Book Review: Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Lena is now an active member of the resistance.  The fight between the government and the Invalids and rebels has reached its boiling point.  While Lena works with the rebellion to change things for good, her former friend Hana lives a regulated life in Portland and is about to be married to the city’s mayor. The two girls could not have more different paths, but the imminent battle will force them to converge one last time.

Lauren Oliver’s final book in the Delirium Trilogy offers readers some closure but leaves a lot open to interpretation and imagination.  This is going to work for some readers while it will alienate others.  As with the conclusion of any popular trilogy, an ending is just that: an ending.

There’s plenty here to like.  Oliver wisely alternates narration between wild and resistant Lena and her former best friend Hana, now cured.  What is most interesting is that Hana’s story is much more compelling than Lena’s.  Hana’s life with her soon-to-be husband feels more dangerous and fraught with tension than Lena’s life in the wild as the resistance builds its numbers.  This might not be true for all readers, but for those who are tired of the love triangle trope, Hana’s story will be that much more compelling.

Both girls are excellent narrators with strong voices and authentic personalities.  Lena’s growth as a character from the trilogy’s inception can be felt fully here, as she is brave and resolute in a way she lacked at the start of Delirium.  Likewise, Hana’s character undergoes a tremendous amount of growth as well.  Both of these character arcs are immensely satisfying.

Readers looking for a tidy resolution to the story are going to be let down.  Furthermore, readers hell-bent on finding out which boy Lena picks in the end are going to find themselves scratching their heads.  However, it is this reviewer’s opinion that not fixating too strongly on the love triangle in this novel does it a great service.  That being said, the novel doesn’t reinvent the wheel.  The romantic elements are still there.

Slow to start but builds to a tense climax.  This is a must-read for fans of the trilogy, but expect opinions about the ending to be very split.  Recommended for dystopian fans, if they aren’t sick of the genre yet.

Requiem by Lauren Oliver. HarperCollins Children’s: 2013.  Library copy.

Waiting on Wednesday: Sever by Lauren DeStefano

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

Sever by Lauren DeStefano

Expected release date: February 12, 2013

With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.

Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.

In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered.

(summary via Goodreads)

I could have sworn I already featured this book in a WoW post, but my records don’t indicate it.  At any rate, I’m looking forward to the end of DeStefano’s lyrical dystopian (post-apocalyptic?) world.  Even though I think the second book in the trilogy dragged and was ultimately a total let-down, I’m committed to seeing how Rhine’s story ends.  I won’t miss the (kind of) silly covers, though.

What are you waiting on this week?

 

Waiting on Wednesday: Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Expected release date: March 5, 2013

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has been transformed. The nascent rebellion that was under way in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight. Of Pandemonium, ALA Booklist noted that “like all successful second volumes, this expands the world and ups the stakes, setting us up for the big finale.”

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven—pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels, and as Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancée of the young mayor. Requiem is told from both Lena’s and Hana’s points of view. The two girls live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.

(summary via Goodreads)

Much as I struggled with the first book in Oliver’s trilogy, the second one won me over.  I couldn’t put it down.  While the central premise of the books is still stretches the limits of credulity, there’s no denying that Oliver has crafted a riveting story.  Despite the last book’s silly, obvious cliffhanger, I have to find out what happens next–and how Lena’s story will conclude.  I can’t wait for this one–March is still a long ways away, though.

What are you waiting on this week?

Waiting on Wednesday: Reached by Ally Condie

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

Reached by Ally Condie

Expected Release Date: November 13, 2012

Cassia faces the ultimate choices in the long-anticipated conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Matched Trilogy.

After leaving Society and desperately searching for the Rising—and each other—Cassia and Ky have found what they were looking for, but at the cost of losing each other yet again: Cassia has been assigned to work for the Rising from within Society, while Ky has been stationed outside its borders. But nothing is as predicted, and all too soon the veil lifts and things shift once again.

In this gripping conclusion to the #1 New York Times bestselling Matched Trilogy, Cassia will reconcile the difficulties of challenging a life too confining, seeking a freedom she never dreamed possible, and honoring a love she cannot live without.

(summary via Goodreads)

Despite my fairly serious reservations with the second novel in Condie’s high-profile dystopian trilogy, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to the final novel.  Even though I thought the second novel dragged way too much in an attempt to draw out a story that could have been told over the course of one novel, I have to see how Cassia’s story ends.  I’m fairly certain I know how it’ll go, but there’s something about finding out that you’re right (it’s not a moral victory, though–more like a smug victory?) that’s so incredibly satisfying, even if the conclusion to a popular trilogy is not particularly so.

Here’s to hoping that this one is fast-paced, not as drippily romantic, and features way more Xander.

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

What should have been a day for celebration ends in tragedy.  Tris has been initiated into the Dauntless faction, but she’s lost both her parents in the meantime.  As Tris struggles with her grief and guilt over what has happened, she must also deal with the fact that a war is coming.  The factions can no longer live in relative peace, and everyone is choosing sides.  As she and Tobias work to find out the truth about what is going on and struggle to determine who is on the side of right, they must also deal with their feelings for each other–and what it all means.

Insurgent, Roth’s follow-up to last year’s extremely popular Divergent, is arguably one of the most anticipated books of 2012.  The publicity blitz surrounding the book’s release at the beginning of May was overwhelming (and frankly a little off-putting).  Now that the book’s out, fans will be clamoring to get their hands on a copy of the fast-paced dystopian novel.  For a middle novel in a planned trilogy, Roth manages to continue Tris’s story without sacrificing suspense.  Additions to the complex world-building as well as superior characterization make this novel surprisingly readable.

Perhaps most noteworthy is Roth’s clear fascination with the sociological and emotional ramifications of the faction system in place in Tris’s world.  As the factions get closer and closer to war with one another, Roth is careful to examine each of the faction’s traits and what it is that makes the people within them tick.  There’s a great deal of exploration of each of the factions in the novel, and while some readers will grow tired of it, others will relish the care and depth of thought that went into creating each of these groups.

Roth is also adept at her characterization.  This is never more clear than it is with narrator Tris, whose personality and convictions only grow from the first novel in this second installment.  Her grief over the loss of her parents is palpable and informs her every choice.  Although Tobias is not as well-developed as Tris, he still has clear characteristics, and the two have a realistic chemistry.  Also remarkable is Roth’s ability to lend characterization to so many secondary and tertiary characters–and they are plentiful.  There are a few too many characters present in the novel, especially because Roth does not bother recapping the first novel in order to help refresh the reader’s mind.

Despite the use of several plot contrivances (like the truth serum–ick), the novel’s pace and genuine tension keeps things moving along at a breakneck speed.  Readers won’t be able to put down the book as they race to the novel’s big reveal–though it is not particularly surprising (nor plausible, but that is another conversation entirely).  If readers enjoyed the first book in this series, they’ll enjoy this one.  The only problem is waiting for the third book.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth. HarperTeen: 2012. Library copy.

Waiting on Wednesday: Burn for Burn by Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

Burn for Burn by Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han

Expected release date: September 18, 2012

The start of a brand-new young adult trilogy about three very different girls who overcome their differences and band together to seek revenge on those who have wronged them, uncovering a supernatural secret about what brought them together and why in the process. Each book will rotate back and forth between the perspectives of all three characters.

(summary via Goodreads)

So there’s not a lot of information about this book out yet.  There’s not even a decent summary, obviously.  However, the book combines two very talented YA authors whose books I have devoured.  While I’m not thrilled about the apparent “supernatural secret” part of the book, the rest of it sounds too good to pass up.  What do you think?

 

What are you waiting on this week?

Waiting on Wednesday: Rebel Heart by Moira Young

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

Rebel Heart by Moira Young

Expected Release Date: October 30, 2012

The Tonton have been defeated. Lugh has been rescued.
The heartstone has brought Saba and Jack together.
Now, Saba and her family head west to meet him and start a new life. All should be well.
But shadows of the dead are stalking Saba.
And another kind of shadow is creeping over the dustlands.
Then a messenger shows up.
With news of Jack.

(summary via Goodreads)

You guys, I can’t tell you how much I hate the title of this book.  I hate it, and not just because it’s also the title of Bebe Buell’s unintentionally hilarious memoir.  There’s something about it that is so generic, and so…unlike the title of the first book in Young’s trilogy.  I loved, loved, loved Blood Red Road…and both the title and the cover of the sequel are not doing it for me.  That being said, I’m still super excited to continue Saba’s journey and will definitely be checking this one out.  I just…this feels like a movie poster already, you know?

Also, I call total bullshit on the blurb.  Not only is that tacky, but it’s patently untrue.

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the palace but find themselves trapped again in a carnival with a ringmistress who dabbles in prostitution.  Rhine and Gabriel are determined to make it to Manhattan, where she hopes to reunite with her twin brother.  But there’s a great deal of danger awaiting the duo, and time is fleeting.

Arguably one of the most disappointing reads for me this year, Fever suffers from middle-book syndrome in the worst way.  This book feels like the epitome of filler when it comes to trilogies, and sacrifices character development and plot development in favor of more of the same plot lines from Wither.  The result is an unsuccessful, uneven disappointment of a sophomore novel.

The elements that made DeStefano’s Wither so good and so compelling–the atmospheric feel of the world-building, the authentic character dilemmas, complex interpersonal relationships, and hard, complicated questions about science, ethics, sexuality, and power–get overshadowed here by Rhine and Gabriel’s constant pattern of getting trapped and running away.  There’s no forward movement in this book–Rhine ends up exactly where she was in the first novel, and that is unbelievably frustrating.  None of the depth of the first novel is present here.

Although the novel is arguably very well-written, DeStefano’s prose sometimes borders on the overwrought.  This will work for readers who are looking for particularly lush prose.  However, this reader got tired of some of the overly-descriptive dream sequences and nearly constant illnesses that plagued the characters.  Everything about this one felt a little off.

What is also troubling is the fact that there’s none of the chemistry between the characters that marked the first novel.  At more than one point in Fever, readers are going to be asking themselves if Rhine and Gabriel even like one another.  It’s possible that DeStefano is building this tension deliberately, but there’s no payoff here, and certainly no resolution.  The rushed ending will lead into the third and final installment of the trilogy, and readers hoping for answers will have to wait another year.

Recommended to fans of the first in the series, but with certain reservations.

Fever by Lauren DeStefano. Simon & Schuster: 2012.  Library copy.

Book Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Lena lost Alex in the woods after they escaped her village.  Now she must trek through the wilderness on her own and try to find her way to safety.  It isn’t long before she’s welcomed into a homestead filled with a ragtag group of survivors and is taught to be an insurgent to fight the supporters of the cure.  Will Lena ever be truly safe?

When I read Delirium last year, my biggest problem with the novel was its basic premise.  A world in which love has been eradicated is hard to swallow, not only because Lena’s world seemed to be based on the same Judeo-Christian values that define our society.  These values have love as a cornerstone (well, they do in theory, at least) to their existence, and to create a world in which that would so suddenly change was hard to accept.  Oliver has gone on record as saying that Delirium and Pandemonium take place in an “alternate history” world, which makes the pill less bitter going down, but I still think that there’s not enough evidence of this in the actual stories.  That being said, Pandemonium is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor in every way imaginable.  This one was surprisingly enjoyable.

Unlike many middle novels in a given trilogy, Oliver’s Pandemonium ups the action and suspense, expands upon the world in which Lena lives, and provides a realistic, absolutely stunning evolution of her character.  Over the course of this novel, Lena grows significantly as a character.  Instead of just being described as being strong, Lena actually becomes it.  It’s a logical growth that never feels unrealistic, and it’s an absolutely gripping transformation.

It helps, too, that Oliver introduces a much more interesting love interest for Lena in this story.  Julian Fineman is a much more realistic character who can elicit the sympathy of readers.  His back story, including his illness and his family situation, make him a much more authentic character and infinitely more compelling than the cardboardy Alex.  The chemistry and tension between the two characters is much better as well.

Oliver plays with the narration and the time line by alternating chapters with “Then”–right after Lena’s escape from her village and “Now”–after she’s become an insurgent and is captured during a rally.  This structure works exceedingly well here and helps propel the plot forward at a whip-fast pace.  The balance of action and suspense will keep readers turning pages long into the night.

The book loses its footing slightly with two extremely obvious and contrived plot twists near the end that savvy readers will see coming from a mile off.  I was so disappointed by the book’s final twist, in the last two pages or so, that I actually cried out in frustration (much to the chagrin of the other gym patrons).  These plot twists feel like Oliver is pandering to her audience, going for the obvious shock value over actual substance, and that’s disappointing, because Pandemonium is otherwise a pretty great dystopian novel in a sea of mediocrity.

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver. Harper Teen: 2012. Purchased copy.

Book Review: Crossed by Ally Condie

Still in search of Ky, Cassia moves to the Outer Provinces.  The two struggle to survive secret bombings and the harsh climate of the edge of Society.  As Cassia struggles to decipher Ky’s secret clues about his whereabouts, she also struggles to understand the new mysteries surrounding her Match, Xander.

I read Matched almost exactly a year ago, and while I remember liking it, I remember almost nothing else about it.  When I went back to look at my review for the book, I found that I gave it a fairly positive review.  Even though the actual memory of the book has faded, I enjoyed it in the moment.  This was not the case for me and Crossed.

Some fundamental truths remain: Condie is still a gifted writer.  She manages to develop two distinct voices for Cassia and Ky, who take turns narrating this second book in the present tense.  Where Cassia’s voice is lush, almost flowery, Ky’s is much more clipped and grounded.  The two struggle to come to terms with their feelings for one another, together and apart.  There are fundamental differences in how they see the world, and for the first time, they start to realize that it might not be just the Society that keeps them apart.

That being said, the things I worried about with the first book are present in full-force here.  Condie’s character development and world-building has always been good, but she struggles with pacing.  The second book in the planned trilogy suffers from sagging middle syndrome to be sure, and I found my patience with their journey growing thin as the story progressed.

Also problematic is the fact that Condie introduces more questions without answering many of the previous ones.  Readers might grow frustrated with the increasingly complex world that Condie has created for her characters, but the unanswered questions are likely to drive some readers completely nuts.  Again, this occurs largely because this is the second book in a trilogy, and one can’t help but feel the set-up for the third installment.

Even so, this sequel offers more of what was so appealing about the original: an intriguing premise, beautiful prose, and just a hint of romance.  Recommended to fans of the first novel.

Crossed by Ally Condie. Dutton Juvenile: 2011.  Library copy.