Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Title: Wither
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Genre: Dystopian, science fiction, romance
Summary: On Goodreads
Pages: 358
Reviewing: Style, characterisation, world-building
Rating: 3/10
Oh, this could have been one hell of a ride. There was so much potential here for Wither to be an absolutely breath-taking read, but in the end, it took my breath in a different way.

Don't quite capiche?

Well OK, we want a novel that's set in a dystopia world but it also has to appeal to the young adult demographic. How about we bend science and come up with a genetic mutation that kills girls when they turn twenty and boys when they turn twenty-five? And then to add further insult, how about we incorrectly call the mutation a virus, and then tell everyone that North America is the only continent that still exists above sea level (regardless of the fact Mount Everest would not be submerged)? Finally, throw in a love triangle...pentagon in this case, and there you have Wither.

Don't get me wrong, the writing style was wonderful, so much so that I finished the book in two days. Lauren has a charming poetic way with words that really captures the beauty of her weird Victorian/modern world - it's not too much, and not too florid at all. It's hard to put into words but I think the best way to describe it is wistful and reflective. Oh, and angsty. Oodles of it. In fact, I got major kicks from the air of desperation in it. You think your life is bad? Well, you ain't got nothing on Rhine Ellery.

Anyway, not only can Lauren write, she can write well, and her characters all jump out of the page. All of the supporting cast had their time to shine in the spotlight, and despite never being introduced to her brother, I still felt like I knew him through her narrative. The characters here take their time to become known to us - we are told small things like Gabriel's favourite colour and what Rose's favourite sweet is - each of them has something that's unique to them. Of course I do not understand why no one tries to kill Vaughn if he's that much of a bastard.

So now it makes me sad to say why this book only deserves 3/10.

Firstly, because the world-building is totaly unbelievable, and just does not stand up to scrutiny at all. How can they ensure that absolutely everyone on the whole continent opts into this genetic perfection scheme? And then to make the claim that the 'virus' targets all of their children such that none live past twenty or twenty-five - there is no way that turning twenty and twenty-five means time is up. People are all genetically different - all of our biological clocks age differently, so as such, what is the genetic marker that rigidly counts down the days until you hit the big zero? That just smacks of a plot device needed to give the story the angle of desperation. What would be more believable would be if the second generation was born with defects, actual deformities, and come on guys, let's be honest, 'heterochromia' is NOT a defect. Please, Lauren, open a textbook because mutation and virus are different things.

Anyway. My next point - how can one extrapolate that this degeneration of society would then lead straight into polygamy and that it would become such an accepted and widespread thing? It's just too far-fetched! This was what really disgusted me at the start of the book - that in this world, there was no moderation or morality imposed upon the 'rich' people, that there were no governing forces and nothing in between the rich and the poor. Later on, we learn that pedophilia and rape are given the OK in this world and heavens, it's just so wrong! Seriously, I think it's just plain irresponsible of the author to write a thirteen year old who is so up for it, and then to have the publisher's approval to bring this into the world.


Final Thoughts...

As I said before, this could have been a really good book. It kept me reading and reading until the very end, and I was totally gripped by the narrative. If you take away everything that's wrong with the world, suspend your moral issues, then this is just a simple kidnap and imprison story. It could be set in any time, any place, and just so happens to be in a dystopian world because let's face it, that's the Next Big Thing. I only wish that Lauren had chosen to make her debut with something less plot-holey, because damn, she can write well.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: Dystopian, romance, science fiction
Summary: On Goodreads
Pages: 489
Reviewing: Opening, plot, characterisation
Rating: 6/10
To find out if you are Divergent, circle the traits that you possess:


If you chose more than one, then you are Divergent and are therefore a danger to this society! Sounds a bit strange? Yeah, I don't really get this world either.

This book has had tonnes of praise. There's drama in almost every chapter, adrenaline rushes by the buckets, and enough heartbreaking scenes to have you reaching for a box of tissues. Oh, and let's not forget the customary romance that seems to be an obligatory part of the package now for young adult dystopia. Not bad for a 23 year old's debut novel, eh?

OK, I'm not gonna lie - the opening did not make me want to read on. I didn't buy into the world (and still don't, but that's beside the point), and went to bed feeling a bit disappointed and let down by the all the hype, but resolved to carry on reading it the next day. And you know what? I'm glad I kept going - once the author started dropping in hooks about the mystery of the Divergents, I sat there and read the book until I hit the last page.

Beatrice a.k.a Tris is your typical Amnegation girl, like one of those charity workers or nuns you see on the street. All her life, she has belonged to this 'faction' of selflessness, and as such, her personality and thoughts have been shaped by her environment. No wonder the opening was a bit dull. Now, at the age of sixteen, she gets to choose which faction she will belong to for life. And then the rest of the book is all about the tough initiation into that faction, plus a tiny snippet of plot towards the end. To me, it definitely feels very much Hunger Games, as another reviewer has pointed out here.

In terms of plot, the story is pretty straightforward. Girl chooses a path for life. Girl spends the next 400 pages being initiated into that life. Girl then finds herself in the middle of a faction war in the last few chapters. Cue some customary romance and character deaths along the way. To me, it felt like the plot only got going halfway through - I think the author wasted far too much time on the introductions. Yes, we get it that the trials are brutal. Yes, people have to fight each other. But so much of the excessive violence could have been condensed and still have the same effect.

To me, the most interesting characters were Tris and Al. Tris, because she goes through character growth from originally being a sap to...becoming less of one, and Al, because he is the most broken character and displays a wide range of reactions. Peter was the predictable jerk, Christina seemed to serve no purpose other than to apply make-up to Tris, and Four just didn't do it for me. I think it's because I've had enough of young adult fiction where older guys fall for younger girls who've never had boyfriends before. And after finishing the novel, I still don't like Tris. She just didn't feel real enough to me, as if there was something missing - like, when she made jokes and threats, when she acted hard, all of it felt way too forced, as if her character growth was being pushed too quickly in the space of the pages to be completely believable. Plus, she forgets about all of the deaths way too quickly...

Nevertheless, you gotta have respect for someone who isn't afraid to kill off her cast.

Final Thoughts...

In conclusion, I'm glad that I did read this book as it raised some interesting moral issues, and I liked the sci-fi technology aspects that were introduced despite there being major flaws in the world-building - see here. Pigeon-holing people into one of five qualities - of course that's a recipe for war! Anyway, the writing was pretty solid and the dialogue believable, but at the moment, I am still sitting on the edge of the fence as to whether or not this book deserves the recognition it has gotten. Not as good as The Hunger Games, but definitely better than Delirium.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker

Title: A Match Made in High School
Author: Kristin Walker
Genre: High school romance, comedy
Summary: On Goodreads
Pages: 278
Reviewing: Plot, style, characterisation and relationships
Rating: 7/10
There's gotta be something good about a book if you can read it in less than two days, and with A Match Made in High School, I ended up skipping a lecture to finish it this morning! Why? Because no book in recent memory has been able to make me laugh out loud as much as this did! That's just how hi-freaking-larious it was, folks.

With regards to plot, A Match Made in High School totally hit the cliche highway but was executed well enough to hold its own in the genre. Although I found some parts of the story to be predictable, there were enough surprises and awkward cringe-fests to keep me thoroughly entertained. The one driving force behind the plot was the fact that all of the seniors had to take part in a lol-worthy Marriage Education programme. Throw in Fiona and Todd, a mis-matched pair on opposite ends of the social spectrum who want nothing more than to kill each other, and you have a recipe for disaster i.e. awesome situation comedy! Notable highlights include their prank wars and every scene involving the school counsellor - the verbal sparring there had me cracking up every time!

The key factor in delivering the lolz is that this story is written in first person past tense, which makes us privy to all of Fiona's witty and sarcastic observations. Seriously, I love her narrative. If she was a person in real life, then she would easily win an award for being awesome. I really did feel as if I was following her every train of thought, and I think the author did a great job in capturing the teenage voice. My only issue is that sometimes the time jumps and scene changes were a bit abrupt.

At first, the only really interesting character was Fiona - I found it really cool that she didn't give a crap about what others thought about her, and how she's perfectly happy not having many friends. I like that the author hasn't portrayed her to be stunningly perfect - yes, Fiona is whiny, yes she's flawed, but boy can she stand her ground! Nothing like a smartmouth loner with geeky tendencies, eh? So it's a shame that the other characters were flat caricatures in comparison. But as the story progressed, I found Todd the asshole and cute lil Sam springing to life.

In terms of relationships, I'm a sucker for the love-hate kind of thing that Fiona and Todd have going on. They were the only pair that really had chemistry - I found it lacking in the other pairs, and that some of the developments towards the end of the book felt a bit awkward and forced, and it seemed quite obvious that the author was inserting things here and there to build up to the unveiling of a... *dundundun* Grand Pairing.

But then again, how can you hate a book where the main character's nickname is Princess Pisspants?

Final Thoughts...

In conclusion, this was a refreshing and light read, with just the right amount of bubblegum and sassiness - I'll definitely be looking forward to more of Kristin's works in the future.

7/10! ^_^

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

All books have a beginning...

Hey there, hope you're well! At this moment in time, I have nothing better to do than to study and find a job, so I thought I'd make my life more interesting and give blogging a(nother) go. Whether or not I'm any good at it will be up to you to decide! Since I'm a fourth year chemistry undergrad who just can't get over her love for books, I will use this cozy lil' piece of web space to post my thoughts on what I'm reading. I'll always be a kid at heart so they will mostly be young adult/coming of age novels, simply because I believe that genre is by far the best!

...And just like that - on the whim of a crazy chemist, this blog was born! ^^

Mood: Hungry
Reading: Magnetic Materials Lecture Notes