Tag Archives: dystopian

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

51o6CzgXwLL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I read this book two years ago, and was so addicted I made my husband get the audiobooks, and then he found it irresistible too. I can’t say enough how much I LOVED this series! Only, it’s actually kind of hard to write a blog post from an audiobook because there’s not really a way for me to document my notes in the car. (If you suggest voice to text, I tried this. It’s full of things like, “Darrow is rescued by his uncle narrow and a band of rubbles” and “hang hang out wanting”.) Anyway, here’s my inadequate review to the unforgettable drug that is Red Rising.

Deep in the crust of Mars, young Red Helldiver Darrow and his Lambda clan mine for helium-3 to fuel their planet. Just as Darrow believes he’s won the laurel, the award for the most helium-3, and by consequence more food and supplies for his clan, they are denied the laurel–a show that the Golds in power do not play fair but also do not care. His young wife, Eo, convinces him to celebrate anyway, saying she has a surprise for him. Eo leads him to a forest on the surface which is forbidden. When they are caught, Darrow and Eo are both whipped, but when Eo receives her punishment, she sings a song that inspires rebellion and, more dangerously, hope.

Darrow wants to die with her, but instead he is rescued by his Uncle Nerol and a band of rebels known as the Sons of Ares (pronounced “Air-ees”). With the Sons, Darrow is tested and transformed from a Red into a Gold, the highest rank in society. He has been taught, trained, and practically tortured and only survives because of a pit viper bite when he was younger. Once his transformation is thorough, he applies for the Institute, a school for elite Golds who, if they pass, become the Peerless Scarred and lead fleets of ships. Though the test is extremely hard, Darrow achieves a near perfect sore, missing only one question, highly rare among the thousands of Golds that take the exam. Once in the Institute, the students are each chosen by houses. Darrow is chosen by the House of Mars, and these gifted Gold children are forced to endure the Passage, when all initiates are put into rooms two apiece and made to see who will survive. Darrow must choose between life and furthering rebellion and killing his new friend’s twin brother or death and the death of his wife’s sacrifice.

Next comes the true test of the Institute, who will learn the skills of conquest that are so honored in Gold history and thereby preserve their society? It is one giant war. As Golds are turned into lowColors and forced to compete for supplies, food, shelter, allies. A battle of houses against houses. A battle of survival. And Darrow must win it all or see his wife’s dream turned to ash.

Darrow is a realistic hero. It’s easy to live inside his head and feel sympathy for him. However, it’s hard to predict his choices. This combined with the rich worldbuilding and other larger-than-life characters, makes for an utterly compelling, grisly, yet poetic tale of adventure, love, loyalty, and war. I still can’t find the words for loving such a crass and untouchable character as Sevro, and Mustang is simply the best noble heroine. She’s my inspiration, and I always want to understand her more, get in her head. I also love Pax, Mustang’s right hand man, and am devastated every time I read this book. Though I’ve read the trilogy (not the beginning of the new series yet!), this one is always my most favorite, possibly because it really is a giant RISK game and it is unfathomable to me how Darrow does it every time. This would be an epic film, the image of Mustang at the end with the Jackal? Priceless.

Teens who loved The Hunger Games can pick up this next logical young adult step and be even more hooked. Bloodydamn, is it GOOD!

Note: Sometimes this is considered YA, but mostly it is adult.


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The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons

15750874 The Glass Arrow

Fans of post-apocalyptic and dystopian YA will quickly be sucked into this stand-alone tale.

Once Aya was living in the Frontier with her unconventional family, including two young children she was charged with protecting, trying to make ends meet, but she has been captured and now lives in a slave pen, awaiting some man to make a purchase for her at market. In her society, a potential future of our own, all women are property: sold, abused, used for children, and killed or pushed aside when considered useless. Children are means to an end, and religion and prayer is banned. Also, any girl who is a virgin and gives up her virginity before being sold (even if the man buying her asks her to do it) is punished to live as a Virulent, the lowest caste of society that is visibly marked and usually ripe with disease. Aya tries to do anything to avoid being sold. She starts fights, gets sick, tries to escape, and usually she is punished by being unsuitable for market and sent to live in solitary confinement. In her brief exile, she makes a friend or two: Brax, a wolf puppy she saved, who keeps her warm at night, and a Driver boy, whom she calls Kiran, who is mute but eventually companionable. Then, she runs out of chances.  Finally up for sale, Aya (her slave name is Clover) tries to be as repulsive as possible, which backfires. The mayor of Glasscaster buys her for his son, and Aya is slave to a young boy. Thinking she has lost all chance of escape, she is unexpectedly saved when Kiran pretends to be the mayor’s brother and helps her back into the Frontier. Aya’s only thought is to find her family, but a series of surprises leave her questioning her familial ties, her beliefs, and her future.

The Glass Arrow has been called a modern YA retelling of The Handmaid’s Tale and Aya has been drawing parallels to Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. (Actually, I thought it was going to be more like THG and Katniss than it was, so I was very pleasantly surprised by this.) However, it is not for the sheltered reader. It is designed to open eyes. To make the reader think about women, their vulnerabilities, the patriarchal society and how it can degrade into this view, which is very similar to some countries in the world. It is an emotionally difficult read (not inappropriate by any means), but will make you uncomfortable and expose you, if you weren’t already aware, to ideas about sexism and potential abuse of females.

Now the good parts! Aya herself is a strong character, inviting the Katniss comparison, and does much to shelter those around her, like the children, from the brutality of their world. Kiran is the best possible sort of boy, and Aya comes to realize this, discovering that she demonized most men in retaliation to the stereotypical treatment of her (and females in general). Kiran changes her mind, and Aya learns that despite society’s view, she and he can love honestly, honorably, and truly appreciate each other. Brax is both comfort and comic relief from the horrible situation, and the ending is satisfying, though I won’t spoil it here. Take a chance to read something that isn’t just a happy story, for it’s in these that you learn the most about yourself, how you think, and how you might need to change…

*Note: Middle grade readers may not be emotionally ready to read/discuss amount of sexual connotation and possibility of sexual abuse in this book.

P.S. Found it noted on Kristen Simmon’s website that she is working on a book called Metaltown for 2016. Unknown whether this is a sequel (though doubtful) or unrelated. Go there for more articles and bonus stories from The Glass Arrow!


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Article 5 trilogy by Kristen Simmons

An inspiring tale of a young woman, oppressed and hunted by an over-zealous abstemious anti-feminist dystopian regime, becomes the face and weapon to bring about its destruction.


10677277 Article 5

In the near distant future, a dystopian United States is governed by a new set of rules, the Moral Statues, with lawbreakers arrested, sent to trial and possibly death rather than simply fined. It is this United States that is seventeen-year-old Ember Miller’s reality. Under Article 5, the law against children conceived out of wedlock, she and her mother have just been arrested, and one of the Federal Bureau of Reformation (FBR) soldiers is her former flame, Chase Jennings. Heartbroken and separated from her mother, Ember is sent to a girl’s reform camp since she is still a minor. This reform camp is run by the Sisters of Salvation, an all-female religious-minded cult that sits at the right hand of the FBR. The Sisters teach and enforce that women are under the authority of men and that children should obey. Determined to find her mom and save her from death, Ember plots to leave the reform camp and blackmails her roommate, Rebecca, and her secret guard boyfriend to do it. Ember doesn’t succeed and is about to be tortured when Chase shows up to take her to trial but is secretly rescuing her. While Ember tries to figure out Chase and his motivations, they are also trying to find a safe contact in South Carolina, one who may have saved Ember’s mom. However, as fugitives from the government, they can be arrested and tortured, especially Chase as a military deserter. It’s survive or die…

Note on the religious aspects: Though it resembles some religions here, it makes an effort to cross the line into grossly unacceptable treatment–with severe physical and emotional abuse (or death) as the frequent punishments for infractions–a more brutal and oppressive fanatic version. Think puritan mixed with the intolerance of Queen Mary I’s reign. An absolute rule for the marriage of church and state.

BreakingPointFinal-1 Breaking Point

As Ember and Chase were captured once more at the close of the first book and they faked their deaths in escaping, they attempt to hide underground because of their high-profile status. Instead, they are absorbed into the Resistance, a well-organized group of rebels trying to overthrow the government. When news of Ember’s escape finally gets leaked, she is also the prime suspect for a serial sniper who has been picking off soldiers. Ember, incapable of sniper skills, must come to terms with her new reputation and what it means for their joining the Resistance. Should Ember keep hiding for fear of being shot on sight, or is this finally the time to fight back? When the Resistance comes under attack, Ember and Chase are pushed to the forefront of leadership and must navigate their changing relationship in the face of imminent disaster.

17559899 Three

Ember and Chase are tired of running. Their journey has been leading up to this point, to finding the safe house, but their only hope is in ruins. As they navigate the wild with a small band of followers and just when they seem the most defeated, they discover the clandestine leader sect of the Resistance known as Three. Thinking this is what they’ve been searching for all along, Ember is disappointed to find yet another secretive and, she suspects, misguided group focused on achieving a means to an end despite the lives damaged. Deciding she is unwilling to morally compromise herself despite the cost, Ember must sacrifice everything she holds most dear to force the FBR to its knees and usher in a new dawn. An action packed finale that will leave you feverishly devouring to find out whether there can be any sort of happy ending for characters you’ve come to love.

Note: Violence and minor sexual references.

One of the greatest assets to this series is the characters. They are real, believable, and act in convincing ways. Despite Ember’s great trust in Chase before he was a soldier, we face uncertainty about his true motives. With Tucker, we are pretty certain he is a villain, but then he is suddenly trying to become a rebel. His wavering stance between betrayer and savior and the cost of his actions flesh out a boy whom you are hard pressed to keep a grudge against, as Ember comes to realize. Another very cool thing about this series is that there is no set locale for all the action. They visit Knoxville, Chicago, South Carolina, Charlotte, Virginia…really makes you believe you can almost look up and see the setting around you. Solid read, and I can’t wait to read her next book The Glass Arrow! (For a sneak peek at the bones of the next book, check out this article!)


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Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld

One of the earlier examples of dystopian fiction before it blew up into super-popularity due to The Hunger Games and Divergent, the Uglies series was a hit for author Scott Westerfeld and introduces a futuristic world where the United States is long gone and leave its wasting skyscrapers and automobiles as “Rusty” relics due to a petroleum virus that wiped out most of the planet. New cities have formed, functioning like prisons, letting no one out and no one in. Citizens are required to get an operation when they turn 16 making them into pretties, transforming their “ugly” bodies into flawless beauty and minds rewired by shallow concerns. New pretties spend their days partying in New Pretty Town, having their every need met–from beautiful clothes to to-die-for apartments–while the younger uglies play tricks and live in squalor.



Tally Youngblood is ready for her birthday and her operation when her friend Peris becomes a New Pretty. Tally has three long months before she can join him and acts out by doing dangerous tricks, but when she’s running away from security after an epic trick, she meets Shay, another tricky Ugly with whom Tally shares her birthday. Shay and Tally form a fast friendship, but Shay decides to escape her Pretty operation by fleeing into the wilderness after the mysterious David. In retaliation for Tally and Shay’s friendship, Tally is prevented from becoming a Pretty by the Specials, cruel-looking pretties in charge of the city who demand she follow Shay and betray her. Tally has only two choices: betray Shay and become pretty or stay an ugly forever. She reluctantly sets out to meet Shay and David with a set of cryptic instructions, but Tally just might find she has a third option…one that changes her and ignites a chain reaction in the entire world.


When we left Tally, she had agreed to be a test subject for David’s mother, a talented scientist who thinks she can cure Pretties, because Tally wanted to save Shay who was captured by the Specials and forcibly given her operation. Now, Tally is a Pretty, and she, Shay, and Peris are trying to get into a Pretty clique, the Crims, a group of more daring and desirable New Pretties. Zane is leader of the Crims, and Tally finds herself drawn to him. He makes her feel bubbly or more alive. At the party with Zane, Tally is confronted by an oddly familiar face–Croy, of David’s Smokies, the people living free outside of the cities. Croy gives her a mystery that leads Tally and Zane to the two pills that contain the cure. When the Specials try to catch them, they split the pills and experience growing periods of clear thoughts. However, Zane begins to be very ill, and Tally must find him help outside the city, relying on the bubbly Crims to help her. Her two dangers are the Specials and Shay, who seems to have found her own way to be bubbly by cutting herself. But in their quest to become bubbly and succeeding, have they started a revolution?


Tally has changed once again as she has been taken by Special Circumstances and made into a Special, one of the talented new Cutters. She follows Shay, her leader and also the one who betrayed her and the Smokies. Tally is still conflicted, and can’t reconcile her love for her fellow Cutters and her love for Zane, who they think is helping the missing Smokies. To set a trap and keep Zane safe from the other Specials, they send him as bait into the wild with just Shay and Tally following him on a secret mission. However, Shay and Tally argue and decide to split off–Tally following Zane and the Crims and Shay following a technological pathway that only reveals the way to the Smokies one step at a time. What once was simple is growing more and more complicated as their new abilities and Tally’s extraordinarily adaptive thinking spur a radical change that could mean a global war.



In a new novel that exists in the Pretties world but fairly separate from the one readers have gotten to know, young Aya Fuse is dying to be a kicker (what equals a sort of social media journalist) and break the next big story, increasing her rank and fame. Right now, Aya is extra, not anyone important, but she knows a big secret that could change everything. She finds a secret clique that does dangerous stunts known as the Sly Girls. Determined to film them and launch them into fame and herself with it, she attempts to hunt them down and become one of them. Knowing her game, the Sly Girls goodnaturedly prevent her hovercam, Moggle, (think of Moggle kind of like Weebo in Flubber…) from working but allow her to ride the bullet trains with them. When they discover a secret entrance in a mountain, Aya follows an even bigger story, one that involves (an equivalent of) weapons of mass destruction and the possible obliteration of the world as they know it. The new dangers bring in a few old favorites as Tally, Shay, Fausto, and David enter into the adventure once more to protect the world with their special gifts, and Aya discovers the power she possesses to influence…

For middle grade readers who perhaps have finished The City of Ember series and are ready for a new dystopian but not quite up for the brutality and rough survival of The Hunger Games and Divergent or even Legend, this is a great series. They will connect with Tally because she, too, is on the edge of a big life change–moving from an ugly to a pretty, much similar to the move from child to teenager or from middle school to high school. Though Tally is about to turn 16, she acts and thinks much younger, finding herself very uncertain in her path and her choices. She wants to make the right ones, and she struggles to understand the consequences. We watch as Tally starts out as a self-centered mediocre rebel, forced to become a puppet, and yet every time she manages to think for herself. Despite her pre-disposition to follow the crowd and the odds of failure, Tally shows her own independence and strength of character and comes to succeed. In Extras, we find her still trying to save the world, maybe making mistakes getting there, but ultimately realizing them and setting them to rights. Aya offsets Tally’s narrow-minded views by showing a new way of thinking and discovering that the world isn’t so much in black and white/good and bad, but that it has gray areas and its best not to judge at first glance.

untitledFor my own sake, I just want to say this is one of THE HARDEST series to write about! It possesses it’s own jargon that you must conform to (and be utterly annoyed by) when attempting to describe it. (Note that there is basically a dictionary on the Uglies world called Bogus to Bubbly. ) While I thought this series was great for middle grade readers, I did not find Tally to be believable for a 16 year old narrator. She just acts too immature and too insecure than most 16 year olds, more like 12-14YOs instead. With that being said, some of the descriptions and lead-in just were also not convincing enough for older teen readers though they might still like the books. This might be attributed to her brain surgery, I suppose, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a good series. My favorite out of all of them was Extras, because I found the reputation ranking fascinating and Aya more likeable. I give this one a solid 3 stars.

Note: Brief sexual situations.


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The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave, 2) by Rick Yancey

1395241820000-9780399162428-InfiniteSea-hires-2- The Infinite Sea

When we left Cassie, Evan, Ben/Zombie and the rest, everyone except Evan had escaped from the camp. Evan had sacrificed himself, and they were all waiting to see if he would make good on his promise and come back, which, for an alien, prompted an uneasy sort of trust.

Now, they all are waiting in an abandoned, rat-infested hotel to see if they will be found out by the aliens. While they’re stuck inside, tensions are high, especially between Ringer and Cassie. On Ben’s orders, Ringer leaves to try and find them all a better hidey-hole, and feisty, obstinate Teacup wants to go with her. When she’s walked a few hours away from the hotel, Ringer discovers Teacup has followed her and she’s on the edge of death, because she was found and shot at by the aliens. Ringer, despite her cold assurances, does not have an icy heart and can only surrender to the aliens in the hopes that they will save Teacup. Meanwhile, Evan has survived his destructive acts of the last novel but not without serious injuries. He finds his way to Cassie and the others, but knowingly leaves a deadly former alien friend on his trail. Their old enemies haven’t let them get away so easily, and have laid their own trap upon Ringer’s capture. It seems all members of the party are certainly doomed, but they have a chance if their faith, hope, and especially love are strong.

This series is one of the most peculiar in young adult literature, I believe. It reads as much more literary and abstract than the regular gamut of YA, not that there’s anything wrong with that as it encourages deeper comprehension on the part of its readers. Still, a struggling reader will have more trouble with this series than most YA fiction, but it might encourage different types of readers, especially males and adults. I find it to be one of the most subtle books but deep in psychological meaning. All of our characters have changed so much since the beginning that they have almost found entirely new identities and this process continues here. Ben and Cassie still struggle to accept Evan, as Evan fights to reconcile his alien-ness with his humanity and love. Ringer, who is so prickly, cannot stop herself from caring about Teacup, and this is her greatest weakness. One of the other mysteries, which we discover a bit more about, is the reason for the 5th wave and the waves that had gone before. Why are the aliens sniping people, or brainwashing children to become soldiers, or planting their own into human bodies? You probably will find more questions than answers here, so read closely. The first half of the book fairly drags since it concentrates more on narrative than plot, but then races to the finish so quickly that you’re dumbfounded that it’s over. Scenes jump from character to character to present a whole story that the readers must add up for themselves. I thought this story wasn’t near long enough and almost seems it didn’t progress as much as the first book. I guess we’ll see.

Last month, The 5th Wave won a Teens’ Top Ten spot and will be coming to the big screen in 2016. (I probably shouldn’t confess this here, but Chloe Grace Moretz creeps me out! Not she herself, but because of earlier characters she has played. It will be hard to convince myself to see the movie with her as Cassie! )


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