Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

I hope everyone is having a great holiday and I hope everyone will have plenty of amazing YA books to read with the New Year! 2012 looks like it will be a good year for YA. I have had a very long year, and I am so glad I’ve had all of these amazing books to read to help me get through it all. Thanks for reading my blog! I have come a long way since April. This will be my last post for 2011. I’m about to fly to the east coast to see some of my favorite people in the whole world (my Hartwick/college family). When I get back, I will post my favorite books of 2011 (I feel like I can’t really do this till the year is fully over), and hopefully I will also post a couple of reviews for all the reading I plan on doing on my little vacation.
I ended up really loving this last one. And I’m glad I’m finishing the year with this review. For starters, it’s a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, which was my favorite Disney movie as a little girl. And second, it’s a science fiction, futuristic, dystopia. How could I not like this story? It did have some elements that reminded me a lot of Beth Revis’ Across the Universe (both books involve a girl waking up after being in a chemical-induced sleep). It also had a lot of the feel that The Adoration of Jenna Fox did. And there were parts of it as well that will really appeal to Star Wars fans. But, what it really does is make the reader question what exactly it would be like to wake up after a 62 yearlong nap? How much of the world would change? And how much would you want to go back to sleep?
It’s about Rose. She’s found in the basement of an old housing unit. Bren wakes her up from her chemical, drug-like slumber with a kiss. And soon Rose realizes her parents are dead, her first love is dead, and everything about the world has changed. Rose is also the daughter of two CEOS of a giant interplanetary corporation, and awakes in the hospital to company shareholders already arguing what her role will be in the company. She’s famous for being frozen in time (at 17) for 62 years, but the fact that she is the daughter of her parents makes her even more of a spectacle with the press.
Rose is given new guardians to take care of her. And she’s actually allowed to live in her old housing unit. She attends school with Bren, and also goes through some major physical therapy. Apparently, even in the future it’s hard to recover from being in bed so long. There’s a lot of mention of her being skinny as a skeleton because for a while she can’t keep any food in her system.
She starts school and immediately has to learn the new politics of the world that has survived something called the dark times. And all her peers are using a slang she knows nothing about. She’s an artist, and being asleep so long has done nothing for her academics, which were never all too good before because her parents made her switch schools a lot; however, her painting improved since her waking up because she paints a lot of what she calls dreamscapes or what she remembers of her long sleep.
There’s a computerized, robotic, assassin that is out to get her from the beginning. There’s a lot of trying to let go of first love and start a new love. There’s crazy otherworld politics, futuristic chase scenes, floating cars, alien friendships, school clicks, histories of disaster, amazing technology, terrifying nightmares, confusing lingo, therapy scenes, artwork, and growing up.
And I know I’m kind of going into detail a little to describe this world that Rose lives in. I’m doing this because the world is just so interesting! And Sheehan is able to write just enough detail to cover what you need to know and make everything seem so unique, but not too much that it becomes too description oriented. I guess I wouldn’t have minded more descriptions of the world, but I could see how the way she did it can appeal to anybody.
Also, this book had me crying. I haven’t cried in a YA book in a while. And all of the memories Rose has of Xavier, her past boyfriend, are just so intense, and so true. Her memories are so vivid and realistic. So even though 62 years ago for Rose is still way, way in the future for me, the romance between her and Xavier is just so real that it almost transcends time. And when I finally got to see the romantic memories of Xavier and all that Rose had truly lost, I had to get Kleenex.  And the other thing that both Rose and the reader come to realize around the same time is just how awful Rose’s parents were. Rose didn’t get that what her parents did to her was so ethically wrong because it was all she knew. And I never questioned the harshness of her parents or her constant stasis/sleeping times because I assumed by the way it was written or talked about by Rose that it was normal. Sheehan did a good job of writing Rose’s perspective, and not allowing the reader perspective to get in the way of the story, if that makes sense. I never questioned what happened to Rose, till she questioned it, because I didn’t know I should.  
I’m not going to give it all away. But, essentially her parents stole her childhood. They ruined her chance at scholarships, love, happiness, individuality, and growth. And this made me cry too. In The Adoration of Jenna Fox, I found myself hating how whiny and egocentric the main character was. Here, I loved Rose. I felt like she had all the reason in the world to be angry and egocentric, yet she wasn’t. She was ignorant of a lot of things, and had a lot of unwarranted self-loathing, yet I always wanted her to overcome everything. I wanted her to escape the scary assassin robot, and learn who had sent it. I really wanted her to learn about what happened to Xavier. And I needed to know why her parents did what they did. These things all added to the overall reason for why I did not go to sleep till after 3 am yesterday. I had to finish this book and find all this out!
And the ending was not disappointing. I kind of wanted some more resolution for her in the romance department. Maybe there will be a sequel? There isn’t one in the works that I’m aware of. But, I would love to read more! I love the world. I love the story. I love the artwork (that we don’t get to see). And I just overall, loved the book. I give it a 10/10.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Vanish by Sophie Jordan

So, I have read 100 books this year! I feel like there should be fireworks...This one is the sequel to Firelight, a book I just loved. Firelight was about a girl who was actually a dragon. Jacinda’s mother took her two twin daughters (one a draki –aka: dragon- the other not) and fled the harsh dystopian type restrictions of the their clan. Their clan is all about keeping their kind a secret, and lasting for generations. This is hard to do with hunters always on the look out. And it’s when Jacinda reluctantly flees the only home she knows (escaping a wing clipping, something that would prevent her from doing the one thing she loves most: flying) that she falls in love with the one person she shouldn’t. Will is a hunter, but he saves her life, and Jacinda in the first book, risks everything to save his.
This sequel is about Jacinda rejoining the clan after her brief “vacation.” She goes back with her mother and sister because her sister finally does become a dragon too, and the only people who can help her with her transitions are back in the clan. Their mother is punished. Jacinda is back to being pursued, rather obnoxiously, by the men of their group. And she keeps trying to let Will go.
Neither Will nor Jacinda can let the other one go, and when Will finds where Jacinda is, plans are made for another escape. Unfortunately, Jacinda is followed by a girl of her kind, and things get really crazy when Will doesn’t show up, but a large group of hunters do. There’s kidnapping, fear induced transitions, cruel leadership/dictatorship, rescue missions, flying, forced marriages, sizzling romances (including triangles, forbidden romantic meetings, and one really great kiss scene in the rain), twin storylines, searching for family members, fight scenes, and a fantastic cliffhanger at the end that promises such an adventure for book 3!
I love dragons. I love romance. I love fighting against a society that holds you back. I love stories that involve twins. And I really love strong female main characters. This book has all of these things! It also has such an interesting concept. Jacinda is not a person. She’s a dragon who can also go into human form. I found this interesting because most books are about girls who can sometimes be wolves, or who can sometimes transform. This is the opposite, and it’s not weird; it’s magical.
This book was not as surprising as the last one. It was more predictable. And a good chunk of it is about Jacinda trying to convince herself to be someone she’s not. And while reading that chunk is hard, it’s worth it to finally get to the point when she realizes she should stop pretending. She is so strong. She has a special dragon power of fire breathing (the others can’t do this), and she really loves her family.
I kind of wish the book was more action, and less planning. It took a little too long for the action to start, with a little too much of Jacinda trying to rejoin her clan, trying to love someone else, and trying to forget Will. I feel like half of this could have been taken out. Still, when the action did start, everything read really fast. There were even times where I found myself biting my nails, hoping for something not to happen. And while I always want the good guys to win, and have the main character achieve what they can, I really find myself sticking by Jacinda more so than others. She just genuinely seems to do always do the right thing, and blames herself just enough for when things go wrong.
I definitely plan on reading the third one when it comes out. I’m looking forward to seeing how things get resolved for Jacinda and Will, and also her sister and mother. I give this one a 9/10.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Top 10 best YA Dystopias (so far)

First, happy holidays everyone! I’m half way through my 100th book of the year (aka: pages away from completing my Goodreads challenge of 2011). And I have a feeling I will surpass this challenge by at least one book or two. To everyone else doing a reading challenge, I hope you are as far along or further than me. It really feels good to be able to say I’m reading my 100th book of the year!
So, this YA genre has skyrocketed in the last two years. I still have a giant pile of dystopias to read in my to-read piles. And I was going to wait for that pile to get a little lower before creating this list, but I have a feeling that the dystopia will not be dying any time soon, and that my pile will never be small. So, I’m thinking I might come back to this list every now and then add and take away if I feel it’s necessary.  I’m going to start at the bottom, and make my way up.
10) Legend by Marie Lu

I reviewed this one recently, and gave it a 10/10. I loved how much I could relate this one to current politics, giving this the feel of something that is not too unbelievable. Dystopias effect me the most when the story is something I feel can actually, possibly occur. It had great characters, a great storyline, some top-notch romance, and I really recommend this one to all fans of this genre.
9) Wither by Lauren DeStefano

I feel like I keep mentioning the shock factor in YA novels. I want to be shocked. I want to read each YA book like it’s my first. I don’t want to read the same story with a different, more modernized cover over and over again. And this one definitely shocked me. This one takes place in a world where no one lives past 25. In fact, the girls of the world only live to 20, and the guys get five more years. Teen girls are commonly collected by the truckload to be sold off as wives, and populate the world. And this book follows one girl, her life with her brother, her capture, her husband, her sister wives, and most of all her survival. It is such an interesting, yet very intense story about womanhood in a world of chaos. I loved it!
8) Matched by Ally Condie

This one was not quite as shocking as the others. But, I just thought it was written so well. And I loved the interpretation it gave for online dating. I reviewed its sequel not too long ago (Crossed), and while I don’t think I liked the sequel as much as the first one, this is really just such an amazing series to keep your eye on. The romance here might even be my favorite of all the dystopia love triangles. And all of the things the author plays with in regards to government control in the form of censorship was so interesting to me. I really recommend this one too!
7) Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Where the others played with love, censorship, womanhood, and current day relativity, this one really discussed the issue of race and culture in a way I know my friend who was an anthropology major would be fascinated by (Jen, I’m talking about you…You should pick this one up). This one has a sci-fi feel because the main character is a girl who was frozen and placed on a space ship, to be awoken when the ship lands on the newer/better/less destroyed planet. Too bad for her, she wakes up way ahead of schedule. And the society of the people who have only lived on this ship is just so fascinating. Everything about this story was unique, and I just loved it.
6) The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

So, I’ve mentioned my love of Westerfeld before with his newer, more recent YA series. But, my love of this author started a lot earlier. This book actually came out in 2005, years before any of the other dystopias I’m mentioning. And out of all the books I’m mentioning, is probably the most creative. It took me a while to read this first one in his series because of the language. Westerfeld writes about a world where all people are considered ugly until they reach a certain age and receive a mandatory surgery that makes them pretty. It was a little hard to read the “pretty” dialect in this book. The book felt superficial, but it was supposed to. It was a huge take on image and similarity. And the main character soon learns that more is changed than looks with these coming of age surgeries. Actually, people are made to be more compliant, submissive, and superficial. Something changes in their brains that even makes them dumber. And the whole book works as one giant take on beauty. It’s just so creative and wonderful.
5) The Maze Runner by James Dashner

This book just constantly surprised me and kept me on my toes! It was dystopia mixed with action thriller. And I loved every fast-paced second of it. It’s about Thomas waking up in an elevator with no memories of anything about himself, except his first name. When the doors to that elevator open, he’s surrounded by a large group of teen boys who welcome him to the Glade, and tell him that they all came the same way, one boy a month, no one remembering anything. Some have been there 2 years! They show him the Glade, which revolves around a gigantic, ever-changing maze –filled with dangerous, mechanical creatures whose purpose seems to be to kill the boys. The boys also tell Thomas that they think the only way out is to figure out the maze. The next day, something weird happens. An unconscious girl is found in the elevator and attached to her is a note that says she’s the last one, ever. And the biggest mystery is that everything seems so familiar to Thomas. I was dying to learn why it was all so familiar to Thomas, but no one else. What was the purpose of the maze, or even them all being there at the maze? Such a riveting story!
4) Blood Red Road by Moira Young

This one was different. It was part dystopia, part Western, part adventure story. It had one of my favorite girl characters, Saba. There’s caged fighting, girl rebels, pirate kidnappers, dry, waterless landscapes, slavery, terrible desert monsters, and so much action in this one. I just found this one to be such a good adventure. And I really cannot wait for a book 2!
3) Unwind by Neal Shusterman

This dystopia was all about politics! And it’s so interesting for anyone interested in the pro choice versus pro life debate. The book takes place years after a second civil war in the US. This war is between those who are pro choice and those who are pro life. The war ends with a new part of the constitution that forbids women from having any kind of abortion ever, but instead allows them to decide to unwind their children later. So if a teenager acts up too much, is too interested in drugs, or even grows up with no family, they can be confiscated or sent to the state to be unwound, which means they can forgo surgery that will involve the taking of all their organs for donations to other, more deserving people who need them. The book follows one teen who doesn’t get good enough grades for his parents to want to keep supporting him, one teen who grows up amongst orphans who will be sent to be unwound, and one teen who grows up in a family who believes having a child unwound is the utmost religious experience. I have never read anything like this one. And it will spark so much amazing discussion!
2) Divergent by Veronica Roth

This book really just has it all. Brainwashing, fight scenes, testing, killing, surviving, wars starting, forbidden romance, and one of my favorite dystopia main characters!  Everything in this book was good. It was one of my favorite books of 2011, maybe even my top favorite (I’ll let you know for sure soon). It has the edginess of my number one dystopia and all the shock value I love. I loved the way the society worked in this one. And all the initiations and differences in people by their personalities I thought was very interesting. Book 2 might be the number 1 book I’m most excited for reading in 2012.
1) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Really, were you expecting anything else? After I read this book for the first time (technically, my first experience with this book was on audio), it became my life goal to get as many people I knew to read this as I possibly could. My enthusiasm for this one knows no bounds. My friends in Chicago were reading this one, my friends in New York were reading this one, and my friends in Pittsburgh were reading this one. I could not let anyone I knew not read this book. I even had my brother, who hates novels (he’s a nonfiction fan), read the whole series in a couple of days. It is really just that good. It’s shocking, action-packed, original, intense, and addicting. The concept was fascinating. And Collins was not afraid to write about children dying. The book deals with so many current affairs, likd the economy, the wealthy 1%, the lifestyles of the poor, reality television, people’s obsessions with watching death, and so much more! It is literally chockfull of relevant metaphors, allegories, and politics. And to top that off is some interesting romance, some of the most interesting fights of survival I have ever read, strategies, and a great plot.  I will come back and review this one soon. I plan on re-reading it this month, because I’m leading an adult book club discussion on it in January. And really, I don’t know how much longer I can go without discussing this one more fully.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Never Have I Ever by Sara Shepard

This is the sequel to the The Lying Game, which I really enjoyed. I actually fell in love with the show first, and then decided to read these books. And I know I mentioned the differences between show and book before, but really the books are just so good and so much creepier. How can a book in the perspective of a dead twin not be creepy?
The first book was about Emma realizing anyone could be a suspect in her dead, newly discovered twin’s murder, including Sutton’s closest friends and family members. This book was more about clearing people’s names, and Emma really getting comfortable in Sutton’s life. You can tell Emma really starts enjoying her higher income lifestyle. But more than that she really starts loving her friends.
Not a lot happens, plot-wise in this one. It’s more about Emma finding things out about Sutton’s past. In the beginning, Emma even shoplifts from a store she knows Sutton has already shoplifted from to purposely get arrested. She wants to be in the police station where Sutton’s past reports are. And she learns about some serious Lying Game pranks, one involving the sending of a friend to a hospital after a serious seizure.
The book actually involves a lot of sleuthing and learning both about Sutton and her friends. You learn that one of her best friends is abused at home. You learn that everyone blames Sutton for that friend’s brother’s disappearance. There’s parties, crazy ex-boyfriend moments, supernatural/creepy twin vibes, good stuff about friendship, and finally some juicy romance scenes with Ethan.
I keep waiting for Emma and Sutton’s parents and birth parents to play a larger role in what’s going on because of the show, but I’m not sure if they ever will here. I loved getting to know the friends a little bit better. I loved the suspense. I really loved getting to see how serious and even dangerous these Lying Game pranks can be. But, like I said before, not a lot happened. And I kind of got a feeling that the author was dragging this along. Like, she knows she’ll make more money if there are a lot of books in this series. And while I’m grateful that Emma and Sutton could cross people off their suspect lists, I feel like I have been kind of cheated out of any resolution twice now. I need something more to want to keep going with this series. I’d even take one clue, anything. But, in both books, Emma and Sutton kind of have to start over at the end after realizing something they thought was true, actually isn’t.
I still plan on reading book 3 when it comes out this year, but I might stop after that if Sutton and Emma are required to start all over again at the end. I need something more; I need to know that this mystery is on its way to being solved and that I won’t just be dragged along for a whole other book with no resolutions. I did still really enjoy this one. I really do enjoy reading things from Sutton’s point of view. And Shepard really understands girl friendships. I give it an 8/10.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jessica Rules the Dark Side

I got this ARC courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group at ALA New Orleans. I had already been given book 1 and figured why not get a book 2 freebie? And I’m glad I did. I ended up liking the second book a little bit more than the first one (the post before this one is about book 1).
The end of book 1 finished with Jessica convincing Lucius to honor their marriage pact. And this book begins not too long after their royal, vampire wedding. This book is a little different because it switches points of view a lot. The first book was mostly Jessica, with some book quotes and some letters written from Lucius to his uncles. This book is Jessica, Lucius, the best friend (Mindy), and Raniero (the best man/new character/ Lucius’ cousin). I love the other characters. And I really came to love Mindy. She reminded me a lot of Caroline in the show the Vampire Diaries; she’s kind of the ditzy/girly character you expect to not like, but then end up loving because she has such a big heart.
I also loved reading about Raniero who grew up along Lucius and has so many mysteries and back stories about his past life as an assassin and this one experience that changed his life forever, turning him into a pacifist/surfer vampire who falls for Mindy.  There’s a lot of good drama between Mindy, Raniero, and Jessica’s relative, Ylenia. There’s double crossing, treason, trials that resolve in destruction, vampire politics, royal speeches, and a lot of learning on Jessica’s part. She eventually learns her way around the castle and works on her new language skills too. And most of the story revolves around trying to clear Lucius’ name because everyone thinks he killed one of the vampire elders. And there’s a limited time to figure out who actually did kill the elder because Lucius is in prison with no blood, and a vampire can only last so long without blood.
Jessica does a lot of growing up in this book. However, I feel like a lot of it was unnecessary.  I feel like it took way too long for her to grow up in the first book. And I was looking forward to her being stronger from the beginning. Instead, I feel like the girl went backwards and had to grow up all over again. I get that having your new husband locked up is hard. And she’s in a new country where she knows little to nothing of the culture, language, or customs. But, really, this was where I was expecting more. There was this one epiphany moment when Jessica finally realizes that she does want to be a queen, and not just the wife of a king. She generally comes to think she can do good for a lot of vampires. And it’s supposed to be this turning point in the book. I just kind of feel like this turning point already happened in the first book…and I wanted and thought we were past this already.
Also, I feel like something more needed to be said about her not being in college. She was planning for college for practically her whole life before Lucius, and has some amazing mathematical talents. Yet, this sort of was left behind with her normal American life, and I feel like Jessica is not the kind of girl to just let something like that go. She should have a tutor, or even be attending classes in her new country. And her parents were MIA throughout the whole thing. And I get why this was necessary, but I kind of feel like Jessica would have been thinking about them more. And I know they would not have let the college thing just slip away.
But all in all, the story was lot more interesting –more vampire politics and less typical high school drama. I loved the new characters. I loved the romance. And I give this one an 8/10.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

So, I’ve had this book for a while. I got it for free in my Young Adult Resources class in library school. I actually had a class where all of the reading was YA lit…So cool, right? The professors wanted everyone to participate in a charity (food/clothing drive), and if every student brought something in for the charity, each and every student would get a free book. I picked this book
And I’m kind of having trouble putting to words my exact thoughts on this one. It took me a long time to read because I kind of kept getting angry at how absurd it was. A) the author’s name is Fantaskey…, B) None of the characters except Lucius and eventually Jessica seemed the slightest bit real to me, and C) it was pretty much Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries, but with vampires.
Well, here’s the story: Jessica one day finds Lucius standing outside her house. The tall, flirtatious, and pompous individual then not only begins to “court” the kind, simple, and horse-loving farm gal, Jessica, but then proceeds to tell her and her family that he is there to finalize the pact made by his and Jessica’s families when they were babies. Jessica is really a vampire princess. After her parents were murdered she was adopted by her current parents and taken to America in safety. The most unbelievable part of the book then happens. Jessica’s adoptive parents agree with Lucius, invite him to stay with them, and continue to act as though the daughter they have been raising the past 17 years is acting like a child in not seeing things from Lucius’ point of view. I found this absurd. I get that her parents are anthropologists, study cultures, and stick out like a sore thumb in their rural community because they are vegans. There are a lot of vegan jokes (especially made in comparison to blood drinking vampires, and those were cute at first, but then just kind of tiresome after a while). But, really? Despite their eccentricities and need to look at different cultures, I though they were just plain awful here.
And the rest of the book explains how loving the parents are, always taking in stray kittens, and caring about everyone, but I never believed it because of the way this first interaction was handled. I was just appalled.  I almost stopped reading. But, I kept going to find out that Jessica would eventually fall for Lucius, and put aside the other normal boy she thought she liked. And then Lucius goes out with the very skinny, popular girl, making Jessica jealous. And all this was just a little too cliché for me.
However, it does pick up. I’m glad I kept reading because then the vampire politics kick in, and that was interesting to read about. I liked reading about the real plot behind the vampire pact. Jessica travels to Lucius’s homeland. There’s wars to stop, people to convince, lives to sacrifice, and all that good stuff. And of course, despite how cheesy things are, I found myself hoping for Jessica and Lucius to work things out.

And I also liked the book Lucius gave Jessica about coming into vampirehood. I loved reading about how her fangs worked and was embarrassed along with her when she read about becoming a woman as a vampire. I thought this was a great idea to explain some of the vampire rules in a way that wasn't too descriptive. I really couldn't see Lucius explaining some of this stuff for her, so the book worked as a good source of information for her and for the reader. I also enjoyed reading about her history and her birth mother. Though, I feel like a lot of adoption issues and emotions weren't covered at all.
There’s school dances, shopping sprees, makeovers, and all characteristics of a teen movie. And while again this was just a little too cliché for me, I did kind of enjoy it.  This book was a bit of what I would call a fluffy novel, nothing really new or shocking, or unique, but fun in it’s predictability. I give it a 7/10. And I’m already reading the sequel because I got an ARC of it in New Orleans, and this one is about Jessica learning to rule, and I want to see how this goes. I’ll let you know soon.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

So, in my review for Oliver’s famous Before I Fall, I know I mentioned that I did not enjoy reading that book as much as I thought I would. It had so much hype. And so many of my favorite reviewers/bloggers loved it. I thought I would love it too. It was not my favorite book. But, Oliver totally earned my respect for what she accomplished in her story. She proved to me that she was different from other YA authors. Also, I loved that she was not afraid to make her teens seem too selfish, mean, or egotistical. This made the whole thing seem more real to me. And that uniqueness got me really excited for this book: Delirium.
And the funny thing is it’s the exact opposite with this book. I feel like so much of this plot, romance, and concept has already been written before by other YA dystopia writers. There were moments when I really felt like pulling out Ally Condie’s Matched and Scott Westerfeld’s The Uglies from my shelves, and directly comparing them. But what Oliver kind of does here is pull together all the best dystopia elements from other stories and weaves them together to make her own. It’s kind of like what Rachel Hawkins and C.C. Hunter do with their combinations of supernatural elements I love. Oliver pulls in all the classic dystopia-government-control themes, adds in some serious against the rules romance, a lot of self discovery and disbelief in how terrible the world really is, and then finishes it off with all the good fighting for and standing up for what you know now is right stuff that makes me love this genre of YA lit so much.
Because these are elements I know and love, I really enjoyed reading this one. But, also, because I know these elements, things were rather predictable. Even the one thing that shocks the main character the most toward the end was something I guessed from the beginning. And I guess what I’m saying is that I wished I was a little more shocked than I was.
Any way, the story is about Lena, a girl counting down the days till she will be required to have a surgery. In her world, everyone has this surgery (after they turn 18). And what the surgery does is get rid of love. The government blames all the world’s prior problems on love: war, disease, rebellion, depression, suicide, pain, violence, and much more.  And this brain surgery takes away love. It also takes away pain and individuality, making everyone content. People get matched with partners for compatibility. And everyone lives within the confines of an electric gate, that separates them from anyone who might still be alive who has not been “cured.” They all talk about love like it an STD, or maybe something even more contagious.
Lena first looks forward to the surgery. Her mother killed herself because of the love disease, leaving her and her sister behind. And Lena, like the daughter of any crazy or diseased person, just doesn’t want to be like her mother. She wants to be safe. Her best friend, Hana, though, is starting to realize how restricting their situation is, and even gets Lena to go to an illegal party where boys and girls are actually hanging out together, and dancing together, and listening to music that isn’t approved for them. And then, Lena meets Alex.
Alex teaches Lena about everything the government would really be taking away from her with the surgery. He teaches her about love. And the months leading up to Lena’s surgery are marked with rule breaking, hiding, lying, and the most fun she’s ever had. Lena is always being watched, always being controlled and told what to do by her aunt. And between the constant surveillance, the crazy laws, the brutality of the government officers, the crypt, the illegal websites, the best friend drama, the falling in love, the government raids, and the escapes, there’s all the moments about coming to realize how wrong everything is.
The book is about learning to listen to yourself. It’s about control, and the right to make your own decision. And it’s about love and how when pain and suffering go, so do all the things that make you unique and genuinely happy as well. Before Lena and Hana go for their last exam (months before they are meant to have their “cure”), Hana runs back to Lena at the last second before her exam begins and says, “You can’t be really happy unless you’re unhappy sometimes. You know that, right?” And I haven’t thought about that line since I first read it, till now. It really does a nice job of summing up the whole book, of summing up what Lena needs to learn about herself and her mother. And again, I’m just so impressed with Oliver’s writing.
I loved that Oliver brings in all these romantic poems too. She starts each chapter either with familiar words from Lena’s world (about all the rules) or from famous words from ours, which are from love poems. I love that Lena’s mother was obsessed with the word, love. And I love that Alex could quote these poems. All of this really enforced the one the thing that did make this novel stand out: love being the main focus. And I don’t mean love, in a triangle, or soul mate kind of way. I mean instead of the world being what it was because of money, disease, zombies, running out of resources, etc., it was the way it was because people were afraid of love. So even though, there were so many typical and predictable things happening, this one element did kind of make the book stand out.
Lena was not my favorite main character, but I think that was intentional. And I give Oliver points for doing this again –giving me a main character that’s not easy to love, but hard to not want to keep reading about. I give this one a 9/10. And I really look forward to reading the sequel that comes out in a few months! This one does end with a cliffhanger, but I think I’d be a little disappointed if it didn’t.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Books to Mark Your Calendar For: What the beginning of 2012 brings for YA

I’m five books away from my 100 book goal of 2011 (on goodreads). And before 2011 is over, I’m going to list my top 10 books of 2011, and my top 10 favorite dystopias.
I have also gotten a nice haul from Netgalley recently, and plan on reviewing a lot of ARC’s and debut books of 2012. I joined the 2012 Debut Author challenge, which means I plan on reading a lot from new authors next year. And frankly, I’m super excited.
But for the time being, these are the books I absolutely can’t wait much longer for (note that dates sometimes change especially for the books that have the longer waits):
A Million Suns by Beth Revis (1/10/12)

It’s the sequel to Across the Universe, one of my favorite books of 2011. It really was just one of those books I could not stop thinking about, even months after finishing it!
Fever by Lauren DeStefano (2/21/12)

The first one (Wither) was a book I read this year before I started my blog. And it really just shocked me from the first page. I loved the story, the dystopia, the politics, and just everything about this first book. DeStefano dealt with themes common in a lot dystopias now, but unlike other writers, she was not afraid to cross a line. She definitely crossed some boundaries and wrote an amazing story. I’m ready for book 2, which will hopefully be more hopeful?
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver (3/6/12)

So, I only just started book 1 (Delirium), but I already love it. The book would seriously have to take some major bad turns for me to not want to keep going with this series. It’s just such an interesting concept. And while, there’s a lot of commonalities between this one and some other dystopias I’ve read, there’s also something unique about it. And Lauren Oliver totally has my respect.
Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins (3/13/12)

I just love how Hawkins mixes all the supernatural elements and creatures I love. I love the main character, and I’m so ready to pick up right where book two left off!
The Calling by Kelley Armstrong (4/10/12)

So, it’s safe to say I am a big fan of Kelley Armstrong. I love all the teen drama that is promised in her books. And she has such an ability for writing supernatural characters who are strong, alone, and intelligent. I loved the ending of book 1 in this series, and it really left me needing to know what happens next!
Taken at Dusk by C.C. Hunter (4/10/12)

I have only recently gotten to love this series. Hunter’s first two books of the series are reviewed on my blog. And I absolutely love these books. I’m really excited to see the camp be turned into the school. And the love triangle in these books is just so good!
The Last Echo by Kimberly Derting (4/17/12)

I loved this series. I loved the creepiness of it all. And I loved the romance. And I really want to know how the author will end up concluding it.
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (5/1/12)

I really had a hard time believing that I would like Fire more than Graceling when everyone told me this would happen. But I did. If anything Cashore became an even better fantasy writer with her second book. Which, means this third one is promising a lot! The world this author writes about is just so amazing. She’s realatively new to the writing game, but I’m already keeping her on the same shelf as Tamora Pierce. And that is high praise from me! I’m so ready for this one!
Insurgent by Veronica Roth (5/28/12)
is currently at war for my absolute favorite read of 2011. And it actually won Favorite Book of 2011 on goodreads, beating out both Adult and YA books. It has been a fantastic year for YA books. And it’s been an even better year for YA dystopias. And I really did not think I would ever find a book to compete with The Hunger Games for me, but this one does. I’m dying to read this next book. Is it May yet?
The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead (6/19/12)

Richelle Mead, with her Vampire Academy books, wrote my all time favorite YA vampire series. And while, the first book in this spin-off series, Bloodlines, was not as good as I was hoping, I have such a good feeling about book 2! So much romance seems to be in the works. And I just adore all of Mead’s characters, even the ones I don’t expect to like. Bring it, book 2!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

I love this book! I really think I like Clare’s The Infernal Devices series more than her Immortal Instruments series. Both series have a smorgasbord of teen drama and dialogue, but for some reason both the drama and dialog just come off as better when in a Victorian-ish time period. Any way, this is book two in her The Infernal Devices series, which takes place over a century before her other books do.
It takes place soon after the first one left off. Mortmain (the crazy bad guy from book 1 who’s been plotting away with a clockwork army of automatons) is still bent on destroying the shadowhunters. We learn the reasons for why he hates the shadowhunters so much in this book. It begins with Charlotte, the head of the institute where all the teens are staying, on trial. Her ability to lead is being questioned due to the traitors, the death, and the problems in book one. She is given two weeks to find Mortmain if she wishes to remain the head of the institute.
Tessa needs Charlotte to remain the head of the Institute; otherwise, she will become a much easier target for Mortmain, who still seems to want her for unknown reasons. And while the motley crew of amazing characters works hard to track down Mortmain, the love triangle between Tessa, Will, and Jem blossoms. Despite Will’s need to ruin all good situations, Tessa can’t seem to get Will out of her brain. And she really becomes close to Jem in this one. They share such a sweet connection and growing friendship type love. And I won’t ruin it, but know that the book ends with Tessa being proposed to by one of them, and her breaking the heart of the other.
The teens go from the slums of London, to masquerade balls, to the countryside of England, to opium dens, and Clave meetings. There’s a lot of planning in this book, and a lot of character development. A lot is found about Mortmain as a character. And a lot is found out about Will, and the reasons why he acts the way he does. There’s demon-tracking, women dressing as men, two hidden affairs, warlock help, and two sizzling romance scenes for Tessa (not with the same boy). Tessa’s evil brother makes a comeback. And we even get to learn a little about Tess’s heritage. Though, I have a feeling we won’t really know about what she is (despite the tiny hints in this one) until the very end of the last book.
I loved this book. The steampunk elements were excellent. I wanted to examine the mechanical creatures as much as the analytical Henry (husband of Charlotte). Tessa has become so much stronger, so much more confident in her decisions and her actions. She really saved everyone with a last minute decision in the end to transform herself into her evil brother, Nate. I love Tessa’s ability, and all the questions about where she comes from and what she actually is.
I loved the training scenes where Tessa and Sophie were learning to defend themselves. I loved getting to know Jem. I loved learning Will’s history. And I absolutely just adored all the literary references spread through out the whole thing. Each chapter begins with a quote from a significant literary piece of the time period. And Will and Tessa are constantly throwing out quotes by romantic poets, and writers like Dickens and the Brontes. Will even leaves a love not for Tessa in a copy of A Tale of Two Cities, which we can read at the end of the book!
Everything just seemed to fit together nicely in this book. It really set me up and prepared me for the war I know that’s coming in book 3. And I am so ready to read about a Victorian/Steam punk mechanical creatures versus shadowhunters war! There was a lot of good planning in this. The only thing that nagged at me a little was the part about the traitor. I just feel like that part was too predictable. And I’m so tired of there always being that one trusted person turned traitor. I mean this already kind of happened already in book 1, as well.
I still give this one a 10/10. I was highly impressed. I loved the crazy ending with all of the good, exciting announcements. And I loved the final Clave meeting announcing the head of the Institute. And I am dying to read the third one. I don’t know how I’m supposed to wait until September to read it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

I am so glad I decided to read this one. I feel like I always manage to read a Sarah Dessen book right when I need to. I know I must have mentioned her having a predictable formula to her books when I reviewed What happened to Goodbye. But every now and then, as much as I love being shocked and surprised in YA lit, I really just want something nice and comfortable to escape into.
What Dessen writes better than almost all other realistic fiction YA authors is family. While there is usually a large romance component to the Sarah Dessen equation (though not always), what really happens in these books is some fantastic character development, a lot of growing up, and some very real family situations. There’s always something really hard happening like teen pregnancy or divorce or an abusive relationship, and while these themes seem to be becoming more prominent in realistic teen fiction, no one else can quite write about or even begin to grasp how each family member takes things like Sarah Dessen does.
This book is about Auden (named for the poet). Auden’s life is unique. She grew up with two academic parents, who both are clearly way more egocentric than any of the teen characters in this book. Her parent’s are divorced. And since her parents have been fighting (pre-divorce), Auden hasn’t really been sleeping. She’s a genius insomniac, on her way to a top college. And I love her. She starts out almost impossible to love. She judges everything and everyone as her academic mother would, never really learning to see beyond the front cover of any person.
Her transition from snob to good person happens gradually. Over the course of the book she learns to see past the pink of her stepmother, past the crying of her new little stepsister, past the child-like behavior of her brother, past the criticisms of her mother, past the selfishness of her father, past the girly lifestyles of her new friends, and past what everyone expects of her. She befriends a fellow insomniac who takes her on a quest to learn about the childhood she missed out on. She goes bowling for the first time, has a food fight for the first time, and even rides a bike for the first time (all things she missed out on as a child in effort to further her academic career).
And none of the side characters are simple. The guy, Eli, is surviving the death of his best friend, a death he kind of blames himself for. And he and Auden really connect with the things they blame themselves for, and it’s such a strong, beautiful connection. Auden’s new best friend Maggie is surviving the breakup of her first true love. Auden’s stepmother is learning how hard being a mother can be, especially with a husband so unwilling to help. Auden’s mother is learning to let her expectations of Auden go in effort to let her grow up. And Auden is learning that the divorce wasn’t her fault and that life is short and there are so many experiences she wants to have in the short time everyone is given.
The book takes place in a summer, like a lot of Dessen’s other books do, and I really like that too because I feel like summer is the ultimate growing up time for a lot of teens. It just represents a time where you can be away from everything that is normal, and break out into something new. There is also a big bike element to the story. All of the boys, and Maggie too, are involved in biking and bike tricks. Eli even wins competitions for his abilities, or did before he stopped biking. And I liked seeing how Auden interpreted all the bike stuff, and even eventually learned how to ride a bike, herself.
I loved Auden’s relationship with her brother, and watching her finally begin to realize all the reasons he spent so much of his time abroad. I loved watching her realize that it was okay to be a child or even a teenager once in a while, even when her parents needed her to be the adult in a lot of cases. I thought her relationship was her mom was really interesting too. At times, I really despised her mother, but by the end, like Auden, I just couldn’t. Her mother was really trying to maintain a relationship with her, despite all the changes.
I really enjoyed this one. Yes, it was very predictable, and very Sarah Dessen (but all in the best possible way). It’s one of my favorites by her. And I give it a 9/10.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mastiff by Tamora Pierce

So, before I go into this one, I need to say how much I love Tamora Pierce. I don’t think I’ve reviewed any of her stuff here yet. I used to read her books during class. My friend, Lenka and I skipped high school one day to go to her book signing at Barnes and Noble (the one I now work in –I’m a part-time librarian and a part-time bookseller!)
Actually, the sad thing was that when Lenka and I got to that Barnes and Noble, we were told Tamora was moving her signing to a middle school in the area. The kind booksellers saw our sad expressions and took pity on us, giving us directions to the middle school. We got to the school, were directed to the auditorium, and then got a whole hour with Tamora Pierce to ourselves before she took the stage for the school.  I got every book I owned of hers (at the time) signed, which is not something generally allowed at most book signings, considering how many books that is. I just remember feeling so lucky to have that time with her. I still have the pictures we took that day!
Lenka and I then went to Barnes and Noble after the assembly, and I actually ended up seeing Tamora again in the bathroom there! She probably thought I was following her…Since then, I have met her two more times. Once, at a signing for one of the Trickster books, and once at New York Comic Con. Mastiff is one of the few books I own of hers that is not signed.
Why do I love Tamora so much? When I first started reading her, the YA sections of bookstores and libraries were about a 10th the size of what they are now, and the majority of books in these sections were about guys. Her books were about girl heroes who became knights and talked to animals, and knew how to use magic. Why wouldn’t I love her? Her books not only helped me get through the boring high school classes, but they opened up my love for fantasy. That is why she is one of my favorite authors of all time. That and she made me feel really special that day Lenka and I went to see her.
That said Mastiff was not my favorite book of hers. I know what Tamora is capable of, and Mastiff just did not impress me that much. However, Tamora’s “not her best work” is about as good as someone else’s ultimate work.
The book (which is the third and last in the Beka Cooper trilogy) seems to take place years after the last one. And I was a little confused in the beginning because there was a funeral for her fiancé, a man who wasn’t in any of the other books. Eventually I figured that a lot of time must have passed since the last book. And it took me a while to get into this one. It actually took about two weeks to read, which is a very long time for me. I just wasn’t getting into the kidnapped child mystery until the heavy action started.
After the funeral, Beka and her partner, Tunstall, are quickly hired for a hunt to track down Tortall’s prince Gareth, who was taken after a deadly attack. Gareth’s father was creating new laws regarding mages, and other royals took the opportunity to attack, while having certain, powerful mages on their side. Beka, Tunstall, and Lady Sabine (the lady knight/lover of Tunstall), along with Pounce (the otherworldly cat) and Achoo (the best scent hound ever) go off on the hunt of a lifetime to track down the 4-year old prince, who’s been taken into slavery. Eventually the group is joined by Farmer, a mage who pretends to be a lot simpler than he is. I really kept imagining him to be a bit like Richard Castle (from the show, Castle). He was just so easy going, and full of interesting, surprising tricks. I fell in love with him immediately.
I was not really feeling the story until Beka’s group made it close to the prince (a little past halfway). At that point there was a lot of interesting politics, double-crossing, torture, rescues, death, falling in love, otherworldly involvement, mage battles, illusions, fight scenes, and survival. And what Tamora Pierce has in common with a lot of dystopia writers is the ability to keep her characters (and their sense or lacking sense of morality) the same throughout the whole thing, even when the story gets complicated and the whole world seems to be filled with rude, abusive, nobles who torture for information. I loved Beka! While she has become stronger and more intelligent over the years, with each hunt, she remains the steadfast, loyal, and trusting good soul she always was.
The book ends with a bit of a twist and plenty of links to the books Tamora has already written that take place 100 years in the future of this one. The ending is perfect for what all three books represent. And I love how it connects to Alanna and George and Faithful. Sometimes I got frustrated with all the minute details about things like the meals they ate or the amount of times Achoo had to go for a walk, or the characters making camp. But, the details did fit with Beka’s character and her need to get everything written down.
I wish the action started earlier. And I think a lot of the beginning parts of the hunt (like the boat rides, the broken bridges, and even all the stops along the way for dead bodies) could have been slimmed down some. And I wish some of the other characters from before were in it. Frankly, Tamora has some amazing characters in this series, and it was just kind of sad not to see them all. But, it was worth it to get to the good action scenes. This was not my favorite book of hers by a long shot, but it did conclude the trilogy rather nicely. And I am so glad that Tamora keeps writing books! She is a fantastic writer, and an amazing person. I look forward to anything she has to write or say. I give this one an 8/10.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Legend by Marie Lu

I got this ARC in June. It comes out in stores in 3 days (the 29th). I read it in less than one day. Imagine Matched mixed with Divergent, mixed with The Death Cure, and you can get an idea for awesome this new dystopia is. For some reason, I kept thinking of my favorite Disney movie, while reading it too: Aladdin. There’s definitely an Aladdin/Jasmine type love story (that takes the back seat to the crazy plot).
The book, like many other dystopias, takes place in a not so decent future. The U.S. is divided between the Republic and the Colonies, two warring groups. Amongst the constant war, devastating poverty, and frequent weather disasters, is the plague: a disease that keeps coming back and killing off tons of people (or at least the people who can’t afford vaccinations). So much of the book deals with a class system where the majority of the Republic’s people are poor, score badly on a crucial test, die of the Plague, and work in low-paying jobs or labor camps, begging for money, and a small portion of the population is wealthy, healthy, and intelligent.
The book follows two teens from the Republic. June (girl) is from the wealthy section. She is famous for scoring a perfect score on the ultimate placement test and is training as the youngest soldier for the Republic. Day (boy) grew up with the majority, in the poorer sections of the Republic. He scored poorly on his test, is a wanted criminal for standing against the government, and is trying to save his family, whose door has just been marked with the symbol for the plague.
June and Day live in a strict, class-run society, where the general rule of the government seems to be: shoot first, ask questions later. The story really takes off when June’s brother is killed by Day. He throws a knife at him in his escape from the military after robbing a hospital of expensive medicine to give to his family who cannot afford it. Day is sort of like a dystopian Robin Hood, known for rebellious acts against the government and for helping the poor.
June finishes her schooling early and is immediately placed on the job of tracking down Day and avenging her brother’s death. June is the character who learns just how messed up her world really is. She has lived a rather sheltered, safe life, and on her journey to find Day, becomes more and more aware of how the world actually works. Before realizing Day is who he really is, June falls for him. He saves her from a sticky situation and continues to help her survive in the poorer districts she does not know at all. But, she turns him in any way.
The story gets so good when June learns about Day’s true involvement in the death of her brother. There’s execution days, crazy breaking out plots, family rescue missions, speaking with the enemy (the Colonies), disarming weapons, lots of guns, crazy chase scenes, amazing fights, and secret government truths that will even make avid dystopia readers’ blood boil.
I love how relatable this book is to current politics. So much of the class system in this book can be seen with the current state of the U.S. economy. I love learning about June’s brother and what he knew before he died. I loved the nonstop action. I loved how intelligent the two characters were. And I really love that they each noticed the other’s intelligence right away and that was a major attracting feature. I loved that for once in one of these stories, women did not sink backwards in civil rights. June was proof that a woman could be top in rank with men. Though, the leader who’s really in charge, is male. All of the female characters here were survivors, fighters, and just plain interesting to read about.
I really loved Day. I loved him before I learned his real story and could truly become sympathetic toward him. He is just so caring, so brave, and truly heroic. June is brave too. She always does what she thinks is the right thing to do, even when it’s not necessarily what she’s been taught to do. And from the beginning, she’s also known for being a little rebellious or at least curious in situations where soldiers are meant to just be obedient.
I don’t know if the final copy of the book will do this but June’s chapters are written in black ink, and Day’s chapters are written in gold in the ARC. At first this was annoying because gold is not as easy to read as black…and I wonder how this transmits to ebook format…and then I figured that there has to be some metaphor, some purpose, some point as to why Day, the poor, rebellious, less fortunate character is entitled to the gold ink. Is it irony? Is the ink saying early on how intelligent everyone should know he is? I wish this was made more clear. It must cost some serious money to print in gold ink, and it’s not a good sign that readers cannot figure out the importance of it –why spend all that money and time on something that doesn’t make sense?
All in all, I loved this book. I can’t wait for a sequel (that is hopefully in the works). It’s on my list for favorite dystopias. It’s also on my list for favorite YA of 2011. Look out for these lists soon. I give it a 10/10!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

I haven’t posted in a while. I really have had a terrible week. My dad’s been sick in the hospital all week, and for the first time in a long time, I haven’t really felt like reading much. And despite the fact that I am literally in the middle of several different books, I felt a need to do some re-reading yesterday. I have comfort food, and then I also have comfort books.
Though, I think I read this one again more due to the fact that I plan on seeing the movie soon than on it being just for comfort. I actually read the whole book in a bookstore, a few years ago. And like with what I said about Selznick’s latest book, the volume seems much heftier than it actually is. I easily read the whole thing (525 pages) in a couple of hours because a large quantity of the book is pictures.
This one is about a boy named Hugo, who grew up fixing clocks with his father. Both he and his father were always fascinated by how things worked, particularly machines. The book takes place mostly in a Paris train station, where Hugo’s uncle brings him after the death of Hugo’s father. The uncle is not a pleasant man, and when he disappears one day, leaving Hugo to work all the clocks in the station himself, Hugo, despite having no money or caregiver, does not actually seem worse off than before.
The train station to Hugo is home. He sleeps in a secret room, knows his ways behind the walls, and even knows when and where he can steal enough food to survive. The story really begins the day Hugo finds himself going to the building his father died in (by fire). He finds the automaton (self-operating/robotic machine) his father was working to fix, in the wreckage. He and his father found the automaton abandoned in the storage of the museum/building that burned and saw that when not broken, it was meant to write letters with a pen.
It becomes Hugo’s goal to figure out how to fix what his father couldn’t. He even childishly hopes that maybe the letter it will one day write will actually be from his father. His dreams come to a halt though, when the toy-seller at the station, catches him stealing from him, and ends up taking Hugo’s notebook (with all the information his father wrote down about fixing the automaton). The toy-seller’s goddaughter promises to help Hugo get his journal back. And the two children then embark on solving the mystery of the automaton, which turns out being a mystery about the people closest to them.
There’s plenty of film history in this story. And one of my favorite scenes is when the two kids (Hugo and Isabelle) go to a movie. I also love when the automaton finally works and we get to see what its pen really has to say. I love how everything is connected in this book. And I really love the magic. There are these links between clockwork, film, and magic tricks that were just so interesting! Hugo is an orphan that is just so easy to care and root for. I was dying for him to get back his notebook, to get the automaton to work, and to not be found out by the authorities before these things could come into fruition. I also loved Isabelle and her fascination with books, and her inability to let things go.
There’s toys, there’s mystery, there’s magic, there’s the secrets of the Paris train station, and there’s some remarkable artwork. Sometimes, I found myself rushing through the illustrations to find out what would come next in the story. And sometimes I really just had to pause and take in the artwork too, because some of it was just breathtaking, and could even stand alone, possibly in many separate frames in an art museum. I mean the book did win the Caldecott in 2008.
There was one little gap in the story that I noticed both times while reading. Maybe it’s just me being completely unobservant, but I’m not sure why Isabelle’s godfather made the decision to stop doing what he used to do. And I really felt the need of an explanation for why others thought him to be dead…Was this clearer to anyone else?
Regardless, I loved the story. I loved the art. I loved the characters. I really just loved this book. It definitely gets a 10/10 from me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

This is one of the last ARC’s I picked up in New Orleans. And I’m so glad I did. Firstly, I met Jay Asher a few times throughout my stay in New Orleans. Granted, I think he hosted one of the YALSA events I went to. And another time was at the signing of this book. But I know I saw him at least two other times looking at YA books! And meeting him and learning how nice of a person he was only made me want to read this book so much more.
Also, there’s that picture. I asked Jay Asher, Carolyn Mackler, and David Levithan if I could put their picture on my blog. Apparently, YA authors like to hang out together at these conferences! And then Jay Asher asked if he could put my picture on his! So if you go to my ALA New Orleans posting: ALA New Orleans Adventures, you will see that picture at the bottom, and there should be a link to Jay Asher’s blog with the picture of me taking that picture!
Jay Asher is famous for the book Thirteen Reasons Why, and Carolyn Mackler is famous for her girl fiction YA books like The Earth, My Butt, and other Big Round Things. They are two very different writers. And like how I felt with David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, this just made their characters so much more relatable.
The book takes place in 1996, when Emma gets her first computer, and CD-ROM for AOL (with a dial up connection!). Her best friend Josh and her have barely been on speaking terms for the past six months because Josh made his feelings known to her. But, Josh is the one that hands her the CD-ROM.  And with AOL, comes a link to reading their futures. Josh and Emma come to be friends again (both with other respective love interests), as they learn about Facbook, the website of the future that shows them what their lives will be like in 15 years.
At first the two don’t really believe this site comes from the future. They think Facebook is some kind of prank being played on them. But what seals the deal is finding a picture in Emma’s high school memories photos that she knows she hasn’t developed from her camera yet in the present. Josh and Emma learn that any changes they make in regards to important decisions and even not-so important decisions (like spilling something on a new carpet) can drastically change and effect what their futures will be.
Emma learns that she will eventually marry someone who seems awful, so she goes about making sure that marriage will never happen. She even calls her future husband in 1996 to see what she can do to prevent anything from happening. She learns what school he goes to and decides she won’t be going there. But more than even future husbands, Facebook is telling Josh and Emma who is out of the closet in the future, who is not friends with them in the future, and who will become a teen mom in the not-so-distant future, and so much else.
In very subtle ways the book deals with the questions: how much of the future would you want to know? How much are you willing to give up to strive for a better future (your current boyfriend, your dream college, your best friend?) And how much time should we actually be spending on Facebook looking at everyone’s lives instead of actually just living our own?
The book deals with a few other tough teen subjects (on the sidelines, in other words very slightly) like: sex, sexuality, falling in love with your best friend, teen pregnancy, and divorce.
What I loved most was the relationship between Emma and Josh. I just kept hoping for the two to be together. I thought both characters were so real. These authors weren’t afraid of making Emma seem a little selfish and not so bright in the boy department (which makes sense considering all the divorces she’s been through), and they weren’t afraid of making Josh a real teenage boy. Yes, he was a very good, sweet, and almost ideal boy (but a sex-wanting teenager too).
The one thing I was not a big fan of was what I call the product placement. I get that the authors liked going back to the 90’s. I liked going back to the 90’s too. Really, I did. It was fun to remember my first AOL experiences and some dial-up memories. But there was so much said about clothing, music, and skateboards. I just felt a little overwhelmed. We don’t need all those things to know the time period. Or, we at least don’t need all those things as much as we got them. Maybe one Dave Mathews reference would have been enough?
The book was like a really good teen movie where you keep hoping for certain characters to get together. I loved the characters. I loved the concept. And most of all, I loved how believable everything was. I give it a 9/10.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Awake at Dawn by C. C. Hunter

So, technically I’m reading two epic fantasy books right now…One about dragons and one about Beka Cooper. Know what I’m talking about? But, I woke up from a bad dream last night around 1 am, and I have no idea what it was about. All I know is I woke up terrified, shaking, and couldn’t sleep. What’s a girl to do? Apparently, reading fantasy was not the right medicine. I started this book, and before I knew it, my clock said 6am. My eyes were burning from being open so long, but I really pulled my first all-nighter since graduate school with this one. I guess it takes me five hours to read one YA book?
Needless to say this book was the perfect medicine. I loved the first one. And I loved this one (book 2). I was a little confused in the beginning because I thought the last one ended at the end of camp, but apparently I’m wrong. This literally started immediately after book 1 ended, before camp is over, and before camp can become school.
It has a lot of the same questions as before. Kylie in the first book had to deal with a camp full of supernaturals who all can normally read someone’s mind patterns to determine what kind of creature they are: human, vampire, werewolf, fairy, shapeshifter, or witch. And, no on could place Kylie. In the first book she dealt with a best friend with a pregnancy scare, an ex who kept pushing Kylie to do things she didn’t want to, divorcing parents (who think she’s at a camp with troubled teens), the love triangle with the fairy guy and the werewolf guy from her past, and all the crazy attempts someone was making to sabotage the camp she comes to accept she’s a part of.
In this book, not knowing what kind of creature she is, is even more frustrating. She develops a lot more abilities too. Now, she can talk to ghosts, go into people’s dreams and do things there, protect people with super strength, run really fast, drink and like the taste of blood, and some other really cool things I refuse to spoil. The camp sabotage is over and a lot of this book focuses on Kylie trying to figure out her heritage and fixing things with her parents. She also learns her friend from home has cancer. She finally takes the trip to the waterfall, to search for the angels of death. Lucas (werewolf guy from the past) comes back to camp and messes everything up that Kylie started to have with Derek (fairy guy).  This time, there’s a ghost haunting her, telling her that she needs to do something or someone she knows is going to die just like her (the ghost), which apparently involves a lot of blood.
There’s romance for Kylie and both her best friends at camp, awful parents visits, and a lot of growing up and Kylie embracing all that she can be. It ends before I know what she is, and I am still dying to know! Though, it ends with a promise of information in book 3. There’s saving friends, escaping rogue vampires, and a lot of family drama. I loved it.
The one thing that did kind of bother me was: the lack of intelligent guessing/research on Kylie’s part as to what she is. I feel like I have two reasonable guesses for what she is and I can’t believe that the girl wouldn’t guess these things too. Does her not guessing them mean the author will go one of these routes? I don’t know. I just feel like Kylie is a little bit dumb when it comes to this. She’s researching, even calling in the P.I. to find her dead, biological father’s parents. Why doesn’t she use the same tenacity in discovering what she is herself, instead of just whining about it being hard and looking for answers from other people?
Regardless of the whining, which actually was a lot less than it was in the first one, I did read this whole thing in one night. I give it a 9/10. And I can’t wait for book 3 to come out in April.