The Top 15 Quotes From Books I Read In 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Quotes I Loved From Books I Read In The Past Year Or So. The past year OR SO? We’d be here all day; I couldn’t limit that to 10! So I decided to limit it to 10 15 quotes from 10 15 different books I read for the first time this year. Seriously, paring it down to 10 is too hard! I’ve been collecting quotes that I like this year on my Tumblr, but here’s the top 15, in no particular order…

(All pictures are from Unsplash or Gratisography, unless otherwise specified, and possibly the first one because I made it a while back.)

mistborn

unlikelyhero

letsallbebrave

hp-phoenix-teaspoon

onthefence

wellofascension

lasttimewesay

hitchhikers-penguin

Source

mansfield-park-quote

jackaby

shadow-scale

magnolia

Source

thestartofmeyou

hero-of-ages

deathlyhallows

What are some of your favorite quotes you’ve read this year?

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My Top 10 Fall Reads for 2013

Top Ten Tuesday topic is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is ” Top Ten Books On My Fall 2013 TBR List,” which I’m splitting into two sub-categories, the top 5 books I plan to read this fall (and probably beyond) and the top 5 fall releases I am most excited about. Both lists are in no particular order. 

Top Five Books On My Fall 2013 TBR List

1. Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card

enders-shadow

I still really want to read this before the Ender’s Game movie comes out. I still need to borrow a copy from my friend. (*Waves to Graham if he’s reading this*)

The rest of these books I believe I will be acquiring for my birthday! Yay!

2. The 5th Wave by Ricky Yancey

the5thwave

3. There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones

there-you-find-me

4. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions about Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

lamont-bird-by-bird

5. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

codenameverity

My Top Five Fall Releases

Most of these books I probably won’t read until winter or possibly even later, but I’m still excited about their release!

1. Once We Were by Kat Zhang, Coming Today! (September 17)

oncewewere

I’m actually already halfway through this one, since I got to buy it early at an event where Kat Zhang was present, but I was not sure how excited I would be to read this until I read What’s Left of Me right before, and thankfully I enjoyed her first book and was excited to read this one, especially without a wait! I’m sure I’m going to hate having to wait for the last book though!

2. Allegiant by Veronica Roth, Coming October 22

allegiant

I’m sure I’ll wait to read this one until it’s available for me to download as an e-book through my library, as I did with the previous two books, but I’m excited for its release and to finally get answers to all the questions I’ve had since the first book! Roth has also said that Caleb develops a lot in the book, and since I like him, I’m intrigued!

3. The Transfer: A Divergent Story by Veronica Roth, Published September 3

thetransfer

This one is already out and should be easy to find and quick to read so… basically I just need to get around to reading it. And Free Four.

4. Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, Coming October 15

acrossastarswept

I really enjoyed For Darkness Shows the Stars so I am looking forward to this follow-up in the same universe! I’ll probably ask for this one for Christmas.

5. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson, Coming September 24

steelheart

I haven’t read any Brandon Sanderson yet, but after listening to him on the Writing Excuses podcast and hearing really good things about his YA books, I believe I will have to remedy this soon.

What books are you excited about reading this fall? What releases are you most excited for? 

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

classics

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

somewhatclassic

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!

newbies

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? 

My Top 10 Most Memorable Secondary Characters

Top Ten Tuesday topic is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

AKA, dang Suzanne Collins, you sure know how to write secondary characters.

Seriously, I am going to apologize upfront that nearly half of these characters from The Hunger Games trilogy. But you know what, I’m not really that sorry, because they’re awesome and deserve to be seen as such! I could easily do a Top 10 Hunger Games secondary characters, but I refrained myself. Here they are, in no particular order…

1. Haymitch, The Huger Games trilogy

haymitch&katnissHaymitch starts out as the old, drunkard Victor who feels trapped by the system the Capitol has set in place, but with many thanks to Katniss, grows to believe change is possible.

Haymitch takes the seat across from me. “We’re going to have to work together again. So, go ahead. Just say it.”
… All I can say is “I can’t believe you didn’t rescue Peeta.”
“I know,” he replies.
There’s a sense of incompleteness. And not because he hasn’t apologized. But because we were a team. We had a deal to keep Peeta safe. A drunken, unrealistic deal made in the dark of night, but a deal just the same. And in my heart of hearts, I know we both failed.
“Now you say it,” I tell him.
“I can’t believe you let him out of your sight that night,” says Haymitch.
I nod. That’s it.

2. Cinna, The Hunger Games trilogy

Cinna is an incredible secondary character, who shows great strength and great restraint, quietly rebelling against the Capitol in his own way and loving Katniss the way she needed someone to love her.

“Don’t worry. I always channel my emotions into my work.  That way I don’t hurt anyone but myself.”

3. Effie, The Hunger Games trilogy

At first Effie seems as flighty and silly as Capitol people come, but through Katniss and Peeta, we see her change and as she comes to  realize just how truly evil the Games are. Unfortunately, however, we don’t know how her story ends.

4. Finnick, The Hunger Games trilogy

Just like Katniss, I was suspicious of Finnick at first. I mean, “Do you want a sugar cube?”? Really? Creepy! But he proves to be so much more than the famed hunky Victor Katniss believed him to be. He proves to be someone who loves deeply and will fight for what he believes.

“Did you love Annie right away, Finnick?” I ask.
“No.” A long time passes before he adds, “She crept up on me.”

5. Iko, The Lunar Chronicles

Iko is Cinder’s robot companion, but she’s far from boring, bursting with a fun personality regardless of whether she is talking to Cinder about Prince Kai or if her program has been re-routed into a ship where she laments getting used to her new “body.” Iko definitely made me smile several times while reading Cinder.

“Prince Kai! Check my fan, I think I’m overheating.”

6. Max, The Book Thief

Max is a Jew in Nazi Germany who hides in Liesel’s basement. Liesel comes to befriend him and they talk to each other about words and nightmares, helping each other through their own tragedies.

7. Rudy, The Book Thief

The-Book-Thief-Liesel-Rudy-CROPThe story of Liesel’s best friend seriously gave me all the feels. What is not to love about a rambunctious young boy who relentlessly pursues and teases the girl he’s crazy about?

The only thing worse than a boy who hates you. A boy who loves you.

8. Repicheep, The Chronicles of Narnia

Reepicheep, the most daring and courageous mouse of all, starts off a bit prideful, but in the end is humbled as he enters Aslan’s country. I love this feisty mouse and his story.

Reepicheep: I can eat and sleep and die for my King without one [a tail]. But a tail is the honour and glory of a Mouse.
Aslan: I have sometimes wondered, friend, whether you do not think too much about your honour.

9. Bean, Ender’s Game

Bean is one of the very few people Ender can rely on in the middle of his chaos of trying to discover who he is when the weight of the world is literally upon him. It’s neat to see their friendship develop and it made me interested in reading about Bean’s point of view in Ender’s Shadow, but I have not yet.

“They can’t break you.”
“You’d be surprised.” Ender breathed sharply, suddenly, as if there were a stab of pain, or he had to catch a sudden breath in a wind; Bean looked at him and realized that the impossible was happening. Far from baiting him, Ender Wiggin was actually confiding in him. Not much. But a little. Ender was human and Bean had been allowed to see.

10. Valentine, Ender’s Game

ender&valentine

Ender’s sister Valentine is also a very interesting character. She is incredibly smart but is considered too compassionate for the role of saving mankind from aliens, but she is exactly who Ender needs as he is falling apart. But Valentine is not perfect, as she allows their other brother, Peter, to manipulate her into exercising out his political schemes. It’s interesting to watch her reactions to Peter and Ender in the novel, and I am really looking forward to seeing how Abigail Breslin portrays her in the movie.

Ender: I didn’t want to see you.
Valentine: They told me.
Ender: I was afraid that I’d still love you.

What do you think of these secondary characters? Who are your favorite secondary characters? 

My Top Ten Favorite Beginnings/Endings In Books

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) focuses on favorite book beginnings and endings, and I’m focusing specifically on my favorite beginning and ending lines. Let me warn you though, I think the lines for a couple of the endings are kind of spoilery if you haven’t read the book. This week’s list is in no particular order:

1. Beginning: The Book Thief

beg-bookthiefA startling opening line from our narrator from The Book Thief, Death.

2. Ending: Crime and Punishment

end-c&p2This was such a hard, and often times depressing, book to read, so I was quite thrilled when it had a very hopeful ending where, while Raskolinkov is paying for his crime, the woman he loves has promised to wait for him and he is a better man.

3. Beginning: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

beg-beekeeperNearly steps on Sherlock Holmes while reading? Definitely an intriguing start!

4. Ending: The Hunger Games

end-hg

If I could have, I would have shared that entire thought process Katniss goes through as Peeta hands her flowers and makes it clear he wants them to be an item in real life. “I want to tell him he’s not being fair. That we were strangers. That I did what it took to stay alive, to keep us both alive in that arena…” Man this ending broke my heart in so many ways as I was so rooting for Peeta, and it made me want to pick up Catching Fire right away!

5. Beginning: The Scorpio Races

beg-scorpio

This is next on my TBR, but I read the first little bit as a preview before buying the book, and this opening line definitely caught my attention.

6. Ending: Catching Fire

end-cp

This was a bit shocking… and again, made me ready to start Mockingjay! (So glad I didn’t read these books until all three were out…)

7. Beginning: The Giver

beg-thegiver

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I first started The Giver, and for some reason this beginning stood out to me. Why was Jonas afraid now? Why had the aircraft from the year before frightened him so much? I was instantly interested in Jonas’ world and his story.

8. Ending: Mockingjay

end-mocking

I’m not counting the epilogue, which while I don’t actively dislike it, I just felt like was really out of place. But the last page of Mockingjay (before the epilogue) literally made everything in the the entire series worth it for me. After everything, Katniss finally found some security.

9. Beginning: Rebecca

beg-rebecca

Instantly intriguing. What is Manderley?

10. Ending: The Book Thief

end-bookthief

The Book Thief begins strong and ends strong, while remaining intriguing throughout most of the book. Basically, you need to read it.

What are your favorite beginning and ending lines from a book? 

Top 10 Words/Topics That Will Make Me NOT Pick up a Book

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is the top 10 words/topics that will make me not pick up a book. Click here for my top 10/words topics that will make me pick up a book. (This week’s list in no particular order.)

1. Paranormal Romance, 2. Vampires, 3. Werewovles, 4. Zombies, & 5. Horror

The first five are all pretty much related, so I thought I would explain it all at once. They just don’t appeal to me. You’re not going to find me in this section of Barnes and Noble. Zombies, werewolves, vampires… I found them kind of gross. And they’re definitely not appealing in any sort of romantic way. I also really don’t like anything scary, so that also doesn’t help with my feelings of the paranormal creatures. So if any of the above are involved, I keep walking by.

6. Gardening

garden-books

I mean this in a non-fiction sense, not that The Secret Garden turns me off. I have a black thumb, I don’t find working with plants enjoyable, so needless to say, you’ll never find me with a book about gardening.

7. Westerns

I’m not saying it would be absolutely outside the realm of possibility for me to read a Western, but it does seem pretty unlikely. I’ve seen a few Western movies, and they didn’t do a whole lot for me.

8. Philosophy

philosophy-books

Just the thought of reading philosophy makes my head hurt. Pass…

9. New Adult

I like the idea of reading books about college students/people in their early twenties, but I don’t like the idea of this New Adult movement that seems to just focus on sex and on being edgy in general. It’s something that I personally just don’t want to read about. Plus, covers with couples kissing almost always get a pass from me for whatever reason. I like romantic sub-plots, but I don’t typically read books where romance is the main focus.

10. Poetry

poetry-books

I’m not saying I would never pick up a book of poetry, but I am not going to wander into the poetry section of a bookstore and browse just for fun. I like poems sometimes, especially more unique and funny ones, but I’m not a huge fan of the genre in general, not for any fault of its own, it’s just not my taste.

What words/topics deter you from a book? 

My Top 10 Books I Have Read So Far This Year

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by The Broke and The Bookish) is the Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2013. Well, I’m an extremely lightweight book blogger, so I have read exactly 10 books so far this year (if you don’t count a couple of really short companion e-books). Though this isn’t much for some, this is actually pretty big for me as it means I am on par with my goal of reading at least 20 books this year (though I would love to pick up the pace and read a few more!), which will put me at reading more books this year than I have in a single year since… before high school. So there you have it.

Since I have read only 10 books this year, I thought I would rank each book from least favorite (which thankfully I still didn’t hate) to most favorite, and why I ranked them accordingly.

TTT

10. Reached by Allie Condie (2 Stars)

This book, as the end of a series, was fairly disappointing. The beginning of the book showed potential, with a plague outbreak caused by the Rising, who we had believed were supposed to be the good guys, but then it went downhill. For starters, since this was the first book of this trilogy I had read since reading The Giver, I suddenly realized that the Society in this series was a little too similar to that of The Giver. Also, I thought most of the characters felt out of place. I don’t want to re-review the book; you can see my thoughts on it by clicking on the the book title.

9. Across the Universe by Beth Revis (3 Stars)

I loved the concept of this one… a girl who is cryogenically frozen wakes too early on a spaceship still years from its destination. The execution of it… was just OK for me. It featured a really creepy mating season among humans on the ship, a lackluster romance, but some interesting twists. I plan to finish the series one day as I’ve heard it gets better, but let’s just say I wasn’t rushing to buy the second book after finishing this one.

8. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis (3 Stars)

The Last Battle turned out to be neither my favorite nor least favorite in The Chronicles of Narnia, with a story that was part boring, part interesting, but wrapped up with a beautiful ending.

7. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis (? Stars) 

I still haven’t figured out how to rate Till We Have Faces, because it left me with more questions than answers. Maybe it’s not a bad thing, as I know C.S. Lewis was much smarter than I am, but it left me feeling a little unsatisfied. Still, there was a certain captivating quality to it. Watch for my review to come soon.

7-10

6. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (4 Stars)

This follow-up for Cinder did not do as much for me as the first book of The Lunar Chronicles, but I still found it enjoyable overall. I do love the characters and world Meyer has created, and I am looking forward to Cress!

5. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (4 Stars)

Reading this book was me dipping my toe into science fiction waters. It’s an interesting story about a bright boy who is sent to train for a war when he is far too young, and the secrets kept from him. I enjoyed it overall, but there were parts that were slow and that did not enjoy as much. By the recommendation of a friend, I do plan to read at least one of the follow-up books, Ender’s Shadow. I’m also looking forward to the movie later this year!

4. Cinder by Marissa Meyer (4 Stars)

I absolutely adored this first book of The Lunar Chronicles, especially the friendship/blooming relationship between Cinder and Kai. Truly the most swoon-worthy romance (even though it was really a pre-romance) I’ve read this year! The only real reason I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5 was because it was just way too predictable. Still, this was a great debut by Meyer!

6-4

3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (5 Stars)

A heartbreaking book filled with beautiful words. I’m not sure what else to say without writing another review.

2. Start by Jon Acuff (5 Stars)

If you’ve been on this blog long enough or read my About Me, you know I have been influenced by author and speaker Jon Acuff, who has this idea that anyone can work towards their dream, but it may not always happen the way you expect it. I can’t really do his words justice, though. But if you’ve had a dream banging around the back of your mind, if you’ve ever wondered what your next step in life should be, if you wake up every morning wishing you could quit your day job, read Quitter and Start. They are five star books for me because if you follow his advice, it’s life-changing. I’m still in the middle of the process of working on my dream, and starting this blog has played a role in that. 

1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (5 Stars)

Unbroken, the true account of a WWII fighter pilot’s life before, during, and after his incarceration at multiple Japanese POW camps is simply a stunning tale. I don’t read much non-fiction, especially long historical books like this one, but it always kept my interest, and Louie’s story never ceased to amaze me. If you only read one book on this list, it should be this one. I would recommend it to EVERYONE.

3-1

What have been your favorite reads this year so far? 

Top Ten Books At The Top Of My Summer (and Beyond) TBR List

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (as always, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish), is the Top 10 Books on my Summer TBR list. Well, it’ll take me more than the summer to read 10 books (seeing as I have only read 9.5 books so far this year), but these are the ones I plan to read next. These are in the order that I may or may not read them, since these things always seem to have a way of changing… in fact, the last five have a high likelihood of changing over time, but we shall see… 

1. Under The Never Sky

UNS hi res

My latest e-book library acquisition, to be read as soon as I finish my current read.

2. For Darkness Shows the Stars

3. The Testing

4. The Scorpio Races

5. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

recentbookbuys

These four were all recently acquired and are waiting to be read!

6. Redeeming Love

Layout 1

I’ve been meaning to read this one for a few years, and since I can get it through my library, I have no excuse to wait any longer!

7. 1984

1984

Another one I’ve been meaning to read for years, and we own this one.

8. Between Shades of Gray

betweenshades

Another gut-wrenching WWII book (as I have already read The Book Thief and Unbroken this year), and it’s available through my library as an e-book. Why do I keep reading these sad WWII books? Because I love learning about WWII, and because I think they’re important.

9. The Great Gatsby

10. The 5th Wave

gatsby-5thwave

These two I will need to acquire, which is why they are so far down the list. The Great Gatsby I would like to read before renting the movie later this year, and then I’ve heard good things about The 5th Wave and have been wanting to read more sci-fi, so I want to check it out as well.

And I still want to re-read The Hobbit before the second installment of The Hobbit film trilogy. I hope I can read all these this year, but as I alluded to before, this list can definitely change, so we’ll see.

What’s at the top of your summer TBR list?

My Top 10 Books Featuring Travel

For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and Bookish), I wanted to break my Top 10 into two Top 5 lists: the top 5 books featuring travel that I have read, and the top 5 books featuring travel that are on my TBR list. There is travel in virtually every book if you want to get technical, but I wanted to feature books where the traveling is essential to the plot (or for the books on my TBR list, they appear to be essential), so this is what I kept in mind as I created my lists. The lists are in no particular order.

Top 5 Books Featuring Travel that I Have Read

1. The Hobbit

thehobbitBilbo Baggins was happy living out a quiet life in his hobbit home when Gandalf retrieves him for an adventure. Nearly the whole book features travel as Biblo journeys his way through Middle Earth.

2. Scarlet

scarlet

There is a decent amount of travel in Scarlet, Meyer’s follow-up to Cinder, and as a bonus, a lot of it is futuristic methods of travel! It is through travel that Cinder escapes, Scarlet gets to know Wolf, Scarlet finds her grandmother, and Scarlet and Cinder meet. Basically, there is a lot of moving forward in the novel and it’s all important.

3. Ender’s Game

enderEven though this book is set in space, there isn’t as much traveling as you would think. Still, Ender has to leave his home on Earth to attend Battle School to try to save the world, and then later in the book he takes another journey that will have a profound impact on him (but I won’t spoil that). When Ender’s does travel, it’s always important.

4. Rebecca

rebecca-by-daphne-du-maurierIt is while traveling on vacation that the heroine of this story meets the man she marries, then travels home with him where she will be haunted by his past and her life will be changed. This is a great, suspenseful story that I will be talking about again very soon, so stay turned!

5. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

lionwitchwardrobeI could really put all of The Chronicles of Narnia here, but I wanted to focus on the book that began it all. The method of travel is simple: a wardrobe. And somehow, some way, this wardrobe transports four children to a whole new world for a great adventure that will define their lives (actually, you can know how the wardrobe is able to do this if you read The Magician’s Nephew). When I was a child, I wished so badly I could transport to Narnia through a wardrobe as well, but sadly, I was never able to find the right portal.

Top 5 Books Featuring Travel on My TBR List

1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

hitchhikerArthur Dent isn’t looking for adventure when his friend, who turns out to be an alien, rescues him by taking him from Earth (which is promptly blown up after they leave), and they end up traversing through space. I’ve seen the movie several times but have not read the book yet, but as fun as the movie is, I can only imagine what a ride the book must be! Arthur learns a lot about himself and the universe on this journey, and even the meaning of life. Well, maybe. (And yes, Martin Freeman plays both Arthur AND Bilbo!)

2. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

statisticalprobabilityThough I don’t normally gravitate towards contemporary romance, I am interested in reading this one (plus I just received it this weekend after winning a giveaway so I guess I’ll be reading it sometime!). I mean, how can you resist the cover? Travel seems important in this one since the couple meets in an airport as they are going about their separate ways. I find it an interesting concept since I think the airport is the single most fascinating place to people watch.

3. A Million Suns and Shades of Earth

acrosstheuniverseI have already read Across the Universe, and while I only liked it just fine, I still want to read the continuation of the spaceship Godspeed in its sequel books. The whole mission of the Godspeed was to travel from Earth to a new world for a new home, but there lies and secrets that mar the journey along the way.

4. The Scorpio Races

scorpioFrom my understanding, the premise of this book is somewhat like that of the movie Hidalgo, except the horses are much more vicious and are raced in the sea. These horses have played a tragic role in the lives of the two main characters, and yet they both still find themselves compelled to race. I am definitely intrigued by this idea and am curious to see more about how the races impact their lives.

5. The Lord of the Rings

LOTRThe Lord of the Rings, much like The Hobbit, focuses on a journey through Middle Earth. And Frodo’s mission is imperative: to destroy The One Ring. I am so intimidated by the length of these books, but I would love to get an in-depth look at Frodo and Sam’s friendship as they travel through Middle Earth and face so many trials.

What books featuring travel are your favorite? Or what books featuring travel are on your TBR list? 

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

tris-divergent

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?