Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Quick Overview of Seven Young Adult Books I Read This Summer

The following young adult novels were all released this year, most of them this summer.

The Eternity Cure (Four Stars): I haven't read a lot of vampire stories, but I read the first one in this series, The Immortal Rules, by Julie Kagawa (author of The Iron Fey series), because it sounded intriguing and clean (a big must for me). I like that it leaves sex out of the story and deals with questions of right and wrong. The Eternity Cure is the second installment, and it doesn't disappoint. Allison is a young vampire who must team up with those who want to kill her in order to rescue her sire, the vampire who saved her and taught her how to survive this cruel world. She wonders, is there any hope left for the humanity in her, or will she be overcome by the monster within? Definitely worth reading if you like more edgy stuff but don't like the mixed morals that often come too.

The Testing (Four Stars): This novel, by Joelle Charbonneau, is so similar, in some ways, to The Hunger Games that some are calling it a rip-off. I think it's different enough to deserve its own credit. After all, The Hunger Games was not the first book to pit kids against one another. In The Testing, outstanding students are selected to be Tested for a chance to go to the University and get the best jobs in a post-apocalyptic/dystopian world. Cia is thrilled to be part of this opportunity, until she receives warnings from her father and others about what may be in store for her. Is there a darker reason that no one who's passed through a Testing is supposed to remember what transpired? And what happens to those who don't make it? If you are a die-hard Hunger Games fan, you will probably compare too much, but if you never got on the Hunger Games bandwagon, try this.

Reboot (Four Stars): Wren is a 178. That means she was dead for that many minutes before she was brought back as a Reboot, a weapon and a prisoner, considered less than human by the soldiers who give her orders. Dead the longest, she is also the least human, the most weapon. People fear her. She does what she's told and believes she's nearly incapable of emotion. Why, then, is the new 22, a number so small he's practically human, so intriguing to her? Reboot, by Amy Tintera, delves into what it means to be human, and it carries many of the same themes as dystopian novels (though I wouldn't consider this to be one). Still, though similar thematically to what's out there, it has a unique plot premise and is an enjoyable read.

Pivot Point (Three Stars): Addison is a member of a small community where everyone has a special mind power. Hers is to be able to see the two diverging paths a choice could lead her on and choose accordingly. But now the biggest choice of her life so far is upon her. Her parents are getting divorced, and she gets to choose whom she wants to live with: her mom within the hidden confines of their paranormal community or her dad out in the world where everyone is normal and no one uses powers in everyday life or even knows about them. In order to decide, Addison will have to go weeks into each future. The problem is, when she's there in her mind, it feels like she's there for real, and she might not be able to tell the difference. And then there are complications within each choice, decisions that will affect friends and people she's never even met...and of course the choice to erase from her mind the memories of her mental excursion into the future, once she's made her decision. How does one choose between parents and loves and evils?

I thought the premise of Pivot Point, by Kasie West, was a neat idea, and I really got into the book, especially as it wound toward the conclusion. It has a little bit of an Inception vibe to it: dream within a dream...what is real? It's a bit darker than I was expecting, and that's probably why I gave it only three stars when I read it earlier this summer.

Reached (Three Stars): This is the conclusion to Ally Condie's Matched trilogy. I enjoyed the dystopian series, though I didn't find the plot to be quite as intriguing as that of some other dystopian novels I've read, hence the three-star rating. In this third book (and I wouldn't recommend reading any further if you haven't read the other two yet and plan to; SPOILERS possible), Cassia is still undecided about the two boys she loves, but the three of them are scattered across the Society, each playing a different role in the overthrow of the Society and the beginning of The Rising. Cassia works underground for the Archivists, treasuring contraband pieces of writing. Ky is a pilot. Xander is a Medic. But a new form of the Plague causes more chaos than anybody could have dreamed, resting the hope for a better future on shaky ground.

There isn't just one reason I can pin down as to why this series wasn't outstanding to me. The love triangle annoyed me because both guys are perfectly good choices, and I hated that one of them would be disappointed and that Cassia wouldn't just make up her mind. Granted, she's more decided in this book than in the other two. Also, I thought the main characters were rather passive. They don't do anything particularly impressive. They are simply in the right place at the right time. Ky and Xander are more heroes than Cassia is and get their fair share of the spotlight, yet the central character really is Cassia, and all she can do is sort data. It's just kind of blase. Still, it's a popular series for a reason. The world is complex, and the way the Society functions and controls people is interesting.

In the After (Four Stars): In this post-apocalyptic novel, by Demitria Lunetta, the population has been nearly wiped out by an alien-looking species that's rather zombie-like in presentation. But unlike zombies, they are super fast with super hearing, and if you make even the tiniest noise, they descend as a pack and eat you to death. After three years, Amy is a seasoned survivor. She knows how to get food. She knows how to stay safe. She even has a companion, a little girl she found and took home and calls Baby, communicating through signing. She hasn't spoken aloud in years, and she's seen just enough people to know that she and Baby are better off alone. But everything Amy thought she knew about the After is about to change. I thought this was a particularly clever and well-thought-out book, even though I did anticipate the ending. The book is suspenseful with just enough mystery and clues to keep you guessing. Well written and fascinating.

Twinmaker (Three Stars): In Sean Williams's dystopian future, Clair and her friends daily go to school across the globe and can visit any place they wish in a matter of minutes. Technology can produce anything they want automatically per their specifications. Who needs to own possessions when you can get new ones exactly the same or better, if you wish, anytime you want? This instantaneous gratification is made possible by a technology that d-mats (dematerializes) objects, including people, and produces them exactly as they were in new locations. The one rule is that people must rematerialize exactly as they were, so everyone believes Improvement (a circulating note that says you can improve your looks by following specific instructions in d-mat) is just a prank...until Clair's friend Libby tries it and appears to succeed. But Libby is different after, and Clair's determination to find out why is about to d-mat her entire world.

I liked the concept. The suspense and mystery were interesting. I found the final revelations and explanations to be a little nonsensical, a little wibbly-wobbly or timey-wimey, as the Doctor (Doctor Who) might say. The story didn't come to a strong, believable resolution for me. There were logic gaps I couldn't make sense of in my mind. But getting there is half the fun, and this is quite a good journey.

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