Raging Star

Mcover artoira Young completes the trilogy that began with Blood Red Road in Raging Star.  The novel has many of the same faults and accomplishments as the other books in the series.

The writing style is unique. Some will admire it but others will struggle following dialogue not separated by quotation marks, perspective that jumps without headings that indicate it will, and understanding terrible grammar and spelling that is intentionally faulty to develop setting and character.

The protagonist is a tough, sometimes selfish and cold survivor who is thrust into the role of leadership. She may appeal to fans of Katniss Everdeen. Her tactics to tear apart the enemy establishment are both intelligent and sloppy. She inspires the people to do what needs to be done, at great cost.

This is a dystopian adventure drama with a touch of romance. It will pull at the heartstrings of fans of the series, and concludes in a satisfying manner. The book will make most sense, and be enjoyed more if the series is read in sequence.

Whisper

cover artChris Struyk-Bonn’s novel Whisper speaks loudly about many issues. It explores treatment of disabled children in a dystopian world where birth defects are growing in numbers but not in acceptance. The children are defined by their deformities and exploited as slave labour. Prejudice, abandonment, neglect, pollution, child prostitution, and unethical farming practices are all subjects explored.

Whisper’s hardships and adventures comprise a compelling plot, original characters, and thoughtful reflection. The description of her feelings towards her music, and it’s impact on others is symbolic of how art can help people communicate what they have difficulty putting into words. The value of art is also seen in Jeremia’s sculptures that are treasured by everyone.

Identity is a struggle throughout the novel. Whisper does not feel she belongs in any of the many places she lives. She is too ugly, too talented, too strange, too successful, too wild, too civilized…. The difficulty of finding the balance is something I think will go over well with teens who often are at a stage of figuring out who they are/want to be.

The pacing was a bit uneven. It lagged in a few places that could have been edited. However, the novel as a whole is successful in that it was entertaining but makes you think about the real world as well as the imaginary one it creates.

I think the most powerful and important part of this novel is Whisper’s refusal to hide who she is. She accepts herself and embraces her difference without allowing them to define her.

The Rule of Thre3

Eric Wacover artlters sends readers on a scary adventure in The Rule of Thre3; a novel that will appeal to dystopian fans and disaster preppers.  Combine the “pulse” like from the show Dark Angel  that wipes out all electronics, computers, satellite signals, and infrastructure with the adventure and apocalyptic camaraderie of the show Walking Dead (minus the zombies), with Plato’s The Republic and you have a book worth reading. Much like Socrates did in The Republic, Walters explores what is essential to survive as a society. It begins with what resources you need, what professionals are required to succeed, but it goes beyond that. What makes us civilized?

The idealist protagonist Adam plays a pivotal role in keeping the belief in people alive in the struggling leaders of a make-shift city state. His name combined with their neighbourhood name is a little too cheesy and religiously based for my taste. His loyalty to his friends is commendable, his bravery to be admired, and his ideas inspirational.

The book will leave readers thinking about how well their basements are stocked. There is a realism to this tale that is unsettling. The good guys make mistakes, the authorities are unprepared, and everyone needs to make tough choices and sacrifices.

There’s a serious lack of denouement that fails to satisfy curiosity, so be prepared to have questions unanswered.

All Good Children

*I received All Good Children by Catherine Austen as a submission for the YABA

This book is amazing. It’s like Gattaca meets Serenity and I love both of those movies. A must-read for fans of Dystopian fiction for teens! This novel, like so many of the classics it alludes to is a metaphor. It speaks against conformity, over-medicated children, and totalitarianism. It encourages individuality, creativity, imagination, friendship and human rights. It was heartbreaking (there were tears!) and horrifying, and yet accessible, funny and hopeful. I don’t want to say more and risk giving anything away but I think this is fantastic read with a very strong male narrator.

You need to read this to see why we voted it the best Canadian YA novel of last year!

Blood red road

*I received Blood Red Road by Moira Young as a submission for the YABA

I thought the overall plot was good and I enjoyed the action. I wanted to see what would happen and really liked one twist.

I couldn’t get past the terrible grammar and spelling. I know it was intentional to demonstrate that the characters were uneducated but since there were no sophisticated characters juxtaposed, it felt sloppy and was painful to read. It’s actually quite remarkable that she came up with a dialect and stuck to it, I just have trouble with such things.

The lack of quotation marks or spaces indicating dialogue was also difficult on the eyes and caused some confusion.

A decent story but it lacked the social/ political depth and eloquence of its most distinguished dystopian peers.

Divergent

cover art of divergentDivergent by Veronica Roth is a great read for dystopian fans. If you liked the Hunger Games, The Declaration or enjoy a debate about human nature, what humanity should strive for, or the flaws in our society this is a book for you.

In a world where everything is split into cult-like sects, a 16 year-old girl must choose what she values most: selflessness, bravery, honesty, knowledge or peacefulness. Once she makes her choice she will need to go through rigorous training to prove herself worthy of the sect or be factionless, living on the streets begging.

There’s some pretty traumatic violence, and disturbing initiations so this may be too much for the squeamish.

Roth’s writing makes us think about how good intentions can be misguided, how conforming can make us lose ourselves and how no single quality needs to be the obsession of our lives. We shouldn’t fight over what good quality is the best, when we could strive to incorporate them all.

I thought the small romantic subplot was realistic in that the girl from Abnegation is prudish, afraid of her own sexuality and feelings. I thought her insecurity and confusion about the guy was appropriate for her character.

 

Delirium

Delirium by Lauren Oliver is a fantastic example of a YA dystopian novel. Dystopian stories appeal to teens (and me) for a number of reasons

  • They allow for honourable rebels. Teens are notoriously rebellious and dystopia validates this by creating a justifiable rebellion.
  • By the same token, they present characters like the good-hearted bad boy, a stereotypical ideal that appeals to young female readers such as myself (hey, I’m youngish!)
  • They elaborate on the flaws that trouble us in our own society and let us think about issues from a safe distance, stories in our own time sometimes hit too close to home and are harder not to bias about
  • They have the opportunity to include action, adventure, romance, mystery and basically anything you could want in a story

Love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all things, it kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.

Delirium is a lot like Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, because there is a socially and politically mandated surgery that everyone undergoes. In both stories a piece of the personality is removed from citizens to maintain order and fix some perceived flaw in human nature. I find it interesting that in Uglies they remove intelligence and heighten emotion and in Delirium they remove feeling to focus on logic. Hyper sexuality vs. repressed sexuality but equally dystopian! Both alterations are disguised as prevention of heartbreak and loneliness but result in an irresponsible and dysfunctional population ruled by a totalitarian government.

This is a common element of dystopian novels, but Oliver does a great job of exploring the hegemony and brainwashing involved. She also create an interesting social structure that reinforces the control of those in powers.

Family history and the bond between children and their parents who have been disgraced feels incredibly real. The infatuation and the discovery of intimacy in the context of a sexually repressed society is well done. The giddiness of first love described in terms of illness is executed exquisitely. Oliver has a talent for portraying emotional connections.

There is some sneaking over an electric fence that reminds me of another great dystopian novel that’s gotten lots of attention: The Hunger Games. I don’t think she’s a copycat though, Oliver makes the novel her own with her beautiful diction and uses familiar tropes to explore a unique perspective of love.

If you like the statement “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, this is a book for you. Lauren Oliver is definitely an author to keep track of.