Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Requiem

Before you say anything, just stop. “Dude, aren’t you a little old and male to be reading these dystopian books with female protagonists?” See? I can ask the question myself. If you’ve watched any of these shows or movies, I want you to stop even thinking that these books aren’t okay for a guy my age to read:

  • The Bachelor/The Bachelorette
  • American Idol
  • Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
  • Duck Dynasty
  • Swamp People

Okay, my list ends there because I can’t think of anything else, because those shows are awful. Yet people watch them. And enjoy them. And they have good moments. In fact, some of those shows might actually be really good, but they get lumped in and judged with the others.

What am I talking about? Right. Requiem. YA dystopian fiction with a female protagonist. Oh, and it’s also about love being a disease, the government ordering people to be cured when they’re 18, but of course we have our rebellious ones who believe too strongly in the power of love (not to mention the power of freedom). Totally the book for a 28-year old man.

Oh, just one thing: that last sentence was not sarcastic.

This book is AMAZING! It’s the third and final book in the Delirium trilogy (“Oh, really, a dystopian trilogy? Didn’t see that one coming.” Can it.), so I’m going to try not to give anything away. But Lena is on the run with some of the other Invalids, and they’re basically trying to figure out what to do. The cities are coming after them. They can’t stay hiding. They must fight back. How can they possibly win? How can their belief in love and freedom win?

Well, I’m not gonna tell you. Read the booking book.

What I will tell you is this: this book is powerful. There are emotions you will feel when you read it, and that’s absolutely okay. You might laugh. You might cry. I think I laughed, and got a little choked up. But the ending. Oh. The ending. Some books, when I get to the end, I want to throw them against the wall because they’re just awful. Requiem, on the other hand, has an ending that is like the book pulls you in and spreads a warm blanket around your shoulders to keep you warm on a chilly fall evening. It’s just that perfect.

But. My favorite part of the book is Hana. Hana is Lena’s childhood friend. We haven’t really heard much from her, as Lena is our narrator. But in Requiem, we hear from both Lena and Hana. Now, normally, I hate dual narration. I think it adds a lot, but I think it just ruins things overall. Here, though, because the characters are where they are and so separated, it’s incredibly well done. It’s vital to the story. And it shows us things in Hana that we’d never know. And it shows us, for the first time in the series, what it’s like inside the mind of a Cured. It’s amazing. Hana is heartbreaking and beautiful.

With all of that, though, there’s probably some of you out there thinking, “Well, yeah, sure, but isn’t this book written for teenagers? I want something written well, not just a good story.”

Batman Slap

 

Since when are those two things mutually exclusive? Requiem is both a great story and written beautifully. This is not grade-school work here, people. This is a master work of art carefully crafted by someone with a MFA from NYU. It reads that way. Yet a 12-year old can enjoy it. Now that takes talent.

Am I off topic enough here? Just. . .just go read this series. It’s worth your time. I loved it, and I think you’ll love it, too. When you’re done, let me know. I want to talk with you about it in ways I can’t here because they’re too spoilery. So go. Read it.

My rating: 5 out of 5 fish.FishFishFishFishFish

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Prodigy by Marie Lu

Brian’s Note: Today is my blog’s one-year anniversary! Hooray! As I opened my blog with Legend, it only seems fitting that I review Prodigy today. Hopefully next year, I can review the third in this series!

Prodigy

Excuse me while I take a moment to compose myself after remembering all the things this book made me feel.

::deep breath::

::exhale::

Okay. Here we go.

If you read the first book of this series, Legend, you know what’s going on here. If you haven’t read Legend, you should probably not read this review. At least not until after reading Legend. There may be spoilers for that one here. Just a fair warning. Have I rambled enough for those people to leave? All right, good.

Day and June are on the run to Vegas, after the events that made the crazy ending of Legend so awesome. They were denied by the Patriots, but are hoping that making it to Vegas will prove their loyalty — or at least that they are not actually supporting the Republic. Also, Day’s leg is practically falling apart, so they need someone to help them fix that. The Patriots are their only hope.

Well, they are not to be disappointed when they get there, as it turns out the Patriots have lavish quarters in Vegas. Not everyone is trusting of June, and Day has his doubters as well. But they’re there, and they’re willing to help out.

What are they helping out with? The Patriots’ new goal: assassinate the new Elector Primo, June’s good old friend Anden. I can’t say too much more without really getting into the details of the plot, and I want to leave those for you to enjoy 🙂 We do learn a lot more about the history of the country, though, and get some glimpses of the Union side of things as well. It really starts to come together in this book.

There is definitely some growth from Legend into Prodigy. For one, the ending was not nearly as predictable in this one. I was eating it up right until the last word, and then I was there, completely satisfied from this book, but still thirsty for more! It was like drinking a huge glass of water, but the last sip was not quite big enough, so I want to go get another whole glass. The emotions of this book are also much more real and more in depth. We can see that these characters are accepting that, no matter how old they are, they’re not kids any more, and they are maturing, rising up to what is needed of them. It’s great to read and to see that.

I recommend this book, as I did the first, for anyone who enjoys YA dystopian. It’s just good. If you like that, read this. No real age restriction here. There are some romantic scenes, but nothing inappropriate for anyone who would be reading a book that involves war and killing.

Definitely grab this one when it hits shelves January 29th!

My rating: 5 out of 5 fish. 

Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

I’ve been excited to read this since hearing the wonderful teachers Mrs. Heise and Mrs. Andersen talk about it back in November (I think it was November). It helps that just about everything they recommend turns out to be gold. Well, Mrs. Andersen was nice enough to send me her ARC so I could check it out (the book drops July 10th — look for it!). Thank you, Sarah! Okay, to the review!

Side bar: when I say “to the review!” it would help your enjoyment level if you imagined it being said much like “to the blueberry!” said by Shawn on the possibly hit TV show Psych. Just trying to help you out, because I’m here for you.

The world of Insignia is World War Three. Well, sort of. The thing is, this war isn’t fought like the first two World Wars. Much like WWI brought us wide-spread use of machine guns and the introduction of tanks and submarines, and WWII brought us aircraft carriers and the atomic bomb, the WWIII of Insignia has introduced war machines fighting in outer space being controlled by teenagers on earth. Also, countries are less meaningful than large, multi-national corporations (gee, can’t see that happening in our world. . .oh, wait). And actually, in the world of the book, that’s not as far-fetched as it sounds, and completely works with the plot.

Virtual-reality gaming is incredibly prevalent in this world. Casinos have VR parlors. Schooling can be done through VR. (and is for our protagonist, Tom Raines). That’s not really the technological leap that makes this book sci-fi. No, what does that is the neural processor.

In order to control those aforementioned war machines in outer space, the teenagers are given a neural processor in their brain. This actually melds with their brains, so they are a sort of cyborg. Thus, learning the things most of us take years to master (calculus, for example) is downloaded and processed in a manner of hours. What needs to be developed are the abilities to use these processors to their fullest extent, and perhaps how to take advantage of others who both have and don’t have the processors. A large part of the book, behind all the action (which I’ll get to, I promise!) is dedicated to the teenagers having these processors and dealing with them. Insignia does a good job of making sure these thoughts and emotions are very real, and very teenager. Also, teenager is now an adjective.

All right, enough set-up (though that is important when discussing sci-fi). To the plot and characters! (Again: “to the blueberry!”) WWIII is going on, and we see mostly what’s happening with one Tom Raines, an American. I know I said countries aren’t as important as the corporations, but the countries have sort of aligned with corporations. India and America are one main player, with Russia and China comprising the other.

Tom is sort of your typical atypical main character. He isn’t bred to be a combatant like many of his friends at the Pentagonal Spire (the future Pentagon). He’s a really good gamer who roves the country with his vagabond father. He was hand-picked to be in the military, and now he’s just finding his way, making friends for the first time. And he makes them, and let me tell you: they’re AWESOME together.

Reading these characters is much like reading any pseudo coming-of-age tale (pseudo because that’s not really what it’s about), and the way they all learn to work with each other. Sort of Harry Potter-esque in a way. I’m trying to not go on too long here, but just trust me when I say the characters make the story.

One thing I need to say, though: TOM. IS. CLUELESS. I actually had a whole paragraph here talking about why, but I think it might ruin the experience for any readers. I just want to say: well done, Ms. Kincaid. Well done.

I highly recommend this book to those looking for a good YA sci-fi that hedges on dystopian. I would say an updated Ender’s Game, except I. . .never read Ender’s Game. ::hangs head in shame:: But if you like what’s going on in the world of YA dystopian stuff, check this out. It has the same publishing house (Katherine Tegen) and editor (Molly O’Neill) as the highly-celebrated Divergent series, so that’s something.

All-in-all, this was a good book, though not without some minor setbacks along the way. Not really worth getting into, just small stuff. Okay, I just can’t remember what it all is, and I finished the book almost 2 weeks ago. But anyway:

4 out of 5 fish. 

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

“One choice can destroy you.” Well, Ms. Roth, I chose to read your latest, Insurgent, in more or less one sitting this past Saturday. That which did not [destroy] me has only made me stronger.

I was extremely fortunate to receive an ARC of this wonderful book courtesy of my sister classroom teacher Mrs. Heise, who blogs over at http://heisereads.blogspot.com/ (go check it out — you will not be disappointed. I’ll wait here for your return). Thank you again!

So, the book. My initial response was, simply, “wow.” There is so much to love about this book. Before you read on, be aware that this review is entirely spoiler-free for Insurgent. I’m trying to also remain spoiler-free for Divergent, but there may be some links you don’t want to click. Such as the two in the next paragraph.

We pick up right where we left off at the end of Divergent. Seriously, right where we left off. Ms. Roth posted a wonderful help for that today right here, so go check that out before you read Insurgent. Since that didn’t exist for me, I relied on the Divergent Wiki, which did prove pretty helpful as well.

Tris and her gang are heading around, trying to find answers for what happened at the end of Divergent, as well as come up with a plan of action going forward. This involves them going places they’ve never been, and meeting new and old friends along the way. I really don’t want to go into more detail than this, but just know that it is full of the same breathless action as the first book.

Personally, I love this book. It takes my breath away (present tense, even though I read it four days ago). I had too many crazy predictions along the way to share here, some of which came true and some of which didn’t. I was angry (with the events of the book; the characters; and, at times, the author), I was happy, I was scared, I was rejoicing, I was even a little turned on (there are some fairly hot, but fully appropriate, moments). TMI? Maybe. But the thing is, this book really ran the gamut of emotions.

But the whole time, it’s a freight train barreling ahead. These emotions are fully present and fully experienced, but the book never stops moving forward. It’s a wonderful mix of action and emotion.

The writing style is great in this book, too. I wasn’t expecting that. It started sort of. . .I dunno, okay, I guess. But by about 10 chapters in, it really began to. . .I guess I’d say it began to mature, in a way. By the end of the book, it was as if I was reading a master’s work. And I truly believe I was.

There’s a lot more I’d like to talk about here, but I don’t want to spoil anything. I do want to go on the record saying that I absolutely loved the ending. A lot of people, I think, might not. Whatever. They can go read something else. I thought it was absolutely fantastic. Thank you, Ms. Roth, for this. I can’t wait to buy it and share it with my students.

I recommend this for everyone ages 12+, especially those who like dystopian novels and themes. Well-written, engaging, and exciting. It also makes for great e-mail chats 🙂

My rating: 5 out of 5 fish. 

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

I hope you’re ready for this one when you pick it up. It hits the ground running (well, actually, it hits the ground sleeping), but there’s no time to regain your footing if you’re not paying attention. We all know the ending of Delirium (and if you don’t, stop reading this right now! Not because I’m going to give away spoilers [I’ll try not to], but because you need to get off the Internet and go read Delirium!), and Pandemonium picks up. . .well, actually not right where we were left off. We start some unknown amount of time in the future, and Lena is. . .Lena is in school? In a city? What? What happened? Where’s my copy of Delirium? Did I miss something? What’s going on?

These are the deliciously bothersome questions I was asking 3 pages in.

The story is told in an irksome back-and-forth between Then and Now. It’s irksome because we start with Now, which is actually the future from where we left off. The Then is what we would associate with the present. But it’s that good kind of irksome, like when someone teases you by keeping a sealed envelope just out of your reach. You wish they would just show you what’s inside, but you’re enjoying the chase and will enjoy the discovery that much more. I often felt that way as I was trying to connect the dots between Then and Now.

We find our heroine, Lena, alternating between finding her way in the Wilds and just trying to survive, and part of an underground resistance group who seems to be quite interested in the happenings of Julian Fineman (a 17-year old scheduled to be cured soon; he’s also the youth leader of a group trying to allow the cure to be given even younger). Soon, it seems as though Lena is playing the part of Alex to Julian, but not by conscious choice, and certainly not with the same intensity.

I don’t want to get too much more into the plot. If you liked Delirium, you’ll read and probably like Pandemonium, so I don’t really need to sell anyone on this.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I thought there were some things that didn’t quite work (the relationship between Lena and Julian [I don’t mean dating relationship, so don’t worry about spoilers or misleading comments here; I just mean the way they work with each other] didn’t seem genuine, the way Lena is treated by Tuck and Raven seems a bit contrived), but there were far more things that did work (the aforementioned Now and Then, the real emotion from everyone in the Wilds, the way Julian is just so ignorant). I didn’t like it as much as I did Delirium, but I think that’s largely because there’s no new ground to break here. Oliver already introduced the world, so now it’s just a matter of continuing to explore it. And exploring it with her masterful hand as our guide is pretty fun 🙂

I recommend this book to anyone who, like me, is loving all the YA dystopian that has been coming out lately. This is one that’s near the top of the pile as far as quality is concerned. There are a few curses (ranging the entire gamut), but I think this is still fine for middle schoolers and up.

My rating: 4 out of 5 fish. Okay, it’d really be 4 1/2, but I don’t do halves. So it’s 4 out of 5. If you don’t like it, write your own review (and then share it with me, because I’d love to read it!).

Legend by Marie Lu

Legend is a book I’ve been wanting to read since I heard about it about a month ago. Unlike most books I’ve been hearing about lately, it’s one I was actually able to go out and obtain within a few weeks! I swear, my “waiting on. . .” list is too long for my own good. But I digress. We start with our hero/criminal Day, who grabs us immediately with the narration: “My mother thinks I’m dead. Obviously I’m not dead, but it’s safer for her to think so.” Hit the ground running? Check. Interested already? Check. Snarky italics? Check. That passes my first-page test.

June is our hero/military specialist, and also serves as our other narrator. She’s not as sarcastic, but just as smart as Day — perhaps more so. After all, Day failed his Trials test (which every ten-year old takes), relegating him to a life away from everyone he loves. Meanwhile, June is a prodigy — the only person ever to score a perfect 1500 on the Trials.

June and Day soon find themselves in the thick of one of the biggest story lines in their futuristic Los Angeles: Day, the mastermind criminal, being pursued by June, the prodigy girl. Did I mention that they’re both teenagers, June’s parents died in a car accident, Day’s family is being stricken my the plague, and there are a ton of awesome plot elements I can’t reveal because I don’t want to deny you the experience? Are you interested yet?

I really enjoyed the pace of this book: fast enough to keep me interested, but not so fast that I couldn’t savor it as it was moving along. I also liked that Day and June’s chapters alternated, and in different fonts. It helped their voices come alive for me, and was also an easy unconscious reminder of who was narrating.

If there is anything I could say about Legend that isn’t positive, it’s that it is fairly predictable. However, even as I was reading, I was saying to myself “Self, you know exactly how this is going to turn out. Yet it’s interesting enough that you don’t seem to care!” Like any good book that follows an established story line, there are times where it follows prediction, and times when it deviates in just the right ways.

I recommend Legend to fans of YA lit, especially dystopian novels. While it doesn’t have the gravitas books like Divergent have, it is a great book in its own right, and I’m very much excited for the sequel(s)!

Rating: 4 out of 5 fish.