The Death Of Us

Alice Kuipers does something very well in The Death of Us that few authors succeed at in my opinion. She gives voice to several characters in first person narratives, and they each have a distinct and believable voice.

I adore Callie’s nerdy musings as she jogs “I feel like Odysseus travelling to exotic lands, and I wonder where the Lotus-Eaters are, or where the Cyclops lives” (29). The way phrases pop into her head, the way she struggles to write down her myriad of ideas, and almost everything about her resonates with me. The way she describes her surroundings and the people is so creative and observant that I want her to be real so we sit and people watch, because I think hearing her describe what’s around us would open my eyes.

cover artIvy isn’t someone I would be friends with but she still feels more real than someone like her usually does in the story. She may be the gorgeous, impulsive, center of attention but she also has a darkness in her, and an insecurity that Kuipers makes convincing. She does what she can to avoid becoming her mother, embracing life to the fullest. The wild streak this brings out in her leads her down her mother’s paths though.

I enjoy that each girl tries to emulate the other. When they get stuck they imagine what their friend would do and act it out. It’s interesting that it works both ways. There’s a strange bond between them, they are so different but fit well together. There’s also a sexual tension that is explored in a subtle way that I think demonstrates the difference between being sexy and being crude in literature for young people.

Kurt is in a unique situation of experiencing two worlds. He knows what it’s like to come from that dark place, like Ivy… but he also knows even more luxury and sophistication than Callie. He struggles with balancing these sides of himself. I think each of the girls represents a side of him, and his attraction to them both represents that inner struggle.

The novel is a tragedy, but despite my sadness at the events that take place in it-I am left feeling inspired. It’s the kind of novel that makes you want to hug someone you were angry at, to really live, to write poetry… I think Kuipers has done a fantastic job at creating realism. You can’t help but care about her characters. You can’t help but hang on her words.

Review: Afterworlds Part 1

Halfway through the book I can’t refrain from posting a review

Scott Westerfeld masters the incredible feat of spinning the webs of two complex stories into one cohesive novel. There’s the story of the young writer, experiencing the joys and challenges of being on her own for the first time in her life. Then there’s the story she’s writing- A paranormal romance with terrorists, a serial killer, ghosts, and a schoolgirl crush on a sexy reaper inspired by Hindu legends.

In the surface story the protagonist is living her dream but learning the downfalls of being an adult. Westerfeld pokes fun at the practicalities we don’t think of when we are starting out- like the need to own a mop, and the incredible portion of your budget that goes to food and rent. Despite these tidbits of realism Darcy’s story is one of wonder. First love, networking with the authors she worships, exploring New York… It’s like a more optimistic version of the show Girls. Beautiful diction and literary jargon that will appeal to the nerd in you. Lesbian flirtation, internal debates over what constitutes virginity, and the Angelina Jolie Paradox for your other side.

There are some excellent instances of insight from Westerfeld, such as the concept of a budget “in the corner of the bar like a noisy ghost, sometimes laughing at her, sometimes shrieking and rattling its chains”  which creates a fantastic mental image, and succinctly explains the challenges of being limited by your funds when you just want to have fun with your friends.

The story within the story unfolds unlike any paranormal romance I’ve read. Lizzie’s traumatic experience in an airport is cinematic. I was engulfed in her story, picturing it effortlessly. The tale is much darker than I anticipated, having become accustomed to fluffy paranormal stories that Westerfeld himself pokes fun at in the framing narrative. I’m haunted by several images in her story. The frantic passengers pressed up against the locked gate, the tear gas lifting to reveal bodies, and the gnarled trees in the bad man’s yard- just to name a few. I would love to make a book trailer for this book, but I really don’t have the budget to do it justice- I can only picture it in my mind.

Ok back to my reading….. I’ll post my thoughts on the second half soon

Unicorn hunters in nun outfits

Ascendent by Diana Peterfreund is the sequel to Rampant so if you haven’t read that go check out that review.

It’s pretty rare that a sequel is better than the original book (although sometimes they are easier to get into because you know the characters) but I loved Ascendent.

cover artAstrid spends much of the novel conflicted about her duties, which I enjoyed because slaughtering unicorn babies is quite different than protecting someone from a giant unicorn about to crush or poison them. I think if Astrid wasn’t torn about how she should use her powers or if she wanted this life I wouldn’t have liked her. Phil manages to play both sides of the unicorn hunting debate with grace, leading the protests about eliminating an endangered species and simultaneously leading the hunters that are doing the killing. She refuses to play the victim after being raped and remains one of the strongest characters.

There are lots of ridiculous jokes about virginity because it’s a requirement for the unicorn magic and “getting out of the business” of unicorn hunting is a euphemism that get’s overused a bit. The thing is that it works for the book, because Peterfreund pokes fun at the purity requirement. She has Astrid’s band of unicorn huntresses be pressured into wearing nun habits as hunting uniforms because the church that sponsors them thinks they are showing too much skin and should be representing themselves in a more civilized manner. The resulting camouflage habits covered in blood create a both hilarious and disturbing image, that plays on the ironies of the “innocent” warrior.

Both Giovonni and Brandt fell short for me in the romance department. Not the most attractive love interests if you ask me, Astrid could do better. I think the lesbian couple were the cutest together.

The roles of the media and the pharmaceutical company are really interesting and I wish there would have been more details about them both.

The section of the book after Astrid is injured in battle is my favourite part, but alas I will avoid spoilers….

 

 

Passing Strange

Passing Strange by Daniel Waters is a Generation Dead novel. While I think the book is most effective read within the series it can stand alone. I’m going to outline some major issues it deals with and then talk about the plot.

“I pretended I wasn’t depressed. I pretended I wasn’t in love–look where that got me. I pretended lots of other thing too, and now I’m pretending I’m alive.”

Issues It Deals With

Passing Strange (Generation Dead, #3)Depression:

“sometime almost feeling alive is worse than not feeling alive at all. When I was depressed, that’s what I felt like, like I was almost alive. And knowing I’d never quite make it the rest of the way” (Waters 144)

Karen became a zombie because she killed herself, and in this book she explores why she did it,  “the blue fog took me away” (145). Throughout the book Karen brings up a “fog” of sadness that prevented her from enjoying or even fully participating in life. She was held back by her depression, and it seemed to define her.

Waters uses Karen to argue that “there aren’t any reasons for most young suicides beyond depression, just triggers” (145). He also offers some ways of dealing with depression; “Friend who can listen are a good antidote to the fog” (177).  In fact love and friendship seem to be what bring zombies back, the ones who have supportive families or relationships have better dexterity and speech. Love gets you through the zombish fog of depression.

I like that Waters doesn’t brush over Karen’s family’s reactions to her suicide. Her mother doesn’t want to deal with her at all, her father seems hurt and distant, and her sister doesn’t realize it ever happened. Her father’s private way of dealing with her death is explored in some detail later in the book (149), I won’t spoil it but it made me relate to him a lot better.

Homosexuality 

It takes a long time in the novel for her to come out and say it, but a factor in her suicide was her inability to come out of the closet. She talks about her confusion about her feelings, her denial to herself about being in love.

“I didn’t want to be gay. I was too scared to be gay.”(203)

She discusses how her fear of showing her true feelings in public or being seen with the girl she loved hurt that girl she was ashamed of. Karen had an extremely painful coming out to her mother, and partly because of this she continued to date boys even as a zombie. She has trouble reconciling her faith and her sexuality, and finds it easier to tell the priest she killed herself than telling him she is a lesbian. I’m definitely not an expert on the difficulties of having a minority sexual orientation but I think Waters did a good job at exploring the difficulty LGBQ teens face.

The Insightfulness of Young Children

Karen’s little sister Katy sees that there is prejudice going on and she doesn’t like it. Waters uses a scene of playing with Barbies to show that kids pick up on things. Katy makes her prettiest Barbie a zombie like her sister. She explains to Karen that no one likes this Barbie because she is dead, but that the Barbie shouldn’t be sad, because she still thinks she’s nice and pretty. This is Katy’s way of telling Karen she sees that she is being mistreated but she still loves her.

When Karen gets depressed again and spends all day in her room her very young sister comes to the conclusion that “the bad mans got you!” because she knows from overhearing adults that zombies are being slaughtered.

Prejudice in General

The zombies in Waters world have no civil rights; “We can’t get insurance. We can’t vote, we can’t get married. There isn’t much we can do” (92). This reminds me of in X-Men when Gene Gray goes to Washington to fight for mutant rights, even though in Passing Strange we only hear snippets from Tommy who has done just that.

Ok so now that I’ve talked about what issues Waters explores are you intrigued?

Plot

Karen is badly wounded in the attack that takes place at the end of Kiss Of Life but discovers that unlike any recorded zombie she has the ability to heal!  In no time she is her beautiful self again and looks and moves more human than any of her undead friends. She dyes her hair, uses colour contacts, makeup and voila she can pass as human. She works at the mall pretending to be alive, partly to prove she can, partly to lay the way for future zombies and also because she likes being treated like a human. When Pete, the guy who killed Adam in Generation Dead, flirts with her and doesn’t recognize her from the time he threatened to kill her she sees an opportunity. Now she must tolerate dating Pete to get close and prove that he framed zombies for violence and prevent him from murdering her best friend.

My Thoughts

I enjoyed the book a lot but maybe not as much as Generation Dead. It dealt more directly with the issues that were touched on briefly in the other books, this was great but slowed down the action. There were a few really suspenseful chapters that kept me up late because I couldn’t stop reading until I found out what happened. I will read pretty much anything Waters writes because he’s been consistently awesome.