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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Dystopian, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. "The Giver," The Godmother


I was on a recent business trip and wandered into the airport bookstore. Always dangerous. I can rarely keep my purchase contained to just one book, even when I'm traveling. This time I was able to squeeze out with one literary magazine, a terribly thick nonfiction book, and "The Giver" by Lois Lowry.

I picked up "The Giver" because it had the gold Newberry Medal Award sticker on its cover and a fascinating illustration of an old man (not to mention the bare tree limbs that also look like crackles of lightning that merge with the old man's scraggly beard). It wasn't until after I read the back cover that I noticed that next to these copies of the book was another grouping with the same title but a cover that had the two hot teens on it with the blurb "Now a major motion picture!" 

Being the book snob that I am, I almost put it back. I just don't like jumping into a book because it is already popular or because a movie is coming out. In fact, it almost ruins it for me. I like to find a book and love it all on its own long before someone tries to ruin it by making a movie of it (which I will inevitably get super excited to see, then afterward complain about all the details the screen version got wrong). And I never, if at all possible, buy a copy of a book that touts "now a major motion picture."

"The Giver" was a fairly thin novel, so when I settled into my flight I pulled it out first. What piqued my interest the most was that I knew absolutely nothing about it other than what the lovely jacket with the old man on it had hinted. I love going into books like that, don't you? When there are no expectations, no preconceived ideas, no pre-knowledge of plot lines.

As I got into it I saw that it was another dystopian YA book, but it was well done. Interesting. Held my attention. But the focus was a bit narrow and it ended somewhat abruptly and left me a little unfulfilled. I couldn't help but compare it to "Matched," "Hunger Games," and "Divergence." It had the same feel, but not quite the complexity of the others. 

On the other hand, it felt ... clean. Clean like contemporary furniture or modern architecture. The plot line was direct, not overly embellished, and structurally sound, with a beauty coming from the complexity of its spare but perfect balance.

"The Giver" felt like the grandmother, the genesis, of all the others. The forbearer.

When I got home I did some research on Lois Lowry and I found that she is indeed considered the godmother of this type of book. I also found out that she wrote three subsequent novels of a similar vein with different characters, and then a fourth that wove all of their stories together. But the most interesting point was that she wrote these four books not as a preconceived series, but as what I can only describe as sister-books, related but individual, between many other novels and publications over some 20 years.

This may all be old news to many of you, but it was a delicious revelation to me.

I'm glad I found "The Giver," in spite of the fact that I must give credit to the movie for bringing even this Newberry Award edition to my attention. Because without the film, the book wouldn't have been in the airport for me to find.

I'm eager now to pick up "The Giver"'s mates and, I must admit, I'm curious about the movie. 

But I'll be sure to read all the books before seeing the film, so that I have plenty to complain about at dinner afterward.
***

Have you been moved by "The Giver"? Eager for or dreading the movie adaptation? 
OR
What book has recently surprised you?

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2. (Not My Favorite) THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING by Erika Johansen

I wrote this review awhile ago and posted it on Goodreads, then forgot to add it here. But now I'm at the beach with no computer, so I'm posting this from my phone. Sorry for the formatting!!  There are some spoilers, if you don't want to read them, skip from spoiler tag to spoiler tag. Review by AndyeI wanted to like this book, SO MUCH.  Like...you have no IDEA how much I wanted this book to be

0 Comments on (Not My Favorite) THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING by Erika Johansen as of 7/9/2014 11:11:00 AM
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3. Review: A Girl Called Fearless by Catherine Linka

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I love a good dystopian, so when I saw A Girl Called Fearless, I thought I’d give it a shot.  The premise seemed interesting, and I was curious about how the world would look through the protagonist’s eyes.   Ten years ago, a chemical used in cattle feed was found to be the cause of a deadly cancer that killed every woman in their child bearing years.  Only young girls and old women were spared, as well as a handful of women who had already suffered, and been cured, of reproductive cancers.  With so many victims of the disease, and medications to treat it in short supply, men were forced to stand by as their wives and daughters succumbed to the deadly tumors invading their bodies.

 

Avie is sixteen years old.  She comes from a wealthier household, and attends an exclusive prep school in California.  Her father has promised that she can finish college before he’ll arrange a Contract for her, which will bind her to her husband.  When her father’s company faces bankruptcy, however, he contracts her to Jessop Hawkins, a millionaire who hopes to start a career in politics.  Panicked at the thought of being Hawkins’ wife, Avie makes a run for Canada and the safety of its borders.  Along the way, she gets caught up in a protest against the repressive government, and unwittingly holds the key to its downfall.

I loved the premise of this story, but the economics didn’t make much sense to me.  Avie’s father sells her to Hawkins for 50 million dollars.  Fifty.  Million.  DOLLARS.  If girls regularly earn that kind of payback, you’d think that their guardians would treat them a little better.  Having a lot of girls in this situation would make sound economic sense.  Since there are so few women, there is a gold mine in having daughters, but that didn’t seem to be the case.  It is suspected that Avie’s friend was killed by her older husband, but only after producing a son.  It didn’t make any sense, in this context, for any man to risk injuring the proverbial golden goose.  He spent a fortune on this possession, and if he has daughters, he can sell them when they are older.  If he has a lot of sons, he has to spend another fortune helping him acquire a wife.  Even if a woman was so incompatible, in this world it is perfectly accepted to turn around and sell the woman’s contract to someone else, so why, why, why would any man kill his cash cow?

With women of childbearing age in such short supply, men feared for the safety of their daughters.  The Paternalist Movement was born from that, and this political group has been slowly stripping away women’s rights for the last ten years.  Avie’s dreams of attending college come crashing down when the group pushes through a law prohibiting women from going to college, for the sake of their safety.  Avie already lives in a cocoon.  She has a bodyguard who drives her to school and lurks around in the background, watching over her and making sure she and her friends don’t cause any trouble.  She is constantly under surveillance; everywhere she goes, including her own home, is monitored with security cameras.  She’s not allowed to speak to Yates, her best friend from childhood, because it’s not proper for unrelated men and women to speak with each other.  Young girls are routinely kidnapped, so they aren’t allowed to go anywhere without security, though I wonder about the lives and fates of girls from more meager backgrounds.  Could their fathers afford to employ bodyguards for their daughters?  Did they go to school?  I don’t feel that these questions were adequately answered.

After Avie’s father informs her that she’s been contracted, Yates urges her to run.  He’s part of Exodus, a group seeking to overthrow the Paternalists and restore the freedoms that have been denied to women.  Avie resists at first, but after she meets Hawkins, she’s terrified.  He’s a horrible man, and she’s afraid of what will happen to her once she’s his.  When she discovers that one of her friends from school is spying on her, at Hawkins’ direction, she realizes that running is the only option left to her.  With Yates’ assistance, she flees, knowing that Hawkins will never rest until his Retrievers have hunted her down.  There are rumors that the US government is withholding needed medical exports into Canada until they close their borders to US refugees, so the clock is ticking.  Avie has to get to the border soon, or her only escape will be cut off.

I couldn’t put the book down for the 50 percent.  After Avie thoughtlessly imperils the safe house she’s staying at, I couldn’t help but reflect about how short-sighted and impulsive she was.  I wasn’t even sure she was running for the right reasons any more.  Was she fleeing her contract with Hawkins for herself, or to be with Yates?  Her motivation for her actions started to bother me, and she seemed shallow and thoughtless, even given her over-indulged childhood. 

Overall, A Girl Called Fearless is a great concept, but it faltered in its execution.  I didn’t ever connect with Avie, and I constantly questioned her motivations.  Was she acting for herself, or was she hoping to be with Yates?

Grade: C+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Avie Reveare has the normal life of a privileged teen growing up in L.A., at least as normal as any girl’s life is these days. After a synthetic hormone in beef killed fifty million American women ten years ago, only young girls, old women, men, and boys are left to pick up the pieces. The death threat is past, but fathers still fear for their daughters’ safety, and the Paternalist Movement, begun to “protect” young women, is taking over the choices they make.

Like all her friends, Avie still mourns the loss of her mother, but she’s also dreaming about college and love and what she’ll make of her life. When her dad “contracts” her to marry a rich, older man to raise money to save his struggling company, her life suddenly narrows to two choices: Be trapped in a marriage with a controlling politician, or run. Her lifelong friend, student revolutionary Yates, urges her to run to freedom across the border to Canada. As their friendship turns to passion, the decision to leave becomes harder and harder. Running away is incredibly dangerous, and it’s possible Avie will never see Yates again. But staying could mean death.

From Catherine Linka comes this romantic, thought-provoking, and frighteningly real story, A Girl Called Fearless, about fighting for the most important things in life—freedom and love.

The post Review: A Girl Called Fearless by Catherine Linka appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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4. Book Review: Raging Star (Dust Lands Book 3) by Moira Young


Raging Star 
(Dust Lands Book 3) 
by Moira Young

New Eden is a paradise: a fertile land surrounded by post-apocalyptic wastelands. New Eden holds promise and hope for the future, and one man, DeMalo, who calls himself The Pathfinder, has a vision of leading humanity into that future. DeMalo feels that the future belongs to the strong, that only the strong and healthy can bring about a utopian future. In DeMalo's New Eden, those not strong and healthy enough to be among the chosen are either exiled, enslaved, or put to death.

Saba and her friends, including her twin brother Lugh and younger sister Emmi, have gone underground, and this small band of guerrillas fight back against DeMalo in any way they can. Saba secretly meets with Jack, her love and heart's desire, who gives her strategic information uncovered by his group of rebels. The only problem is, Saba can't let anyone in her group know that Jack is still alive, because some of them hate him and would kill him on sight, including her brother Lugh.

Saba loves Jack, but then why is she so drawn to DeMalo? Why does the heartstone warm when she's near him, as well as when she's near Jack? DeMalo is smart, charismatic, and seductive, and he runs New Eden with a tight control. Saba's Free Hawks will have to be smart, too, and find a new way to fight back if they hope to defeat DeMalo.

Raging Star is the conclusion of the trilogy that began with Blood Red Road, and it may be the best of the three. Raging Star has the same driving plot, awesome characters, and distinctive voice as the other books, but it goes deeper in exploring the themes. The huge gray area between right and wrong is explored in a thoughtful way. DeMalo truly believes that what he's doing is good and right. He's trying to rebuild and repopulate the Earth, turn the deserts into paradise. Is it so wrong to eliminate the weak in service of that goal? Yes, he kills people, but Saba and her group have killed also in fighting back against DeMalo. DeMalo is charismatic and convincing, and it's hard for Saba to know what's right. And so the girl known as the Angel of Death is left trying to find a better way.

We did wrong today at the bridge. An' he's wrong. He is wrong. What's right must lie somewhere else. Between us maybe. Or beyond us.
Saba also keeps secrets: from Jack, from Lugh, from everyone. She does it with the best of intentions, but she discovers, as many have, that the more you lie, the more you have to lie to cover your lies. Other characters also have secrets, and the weight of secrets threatens to destroy the group.

Saba has always been a great character. She's a survivor and a fighter, who'll do whatever it takes to save the ones she loves. But what if fighting isn't enough? What if you're in a fight you can't win? Saba experiences some real character growth as she tries to resolve her dilemmas. It's also great to see Emmi come into her own in this book, and become more than just the little sister.

As with the other books, it's hard at first to adjust to the dialect and the unusual punctuation. The entire book is written without quotation marks. Dialog just flows in with text. However, it doesn't take long to get used to it, and before too long it seems so natural you don't even notice it. I could hear Saba's distinctive voice in my head as I read.

Altogether, Raging Star is a moving, gripping, and sometimes heartbreaking book. Both the plot and the character arc will keep you turning pages.

I do have one complaint, and that's the cover. The picture of two random people against a green background just doesn't do anything for me. I assume they're supposed to be Saba and Jack, but they don't look anything like I imagined these two, and in fact they really just look like someone snapped a photo of two random people walking down the street in any modern city, and Photoshopped over a vaguely post-apocalyptic background. I didn't care for the cover of Rebel Heart, either.

Diversity?

I didn't notice a lot of diversity in this book. Saba is described as dark, but that's in comparison to her golden brother Lugh, so it's not clear whether she is actually dark skinned or just a dark haired caucasian. Other characters are described in ways that don't make clear their ethnic origins, at least not that I could tell.

One of the characters is an older man who wears dresses. He's a likable character who plays an important role in the rebellion.

Who would like this book:

Teens and adults who enjoy dystopian and post-apocalyptic books with strong female protagonists. Recommend this series to fans of The Hunger Games.

Get it from:
Audiobook
FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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5. Review: Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau

May Contain Spoilers

Yeah! I managed to knock another series off my TBR pile!  Graduation Day picks up right where Independent Study left off.  Cia has just been forced to kill a rival classmate, and she is suffering from guilt.  She is terrified of being caught.  She doesn’t know who she can trust.  When she stumbles across a bigger plot to bring down the President, she’s not sure she can carry out the mission she’s been given.  Her task, handed to her by the President?  Kill the ardent supporters of the Testing in order to end the cruel tradition once and for all.

Setting aside the implausibility of the plot – I don’t think many world leaders would task a teenager with offing their opponents – Graduation Day is immensely readable.  Getting inside Cia’s head as she works through the weighty issues confronting her makes this a hard book to put down.  Everyone has an agenda, and you are left guessing who is trustworthy the entire time.  While Cia desperately tries to keep up appearances that she’s just an ordinary university student,  she must decide which side she is on.  Does she do as the President has asked, and commit morally abhorrent acts to end the Testing?  Can she murder someone in cold blood?  Is there anyone she can recruit to assist her in her deadly task?

Most of the plot revolves Cia’s preparations to carry out her new assignment.  She wonders if there is another way to accomplish the end goal, without having to take lives.  Do the people on the President’s list really deserve to die?  What happens if she’s caught?  Is she willing to die herself, to end the Testing?  As she gathers followers and intelligence about the Testing, the people on the list, and even the President, she questions whether she can end the pointless deaths of hundreds of the brightest young people the Commonwealth has to offer.  But when she learns what it means to be redirected, watch out!  Cia’s resolve is firmly solidified, and nothing will keep her from her final goal.

I thought the ending was a bit of a muddle, and I’m not convinced that conditions will really improve for the citizens  Cia fought so hard for.  I don’t understand why Dr Barnes acted as he did; there must have been some other way to prove his point, without resorting to the pact he made with his political rivals.  I also found the way the Commonwealth seemed to exist within a vacuum problematic.  There are little tidbits dropped about world powers outside of the Commonwealth, but nothing concrete or substantial.  Surely there would still be some kind of diplomatic presence from other countries in Tosu City, if only to keep an eye on the government and make sure they weren’t planning to destroy the world again.  The politics didn’t really work for me, though I still found Cia’s predicament engaging and difficult to step away from.

If you enjoyed the first two books in the series, you will also love Graduation Day.  Cia really comes into her own as she puzzles out the plots swirling around her, makes her plans to end the Testing, and agonizes over who she can really trust.  I really enjoyed this journey with her; it was just as nerve-wracking for me trying to figure out who deserved to be trusted, and who didn’t.

 

Title: GRADUATION DAY (The Testing #3)

Author: Joelle Charbonneau

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Pub. Date: June 17, 2014

Pages: 304

Find it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads

In book three of the Testing series, the United Commonwealth wants to eliminate the rebel alliance fighting to destroy The Testing for good. Cia is ready to lead the charge, but will her lethal classmates follow her into battle?

She wants to put an end to the Testing

In a scarred and brutal future, The United Commonwealth teeters on the brink of all-out civil war. The rebel resistance plots against a government that rules with cruelty and cunning. Gifted student and Testing survivor, Cia Vale, vows to fight.

But she can’t do it alone.

This is the chance to lead that Cia has trained for – but who will follow? Plunging through layers of danger and deception, Cia must risk the lives of those she loves–and gamble on the loyalty of her lethal classmates.

Who can Cia trust?

The stakes are higher than ever-lives of promise cut short or fulfilled; a future ruled by fear or hope–in the electrifying conclusion to Joelle Charbonneau’s epic Testing trilogy. Ready or not…it’s Graduation Day.

The Final Test is the Deadliest!

About Joelle:

Ever since I can remember I loved telling stories. As I grew up, I started performing those stories on the stage. Creating vivid characters and singing wonderfully complex songs were my passion. I graduated from Millikin University with a Bachelors Degree in Vocal Performance and then continued onto DePaul University for my Masters Degree in Opera Performance. From there I went onto perform across the Chicagoland area in a variety of Operas, Operettas and Musicals. I also started teaching acting classes and private voice lessons to pass my passion along to the next generation.

Not exactly the path you’d expect a writer to take.

I’d never dreamed of writing a novel. But I loved to read. Then one day I had an idea and I started to write. I found my passion for creating characters lived on the page as well as the stage. It is my hope that the characters I’ve created resonate with you and make you smile.

I still teach voice lessons and sing for the occasional professional event. But the rest of my time is spent with my husband and son while dreaming up new and interesting stories. I hope that someday I hear yours.

Website/Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads/Pinterest

Giveaway Details:

3 sets of the complete series along with a Graduation Day pen and a T-Shirt. US Only

1 T-Shirt US ONLY

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

6/9/2014- NightlyReading- Review

6/10/2014- The Book Cellar- Guest Post

6/11/2014- Curling Up With A Good Book- Review

6/12/2014- Fiktshun- Interview

6/13/2014- Manga Maniac Café- Review

Week Two:

6/16/2014- Magical Urban Fantasy Reads- Guest Post

6/17/2014- K-books- Review

6/18/2014- Tales of the Ravenous Reader- Interview

6/19/2014- Parajunkee’s View- Review

6/20/2014- Two Chicks on Books- Guest Post

The post Review: Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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6. Book Review: Chorus by Emma Trevayne


Chorus
(Sequel to Coda)
by Emma Trevayne
Note: Chorus is the sequel to Coda, and this review will contain spoilers for Coda. If you haven't read Coda and want to avoid spoilers, you might not want to read this review. If you're looking for an awesome YA dystopian novel with a unique premise (controlling the population with addictive music) and a diverse cast, go forth and read Coda! You won't be sorry.
Eight years have passed since Anthem led the movement to defeat the Corp and stop their use of mind-controlling music tracks on the population of the Web. During the battle, the Corp used Anthem's own younger sister and brother, Alpha and Omega, as pawns to try to stop him, and exposed them to the addictive music while they were too young for their minds to be able to handle it.

As a result, Alpha, known to her friends as Al, still has flashbacks of that day, flashbacks which incapacitate her in a seizure-like state. Determined to find a cure, Al is in Los Angeles studying neuroscience. She loves her life in L.A., and other than the flashbacks, life is good, until a message comes in from the Web that Anthem is dying. Those who lived under the Corp's mind control tend to have short lives anyway, and Anthem's years as an energy source for the Corp have shortened his life even more. Al has to leave L.A. behind to rush home to be with him. And something else is not right; Al is getting anonymous messages, and someone is stalking her. Someone who knows too much about her.

Coda was an excellent, unique, and suspenseful dystopian story. Chorus is no less gripping, but for different reasons. Chorus is much more a personal journey of addiction and love and loss. Oh, don't worry: Chorus does have its share of danger and suspense, but Al is not Anthem. She doesn't want to lead a fight; she just wants to go back to L.A. and work on her cure.

It's Al's poignant personal journey that really makes this a book you can't put down. She struggles with addiction, and every day, every minute, she resists using the tracks, for fear that if she tracks she'll damage her brain beyond her ability to find a cure. Being back in the Web exacerbates the addictive urges, and also stirs up old feelings that increase the flashbacks. Al's boyfriend from Los Angeles, Jonas, accompanies her to the Web, along with two other friends. Al's relationship with Jonas is sweet, but there's a tension there, too, from the secrets that Al's been keeping from him, including her flashbacks.

The second half of the book becomes much more externally suspenseful, as both L.A. and the Web are in danger from an unexpected threat. And when bad things do start happening, when it becomes clear that something is seriously wrong, Al must find within herself the strength to fight to save the people she loves.

Diversity?

Coda did a good job with diversity. Anthem, the main protagonist, was bisexual, and there were other diverse characters, including some people of color, although both of the ones I noticed were minor, if important, characters. Overall, Coda gave a sense of a diverse society where things like sexuality and race weren't issues.

Chorus seems to have fewer characters who are from groups under-represented in YA fiction. There is one same-sex couple who are minor but important characters, and a couple of characters from Coda that I'm pretty sure I remember are dark skinned — Mage and Iris — although I didn't see any physical descriptions of them in this book. If you come to Chorus after reading Coda, as I did, you'll probably read into it the same sense of a diverse society, but if you read Chorus without having read Coda, I suspect you won't come away with quite the same impression.

Who would like this book:

Dystopian book readers, fans of Coda, and anyone who likes a good character-driven story. 

Buy Chorus from Powell's Books

Note: I decided to give the Powell's affiliate program a try. I've been an Amazon affiliate since the 90s, but I've become increasingly concerned about their market share and dominance in the industry. I don't think that Amazon is a demon, but I also don't think it's good for one company to have so much power and influence. I've heard good things about Powell's (even long before it got the Colbert Bump) so it seemed like a good way to go.

FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

0 Comments on Book Review: Chorus by Emma Trevayne as of 6/13/2014 11:17:00 PM
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7. TURNING PAGES: RIOT, by Sarah Mussi

A few years back, protest came to the attention of the world consciousness in a brand new way. A loosely organized group of individuals, some self-identifying with Guy Fawkes masks, dedicated their time to disrupting the social order, in order to... Read the rest of this post

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8. 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



Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. For more details, please see our full disclosure policy here

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9. Guest Post by Isaac Solomon, Author of Emanuel Stone and The Phoenix Shadow

Today, Isaac Solomon is visiting with a guest post about terrorism and social media.  What do you think?  What are your thoughts on social media and what’s the impact on organizing social rebellion?

“How terrorists will utilize social media in the World of Emanuel Stone in 2024.”

By Isaac Solomon

EMANUEL STONE AND THE PHOENIX SHADOW

In the dystopian world of 2024 with widespread lawlessness, social, political and economic chaos, terrorists will have ‘ramped’ up the use of social media in all its forms to further their sickening agenda. The effectiveness of mass communication for evil is documented in recent history; the Arab Spring, the UK riots and dozens of conflicts internationally are galvanized simply by the use of social media.

Cheap and accessible

Social media’s convenience, affordability and global reach – platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, television and audio recordings are key tools used by terrorist groups who have developed sophisticated mass media communication strategies. No doubt by 2024 other media will supersede the top three.

Target audience

In the broken world of Emanuel Stone social media is employed as a means of recruitment, manipulation, indoctrination and control of converts/followers. Preying on the vulnerable and disaffected, using an age old tactic terrorists of the future will exploit fears while promoting selfish vanity and pride to destabilize society. Research has shown that troubled adolescents demonstrating obsessive-compulsive behaviour, depression, generalized and social anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, introversion, and other maladaptive behaviours tend to suffer more from internet addiction.

Anonymity

Cyber warfare thrives in the shadows and secret places. Even with increased security IT measures, extremists of the future will devise greater means of anonymous communication. With access to substantial finances, intellectual capital and political support in some instances, it is likely that fanatics will continue to use and develop comparable technologies that may even supersede some national capabilities. Highly advanced hacking software, disposable mobile phones as well as embedded information are strategies that will escalate.

Fuels societal dysfunction

It is not unreasonable to foresee that terrorists of 2024 will go all out to captivate the minds of people young and old – and for this social media in all its forms visual and aural will continue to be a key weapon of warfare. So well they employ the old adage: ‘Monkey see, monkey do!’ What people watch, write and listen to is what they will eventually play out.

About the book:

“Tragedy often gives birth to courage.” In the beginning life was sweet for the Nottingham teenager Emanuel Stone, until a gruesome triple killing changed his young life forever. Plagued and tormented by terrifying dreams and nightmares, Emanuel struggles in his grief to find meaning and hope. In the chaos and near anarchy of 2024 will his young heart ever heal? Will there be a purpose for his life after all? Meanwhile, thousands of miles away from the mountains of Peru to a sleepy Scottish village, a drama of love, betrayal, deceit and intrigue is unfolding. In a bizarre twist Emanuel finds himself unwittingly drawn into a vortex of international terrorism. Just who are the old man and the stunning blonde in the apartment next door?

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10. TURNING PAGES: THE LAST WILD BOY, by Hugh MacDonald

This novel reminds me of Lois Lowry's THE GIVER, Margaret Atwood's THE HANDMAID'S TALE and, peripherally, BUMPED by Megan McCafferty. It has echoes of the style of AMONG THE HIDDEN by Margaret Peterson Haddix and Jeanne DePrau's THE CITY OF EMBER as... Read the rest of this post

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11. Book Review: Rebel Heart


Rebel Heart
Dust Lands Book 2
by Moira Young

Warning: this review may contain spoilers for the first book, Blood Red Road. If you haven't read Blood Red Road, I highly recommend it! It's about an incredibly tough heroine on a quest to save her brother in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. 

In Blood Red Road, Saba had one goal: find and save her twin brother Lugh from the people who took him. Saba knew that once she found Lugh, everything would be all right. But everything is most definitely not all right. Lugh and Saba have both been changed by the traumatic things they experienced, and the bond that connected them their whole lives seems to be broken and unrepairable.

Saba and Lugh, along with younger sister Emmi and another young man, Tommo, are on their way west to start a new life. Jack, whom Saba recently discovered is her heart's desire, separated from them to take a hard journey to deliver bad news, but he promised to meet them in the west. Saba is desperate to go west and find Jack again, but the group is stuck in the Waste, waiting for an injured horse to heal.

Then word comes that the Tonton, so recently defeated by Saba and her friends, have a new leader, who is cleansing the land of everyone except his own followers, killing or driving out the weak and the old, and taking the young and healthy. What's worse, Jack has been seen with the Tonton and may be one of them. Saba can't believe that Jack would be a part of such horrors, and she's determined to go back and find the truth, and help if she can.

Like Blood Red Road, Rebel Heart is a roller coaster of a story that grabs you and won't let go. Saba is one of the best YA heroines I've ever read. She's tough, oh yes, she's tough, but she also has heart and depth and an unshakeable resolve. Saba is a flawed heroine. She makes mistakes, she's not always kind, and she sometimes lets her single mindedness blind her. But Saba is a person who cares deeply, and would do anything for her family and her friends.

As with the first book, Rebel Heart is told in first person in Saba's distinctive voice and dialect, which is a little difficult to read at first, but it doesn't take long to seem natural, and it's such an integral part of the book that it's hard to imagine this book without it. The entire book is also written without quotation marks. All dialog is simply written out as part of the text with nothing to set it off. This also seems odd at first, but you get used to it and don't notice it. The biggest effect, to me, is that with the breakneck pace of the novel, the lack of quotation marks to slow the eye down contributes to a feeling of going downhill without brakes.

Overall, Rebel Heart and its predecessor, Blood Red Road, are excellent books that will have strong appeal to anyone who enjoys dystopian YA literature. Although more post-apocalyptic than dystopian, there are some dystopian elements in the Tonton society ruled by their new charismatic leader, the Pathfinder, and the book has a dystopian feel to it.

Rebel Heart ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and the third book, Raging Star, is due out May 13. I can't wait to read it!

Who would like this book:

Anyone who enjoys young adult dystopian books and who doesn't mind the unusual punctuation and dialect.

Rebel Heart is a 2013 Cybils Awards Nominee. The first book, Blood Red Road, was the 2011 Cybils winner for YA Science Fiction & Fantasy.

Get it from:
Audiobook:

Rebel Heart is available as an audiobook from Audible.com. I haven't yet listened to the audiobook, but I did listen to the audiobook for Blood Red Road and thought it was very well done. Narrator Heather Lind did an excellent job. There appears to also be a version narrated by Moira Young, but Audible tells me it isn't available in my area, so I suspect it's the Canadian version. The links below are to the Heather Lind narrated version.
FTC required disclosure: Reviewed from purchased copy. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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12. Meet a New YA Star, Tora From “Burn Out”

Seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds is one of the last survivors on Earth when the sun starts to burn out way ahead of schedule. She is tough and sarcastic which has helped her to survive, yet she also has a vulnerable side that comes out when she comes across fellow survivors.

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13. Spotlight–A Girl Called Fearless by Catherine Linka

A Girl Called Fearless is the debut novel by Catherine Linka.  It looks awesome, and I’ll have a review next week.  Check out the blurb; it hits shelves tomorrow.

Avie Reveare has the normal life of a privileged teen growing up in L.A., at least as normal as any girl’s life is these days. After a synthetic hormone in beef killed fifty million American women ten years ago, only young girls, old women, men, and boys are left to pick up the pieces. The death threat is past, but fathers still fear for their daughters’ safety, and the Paternalist Movement, begun to “protect” young women, is taking over the choices they make.

Like all her friends, Avie still mourns the loss of her mother, but she’s also dreaming about college and love and what she’ll make of her life. When her dad “contracts” her to marry a rich, older man to raise money to save his struggling company, her life suddenly narrows to two choices: Be trapped in a marriage with a controlling politician, or run. Her lifelong friend, student revolutionary Yates, urges her to run to freedom across the border to Canada. As their friendship turns to passion, the decision to leave becomes harder and harder. Running away is incredibly dangerous, and it’s possible Avie will never see Yates again. But staying could mean death.

From Catherine Linka comes this romantic, thought-provoking, and frighteningly real story, A Girl Called Fearless, about fighting for the most important things in life—freedom and love.

You can read an excerpt here

CATHERINE LINKA was almost thrown out of boarding school for being “too verbal.” Fortunately, she learned to channel her outspokenness and creative energy into writing. A passionate traveler who has visited Iceland, the Amazon, and the Arctic circle, Catherine has seen five types of whales in the wild, but no orcas. Yet. She doesn’t believe in fate, but she did fall in love with her husband on their first date when he laced up her boots, because she had a broken hand. A Girl Called Fearless is her debut novel.

The post Spotlight–A Girl Called Fearless by Catherine Linka appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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14. Book Review and Giveaway - Glaze by Kim Curran

Title: Glaze
 Author: Kim Curran
Published:  12 May 2014 by Jurassic Park
Length: 293 pages
Source: author
Summary : Petri Quinn is counting down the days till she turns 16 and can get on GLAZE – the ultimate social network that is bringing the whole world together into one global family. But when a peaceful government protest turns into a full-blown riot with Petri shouldering the blame, she’s handed a ban. Her life is over before it’s even started.Desperate to be a part of the hooked-up society, Petri finds an underground hacker group and gets a black market chip fitted. But this chip has a problem: it has no filter and no off switch. Petri can see everything happening on GLAZE, all the time. Including things she was never meant to see.As her life is plunged into danger, Petri is faced with a choice. Join GLAZE… or destroy it.
Review:  Glaze-the next level of social media. A chip is inserted into your head, and you are on Glaze. You can see everyone's names and stories. You can see the history of an object. You are connected to everyone all the time. Petri is fifteen when she is charged with inciting a riot. As a punishment, she isn't allowed onto Glaze until she's twenty-one, as opposed to the standard age of sixteen. Unable to take being left out, Petri goes to some hackers to get a  chip inserted on the black market. But this illegal chip means she can't get away from Glaze even if she wants to.
I really enjoyed Shift and Control, and I'm looking forwards to Delete coming sometime soon. When I heard about this, the concept and the author made me sure i'd have to read it.
I loved the world of this. It's scary how we're progressing ever faster towards it; google glass is putting our data in front of our eyes, it's only a matter of time before we get data in our heads. And the dystopian element of a company having all the data and controlling you is something that intrigues me a lot. 
The pacing is really good. There's always something happening, and the ways the plot develops keeps you hooked. It was a little predictable as to who did –the thing-- but the reasoning behind it was harder to see, and I still enjoyed reading. 
The characters are all varied and really well done. I loved Petri, and her desire to fit in is not an unfamiliar one for anyone. I didn't really feel anything for any of the romance in this, but i'm glad that it didn't detract from the plot. I liked the characters by themselves though, from the resourceful hackers to the  friendship and to the real social dynamics of the school to the slightly crazy Mimi.
The best thing about this book is the way it connects with contemporary life, the way this kind of thing could happen if the way we’re going is taken to extremes,, and that this is a book about our reliance on the internet and what happens if we let this internet connectivity control our lives.


Overall:  Strength 4 to a fast paced dystopian with a great world and a look at what happens if technology goes too far.



Also, because I forgot on Saturday, there's a tourwide giveaway happening of one of 75 hardback copies of Glaze, plus other stuff like signed copies of Shift & Control, Glaze Bookmarks, Glaze badges and a meet with Kim Curran or Skype chat if you're not able to come to London. Enter!!


a Rafflecopter giveaway


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15. Interview with Elsie Chapman, Author of Dualed

I am super geeked to welcome Elsie Chapman to the virtual offices today.  Her book DUALED, Random House, hits stores shelves February 26th 2013.  This is one of my most anticipated 2013 reads, so I’m thrilled to chat with Elsie.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Elsie Chapman]  Mangler and consumer of words, nurturer of little humans and furballs, lover and friend, loud music hound, sushi and caffeine enthusiast.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Dualed?

[Elsie Chapman]  At its heart, I can say it’s a story about finding self-worth, and what it means to different people, under different circumstances.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Elsie Chapman]  My son asked me one day, how did we know we all didn’t have a twin out there and just didn’t know about them. So the idea pretty much took off from there. I wanted a girl MC who was strong but still vulnerable, and a main love interest who was able to let her be her own person.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe West?

[Elsie Chapman]  Loyal, solid, stubborn.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If West had a theme song, what would it be?

[Elsie Chapman]  Run by Snow Patrol. I listened to that one a lot while I was writing Dualed!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing West won’t leave the house without.

[Elsie Chapman]  Her gun. Or her set of switchblades.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Elsie Chapman]  Music, movies, lyrics, the odd quote.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Elsie Chapman]  Music, tea, time. I tend to write in major gluts, so if I’m on a roll, I just kind of disappear for a while.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Elsie Chapman]  The very last book I read that still had me thinking about it days later was The Curse of the Wendigo by Ricky Yancey. It’s book 2 of the Monstrumologist series, and I absolutely cannot wait until I have time to read book 3, The Isle of Blood.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Elsie Chapman]  For reading in general, I can’t remember. But I read a lot of Stephen King when I was young, and he was the author who kept me reading.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Elsie Chapman]  My to-be-read pile keeps growing, so I try to work on that. I’ll clear out the PVR, marathon some movies, bake. Most recently, while I was waiting for edits to come in, I decided to finally check out Tumblr. It was way too much fun so now I’m on that, as well. Though it’s not author or book or writing related at all, just super random stuff I happen to enjoy.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Elsie Chapman]  You can find me at all these places! And thank you for having me on your blog, Julie!

Goodreads: goodreads.com/elsiechapman

Blog: elsiechapman.com

Twitter: twitter.com/elsiechapman

Facebook: facebook.com/elsiechapmanauthor

Pinterest: pinterest.com/elsiechapman

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Thank you!

You can pre-order DUALED from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below. Available in print and digital

 

DUALED Blurb:

Two of you exist. Only one will survive.

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

Elsie Chapman’s suspenseful YA debut weaves unexpected romance into a novel full of fast-paced action and thought-provoking philosophy. When the story ends, discussions will begin about this future society where every adult is a murderer and every child knows there is another out there who just might be better.

Author bio:

Elsie Chapman’s suspenseful YA debut weaves unexpected romance into a novel full of fast-paced action and thought-provoking philosophy. When the story ends, discussions will begin about this future society where every adult is a murderer and every child knows there is another out there who just might be better.

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16. Happy New Year 2013 Giveaway Hop! Win London Eye by Tim Lebbon!

Welcome to my Happy New Year 2013 Giveaway Hop,  hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and  co-hosted by Babs Book Bistro.  This hop runs from January 1st – 7th 2013, and you can win lots of new reads.   Click here for a complete list of blogs participating in the hop.

I am giving away a finished copy of Tim Lebbon’s London Eye.

 

About the book:

The Hunger Games meets The X-Men in an exciting post-apocalyptic debut.

Two years after London is struck by a devastating terrorist attack, it is cut off from the world, protected by a military force known as Choppers.

The rest of Britain believe that the city is now a toxic, uninhabited wasteland. But Jack and his friends, some of whom lost family on what has become known as Doomsday, know that the reality is very different.

At great risk, they have been gathering evidence about what is really happening in London, and it is incredible. Because the handful of Londons survivors are changing. Developing strange, fantastic powers. Evolving.

 

Entering is easy! Just fill out the widget below. Earn extra entries for following! US addresses only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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17. Review: Breathe by Sarah Crossan

Title:  Breathe

Author: Sarah Crossan

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Inhale. Exhale. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe . . . The world is dead. The survivors live under the protection of Breathe, the corporation that found a way to manufacture oxygen-rich air.

Alina has been stealing for a long time. She’s a little jittery, but not terrified. All she knows is that she’s never been caught before. If she’s careful, it’ll be easy. If she’s careful.

Quinn should be worried about Alina and a bit afraid for himself, too, but even though this is dangerous, it’s also the most interesting thing to happen to him in ages. It isn’t every day that the girl of your dreams asks you to rescue her.

Bea wants to tell him that none of this is fair; they’d planned a trip together, the two of them, and she’d hoped he’d discover her out here, not another girl.

And as they walk into the Outlands with two days’ worth of oxygen in their tanks, everything they believe will be shattered. Will they be able to make it back? Will they want to?


Review:

The premise of Breathe hooked me and made me what to read it.  I am a huge fan of dystopian fiction, and though I have been disappointed by many of them lately, Breathe kept me completely engaged in the plot.  That’s not to say that there weren’t any flaws, because there were quite a few, but I was so caught up in the story that I overlooked most of them.  One that was hard to overlook was the personality reversal of Petra, the leader of the Resistance.  When the chips were down, she went from being tough as nails to completely caving in and giving up.  I don’t understand how she was the leader of this rebel group for so long, how she sent her people out on dangerous, life-threatening missions that lead to many of their deaths, when she couldn’t even find it in herself to fight back when she’s confronted with a war.  Yes, the odds were so against her people that it didn’t look like they had a chance in Hell of winning, but just rolling over and giving up without a fight made me dislike her even more.  How she ever became the leader of the resistance in the first place is beyond me.

When Bea and her best friend, Quinn, head out of the pod for a short camping trip, their plans are disrupted by Alina, a member of the Resistance, who is fleeing from the Ministry.  Alina’s crime? She stole some plants.  Yup, in this horrific vision of the future, all plant-life has been destroyed, the oceans have been polluted, and as a result, there isn’t enough oxygen left in the atmosphere to support life.  The oppressive Breathe, the corporation that developed the pods and the life giving machines that fill them with breathable air,  making a fortune selling air to the citizens of the pod.  If you think having a gas meter or an electric meter is a pain, imagine having a monthly bill for the air you breathe.  The poor struggle to make ends meet, while the wealthy have so much money they can splurge on personal air tanks so they can jog or play sports.  Stewards patrol the streets, punishing those who walk too fast, or carry burdens without a permit.  In the public areas of the pod, there are strict rules dictating how quickly you can move or what you can do because you are sucking up all of that valuable free air into your lungs.  I love the concept behind this story!

After Bea and Quinn help Alina, their lives are thrown into chaos.  Quinn’s father holds a high ranking position in Breathe, and as a Premium, there is little that Quinn has had to do without.  Bea, on the other hand, has parents who are working themselves to death to pay for her air.  As she attends school and works hard to be promoted, Bea is consumed with guilt.  Her parents are always so tired, and always so worried about everything.  When she fails to secure a spot in the Breathe Leadership Program, she is devastated.  That was going to be her ticket to an easier life for her and her parents, and she blew it.  So a trip outside, to the Outlands, sounds like just the thing she needs to clear her head and forget her disappointment.  Quinn is providing everything she needs for the trip, so she might as well go and enjoy herself.  And she is, until they run into Alina.  Quinn, a very clueless, privileged young man, sees Alina, finds her beautiful, and immediately falls for her.  He’ll do anything in his power to help her.  Even hurt his best friend, Bea, who has loved him forever.

The love triangle did get a little annoying, because I didn’t think Quinn was worthy of Bea’s unyielding devotion, and Alina wasn’t my favorite character.  While I thought that Quinn and Alina deserved each other,  I didn’t want to see Bea hurt, because she is so kind.  She is willing to risk herself for others, without hesitation. Neither Alina nor Quinn have her best interests at heart when they both have the power over her to keep her from harm.  That was disappointing, because after everything that they had been through together, I expected better behavior from both of them.  Plus, Bea would have put herself in harm’s way to protect both of them, and they didn’t deserve that.

The ending is one of those non-endings that seem inevitable in YA books, and it left me disappointed.  I have been trying to resist starting new series until most of the books are out, but this was sitting on the library shelf, and despite a few reservations, I checked it out.  Now. When I knew the next book won’t be out until later this year.  Ugh.  I am glad that I read it now, but I worry that I won’t be in the same frame of mind when Book 2 hits shelves.

If you are in the mood for a fast-paced dystopian with a compelling premise, give Breathe a try.  I gobbled it up in a few short hours, and was engaged in the plot the entire time.

Grade:  B

Review copy obtained from my local library

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18. Verisimilitude in Dystopias

by Deren Hansen

[The following is some of the material I'm going to cover in my presentation on Verisimilitude at Life, The Universe, and Everything (LTUE) 31, on Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 1:00 pm.]

"Truthiness," coined by Stephen Colbert, "was named Word of the Year for 2005 by the American Dialect Society and for 2006 by Merriam-Webster." (see Wikipedia)

I certainly enjoyed the humor of truthiness, but there's a perfectly good, albeit venerable, word who's original sense means the same thing: verisimilitude. Verisimilitude is "the state of quality of being verisimilar; the appearance of truth; probability; likelihood." (Webster 1886)

Having the appearance, but not the substance, of truth is generally not considered a good thing. Fiction, however, is an exception. When you're dealing in something that in absolute terms is a lie (because it never happened in the real world), verisimilitude is a virtue.

There is an art to giving readers enough of the appearance of truth in your story that they are willing to suspend their disbelief. Howard Tayler is fond of saying, "Explain the heck out of something small, then wave your hands over the big things." In other words, show your readers you know what you're talking about in one case and they're more likely to assume you also know what you're talking about in others.

More generally, verisimilitude depends upon patterns and precedents, not arbitrary assertions.

Consider, for example, the recent bumper crop of dystopian novels.The societies in which the stories take place tend to cluster around the ends of the spectrum between order and chaos. At one level, this clustering is simply classic extrapolation: taking an aspect of current society, amplifying it, and working out its ramifications. But at another level, we're in the midst of creating dystopian tropes and, soon, clichés, because some authors commit a sin with their society that they would never commit with their antagonists: stereotying.

There's no room in modern literature for characters who are purely good or evil. Characters, at least the ones who ring true, are more complex. Indeed, the best villains sincerely believe they are the heroes of their own story and the fruit of their labors will be a better world.

So how do you avoid stereotypes, like a definitionally oppressive government, when developing your dystopian society?

Socrates set the precedent way back when, in The Republic, he suggested the way to understand personal virtue was to examine virtue on the scale of a state. In other words, approach your dystopian society just as you would an antagonist.

Just like good characters, societies need back stories that outline a plausible path to the present. People generally don't wake up one day and decide to be evil. Similarly, whole societies don't turn to oppression overnight. The good news is that a society showing the lengths to which reasonable people can go is far more frightening than one that's just bad because it's bad.

The proper study of how societies change over time keeps an army of sociologists, anthropologist, and historians busy. A short note like this doesn't begin to do justice to such a rich field of study. But one key to creating believable dystopian societies is to remember that there are always winners and losers: one person's dystopia is another's utopia. And the real engine of any society is the much larger group in the middle: people who are neither winners nor losers, but buy in to it because they believe they can be winners too one day.

[If you'd like more on this topic, you may be interested in my book on verisimilitude in writing.]

Deren Hansen is the author of the Dunlith Hill Writers Guides. Learn more at dunlithhill.com.

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19. Review: What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang

 

 

Title:  What’s Left of Me

Author: Kat Zhang

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

I should not exist. But I do.

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t. . . .

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable—hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.


Review:

Wow, wow, wow!  This is one of the most original YA books I’ve read in a long time.  The narrative is tense and compelling, and the setting, which is revealed in small, teasing snippets, is thought-provoking.  I admit that when I first picked this up, I was skeptical about it holding my interest.  Eva, the narrator, is the less dominate soul, and she shares her body with Addie.  Addie has complete control of their body, and Eva, at first, just seems to be along for the ride.  As they make two new friends, however, Eva is given the hope that someday she might have some control back over the limbs and voice she shares with Addie.  Once the government discovers that Eva still exists, however, she and Addie are imprisoned in a medical facility where the evil Mr Conivent promises their parents that Addie will be “cured.”  Using their ill brother’s medical treatments as the bait to take custody of the girls, Eva and Addie discover a sinister plot to cut one of the forbidden souls from the hybrids the scientists are experimenting on. 

Addie and Eva are deviants in their society.  Everyone is born with two souls, and by the age of ten, most of the lesser souls have “settled,” leaving only the dominant soul behind.  Eva and Addie never settled, but after being shuttled from doctor to doctor, they have learned to keep Eva’s continued existence at secret.  They pretend that they have settled because they realize how important it is to be considered “normal.”  They are tired of doctors, tests, and examinations, and they are afraid of what will happen if it’s discovered that Eva’s soul still very much entwined with Addie’s.

When Addie and Eva form an uneasy friendship with Hally, their secret is exposed, and they are confined to Nornand, a government institution.  They discover the terrible truth about the fate of the children who they have been told have gone home.  With their lives on the line, they desperately seek a way to escape the institution.

I liked both Addie and Eva.  They are scared to death, but they take frightening risks to find a way to freedom, not just for themselves, but for all of the hybrids at Nornand.  In order to learn more about what’s going on, they do some things that had my heart pounding.  Sneaking around and learning the secrets of Nornand, when it’s obvious that the doctors and nurses, and later, the review board, don’t care about their health, safety, or well-being, had me on the edge of my seat.  I hated having to put the book down to go to work!

I’m going to keep this review short because I don’t want to give away any spoilers.  I loved the main protagonists and the the secondary characters, and I completely bought into the plot.  I found What’s Left of Me to be a suspenseful, exciting read.  This book lived up to, and even exceeded, all of my expectations.  I enjoyed the time I spent with Addie, Eva, Hally, and Devon, and hope to spend more time with them in the future.

Grade: B+/A-

Review copy obtained from my local library

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20. Monday Review: UNDER THE NEVER SKY and THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT by Veronica Rossi

Reader Gut Reaction: The first book in this trilogy, Under the Never Sky, was on my radar since it launched, but I hadn't gotten around to reading it until my library recently dangled a free e-book version of it and its sequel in front of me. Being... Read the rest of this post

2 Comments on Monday Review: UNDER THE NEVER SKY and THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT by Veronica Rossi, last added: 4/2/2013
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21. New Voices: Opening the Book with… Mindy McGinnis!

Imagine a world where water is the hottest commodity. Author Mindy McGinnis has done it in a thrilling, terrifying way in her debut novel, Not a Drop to Drink.

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

Of course, after reading this fantastic dystopian novel, we jumped at the chance of having Mindy come by and open the book with us!

Which was your favorite book from childhood, and what are you reading right now?

Choosing is so hard! I’ll say A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Right now I’m reading Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Tucholke.

What is your secret talent?

Um… I can flip a stack of quarters off my elbow and catch them in my palm. Also I have very fat thumb pads.

Fill in the blank: _______ always make me laugh.

British men.

My current obsessions are…

SHERLOCK, local history and the roots of criminal profiling.

Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?

Do your homework. Half the battle is learning the industry.

Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…

Didn’t steal it from the library.

How did you come to write this book?

I watched a documentary called Blue Gold, which is about a projected shortage of potable water on our planet due to overpopulation. It was a horrible thought – we all need water to survive, and it’s something we can’t make. I went to bed very grateful for the small pond in my backyard, and that night I dreamt I was teaching a young girl how to operate a rifle so that she could help me protect the pond. I woke up and thought, “Hey… I wrote a book in my head just now.”

I asked myself what this child would grow into, and my main character, Lynn, was the answer. I don’t plot at all, I simply write. With Drink I was very fortunate in that the book really wrote itself. It wanted to be told. Lynn’s transformation from isolationist to human being had to be slow and believable, but not at the expense of pacing. I knew I needed supporting characters that could make this an interesting read without lots of explosions and fight scenes. Stebbs walked in and saved me there!

Thanks, Mindy! You can find Not a Drop to Drink in stores now!

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22. New Voices, a Word from the Editor: Not a Drop to Drink

Yesterday we heard from Mindy McGinnis about her fantastic debut novel, Not a Drop to Drink. Today, we hear from her editor, Sarah Shumway. Sarah, take it away!

There’s nothing like falling into the spell of a new voice, a striking view of reality, and into the life of a character you know you’ll never forget.  Falling in love with a book is sometimes a thing that happens gradually over the course of a story, but sometimes the first words on a page signal that the feelings are going to come tumbling out of a book and straight into your heart. The very first words of Not a Drop to Drink have that spark for me: “Lynn was nine the first time she killed to defend the pond…”

The books I’ve always loved most are those that show me something that I’ve never even imagined and make it real, make me feel. And I love wild books – ones where characters, especially strong girls, have to work to squeeze a good life from a harsh world. I started young with those books, as in Laura Ingalls in the Little House books and Karana in Island of the Blue Dolphins. I love books that challenge me, along with the characters, to rise above difficulty, limitations, and to become more than we knew we could be.  And Lynn, the heroine of Not a Drop, is such a strong character. Not a doubt there. She’s strong in a way that is more than physical or emotional. She’s real. She’s a product of her circumstances, stubborn and rough, but she discovers her heart.   And her story pushes every one of my “appeal” buttons: that strong and distinctive heroine, a gripping survival story, beautiful, sometimes poetic writing, a vivid setting in a fully-realized world, and plot twists like WOAH.  Oh, and it has some good kissing.

One of the most interesting discussions I’ve had with Mindy and with my colleagues here at HarperCollins is about how to categorize this book – is it dystopian? Post-apocalyptic? But I’m kind of proud to say that it really defies genre. While Not a Drop has plenty to offer fans of hugely popular dystopian fiction, what I appreciate is that it’s more than that. It’s different and special because it’s not about challenging a world gone wrong, but it’s about challenging people to be stronger in their own lives and hearts.  And when the trends have come and gone, I think Mindy’s book – Lynn’s story – will persist in grabbing readers’ hearts and imagination, the same way that the frontier or desert island books many of us loved as children and teenagers are still perennial favorites.

I’m so proud to have helped bring Mindy McGinnis and Not a Drop to Drink to an audience. Almost two years after I first read a draft, this book still makes my heart pound, my spine tingle, and my fingers itch to turn pages, and I hope all readers will feel the same when they get their hands on it.

Sarah Shumway is an editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books.

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23. Book Review: Shadows



 Shadows

by Robin McKinley

It's not just that Maggie misses her father, or understandably resents her new stepfather, Val. No, it goes beyond that: Val has too many shadows. Whenever Maggie looks at him, she sees him surrounded by wiggly shadow shapes with too many appendages. It can't be magic, because there is no magic in Newworld. Anyone with the potential for magic must have a procedure to snip the gene before they reach puberty, and even though Val is an immigrant, he wouldn't have been allowed in if he had any magic.

Maggie tries not to think about it, and avoids Val as much as possible by throwing herself into her work at the local shelter, which isn't hard, since Maggie loves animals anyway. Then a cobey — a "coherence break" in the universe — opens nearby, and with one revelation after another, Maggie begins to discover that the world — and Newworld specifically — is full of surprises, among them that Val is not such a bad guy. When the situation goes from bad to worse, Maggie and her friends set out to set things right, accompanied by five very large dogs, a cantankerous Maine Coone cat, a friendly shadow named Hix, and one stubborn algebra book.

Shadows is a fun book with loads of teen appeal. Maggie's voice as the narrator is authentic and entertaining, if a bit rambly in parts, and there's gentle humor woven throughout the book. The pacing is excellent, perfectly balancing character development, excitement, humor, and reveals. All of the characters are interesting and well-developed, including animals, shadows, and semi-animate objects. Even the dogs each have distinctive personalities. Although Maggie finds she has some unusual abilities, she can't do it alone - it takes the combined efforts and abilities of everyone to succeed. There is romance, but it's not overdone and I like the direction that McKinley went with the it.

There are dystopian elements, such as soldiers in the streets with scanners, roadblocks, and forced genetic manipulation, but I wouldn't call this a dystopian book. The focus is not on fighting against a dystopian government, although there is certainly some of that. Instead, it's more about finding yourself and discovering that the world is a different place than you thought.

Shadows is a 2013 Cybils Awards Finalist in the YA Speculative Fiction category.

Who would like this book:

Readers of both traditional fantasy and dystopian stories will enjoy this, as it has elements of both. Dog lovers, cat lovers, and origami artists will also find a lot to appreciate.

Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Reviewed from library copy. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.


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24. Book Review: The Summer Prince

The Summer Prince
by Alaya Dawn Johnson

June and her best friend Gil are thrilled to wrangle an invite to the official celebration of the newly elected Summer King, Enki. But they never anticipate that Gil and Enki will fall in love, or how much Enki will affect both of their lives. Although the Summer King has no real power, Enki, who comes from the lowest level of society, is determined to use what influence he has to help his people. June and Enki begin to collaborate on a big art installation, one that they hope will both send a message to the city, and win June the Queen's Award. But none of the three can forget that at the end of the summer, Enki will die. Because the real purpose of the Summer King is sacrifice in service of the city.

The Summer Prince is a brilliant book on so many levels. To start, it's an achingly immersive story set in a future Brazil. Added to that are elements from the Sumerian myth The Epic of Gilgamesh. Going deeper, there are the themes: power and sacrifice, choices and consequences, privilege and class, order and change. Finally, there is the writing: Alaya Dawn Johnson has created a beautiful tapestry so intricately woven that the patterns aren't always obvious on the first read-through. Even on my second read I'm not sure if I saw everything.

Palmares Tres is a gem of a city where past culture and future culture merge. It's a city where people still Samba and eat Vatapá stew, where grafeteiros create masterpieces and street gangs fight with capoeira. And yet it's a city with deep class divisions, where class hierarchy is literally expressed in the city tiers: the higher classes live on the upper levels and the lowest class lives on the bottom tier, where the the stink of the algae vats is ever present. This physical expression of class hierarchy is not a new idea in science fiction, but it's well done here. That stink, known as the Catinga, becomes a powerful symbol in the story, and in fact the higher tiers call the lowest tier "The Catinga."

Palmeres Tres is a city ruled by a matriarchy: a Queen and a council of women called Aunties. Many of them have forgotten the purpose of power, and while they, in their own way, seem to love the city, often their machinations seem designed to protect their own power rather than benefit the city. Most residents of the city live 200 years or more, setting up a situation where anyone under 30 is considered a juvenile, and not to be trusted to make good decisions. So we have class conflict, gender conflict, and age conflict, and with his election as Summer King, Enki becomes the touchstone at the center of all these conflicts.

I've seen this book described as dystopian, but I don't think that it quite falls into that classification. The traditional definition of a dystopia is one that seems utopian on the surface, but is later revealed to be oppressive and deeply flawed. I think that in some ways The Summer Prince turns that around: the flaws are fairly obvious early on, but as you continue to read it becomes clear how much the citizens of Palmeros Tres love their city with a genuine love, even in spite of the flaws. However, The Summer Prince is similar enough to dystopian literature that I think it will appeal to teens who enjoy dystopian books.

It's not necessary to be familiar with The Epic of Gilgamesh or to even recognize those elements are there to enjoy the story, but if you are familiar with the Epic it's a sheer joy to discover the iconic story of Enkidu and Gilgamesh wrestling in the streets transformed into a heart-stopping Samba when Gil and Enki first meet. The Summer Prince is not really a retelling of the myth, but there are some interesting parallels.

June is an imperfect character who struggles throughout the book to make the right choices. Her dream is to be recognized as a great artist, and when that dream comes into conflict with her awakening social awareness, she doesn't always choose the right thing. She blames her mother for her father's death, and because of that she's mean to her mother. All these things make her a believable, realistic character whom the reader can identify with as she grows through her association with Enki.

The Summer Prince does a great job of representing people who are underrepresented in YA lit. All the residents of Palmeros Tres have skin of varying shades of color, and Enki himself is described as being exceptionally charismatic and with very dark skin. Sexual relationships, both same-sex and opposite-sex, are depicted in a natural, unfettered way that's totally a non-issue. In Palmeros Tres it doesn't seem to matter whom you love.

The Brazilian setting is a refreshing change from books set in European-based settings. I personally loved that the book represented a culture and people that you don't often see in American YA Fiction, but I'd be remiss if I didn't point out this review of The Summer Prince by a native Brazilian, Ana of The Book Smugglers. I'd encourage you to read the review, but in short, Ana is concerned that the Brazilian cultural elements are not always used accurately, and don't go any deeper than those elements that outsiders identify with Brazil, such as samba, Carnival, and capoeira. To Ana, it feels like a stereotype.

I've been thinking a lot about Ana's review over the last few days. Does the book stereotype Brazilians? Maybe - it's hard for me to know since I'm not Brazilian. Should a writer be able to write about a culture as an outsider to that culture? This, I think, is the crux of the controversy, and I've seen good arguments on both sides. I personally think writers stretching to write about things outside their personal experience is a good thing, because it helps to bring those ideas and cultures to other people who are not familiar with them, but the outsider has to work harder to get it right. I found an interview with Johnson where she says about her research, "I read a lot of books, particularly about the history of the African diaspora in Brazil. Also got advice from my sister, who studied in Brazil and knew many sources. And sent it to Brazilian writers for help."

I totally understand Ana's frustration and annoyance with the book. It's not quite the same thing, but I studied a martial art for 18 years, and I get really annoyed when I read a fiction book that gets the martial arts details wrong. So I get how frustrating it would be to have your culture portrayed inaccurately. But it does sound like Johnson did try get the details right, and I hope that maybe it will at least it will inspire young people to want to learn more about Brazil and read up on it, as I did after finishing the book. In balance, I think that a book like this that encourages young people to think outside their comfort zone and learn about new ideas and new cultures is a good thing. There are no easy answers, but I think it's important that we keep having these conversations as we try to get it right.

The Summer Prince is the 2013 Cybils Awards winner for the YA Speculative Fiction category.

Who would like this book:

Science fiction and dystopian readers, as well as teens who like reading about other cultures.

Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher for the purpose of Cybils Awards judging. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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25. 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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