Friday, September 19, 2014

Review: Gone by Michael Grant

This is one of the most imaginative dystopian-type books I've come across in a long time! In a small town called Perdido Beach, whose only real claim to fame is the nuclear power plant it is home to, everyone is going about their day when suddenly all the adults vanish. At first, you wonder if they were raptured or something. But then things start to get a bit strange--some of the kids develop powers, dangerous rivalries emerge, and there is a hint of some Darker Power at force here.

It reminded me a bit of Alexandra Bracken's Darkest Minds books, except without the oppressive grownups.

Grant was constantly surprising me with the creative twists he threw into the book. From talking coyotes to flying snakes, to the whacked out powers the kids developed--I never knew what to expect and was constantly delighted with some fresh horror.

That being said, I feel like I should have enjoyed reading this book more than I did. Not that I didn't enjoy it at all--I did--but it just wasn't the kind of all consuming page turner that it seems like it should have been. I kept reading a few pages at night before bed and then falling asleep. That shouldn't happen with this type of book--normally with a fast paced dystopian, I can't put it down til I reach the end.

I think the problem here is in the character development. None of these characters really felt very fully formed. They each have approximately one key trait: Sam is a leader; Astrid is a genius; Drake is an evil sadist; Little Pete is autistic; Quinn is insecure; Alberto is an entrepreneur, etc. etc. etc. The interpersonal drama just felt kind of forced and half baked. And for me, it doesn't matter how creative a world is or how tense the plot--if I can't really relate to the characters, I'm never going to be fully sucked in.

Still gotta give this points for creativity - it's really not like any other book I've come across lately. 3.5 stars.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I'm sorry to rain on the Rainbow Rowell parade, but this book really just did not do it for me. I liked Eleanor and Park decently well (though I wasn't foaming at the mouth with delight the way a lot of people seemed to be), and there were things I liked about Fangirl (as someone who used to write lengthy Harry Potter fanfiction, I loved the premise of this!), but ultimately I just could not get past some of the problems with this book.

First and foremost, I found the Simon and Baz story excruciatingly dull and honestly kind of a bizarre choice on the author's part. It's obvious that Simon and Baz are basically Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy stand-ins. I used to spend way too much time on, and have certainly read my fair share of Harry/Draco "slasher" stories. It seems really obvious to me that the Rainbow Rowell WANTED this to be about a Harry Potter fanfic, but her legal team said no. So rather than thinking up something original, she came up with Simon and Baz, wizards living in a witchcraft and wizardry school, who hate each other, and are fighting an evil dark lord. SOUND FAMILIAR????

So that was really odd and made me feel a bit uncomfortable. It kind of felt like Rowell was borrowing from JK Rowling in a strange and not fully authentic way--like I would have honestly felt better about it if the story was just blatantly about Harry Potter rather than about ANOTHER blockbuster book about teenage wizards that totally isn't Harry Potter at all!!!!! Even weirder was the fact that Harry Potter (the REAL Harry Potter) is actually referenced in the book, so it's not like Rowell is even trying to create some alternate universe where HP never happened and Simon Snow is all there is. So, so weird... did not work for me.

I found the endless Simon & Baz excerpts really boring. It reached a point where I skipped them entirely. I got the point that the Simon & Baz stuff was kind of a metaphor for whatever Cath was going through at a given time in the story, that she WAS using her own life to inspire her writing, just like her teacher asked her to do, etc. I got that. But I still found it really boring and clunky. I just didn't care about Simon & Baz at all. If this had been an actual Harry Potter fanfic it would have been SO MUCH BETTER. 

Other than that, the romance between Cath and Levi was kind of underwhelming. I got tired of hearing about how wonderful Levi's smile was and how flat his face was and blah blah...I don't know, I just didnt' really feel it. He never really emerged as a real person to me. Honestly I was most intrigued by Cath's sister Wren, and by her friend Reagan. Those characters I would have loved to hear more about. 

2.5 stars