Posts tagged society

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

History Turns Into Itself in This Newbery Winner

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Jack Gantos has a whole summer planned full of baseball, history books, and war movies when suddenly, caught in the middle of his quarreling parents, he becomes “grounded for life,” ruining everything. Even though he lives in the dying town of Norvelt (originally founded by Eleanor Roosevelt to help poor families) and there’s not much to do, when his mom volunteers him to help an aging neighbor type up the town’s obituaries, he’s less than thrilled. Soon, though, Jack finds himself absorbed in the town’s history and the “original” Norvelters, as his spunky neighbor calls them, and he’ll do anything to get out of house arrest and over to help her in her task. Soon he’s involved not only with the obituaries but in a feud with an old man who ride’s a trike, play-acting the Grim Reaper, distributing Girl Scout cookies, digging a fake bomb shelter, and a near-constant nose bleed, not to mention a potential murder. Suddenly his summer is anything but dull!

Described as “melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional,” Dead End in Norvelt is a most-times funny and sometimes heart-breaking story of a boy coming of age in an old town past its prime full of wacky yet believable characters. Both darker and lighter themes blend with Gantos’ humor as Jack finds himself imbedded in nearly everything going on in town. The relationships between Jack’s parents and himself are enough to fill a book, but author Gantos has woven an entire town’s worth of personalities and interactions together seamlessly. (more…)

Starters

What If Your Mind & Body Were No Longer Your Own?

Starters by Lissa Price (book one in Starters series)

Review based on an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC)

In a dystopian world in which only the very old and very young have survived, sixteen-year-old Callie is trying to make it on the streets while taking care of her sick younger brother. After the Spore Wars tore the country apart–only the weakest members of society, old and young, received the limited vaccine and survived–there was a strong division between rich and poor. Starters (the young) have virtually no rights, while Enders (adults age sixty through their hundreds) control all. Callie is an unclaimed Starter, legally unable to take a job and with no surviving parents or grandparents as guardian, giving her and her brother little choice but to squat in abandoned buildings to avoid being rounded up and sent to a terrible institutions.

When Callie hears of a company willing to pay Starters under the table, she ends up at Prime Destinations where, with the technology of a neurochip, Elders can “rent” the bodies of Starters for recreation and be young again. Creepy? Yes. Easy money? So it seems. But when Callie’s neurochip malfunctions and she wakes up in the middle of a rental–in her own body but with the belongings and credentials of a wealthy Ender–she discovers that she has been rented for a malicious, illegal purpose, and the high-suspense race to the truth begins. (more…)

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (book three in Graceling companion series)

Fantasy Adventure with Beauty, Intelligence, and Depth

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (Book three in the Graceling series)

Review based on an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC).

Let me start off by saying if you’re not familiar with Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series, go here first to read our review of the first book, Graceling, in this companion book trilogy. It’s a great fantasy adventure with an active, feisty female protagonist, and both Ruby and I loved it (and all consequent books!). If you have read Graceling and it’s companion Fire, carry on.

Bitterblue is, obviously, the long-awaited third book in Cashore’s fantasy world of the Seven Kingdoms. While Graceling focuses on Katsa (a young woman with a killing grace) and Fire goes over the mountains and into the past to show us the Dells and a human monster named Fire, Bitterblue focuses on the young queen of the same name. (Never fear, Katsa and Po fans: they, along with other familiar faces, are woven throughout the pages and in Bitterblue’s life.)

It has been eight years since Bitterblue’s father, the mind-controlling graceling King Leck, was killed, and she has been growing up under the title of Queen of Monsea. Surrounded by old advisors who would like to pardon all crimes under Leck’s horrific reign and pretend those decades never happened, she finds herself under a mountain of paperwork, governing a land she does not feel she knows. At first Bitterblue trusts her advisers’ judgment, but her growing frustration and a sense of ignorance about the reality of her father, his reign, and the people and society of Monsea makes her realize that she has much to learn. In a moment of exasperation, Bitterblue sneaks out of the castle one night in servant’s clothes and finds herself in a crumbling city full of thieves–some friendly, some dangerous–and finally realizes that the “truths” she is being told in her castle are not real. Through her budding relationship with two thieves and printers, Bitterblue slowly learns about her kingdom through her disguise and starts to uncover the fog that Leck left on his subjects, as well as the deceit and misinformation making its way to her palace. As her own mind wakes up to the realities of her kingdom–both beautiful and tragic–and she starts a secret project to uncover who Leck really was and how she can bring her people back to the light. Bitterblue is more of a mental adventure than its predecessors, but it still holds the key ingredients that have made all of Cashore’s books a success, including romance, adventure, suspense and intrigue, and difficult, sometimes philosophical questions about self and others. I loved Bitterblue, and my only (minor) regret is that I didn’t re-read the companion novels before diving in. (more…)

The Death Cure (book three)

Author Spotlight: Interview with James Dashner (Part II)

PART II of our interview with James Dashner, bestselling author of The Maze Runner trilogy and the 13th Reality books, as well as the upcoming Maze Runner prequel and a new series in progress!

Check out PART I of the interview here.

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PART II – Interview with James Dashner

Jenny: Okay, sorry—back on topic! The Flare: did you base that on any historically known disease or academics, outbreaks, or was it just the worst thing you could think of?

In the end they made me do some research to make sure it fit, but really my initial idea […] I just have this fascination with insanity. Humans are powerful beings; we can do incredible, amazing, terrifying things, and if you take away your sanity and your conscience and your ability to choose right and wrong, I can’t think of anything more terrifying. So really, I wanted a disease that didn’t turn people into zombies back from the dead or anything like that, just made people utterly insane. I think that elicits some zombie-like behavior, but anything else that happens to them like sores, injuries, or ravenous hunger to eat other people, anything like that is an after effect. The only thing the Flare does to them is drive them completely insane, and I just thought it was a cool concept.

Ruby: Okay, on to my favorite subject: every teen series has a love triangle. With the introduction of Brenda in the second book, had you intended to start a love triangle between Thomas, Brenda, and Theresa?

I can honestly say no. I still don’t think there’s a true love triangle in the series. I wanted another main female character, and Brenda was one of the characters that grew more important than I originally thought. It kind of ties in to what I said earlier about how Thomas and Theresa can never be the same again. In most love triangles, it seems like you meet both of them—both of the girls or both of the guys—from the beginning or relatively soon, and I’m not a big romance guy, but it sure seems like usually they end up with the first one. It seems like they fall in love with someone and then someone else comes in the picture but then they go back to the first one. Is that true?

Ruby: I think 95% of the time it’s true, but when I was reading your books what was rare for me is the fact that it’s a guy and two girls, ‘cause in all teen books it’s a girl and two guys. It’s like, oh for cryin’ out loud! [Laughter]

[Laughs] And I thought this story was so dark and so quickly paced that are you really going to pause and go watch the sunset with someone you love? I mean, there really is no room for romance in this.

Ruby: Well maybe love triangle is the wrong phrase, but there’s some kind of tension between the three of them.

It’s definitely a triangle of some sort. And I don’t think Brenda and Theresa ever like each other, they never get to know each other. Thomas, I think, doesn’t have time to think of romance, but he is number one devastated and hurt by what Theresa does to him. He thinks about it a lot, and he does just naturally form a bond with Brenda. I think when you go through something terrifying with someone you probably do have a bond, and I think Brenda slowly gains his trust and loyalty throughout book three. It was never really intended as a Team Brenda or Team Theresa type thing.

Ruby: Yeah, that’s not how I read it either. I had an intense dislike for Brenda when she was first introduced. I was like, “Who is this person who’s all over the place? I want Theresa back!” And then the betrayal happened, and that was really shocking to me because I’m a romantic at heart, and I thought there would be no happy ending for them!

The way it all ends is really the only way I feel like it could end. This won’t spoil anything, but I feel like there was only one way for Theresa to feel redeemed. She is a tormented soul from even before the Maze Runner. She believed in what WICKED was doing much more than Thomas did. […] It’s like I said, the line between good and evil in this series…  that doesn’t make her worse than Thomas. If you could save billions of people by doing [the trials], can you really fault someone for thinking that it’s right? I don’t know. I wanted it to be complicated. (more…)

Author James Dashner

Author Spotlight: Interview with James Dashner (Part I)

Drum roll, please… The long-awaited interview with The Maze Runner‘s bestselling author, James Dashner, is here! We talked about Dashner back in October about his Maze Runner trilogy, including the final book The Death Cure and the upcoming prequel, as well as movies, favorite kids’ books, Dashner’s take on Harry Potter, and a handful of nerdy stuff. In fact, since our interview with him lasted over an hour, it’s so long we’ve broken it into two big posts. We’re huge fans of The Maze Runner trilogy, so this was pretty exciting (we’ll post a review at some point too). Ruby and I had a ball chatting with him, and we’re grateful that we were given the opportunity to pick his brain!

(Please forgive the posting delay: life got busy, but a big reason was that we were sworn to secrecy about The Maze Runner prequel, The Kill Order, that’s being released August 14, 2012!)

One word of warning: while there are no big spoilers involving book three in this interview, readers who haven’t read The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials yet might want to step carefully. Check it out and ENJOY!

If you’ve already finished Part I, read Part II here.

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Jenny: First off, congratulations on completing the trilogy! How does it feel to be done?

It feels bittersweet. There’s some sadness for it to be over, but I’m also just so thrilled that people finally get to read some of these scenes that have been in my head for so long and to see how it ends. The fact that we’re probably going to do a prequel now [The Kill Order] has got me really even more excited, because to me the prequel becomes the most exciting [book] once you know how it all ends, and I just think it’ll be very interesting to go back and see firsthand the stuff that happened before The Maze Runner. So it’s sort of a mixed bag of feelings, I guess, but mostly excitement.

Jenny: As far as these books go, did you plan a three-book series?

I envisioned it as a trilogy.

Ruby: In your books there’s a trend throughout the whole series in which Thomas always gets singled out and separated from the rest of the group. Is there a reason behind that for his development as a character or for the story as a whole?

I’ll say this: I think even from The Maze Runner we know that Thomas and Theresa are special. They were singled out to be more involved than everyone else in the stuff that happened before the maze and leading up to the maze. Throughout the process they are looking for what is called a “final candidate”. To me the whole concept of the “final candidate” shows that there is a side of WICKED [that doesn’t] want to be completely cruel and evil; they’re at least trying to narrow [the candidates] down to one person for what [WICKED] wants to do in the end. But in my mind, WICKED had always thought that Thomas and Theresa—and then in group B, their two counterparts—would probably [be the final candidate], and so they did plan some of the trials and variables to single them out, to capture some of their patterns, to try to finalize what they’re doing. I just thought Thomas was special and predicted to be what they would need. Probably one of my favorite things in The Scorch Trials is when [Thomas] gets shot with the gun. That was not something WICKED foresaw, and they were not willing to let Thomas die, so they broke against their normal protocol and swooped in to try to save him. (more…)

Crossed

Guest Review: Marin

Crossed by Ally Condie (Book 2 Matched Trilogy)

(Review based on Advanced Reader Copy)

In the sequel to Matched, star-crossed lovers, Cassia and Ky, escape the stringent rules of the Society intending to live happily ever after, but life in the outside world isn’t what they expected and perilous adventures await.

In Matched, Ky and Cassia risk life and limb escaping the vigilant and watchful eyes of the Society to find each other. They weren’t supposed to fall in love, but now that they have Cassia is forced to come to the realization that the Society’s true aims are not as benign as they appear. Two perilous escapes and long treks across dangerous wilderness with strangers find these young lovers back together and searching for the rebels.

The alternating points of view allow the reader to learn more about the motivations of Cassia and Ky. However, this narrative choice also occasionally interrupts the flow, leaving the reader with a choppy story. Crossed is not a strong stand-alone story because there isn’t much information about what exactly the Society is and why Cassia wants to join the rebellion. However, this action-packed adventure introduces new characters and enticing possibilities for the conclusion in the final book of the trilogy.

Crossed will be released on November 1st, 2011.

-Marin

Ages 12+

ISBN: 9780525423652

Also available as an eBook.

Wither

So Little Time in a Dystopian World

Wither by Lauren DeStefano (Book One in the Chemical Garden Trilogy)

Several generations ago, the human race was genetically perfected: genes were cleared of tendencies to cancer, viruses, disease. But something went horribly wrong, and all subsequent generations have stunted lifelines, girls living until age twenty and boys living until age twenty-five. The short lifelines of all those who aren’t “first generation” means a stagnation of humanity, and the divide between rich and poor grows ever deeper as the remaining dystopian world is filled with orphans, crime, and fear. Some search for a cure to this terrible genetic curse. Others despair that one cannot be found.

Sixteen-year-old Rhine and her twin brother, Rowan, are children of first generation parents who died in a terrorist attack at the genetics lab where they worked to find a cure. Left alone, Rhine and her brother maintain their home and find what work they can. And then, one day, Rhine is stolen away by Gatherers, men who make a living kidnapping and selling young women as wives to wealthy men, a means of forced procreation.

Scared and bitter, Rhine is sold to Linden, her twenty-one-year-old husband, along with two new sister wives, Cecily–age thirteen–and Jenna–age eighteen. (They are the lucky ones: the rejected girls were shot and left on the side of the road.) While Cecily, who grew up in an orphanage, is giddy to love her new husband and plush, comfortable lifestyle, Jenna and Rhine are miserable and seething, though only Rhine is determined to escape. Her only solace, besides the library, is a servant of the house, Gabriel, and a friendship between them blossoms into something unnamed and forbidden. (more…)

The Dark City (Relic Master)

A Four-Part Epic Saga Begins

Relic Master: The Dark City by Catherine Fisher (Book One)

In the world of Anara, members of the Order have been outcast and are hunted down daily by the Watch, a governing body that warns the people against the superstitions and trickery of the Order. Despite the dangers, Masters continue to shield the magical relics–seemingly mystic technology–left by the Makers, gods from long ago. Since the darkness came and the Order’s citadel fell to ruin, life is dangerous, and it is difficult to know who to trust.

In The Dark City, the first in Catherine Fisher’s new four-part series, relic master Galen Horn and his sixteen-year-old apprentice Raffi are interrupted one night with a message from a mysterious rider: a new relic has been found. Galen, who lost his powers in an accident, is eager to search out the center of all Maker powers with the hope of being healed; Raffi is still learning and scared, and he knows that the dangers of their journey are very real.

Soon on their travels they realize they are being followed and discover Carys–secretly a spy for the oppressive Watch–and invite her to join them, though they withhold their natures and purpose. Eventually their journey leads them into the dark city of Tasceron in search of the Crow, an ancient magical being that Galen hopes can heal him.  Constantly in danger and on the run, they learn more about each other and question beliefs on trust, loyalty, faith, and the things they value most. A twist at the end will leave the reader grabbing for more as we, the educated outsiders, start to understand things that the characters themselves do not. (Admit it: it’s always fun to figure things out and feel smarter than the main characters!) (more…)

Enclave

A Post-Apocalyptic Read for “Hunger Games” Fans

Enclave by Ann Aguirre

The only life Deuce has ever known is in the enclave, one of many underground villages where those who survived the apocalypse now dwell. Lives are shorter now–a person is lucky to reach twenty years–and if a “Brat” makes it to age fifteen, they undergo a naming ceremony and join their chosen job. Deuce, a newly named huntress, has trained for her position for years and desires to serve her people as best she can, both providing food and protecting her home from the mutant and cannibalistic “Freaks” who lurk in the broken-down tunnels.

Her first day on the job provides a sharp new look at life as her hunting partner, a dark and brooding outsider named Fade (who becomes a romantic interest as the plot thickens), shows her the horrors and violence beyond the enclave. As Deuce learns more about her society–elders kill the innocent to survive, and information that threatens stability is withheld–tension builds until she and Fade are suddenly exiled to Above where it is rumored that survival is impossible. Afraid but stubborn, Deuce and her partner rise to the surface to find a broken and perilous city, though very different from what they had come to expect. A continuing journey takes them across new lands and constantly changing dangers as they search for a place Fade’s father knew, safety in “the north”. (more…)

Divergent

“Perfect Society” Meets Punk-Rock Action and Thrills

Divergent by Veronica Roth

(Review based on ARC of book.)

If I could tell you (the adoring public) to read a book and know–absolutely know–that you would pick it up and actually read it, this post would read; Divergent by Veronica Roth comes out in May. Read it. The end.

Sadly, my every whim does not typically get carried out by the rest of the world, so here are some plot points and other fun facts.

The world has changed into one none of us would recognize. In order to avoid wars and the negative aspects of humanity that go along with them, a dystopian American society has broken up into five distinct factions, each one a representative of a virtue that some people think can keep conflict at bay. In Candor, members strive to only tell the truth, hurtful or uncomfortable as it might be. Dauntless is for the brave, the protectors. Amity lifestyle is that of peace, no matter how it is obtained, while Erudites value knowledge above all else. And, lastly, there is Abnegation, dictating a plain, selfless lifestyle, others first at all times. (more…)

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