Matched [Book Review]

Title: Matched
Author: Ally Condie
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
ISBN: 0525423648
Pages: 384
Year: 2010
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Source: The Wonderful Jen @ Devourer of Books
Rating: 4.5/5

Summary:

Cassia Reyes is as excited as any teenager in The Society on the night of her Match banquet. But when her match – the person she will marry – is announced, she is thrilled. She has been matched with her best friend, Xander. Yet, when she first inserts the disc with her match’s information on it, she doesn’t see Xander but Ky, another boy she knows from her neighborhood. It is supposed to be a mistake, a joke. She is assured that Xander is her match. But she is drawn to Ky more and more. And as she gets to know Ky, she learns that The Society may not be as perfect as she’s been led to believe.

My Thoughts:

Cassia lives in a world where her meals are designed and prepared for her, her career is dictated by authorities, and her future husband is chosen for her. Medicine ensures that everyone lives to an advanced age and only the “best” entertainment remains. Cassia is happy living in The Society. Matched is reminiscent of older dystopian works. It is a society much like The Giver and as regimented as 1984. Dissenters are banished to faraway lands like The Handmaid’s Tale. Yet Matched stands strongly on its own.

I was captivated from the very beginning. The story starts right away. Cassia’s Match banquet and her grandfather’s final banquet (so heartbreaking) occur within the first 100 pages. The world building is left to be woven in throughout.

Cassia is drawn to Ky early but she maintains her faith in The Society and her feelings for Xander. In a life so controlled and closely monitored, Ky and Cassia’s stolen moments in the woods as they’re hiking build tension. Through them we learn, along with Cassia, more about the world of Matched.

My only complaint is that it seemed like I was reading the same thoughts over and over from Cassia. She would think about Ky. Then tell herself not to think about Ky. Only to think about Ky again. But then again, wasn’t that kind of what life was like as a teenager?

I couldn’t help comparing Matched to Delirium, and, although they are each good in their own way, I think if you liked one, you will enjoy the other.

I am anxious for the next book in the series, Crossed (out in November). I want to know what happens to Cassia and her family and Ky and Xander. But I also want to know more about The Society and how it came about. I highly recommend Matched to any dystopian fan.

Others’ Thoughts: Po(sey) Sessions; The Worm Hole; That’s What She Read; Take Me Away; Helen’s Book Blog

Buy It Now: Powell’s; Book Depository; IndieBound; Amazon

Wither [Book Review]

“And here we are: two small dying things, as the world ends around us like falling autumn leaves.” p. 147

Wither

Title: Wither
Author: Lauren DeStephano
Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult
ISBN: 1442409053
Pages: 368
Year: 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Source: E-galley from publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

Summary:

Medical science grew so advanced in the 21st century that it created a generation of perfect human beings. All of the big diseases and cancers are gone and no one really knows how long this generation will live. However, the descendants of this generation are not so lucky. At the age of 25 for males and 20 for females every single person contracts an illness and dies. Facing the possible extinction of the human race, things have grown quite uncivilized. Rhine, 16, is kidnapped when she applies for a job in NYC and taken to Florida where she is forced to marry Linden. There she lives with him; his father, Housemaster Vaughn; her sister wives, Jenna and Cecily; and a multitude of staff, including Gabriel, who Rhine quickly befriends. Rhine plans on escaping and finding her twin brother before it is too late.

Thoughts:

I must confess that I went into Wither with a bit of a critical eye. Because we had all received it at the same time, Jen, Michelle, and I were all reading it the weekend they visited. They were ahead of me and unlike almost every other person I had heard discuss it on twitter, they had found some faults with it. So I think I was a little biased.

That said, my only real problem with Wither was that I thought there was something lacking and inconsistent in the world-building, and this can be remedied in the final books of the trilogy. I think the first book in a series is always difficult but especially so in a dystopian book. You have to get the plot going so you don’t lose the reader but you also have to set up the entire series. I guess I wanted a little more set-up in this one. The idea is so intriguing that I really wanted to know all of the details.

The story itself dealt a lot with the way Rhine adjusted to her new life. She finds the situation is not as horrible as she thought it would be and even finds some sympathy for Linden. She wants to go home to her brother but she could probably get comfortable in the Florida mansion if it weren’t for the little horrors that sneak in (most of which concern Housemaster Vaughn and his desire to find the cure using any means available to him). Jenna and Cecily provide a nice contrast to Rhine. Cecily is so young (only 13!) that it is a little heartbreaking to see her get so excited about marriage and pregnancy. Jenna is older, closer to death, and accepts this as the best way to live our her final years. And then, of course, we have the love interest, Gabriel. Rhine and Gabriel can only sneak moments, so this is not a time-consuming romance. I really liked Gabriel but I wish there was a little more substance to it.

My hope is that the rest of the series provides me with the things I felt were missing. I am certainly curious about the world and the characters and I will definitely read the next installment.

Others’ Thoughts: My Friend Amy; That’s What She Read; Debbie’s World of Books; Good Books and Good Wine; Posey Sessions;

Buy It Now: Powell’s; IndieBound; Amazon;Book Depository

The Scorch Trials [Book Review]

“No. I kind of accepted it, in a way. That saving you was worth losing what we might’ve had.” Ch. 56

The Scorch TrialsTitle: The Scorch Trials
Author: James Dashner
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
ISBN: 0385738757
Pages: 368
Year: 2010
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Source: Personal Collection
Rating: 4/5

Summary:

[Spoilers for prior book only]. Thomas and the other Gladers have been rescued. They believe their biggest troubles are in the past. They are wrong. The Maze was only the first phase of a larger test W.I.C.K.E.D. is putting them through. And they are about to begin phase two. Dropped in the middle of the dessert, Thomas and his companions must survive an even greater challenge than the maze.

My Thoughts:

My feeling toward The Scorch Trials roughly mirror my feeling toward The Maze Runner. I was frustrated for much of the novel. Not because I wasn’t enjoying it but because we don’t know anything more than Thomas. And Thomas doesn’t know very much. Despite anxiously awaiting the book, I didn’t get to it right away and I started and stopped a lot in the beginning. But once I got about halfway, I was hooked. The Scorch Trials is fast-paced, full of impossible tasks and characters you can’t help but cheer for.

During a difficult, life-altering moment for Thomas, Dashner’s writing shines through:

“Life took its time as it drained from the man, as the light in his maddened eyes faded, as the grunts and the physical strain to hold on slowly quieted and stilled.” Ch. 34

And a few pages later:

“And then, impossibly, they slept.” Ch. 34

And finally, despite the dark, desperate feeling throughout The Scorch Trials, there are a few shining moments of humor:

“‘What the hell’s a beetle blade?’ Jorge asked.
Thomas answered. ‘Little mechanical lizard things that spied on us with cameras in the Maze.’
Jorge rolled his eyes. ‘Of course. Sorry I asked.’”
Ch. 42

In the end, I enjoyed The Scorch Trials. And I will eagerly read the final book in the trilogy, The Death Cure, in October.

Other Reviews: Bookshelves of Doom; Reeder Reads; Chick Loves LitS. Krishna’s Books

Delirium [Book Review]

Love: a single word, a weepy thing, a word no bigger or longer than an edge. That’s what it is: an edge; a razor. It draws up through the center of your life, cutting everything in two. Before and after. The rest of the world falls away on either side.

Before and after – and during, a moment no bigger or longer than an edge.”

p. 301

Title: Delirium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
ISBN: 0061726826
Pages: 448
Year: 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Borrowed from friend**
Rating: 5/5

Summary:

Lena lives in a world where love is a disease and adults are cured before they are assigned their place in the world. Lena is counting down the days until she, too, receives the cure. Then she meets Alex and her whole belief system starts falling apart. Is love really a disease? Is it really something she wants to be cured of? Is Lena ready to give up her predetermined life for one with Alex?

My Thoughts:

When Lauren Oliver’s debut, Before I Fall, came out last year, everyone heralded it as the best thing to come out of YA in a long time. Now I really liked Before I Fall but I don’t think my feelings were quite as strong as most. But after reading Delirium, I am 100% on board the Lauren Oliver fangirl train. I absolutely adored it.

Unfortunately, I read it so long ago (and neglected to write a review until now) that I’m not going to be able to articulate the reasons for my adoration with any level of specificity. You’re going to have to take my word: the premise was unique, the characters were interesting, and the entire book was engaging. I am so thrilled to discover that this is the first book in a trilogy. While Delirium can stand on its own, I want more.

If you are not yet a Lauren Oliver fan, listen to the gushing around you and give Delirium a chance.

Other Reviews: Fiction Folio; Erin Reads; Iris on Books; The Lost Entwife; Presenting Lenore;

Buy It Now: IndieBound; Powell’s; Amazon; The Book Depository

* Pages numbers refer to the advanced reader’s copy. They may differ from the finished copy.

** A BIG thanks to Kelly from KellyVision for loaning me her ARC.

Never Let Me Go [Book Review]

Title: Never Let Me Go
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Genre: Contemporary Fiction; Dystopian
ISBN: 1400078776
Pages: 288
Year: 2005
Publisher: Vintage Books
Source: Personal Library
Rating: 4/5

Plot Summary:

Kathy, a successful carer, is nearing the end of her career. As her present life moves forward, the story shifts to her upbringing at the Hailsham boarding school.  There she befriends Tommy and Ruth. The book follows them through their time at Hailsham, their time as young adults in the Cottages, and then on to their present lives. It sounds quiet, but there is much more going on beneath the surface that I’ll leave you to discover on your own.

My Thoughts:

Never Let Me Go is one of those books that I should have read a long time ago, kept meaning to read, and then finally picked up after being badgered my my husband for years. So I expected it to be amazing.

What I found was something that was very good but didn’t quite live up to that expectation of amazing. I can’t really put my finger on what was missing for me. It might be that I figured out what was going on pretty early in the novel (was it supposed to be a secret all the way until the end or were we supposed to know the whole time?). It might simply be a case of setting my hopes to high. Either way, something about the novel just wasn’t quite there for me.

That said, the novel is beautifully written and absolutely intriguing, as well as a perfect amount of creepy. It raises interesting questions about what it is to be human and how far technology should go. Despite that missing Something, I would highly recommend it to fellow dystopian fans and anyone interested in a thoughtful, well-written novel. I am anxious to read more of Kazuo Ishiguro in the future.

I was going to share some passages to prove to you that it is, in fact, beautiful, but Ben thought it was a good idea to loan out our copy before I finished writing this review.

Other Reviews:

Buy It Now: Amazon; IndieBound; Powell’s; Book Depository

Genesis [Book Review]

Title: Genesis
Author: Bernard Beckett
Genre: Contemporary Fiction; Dystopian
ISBN: 0547225490
Pages: 150
Year: 2009
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Dunedin Public Library
Rating: 4.5/5

Plot summary (from Publisher’s Weekly):

Anax, the dedicated student historian at the center of Beckett’s brutal dystopian novel, lives far in the future—the distant past events of the 21st century are taught in classrooms. The world of that era, we learn, was ravaged by plague and decay, the legacy of the Last War. Only the island Republic, situated near the bottom of the globe, remained stable and ordered, but at the cost of personal freedom. Anax, hoping her scholarly achievements will gain her entrance to the Academy, which rules her society, has extensively studied Adam Forde, a brilliant and rebellious citizen of the Republic who fought for human dignity in the midst of a regimented, sterile society. To join the Academy’s ranks, Anax undergoes a test before three examiners, and as the examination progresses, it becomes clear that her interpretations of Adam’s life defy conventional thought and there may be more to Adam—and the Academy—than she had imagined.

Other Books I’ve Read By Author: None

Why I Picked Up This Book: Lots of other book  bloggers were reading and discussing it.

My thoughts:

I sat down one Sunday afternoon earlier this month with the intention of taking a quick break from cleaning, laundry, and the like. I picked up this book to read for a few minutes. I ended up reading the entire thing in one sitting. Granted, it’s a short book, but I was so intrigued and lost in Anax’s world that I didn’t even realize my afternoon was quickly slipping away from me.

Through the medium of her examination to the Academy, Anax tells us the story of how our world became her world and the important role a man named Adam Forde played in it. The whole thing was completely fascinating and not what I expected at all. Not only was the story interesting, the philosophical questions posed by it are thought-provoking. I don’t want to discuss them in detail because I want you all to discover this book on your own, but at the same time, I really want to discuss this story. (I may have forced Ben to read it so that I had someone to discuss it with).

The only fault I have with the story has to do with the ending – not the way it ended, but just one aspect of it. It felt a little too similar to a certain movie from the 1960s (those who have read it will know what I am talking about I hope) and I wasn’t sure if that detail was necessary.

I know I’ve been on a dystopian kick lately and I’ve been recommending a bunch of dystopian novels, but I want you all to read this one, too. I mean it’s only 150 pages and I read it in an afternoon.

Memorable Passages:

“Anax was yet to meet anyone who could say the name without pausing at its significance.” p. 13

“You’re just silicon,” he said, as he turned the page. “And you’re just carbon,” Art persevered. “Since when has the periodic table been grounds for discrimination.” 92

“It was impossible to tell whether it was breath or words he had run out of.” 101

“In rage, in competition, we may say things we do not believe.” 101

“You can’t start with the assumption that machines can’t understand to build up an argument that machines can’t understand.” 109

Will I Read This Author Again?: Yes

Other Reviews:

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The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Book Review

Title: The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian
ISBN: 0805076689
Pages: 265
Year: 2008
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Source: Dunedin Public Library
Rating: 5/5

Plot summary:

17-year-old Jenna Fox wakes up from a year-long coma to a life she doesn’t remember. She has no memory of the accident that changed her life but she can recite whole passages of Walden. Her secretive parents and uncaring grandmother only further confuse Jenna.

Other Books I’ve Read By Author: None.

Why I Picked Up This Book: Jennifer really liked it and I’d heard good things, but I really just requested it on a whim.

My thoughts:

Loved it. Go read it now. Right now.

I left the plot summary pretty thin because I had no idea what I was walking into when I picked up this book and I think that made the experience even more enjoyable than it otherwise would have been. I was immediately curious and dying to know what was going to happen. I read it in a weekend and would have read it in one sitting if I could have.

This novel deals with the issues of bioethics, the increased use of science and technology in our lives, the essence of identity, and the lengths a parent will go through for a child. I disagree with the “young adult” label for this book. Pearson is generally a YA writer and the protagonist is 17, but the themes are mature and would appeal to readers of any age.

This book is dystopian, but it’s a really scary dystopia because it is so close to our own world. There is no clear date for the story, but it hints at 2040 or so. And decisions that our society has already made are to blame for the current state of affairs in the novel. It may be less “dystopian” than some other novels, but the fact that it seems entirely possible makes it somewhat worrisome.

If I had to pick something I didn’t like about the novel, I would say that I could have done without the epilogue at the end (but I tend to be one that hates epilogues). I thought the final scene before the last section was so touching that it should have ended the novel.

I’m having a little difficulty articulating what it is about The Adoration of Jenna Fox that I loved so much. It just has that extra something that makes a book special. I know it’s only January 20, but I anticipate this one cracking my top 10 for 2010.

Memorable Passages:

“Maybe that is all any life is composed of, trivia that eventually adds up to a person, and maybe I just don’t have enough of it yet to be a whole one.” p. 174

“One small changed family doesn’t calculate into a world that has been spinning for a billion years. But one small change makes the whole world spin differently in a billion ways for one family.” p. 256

Will I Read This Author Again?: Absolutely.

Other Reviews: