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The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

15 Apr

testingTitle: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: dystopia/post-apocalyptic
Page Count: 325

Graduation Day. I can hardly stand still as my mother straightens my celebratory red tunic and tucks a strand of light brown hair behind my ear.

The setting is kind of sort of Chicago (as per usual) and it’s the future and everything is terrible. Sound familiar? Anyways, in this particular vision of the immediate future after an apocalypse, only a select, chosen few get to go to University once they have graduated from…regular school. The chosen few go to the big city, take some tests, and then are sent to work rehabilitating the planet for the Commonwealth. This is all Cia has ever wanted to do, so when she is chosen for the testing, she’s thrilled. Until her father tells her about some night terrors that have been plaguing him since his own testing, only he can’t remember exactly what happened because of some pesky erased memories. His main advice is to trust no one, which is pretty good advice becuase Cia’s fellow testing candidates are the worst kind of academic brats, and the tests themselves are designed to kill you if you fail, so basically they are like the SAT but SO MUCH WORSE. Naturally, Cia starts to question everything she ever believed while making out with the dimpled dreamboat from home. It’s shocking, I know.

So, why the hell did I read this book? Well, I run a book club for my seventh and eighth graders. It’s an open book club so any old Tom, Dick, or Harry can join, but I usually get the same tween girls. I’m not complaining – they are LOVELY – but I immediately regretted my decision to hand over the book choosing power to them when they chose this as our next book to read together. And yes, it was horribly derivative – kind of like The Hunger Games, only…academic? Until the field test, and then it’s totally Hunger Games. I could spend a lot of time listing all the different minute details that the two share, but I won’t, because that’s boring. Just suffice to say there are a lot.

HOWEVER. All that aside, I actually kind of enjoyed this book. I mean, I loved The Hunger Games, and this was really, really similar and wasn’t terribly written so sure, I ripped through it. Did I ever actually truly care about any of the characters? Not particularly. They had about as much dimension and flavor as a piece of cardboard, so even though I was interested in the events that were unfolding, I was never actually concerned about anyone’s well-being. The writing was, likewise, pretty bland. However, the story is fun, and that was enough for me to actually finish the book.

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Prodigy by Marie Lu

11 Mar

13414446Title: Prodigy
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Sci-fi light
Page Count: 371

Day jolts awake beside me.

Within minutes of their arrival in Las Vegas in search of the Patriots, fugitives June and Day learn that the Elector has died and been replaced by his son, Anden. When the Patriots agree to take June and Day in on the condition that they assist in the assassination of the new Elector, the two young lovers must go their separate ways to play their parts in the plot; June, to Denver to manipulate Anden into falling into the Patriots’ plot, and Day, with the Patriots to stir up “the people” before he personally shoots the Elector. The roles they each play in the assassination plot causes them to question the nature of the Republic, the Patriots, and their relationship with each other.

First sentence: weak sauce.

Woof. This is the first book in a long time that I nearly gave up on after reading 200 pages. It was that bad. The best thing about the first book in this sequence, Legend, was its plot. It was fast, it was tense, it was an enjoyable popcorn read. This clunker of a sequel gets totally bogged down by plodding and incongruous character development and ANGST. So. Much. ANGST. I know this book is about teenagers. I get it. But do they have to be so fucking unbearable? Every time it switched to Day’s point of view I wanted to throw the book across the room. For being such a spontaneously charismatic orator in front of thousands of people, he sure does put his foot in it literally every other time he speaks.

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Legend by Marie Lu

23 Feb

9275658Title: Legend
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Genre: Sci-fi light
Page Count: 320

My mother thinks I’m dead.

Day is a fifteen-year-old futuristic Robin Hood of sorts, only he’s also a physical super freak. He steals from the rich, screws with his totalitarian government, flits through the beswamped LA like a shadow, and scales buildings in five seconds or some crap. You know, the usual. June is a fifteen-year-old prodigy whose Holmesian eye for detail and Catwoman like physical prowess has her finishing her collegiate studies and ready to serve her Republic several years early. When June’s brother, a decorated Republic officer, is murdered she is enlisted to hunt down her brother’s killer: the prodigiously elusive Day.

I know that, in a previous post, I stated that I wouldn’t read Legend because the audiobook was so horrible I had to abandon it. The first thirty or so page were pretty painful because I kept hearing June’s narrator in my head, with all the obnoxious, self-satisfied smugness she injected into June’s narrative. However, once I got past those first thirty pages my own version of June was able to pop into my head and I was a lot happier. June is still kind of obnoxious, but this book is pretty enjoyable.

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Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

9 Nov

After finishing The Diviners (a.k.a. the best book ever) on the plane back to the wet coast, I was stuck with a dilemma: which of the three books in my back pack to read next? Because what I really wanted was to read the next book in the series, which obviously couldn’t happen since it isn’t written yet, I decided on the next best thing which was reading another book by Libba Bray. Don’t hurt yourself trying to find the logic, because it doesn’t exist. So, cheeks aglow from finishing a truly awesome book and maybe some tears from leaving my favorite city, I cracked open Beauty Queens.

This book begins with a plane crash.

(Ooooooh, a meta first sentence!)

When the survivors of the crash of Oceanic Flight…wait, no, that’s┬ánot right. When a plane full of beauty queens heading to the Miss Teen Dream pageant crashes on a desert island in the middle of who knows where, the survivors have to band together to, well, survive. Survive their total lack of food, survive monsoons, survive giant snakes that appear to be decomposing, and survive an appalling lack of cosmetic products. But when they notice flashing lights coming from the “volcano” and stockpiled weapons along with mountains of Lady ‘Stache Off, they begin to realize they may not be alone as they thought. Oh, and also, there sexy pirates that crash on the island. YES.

I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting when, every time I saw this book on a shelf at the library or a book store, I thought to myself, “By golly I want to read that!” However, whatever I was expecting, it certainly wasn’t this over-the-top, campy satire that is Beauty Queens. In order to enjoy this book, an absolute suspension of disbelief must be exercised. Logic has no place here, and as long as you accept and embrace that this book is a pretty damn enjoyable ride. (Example: one of the characters has half of a seat-back tray stuck in her forehead for the entire book. There are some people who got bent out of shape over this because it just wasn’t realistic. To which I say: hahahahhahahahhaha.)

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Divergent by Veronica Roth

18 Jun

When I went to see The Hunger Games in the theater for the second time, I was surprised to see an ad for Veronica Roth‘s Insurgent pop up during the pre-movie “entertainment.” Insurgent is definitely one of the bigger spring/summer YA releases this year, but it still surprised me since it was the first time I had seen a book previewed like that at the movies. That plus the bajillion holds placed on it at my library made me realize I should probably read the first book, Divergent (Katherine Tegen Books), to prep me for it so I wouldn’t be the lamest/most clueless librarian ever. It was a Goodreads reader’s choice whatever, is hugely popular, and constantly gets lumped into “If you liked The Hunger Games…” lists, so I had high hopes. High hopes that were shattered into a million not-so-dazzling pieces.

Beatrice Prior lives in a future Chicago where society is divided into five “factions” meant to cultivate a different virtue: Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), Abegnation (selflessness), Amity (…friendship? Being nice? Peacefulness? I don’t know), and Erudite (Smartassness). Every year, all the sixteen-year-olds of the society must choose their faction, which often means leaving their families to go to a NEW faction. Before this happens, though, they are administered an aptitude test which supposedly shows them which faction they would do best in. However, the ultimate choice is still that of the sixteen-year-old (haha, I wrote “sexteen” at first. Appropriate!), so that there is still an element of free will when it comes to the teenage version of choose-your-own rest of your god damn life. Anyways. Beatrice’s test results are “inconclusive,” which means she is “divergent,” which is apparently even worse than being a Slytherin, so much so that she is told to keep it a secret or she’ll be killed. Anywho, Beatrice chooses a faction, renames herself “Tris,” starts lusting after her hunky and oh-so-broody instructor, Four, and as she undergoes the brutal Dauntless initiation she begins to unravel a dark conspiracy that is corrupting the foundations of her society.

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The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

6 Jun

So I haven’t written a post in forever and a day, and for that I apologize. See, I did this thing recently, in fact I’m still doing it, and it is called “moving.” I hate “moving” with the fire of a thousand hells. It’s really hard to find the time or the motivation to write when all of you free time is devoted to organizing your life via the filling and emptying of boxes. I have yet to figure out how to get my office chair up the stairs into my adorable attic bedroom, so that is an added challenge. Argh. Anyways, let’s get right into it.

Mary Pearson’s The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Square Fish Books) was first recommended to me by a coworker who is a huge jerk and told me what it was about before I read it. I didn’t realize what a jerk she was until I started reading and realized “this would be a hell of a lot better if I didn’t know what this book was actually about!” So, I am going to try really, really hard to sum up and review without giving away key plot elements and TWISTS so that you are actually SURPRISED and feeling the SUSPENSE if you choose to read it.

Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox wakes from a year-long coma with no memories. None. Nada. Zilch. She doesn’t know anything about her life prior to her accident, which means she also has no idea who she, Jenna Fox, is. As Jenna unravels the mystery of her own identity by watching videos of her extensively recorded life, the nature of her coma and her present life come into clearer focus, leaving her to question not only who she is but what she is.

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