Thursday, July 7, 2011

An Unabashed YA Book Binge

Some no-nonsense reviews plucked straight from my Goodreads account for your viewing.  Maybe because I'm too lazy/currently uninteresting to type up a proper post.  Or maybe because I feel a deep need to share my YA addiction.  You can decide.

Across the Universe; Beth Revis; 4/5 stars

Summary: In the not too distant future, Earth's economy is collapsing and people are becoming desperate for any kind of financial support. Meanwhile, a new planet has been discovered that has been deemed habitable, and hundreds have put their hope in this new world. Amy's parents are two such people. The catch? It will take three centuries to make the voyage through space, and since Amy's parent's are labeled "essential" to the founding of a colony on the new planet, they are among a group of engineers, military personel, and other specialists who are cryogenically frozen before take off. As if being half-conscious in a coffin of ice for 300 years isn't bad enough, a mysterious mishap wakes Amy up fifty years before the ship is due to land. The only non-functional member on the massive ship, Amy must discover why she was unfrozen early in order to keep her parents and the other "essential" specialists from thawing too soon, or worse, dying, before they reach their destination.

Thoughts: Beth Revis is my new hero. I never thought I'd find myself so enamoured with a science fiction novel. Yet here I am, head over heels for Across the Universe. The story is fantastic; the characters are real, with real motivations; and Revis' writing is both subtle and gorgeous. Most importantly, she avoids the major pitfall of the YA genre: her characters do not fall immediately into passionate love for no apparent reason. The romance featured here feels genuine and believable. Across the Universe is an exceptionally stunning debut novel. This is not an adventure you want to miss.

For those with eReaders: As a Kindle eBook, this was one of the better ones I've read -- clear, consistant formatting, with good editing. The price of the eBook is actually one dollar higher than the price of a hard copy, but the convenience of the eBook format makes it well worth the money.

Wither; Lauren DeStefano; 3.5/5 stars

Summary: In a world free of all major ailments, life should be perfect, but instead, a freak medical accident has reduced the life expectancy of women to 20 and men to 25. All children born to the "new generation" are doomed to die a gruesome death, contracting an undefeatable new virus mere months after their 20 or 25th birthday. To keep the human population from dwindling, young girls are kidnapped and sold as brides to the polygamous weathly upper class, or forced into prostitution. Rhine Ellery is one such stolen girl. She is lucky enough to become the bride of a kind architect in Florida, but unlike her sister wives who were raised as orphans, Rhine has a brother and childhood home. She has tasted freedom. Though no bride has ever managed an escape, the possibility of returning to her life and brother is what Rhine lives for.

Thoughts: Another review called Lauren DeStefano's Wither "The Handmaid's Tale retold for teens." There are certainly strong similarities between the two books; in both women are forced to leave their lives and homes to work toward the "greater good" of repopulating the earth. However, it's not quite fair to think of Wither as a derivation or copy. This is truly a unique story, and an impressive, though not flawless, debut.

Rhine is a strong heroine. That in itself sets Wither apart from the mass of YA novels centered on helplessly besotten girls. From the moment she is taken into captivity, Rhine is resolved to escape, and neither her rich husband's oblivious kindness nor the budding romance she shares with a servant will deter her. Reminiscent of Katniss (The Hunger Games) or Amy (Across the Universe), Rhine's strong will is a welcome break to the YA mold.

Also notable is the relationship between the "sister wives." The expected "competition" never forms. Despite their stark differences and unequal privileges, the girls have surprisingly little animosity toward one another. In fact, they truly begin to form a sister-like bond, protecting each other from the many dangers of their world. Their characters were surprisingly well developed, and their actions always justified. These girls feel startlingly real.

[SMALL SPOILER AHEAD!] My only complaints about this book concerned Linden, the hopelessly blind and doting husband. He is supposedly controlled by his overbearing father, but I found his obliviousness in regard to his wives' pasts hard to believe. Apparently, he doesn't even realize that the girls have been kidnapped -- he is under the impression that they were raised to become wives, and that they submitted willingly to their marriage. Since the girls spend their first few days in his mansion drugged and unconsious, I found this (for lack of a better term) excuse for his character hard to swallow. DeStefano tries to make Linden almost pitiable, but I didn't buy it. Had he known about the girls' plight and been sympathetic or outraged by it, had be been a true prisoner of his father, it might have been beneficial to pen him as a "good guy," but as it was, he read as either incredibly stupid or falsely benevolent. Neither was effective. (Maybe this issue will be cleared up in the sequel?)

Overall, Wither was a well written and fascinating story. I'd definitely recommend it as a fun read, but wouldn't give it any medals.

For those with eReaders: I read this one on my kindle, and it was excellent. The cover (both front and back) and inside flaps were shown, as well as the designs on the opening pages. No errors in editing, as far as I could tell, and no mishaps with formatting. One of the best I've seen so far. Price was about $10, so cheaper than a hard copy.

The Iron King; Julie Kagawa; 3/5 stars

Summary: Meghan Chase is an average American teenager. Except that she's not. Sure, she's unpopular, broke and has no social life, but unbeknownst to her, she's also the daughter of the Summer Court's Faery King. When her little brother Ethan is replaced by a changeling, Meghan must embrace her secret heritage and journey into Nevernever, the land of fey, to save him. Along for the journey is Meghan's best friend Robbie, secretly the famous "Puck" of A Midsummer's Night Dream, who has spent all 16 years of Meghan's life disguised as a human, protecting her from malicious fey who would seek to kidnap the Summer Court princess. Also lending a helping hand is Grimalkin, who bears a striking resemblance to the Cheshire Cat.

Thoughts: The Iron King was a great concept with underpar character development. Almost everyone falls flat, making predictable decisions and exhibiting very little "growth" throughout the book. However, the idea behind The Iron King was a fun twist on faery lore. While searching for her little brother, Meghan learns that there has been a massive change in the balance of Nevernever. Alongside the traditional "Summer Court" and "Winter Court," "The Iron Fey" have sprung into existance: a new species of faery birthed of human imagination and dreams of technology and science. The Iron Fey thrive on iron, the bane of all other faery existance, and threaten to overrun their territory and slowly poison both other courts.

The descriptions of Nevernever are another highlight. Every setting in the book feels realistic -- balancing the beauty and magic with harsher facts of faery life. Even the backdrops in the human world are well established.

For those with eReaders: I read this on my kindle. The formatting was flawless and the price slightly lower than the hard copy's. No complaints.


  1. I read a preview of Across the Universe months before it was released but once I had my hands on the book, I was a bit confused by who's head we were in. Then there was Elder and Eldest and I'm like "what?" lol.

    But I did love The Iron King. There are a few flaws in it, like the main character for one but I love all the supporting characters. Puck and Grim the most!

  2. @Marie: I really liked Puck and Grim too, but it felt like they were kept in the background of the book.

    I can see how Across the Universe could get confusing. I actually read that one pretty slowly, and it helped me keep everything straight. Did you finish it? I thought the Elder/Eldest mix-up was pretty clear in the end. It was frustrating in the earlier parts of the book though.

  3. They were all pretty good. :)

  4. I love YA as well. Last summer I read a great book called "The Other Side of the Island" by Allegra Goodman. Also, "Green Rider" by Kristen Britain is one of my favorites. :D

  5. I've read Across The Universe.
    LOVED it!


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