Title: City of Ember, People of Sparks, Prophet of Yonwood, Diamond of Darkhold
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Publisher/Year: Dell Yearling, 2003/2004/2006/2008
Pages: ~ 290
Genre: YA Dystopia
Source: Borrowed from library
Date Read: Between 2008-2009
Instead of reviewing these books individually, I thought I’d review the series. Reviewing a series is difficult without giving away the ending of the first book, but I’ll try to do this as spoiler-reduced as possible. I cannot promise spoiler free! This review is probably best for anyone who has read City of Ember already.
City of Ember is the story of Lina and Doon and a town that is loosing its lights. The society is dystopian, and Lena and Doon have recently been sorted into their jobs as full members of the society. But the lights keep flickering, and everyone worries that the electricity will go out forever. Lena and Doon soon realize that there is more to their society than they originally imagined, and that secrets are being kept from the people that could actually save them all from destruction!
People of Sparks continues the story of Lina and Doon as the people of Ember must learn to live and work with the people of Sparks. The two societies have difficulty working together and sharing resources. The Prophet of Yonwood is a sort of prequel to the the series, explaining (sort of) how Ember came to be. And The Diamond of Darkhold brings it all together, continuing the story of Lina and Doon while bringing in elements of Yonwood.
Honestly, City of Ember is the best of these books. I would suggest reading City of Ember and The People of Sparks and then stopping. DuPrau loses her way in the later two books. I don’t feel like either made much sense or did what I wanted it to do. There was so much potential in The Prophet of Yonwood to explain the creation of a rigid society, but it was more of an afterthought. We always see these crazy, rule-filled societies after they are created and are about to fall apart, it would have been fascinating to see the logistics of setting one up.
FINAL GRADE: B At the time, I rated City of Ember a B, and the rating still holds. I failed to rate the others, but I would give People of Sparks a B- and the others a C-. These are dystopian books for middle schoolers, so they are definitely on the lighter side of the genre. In my experience, my students who were big readers loved the series (upper elementary kids seemed to love them, too). My other kids often liked City of Ember, but had no interest in diving deeper into the story. The “twist” (/surprise reveal) in City of Ember is one that does stand out, though. Worth checking out.
What are your thoughts on this series?
Title: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong
Author: Prudence Shen and Faith Ellen Hicks
Release Date: 5/7/2013
Genre: YA contemporary
Format: Graphic novel
Source: ARC from NetGalley
Cheerleaders, a robotics team, and a school election? Oh. Do tell me more.
Nate and Charlie have been best friends since grade school, even though they are social opposites. Nate is the geeky president of the robotics team, while Charlie is the captain of the basketball team. When Nate hatches a plan to run for school president to ensure funding for the robotics team, he expects Charlie to be on his side — not to run against him! The cheerleaders have forced Charlie to run so the extra money will go toward new cheerleading uniforms. A prank-tastic battle ensues. Eventually, all forces (including the super organized, but bitchy, cheerleaders) must put their faith in a robot battle competition with a hefty cash prize. Sprinkle in some family and relationship drama, and you’ve got Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, FirstSecond’s latest YA contemporary graphic novel.
There are not a lot of good YA contemporary novels that feature a strong male friendship, so this graphic novel was refreshing. The story is sensitive to jocks and nerds, so it has wide appeal. The story is short, and some of the plots underdeveloped, but the characters are strong. My one criticism would be that the cheerleaders bordered on stereotypical. I kind of expected the novel to surprise me with the cheerleader characters, but they were fairly flat and definitely played the antagonistic role for the first half of the story. Overall, though, the story made me laugh and taught some lessons along the way. Teens will appreciate it, and that’s what matters.
FINAL GRADE: B FirstSecond, you have impressed me again. Your graphic novels always deliver. I’d recommend this for middle and high school libraries, and it will be a hit with both nerds and reluctant readers. Fans of other FirstSecond titles will enjoy this novel, as would fans of YA contemporary. This novel, or any of the other books from this publisher, would make great “gateway” graphic novels for any teachers or librarians looking for an introduction to the genre or titles for the classroom. I know I sound like I work for the publisher (I definitely don’t!), but there just isn’t anyone else out there offering what they offer.
Other 01FirstSecond titles of interest that I have read and reviewed:
Author: David Levithan and Andrea Cremer
Release Date: 5/7/2013
Length: 358 pages
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Source: Review copy from publisher via Edelweiss
Challenge: Feminist Reads Challenge
Stephen was born invisible. Not even his own mother could see him, and he’s never interacted with the outside world. His father sends money, but Stephen is basically alone after his mother’s death. Until one day, unexpectedly, he is seen by his new neighbor. Elizabeth not only sees Stephen, but they become friends…and more. Of course, the fact that Elizabeth can see Stephen when no one else can brings up questions, question Stephen has never had answers for. Until now. Together, they learn of the mysterious world of cursecasters and spellseekers as they embark on the quest to cure Stephen from his curse for good.
Though it doesn’t really affect my overall feelings about Invisibility, this would be a case where I didn’t read the book blurb very well. Based on my previous experience with David Levithan (Every Day and Will Grayson, Will Grayson) and my lack of experience with Andrea Cremer, I thought this would be more contemporary romance-with-a-twist. Nope. Definitely goes in the paranormal romance category. The keywords here would be “cursecaster” and “spellseeker” in the description. Duh, Tara. Anyways, the romance in the novel happens early on and the main conflict is over how to make Stephen un-invisible (aka…visible). I wasn’t expecting that, but it ended up being okay. I was along for the ride. And I have to say, it was a pretty fun ride. I ended up really enjoying the book.
After reading the book, I did some looking into Andrea Cremer. From what I found, it appears that she is notoriously anti-feminist. Her other books must feature weak or stereotypical female characters or something. But I found that very interesting, as I was trying to decide if Invisibility is a feminist novel or not. I appreciated that Elizabeth and Stephen are equals: she’s strong, he’s strong, and both help each other. In a lot of ways, Elizabeth saves Stephen. So I found it very interesting that Cremer’s previous books have been criticized for the opposite. That being said, one criticism of the novel is that neither character felt fully “real.” They both lacked that spark that makes a good character come to life on the page. My guess is that there was just too much going on in the story, between the invisibility, the romance, the paranormal stuff, the action, the dual narration, and the back story to focus on character development.
And the ending! I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending. It wasn’t terrible, and it didn’t ruin the book, but I just…I can’t. I don’t know what to do with it. Is it just me or has it become trendy to end novels in questionable ways? Is it supposed to make us talk about the book more? Beg for a sequel? I’m not sure.
FINAL GRADE: B Overall, Invisibility was an exciting, fast-paced read. If you’d asked me at the 90% mark, I would have given it an A. It loses points for underdeveloped characters and the ending, but don’t let that deter you from giving it a go. Remember, a B is still really good! David Levithan never disappoints. It even earns the LGBT tag for having an awesome gay supporting character (Elizabeth’s brother, who plays a big part in the story…in fact, he’s the best, most developed character in the book). Fans of Levithan’s work will also be pleasantly surprised to see a direct Will Grayson, Will Grayson reference in the story, which was pretty cool.
Required Reading: Required for Levithan fans and fans of the paranormal genre. Also good for anyone looking for a quick read that’s a little different.
Library Recommendation: Appropriate for a middle or high school library. There is some scary violence (the cursecasting stuff is a little frightening) and kissing, but it’s PG-13 at the most. For parents, the main characters specifically state that they are not going to sleep together because they aren’t ready…and they don’t.
Two questions for this book: 1.) If you read the book, did you catch the Will Grayson reference? And 2.) What would you do if you were invisible for day?
Title: The Elite
Author: Kiera Cass
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: 4/23/2013
Length: 336 pages
Series?: The Selection #2
Genre: YA Dystopian
Source: ARC from from publisher
Challenge: Feminist Reads Challenge
Last year I read The Selection, and I wrote the following in my review: “The second book in this trilogy will really tell us where it’s all going, because we don’t even really know yet…I’m hoping to see America become a little more kick-ass and I have a lady in mind that I hope Aspen can fall for so he’s not sad about losing America.” Did the second book make the grade?
Look, I’m not going to give you a summary of The Elite. It’s kind of unnecessary, as this is just a continuation of the story in The Selection. Dresses, TV, random attacks, and hoping to not get cut from The Selection.
Like many books in dystopian trilogies, The Elite suffers significantly from the dreaded second book syndrome. The shiny newness of The Selection has worn off, some political intrigue is introduced. But basically there’s questions left unanswered while new ones are posed. American manages to come into possession of a journal full of secrets. She sees the king’s true colors. She learns about the history of her country. She participates in some very reality tv-esque challenges against her fellow contestants.
She sneaks around with Maxon.
She sneaks around with Aspen.
Because, darn it guys, America still hasn’t made up her darn mind. I’m Team Maxon, but only because I want America to live in the pretty, pretty palace with the pretty, pretty dresses and TAKE ILLEA BY THE REINS. Honestly, I don’t know who she’s going to pick. Which I guess means that Kiera Cass is doing her job well. However, this also means I got kind of fed up with America in the story. Seriously, of all the characters in this trilogy, I like her the least.
BUT. I like where this is going. The Elite was far more dystopian-y than The Selection. Yes, this is dystopian. Or, rather, a sub genre of dystopian known as dystopian romance. Or maybe we should call it romantic dystopian. Look, either way — the focus is on the love-y bits, but there is definitive revolution happening in the background. If Kiera Cass doesn’t get these fools overthrowing some governments in book 3, I’ll eat my hat. Because I’m pretty sure that’s where she’s going.
FINAL GRADE: B Ehh. What the heck. I’LL GIVE IT A B. I like it. Dystopian always earns extra points. Again, the true verdict for the trilogy lies in the third book. I will be buying it. I’ll let you know how it goes. Is this my favorite dystopian trilogy? No. That honor still goes to The Hunger Games, surprisingly. But this is fun. You should read it.
Required Reading: Required for anyone who has read The Selection. The Selection is required for anyone who likes Ally Condie’s Matched series.
Library Recommendation: Buy it for high school or middle school, but make sure you also have The Selection! The cover alone will sell the book. Parental warnings for violence (including deaths), heart-pounding moments, generally rebellious behavior, and sex.
Alright, Selection fans…Team Maxon or Team Aspen?
Title: The Unit
Author: Ninni Holmqvist
Publisher/Year: Other Press, 2006/2009
Genre: Adult dystopia
Source: Purchased (Barnes and Noble)
Date Read: Fall 2009
Rated four stars on Goodreads/LibraryThing.
Dorrit Weger has just turned fifty, and she’s single and childless. In her society, this means she no longer has value and she must check into the Second Reserve Bank for Biological Material. There, she will live out her final days in comfort and luxury while slowly being used for more and more biological and psychiatric testing. After participating in multiple experiments over many months, or even years, she will be asked to make her final donation. And then she will be no more. Dorrit has accepted this fate — in her society, there is no choice — but then she meets a man in The Unit and falls in love. Falling in love gives her a new reason to reject her fate, but it’s too late for such choices. Or is it?
The Unit is very similar to Unwind by Neal Schusterman, which probably plays a huge factor in why I found it so good (well, the other way around — I read The Unit first). It’s a translation from Swedish, so it’s quite different from typical American literature. There’s something quiet and utilitarian about the tone. The hardest thing about the novel is suspending belief that such a society would actually exist. I don’t believe for a hot second that we would ever deem unmarried, childless people “useless” and force them to donate their bodies to science for the greater good. I had to accept that crazy notion and focus on the story within that world, just like I had to in Unwind. The remainder of the story is an interesting concept: a utopian world inside of a dystopian society. Everything is free, aesthetically pleasing, entertaining. Dorrit falls in love. Things are going well, but it’s all fake. It’s the government and scientists trying to make themselves feel less guilty about what they are doing to these people and why.
And then there’s Dorrit. She’s not the most likable protagonist. She’s kind of strange. I mean, she has very few relationships in the real world and remains disconnected from everything. She could have married to avoid her fate (marriage or death? I’ll pick marriage!), but she didn’t. But then she suddenly falls in love? It’s very strange, though thought provoking — did facing death change her? But it’s never really clear. The ending to the story is ultimately the surprise, and reveals more about Dorrit that makes her make sense. But until that point I had a hard time connecting with her. The ending in general was weird, yet satisfying.
“Life and existence have no value in themselves. We mean nothing; not even those who are needed mean anything. The only thing of real value is what we produce.”
FINAL GRADE: B At the time, I rated it a B. Then I listed it as one of my favorite reads that year, considering bumping it to an A. Now it’s a B, mostly due to the feasibility of the story and my general dislike of Dorrit as a character. However, I had both a sympathy for the position she was in and a fascination with the world of The Unit. Mostly I was fascinated with the emotions of it. It’s quite clinical and fake, but with the impending experiments and death there’s a shadow hanging over everyone all the time. This isn’t action-adventure dystopia like Unwind, but more literary fiction dystopia. That’s why I recommend it adults who like dystopia. It’s not a kid book and it may not have a wide audience, but I liked it.
Do you think there is a difference between adult dystopia and YA dystopia? Which do you prefer? Can you recommend any other adult dystopian titles (besides 1984, which I have already read and loved)?
Title: Almost Perfect
Author: Brian Katcher
Publisher/Year: Delacorte, 2009
Length: 368 pages/10 hours and 40 minutes
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Purchased from Audible/Amazon
Logan Witherspoon is a senior in small-town Missouri. He lives in a trailer with his mom, runs track, and recently had his heart broken by his cheating girlfriend. Sage is the new girl in school — tall, strangely beautiful, and mysterious. She and Logan become friends in biology class, and it quickly becomes clear that there is something more between them. But when Sage admits that she was born a boy, Logan’s feelings turn to outrage. Logan seeks to understand Sage, and himself, and they both determine if they want to be friends, lovers, or nothing at all.
Almost Perfect is a daring little book in all the best ways. While there are a lot of books out there featuring gay and lesbian teens, there are far fewer books offering positive portrayals of the transgender experience. Even within the LGBT community, transgender people can be marginalized and misunderstood. Logan moves through every emotion, and readers can empathize with his anger, curiosity, confusion, and attraction toward Sage throughout the novel. Katcher does an excellent job of avoiding an “after school special” approach to the story — while the details will answer questions readers may have, the ultimate focus is on the friendship between two well-developed, multi-dimensional characters.
I also have to note that the book is very realistic. Life isn’t perfect, and things don’t always happen like we want them to. Sage’s story is heartbreaking at times, and Logan can be kind of an idiot. People aren’t perfect, and small towns can be very close-minded places. But there are also beautiful moments and beautiful people who make it all worthwhile. Every moment is just a stepping stone to the next moment. I felt that Almost Perfect kept everything in perspective. In that sense, I think the ideal audience for the book would be teens who have not struggled with gender identity. Transgender and queer/genderqueer teens will certainly get a lot out of the story, but I believe Logan and Sage’s story can be a thoughtful stepping stone in anyone’s life path.
FINAL GRADE: B Almost Perfect is…well…almost perfect. This is a very good read, and I highly recommend it. It’s a slow book, but it does pick up more near the end. It’s definitely one of the better LGBT books I’ve read. There’s a reason it has a Stonewall Award sticker on the front!
Required Reading: Required for anyone who works with or teaches teenagers. You need to have this book in your mental bookshelf, because I guarantee you will find an opportunity to recommend it to a teenager or another adult in your life.
Library Recommendation: Since the Logan and Sage are both 18, I’d say Almost Perfect is intended for a high school audience. For parents, be aware that sex, sexual urges, teenage drinking, and violence (including a hate crime) are major points in the story. Logan is actually a really good male role model, for what it’s worth.
Author: PJ Palacio
Publisher/Year: Knopf, 2012
Length: 313 pages/8 hr 6 min
Genre: Middle grades contemporary/problem novel
Format: Audio Book
Source: Purchased from Audible.com
Ten year old Auggie Pullman was born with a facial deformity. Even after years of surgeries, he still receives stares and gets pointed at in public. Auggie has been homeschooled until his parents decide to send him to middle school at Beecher Prep. Middle school is already a tumultuous time in a kid’s life, so everyone is a little on edge (including Auggie) to see how Auggie will fit in at his new school and how the other kids will react to him. Wonder is the story of Auggie’s fifth grade year, told through both his voice and the voices of those around him.
It’s hard not to like Auggie and Wonder. This isn’t your stereotypical book about bullying or appreciating differences. Palacio pulls together multi-dimensional characters, fresh dialog, and a healthy dose of emotion to script a powerful story for all ages. Though I’ve seen many adults lauding this book, I really think the real power here lies in the use in the classroom. The story is short enough for reading in a teacher’s jam-packed curriculum, and the multiple viewpoints will allow students to examine their own biases and behaviors. Teachers could also utilize the precepts activities that Auggie’e language arts teacher uses — what more can you ask for than a built in lesson plan?
My one complaint about the story is that Auggie is a little too perfect. I know there are lots of ten year old boys who are super kids and make your heart melt, but I know many more ten year old boys who are just that: ten year old boys. They make mistakes, have bad habits, and don’t always do the right thing. Auggie is just a little too heart-warming and too angelic. He can do no wrong! That being said, this is a book for kids, so I can see why Palacio kept things simple.
Notes on the audio book: The audio book was interesting. The voice of Auggie was played by a woman, who raspy-fied her voice to sound like a pre-pubescent boy. It was an interesting, slightly jarring, choice. In addition, the narrator made Auggie sound more like a third grader in his manner of speech — and those two years make a big difference! She made Auggie sound naive, though he’s not. However, the other narrators for each of the other voices more than made up for this in their awesomeness and I would still recommend the audio to anyone who likes to read in this format.
FINAL GRADE: B A good book. Probably not a top ten-er for me, but it’s well-written and I won’t ever forget Auggie. I’m most impressed with how Palacio kept the story interesting and relevant, and a little sassy, to appeal to actual kids. It may not be a book kids pick up on their own, but with a little guidance (reading together, read aloud, classroom reading) I know they’ll love this story.
Assigned reading: Assigned to all upper elementary and middle school teachers! Also assigned to anyone who enjoys good, high quality, non-boring middle grades fiction.
Library recommendations: Put in your elementary school and middle school library, but skip it for high school. I’m thinking this will be most appreciated by kids ages 8-12. Consider introducing it to your teachers and buying it in a class set.
What were you self-conscious about in middle school? (And yes, “everything” is an acceptable answer!)
Title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
Author: Susan Cain
Publisher/Year: Crown, 2012
Length: 333 pages, 10 hours 39 mins
Genre: Adult non-fiction
Format: Audio book
Source: Purchased from Audible
Introverts, this book is for you. In a world that values the qualities of the extroverted and labels introverts as shy, anti-social, and sensitive, Susan Cain highlights the positive qualities of this undervalued portion of the population. She utilizes both personal stories from real introverts and significant research to prove her points along the way.
I have a feeling I’m preaching to the choir when talking about introverted-ness to the book blogger world, since I’m fairly certain we represent an above-average number of introverts, but this book was like a big hug. The world we live in sometimes makes me feel guilty for wanting to spend my Saturday night alone with a good book. We are living in a world that values extroverted qualities more than introverted ones, but Cain successfully shows why we need to celebrated the introverts’ contributions and viewpoints. We offer something unique.
I did have two nit-picks with the book, which kind of represent nit-picks others may have with various parts. First, when Cain talked about teaching she attacked teacher’s viewpoints of group work. She almost made it sound like the new teacher allegiance to group work is a conspiracy by extroverted teachers. I disagree, since there is a lot of research about cooperative learning and there are evidence based reasons why these new teachers are using this as one of many instructional techniques. Critique the lack of anti-coorperative learning research, not the newbie teachers. Second, she encourages introverts to consider careers in library science. This represents society’s gross misunderstanding of what librarians do. I was told in library school that it is common to get applications that read, “I want to go to library school because I like to read books,” and those often got rejected over applications that read, “I want to be a librarian because I like helping people.” Don’t be a librarian if you want to avoid contact with people! I often left work socially drained, longing for introvert time (which is okay!).
FINAL GRADE: B It definitely stands out as one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in recent memory. Cain does jump to some conclusions and make a few points that I might argue against, but I’m going to forgive her due to the overall readability and awesomeness of the book. I read this as an audiobook, since I do enjoy reading adult non-fiction in this format, and I would definitely recommend the audio. It’s the kind of book that you can listen to while working out or driving to work — the starting and stopping to listen for an hour or so each day won’t ruin your experience. The narration is clear and non-distracting.
Required Reading: Required for all introverts. Also required for all extroverts, for the purpose of understanding your favorite introvert just a little better. Extroverts may feel a little offended or defensive throughout the book, but I’ll ask the extroverted among you to set aside your egos and give it a try.
Library recommendations: You could put this in your high school library, but it would be okay to skip it.
Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Do you think introverts are misunderstood?
Title: Grave Mercy
Author: Robin LaFevers
Publisher/Year: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Recorded Books, 2012
Length: 14 hrs and 14 mins, 549 pages
Series?: His Fair Assassin #1
Genre: YA Historical/Paranormal
Format: Audio Book
Source: Purchased from Audible
Challenge: Feminist Reads Challenge
You heard me right.
The year is 1588. The location, Brittany. Seventeen-year-old Ismae has been rescued from the life of an arrange marriage to an awful man, and is sent to the convent of St. Mortain. There she learns that she is the daughter of St. Mortain, the god of death, and she is trained to serve him. She discovers her great powers, hones her skills, and learns of a destiny she had never imagined. At the conclusion of her training, Ismae is offered an assignment: posing as a spy in the high court, killing anyone who bears the mark of St. Mortain and attempting to discover who in the court has been a traitor to Brittany.
Okay, so my summary isn’t that great. This is a very hard book for me to describe. Check out the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads if you need a better description. Just know this: there’s romance, bad ass-ery, and poison. Lots of poison.
I can’t say this was an escapist read for me in the traditional sense. I mean, c’mon. The 1500′s were kind of gross and plague-y. And I certainly do not feel like killing people. Granted, the story does a good job of justifying the process (a god has marked the targets — you can’t argue with the gods) (…or can you?), but I’d rather be the duchess. Anyway, I don’t want to BE Ismae. But I’ll be along for her story. The 549 pages here are full of mystery and intrigue, and even a sloooooooooow burn romance. I’ll take it.
But you know what? I’m having a hard time writing this review because I just didn’t LOVE it. I picked it up because of all the gushing 5-star reviews all over ALL THE THINGS, so maybe this was an issue of hype. There wasn’t really anything wrong with it. Ismae is probably one of the best protagonists in any story I’ve read. It’s different, it introduced me to a time period I knew very little about, and somehow, still, I just thought it was good. Worth the $10 I paid on Audible, sure. Maybe not worth buying a shelf copy for a re-read.
FINAL GRADE: B I’m an anomoly. Seriously. Everyone else gave it 5 stars, so I wouldn’t take this review too seriously. I’m going to chalk this up to the format (audio book) just not holding my interest as well as a print book. Sometimes that happens. In this case I think it was because of all the French names and unfamiliar words/places. I have pretty poor auditory processing skills, so I had a hard time following who was who and where they were going and why in the beginning of the story. I’ll probably read the second book in print. Yes, this is a trilogy.
Required Reading: I’d require this to high school students and lovers of historical fiction. There is a paranormal element, but that’s not the focus of the novel.
Library Recommendations: Buy it for a high school library. I can think of about six of my more sophisticated middle school readers who would have LOVED this book, so I probably would have bought it for my library. But, honestly, I can’t see many of the under-14 set really enjoying this.
What did you think of Grave Mercy? If you loved it, inspire my readers in the comments! If you didn’t…leave me virtual fist bump of mutual understanding.
Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher/Year: HarperCollns, 2010
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Purchased (Barnes and Nobel)
Date Read: Summer 2010
Original Review (Summer 2010)
An interesting concept, it definitely kept me reading to find out what Sam would do each day and how she would end the cycle. Was surprised by the ending, but found it appropriate and thought it was well done.
Samantha Kingston is your typical popular high school girl. She’s got the clothes, the friends, the car, and the boyfriend. She can be a little mean to people and self-absorbed. And then, one day, she dies in a car accident. However, instead of just dying and ceasing to exist, Samantha is thrust into a Groundhog Day-esque situation, repeating that last day of her life over and over. She’s not quite sure why this happened or what to do with her situation — does she try to escape death? Prevent it? Avoid it? Or is there something more she needs to figure out before she can take the next step?
I can’t believe it’s only been two and a half years since I read this book. It feel like EONS ago, since it was one of the last books I read before starting this blog. Maybe it’s even one of the ones that inspired me to start blogging. After all, what do you do when you read a book that makes you think, that changes you just a little bit, and you have no one to talk to about it?! That’s how this book made me feel. I wanted to talk to someone. Books about death inspire that in me, since they all have different takes on the situation. Compare it to Before I Die by Jenny Downham or If I Stay by Gayle Foreman (or even The Lovely Bones) in that respect. Due to the conceit of reliving same day over and over, though, this story is longer than either of those and takes a different approach.
Each day reveals complexity in Samantha’s life, which I appreciated. It would have been easy to pin-point her as a mean girl at the beginning, but even mean girls have souls. They aren’t 100% mean. They aren’t exactly “victims” of high school culture, but Samantha exemplifies how there is always more to the story than what meets the eye. Samantha is pretty unlikable for the first 3/4 of the book or so, but eventually it doesn’t matter if you like her or not. She actually became a sympathetic character, and the ending absolutely blew me away. I don’t remember many of the details of the story, but that ending is clear as day in my brain — the visual, the sounds, the emotions. Isn’t that the mark of a good book?
“Time doesn’t matter…certain moments go on forever.”
FINAL GRADE: B Good book, enjoyable read. It loses a star for being a little bit long in places, and for my initial frustration with Sam’s character. However, I recommend it to anyone who likes edgier contemporary YA. Hold up — is this even contemporary? It feels like contemporary, even though there is a sort of “supernatural” element with the repeating day. Yes. Contemporary. Anyway, my middle school students loved it and high schoolers would, too. And if you like books that make you cry, this is the book for you. I can’t believe this is Lauren Oliver’s debut novel, since she’s such a huge author now (the Delirium trilogy is largely responsible for that!) It’s amazing what three years can do, huh?
How do you feel about books about death? Which is your favorite book on the topic?