Young Adult Fiction

Book Review of Carve the Mark

carve the markVeronica Roth’s Divergent series was so incredibly popular, that publishing a new storyline, especially one markedly different, must elicit some angst – for the author and readers alike.  And while I haven’t read that many positive reviews of her latest offering Carve the Mark, I ended up really enjoying it.

Much less dystopian than Divergent,
is pure science fiction.  It concerns itself with two peoples who live on the same planet – the Shotet and the Thuvhe – but cannot live in harmony. The Thuvhe live quietly and peacefully while the Shotet pillage and scavenge, and violent existence best represented by their tradition of carving a mark on their own arms each time they take a life.

Naturally, a young man and a young woman from each culture are thrown together and fall in love.  But its a little more complicated than that.  This is a galaxy with two particularly interesting features. Firstly, oracles make the fates of important people public – and this causes political manipulation to attempt to challenge or protect fate.  The second, is the energy source known as the ‘current’ which flows around them all, and gifts each inhabitant with a particular ‘currentgift’. Cyra, our Juliet character, can make others feel pain, but the cost is that she lives in constant pain herself.  Akos, kidnapped from Thuvhe by Cyra’s brother as he was fated to serve them, is gifted with the ability to block the currentgifts of others – and thus relieve Cyra’s constant pain.  Eventually they come to mean something more to each other than forced companions and Cyra is forced to confront her brother – a violent dictator – and take a stand for the rights of others.

There’s more to the story than this, including the brother of Akos who becomes a willing oracle to the Shotet and an underground rebellion.  Overall, I thought this was a well-realised fictional world with interesting moral quandaries and the beginning of a tasty story.  Definitely worth a look.

Book Review of Good Me, Bad Me

The premise of Ali Land’s Good Me, Bad Me is one that intrigues.good me bad me

Annie, now known as Milly in the foster system is the key witness in her mother’s trial.  She was a serial killer of small children and since Annie was a child, she has been groomed to be complicit in these crimes, taught how to manipulate and gain trust.  Taught to make those who oppose her pay.  Taught to please by following in her mother’s footsteps.

Then the boy taken to the ‘playroom’ was one that was known to her.  And Annie decided to go to the police.  Too late to save the ninth and final boy though.

Now as Milly, she must try to begin again.  Fostered by a counsellor, her home is a mixture of care and therapy.  And Milly must decide which version of herself she is going to nurture as her new life begins to take shape.  She must make new friends.  She must hide her identity even though a woman with the same face as hers is on every TV screen and the cover of every newspaper.  She must deal with the bullying of her stepsister.  But how is she to do this when her every instinct tells her to lie and manipulate and make those who oppose her pay?

But if she wants to stay in her new life, with her new family, she cannot show any of these traits.  So which version of herself will win?

A great holiday read – engaging and fast-paced.  The ending disappointed me a little, but this didn’t take away from an absorbing reading experience.

Delighted Book Review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

untitledI’m way behind on this delightful little foray back into the world of Harry Potter, which has been out for months now.

Despite the playscript format – which admittedly I am reasonably used to reading otherwise may have impacted upon my enjoyment – The Cursed Child feels very true to the voice and spirit of the Harry Potter novels and the world in which it is set.  It is the chapter we needed to have – how on Earth do you grow up as a son of the most famous wizard who ever lived?

For Albus Severus Potter – the only Potter ever sorted into Slytherin – it has not been easy.  He doesn’t feel that he fits into his father’s legacy.  Instead, he is best friends with a Malfoy – who also feels the burden of his father’s previous actions.

When Albus decides to take action to be his own man and correct what he thinks are some of his father’s wrongs, he very nearly brings the wizarding world that we know and love to its knees.

It was delightful to visit our old friends again – seeing how successful Hermione has become and how haunted Harry still is by his past. Only the portrayal of Ron is somewhat disappointing, emphasizing only parts of his character and minimising his contribution to the original seven novels.

The new characters are wonderful too – and I could not have felt more at home in reading this play than if Rowling had done all the work herself.  I devoured this.

Book Review of The Fate of the Tearling

This Erika Johansen series began with huge promise, but failed to quite meet the mark towardsFate2.jpg the end.  While still an entertaining read, the excitement of the first book about the original characters and the promise of secrets revealed never quite panned out.

Although, there is still a lot to like about this book.  The ending is unexpected and somewhat original. After the storming of the second book, our hero Kelsea does – in general – become the person we hoped she would, and generally ends the series worthy of our admiration.  Plenty goes on and you won’t be bored.

However, the key secrets of the series are never really explained, and too many antagonists or too easily dispensed with or explained away.  It feels like Johansen changed directions somewhere after the first book, and we are still trying to find the connection even up to the end of the third.

I hear she is planning some more books set within this world from the perspective of other characters. I’m interested enough to have a look – especially if Mace or the Red Queen are set to be focal points – but not enough to be hanging on the edge of my seat.  A shame.

The Sky is Everywhere

23573399-_uy200_Earlier this year I enjoyed Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You The Sun, so when I saw her other (earlier) novel The Sky is Everywhere on display, I figured it was worth a look.

While I am not going to rave about this one like I did the first, there is plenty of good stuff here.

Lennie Walker is in grief – her older sister Bailey has died suddenly leaving her feeling like half a person.  Shy and introspective, Bailey was her other half, the one who shone and then made Lennie feel bright in her light.  Devastated and unable to control her feelings, she pushed away many of the things she loves, and does some questionable things in order to keep the memory of Bailey close – like kissing Bailey’s boyfriend.

The Sky is Everywhere is a story about dealing with grief, and learning to step out of the shadow of a stronger personality.  This is all emotionally real and rewarding, especially as we are given snippets of Lennie’s poetry throughout – scattered around the town – which further explore her feelings. My only disappointment here was with the triteness of the love story, which I felt was a bit convenient and perhaps not as emotionally complex as I would like to see in the kinds of romances explored in young adult fiction.  Nonetheless I can imagine this has found a lot of fans since its publication.

 

Book Review of Roald Dahl’s Matilda

matildaThis beloved children’s classic – one that has been sadly missing from my reading history – is deserving of almost universal love that appears on the faces of those who talk about it.

The eponymous Matilda is a child prodigy, who despite disinterested and dislikable parents manages to teach herself to read before entering the first grade.  When left alone in the afternoons, she takes herself off to the library and begins to find her passion for books.  She even works her way up to Dickens (a girl after my own heart).

She manages to have a couple of adventures in her first year of primary school, pulling pranks on her father – a cheating car salesman, punishing the horrible school principal and even moving objects with her mind.

It’s a delightful story full of all the magic we would come to associate with Roald Dahl.  Definitely one for the kids.  I listened on audio, narrated by Kate Winslet.  A treat.

Book Review of Eleanor and Park

It has one of the most famously frustrating and ambiguous endings in young adulteleanor park literature – but don’t let this put you off. Eleanor and Park is the delightful and heart-warming story of two misfits who find each other – and even more importantly, get each other.

Eleanor is new at school – overweight, with red hair and op shop clothes, she stands out like a sore thumb. Park has just enough social capital to avoid bullying – despite his love of comic books and non-mainstream music. What starts off as the two being forced to sit together during bus rides to school soon turns into a touching exploration of the depth of teenage feelings – one that makes it difficult to undermine those relationships which we may think are fleeting or shallow.

While gushy and romantic at times, Eleanor and Park also deals with some challenging themes. Eleanor is being bullied at school, but even worse things wait for her at home. While she lives in relative poverty with five siblings in a single bedroom, there is something very disturbing about her new step-father, who she ran away from a year ago. His malice lingers in every scene set in the home.

Meanwhile Park has a beautiful and supportive family, although he finds he doesn’t quite meet all their expectations too, exemplified by his father’s puzzled reaction to Park wearing eyeliner.

There are some cool lines here, and while mushy, this is a couple unlike most you will read about. Not many couples argue about which is the Han Solo in their relationship (kudos for the Star Wars reference Rainbow Rowell). Definitely one to recommend for older readers – and for adults too.