Monday, October 14, 2013

Matched by Ally Condie

Matched (Matched, #1)

Matched is the Jessica Simpson of Dystopian novels. 

Hunger Games, of course, is the Britney Spears. It's the original, the coolest, and it has a slightly disappointing ending. Divergent is the Christina Agulara; dirty, soulful, and hasn't ended yet.

Matched is pretty, overproduced, and soulless. It is, in fact, the Jessica Simpson. And that's probably not fair to say. Standing on it's own, Matched isn't a bad book. It just has the misfortune of being marketed and promoted as the next Hunger Games.

Matched compares itself to HG, by it's present tense, its love triangle, and it's corrupt society.

But these are the ways it fails in comparison,

     1.  The lead girl. Katniss Everdeen, is a warrior who scrapes to survive, and battle an empire of evil. Tris Prior, pushes off her own upbringing and family to stand on her own.
Cassia likes to sort things. She is unassuming, unflawed, and boring.

     2.  The book boyfriends. Peeta, the boy with the bread, or Gale the best friend who protects her family. FOUR. FOUR! The powerful, fearless(ish), revolutionary with a twisted upbringing.

In Matched, you have Xander, the perfect Ken doll of a best friend, and Ky, a boy who was so boring and unimpressive, that even Cassia can't remember him. The romance did not work for me. I did kind of sort of grow to like Ky, I like his poems very much, but I just didn't care which of these too perfect boys she ended up with. There were no stakes here, no relationships that felt real, or important.

     3.    The stakes. In The Hunger Games, children were killing children for the Capital's amusement. In Divergent, children were taken from their families to keep the order.

 In Matched, they took away someone's watch.

    4. The society. The villains in The Hunger Games had mutant creatures made out of the bodies of dead contestants. The villain in Divergent used mind control, to force innocents to kill friends and family.

In Matched, the capital pulled the trees out from the front yards.

The other two are dystopian societies. Matched is more like a really bad HOA. 

Yes, there's the whole poison thing, but honestly, there is a difference between children in peril and an 80 year old in peril.

Also, it's kind of stupid. The whole plot wouldn't have happened if the bad guys didn't make it happen. Cassia had no influence on the story whatsoever. The capital, or whatever they were called, were the ones who created the glitch in the Matching, and when Cassia was too obedient and boring to do anything about the glitch, they pulled her out of class, and then told her, expressly, to ignore the glitch...which she was clearly already doing. They pushed her to go after Ky. They gave her an assignment that meant chapter after chapter of nothing happening except pointlessly walking up a hill.

The bad guys pushed the story forward, to their own demise.

Also, there were a bunch of times when characters responded to thoughts Cassia never expressed. And I'm like, "No, you're not reading the narrative, so why are you talking about this random thing right now?" But there were some really cool moments in the book. I dug Ky's poetry, and her descriptions are really clear and interesting. All the notes are sung, and sung well. It's pretty. It's polished. It's just forgettable. It's the Jessica Simpson of Dystopian novels.

To sum up. Matched is a well written book, standing in the shadow of several AWESOME books. If I could only have a hundred books, this wouldn't make the cut. However, if you have a very sheltered young daughter who wants to read a dystopian novel, but can't handle violence, or kissing, then Matched is a good option.

And in case you were wondering, Scott Westerfield's Ugly, Pretties, Specials, and Extras are the Pink of Dystopian novels. Cooler, sometimes messier, but still relevant ten years later.

Matched gets 3 stars from me, and several million dollars from its publisher.

Monday, July 15, 2013

My Stupid Girl

My Stupid Girl

My Stupid Girl is one smart book. It's a love story told from the point of view of teenage goth David. I LOVED David.  At first I thought he was a girl, he was so concerned about his makeup, and how other people thought of him that I wondered how the author was going to convince me he was a boy. But that's where the intelligence of this book comes in. 

This author is one to watch. She slowly got me to fall behind, and then in love with David. He's imperfect, and broken. His past is littered with everything the author could throw at him, yet he somehow finds the way to escape his own wallowing to save this popular girl, Lucy, from crashing through a frozen pond. 

That inciting decision changes the course of David's life. It changes him for the better. Loving Lucy changes him. I love a good love story, especially one that ignites change. Lucy and David change by falling in love, David for the better, and Lucy for the worse. I love that this story is also about how love can hurt you, about how even falling in love with the right person can be hard, and hurt. I adored Lucy by the end, and I admire so much how the author trusted Lucy enough to make her imperfect. Love saves her too, just not for a while.

The thing I like the best about My Stupid Girl is David's voice. He's a bit of an artist, and he see's everything with a ton and a half of visual description, so the world of the story is really clear. There are moments of funny and moments of sad, and not a single moment where I wouldn't let a teenage girl read this book. 
It's not a perfect book, the prom scene was a bit confusing for me, and there were times that I wondered on the character's motivations, but it's a moving powerful little book that broke my heart and made me happy and neglect my home and family for a little while. Read it or I'll punch you.

:) ~Sheena

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

My Thoughts:

On page 55, Hazel says, "I was kind of scared to go down there. Listening to people howl in misery is not one of my favorite pastimes. But I went."

That's how I felt about this book. Sarah, from The Prosers, was the first person to recommend it to me, and this book kept cropping up everywhere. But I was afraid to read it. No matter how long ago my mom died of cancer, the feelings will always be raw. Plus, I've had cancer--the non-terminal kind, but still. Plus, I have kids. Enough said. But the things people said about this book intrigued me enough that I finally picked it up. 

It was wonderfully written; funny and poignant and full of characters I would love to know. I'm always happy when a young adult story can be true to life without sex, and that's not the case in this book. And it's a whole book about people who are terminally ill, so death and other difficult subjects are broached on a daily basis, so I recommend this book for adults and mature teenagers. 

5/5 stars

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling


When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…. Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations? Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

My Thoughts:

I got about 20 pages into it and put it down. I don't think I'll be picking it up again, and it makes me sad...I thought I was more than willing to give JK Rowling a fair shake. But I couldn't do it. Here's why:

1. The language. Come on, Joann. Seriously. Was it really necessary to make me wander through a cesspool just to prove to me that I'm not at Hogwarts anymore? 

2. Lack of a central character. By 20 pages in, I want to have met at least one character that I feel an inkling of sympathy for. Unfortunately, all of the people I met in Pagford were just icky. 

If I was head over heels for one of the characters, I might have pressed through the language, or vice versa. Thank you for not making it difficult to stick to my values on this one. 

Unfinished--but I give the first 20 pages 1/5 stars. Did I mention that I'm sad about that?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Kill Switch by Chris Lynch


All Daniel wants to do is spend one last summer with his grandfather before he moves away for college and his grandfather’s dementia pulls them apart. But when his dear old Da starts to let things slip about the job he used to hold—people he’s killed, countries he’s overthrown—old work “friends” show up to make sure he stays quiet. Was his grandfather really involved in a world of assassinations and coups, or are the stories just delusions of a crumbling mind? On the run from the police (and possibly something worse) before he has time to find out, Daniel may have to sacrifice everything to protect his grandfather from those who would do him harm.

My Thoughts:

I was so excited by the premise of this book. I love spy stories and thought a teenager trying to protect his Jason-Bourne-gets-Alzheimer's grandfather could be a great read. However... 

This was the most disturbing book, filled with some of the most unlikeable characters, doing the most icky things that I have ever finished. I finished it mostly because it was pretty short, and I was almost all the way through it before I realized it wasn't going to suddenly improve. The ending seemed as though the author realized he was hating it as much as I did and gave himself a page to wrap things up. I'm sure there are people who might enjoy this book. However, I was definitely not one of them.

1/5 stars

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Surrender by Elana Johnson

The Synopsis:
Forbidden love, intoxicating power, and the terror of control… 
Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi.  
All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn. Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque....
My Thoughts:

I liked Surrender so much better than the first book (Possession.) Vi, Zenn and Jag are only minor characters in this story, but it doesn't matter, because Raine and Gunner are amazing. The story will mean a lot more to you if you have at least a passing knowledge of what happened in Possession. This is an exciting read with a fun love story.

5/5 stars

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.
Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?
I'm still not certain whether I just read a young adult book or a historical romance...If the definition of young adult is any book with a young adult for a protagonist than that's what this book is. The themes were much more in-line with books written for adults. I liked this one, mostly because of Ismae's growth throughout the book. 
4/5 stars