Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott

Grade: C


Everyone knows the unwritten rule: You don't like your best 
friend's boyfriend.

Sarah has had a crush on Ryan for years. He's easy to talk to, supersmart, and totally gets her. Lately it even seems like he's paying extra attention to her. Everything would be perfect except for two things: Ryan is Brianna's boyfriend, and Brianna is Sarah's best friend.

Sarah forces herself to avoid Ryan and tries to convince herself not to like him. She feels so guilty for wanting him, and the last thing she wants is to hurt her best friend. But when she's thrown together with Ryan one night, something happens. It's wonderful...and awful.

Sarah is torn apart by guilt, but what she feels is nothing short of addiction, and she can't stop herself from wanting more...


Character Development: 5/10
Originality: 2/10
Overall Enjoyment: 5/10
Ending: 6/10
Voice: 7/10
Plot: 6/10
Setting: 8/10
Total Score: 39/70

Obtained: Borrowed from a friend. 

Age Appropriate? PG-13ish

Cursing: Some, not very much, but a few f-bombs. 
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Maybe a few vague references to teen drinking...?
Sexual Content: Vague references, one almost-scene.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Child neglect. 


Maybe it was the fact that this book has the exact same plot as Flawless (down to the main character's name), maybe it was that I've seen Elizabeth Scott do so much better (see Grace, below). Or maybe it's just that something about the whole I'm-in-love-with-my-best-friend's-boyfriend-but-I'm-too-"nice"-of-a-friend-to-do-anything-about-it thing that peeves me. Either way, this book was a letdown. 

Through the whole thing, through every single page of miserable, self-pitying rants about how beautiful and awesome Ryan is and how horrible the narrator is for loving this boy and how awful her best friend is to her (boo hoo!), I was wondering why the heck nothing was happening. Just rants. For pages and pages. And then--oh, was that--? Could it be...plot development?! ...Oh, wait, no. False alarm. back to the rants. And the whole time this girl is pining for Ryan (Ryan this and Ryan that), the idiot boy is leading on two girls at once and neither of them notices or cares. What?

I shouldn't be so harsh. My friend loved the book, and she's a reasonable, good reader. I'm sure it has redeeming qualities. My problem was that I read the same book with a different cover a week ago and it wasn't fantastic then. So...I don't recommend it. But if you absolutely love Elizabeth Scott and stories like this...I guess give it a try.  


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Grade: A+!


In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota--an hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life...


Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 9/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 66/70

Obtained: Library

Age Appropriate? R

Cursing: Quite a bit.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Frequent references to and scenes of severe drug and alcohol addiction, drug and alcohol-induced violence, drunkenness, child drinking/drug use, abuse of dangerous substances, etc.
Sexual Content: Frequent references to prostitution, rape, etc.
Disturbing Images/Violence: A lot of blood, fights, graphic murder, child abuse, slavery, etc.


My God, what a ride! To be honest, this book blew away my expectations. I've been hearing some good things about Ship Breaker, and something about the synopsis drew me to the book from the start. (Have I mentioned that this book has one hell of a good synopsis? Just the right amount of plot hints without giving anything important away, and it's short and to the point--but that's a topic for another post.) The point is, this book is good. The very peak of dystopian/sci-fi/post-apocalyptic YA.

One of the most fascinating things about this book, though, is that it's borderline not dystopian or sci-fi. It's almost just an adventure book about the near future. And while Nailer's world is post-apocalyptic, the "apocalypse" these people have survived is not some huge catastrophe, it's the evolution of our own world, a direct result of the way we live now. Yet the point is not only to provide some sort of wake-up call to readers--no, this book is a story. A really good story, too.

It has everything! A plot that will never--hear me, never--give you time to breathe, characters that are so conflicted and real and heartbreakingly honest yet strong at their cores, circumstances that are shocking but so close to reality, and of course, just a touch of romance to carry you through the rest of it. Beautifully done, and probably one of the few young adult books that truly caters to both male and female audiences without fail. Seriously, guys and girls alike will get caught up in the rawness, the sheer intensity, of this awe-inspiring story. I've heard rumors of a sequel. Ah, I hope it's true! This is a world (a downtrodden, miserable world that creepily resembles our own...) that I don't want to see the end of.

Update: There IS in fact a sequel, coming this year, called The Drowned Cities. Yay! :)


Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi about another of his novels, The Windup Girl

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Enclave Trailer!

Ann Aguirre, author of the Corine Solomon Series & the Sirantha Jax Series, releases her first -ever Young Adult dystopian novel

New York City has been decimated by war and plague, and most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20's. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters—or Freaks—who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight, in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs. As the two are guided by Fade’s long-ago memories, they face dangers, and feelings, unlike any they’ve ever known.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

Grade: A+!


There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister’s face when she and Elias left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the horde as they found their way to the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.

Annah’s world stopped that day and she’s been waiting for him to come home ever since. Without him, her life doesn’t feel much different from that of the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Then she meets Catcher and everything feels alive again.

Except, Catcher has his own secrets—dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah’s longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it’s up to Annah—can she continue to live in a world drenched in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return’s destruction?


Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 7/10
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
Ending: 10/10
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 67/70

Obtained: Borrowed from a friend. :)

Age Appropriate? R

Cursing: Not really. Maybe a little.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Some references, but few.
Sexual Content: None really...
Disturbing Images/Violence: A warning to the squeamish--approach this book with caution. Filled to the brim with gruesome images of zombie-hacking, murder, violence, desperation, starvation, hopelessness, misery...I could continue.


Wow. I Never before--never before--have I read a book that was quite this...impactful. I still can't quite let go of the enormity of this book, not in that it is so very life changing, but that the scope is so much larger than before, so much more universal than I could have expected from a book about the zombie apocalypse. I mean, it's been done before, right? How much different can this book possibly be?

That statement couldn't be more wrong.

If you thought the last book was stressful, hold onto your seats. The Dark and Hollow Places isn't exactly as nerve-racking as its prequel--no, this book is simply earthshattering. Heartbreaking. The misery, the sheer and utter hopelessness of it is almost too much to bear, have to. You have to because the characters are so important. They become everything. And the absolute desolation that is their world only makes the rare moments of bliss all the more sharply poignant.

Carrie Ryan has several talents. One is using a changing perspective to her advantage. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is narrated by Mary, Dead-Tossed Waves by Gabry, and finally, The Dark and Hollow Places by Annah--three very distinct, very strong young women whose trials are all very different yet fundamentally the same: the fierce battle of survival, the fight against the endless onslaught of death. Never, at any point in the series, did the styles of narration overlap, and each of the characters gains depth by the new perspective. It's interesting how Ryan can manipulate my feelings based on the narrator and reveal so much more about the outside characters. For instance, in the last book, I definitely favored Elias because Gabry found the good in him and saw the bad in Catcher, but in this book, I lean heavily toward Catcher, because Annah sees him from a different light.

All in all, a powerful read. Huge. Hopeless. Miserable. But totally worth it, every page, every impossible obstacle, every tense moment, every undead-head-slashing and horror that came their way--it was worth it. Because ultimately, though it is drenched in death, it is a book that celebrates life, celebrates love, celebrates happiness--perhaps louder and more triumphantly than any other book I've read. Success.


Carrie Ryan
The Forest of Hands and Teeth
The Dead-Tossed Waves

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stay by Deb Caletti

Grade: A+!


Clara’s relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she’s ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it’s almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is--and what he’s willing to do to make her stay.

Now Clara has left the city—and Christian—behind. No one back home has any idea where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won’t let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough....

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 68/70

Obtained: Borrowed from Jill at Reading is Bliss

Age Appropriate? PG13
Cursing: Yep.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: Mentioned, I believe.
Sexual Content: References
Disturbing Images/ Violence: Obsessive Relationship (leads to some violence)

A story of truth, a story of love, of fear, of change, of growth. A story that does not disappoint. Absolutely astounding.

Deb Caletti incorporates the rawest of emotions, the wittiest of dialogue, and the truest of characters in Stay. Everything in this book is real. Clara is a strong, likable character, and her narration is perfect: interesting, easy to follow, and still intensely true and relate-able.

The strong use of figurative language isn't overwhelming or over-used. Every sentence, metaphor, allusion, is absolutely necessary to understanding the beauty of this story. Each contribution adds to the reader's interpretation of the entire mosaic of the characters, setting, and whole dynamic of the story. But it does it in such a way that the understanding slips into the reader; and a deep care for these characters is implanted; then soon the emotion and turbulence of the story takes hold and does not release its grip.

Once again... absolutely astounding. Raw and true. Pick it up, read it, and you will not be disappointed.