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Tag Archives: dystopia

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

I’m over at Tynga’s Reviews this week giving my review of Veronica Roth’s highly anticipated and controversial new novel Carve the Mark. Click the picture to follow the link or click here!

carve the mark by veronica roth

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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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The Testing series by Joelle Charbonneau

What if grades and test results determined the rest of your life and there was nothing you could do about it? For teens and preteens who are aggravated at the numerous important testing regimens in the education system (EOGs, SAT, ACT, etc. etc.), this series will be both familiar and horrifying. A more middle grade The Hunger Games/Divergent read-a-like that is furiously fast-paced, the Testing series describes a dystopian United States which is now a series of colonies after a great war. One girl stands in the balance towards a revolution or a civil war.

13326831 The Testing

In the rural Five Lakes Colony, Malencia “Cia” Vale longs to be a chosen candidate for the Testing, a rigorous exam necessary for entry into the University at Tosu City, because she wants to help mend the destruction caused by the Great War. Upon her graduation from high school, she and three others from her colony are selected for the Testing. The catch? There are over 100 candidates vying for only 20 spots at the University. Before Cia was a Testing candidate, her father, who had graduated from University and gone through the Testing, told her how his memories of the Testing were wiped but he managed to keep a few. She should trust no one and think about everything. Though one of the tests is on paper, the next two progress quickly and have dire, maybe fatal, consequences for candidates who fail. For the final test, it is a matter of survival in a controlled testing environment, the wilds outside of Tosu City that are contaminated with biological weapons, chemical warfare, and unknown beings exposed to radiation. Her only ally is Tomas, one of her colony-mates, and even he makes Cia nervous. She has to trust someone because now that she’s in the Testing, she must succeed or die trying.

independentstudy Independent Study

Cia is now a University student, as is Tomas, only instead of going into the mechanical studies track, she was put into Government, much to her disappointment and surprise. There she must compete against her fellow new members, a few from the colonies but more from Tosu City who did not have to go through the Testing, and get a good internship or she’s as good as dead. To make matters worse, she remembers part of her Testing and if the examination board finds out, she will be Redirected and secretly disappear or be killed. No matter the consequences to herself, she’s determined to save the United Commonwealth from the brutal horrors behind the Testing and University. However, are her methods to judge the truth and her allies just as morally wrong as the government’s? Cia must make smart choices to survive and beat her competition or more people will be killed in the name of the greater good.

9780547959214_hres Graduation Day

Cia’s final and highest stakes test is here. Two factions are about to wrestle for control over the United Commonwealth and the Testing. Cia must find her allies and embrace her calling as a leader much earlier than planned. As the President’s assistant, Cia is perfectly poised to see both sides but also be in a lot of danger as political factions wage civil war. It’s a murky battle of he-said, she-said. Cia must discover who is telling the truth and who deserves to die because she is the key to the revolution ahead. It will take loyal allies and great courage to do the right thing but there can be no more waiting. It’s graduation day.

While this series was certainly entertaining and kept me on my toes, I just didn’t find it as emotionally wrenching or captivating as The Hunger Games or Divergent. It seemed to be as easy as an already smart character simply finding her own two feet and standing on them, which is great as an empowering message, but might have been resolved too simply for me. I spent the greater part of the three books half terrified for Cia and mostly distrusting Tomas. Well, I won’t reveal what really happens, but my expectations didn’t, which is both good and bad; there didn’t seem to be as many consequences as I thought there should have been. For this reason, this is particularly great for middle grade readers as it does not have any sexual situations, does have romance, and lessens the brutal death from THG but also gives a satisfying ending. Don’t expect this to be your new favorite series but it is worth a read.

 
 

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The Lunar Chronicles (1-3) by Marissa Meyer

Everyone has been raving about how great these books are and I just had to read for myself.

Asdfghjkl!!!! I LOVED THEM. AM BUYING!

They have been labeled as retellings of classic fairytales, and while they are, you are so engrossed in the rest of the other details that they are practically nothing like any other fairytale retellings that I’ve ever read. The base material is pulled from the fairytale but the rest of the story is like having a science fiction/Star Wars-esque Once Upon a Time where there are mashups and epic battles and such, but many of the heroines/heroes have to stick together to succeed. Read on and I hope you’re prepared to fall in love.

419rjQNqYhL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Cinder

In a dystopian future, great advances have been made in technology, leading to common use of androids and cyborg operations while humans are dying of a deadly plague. Even worse still, another evil is looming greater than the plague deaths. The Lunars, a race of space people who live on the moon, and their queen, Levana, are at any minute about to wage war on the planet.

However, our story begins in the hot and crowded city of New Beijing. Orphaned Cinder is a mechanic and a cyborg. Despised by her stepmother and one stepsister and looked down upon by most citizens, Cinder desires her freedom more than anything else, which is hard considering she has no legal power or money. For such a talented person in seemingly hopeless circumstances, it surprises her when she catches the notice of Prince Kai who is seeking to have his android repaired. Then her favorite stepsister suddenly gets the plague and Cinder is devastated. Her stepmother signs her up to be a vaccine test subject, and since Cinder is a cyborg, she is basically property. Hauled off to the medical center at the palace against her will, Cinder discovers she is immune to the plague and receives an allowance for her participation in the medical studies. There, Cinder once again runs into Prince Kai who invites her to be his guest for the ball and begs for the information on his broken android. Determined to get out of New Beijing once and for all, Cinder declines and begins plotting her escape until she repairs the droid that is so vitally important to the prince. Suddenly, Cinder is thrust into the center of the conflict between Queen Levana and Prince Kai. She must do everything she can to stop their engagement because the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

Scarlet Scarlet

With the conclusion of Cinder, our former heroine was thrown in jail.(No other spoilers here!) Now, with the help of Captain Carswell Thorne, she’s on the lam though she’s a wanted fugitive, but she still needs more answers to save Prince Kai from the Lunars. Chasing the answers sends her to France where we meet our new heroine…

In a faraway little French town, Scarlet Benoit is worried about her missing grandmother, a former military pilot who long since retired to run her own picturesque farm. Scarlet cannot find any clues as to where she’s gone, but two things make her suspicious. One, her drunk father returns telling tales of kidnapping and something that’s lost, and two, enter Wolf, a powerful street fighter with predatory instincts and a hidden past who seems to have a thing for Scarlet. When she decides to go after the gang to rescue her kidnapped grandmother, Wolf accompanies her as her protection. Their adventure brings them to Cinder who is also searching for Scarlet’s grandmother, and together they must find the answers they’re looking for while evading capture and death from the Lunars and their newest homicidal weapon, packs of mind-controlled Lunar wolves who are ruthless killers.

13206828 Cress

Briefly, we met Cress in the first book as she was the girl who told of Levana’s plan to marry Kai and take over Earth. After the end of the last book, Cinder, Thorne, Iko, Scarlet and Wolf know they need more help exposing Levana’s plans for war and decide they need to rescue Cress to do it.

Cress has been trapped for years in a satellite orbiting the moon by Queen Levana’s second-in-command Sybil Mara. Cress is a shell, or a Lunar that has no capacity for glamours and manipulations, and must do as the Queen commands. Mostly, she is solely responsible for cloaking ships and spying on earth but she is secretly an excellent hacker. In fact, she’s been helping Cinder and rebelling against her Queen, despite instructions to find the cyborg fugitive and turn her in. Ever since Cinder escaped from prison, she’s actually been cloaking their ship while mooning over the handsome Captain Carswell Thorne. When they attempt to rescue her, things go wrong as Sybil Mara discovers their plan, leaving Cinder with an enemy Lunar and a very injured Wolf while Sybil Mara escapes with Scarlet as hostage and Thorne and Cress are stranded in a plummeting satellite. Each group must band together to save the world or let Levana doom Earth into an eon of submission. Their time is running out as Queen Levana is marrying Prince Kai in only a few days. Their second mission? Kidnap Prince Kai and stop that wedding!

This series has it all! Romance, adventure, science fiction/geeky technical descriptions…I read them in three days I was so addicted! I just love how these are strong female characters who are determined to do what’s right even if it means they must sacrifice their own comfort to save the world. The men in the book are admirable too, in fact, very similar to the strong-willed cast of Divergent. Even timid and naive Cress has her own strength and part to play that could mean possible victory or utter defeat. I can’t say enough great things about this series. They are clean reads and perfect for all ages.

Fairest, the prequel novella starring Queen Levana, comes out today!  22489107

Winter, the fourth book in the series, comes out November 2015.

Find out more behind this great series click here!

 

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Divergent, Insurgent, & Allegiant (Divergent series) by Veronica Roth

Possibly you remember I’ve written in passing how great the Divergent series is! Since the final book was released about a month ago (sorry, been busy with my newly minted firstborn), I can finally review the whole series for you! Aren’t you lucky? 🙂

First I just want to talk briefly about why I think they are great books and teens identify with them so readily. Being a teen means you’re facing a chasm where the gap of childhood doesn’t quite meet adulthood. Big major choices lie ahead and the future stretches out dark, unknown, and terrifying before you. College? Getting a real job? Leaving the safety and familiarity of Mom and Dad… Maybe a deep relationship and commitment? Your choices are all overwhelming and immediate and determine the entire rest of your life. This is what teens first identify with in Divergent, and the second is also just as important, that of finding out your own identity. The person you are inside that makes those choices. Let’s explore the series, but don’t follow if you’re a pansycake.

divergent series

Divergent

In dystopian Chicago, sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior is facing a choice that will determine the rest of her life, same as the others her age.They must choose one of the five factions which each favor a certain trait: Abnegation which values selflessness, Dauntless which values bravery, Amity which values kindness, Candor which values honesty, or Erudite which values intelligence. When Beatrice’s faction aptitude test goes awry, she finds out she is Divergent Being Divergent is dangerous in their society, and something Beatrice would be killed for. Still, she must choose between her family and what she feels is her true identity. However, the hard choices do not stop there as Beatrice becomes Tris and must overcome the initiation process into her chosen faction. There she finds friends, enemies, fear, strength, and love, but ultimately, her Divergent values will out and leave her in a fight for her life, her family, and her faction.

Divergent coming to the big screen March 2014. Watch the teaser here. First trailer here.

(It should be fairly obvious since I’m discussing a trilogy, but if you don’t like spoilers and haven’t finished the book, don’t keep reading! This is especially important after the review of Insurgent.)

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Insurgent

By ending the simulation control of the Dauntless at the end of Divergent that leave Tris, Tobias, and their family on the run from the Erudite and Dauntless traitors, their main goal is to stop the Erudite from controlling and killing everyone to eliminate the Divergent. They begin their quest by trying to find allies with Amity and Candor but both are no help. They, and the true Dauntless, decide to make a stand themselves by allying with the huge population of factionless to stop Jeanine Matthews and her Machiavellian quest for control of the city. Our heroine, Tris, is still very much crippled by her hard choices in Divergent and grapples with the grief and survivor’s guilt that plague her but still affect every choice she makes. As with all choices, once made you can only move forward or stand still, and Tris is no exception as she struggles to come to terms with her parents’ sacrifice and her own sense of attempting to be both selfless and brave, worthy of both Abnegation and Dauntless.

(Remember, if you haven’t read Allegiant, don’t follow the periods after the review below!)

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Allegiant

In Allegiant, Evelyn and the factionless have installed a new dictatorship. Those who wish to keep their factions and form a new moral and democratic social order form the Allegiant. They also want to find what is outside their city and why the Divergent are so important. Tris, Tobias, Christina, Caleb, Peter, and Uriah are part of the group that go outside the city’s borders and discover The Bureau, a government group that is responsible for establishing experiments like the one in Chicago to attempt to create genetically pure people, the Divergent, and cure those who are genetically damaged. Using the dual narration between Tris and Tobias, we discover the secrets behind the factions, Tris’s family, and just how much love has the power to change. You won’t be able to put it down until the final battle wages.

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SPOILERS HERE!

It’s no secret that the ending of the Divergent trilogy is controversial for most fans. As with all beloved series, readers have their own hopes for the end, and there is the possibility of disappointment. In my opinion, it’s a literary and spiritual triumph, but that’s not what I’m here to discuss as V. Roth already hashed her ideas on that. (Just keep reading. I linked it.) I want to talk briefly about my feelings but more on just what the reader experiences and what I find disappointing about the conclusion to the series.

Veronica Roth revealed that there was a controversial death in Allegiant, and if you read it, you know that our heroine, Tris Prior, dies because she finally understands the meaning of sacrificing herself the way her parents did. While I fully accept and understand why this was necessary and made Tris’s story a powerful one, one that entirely changed her world (Veronica writes about it here), I do not have to be happy with it. So I’m not, because I loved Tris. Her death is somehow my death, the reader’s death. And yet, we are also Tobias, left with the gaping hole in our hearts that Tris will never occupy anymore. We suffer the same grief and emptiness because Tris’s inner beauty and strength of will made us irrevocably love her. We also feel grief because of our love of Tobias. His struggle and great sense of loss make us hurt for him because we hoped, ah we hoped, that he would have a happy ending. Finally.

Because I just finished the book, I am still in the early stages of grief…anger and sadness and despair. I cannot come to the point where Tobias is in the epilogue, a state we would get to eventually. I find it hard to accept that she died, that we get no happy ending for our two lovers, and just how Tobias could possibly move on and find another person that isn’t Tris. I suppose I am a romantic at heart in this way…I can’t picture him with anyone else.

Also, I’m going to be very, very sad to see Shailene Woodley die in the films. 😦 Many tears will be shed and many tissues used (or a warm sleeve).

If anyone else has any thoughts, please leave them for me in the comments.

In other news, I’m looking forward to seeing Catching Fire very soon!

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2013 in Dystopian/Utopian Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen

 

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