The Top 10 Books I Wish I Had Read for School

Top Ten Tuesday topic is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic was Top 10 Contemporary Books That Would Be Great Paired With A Required Reading Book OR Top Ten Books That You Wish Were Taught In Schools. Even though these are both great topics, I struggled with coming up with ten, and decided to focus on the books I wish I had read in school. Some people have read these for school, but every curriculum is different, and these are ones I wish I had been assigned to read (especially in place of some of my least favorites, like Heart of Darkness. Bleh!). This week’s list is separated by category.

The Classics That I Still Haven’t Gotten Around to Reading

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Brave New World, The Bell Jar, The Screwtape Letters, Fahrenheit 451

Classics are intimidating, which is why they make us read them in school, right? Because otherwise, we might not pick them up. Or are we intimidated by them because they were required reading in school? Hmmm… Regardless, they can’t make us read them all, because there are so many of them! But some I kind of wanted to read, or want to read now, but I might be intimidated for one reason or another, or just haven’t gotten around to it for one reason or another. I could easily compiled a list of 10 classics I still want to read, but stuck with just a few. But seriously, why couldn’t I have read The Bell Jar instead of The Scarlet Letter? It pretty much has to be better!

(Somewhat) Classic Books I Enjoyed After Graduating

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Anthem, Ender’s Game, The Giver

I’m noticing that there was a severe lack of dystopia reading in my school curriculum, which makes me sad. I missed out the poignant The Giver and the interesting Anthem, both which are nice short reads might I add. And while I don’t really consider Ender’s Game dystopia as much as sci-fi, I think it would still be a good school read that can get kids to thinking about the future.

Published After Graduating High School (or College), but Would Have Been Awesome to Read for School!

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Cinder, The Book Thief, The Hunger Games

These were published in 2012, 2006, and 2008 respectively, all after I finished high school and Cinder after college, so I never would have really had the chance to read these in the classroom. But how great it would have been! You could read the original story of Cinderella before Cinder and then compare the two! The Book Thief offers a unique perspective on WWII you’re not going to find in history books, plus the prose is lovely. And then The Hunger Games is a true dystopia (much more so than many other YA “dystopias” that have emerged since), but is more interesting and friendly to read than, say, 1984. I think these more contemporary books would be great required reads.

What do you think? What books do you wish you had read for school? 

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My Fantasy Team: YA Book Edition

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Next weekend I’ll be drafting for my Fantasy Football team. I’m sure most of you are aware of what it is, but for those who are not, basically it’s a game of statistics played during the NFL season where participants “draft” real-life players from various teams for their virtual team, and their performance in their real-life games translates to the stats of your team. I’m not super into football,  but my friends were doing a league last year so I thought, “What the heck?”, and now I am doing it once again. Go Deep Space Niners! (That would be my team… named after the baseball team formed by the crew of Deep Space Nine in a season seven episode. I am a geek. By the way, don’t watch anything from season seven of Deep Space Nine before having watched the previous seasons. It’s chock full of character and plot spoilers.)

OK, how does this tie into Young Adult literature? Well, I thought it would be fun to create a “fantasy” young adult book, built by various characters and plot devices from different YA books. The books I decided to draw from:

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Setting: Post -Apocalyptic Chicago divided into factions (Divergent)

Main Character: Elliot North (For Darkness Shows the Stars)

The Best Friend: Harley (Across the Universe)

The Love Interest: Prince Kai (Cinder)

The Antagonist: President Snow (The Hunger Games)

Plot Set-Up: Reality show where the Princes chooses his wife (The Selection)

Book Synopsis: Elliot North is persuaded by her father and her crazy best friend Harley (BTW, no love triangle here- Harley loved Elliot’s sister before she tragically died) to sign up for the selection, a lottery-style opportunity to compete for the Prince’s love for the entire country to see. Elliot finds the idea ridiculous, but signs up with the full confidence that she has a better chance of being selected for the show.

Yet as her unfortunate luck would have it, Elliot is selected, and is whisked away to downtown Chicago to meet the Prince… and the girls she is supposed to be competing against. She decides to try to enjoy the food and the pretty dresses until Prince Kai decides to kick her out, which she believes will be by her second day there, and is surprised when he actually seems to like her, despite her bluntness with him about her lack of care about him.

Elliot and Kai form an unlikely friendship, which leads to him allowing her to see her friend Harley when he comes to visit, and the two of them taking frequent walks down Navy Pier to watch the boats. Kai learns from Elliot just how bad things are among the different factions that are supposed to be united, but are anything but. Elliot learns from Kai that war is imminent with the neighboring country that used to be part of the same country as theirs before a civil war broke it apart, and that the other country’s President Snow seems eager to engage the forces.

Will Elliot come to care for Kai? Will President Snow make good on his threats? Will Harley’s new job at The Royal House affect Kai and Elliot’s relationship or even endanger his hopes of being an artist? It’s a trilogy of course, so it’ll be a while before you find all this out.

This isn’t actually my ideal YA book, but I still thought it was fun to construct elements from different stories and see how they would fit together.

What do you think? What elements would include for your “fantasy” book team? 

Round-Up: Emma Approved, True Dystopia, and More

Round-Up is my very occasional feature where I share my favorite story and media related articles from the interwebs with you! 

Emma Approved

I am super excited about this! The same team that brought The Lizzie Bennet Diaries will soon be tackling Jane Austen’s Emma with Emma Approved! In this version of Emma, the title character is an entrepreneur and, of course, a self-proclaimed match-maker. I watched the first few episodes of Welcome to Sanditon, the Lizzie Bennet spin-off, but it ended up boring me, but I am expecting that Emma Approved will be great! 

Loving YA Books as a Grown-Up Adult

HarperCollins shared a great blog post from a member of the EpicReads team about why, as a grown-up adult, she loves young adult fiction and what she feels it has to offer adults. If you’re a fan of YA (as I know most of my blog readers are), then check it out!

Cress Cover

cress

Speaking of young adult, have you seen the new cover for the next installment of The Lunar Chronicles, Cress? The long hair! The red ribbon! (It seems red is a theme on these covers… hmmm…) Can’t wait! I haven’t read the first chapter yet, but it’s posted out there on the web. Google for it if you’re less lazy than me! I’ve heard great things about it!

The Abuse and True Meaning of Dystopia

As I mentioned in a recent post, the word dystopia gets tossed around a lot for stories that aren’t truly dystopic. And I understand, I’m guilty of it too, but I do think it’s important to recognize the true meaning of the word. Shanelle at The Tracery of Ink elaborated on the matter further, and I would encourage you to check her post out!

Blogging News

I mentioned in my mini-review of 1984 that I would be elaborating more on the final act of the book, where the main character is tortured, in a future post. Tentatively scheduled for Friday, I will be posting a comparison of the torture scenes in 1984 with the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Chain of Command, Part II. It was only a matter of time before I did a post like this where I compared something in a book I read to Star Trek! But I’ll be bringing in some psychology as well, and yes it will be nerdy, but I am so excited and hope you guys will enjoy reading it.

Book Aquistions

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I finally took advantage of the sale at Epic Reads for the Pivot Point e-book for $1.99, and will be buying What’s Left of Me pretty soon (as in, once it’s out in paperback later this month). I was going to pre-order it on Amazon yesterday but… long story. I’ve heard some good things about Pivot Point, and since parallel universes are on my mind thanks to a certain TV show I have been watching, I thought it was worth checking out. I’m going to be discussing What’s Left of Me with some fellow blogging friends online and am looking forward to reading a book about clones.

And I was excited a few weeks ago to find out I won four autographed books by one of my favorite authors, Jon Acuff! I already had two of the books (though one of them just as an e-book), but not the other two, and plus to have them autographed was exciting! I won them by filling out a survey on his blog, and was hoping to win the grand prize of a ticket to his upcoming conference, but I’m pretty happy with my “consolation prize.”

Looking forward to reading the two books I haven’t read yet! Stuff Christians Like looks absolutely hilarious.

Who else is excited about Emma Approved and Cress? What are your favorite true dystopia reads? What books have you acquired recently? 

Review: The Selection

(I am finally getting back to reviewing dystopians I read last year before I started this blog…)

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graphic-synopsis

The Selection is the first of a trilogy that I would classify as young adult “light” dystopia. In it America Singer lives in Illéa (America in the future after Chinese takeover and such), a country where the only hope for a young girl to escape a low caste is a prosperous marriage. While America loves a boy a caste below her, she still enters The Selection, a chance to become the wife of Prince Maxon. It proves to be a competition reminiscent of today’s reality show The Bachelor, but also made me think of the back story we never got of the Biblical story of Esther.  America must confront her past feelings for Aspen, her growing feelings for Maxon, and choose the life she wants to live.

graphic-thoughtsThis book gets a lot of hate, and I will admit, it has its issues. However, while reading, I found myself very caught up in the story. I have even read a decent portion of the book a second time, which is unusual considering the short time period I I’ve owned it.

The plot itself is interesting. I cannot get into most reality shows, especially ones like The Bachelor, but for some reason I still felt drawn to the premise of the story. Perhaps it seemed different because it was the tradition of the country, and also because of the royal element (I mean, who among us was not mesmerized by the royal wedding two years ago?).

I also loved Maxon. I thought he was sweet and such a gentleman, the way a prince should be. (However, after having read Cinder, I do believe I like Kai more, largely because he was more down-to-earth and less oblivious to the world around him.)  I also liked America’s maids that tended to her; I think they may have had more personality than anyone else in the book. Though I am somewhat intrigued by the king and queen, especially the queen, and hope to learn more about them.

I enjoyed America and Maxon’s growing friendship/relationship and especially enjoyed their time together, but I felt it was slightly underdeveloped. At one point America refers to something from a conversation or conversations with Maxon that makes it seem like they have had a conversation or conversations that I completely missed. There was nothing to indicate unrecorded conversations between them, yet this reference felt like there was a missing link.

I don’t love Aspen, the boy from home America calls her first love. He’s OK, but together… he and America are that annoying couple that you never want to be around. I also don’t really love America either. Again, she’s just OK, she has her good qualities and her less favorable qualities, but honestly I found myself caring more about Maxon that her.

The “dystopia” nature of this book feels a bit light to me. There is a caste system in place that doesn’t really make much sense to me (there is a whole caste dedicated to artists, for instance, and they’re one of the lower castes), a history of the country that also sounds somewhat unlikely (but I cannot deny that if you explained someone from 200 years ago what the world would be like now it would be very hard for them to believe), and the threat of the rebels in the book take a backseat to the romance. I suppose I would not mind this latter point so much had the world building had been better developed in general.

I am hoping to see some better story development and character growth in the next two books. I am holding out on reading The Elite for as long as I can because I hear it’s frustrating, and I don’t want too large of a gap between it and the final book, The One. I’m also going to be frustrated if America chooses Aspen, not just because of me, but because I think about 95% of The Selection fans prefer Maxon to Aspen. There doesn’t seem to be much of a competition here.

One last pet peeve is that some of the names bother me. We have the usual future dystopia names mixed in with names like Amy, which just felt off to me. Also, America’s last name is Singer, and she’s a musician. Her first name is America, because she’s a fighter. There’s a girl whose last name is Farmer and she’s… you guessed it. Overall, the choices for the names felt a little shallow, but I do like Marlee and Maxon’s names.

I think The Selection had its flaws, but it was an entertaining read that kept me interested throughout. That’s why I’ve rated it 4 stars out of 5; I really liked it.

4starsContent Advisory

Language: None to mild – Unfortunately I cannot remember if there was any language in The Selection since I read it last year, but it was either sparse and mild or non-existent.

Sexual: Mild – All that happens is passionate kissing, but America desires more with Aspen, explaining to the readers that sex before marriage is forbidden by law. It is also suggested that the girls must do whatever Maxon wants, and America is convinced he is going to be try something sleazy, but he does not.

Violence: Very mild. There is mention of raids on the castle, but the description of the violence is mostly just a description of fear and chaos, and not bloodshed.

If you’ve read The Selection, what were your thoughts on it? 

Waiting on Wednesday: The Testing

WoWWaiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme from Breaking the Spine, which highlights the releases we are anticipating. (Click on image above for more info.)

Ever since I have gotten back from Atlanta, I have been seeing quite a buzz surrounding The Testing, coming out June 4. And I have to say, it sounds intriguing!

the-testing-joelle-charbonneau

Here’s part of the synopsis, stolen from Goodreads: The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career. 

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies–trust no one.

I really like this idea of a competition to get into a University after a war. In fact, I have written a story that has a somewhat similar concept, though different enough where I don’t feel like it would be considered a copy-cat. But another series! Ack! So much to keep up with!

Still… I just pre-ordered it. The synopsis has me intrigued and so far the reviews seem pretty good! I don’t think I’ve ever pre-ordered a fiction book before (I think the only other book I have pre-ordered was Jon Acuff’s book Start, which I did basically for all the extras I have yet to look at, since I already had the book). While ordering I also finally ordered For Darkness Shows the Stars after talking about reading it and seeing that Amazon is practically giving it away right now (just a little over $7!) along with The Book Thief because… sigh… library issues. Now I know why I only had seven days to read Insurgent; apparently when the library changed their website last year, they hid the checkout time  for book under account settings, so it was automatically set for 7 days. I decided to investigate this AFTER I had to check out The Book Thief twice (due to time and a waiting period before checking it out the second time). And now I’m 4th on a waiting list for it. I’m also 4th on a waiting list for two other books! Ack! But I digress…

What book release are you looking forward to? 

My Top 10 Elements in Dystopia

In my not-forgotten-but-slightly-neglected quest to figure out what works for dystopias for me and what doesn’t, I thought an excellent topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday freebie would be the top ten elements I like to see in dystopia stories I have read. This can be the nature of the characters, the plot, the society structure, etc., and it can be from specific stories or in general. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Sameness of the society

Though I think several dystopias have adapted this idea, but I like the way it is illustrated in The Giver the best. Not only does everyone follow the same progression through life up until they are selected for their job and start to train for those, but they do not exhibit much independent thought because of this environment. The ability has not been taken away or suppressed by drugs, but they have been encouraged through positive reinforcement all their lives to live a certain way, to not question it, and to not want any more. When Jonas learns of the past and colors and things no one else in his town knows about, it challenges his thoughts on the status quo. It’s easy for everyone to be the same, but is it really a life worth living?

2. Separation within the society

capitol-citizens

I think The Hunger Games in particular does an excellent job in showcasing a clear divide between the two main groups of people within the society: The elaborate Capitol and the struggling Districts. Not only do they force the Districts to give up children each year for the annual Hunger Games, which serve as a source of entertainment and gambling for the Capitols, but they subject the winners to their ways for the rest for their lives, so even the winners don’t really win. Some, like Finnick Odair, are even forced into prostitution because of their good looks and charming nature. Whatever the Capitol wants, the Capitol gets, and subjects the Districts to.

The Selection also shows a divide with a caste system and monarchy set in place, though I do not find Cass’ world building quite as detailed or effective as Collins’, but it does have a lot of potential.

3. The “stand-out” among the society

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I think there are several dytopias who have their main character a stand-out. Tris (and others) are Divergents in their society, and cannot be categorized by one faction of their society, which some see as a threat. In The Giver, Jonas stands out because he is the Receiver, he has the ability to receive past memories and see things differently than the rest of his society. In Across the Universe, those who think differently from the norm, like Elder and Harley are considered crazy, when really they are just creative and the others have had their creativity suppressed. It’s an obvious element not just for dystopia, but for any story, but it is an effective one. I believe most all of us have a desire to stand out somewhat, even if it scares us.

4. The “good guys” aren’t as good as they seem

For all the things that drove me crazy about Reached, the conclusion of the Matched trilogy, the strongest element of the story, I thought, was how it was clear that the Resistance, the “good guys” in the story, aren’t as good as they had been romanticized by Cassia and Xander to be. They are willing to sacrifice people and create chaos in the name of their cause; they turn to panic rather than logic or strategy to overthrow the government. Cassia’s world grew more gray in Reached, which I think was a necessity for that series.

It’s also interesting to see in Divergent and Insurgent how among these five factions, one cannot really be labeled “the good guys.” Yes, there are the honest ones, the peaceful ones, the humble ones… But just the same, the factions are not particularly good or particularly bad. It is the individual who is good or bad.

5. A secret rules the society/main character

In either movies or books, I am always fascinated by the notion that everything the main character has believed about their life has been a lie or at least a facade veiling secrets. It happens in Across the Universe, Insurgent, The Giver, Ender’s Game, Cinder, The Maze Runner series, and of course in other stories as well.  It’s funny when you’re on the outside looking in, not understanding why the main character can’t accept that their reality is not actual reality when it seems so obvious to you. Or sometimes, it takes the reader by surprise too. But either way, if I think about it, it would be hard for me to accept too. It’s a “what if” question that certainly makes for a fascinating string of possibilities.

6. Humans as test subjects

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The Maze Runner series was not my favorite, but one thing I did find fascinating was what these teens were being put through. First they are forced to live in an environment with a seemingly unsolvable maze (as well as potentially dangerous), and then when they finally escape it, they only face more trials that they forced to go through in the name of science and discovery. Unfortunately, I found the end of the series to be unsatisfying for an explanation as to why all these weird techniques were supposed to help, as well as an unsatisfactory resolution to the characters and their journeys, but the overall concept of using humans as test subjects is certainly fascinating.

7. Revolution

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This is also a common theme in dystopia, but I think the way it was built up and ultimately played out in The Hunger Games trilogy is especially fascinating. Katniss plays the rules of the game to a point, but she slowly, and not completely purposefully, starts the destruction of the system from the inside out. She also has a lot of help along the way because even a teenage girl as strong as Katniss can’t take down a whole government herself.

8. Genetic mutation/manipulation

Unfortunately I have not seen too much yet of this yet in the dystopias I have read, and in the ones I have found it in, they have been used in somewhat underwhelming and disappointing ways, but as I have mentioned before, genetic engineering fascinates me. I want to see more!

9. Strong and diverse characters

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This, in a nutshell, is what really makes The Hunger Games stand out from other dystopias in my mind. I have never, in any other dystopia series I have read, fallen so in love with so many characters as I have in The Hunger Games. They are so well-rounded, each with such unique personalities, that they just feel so real. Sometimes I think authors get so caught up in their epic story line that they forget to give special treatment for the characters. But plot alone cannot carry a story; we need more epic characters! (Though I will say that The Lunar Chronicles are producing some pretty great characters as well, and I’m looking forward to seeing them develop more and meeting new ones in the last two books!)

10. Post-War

Any story that starts off in the ruins of a previous society marred by war, or even years after war but with lingering aftermath, (Hunger Games, Divergent, Ender’s Game, The Selection, Cinder, etc.) piques my interest. What caused the war often determines how the society is rebuilt afterwards. There is often this notion that society will be better this way than it was before, but many times, as we see, that is not necessarily true.

Books mentioned in this post:

dystopiasWhat about you? What elements interest you in dystopias?

My Gateway Into Dystopia…

Since reading The Hunger Games, I have been seeking more of the dystopia genre, as I have mentioned before, and have also been penning some of my own. However, I did not start writing these stories after The Hunger Games per say, as a hint of dystopian interest has been on my radar for years, startling subtly and growing bit by bit until I read those books and realized there was a name of a genre of this particular type of story I have long found interest in. Here’s the history of my growing interest in dystopia…

The Twilight Zone

I don’t remember particularly how or when I discovered The Twilight Zone, though I am almost positive that one of the marathons on the SciFi (or SyFy if you prefer the incorrect spelling) channel is responsible, and my dad was probably the one watching it first when I found it. All I know is that I quickly became hooked. One of the first episodes that really stuck out to me was “Number 12 Looks Just Like You,” where a young girl lives in a society where everyone goes through a “Transformation” process that makes them youthful and beautiful for the rest of their lives.  I remember thinking, I can see this actually happening. That was definitely the first taste.

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Another episode that really caught my attention and I would consider my favorite on the show is “The Obsolete Man,” where a man is ruled by his government  to be obsolete because of his “outdated” career and religious beliefs. Since he is obsolete, he is to be executed. Again, it was another episode that struck the thought within me: This could actually happen.

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Then came…

The Island

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The Island is a movie that, in my opinion, is highly underrated. *SPOILERS AHEAD* It focuses on a man and a woman, Lincoln and Jordan, who live in a compound where they believe they are being sheltered from the contamination of the outside world, save for one island, where winners of a random lottery can win a chance to go to. Lincoln and Jordan come to find out, however, that they are actually clones of other people, and winners of the lottery are not going to an island, but being harvested for organs by those whose DNA they match. It is a big secret that the creator of the company (who is appropriately played by Sean Bean because he dies) has managed to keep… until the end of the movie of course. At this point, I already had a random interest in the ethics of cloning that arose from who-knows-where, so I was hooked once again.

Then along came…

Equilibrium

Another film that does not get as much love as it deserves. In this story, John Preston is essentially a cop for the feelings police, if you will, in a totalitarian society where emotions are suppressed by the required drug Prozium.

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This is John Preston inserting Prozium. Or Christian Bale shirtless. No, it’s John Preston inserting Prozium, just trust me.

Two things shake his world: The first is uncovering a lair of the senses, where a woman is hiding books, music, and art. From this crime scene Preston’s partner Partridge ends up taking a book of poetry. And for his crime *SPOILERohwaitnotreallybecausethischaracterisplayedbySeanBean* he is shot by Preston himself.

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This may or may not have rattled Preston initially, but what makes him confront it is when his last dosage of Prozium falls and the glass capsule breaks, causing the liquid inside to spill. With one missed dosage, Preston starts to see, and feel, everything in a whole new light. So he decides to fight against the very system he has been working to protect. Like “The Obsolete Man,” the focus of this movie is the totalitarian government, and about how we should all have the right to express ourselves and make our own choices.

Then my last “gateway” before The Hunger Games was…

Gattaca

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Once upon a time my dad told me about this movie where there is a society in which people who aren’t genetically engineered are considered inferior. It sounded interesting to me, and the idea was planted, but I wasn’t quite ready for viewing it yet. But in college, I again got this crazy random interest in genetic engineering and wanted to write a movie script on the idea for my Scriptwriting class, so suddenly I was seeking out this movie my dad told me about. Vincent is considered “in-valid,” since he was born naturally, and at birth his death by heart failure is predicted to happen at an early age. Yet he surpasses his predicted expiration date and pursues his dream of flying to space by taking the identity of a “valid,” Jerome, who became disabled. I think the theme of the movie  could be surmised in the Bible verse shown on the first title card of the movie: Consider God’s handiwork; who can straighten what He hath made crooked? – Ecclesiastes 7:13. Flawed human beings are still human beings. Think of all the flawed human beings who have contributed so much to our society.

All the movies have this in common: a setting of the future of our world should we choose certain routes that we have interest in. The concept of a “fountain of youth” is the world in The Twilight Zone episode “Number 12.” Totalitarian governments dictate lives in “The Obsolete Man” and Equilibrium. Human cloning and using those clones to save “real” humans is the subject matter of The Island. And cloning’s not-so-distant cousin eugenics and its potential effect on society is considered in Gattaca. I find these stories impactful. And I want to tell stories like those. I have to admit, in my own story writing I can get caught up in romances and other petty things that often happen in young adult novels, which is why I am really working to rewrite my first dystopia story. I like the romance, but I want the focus of the story to be the warning of what can happen. That’s what these movies do so well, that brought me into my interest int the genre. I hope I can do it justice.

What was your gateway to dystopia, or whatever your genre of choice may be? What stories make you think?

Review: Divergent and Insurgent

I heard a lot of buzz about Divergent by Veronica Roth as I was mourning my finishing of The Hunger Games trilogy, so I placed a hold for an e-book version of it through my library and checked it out when it became available.

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It was an interesting idea: the society in which the main character lives is divided into five different factions, each which have a certain focus: Erudite (intelligence), Candor (honesty), Amity (peace), Abnegation (selflessness), and Dauntless (bravery). Beatrice (later called Tris), tests well for multiple factions, which is extremely unusual (why is explained in Insurgent) and gives her the label Divergent. She ultimately chooses Dauntless when the time comes, though she was raised in Abnegation.  I didn’t really understand why a society would choose to function this way, but I decided to go along for the ride.

Beatrice decides to go by Tris as she goes through the very rigorous and exclusive training for Dauntless initiates. Not everyone will be accepted into the Dauntless faction, which will leave them factionless, a fate some would see as worse than death. She learns a lot about herself, overcomes fears, and falls for one of her trainers, who in turns likes her. Then at the end something happens, and Tris is one of the few who can fight to stop the problem (I’m remaining vague to avoid spoilers).

I enjoyed the book pretty well, though I didn’t like it quite as much as The Hunger Games, and had no problem patiently waiting for the sequel, Insurgent, to become available as an e-book in my library.

insurgent

Once it did and I got it checked it out, I accidentally selected that I only wanted it for 7 days, which isn’t a problem if I really love a book or if I have plenty of free time, but it was during the holidays, so I was wary of getting it read in time. Thankfully I did, but due to the lack of time, I did not bother to find any sort of refresher of the first book. The second book picks up right where the first leaves off, with no rehash of anything. Which I think is the way to do a second book, but apparently I had forgotten a lot in those few months, such as details of the end of the first book as well as who a lot of  the minor characters were. I think I spent the first half of the book asking, “Who’s that?” “What happened?” “What does this have to do with anything?”

But when Tris ends up getting taken by some people who want to study her divergence, I started to grow more interested in the story again. Also, I somehow ended up completely loving a super minor character who ends up dying a chapter or two after he is introduced, which I thought was quite an accomplishment since I still only kind of liked Tris and Four (Tris’ love interest) at this point. Then at the very end of the book, there is a twist in the story when we finally get an idea of why the society exists the way it does and why being Divergent is rare, and that made me much more interested reading book three when it comes and finishing the series than anything else that happened beforehand. So I am really hoping the final book will be a strong conclusion after the two first books that were good but not great (in my opinion anyway).

I do think Veronica Roth is a good writer (though I hate her now that I have learned that she is only 24! Ack! Stop being so talented and successful at 24!), but for some reason there has not been a big emotional connect between me and the books, and I also don’t find all the plot points interesting. I wish I could put my finger on why I feel this way; I hope I will have more insight when the series finishes and I find that the last book either finishes strong or falls flat.

Anyone else read Divergent or Insurgent? What’s your take on the series thus far?

Favorite quote of the series (so far): “Human beings as a whole cannot be good for long before the bad creeps back in and poisons us again.” (from Divergent)

My Top 10 Book Series I Would Like to Read But Haven’t Yet

This is another Top 10 list idea from the blog The Broke and the Bookish. I’m just going to say that the first four are ones that I recently decided I might want to read, whereas most of the others I have been considering reading for a while (#5 being the exception, and #1 is actually is kind of recent, but not as recent as the others). Anyhow, it’s hard to decide to delve into a series when you’re sort of particular about what stories you want to dedicate your time to. So if you have any experience with any of these series, please feel free to weigh in with your opinion of them!

#10: The Lunar Chronicles

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A retelling of Cinderella set in a dystopia world… and where Cinderella is a Cyborg. I can’t quite decide what to make of this, but it’s gotten a lot of buzz so if I have a chance to borrow it for free… we’ll see.

#9: Under The Never Sky series

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I have mixed feelings about how I feel about the sound of this particular dystopia world, but I noticed the first book is available as an e-book through my library (my fave way to try out books) and I’ve heard a lot of good things about it in the blog sphere, so I may give it  a try.

#8: Percy Jackson & the Olympians

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I know very little about this series; I haven’t even see the movie for the first book. But there is a lot of love for this series and I think for the characters as well. For me, the plot can be about almost anything as long as I love the characters, so who cares if I’m not really into Greek mythology? I still liked Thor.

#7: The Uglies series

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The first time I heard about this series, I was on the Wikipedia page for an episode of The Twilight Zone that I enjoy called “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.” It is set in a future where everyone in society, once they reach a certain age, must undergo a “transformation,” that will keep them looking young and beautiful for the rest of their life. Apparently, this series has a similar concept. I want to know more before I dive into it, but it sounds interesting.

#6: The Harry Potter series

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Yes, I know, I know. I haven’t read the Harry Potter series. Where have I been living, under a rock? I even grew up at the ideal time to really grow up with the books as they released. But I was never really all that interested. In fact, the plot still doesn’t interest me. I haven’t even seen the movies (except about 30 minutes of the first one.) But again, it seems like this is a series of books where people fall in love with the characters and get emotionally invested in them. So for that reason, I think I may finally have to check this series out sometime.

#5: Across the Universe series

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So the main character’s name is Amy, she was cryogenically frozen, and now she lives on a star ship. It’s like I’m a character on Star Trek! Hopefully… Anyhow, this is a series I just recently learned about, and I have to say my interest is piqued.

#4: The Left Behind series

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Well, I bet this pick threw you for a loop after all those young adult dystopia choices. I have read most of the series… I got through either Desecration of The Remnant the first time I believe. I started reading these books in sixth grade if memory serves, when only the first two books were out. I then read them as they came out. But at some point in high school, I got busy and pretty much stopped reading for fun, so I stopped short of finishing the series. I tried reading them again when I was unemployed, but it came to a halt when my husband didn’t have the next book, neither of our parents did (or at least not that they could find), nor the church library. In my laziness I never sought out another copy of it, and once again did not finish it. But one day, I want to make it all the way to the Glorious Appearing. In the books. Pretty sure I don’t want to go through that in real life (not as someone who lived through the Tribulation, I mean).

#3: The Lord of the Rings

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I want to read The Lord of the Rings, but I’m intimidated by the series. I’m afraid I’ll get all mixed up with the who’s and the where’s. And they don’t exactly seem to be quick reads. But one day, I really do want to read them.

#2: The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Every time I see the pretty cover Barnes and Noble version (not the one pictured), I think about buying it. And then my cheap side takes over. The movie is so wonderfully quirky in all the right ways, and from what I understand that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  I definitely intend to get around to reading these stories one day.

#1: The Ender’s Game series

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Even though I’m not sure if I’ll read just the first book or the entire series, I put Ender’s Game at number one because I do intend to read the first book this year. It sounds like an intriguing concept, plus it is a bit more classic in terms of YA dystopia and has stood the test of time, so I’m really curious to check it out.

What are some series you want to read but haven’t gotten around to yet? And while we’re on the topic of Left Behind, who should star in the Nic Cage version of the movie? (Let’s disregard that this is probably a terrible idea.) I think Justin Bartha, who played alongside Nic Cage in National Treasure as everyone’s favorite Riley Poole, would make an excellent Buck Williams.

Review: The Matched Trilogy

Since The Hunger Games I have been seeking out other young adult dystopia stories. So far I have read: the Matched trilogy (by Ally Condie), Divergent and Insurgent (first two of a trilogy by Veronica Roth), The Maze Runner series (trilogy + prequel, by James Dashner), The Selection (first of a trilogy by Kiera Cass), The Giver (a little bit more classic, by Lois Lowry), and I started Delirium (first in a trilogy by Lauren Oliver) but halfway through stopped caring about any of the characters and thus stopped reading. And unfortunately, aside from The Giver and The Selection, these other stories don’t seem to have it down.

What is it?

I’m not really sure.

It’s part realistic and interesting dystopian future, part great characters, part engaging story. I mean, all these stories have these traits somewhat, otherwise they would have fallen by the wayside like Delirium (sorry to all the Delirium fans… I know there are many out there…), but it seems something just seems to fall flat. And I fear so badly my books will do this too. So in an attempt to understand what I like best in these stories… I’ll analyze them… starting with Matched, Crossed, and Reached.

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I read Matched last summer by the pool and on the beach while in Destin. I actually really, really enjoyed it and flew through it Hunger Games style. After finishing it, while still on vacation, I insisted on going to the Barnes and Noble in Destin to buy Crossed. Read it and liked it alright, though not as much. Then I had to wait for Reached. I got it in January with a gift card and read it. And the book was fine, in fact some of it was pretty interesting, but towards the end I could see it spiraling down fast in a way I was not thrilled about. Both the second and third books also lagged in places, unlike the first. But let me break down further…

Problem #1: She chooses the wrong guy. I won’t spoil this for those who have not read, but our main character, Cassia, has two guys pining over her, much like The Hunger Games. Both guys are decent, don’t get me wrong, but the guy she didn’t pick… I just loved him way more. More than the other guy and more than the main character (like how I cared way more about Peeta than everyone else in The Hunger Games). I think this a large part of the reason why I loved Matched more than the others… because things still seem quite hopeful between Cassia and the guy. But ultimately, it doesn’t happen. And it crushed me.

Problem #2: Mushiness + poetry = ICK. The second book is most guilty of this. Cassia lives in a society where everything is limited: there are only a hundred songs, a hundred stories, a hundred paintings, etc. that society is exposed to. When she discovers “new” poetry, it excites her. She wants to use it to communicate her feels. And it gets mushy. With the wrong guy. Boo.

Problem #3: Crossed is kind of weak in hind sight. First, there were all the unrealistic aspects of it: Oh, I have taken poison but can trek through deserts and mountains. Oh, we just stumbled upon the Resistance and they let us join. Oh, my new friend just saw a picture of this guy and decided she’s in love with him. And again, there’s the mushiness: “I want nothing more to cuddle in a cave and read poetry with my love!” (That’s not an actual quote but it could be… blech!) And there’s a lot of walking.

Problem #4: They kind of ripped off The Giver. I didn’t realize this until I read Reached, since I read The Giver in between Crossed and Reached. As I read Reached and it reminded me of all the ceremonies and rituals the Society had, I was like ohmygoshthisisfromthegiverwhy?! When it comes to dystopia stories, I want to see new and fresh ideas. Sure, all books borrow ideas from others, and that’s OK, and though it’s not a blatant rip-off, there were more similarities than I cared for.

Problem #5: The meetings in Reached are very anti-climatic.  It’s hard to get into the details of this without spoilers, but there were several meetings between people that should have been interesting in some way, but they just fell flat. By Reached, I almost feel like Condie gave up on doing anything new or dynamic with the characters individually or when they interacted with each other.

Problem #6: Ky never seems to care about the causeOne of the guys, Ky, is painted as a pretty strong character in some respects. He is against the Society, however, he’s not in love with the Resistance like Cassia and Xander. By the end of the trilogy, I wasn’t so in love with the Resistance either, so I understand, but it felt so weak for him to just play along for Cassia. Everything he did was for her. I can respect that to some extent, but after a while it just feels kind of pitiful.

Problem #7: Lackluster ending. I don’t mind endings that are left open to interpretation. I don’t mind the sentiment that some things are unresolved now because it will take time. I don’t mind  growth in characters. But I don’t like endings that feel like they just stop when the author doesn’t know what to write anymore, and I don’t like characters having sudden changes in personality so they can move on to different paths and I’m supposed to be happy for them for that.

Things I did enjoy about the series… the first few chapters of Matched were beautifully written and made me feel so happy. The Society, though it did borrow from The Giver, was also pretty interesting. In Reached, there is a plague that spreads and mutates, and that to me was pretty interesting, but unfortunately that story line ended up sagging instead of thriving. And I did really enjoy one character, but did not care as much for the others… even Cassia was just OK for me.

The first few chapters of Matched were literally good enough to carry me through reading the series, and though Condie does have a beautiful writing style, overall, it left me feeling unsatisfied.

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If only William Shatner had made an appearance in the books. Instantly more gratifying. I have no idea why this picture exists but it made me smile when I stumbled upon it.

So if you’ve read this series, what did you think of it? Any other young adult dystopias you would recommend for me?

Favorite quote from the trilogy: “You cannot change your journey if you are unwilling to move at all.” (from Reached)