll Like It Here (Everybody Does) (2011)

You'll Like It Here (Everybody Does). Ruth White. 2011/2012. Random House. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

You'll Like It Here (Everybody Does) makes a great, quick, entertaining read. If you enjoy classic twilight zone episodes, you'll likely enjoy this middle grade science fiction novel. Meggie Blue, and her brother, David, narrate this one. Though readers spend time with the characters before the move to FASHION CITY, most of this one takes place in Fashion City. (To be clear from the start, Fashion City is located in an alternate/parallel universe.) I think the details surrounding Fashion City and the Fathers is best left to the reader to discover. Some of the details about WHO is living in this parallel world is intriguing. For example, Elvis is contemporary with L. Frank Baum who is contemporary with Abraham Lincoln who is contemporary with Grandma Moses who is contemporary with Martin Luther King Jr. I imagine it was very fun for the author to fit these people into her alternate universe and play around with the facts of history. (In this parallel world, Walt Disney was killed as a teenager in war, as was Laura Ingalls.) The character of Gramps is very, very fun! The book is odd and quirky. But. I found it entertaining.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. Enders (2014)

Enders. Lissa Price. 2014. Random House. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Enders is the sequel to Lissa Price's Starters. I enjoy reading dystopia, and I like that Starters and Enders offers a unique story to readers. I also appreciate that there isn't a love triangle. Callie, our heroine, and her brother, Tyler, have been "saved." They now have a home. They now have a legal guardian. But life isn't really much easier for Callie because she is still hearing voices in her head. She is still hearing via the neurochip from THE OLD MAN. He is still a threat to be reckoned with, and Callie, while not helpless, doesn't know how to take him down for once and for all.

I felt there was a LOT of action in Enders. The battle, if battle is the right word, has begun. Callie is not alone in facing The Old Man. She is not alone in her battle for justice for starters, for young people. New characters are introduced in Enders. Callie teams up with the good guys, and she places her trust in her new friends. And a BIG SHOWDOWN does happen in a way. But the twists and turns in this one reveal just how strange this war may prove to be.

I liked this one fine. But I didn't LOVE it.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Free To Fall (2014)

Free to Fall. Lauren Miller. 2014. HarperCollins. 480 pages. [Source: Library]

I loved Lauren Miller's Free to Fall. I enjoyed the mystery and conspiracy. I enjoyed the romance. I enjoyed the premise most of all. Is the book absolutely perfect? I wouldn't go that far. I'm not sure enough characters are fully developed to be near perfect. But in my opinion, the premise worked from start to finish. (I'd definitely say this is a plot-driven read.) I also enjoyed the themes and symbols of this one. (Hint: Paradise Lost)

Free to Fall is set circa 2030. Rory Vaughn, our heroine, is super excited to learn that she has been accepted to the oh-so-exclusive Theden Academy. It is only after she's been accepted that her father tells her that her mother also attended Theden Academy. (Theden Academy is a highschool, not a college). Before her mom died, she left something for her daughter. A note and a necklace. (It was conditional upon her going to Theden Academy.) Another girl from Rory's former school has been accepted as well. They will room together for better or worse. Her name is Hershey Clements.

Perhaps the less you know, the better. Since this one is plot-and-premise driven. Since this one is so focused on uncovering a BIG, BIG mystery. But. There is romance. And not the kind of "romance" that involves a love triangle! The hero's name is North, and, I definitely liked him! 

I would definitely recommend this one!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. In Case You Were Wondering . . .

This week I've done a lot of reading (for me), but with exception of ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER, they've all been books that either (1) I didn't finish, (2) ended a series, or (3) weren't Young Adult.  So I thought I'd catch you up on some things I liked, and one that I didn't. * * * IN THE END is the second book in the IN THE AFTER duology.  I really, really liked IN THE AFTER, so I

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11. HUNGRY by H.A. Swain

"Review My Books" review by Sara Hungry  by H.A. Swain Hardcover: 384 pages Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (June 3, 2014) Language: English Goodreads | Amazon In Thalia’s world, there is no more food and no need for food, as everyone takes medication to ward off hunger. Her parents both work for the company that developed the drugs society consumes to quell any food cravings, and they live a

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12. The Rule of Three by Eric Walters

Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2014


It was a typical day at high school for Adam Daley.  Driving is old 70s Omega to school, his thoughts were on trying to get his best friend to pass a class and mindlessly crushing Lori, who barely knows him.  But something that happens today will change his life altogether...

When the electricity goes out, no one really thinks much about it.  It's a little weird their cell phones don't work but everyone excuses it away as a fluke.  When everyone is dismissed for the day, the only person driving out of the parking lot is Adam.  As the day goes on, Adam and his friends notice the little things making it even more complex and not quite right, leaving them with that doubt of fear in their minds.

After getting home with his little brother and sister, his thoughts automatically go to his parents.  His father is in Chicago and Adam isn't sure whether he's alive or dead.  His mother, the chief of police in town, hasn't returned from work yet.  But after getting back to the safety of home, he feels safer.  Everything seems normal with people cooking out and everyone hanging out in their front yards. Adam still feels off-kilter though, especially when his neighbor Herb asks him to take him to the pool supply shop to buy chlorine tabs when he doesn't even own a pool...it is also the day when Adam realizes the danger in this whole situation with panic slowly building....

Day Two brings on more chaos with people storming the grocery store and mild chaos beginning to read its ugly head.  Day three becomes even more dangerous...

Now Adam, his family, Herb and others need to protect their neighborhood in order to survive.  No one knows when the end to this will happen, but they not only need to prepare for the inevitable, but need to keep others from taking it away from them.  It becomes a strategic battle, and Adam becomes not only a player,  but a pawn this game of survival.  Keeping chaos and bullies out using walls and patrols is easy...it's the ones on the inside that may be their downfall...

I'll admit, I picked up this book because the cover and caption drew my eye to it.  After reading the first part of the book, I was hooked.  This isn't Walters first book by any means.  He's a prolific YA author, but this is by far my most favorite.  His characters are the strongpoint.  The reader gets to know them, but also knows there are things that aren't being shown.  The main characters, Herb and Adam, are ones that Walters deliberately builds slowly, opening layers to create curiosity and keep the pages turning. 

There are several things about this dystopia book that sets it apart from others.  Firstly, the main character is a teen guy who doesn't have a female counterpart to effectively brave the storm, so to speak.  Adam is independent and his focus is on keeping everyone safe, not just his immediate family.  Secondly, the relationships between adults and teens in this novel is what makes the plot fluid, but also thickens it as well.  It shows the strength of teens in a world gone wrong, but also their weaknesses. Adam's evolution into a more mature person is only one of the many we get to know.  Lastly, the reader is invited to the beginning of the end.  While most dystopia take place during or trying to living in a stronghold of a dystopia society, Walters puts his right smack in the front of the entire chaotic world that is slowly falling apart.  I also got confirmation after tweeting with the author...he's working on a sequel!
Perfect for readers of both genders, I highly recommend this for JH/HS.

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13. Expiration Day: William Campbell Powell

Book: Expiration Day
Author: William Campbell Powell
Pages: 336
Age Range: 12 and up

Expiration Day is set in a dystopian near-future England a generation after fertility levels have dropped precipitously world-wide. Hardly any babies are born anymore, though most people don't realize how bad the situation is, because they parents are able to purchase uncannily lifelike robotic children. These children don't even know (unless some incident occurs) whether they are human or not.

Expiration Day is related primarily as the diary of a girl named Tania, who lives with her parents just outside of London. Tania's diary has somehow been discovered, "encrypted and forgotten, but surviving through uncounted millennia" by someone from a future alien race. His comments and responses to Tania's story are included as brief "intervals" throughout the story. The title refers to the fact that the robot children must be returned to their manufacturer on their 18th birthday - the parents have them only lease. 

The world in Expiration Day is reminiscent in tone to that of P.D. James' Children of Men. In Willam Campbell Powell's world, however, the artificial children serve to keep society under control, filling an innate need that people have to form families and pass things along to a future generation (even if that generation expires at age 18). 

I found the philosophical underpinnings of Expiration Day thought-provoking. And I quite liked Tania as a character. Parts of the book, which begins when Tania is only 11, drag a little bit, plot-wise. But my concern for Tania's fate kept me reading. The end includes a couple of twists (one of which I'm still trying to wrap my head around), which will keep readers guessing. 

One thing that I really liked about Expiration Day was the importance of Tania's father as a character. Not a placeholder, or someone to be rescued, as is a common convention in books, but an intelligent, caring man who puts everything on the line in support of his daughter. 

Here are a couple of snippets, to give you a feel for Tania's voice:

"There's a word for legs like mine. Gangly. I count my knees, sometimes, and I know I have just two, one on each leg. But dressed like that, I felt like it was more--a lot more, with different numbers on each leg." (Page 18)

"I love words, though, and I wish I could control them better. Like Humpty Dumpty, to have them line up and do my bidding. So I read, as I said, from Chaucer and Shakespeare, via Dylan Thomas and Rupert Brooke, to Ray Bradbury and Roger Zelazny, and try to see how they get their words to behave." (Page 182)

"Nobody truly dies who shapes another person. Does that make sense, Mister Zog?" (page 227)

Fans of speculative and dystopian fiction, particularly that which questions what makes someone human in the presence of advanced technology (like The Adoration of Jenna Fox), won't want to miss Expiration Day. Tania's participation in a band, and her issues with dating and growing up, are also addressed, and make the book accessible to those who prefer more realistic coming-of-age fiction. For those who need to know, there are discussions about having sex (including a boy who wants to), but no real action to speak of in Expiration Day. This is a book that will stay with me, and made me think. I learned about it from this review at Ms. Yingling Reads

Publisher: Tor Teen (@TorTeen)
Publication Date: April 22, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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14. Where are the people of color in dystopias?

Hannah GomezSarah Hannah Gómez has an MA in children’s literature and an MS in library and information science from Simmons College. Currently Guest bloggershe works as a school librarian in Northern California. An aspiring novelist and screenwriter, she is passionate about social issues in literature and social media engagement with books. She spends the rest of her free time singing, reading, and learning to run. Visit her blog at http://mclicious.org.

I was going to start this post with something pithy like, “How to survive the apocalypse: Be white. Or Morgan Freeman. Or, 2012 onwards, be a Kravitz!” I was going to tell you how dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction and film allow creators to act out a future and explore countless possibilities that could ruin or save the world. And that is kind of what’s happening, though it’s a lot more complicated than that…

Have you noticed that every movie trailer that talks about Earth after some catastrophic event displays a civilization of white people (and to have a future with no diversity, when there is so much right here on the ground today, is disingenuous, odd, and patently false.*Morgan Freeman) speaking American English? Sure, some of that is unavoidable and practical–you can’t make a movie about everyone and in every language at the same time–but it’s also ethnocentric and exceptionalist of us. Not to mention problematic in myriad ways, because the lack of diversity goes utterly unacknowledged.

Generally in dystopia, the reader understands everything about the society in the story as a copy of their own, except when the author specifically points out the rules that make it different. So to have a future with no diversity, when there is so much right here on the ground today, is disingenuous, odd, and patently false.*

As it’s the United States that is driving the current success of dystopian genre, let’s look specifically at o
ur diversity. White people will no longer be the majority within thirty years, says the Brookings Institution. And in the meantime, people of color are rising to positions of power (hey, Obama!) all over, and while we have a long way to go, old bastions of whiteness and power are being dismantled. While I can’t say this from experience, since I’m a woman of color, I can imagine that this is terrifying to people who are in a position to lose their power. If I were someone with lots of privilege and power, I would want to hold onto it, and it would be very nice to create a world in which I could.

If you look at it that way, you can see why it’s so popular to whitewash the future. A dystopian world is the ultimate controlled environment, so why not control the things you fear, like losing your power or sharing it with people different from you?

often these pretty girls are living the dystopian problems of actual teens today--just not white teensThe Hunger Games goes the route of having a nearly white world with the usual Noble Savage (Thresh) and Magical Negro (Rue) to guide and humanize the protagonist and ultimately sacrifice themselves for her. For all that it’s a classic that works very well, The Giver talks about how Jonas only begins to see color when he sees Fiona’s hair, but there is never any mention or questioning of skin tones and what they might mean, though all sorts of interesting “post-racial” ideas could come out of such a discovery. Countless other dystopias, like the Eve series, Crewel, and so many that have combined in my head, star pretty white girls who have the problems that come with having long, flowing hair and yet being physically strong and adorably unaware that everyone is in love with them.

Not only is this a tired trope overall, but often these pretty girls are living the dystopian problems of actual teens today–just not white teens—

Christina from Divergent

Christina from Divergent

so it seems a missed opportunity to do what dystopia does best: safely explore and criticize a contemporary problem in a made-up place. Adelice in Crewel is snatched from her family in order to be trained to be a useful member of society and told she can’t associate with her relatives anymore, which sounds like the experience many Native American children had in the twentieth century when they were sent to schools tasked with making them less “savage.” And before she’s whisked away, her parents encourage her to fail the test that ultimately makes her become a Spinster. I can see a lot of parallels with the way members of minority groups must carefully balance their membership in their ethnic group with their membership in their class group, especially if their socioeconomic class does not match the one traditionally associated with their ethnic group.

Otherwise harmless and fun books like The Neptune Project attempt to have a diverse supporting cast, but fail when examined beyond a superficial level. Sentences like “I realize that he looks Asian” are awkward and technically meaningless. Pointing out a specific characteristic first and foremost, while never starting off that way when meeting a new person who is white, perpetuates the assumption that white is the default, the “normal” from which all other humans deviate.

The 100

Image from The 100

Visual representation in films set in the future is also important, and in some ways improving. In Veronica Roth’s book Divergent, Tris’s best friend Christina is black, and she remained so in the film, where Zoë Kravitz played Christina alongside two other actors of color in significant speaking roles. The CW’s new TV show The 100, based on Kass Morgan’s book, has two black characters and other actors of color.**

However, in both worlds, everyone is essentially raceless. This could be considered progressive in some ways–they just live normal human lives, as people of color are sometimes observed to do in nature. But it is problematic in others. Does race really not impact these characters’ lives in any way? How can a society be at once so peaceful and advanced as to be post-racial and yet be so broken that it needs teenagers to dismantle its entire structure (Divergent) or rebuild its world (The 100)?

The 100 misses a huge opportunity to do more with race and ethnicity–its premise, that juvenile delinquents are sent to re-colonize Earth the way convicts were sent to Australia, could allow for an exploration of how incarcerated youth in our world today are disproportionately black and brown. Instead, nearly every member of the 100 is white.

I’m not saying there’s nothing good out there. The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson, is set in futuristic Brazil, stars teens and adultsThe Summer Prince of various shades of brown, is a veritable queer utopia, and allows both its characters and its readers to grapple with complex questions about technology and ethics without coming to one conclusion. But even after making the National Book Award longlist, it was ignored by ALA in all of its awards, and it’s not getting nearly the amount of recognition it should be getting, neither for its literary quality nor for its progressive strides.

Still, we seem to be on the cusp of something different when it comes to diversity in science fiction. Then again, The Cusp tends to be when people about to lose power get more aggressive about what they’re about to lose, so we could be on our way to much better or much worse. It will be interesting to watch. And read.

*However, were an author to acknowledge the blinding whiteness with a backstory about white supremacy where only the white people were allowed on the spaceship or inoculated against the great plague, that could be a fascinating read, actually.

**Though we’ll see if Henry Ian Cusick’s character ever gets to allude to the actor’s Latino heritage.

Looking for diversity in your dystopias? Try these:

Diverse Energies

The Tankborn trilogy

Killer of Enemies

Or check out this list of dystopias featuring diverse characters.


Filed under: guest blogger, Tu Books Tagged: diverse YA, dystopia, race in entertainment, race in TV, Race issues, Tu Books

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15. The Village-Slash-Hannah-Slash-Toy Story, or After the End by Amy Plum

AFTER THE END After the End #1 by Amy Plum Hardcover: 336 pages Publisher: HarperTeen (May 6, 2014) Language: English Mark on Goodreads Buy the Book: Amazon Michael Grant's Gone series meets M. Night Shyamalan's The Village in this riveting story of one girl's journey to save the very people who have lied to her for her entire life. Amy Plum, internationally bestselling author of the Die

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16. UnWholly by Neal Shusterman {Review}

Reviewed by Elisa Age Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and up Series: Unwind Dystology (Book 2) Hardcover: 416 pages Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (August 28, 2012) Mark on Goodreads Buy on Amazon Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of

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17. Starters (2012)

Starters. Lissa Price. 2012. Random House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I enjoyed this dystopian novel. Callie is our heroine. Early in the novel, Callie has to make a tough choice: should she rent out her body for profit and secure a life for herself and her younger brother, Tyler? Or should she continue the day-to-day struggle to survive when every single day brings danger and risk. Callie is older and stronger than her brother. If she goes to Prime Destination, it will be FOR him, not for greed. As you might have guessed, Callie DOES go to Prime Destination, she does sign the contract which allows Prime Destination to rent out her body to others (via neurochip). IN this society, "Enders" find enjoyment and thrills by renting the bodies of teenagers. The two are linked via the neurochip, but it is the Ender, the renter, who is in control of the young (newly made beautiful) body. Callie has signed on for three rentals, it will be the third that will change her life forever...

I enjoyed this one. I did. I enjoyed getting to know Callie AND the "voice in her head," Helena. I am looking forward to reading the second book!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. SALVAGE by Alexandra Duncan {Review}

SALVAGE by Alexandra Duncan Hardcover: 528 pages Publisher: Greenwillow Books (April 1, 2014) Language: English Mark on Goodreads Buy the book: Amazon Salvage is a thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood. This is literary science fiction with a feminist twist, and it

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19. THE FOREVER SONG by Julie Kagawa {Review}

THE FOREVER SONGSeries: Blood of Eden (Book 3)by Julie KagawaHardcover: 416 pagesPublisher: Harlequin Teen (April 15, 2014)Mark on GoodreadsBuy the book: Amazon Review of The Immortal RulesReview of The Eternity Cure VENGEANCE WILL BE HERS Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster? With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer. MONSTER Allie will embrace her

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20. Sever - Review


Sever (The Chemical Garden #3) 
by Lauren DeStefano
Publication date: 12 Feb 2013 by Simon & Schuster
ISBN 10/13: 1442409096 | 9781442409095
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

Category: Young Adult Dystopia
Keywords: Dystopia, End of series, Revolution
Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Source: Purchased


Synopsis:

With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.

Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.

In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered.
Kimberly's Review:

This is a hard book for me to review because I loved Wither, the first book in The Chemical Garden trilogy, so much. 

Without giving too much away, Rhine has escaped the mansion only to find herself at Reed's house, Vaughn's long estranged brother.

Searching for her twin brother, and trying to come to terms with her feelings for both Linden and Gabriel, Rhine embarks on a quest that will answer her questions once and for all. But not all the answers are what she wants them to be. And some of them she wishes she never knew.

I had a lot of problems with Rhine in this book. I loved her in the first two books- independent, strong willed and wanting nothing more than to survive and go home. And while this Rhine isn't that far from the old, she is slightly different. She's been through so much and she's very damaged by the events of the previous two books. But instead of making her more sympathetic, I felt more distant to her character. Her urgent need to find her brother, and then once she does eventually find him, she doesn't scream at him all of the evil she's encountered. (This will make sense once you read the book) I was so frustrated with her! She's also super confused about her feelings for Gabriel and Linden, which just became grating on me. I'll explain.

I am probably in the minority, but I have to say that I am probably on team Linden. Yes, he's pretty dense and should have been paying more attention to the evil that was his own father. But Linden's character grows exponentially during this final book and so by the end, I was hoping that she would end up with him. He was always my favorite of the two, between him and Gabriel and though the sister wife thing does creep me out, I still think Linden is the better choice.  However, this of course proves problematic because he also has Cecily, his youngest wife still on his arm. 

Cecily has also grown. In Fever, book two, the story took Rhine away from both of them and when she returns, they've both matured. While I can't say I like Cecily, I don't mind her and in fact, I may actually have respected her by the end.

What is strange is that Gabriel is mostly absent in book three. This is supposed to be her big love interest! It really hurt my feelings towards Gabriel because he was MIA for so long. I re-attached myself onto Linden. Sorry Gabriel, but even when you were the main character in Fever, I still wasn't a fan. I don't think you had a strong enough personality, and I never really understood what Rhine saw in you.

Now let's talk about Rowan. Rowan, the brother who Rhine is after. Rowan, who is barely a character at all in book three. I'm really sorry but I don't get it. There is nothing special about Rowan and as for their deep, twin relationship, I didn't feel it. He seemed like a secondary character that just appeared for plot sake. I wasn't emotionally invested in Rowan. She searched the country, confronted dangers and evil, for this guy?

I read books two and three right after the other and they move very fast. I love how the story flows so quickly you can get lost for hours in the world. Their world is scary, mean and unforgiving. There's a lot to like about The Chemical Garden trilogy.  I love the freshness of the story and felt like the characters were always in real danger, just escaping by their skin. I love the big reveals during the end, including Rhine's revelation and Madame's secrets.

Overall, I enjoyed Sever and the entire series. While I didn't have a great sense of the characters or motivation behind them, the plot was fast and I wanted to know what happened next. I would recommend it for older YAs as well as adults looking for a dark dystopian.
 


Visit the author online at www.laurendestefano.comFacebook and follow her on Twitter @LaurenDeStefano


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21. Reread #11 The Testing (2013)

The Testing. Joelle Charbonneau. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 344 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

I had not planned to reread The Testing in anticipation of reading Independent Study. But as I opened the pages of Independent Study, I felt it only fair to begin at the beginning, to go back and experience it in full, to refresh my memory so that I would be more likely to fall in love with this second book. I am very thankful I chose to spend the time with The Testing. It was interesting to see what I remembered and what I had forgotten. It was interesting to see if the same scenes still stood out to me.

For those that enjoy dystopia, I would definitely recommend The Testing. I liked Cia Vale, our heroine. I liked the brief introduction to the Five Lakes Colony. There was just enough mystery to hook me. Her dad and her brother prove even more interesting upon rereading. I liked the four stages of the test. I liked how the horror comes gradually--surely and inevitably, but paced well in my opinion. I liked the twists and turns. Overall, I thought the characterization was good, was interesting. The world-building was good, perhaps not great, but solid enough. Even though it was a reread, I found it hard to put down!


I first read this one in June 2013

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. Ignite Me - Review


Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3) 
by Taherah Mafi
Publication date: 04 Feb 2014 by HarperCollins
ASIN: B00DB2YN0C
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

Category: Young Adult Fiction/Dystopia
Keywords: Dystopia, Revolution, Paranormal
Format: Hardcover, ebook, Audiobook
Source: Borrowed


Synopsis:

The heart-stopping conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Shatter Me series, which Ransom Riggs, bestselling author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, called “a thrilling, high-stakes saga of self-discovery and forbidden love.”

With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won’t keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that’s not all he wants with her.

The Shatter Me series is perfect for fans who crave action-packed young adult novels with tantalizing romance like Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Legend by Marie Lu. Tahereh Mafi has created a captivating and original story that combines the best of dystopian and paranormal, and was praised by Publishers Weekly as “a gripping read from an author who’s not afraid to take risks.” Now this final book brings the series to a shocking and satisfying end.


Kimberly's Review:

I have such a hard time reviewing this series. I am not a fan of the series in general, but I have to admit that there is something so totally addicting, I cannot help but need to know how it all ends.

There's a lot of action in this final book which keeps the reader engaged and the pages turning. 
Honestly though, there's so much about this story I just don't get.

Like - Where is everyone?

There is only one regime in place that is ruling everything (bad guys) and one in place that oppose them (good guys). Once the rebels take that over, they can control everyone. Where are the rest of the people? (And don't tell me they all got blown up because that is a lie) Other rebellions outside of this area? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? 

How is this girl going to lead the country? Juliette suddenly decides she is the most capable of being the leader and she is going to rule. Okay, now even very young monarchs who come to power have years of training, education, learning language and politics. Juliette can barely complete full sentences and she's convinces an entire army that she should rule on pure strength alone. She doesn't make a case at all about her leadership abilities, her plans for the future, her thoughts on uniting the nation. No, she breaks things with her enormous physical strength and everyone else is staring at her going- Wow. We'll follow you.

WTF? She has declared herself supreme ruler when she can barely control her feelings and gives no indication that she understands anything about the politics, world views, different cultures and societies. 

Why is anyone letting Juliette make the decisions? Is it just because has a boyfriend who is rich and has food and shelter? Is it because she has super human strength? Juliette still does not scream leadership material even by the end of the book. 

<shakes head> huh?

Okay, let's give in for a second and forget all I said above and that Juliette is the most capable of people willing to put everyone and her followers first. Let's say she's going to unite everyone, lead them to green grass and bunnies and rainbows. Let's say it's in her and I just can't see it.

But then, what about this horrific love triangle???

Honestly, I think my main problem with the book are the characters. The three main characters, Juliette, Warner and Adam, are all thought to be  a certain way. They are introduced to the reader as a certain person and the reader believes it. That is, until the rug is pulled out and I have to re-learn everything I thought about the characters. Sometimes this technique works. But when it's done to all three of the main characters, and none of them feel justified, I have to call foul. Juliette's switch is probably the slowest, most normal of them. It starts in book one (shriveled in a corner, oh but quickly she wants to fight) and then does it again in book three. But Adam and Warner's 180 degree change was so unnatural, I feel like it was just the author's way of appeasing the mass.

If you're not familiar with the series, Warner aka Big Bad, was a really awful character. He was cruel to our Juliette and yet, by book two, everyone was in love with him. Adam, the sweet boy she knew before she was imprisoned, was left by the wayside. Now to have to justify Juliette being with Warner, she has to:

1. Make Warner honorable and awesome and loving and kind and 
2. Make Adam awful and cruel and mean and ugly. 

I'm sorry but this just makes me want to scream. Sure, maybe this was all planned. But it's such an abrupt changes of these characters make me think of one word: 

Cyborgs. 
That's right.
Cyborgs have replaced the real Adam and the real Warner and they're not getting them right.

But alas, no. These changes were the real thing. (Why?!?!)

Also, there was a whole lotta drama. D.R.A.M.A Like over the top drama. I mean, I'm all about teen angst and all but sigh. It was a lot and slowed down the momentum of the book.

Kenji is my favorite character by far and he steals every scene he is in. Funny, warm and human, I love how he reminds everyone that they are alive. I also loved James, Adam's little brother. He brings some much needed innocent and comic relief, especially his fun scenes with stoic Warner. 

I have to admit that though I can't say I liked the series because I had such major problems with it, Ms. Mafi does something right. She creates a story with great dialogue. She keeps the pace going and even I had to read the whole series to find out what happens. I guess that counts for something.




Visit the author online at www.taherehbooks.com, Facebook and follow her on Twitter @taherehmafi



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23. Independent Study (2014)

Independent Study. Joelle Charbonneau. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

Independent Study was an interesting read. I had just reread The Testing, and it was nice to be able to jump right into this story without feeling lost. Cia herself still feels lost at times because her memory of the actual testing is gone. True, she was wise enough to hide clues for her future clueless self, but, having clues--even good, strong clues--aren't quite the same as vivid memories of the horrific past. Essentially, six months have passed, I believe, and the students are getting ready to be tested again, they'll be placed into special training preparing them for future careers. They do not get to pick their "majors." They will take the classes and internships chosen for them by authorities, all for the common good of the future, of course. Most of the characters from the first novel are absent from most of Independent Study. Cia and Tomas are separated by different career paths now. Will and Cia are on the same career path--government--but even Will only has a handful of scenes in the novel. A character that some might consider minor in The Testing, plays a bigger role in the second novel: Michal. He clues Cia in on her past and gives her hope for the present and the future. What if there was a way to abolish "The Testing."

Independent Study is all about Cia seeking to discover the inner-leader inside that is strong and brave and wise and true. Is Cia a great character? Are any of the characters "great"? I'm not sure. I'm not sure that 'liking' most of the characters in a novel is a requirement for it being an entertaining read. I wanted to know what happened next.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Fire & Flood (2014)

Fire & Flood. Victoria Scott. 2014. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Did I love Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott? Not exactly. I neither loved it or hated it. I was completely indifferent to it. I would say it is more plot-driven than character-driven. I would say that it is a quick read, but, perhaps more forgettable than memorable when all is said and done. I'll also say that I never once thought of stopping while I was reading it. I wanted to stick with it and find out what happened.

Tella, our heroine, LOVES her brother, Cody. Unfortunately, Cody is dying and there is nothing to be done for him. Or so readers (who avoid blurbs) are led to believe in the opening chapters. It seems Tella, and Tella alone, can TRY to save her brother by participating in the oh-so-mysterious survival game called Brimstone Bleed. The ultimate winner of the games will receive THE CURE which will provide one person with a cure for any disease. In Tella's case, it will be for her brother, Cody. But not all participants are doing this for siblings.

The games are NOT public knowledge though they've apparently been going on every six years for several decades now. Those who survive the game are NOT allowed to speak of what occurred during the games. It also seems the game has a curse-aspect to it. Those that have been invited to participate are related to others who have endured the games. Apparently, Tella's mother has a secret!

So Tella's invitation to participate arrives suddenly. She's barely heard the message when her parents intervene oh-so-dramatically. They try to destroy the device that delivered the mysterious invitation. They fail. (It would be a short book if they'd succeeded!) Tella decides to defy her parents (not a surprise) and follow the instructions and become a contender. Tella realizes that she is one of hundreds participating in this game. There will be only one winner. She's not sure what--if anything--happens to those who fail. There is not a sense of doom like in Hunger Games. And the games do not in any way appear to be publicized.

This is the first in a series. In this book, Tella endures two challenges: the jungle and the desert. The winner of the first challenge receives 2 million dollars. The winner of the second challenge receives a portion of "The Cure" which supposedly means five additional years of life for their sick relative.

Each participant chooses an egg--a pandora. The pandoras, when hatched, reveal themselves to be various mutant animals with magical powers, of course. Without pandoras, NO contestant could hope to survive all the challenges.

Tella's pandora is probably the most interesting pandora. A shape-shifting fox that can read her mind.

What would a survivor-based game be without romance?! So of course, Tella has several guys interested in joining her during the challenges...

Some characters I liked. Some characters I didn't like. I can't say that I truly loved, loved, loved any of them.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. The Mark of the Dragonfly: Jaleigh Johnson

Book: The Mark of the Dragonfly
Author: Jaleigh Johnson
Pages: 400
Age Range: 10 and up

I quite enjoyed The Mark of the Dragonfly a brand-new middle grade/middle school fantasy novel by Jaleigh Johnson. The Mark of the Dragonfly is set on another world, one that bears a resemblance to ours, but also includes non-human races and humans with unusual gifts. Piper lives on her own in the bleak Scrap Town 16, eking out a living as a scrapper and a machinist. Scrappers salvage items from other worlds that arrive in certain areas via meteor storms (an example is a book: "Embossed on the front cover was a picture of a girl and small dog. Next to her stood a grinning scarecrow, a lion, and man who looked like he was made entirely of metal.") 

Piper has a gift for machinery, and is good at refurbishing some of the recovered items. But she longs for more. Her life changes forever when she finds a mysterious, fragile girl in the scrap fields. Piper ends up on a quest to help Anna find her home, though the two girls are pursued by a powerful and dangerous man.  

The adult quibbler in me questions how Piper's world can be similar to ours in many ways, despite being on an apparently separate planet. But this wasn't enough to dampen my appreciation for the book. I liked Johnson's inclusion of other intelligent races, coexisting with humans in the world. 

But the real reason that I enjoyed the book is that the characters in The Mark of the Dragonfly are quite strong. Piper is angry about her father's death, and determined to make a better life for herself. She struggles plausibly with doing the right thing. Anna is a bit more of an enigma, by design, but she is fascinating, too. She has only fragmented memories of her life, but she is drawn to books, and can spout various arcane bits of knowledge. There are some nice supporting characters, too, including a potential love interest for Piper (all quite PG, still suitable for upper elementary and middle school kids).

The plotting in The Mark of the Dragonfly moves along quickly, with several dangerous encounters that will keep readers turning the pages. The ongoing puzzle regarding who Anna is, and why she is being pursued, lends a more over-arcing suspense. 

The Mark of the Dragonfly wraps the initial story up nicely. No cliffhangers here. But given the depth of the world that Johnson has created, I do hope that there are future installments. Recommended for fans of middle grade fantasy with strong characters and unusual worlds. This one is going to stick in my memory, I'm sure. 

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Source of Book: Advanced review copy from the publisher

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© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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