Waiting on Wednesday: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share a book that we are eagerly anticipating!

Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah BiancottiPublisher: Simon Pulse

Authors: Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti

Release date: September 29, 2015

Synopsis from Goodreads: Ethan, aka “Scam,” has a way with words. When he opens his mouth, whatever he wants you to hear comes out. But Ethan isn’t just a smooth talker. He has a unique ability to say things he doesn’t consciously even know. Sometimes the voice helps, but sometimes it hurts – like now, when the voice has lied and has landed Ethan in a massive mess. So now Ethan needs help. And he needs to go to the last people who would ever want to help him – his former group of friends, the self-named “zeros” who also all possess similarly double-edged abilities, and who are all angry at Ethan for their own respective reasons. Brought back together by Scam’s latest mischief, they find themselves entangled in an epic, whirlwind adventure packed with as much interpersonal drama as mind-bending action.

Why I’m excited: It’s Scott Westerfeld. Is that answer enough? No? Okay: superpowers, gorgeous cover, dystopian, super interesting premise, and Scott Westerfeld. Is that better? I’m a little hesitant of co-authored books, but this one sounds really cool and I’m definitely looking forward to it.

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BookBlogWriMo: Favorite Subgenres

bookblogwrimo

Welcome to today’s BookBlogWriMo post which is all about my favorite subgenres. For the most part, you guys will probably know what these all are, so I’m just going to list them, okay?

Dystopian (favorite)

Post-Apocalyptic (yes, they’re different)

Mythic Fiction (a la The Raven Cycle)

Time Travel

Contemporary

Contemporary Fantasy

High Fantasy

Magical Realism

Psychological horror/thriller

Detective fiction

What are your favorite subgenres? Are any of mine favorites of yours? 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d recommend if you haven’t tried dystopian fiction

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Today’s theme was:

Top Ten Books I’d Give to Readers Who Have Never Read X (examples: New Adult novels, historical fiction, a certain author, books about a certain topic, etc)

Hmmm. This is a hard one. I’m going to go with Top Ten Books I’d Give to Readers who have Never Read Dystopian Fiction (I’m sure you’re all aware that it’s my favorite genre). There are plenty of others that could be on this list, but these are the first ten that came to mind. Also, even though it is my favorite genre, there are plenty of dystopian novels I haven’t read. Give me recommendations in the comments!! **All titles linked to their corresponding Goodreads page (except The Maze Runner which is linked to my review)**

Wool1. Wool by Hugh Howey

2. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyUglies

4. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

5. The Running Man by Stephen King

The Giver6. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

7. The Giver by Lois Lowry

8. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret AtwoodThe Passage

9. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

10. The Passage by Justin Cronin (more horror/post-apocalyptic, but I LOVE this book so it’s on the list!)

 

ARC Review – The Revealed by Jessica Hickam

The RevealedTitle: The Revealed

Author: Jessica Hickam

Genre: Dystopian, Sci-Fi

Publisher: SparkPress

Publication Date: June 17, 2014

Paperback: 314 pages

Stand alone or series: First in a projected series

How did I get this book: e-ARC via NetGalley

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to SparkPress for letting me read this.

Let’s start with a brief synopsis (via Goodreads):

Lily Atwood lives in what used to be called Washington, D.C. Her father is one of the most powerful men in the world, having been a vital part of rebuilding and reuniting humanity after the war that killed over five billion people. Now he’s running to be one of its leaders.

But in the rediscovered peace on Earth, a new enemy has risen. They call themselves the Revealed – a powerful underground organization that has been kidnapping 18 year olds across the globe without reservation. No one knows why they are kidnapping these teens, but it’s clear something is different about these people. They can set fires with a snap of their fingers and create a wind strong enough to barrel over a tree with a flick of their wrist. No one has been able to stop them, and they have targeted Lily as their next victim.

But Lily has waited too long to break free from her father’s shadow to let some rebel organization just ruin everything. Not without a fight.

What I thought:

I was both really surprised and really impressed with Hickam’s debut novel.

I requested this book on NetGalley because of that amazing summary (and that absolutely beautiful cover!). It sounds super cool, right? Well, it was. Take a dystopian novel then add in what are essentially X-Men mutants, and you’ve got The Revealed. The novel begins with our narrator, Lily, describing the current situation in what is now called the “North American Sector”, which is basically the ruins of the US after a huge war. The US has been mostly destroyed and everyone who survived the war all live on the East Coat. Lily is the daughter of one of two presidential candidates in the first election since the war. Roderick Westerfield is the other candidate, who has a son named Kai. Since the war, a group of people with special abilities called The Revealed has been kidnapping 18 year olds sometime before their 19th birthday. Lily has been marked to be taken, and as such, has been locked up in her home for the year just like every other 18 year old. I’d like to mention that her house is a freaking mansion.

So one of the things I really liked was that Hickam hints at the war, but never truly reveals any details. We don’t know what caused it, how it happened, and we only get a few details for what’s happened since then. I thought this was quite clever, and it kept me reading. I do hope, however, that we get more details as the series progresses. Another thing I liked was how well-done Westerfield was as a villain. He feels positively slimy and icky. When he is touching Lily while they dance at a party, my skin crawled.

The writing was fantastic. I’m surprised this is Hickam’s first novel. She’s a wonderful writer. Hickam’s got great descriptive abilities; I could picture everything she described and her characters are really well done (well, except one, which I’ll mention in a sec). Her writing was my favorite thing about this novel.

Okay. What I didn’t like was Lily actually. She was seriously inconsistent and selfish and immature. She’s gone through so much in her young life that I felt her immaturity was strange. All she wants to do is rebel against her family and she tries (and succeeds) to escape her house several times, which I do understand because her mother is horrible; however, she begins the novel saying her father came to her for advice all the time on his speeches and cared about her opinion, but later she says that since he announced his candidacy, they’ve been on bad terms. Um, what? Also, her love interest in Kai is crazy. Her family used to be close to his but then the war happened and her father and his announced their candidacies; things changed. He betrayed her when they were in high school then joined the military. Now he’s back and she trusts him again, even when he really doesn’t give her much reason to. It wasn’t exactly insta-love, but it was a little too close for my comfort. She was basically like this, “I hate him. I like him. I don’t like him. He’s so hot. I can’t like him. I do like him.” UGH. I would like to say that I thought Lily started off the novel so strong, independent and forceful, and then suddenly she’s whiny, vulnerable, and weak. This was strange, and it happened too quickly to be a believable change.

On the other hand, I really loved Rory, who is an intern in Lily’s mansion’s kitchen. Oh, yeah. She lives in a freaking mansion, but she keeps trying to rebel and escape. What? Anyway, Rory is Lily’s best friend, and she’s great. She’s feisty, strong, and rambunctious, and I would totally be friends with her.

Also, there’s a twist about ¾ of the way through that I thought I knew what was going to happen and was totally SHOCKED. So that’s really awesome. Additionally, I won’t give too much away, but when we finally meet The Revealed and they explain themselves and what’s been happening, I loved that. It was a really cool way to explain their powers. Just all around great ideas in this novel.

The bottom line:

I really liked this novel, and I think this series has a whole bunch of awesome potential. I will most definitely read the next in the series, but I hope that our main character has grown some and gotten over herself. I would recommend this book for sure.

Rating: 7.5 – between pretty good and freaking fantastic

You can learn more about Jessica Hickam on her website. You can also pre-order The Revealed on Amazon.

Reading next: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

ARC Review: Paradigm by Ceri A. Lowe

ParadigmTitle: Paradigm

Author: Ceri A. Lowe

Genre: Dystopian, Speculative, YA, Literary fiction

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication Date: June 13, 2014

e-book: 1,382 pages (Goodreads says this is how many pages will be in the paperback edition)

Stand alone or series: First in a trilogy

How did I get this book: NetGalley

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Bookouture for letting me read this.

Let’s start with a brief synopsis:

What if the end of the world was just the beginning?

Alice Davenport awakens from a fever to find her mother gone and the city she lives in ravaged by storms – with few survivors.

When Alice is finally rescued, she is taken to a huge underground bunker owned by the mysterious Paradigm Industries. As the storms worsen, the hatches close.

87 years later, amidst the ruins of London, the survivors of the Storms have reinvented society. The Model maintains a perfect balance – with inhabitants routinely frozen until they are needed by the Industry.

Fifteen-year-old Carter Warren knows his time has come. Awoken from the catacombs as a contender for the role of Controller General, it is his destiny to succeed – where his parents failed.

But Carter soon discovers that the world has changed, in ways that make him begin to question everything that he believes in. As Carter is forced to fight for those he loves and even for his life, it seems that the key to the future lies in the secrets of the past…

What I thought:

I’ll admit: I was first drawn to this title on NetGalley by its cover’s similarity to that of the Divergent series (though it is kind of a rip-off, isn’t it?). Then I read the summary. It sounded fascinating, like a unique and interesting take on dystopian fiction. I was really excited when I was granted access to the e-ARC.

I wasn’t disappointed in the book, but I think my hopes were a little too high for it. There were things I liked and things I didn’t like.

The things I liked:

-The novel alternates between chapters set in 2015, with Alice, right before and after the Storms ravaged London, and 87 years later, with Carter, as he is awoken from his slumber (is that the right word? I don’t know), his time in the Catacombs where he has been in stasis for the last fifteen years. This was very cool because, at the same time, we got to see how the Community was formed, how life got to be the way it was for Carter, and then how he saw it change and become something else entirely. I thought that switching between the two of them was a perfect way to have both a prequel and a sequel, if that makes sense (though I will comment later on how I preferred one character more than the other).

-The novel had some very beautiful descriptions, for both the emotions of the characters and the atmosphere/setting. Here’s an example:

What was the point, thought Alice, of that headstone now? She imagined it anchored under acres of water-sky, sitting alongside supermarket trolleys and broken glass with her father flying high in his coffin, floating amongst the clouds made of buildings.

I was able to completely picture the scene with this description. And “water-sky”? I don’t know, I just really liked this. Another example:

She felt the weight of the earth and the world and the stars melt from her shoulders and rise upwards to meet a cloud-shaped like the moon in the sky of the canteen ceiling.

-The idea behind the novel is just fascinating: Storms have ravaged London (we don’t actually hear anything about the rest of the world, though it’s probably safe to say the same fate has befallen the whole world) and a company called Paradigm Industries was already fully prepared. Alice, and many other survivors, are taken down into their underground bunker where they live for the next five years as the Storms continue to rage. Carter, who lives 87 years in the future, was raised as a Contender for the leader of the Community. In the Community, some people are frozen, put in stasis, for a time so that others may live. The Model, a computer program, decides when certain people are needed based on their knowledge and skills. I mean, how cool is that? Also, I seriously hope that we learn more about how the Model works; how has it been programmed to know when people are needed? I loved the idea. And overall, I thought it was really well-developed, and we get a good idea for how the Community is formed, though we should learn more about this in subsequent books. I thought Lowe’s dystopian novel was so unique because we actually got to see how the dystopian society was formed and exactly why it was dystopian; the problems were so very evident for the reader.

-I honestly don’t know how this makes sense, but as I have sat here and written this much of the review, I have realized just how much I liked this book. Though there were several parts that I just didn’t enjoy while I was reading, I realize now that I liked it A LOT. Weird.

The things I didn’t like:

-Carter. This is the note I wrote after I finished the book: “What the hell with Carter? Carter’s boring until about ¾ of the way through. Then really good. Then boring. Then interesting.” Haha. I found myself pretty bored with him for most of the middle section of the book. I kept reading his parts really fast so that I could get back to Alice, whose chapters I really, really enjoyed. Then about ¾ of the way through, his chapters got super cool and I was reading them fast for a completely different reason. Then, his chapters were kind of boring, but his last couple of chapters were interesting. I don’t know. I had mixed feelings about him.

-Although the novel had some very beautiful and wonderfully descriptive parts, it also had several that had me rolling my eyes or questioning if this was even the same author. Seriously. Some parts/sentences were almost juvenile in their descriptions. Though I will say that it helped the prettier parts stand out even more in their stark contrast.

-The cover art. Now that I have read the novel, I’m actually really disappointed with the choice for the cover. It is an obvious attempt to attract readers, specifically teens, I think, that read and loved the Divergent series. This novel is so unlike Divergent, and many other recent dystopian novels, and I think giving it a cover like that doesn’t actually do the content of the book justice. This is a pretty adult book in that it asks a lot of hard questions about what we, as a society and as individuals, focus on; we care so much about materialistic things that we don’t realize that we are ignoring our planet. Alice says, “Instead of doing something about the planet, about wars, about the madness, people just hoped things would improve.” Of course, things didn’t, and won’t, improve. This novel was a lot more serious than I thought it’d be. It is less action-packed, less focused on the romance than several dystopian novels recently published. I thought Paradigm was actually more like literary fiction with a dystopian plot thrown in. So, yeah, bad cover choice.

What these things mean:

I want to say that I didn’t really realize that I really liked Paradigm until after I’d finished it and started my review, so I don’t know what that has to say about the book; it’s probably good that I was still thinking about it and considering exactly what it was trying to say after I was finished. Alice was so compelling. She is an 11-year-old girl who lives with her mother, a prostitute, in council housing. She’s gone through a lot in her short life, and, therefore, doesn’t feel much in the way of emotions and favors logic over everything else. She was actually a little off-putting at first because of how unemotional she was through everything; I mean, she’s 11 and she doesn’t cry when she realizes her mother is probably dead and she is completely alone. I suppose she has always been alone. I was pulled into her story right from the start.

The bottom line:

While there were some parts that I thought were a little boring and unnecessary, overall, I really liked Paradigm. I’m looking forward to the next in the trilogy to see what becomes of both Alice and Carter and how their lives are even more interwoven than they though.

Rating: 7 – pretty good

If you are interested in reading Paradigm, it is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Reading next: The Revealed by Jessica Hickam

Book Review: Gone by Michael Grant

I read Gone as my first book for Bout of Books. Keep up with my progress here. You can also follow me on Instagram or Goodreads to check my progress.

Gone

Title: Gone

Author: Michael Grant

Genre: Dystopian, sci-fi, young adult

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Publication Date: June 2008

Paperback: 558

Stand alone or series: Beginning of a series

How did I get this book: Forced into buying it by a friend – not regretting it

 

Let’s start with a brief summary (from the book jacket):

In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE.

Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what’s happened.

Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents–unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers–that grow stronger by the day.

It’s a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else…

What I thought:

It’s so exciting. I think that’s the best word to describe this book. Like, once the action starts, it’s pretty hard to put it down. Case in point: I read all 558 pages yesterday. It’s full of action, awesome characters, cool powers, and great descriptions. I thought that the development of the powers in some of the kids felt organic, and the reaction that some of the characters had to them was natural and realistic; some of the characters go bad, some distance themselves from those who have the power, and, obviously, some are very scared of them. I also thought that the reaction to this weird event (the adults disappearing and the town being surrounded by a barrier) felt real. The kids go a little crazy at first, loot a bunch of the stores, take what they want and don’t care what happens. But then you’ve got other kids who step up and take charge. I just think if something like this were to actually happen, this is exactly the reaction kids would have had.

Also, the characters are brilliant and super well-developed. I could go on and on about how much I liked or didn’t like certain characters and how ridiculously well-developed they were, but I won’t. Let’s just say that I was seriously impressed with Grant’s ability to develop even the most minor characters. I felt like I actually knew each of them. I do want to focus on a couple though:

  • Sam; he’s our main character. I really appreciated the fact that he was kind of a reluctant hero. He stepped up when he needed to, but he didn’t want to be in the spotlight or be the leader of this group. He reminded me a bit of Katniss in that regard, so that was cool. He also felt pretty mature for a 14 year old, which was odd at first, but then you get to know him and you realize that he is real.
  • Caine; he’s our main antagonist. Holy freaking crap. He’s psycho. I think that Grant wrote him really well. Yes, it was a little far-fetched to have a 14 year old that was this crazy, but I think that the way Grant writes enables the reader to suspend their disbelief perfectly.
  • Lana and Pack Leader; she’s a sort of main character and he’s a freaking coyote that talks. Yeah, you read that right. Not only do some of the humans gain powers, but some animals are mutated as well. Pack Leader is a coyote that can speak English, in a low, gravelly yet high-pitched voice (I could actually hear it in my mind because of Grant’s descriptions). He scared me, so I could totally feel Lana’s fear.
  • A few other characters I thought were cool: Drake (ahhhhh, that thing that happens to him in the end! I visibly reacted to this – my mom had to ask me what was wrong. Such awesome/horrifying descriptions); Quinn (I really felt for him); Astrid (she’s awesome and believable).

Okay, so Grant’s writing isn’t great all the time. There are several passages that were just too simplistic and a little immature. Yet at the same time, the book was super clever and imaginative. The dialogue was on point: humorous, deep, well-done. I will say though that at first when the characters said “brah” I was really annoyed, but then I actually thought it worked. I will assume that the writing will improve throughout the rest of the series.

Also, while the characters were really well-developed, I had a slight problem with the development of the world in which these kids lived. It was a little thin. However, I’m going to assume that this was intentional and will be fixed in subsequent novels in the series.

The book jacket quotes VOYA with saying “If Stephen King had written Lord of the Flies, it might have been a little like this. YES. This.

I definitely want to read the rest of the series, and I look forward to reading the explanation for all that happened to these kids.

The bottom line:

There were a few issues I had with the writing, but overall I seriously enjoyed this book. The characters are so well-done though I had some problems with the world development. Super fantastic book anyway. It has a great plot and is really exciting to read. My heart pounded through all of the action sequences.

Rating: 8 – freaking fantastic

Reading next: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

 

Book to Movie Review: Divergent

Title: Divergent

Author: Evan Daugherty, Vanessa Taylor (screenplay); Veronica Roth

Release: March 21, 2014 by Summit Entertainment

Director: Neil Burger

Genre: Dystopian/Science Fiction

Today I went to see, for the second time, the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s YA dystopian novel Divergent. Book to movie adaptations are often disappointing in one way or another to bookish people like me, so I thought I’d have a go at reviewing this one for anyone who was unsure if they wanted to see it. The marketing campaign for the movie was HUGE, with commercials, posters, social media, sneak peeks (like on the new Catching Fire DVD release), and just a whole lot of hype, and often movies with that much excitement surrounding it disappoint in a major way. But I have to say that this time, Divergent delivered.

Divergent Movie PosterFor anyone unaware of the plot or needing a little refresher, here’s a summary of Divergent:

In a post-apocalyptic Chicago, the citizens are divided into five factions according to their personality, and each faction has their place in the running of the city. Candor, who value honesty, run the court system. The Erudite value knowledge and pursue the advancement of science. The people of Amity are peaceful and work the fields surrounding the city.  The Dauntless are brave and operate as the security for the city. Beatrice, the protagonist, is a member of the Abnegation, who value selflessness, and operate as the government. When the people of Chicago reach the age of 16, they take a test that tells them which faction they have an affinity for, but the citizens are allowed to choose which faction they’d like to join despite which result they get in the test. The test tells Beatrice that she is Divergent – a very rare result that means she is suited for more than one faction. She decides to join Dauntless – and changes her name to Tris – as she’s always loved their bravery. However, her capabilities mean that she does not fit into the social order of the city. The leaders of the world in Divergent believe that by segregating people into factions will ensure that order will continue to hold and war will not break out again. Tris threatens that order by not thinking in a singular fashion, and so, as she finds out, she is being hunted down.

Dauntless initiation is highly competitive, and it forces Tris to figure out who her friends really are. She also begins a sometimes confusing but overall promising romance with her initiation leader, Four. However, Tris’ secret threatens to be discovered while a growing conflict threatens to destroy the supposedly perfect society in which she lives. Tris’ Divergence could help save her friends and family or it could kill her in the process. Let me just quickly say that I REALLY enjoyed the novel. I thought that the world that Roth created was completely believable and perfect for its dystopian genre. The characters were well-rounded, and you really felt for them as they went through initiation and what followed. The romance between Tris and Four was not overpowering and was interwoven into the story in a way that fit well into the rest of the plot. It was pretty well-written, entertaining, and left me wanting to read more. If I’d reviewed it on here, I would have given it an 8 (freaking fantastic). I will say, however, that I was not a big fan of the second book in the trilogy, Insurgent, and had mixed feelings about the last book in the series, Allegiant.

Now on to the movie: First, the actors. I was a little apprehensive when Shailene Woodley was cast as Tris. But she proved herself, at least to me. Her portrayal of Tris felt honest, endearing, fully formed, and well-done. I enjoyed watching her on-screen development and thought she did a fantastic job of getting the audience emotionally involved. There’s one scene in which she practically has a breakdown that had my heart breaking because her performance was so realistic. One of the best parts was her chemistry with Theo James, who plays Four. The two operate well together and their romance was one of the most believable things to me in the movie. Then you’ve got Zoe Kravitz, who plays Tris’ friend Christina, an Erudite transfer. There’s Ashley Judd as Tris’ freaking awesome mom. We’ve got Miles Teller as the hilarious and rude Peter, a Candor transfer. And then we have Jai Courtney as the Dauntless leader Eric, the seriously sadistic bad guy. I thought the performances by all of these actors were completely on point, perfect casting. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but the only performance I thought was a little disappointing was that of Kate Winslet, as Erudite leader and creepy creep, Jeanine Matthews. Her portrayal was a little flat, almost stiff, and while I can appreciate that as potentially part of Jeanine’s character, it just felt odd.

Trisposter

I think this might have something to do with the script, which overall, is good. Just good. It’s even a little cheesy in some parts, like when Jeanine quips that Tris is “a poor blend of impulses and impurities” or when Four has this brilliant revelation that a vial he found HAS to be a simulation inducing serum. Duh. Also, the last 20 minutes or so of the movie were like a competition to see how many times they could include the word Divergent. However, there were several parts of unexpected humor that I quite enjoyed.

I’d say that the main change that hurt the movie was the development of the characters. As much as I enjoyed the performances by the actors, Tris’ best friends in the novel (Al, Will, and Christina) are somewhat pushed to the side in favor of Tris’ and the storyline’s progression. This is completely understandable, but a few of the characters’ were so pushed aside that when one of Tris’ most painful deaths to handle occurs, the audience barely has time to process, let alone actually have many feelings about it. My friend who joined me for the movie hadn’t read the book, and she said she barely felt bad about the death, which saddened me because it felt as if that character didn’t get the appreciation he deserved because he was so badly developed. I wish that a little more time had been spent on the secondary characters from the novel. These changes result in some missing context, and this means confused audiences members, particularly those who hadn’t read the book. Actually, this occasionally means confused audiences members who HAD read the book (e.g. some of the climactic scene had me going “WHAT the heck is going on?)

On a more positive note, the visual effects and cinematography in the movie are wonderful. The use of mirrors in Tris’ faction affinity test is beautiful as well as terrifying, and much of the time while in the simulations is completely awesome. The portrayal of the Dauntless, both before Tris chooses them and after, is brilliant, full of glee, terror, passion, and bravery, and I enjoyed pretty much every minute of seeing them operate as a faction. The movie also creates a believably decaying Chicago, fenced in by a huge, electric fence. One of the first things we see is a giant, grounded ship, rusted, crumbling, and looking to have been there for hundreds of years. I also enjoyed the faction costumes, which impeccably portrayed the way Roth describes the way the factions feel, if that makes sense. The people of Amity look like happy hippies, with long, flowing skirts, loose hair, and tunic-like tops. Candor is clad in pure black and white, the way in which the Candor see the truth.

The bottom line: This movie was highly, HIGHLY entertaining, action-packed, and powerful. Other than some changes with character development, I thought this was a pretty good adaptation. I’d definitely recommend seeing this movie in the theater, as the fear landscapes, fight scenes, and decaying world are super cool on the big scene. I enjoyed this movie so much, I saw it twice.

Rating: 7 – Pretty good

Divergent is rated PG-13 for violence, some obscenity and disturbing thematic material.

Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Title: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Image

Genre: Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Delacorte Books

Publication Date: October 2009

Paperback: 375 pages

Stand alone or series: First book in a series

How did I get this book: Bought

Do you ever have a book on your to-read list for a long time, but you just never seem to get to it? Well, for me, that was The Maze Runner. I have heard great things about the series and have wanted to read the books for years, and yet I always had other books to read. I think it was the impending approach of the release of the movie based on the first book in the series that pushed me into finally buying them.

I wish I’d done it sooner.

Let’s start with a brief synopsis:

The book begins when a boy awakens in a darkened elevator, ascending into the unknown. He is unable to remember anything about himself or where he is from except for his name – Thomas. When he reaches the top, he is brought into the Glade – a giant courtyard that includes a farm, a slaughterhouse, and a homestead where a large group of teenage boys lives, all of different ages and sizes. These boys are like Thomas: they were sent to the Glade with no memory of themselves but their names. The Glade is surrounded by a giant labyrinth, called the Maze, the walls of which move every night after the doors leading into it close. Most of the group of boys tends to the Glade each day, farming, cleaning, killing. But there is a small group of boys that head into the Maze every day to try to solve it, making maps of what they find. They believe that if they solve it, they will find the way out. Only the fastest and smartest boys are able to be Runners, because they must be quick and get back before the doors close lest they fall victim to the monsters that roam the Maze, the Grievers – large, blubbery, half-mechanical beasts that can sting you with their various metal arms.

This has been the way of the Maze and the Glade for two years. Until Thomas arrives. The day after he comes out of the elevator, what the Gladers call The Box, someone else comes up, something that shouldn’t happen for another month. But that is not the most shocking part to the Gladers; what is frightening is that it’s a girl. She brings with her a disturbing message – everything is going to change. Though they cannot explain it, Thomas and the girl are connected, and they believe that it is their responsibility to figure out the Maze and lead the Gladers to safety.

What I thought:

This book consumed me from the beginning. The world that Dashner has created is frightening, intense, and everything I look for in a dystopian novel. The characters are isolated and fighting for their lives, and there is basically non-stop action the entire book. There are a lot of questions to be asked in The Maze Runner, but each time one is answered, another, bigger question is left in its place. I have to say that I have read books that have done the same thing and it has irked me to no end. However, Thomas is in a similar situation as the reader; he cannot remember anything about his life, so he is asking all of the same questions that the reader wants to know the answer to. Thomas is a well-rounded, developed character. He is clever, curious, and brave, and he knows the questions to ask. As Dashner keeps us guessing, Thomas keeps asking, making this an effective, and not-at-all annoying device to keep readers just out of reach of the truth. I don’t want to say too much about the questions that Thomas is being forced to ask, but let’s just say that Dashner can write! His prose is crisp and irresistible, keeping you turning pages and unwilling to lay the book down.

As for the world, it’s terrifying. Somehow, from somewhere, this group of boys has been transported into the middle of a gigantic maze, which is miles across. Its walls are hundreds of feet high and look to have been there for hundreds of years. Weirdly, none of the boys can remember anything about their lives previous to their time coming up in The Box. The Maze’s walls change every night and there are huge, frightening creatures that roam inside it at night. The reader will be just as curious as the Gladers – have they been sent there for an experiment? Is there actually something outside the Maze, and if so, what is it? Is this a prison that these boys have been sent to for crimes they cannot remember? How was this place created? The Maze Runner keeps the reader guessing, keeps you turning the pages to find answers. But don’t worry; the questions are addressed. I think there is something to say about an author who confuses you constantly, but makes you want to keep reading anyway.

One of my favorite things about the novel is Dashner’s made up slang employed by the Gladers; they use words like “shank,” “greenie,” and “shuck.” It is somewhat strange at first, just as it is strange to Thomas, who has no idea what the other Gladers mean when they say these things. And these other Gladers are brilliant characters, each with their own distinct personality. There’s Newt, Minho, Chuck, Alby, and the hostile (though we’re not sure why at first), Gally. Some of these characters are leaders in the Glade, while others are relative newbies, giving Thomas and us a range of knowledge to be had in the ways of the world. Throughout the novel, these other characters are developed just as well as Thomas, and the reader connects with them and empathizes with their situation.

Then there’s Teresa, the girl who was sent up in The Box to deliver the ominous message that everything was about to change. We don’t get much of her in this book, as she’s in a coma for part of the book and then ostracized for much of the rest of the book. However, I can say that this is remedied in future books.

The novel takes us on a journey while Thomas, Teresa, and the Gladers work to solve the Maze and find their way to safety. I won’t give anything away, but I will say that you will continue to be surprised until the very end – watch out for that cliffhanger, guys!

The bottom line:

If you couldn’t tell, I LOVED The Maze Runner, and I flew through its pages on the edge of my seat. The fast-paced, thrilling plot, engaging characters, often confusing answers to questions, and Dashner’s brilliant writing makes for a very successful novel. Almost immediately after finishing Book One, I began reading Book Two, The Scorch Trials, as I couldn’t handle that cliffhanger and needed to know what happened next. I’ve currently read Books One – Three, and I’m reading the prequel to the series, The Kill Order. At the same time that I was wanting to read them even faster, I wanted to take the time to savor them. I would highly recommend this book, as well as the entire series, for anyone who likes post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, action packed, thrilling adventures, especially if you’re into series. They are unputdownably good.

Rating: 9 – Practically perfect

You can read an excerpt from the first chapter of the book HERE 

See more from James Dashner on his website 

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