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Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi

Another, older dystopian series. . . one that almost drove me mad.

shatter me  Shatter Me

Juliette Ferrars has spent the last almost eight months in solitary confinement, trapped in a mental asylum. Before that, she was dragged through detention centers and prisons by the Re-establishment, the current government, which has spent years studying her and considers her to be a highly dangerous weapon. Her touch can kill. Because of this, she hasn’t touched another human for years, and with her isolation, is teetering on the edge of madness. Then, she gets a roommate, a boy, Adam, someone she remembered from her life before this hell. Somehow, he can touch her, and Juliette begins to feel the tiniest of hopes. Adam was not there to be a friend; instead, he is a soldier sent by Warner, the Section leader (something like a state governor), to test her. Warner wants Juliette to be his weapon, but Juliette wants to hurt no one. Beginning a convoluted love triangle, Warner wants Juliette to be his partner and his tool, while Adam wants to save her. Juliette, timid and afraid (and practically cray-cray), escapes with Adam into the city. This is not lasting peace. While Adam is trying to get his brother and take them both somewhere safe, they are followed by Kenji, Adam’s military partner, and he warns them that Warner is coming after them. In the chaos that follows, Juliette decides to use her power to save Adam’s life, but compromises her beliefs to do so.

unravel me  Unravel Me

With Warner injured and unable to follow them but Adam severely needing medical attention, Kenji outs himself as a secret spy for an underground resistance group called Omega Point. Bringing Adam, Juliette, and James, Adam’s brother, to Omega Point causes a bit of chaos. Omega Point is trying to bring down the Re-establishment, and has quite the power and gifts to do so, as Juliette isn’t the only one with powers. Many of the rebels have extrasensory gifts. Meanwhile, Juliette is still learning how to behave normally, especially around people, and her relationship with Adam grows rocky as she explores her abilities more in-depth. She’s no longer the meek little bird that needs protection; she simply needs support, and she finds it in her new friend Kenji. However much Juliette is adapting to her strengths, she is unprepared for the realization of Adam’s gift, a self-defense ability that combats her own when activated. If Adam turns it off or uses it too much, she could kill him accidentally. Their future together is ruined unless they can figure out another way. To make matters worse, they capture Warner and Juliette begins to see a different side to him than before. Despite the romantic drama, the rest of Omega Point is focused on fighting back, and the leader, Castle, is trying to convince Juliette to get on board. Taking her on missions and training her doesn’t wake her up to reality. It’s not until her new friends, Brendan and Winston, are kidnapped and most likely tortured severely that Juliette decides she has something invaluable to offer to her new friends that just might save precious lives.

ignitemetaherehmafi_zpse8f70c39  Ignite Me

After Juliette’s near death, Warner’s sacrifice to keep her alive, and Omega Point’s destruction, Juliette’s entire world is turned about. With so much pain, death, and oppression, Juliette is tired of being a tool. She’s ready to make her own stand and luckily, Warner is determined to stand by her. Defying his powerful father, the leader of the Re-establishment, Warner hides Juliette and plots with her to overthrow the government. Developing a bond of mutual respect and partnership with Warner is practically unthinkable, but she’s slowly coming to terms with her own perception of him and his reality. Also, Juliette needs to find out what happened to her friends, since they could use the support. When Adam and the other survivors of Omega Point join the team, some tensions arise between Adam and Warner, but most everyone else is focused on the task at hand–destroying Warner’s dad. A heavy secret creates other discomfort, but with all of them working together, freedom is within their grasp, they just have to reach out and take it.

I’ll admit it. It was like pulling teeth to read most of this series. There were a few things that beat me senseless with the attempt to establish credibility, namely the number fixation (Juliette has an affinity for numbers) and the repetitions and strikethroughs of Juliette’s inner thoughts. Some reviewers have called this poetic, and while it is a poetic device, it becomes downright obnoxious in the books. While Juliette must undeniably have psychological deficiencies from her treatment at the hands of the Re-establishment, she comes across as whiny and very immature, very childlike, not so much a teen at all. Her transformation from Shatter Me to Ignite Me seems to contradict each other as both unbelievable and logical. She becomes such a force to be reckoned with that her earlier self is almost completely unfamiliar. When considering her romances with Adam (her soldier rescuer who would prefer her to be a meek cow of a girlfriend) and Warner (the powerful leader who scares her with his cruelty and then shows her the respect she deserves as well as the depth of his duplicity), the extremes within the book become apparent and even ludicrous. If you hate love triangles or prefer English as your favorite subject, please, do yourself a favor and don’t pick up this book unless you can handle it. I recommend having a backup that you can switch with when you’re getting severely annoyed. Otherwise, the ending was fairly satisfying, despite the pains it took to get there. One of the things that I thought made the book possible was Kenji’s character. He is comic relief, plot driver, and thoroughly supports the entire story. Without him, there would be no loving this trilogy whatsoever. Maybe middle grade readers would like this much better than older readers.

Notes: Strong language, sexual circumstances, violence.

Favorite passage:

Winston hits a switch. The lights go out. There’s a rustle of blankets. “If I hear any of you talk,” Winston says, “I will personally send Brendan over to kick you in the face.”

“I’m not going to kick anyone in the face.”

“Kick yourself in the face, Brendan.”

“I don’t even know why we’re friends.”

Please shut up,” Lily shouts from her corner.

“You heard the lady,” Winston says. “Everyone shut up.”

“You’re the one talking, dumbass,” Ian says.

“Brendan, kick him in the face, please.”

“Shut up, mate, I am not kicking any—”

Good night,” Castle says.

Everyone stops breathing.

 
 

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The D.U.F.F. by Kody Keplinger

6931356 The D.U.F.F.

Until Bianca Piper was called the D.U.F.F (Designated Ugly Fat Friend), she was pretty satisfied with herself and her life. But when gorgeously handsome but notorious skirt-chaser Wesley Rush dares judge her, it derails everything. Suddenly Bianca is starting to really feel like the Duff. She doesn’t get hit on as much as her friends, Jess and Casey, and she knows she isn’t as attractive; Bianca’s mom has just sent her dad divorce papers after being separated for awhile, and her dad is devastated, turning again to alcoholism; and Toby Tucker, the boy she’s had a crush on forever, has just broken up with his girlfriend but still doesn’t seem to see Bianca. Then, because she’s at a club she hates on a Friday night, sitting alone, and freaking out about her world falling about her ears, Bianca has some sort of out-of-body experience and kisses Wesley when she knows she hates him and his stupidly arrogant, flirty, I-don’t-give-a-crap ways, (even if for the moment he was just asking her if she was okay) and of course, after she kisses him, he tries to feel her up! To make matters worse, her teacher assigns them to be partners for a paper, and Bianca has to go over to his rich, loud, and empty mansion, haunted by her friends teasing her and debating some stupid teen queen event that one of them will probably win.

Bianca thinks, what if being the Duff isn’t as bad as she thinks it is? It’s now sounding like it might be easier to have no expectations, and not care about how others see her, since she’s already at Duff status anyway. Caught in an emotional limbo when beginning their research paper on The Scarlet Letter, Bianca thinks she needs an escape, like Hester did, and uses Wesley, because it’s not like he’s going to turn her down for–ahem–sex. There begins their furious secret relationship as Bianca tries harder and harder to run away from her problems and doesn’t realize that even that has a consequence. In growing closer to Wesley, her thoughts of him start to change, and so do her own perceptions of herself and what being a Duff actually means.

So there are a few key plot points in this book that I had to suspend my belief for…namely, that she would be so cavalier about sex so quickly and that she could just turn off her self-consciousness about her body in order to do said act. Still, this aside, I actually liked Wesley and felt Bianca’s identity crisis to be true. This book really surprises you, and shows some wisdom in the whole Duff situation– *Spoiler* that everyone is a Duff in their own way. (See end chapters with Wesley’s admission and Casey and Jess’s.) The one thing that I hated was how irresponsible her parents were, and Bianca, despite everything being piled against her, does show tremendous strength in overcoming these barriers, mostly by herself with Wesley as support. A good, entertaining read.

Note: Strong language, alcohol, violence and a lot of sexuality.

Book vs. Movie

MV5BMTc3OTg3MDUwN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTAwMTkxNDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_As for the film, *insert big sigh here*, I almost don’t want to go into it. I don’t see how author Kody Keplinger could really say that it wasn’t clichéd. Okay, so there was no “makeover the girl who everyone sees is plain but is secretly gorgeous” moment which is a huge cliché, and Robbie Amell and Mae Whitman really were genuine, but other than that, the whole movie is made up of one teen movie cliché after another. The entire storyline changed (which was probably for the better since it would have involved a ton of PG-13 sex scenes), and it just didn’t have the same meaning. Book-version Wesley comes out as much more of a zero-to-hero since he punches her drunk dad in the face and gives her a place to crash, while also trying to be a really good friend and be honest with her. Ultimately, the movie bases much more on appearances and romance than self-image and self-worth, which is what the book really illustrates. Faults: the pointless teacher bits, the journalism story, that Jess and Casey were really not likeable–just more flat, that Bianca’s entire family dynamic changed, that it revolved around a Homecoming kiss, Toby Tucker was a complete jerk, they added a female arch-nemesis, and that it revolved around humiliating videos and gossip. Maybe teens liked it, I couldn’t say, but really, couldn’t be farther from the book. In this case, pick one or the other, but for heaven’s sake, don’t do both or you’ll die of annoyance.

_N8A9026.NEF

Unless, of course, you just like seeing Robbie Amell and Mae Whitman, which is the only thing that saved me.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2015 in Contemporary fiction, Young Adult/Teen

 

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Author Spotlight: Stephanie Perkins

So glad I picked up these books after reading The Darkest Minds because I needed something happy and light!

Describe Stephanie Perkins’ books in one word? Delightful!

I found them to be fresh and fun, humorous and captivating. She masterfully builds the romantic tension and so satisfyingly ties things up.

anna Anna and the French Kiss

It’s Anna’s senior year and her famous author father has sent her to a boarding school in Paris because he thinks it will be better for her. She knows nothing about the language, the people, and is terrified to go outside. Luckily, she meets Meredith, her neighbor, and Mer’s friends, Josh, Rashmi, and the boy everyone loves, Etienne St. Claire. Her new friends help her get through the culture shock of adjusting to another country, and St. Claire is the best of them. He keeps popping up and showing her around parts of the city, making Anna think he might be flirting with her even though he has a serious girlfriend. Anna doesn’t want to ruin any friendships and neither does she want to break anyone up, but when her friends back home move on without her, Anna turns to St. Claire as her best friend to give her strength to make it past the hurt and betrayal. That’s when things spiral out of control as Etienne and Anna can no longer hide their feelings and the consequences push them out of their comfort zones and possibly break their friendships apart.

Funniest quote: “Happy Thanksgiving,” [St. Claire] says, handing me a ticket. “Let’s see some dead people.”

lola Lola and the Boy Next Door

Lola has been dreading this day for the past two years, the day when Cricket Bell and his twin sister, and famous ice skater, Calliope move back in next door. After Cricket rejected her, Lola doesn’t want anything to do with him. She’s got a rock star boyfriend and her own talents in fashion, but Cricket just won’t leave her alone. Despite being enrolled at a nearby college, he keeps coming home and waltzing into Lola’s life like he belongs there, baking pies with her fathers, who ironically like him, and saving the day when she least expects it. Lola doesn’t want to be hurt again, but she can’t deny that he’s trying to win her back. He seems to have changed, finally coming out from behind his sister’s shadow and sincerely wanting to be her friend to make up for his absence and mistreatment. Lola doesn’t see any reason to not be his friend, even though her boyfriend would be pissed, and maybe she needs him…she just can’t figure out if she needs him as a friend or if they’re supposed to be something more.

Funny quote (and one that reminds me of my 6′ 6″ cousins):

“Cricket, you’re . . . tall.”

Which is, quite possibly, the stupidest thing I could say to him.

Cricket Bell was always taller than most boys, but in the last two years, he’s added half a foot. At least. His slender boy–once skinny and awkward, despite his graceful movements–has also changed. He’s filled out, though just slightly. The edge has been removed. But pointing out that someone is tall is like pointing out the weather when it’s raining. Both obvious and irritating.

isla Isla and the Happily Ever After

Isla (“Eye-la”), whom we met in Anna’s story, has had a crush on Josh for three years, and despite living near him in New York and seeing him at their school in Paris, he hasn’t noticed her much. Not until she boldly waltzes into their coffeehouse one day during summer break, high as a kite from her wisdom teeth removal surgery, and talks to him. Despite their afternoon possibly being the most wonderful thing ever, it mortifies Isla and she doesn’t see him again for weeks until she’s back at school, where they coincidentally keep running into each other. With Josh’s friends graduated, his academics plummeting, and his political and very public family, Isla sees that she might be able to offer him her friendship, at least, that is, until he awkwardly confronts her about her relationship with Kurt, who also has high-functioning autism and is actually her best friend. Isla and Josh begin dating, and all of a sudden, everything is tough to balance. If Josh steps out of line any more, he could be kicked out; Isla’s grades begin falling, just a bit; and Kurt doesn’t seem to want to be around her anymore. Maybe their whirlwind romance was just too good to be true…

Brief excerpt:

When the sunlight streams in through the windows, it’s the happiest morning of my life. We’ve shifted in the early hours, but our legs are still hooked together.

I stare at his adorable, sleep-rumpled hair and his long, lovely spine. He smiles at me languorously. With contentment. I scoot in closer for a kiss. “Mm,” he says. “Is next weekend too soon to do this again? Switzerland. Let’s go to Switzerland.”

“You’ll be in New York next weekend.”

His smile falls.

“Next-next weekend,” I say.

“Deal.” He brushes my hair away from my shoulder, leaving it bare. “So. Tell me. Who’s the better bedmate? Me or Kurt?”

“Kurt, obviously.”

“I knew it.” He kisses my nose and hops out of bed. “I’ll be right back.”

“Hand me my phone? I wanna double-check our departure time.”

Josh digs it out from my bag, tosses it to me, and goes into the bathroom. The door shuts. I flip the volume switch from silent to on. The screen illuminates. My heart stops.

“No,” I whisper.

Twenty-nine new messages. Kurt. Nate. Hattie. The school. My parents.

Stephanie is currently working on two books out next year, one a short story YA compilation follow up to My True Love Gave to Me and the other a YA horror book! Check her out here. You can also get signed copies of her books from Malaprop’s bookstore in Asheville, NC. I just love that NC has such a fantastic author!

For a great interview with Stephanie, head on over to Goodreads!

 
 

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In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

A 2013 Morris Award finalist!

A creepy but gripping historical fiction ghost novel about a girl living after the effects of WWI during the terror of the Spanish influenza.

BLACKBIRDS_paperback_cover In the Shadow of Blackbirds

Escaping from her father’s tarnished reputation, 16-year-old Mary Shelley Black travels to live with her young widowed Aunt Eva, who is supporting the war effort by working in a shipyard. Under constant terror of quarantine and death because of the rampant Spanish influenza in that day and age, Mary Shelley is also searching for news of her best friend and young love Stephen Embers, a boy soldier sent to Germany and whose family happens to live near Aunt Eva now. When she visits with the Embers family to sit for a requested portrait and find out more information about Stephen, Mary Shelley notices the odd behavior of its inhabitants. However, with people dying in the streets from the flu and photographers like Stephen’s brother Julius making money in spirit photography for grieving families, it’s no wonder everyone seems weird and tense. When Mary Shelley picks up her picture the next day, she finds out that they received news that Stephen had died in battle, and yet…his ghost is in her portrait. In her devastation and heartbreak, Mary Shelley wanders out into the road during a lightning storm…and dies, having a death experience from which she comes back to life. Mary Shelley doesn’t discover the extent of her new self until she attends Stephen’s funereal and hears Stephen talking to her about his spirit, tormented by blackbirds. Not one to leave things alone even during a time of turmoil, Mary Shelley resolves to discover the secrets behind Stephen’s death as a last gift to her beloved.

An unusual historical fiction novel that gives the feel for the time period, letting you experience the terror of getting the flu and your almost guaranteed death, but also shows how the young men of the day were scarce, having gone to war and either died or come back heavy with physical and emotional scars. Then it takes you on an entirely new journey into a metaphysical plane of awareness and the determination of the self to live. It fulfills escapist tendencies but also makes you grateful for your own time period, one that is decidedly less horrifying and grimy (at least, for most people). Another plus for this novel, rather than feeling like a spectacular stand-alone, Mary Shelley seems like she should continue on, that her story is not finished being told. As a character, she’s so unusual that she’s memorable and mostly likable. The action was less fast-paced than the gamut of YA literature. Though some of the secondary characters were more flat, the greatest strength is the mystery and the unexpected direction of the plot as well as the strong attachment between Mary Shelley and Stephen. Fans of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children or The Diviners might like to read this book, but each take very different directions. I will definitely be reading more books by Cat Winters, like last year’s The Cure for Dreaming and August’s upcoming The Uninvited (adult).

Note: Language, violence, and disturbing images, but nothing too upsetting for middle grade readers.

Side note: Speaking of Libba Bray’s The Diviners, this month, FINALLY, there is an update on Lair of Dreams! Check it out here! (You’ll get a laugh!) Also, book 3 of Miss Peregrine is due out in the fall too!

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2015 in Historical fiction

 

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The Darkest Minds trilogy by Alexandra Bracken

An intensely fantastic dystopian adventure that I feverishly devoured!

10576365 The Darkest Minds

In the near future, a deadly brain disease kills a large percentage of the children in the United States. IAAN or Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration caused most children to die around the age of ten. The ones who don’t die are to be feared as they possess special brain powers. The government sets up camps to house these gifted children, proposing that they will be housed, trained, and “rehabilitated” into normal children again. Instead, they are separated according to their abilities into colors: Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, and Green, and forced to live and work in sub-human conditions.

On her tenth birthday, Ruby woke up expecting birthday pancakes, but instead, when she touches her parents, something terrible happens. Instantly, Ruby becomes an unknown stranger to her family and is sent away to live at Thurmond, one of the containment camps, for six years where she hides her abilities, pretending to be a Green rather than an Orange (see color descriptions below). When she is discovered by the staff during an unscheduled alarm, she can either die or be smuggled out by the Children’s League, an organization fighting the government but also using kids as soldiers. Ruby chooses to escape, but then she takes the first chance she has to run away from her new captors, managing to find another group of camp runaways. Her companions are Zu, a young Yellow girl who is tiny, sweet, and doesn’t speak; Chubs, a Blue nerdy older boy who is wary of strangers and mothers everyone; and Liam, the charismatic leader of their tiny band, also a Blue. Together they search for the East River, a haven of sorts for kids like them where they hope to get the means to find their families and where Ruby thinks she might learn more about her abilities. All the while they’re being tracked by bounty hunters, soldiers, and the Children’s League. When the East River turns out to be too good to be true, everything falls on Ruby’s shoulders. She can be afraid of her gift and be controlled, or she can fight to save her friends, even if it means she dies…

Spoiler! Interpreting the colors for everyone’s abilities

Red: makes things and themselves burst into flames

Orange: can manipulate or control the brain in some way

Yellow: can create or possess electrical surges

Blue: telekinetic

Green: little human computers, are whizzes with technology.

Two quick and funny excerpts (taking place about halfway through the book, don’t know exactly because I was reading an e-reader version) from The Darkest Minds:

“I’m gonna go, so you–don’t fight anymore, okay?” I said. “I’m sorry I lied to you. I know I should have left, but I wanted to help you get home because you had helped me, and I’m sorry, I’m so, so, sorry—“

“Ruby,” Chubs said. Then again, louder. “Ruby! Oh, for the love of…we were talking about Black Betty, not your Orange ass.” [Side note: Black Betty is their minivan.]

I froze. “I just…I thought…I understand why you would leave me behind…”

“Huh?” Liam looked horrified. “We left the radio on in case you woke up, so you’d know that we didn’t leave you.”

God help me, that only made me cry harder.

When a girl cries, few things are more worthless than a boy. Having two of them just meant that they stared at each other helplessly instead of at me. Chubs and Liam stood, up to their ears in awkward, until Chubs finally reached out and patted my head like he would have patted a dog.

*Liam to studious reader Chubs*

“Any day now, Marian Librarian. I thought you were the one that wanted to check out.” 

Chubs gave him the finger. 

untitled2 the darkest minds Never Fade

After Ruby chose to save Chubs from death by calling Cate from the Children’s League, she wiped Liam’s memories of her so that he couldn’t remember their relationship and come back for her.

Now, in her new role as the Leader of her small team of psi kids and working for the Children’s League, Ruby finds herself connected to Liam in another way. His brother, Cole Stewart, is high in the Children’s League and he needs Ruby’s help. When Cole was on a mission, his brother stole his jacket, the one hiding a flash drive with the secrets about IAAN that can cause a war. Ruby will do anything to save Liam, and after being with the League for a few months, she’s been extensively trained. She sets out to find him, but there are no small problems in the way. 1) Her handlers will be furious and vengeful, 2) she is saddled with her youngest and most inexperienced teammate, Jude, who is also incapable of duplicity, 3) she has to cross the nation while people are still out to capture or kill her, 4) the prospect of seeing Liam and having him know what she did to save him might just be the end of them both. As Ruby’s past and present collide, she struggles under the strain that her choices have put on her relationships, finding the one person she can’t run from is herself.

untitled3the darkest minds never fade In the Afterlight

After the catastrophic ending in the last book, Ruby is having a hard time putting herself back together. She cannot forgive herself for not protecting Jude when they were escaping from the bombings and carries the weight of his death on her shoulders. As Ruby, Cole, Liam, Chubs, and the remnants of the kids from the Children’s League flee to a safe haven, they dedicate themselves to a strong mission–one Ruby’s been trying to pursue since she came to the Children’s League–to free their peers from the horrors of the containment camps. Not everyone agrees with Ruby and Cole’s plans since they’re also facing a larger battle, one to set the country right again and possibly find a cure for IAAN. Ruby might not be the same girl that came from Thurmond, but she’s determined to give everything she has to save kids from that horror. She owes it to them to use her dangerous powers, and sacrifice herself, to do the world’s greatest good.

I really loved this series. Despite knowing that there must be a few glaring holes (like, hello? where are the lawyers and policemen and people who work in service industries? Seemingly, how can the world go back to the way it is now at the end of the third book?), the breakneck pace and palpable plot tension drive dynamic characters into conflict all the way through the novels, and there’s not much opportunity to miss small details in the setting and backstory. Readers will be hard pressed not to like Ruby and her transformation from a timid, weak passive character into a strongly driven young woman who ultimately changes the future of an entire nation. The most disappointing part of the series is in the first few chapters of The Darkest Minds when you’re just trying to get a handle on what is happening and who Ruby is. My advice is to stick with it until she meets Zu, Chubs, and Liam and see if that seals the deal for you, because that’s when the intrigue makes a big difference and many unknowns are revealed.

Note: Definitely for older teens (probably not most middle schoolers) since this is an intense read. Violence, Language, and some Sexual Circumstances, though that is not as graphic as the violence. Psychological trauma–worse than what they describe with Peeta in the Hunger Games series.

 
 

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