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There’s no excuse. Let me just say the last two weeks have knocked the wind out of me, but I’m getting back on top of it. To make up for it, I’m reviewing an absolutely killer book, just in time for its paperback release tomorrow. Enjoy!

 

Speed Read:

The two desires struggle within me: the desire to be safe, and the desire to know. I cannot tell which one will win.

Cassia lives in a perfect world. Her entire life is mapped out before her, perfectly individualized to suit her wants and needs. From the moment she was born, every fact about her was filed into the system, allowing officials to know the likelihood of each of her choices and reactions, from how she would deal with the first day of kindergarten to the probability that she would choose the green dress on the night of her Match. That’s how she knows that her Match, the person selected by the Society for her to marry, will make her happy. When it turns out to be her best friend, Xander, she couldn’t be more excited.

Except.

Something happens, and it makes her doubt everything she’s ever believed in. Who is she? And what is this Society she lives in? Even when everything is crafted to give each person the best life possible, would having a choice ultimately be better?

Bonus: Book trailer!

The Deal:

I’m not sure if this is blasphemous to the YA literary community or not, but Matched was, dare I say it, better than The Hunger Games. I know. Take a second.

The thing is, I love action. But for me, the whole point of a dystopian novel is the world building. As much as I lovedThe Hunger Games, it lost the magical-ness once it became more about the war and less about the subtle commentary on our current and projected society. Plus, the love triangle really annoyed me.

Actually, more on that. Finally, finally a love triangle I can get behind! I couldn’t stand Bella/Jacob/Edward. Didn’t see the point of Katniss/Peeta/Gale. But Cassia/Xander/Ky? Sign me up. This is a girl who’s love triangle actually stands for something. Easy, legitimate happiness? Or scary, but possibly huge and life changing love? Her choices make sense, her feelings have time to grow, and her emotions actually seem legitimate. I mean, I never really like love triangles because it’s like, most high school girls just want one guy to ask them out. It’s kind of ridiculous to have such a high percentage of heroines with two guys pining for her. Plus, I just don’t buy that both guys always are so in love with the girl that they wouldn’t just move on. Teenage guys can be pretty lazy when it comes to dating. But I digress.

Ally Condie has written an incredible story. It’s almost unclear whether the Society is Dystopian or Utopian, even Cassia can’t really figure it out, and in some ways, the Society is appealing. With technology, they are able to accurately predict every choice someone will make, giving the Society the ability to arrange a happy, fulfilling life for each person without the havoc of free choice. I can’t imagine giving up having free choice now, but if I’d grown up with it, like Cassia? I think I would be fine having my perfect life mapped out for me. Aside from the wonderfully unique world, Condie’s writing is subtle and detailed, revealing that there is a lot going on below the surface that we haven’t found out about yet. The sequel Crossed comes out November 1st (shhhh, but I get to read it this week! I’ll let you know how it is), and I am SO EXCITED! I have high hopes for the continued excellence of the series.

How Far Should You Go:

So it’s the night of your Match. You’re about to find out who your hubby will be for the rest of your life. This is the person you’re going to have children with, who you’ll live with, who will share in your rewards and punishments alike. If he becomes an Aberration, so do you. If you become, heavens forbid, an Anomaly, he goes with you. This. Is. Huge. But then, they tell you, you can read Matched and wait another year to find out your Match, or you can give up the chance to ever read Matched and find out your Match right now.

Wait the year. Read the book. You’ll both understand this crazy scenario and my reasoning behind loving it so much. And you might reconsider your blind love of that Society that rules your life.

The 13/16 Test:

They’re both good. This is one of those beautifully crafted books that doesn’t condescend to young adult readers at all, but doesn’t resort to a lot of explicit wording or situations to do it. Not many authors can pull it off, and Cassia’s story didn’t really require anything too mature, so this one is a nearly perfect example of a great YA book.

The Low Down:

Matched
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Speak (Penguin)
Published: September 20th, 2011
Classified as: Young Adult

I was so excited to see this book lying around at my internship. The premise is amazing, Nove Ren Suma’s agent is great (and works for the company I intern for), and I so so so admire the editor of Dutton, so I knew it was going to be incredible. It did not disappoint!

Speed Read:

   It sounded impossible, something no one would believe if anyone but Ruby were the one to tell it. But Ruby was right: The body found that night wouldn’t be, couldn’t be mine.

Chloe left her small, mountain town two years ago after a terrible summer night at the reservoir. A girl died, and Chloe left, leaving her older sister, Ruby, behind. Now, Ruby has come to get her back, at least for the summer, and so Chloe returns to the town where it all happened.

Everything is the same. Her sister is still the center of the town’s attention, able to convince anyone to do her bidding with a quick smile. Chloe’s mother is still drunk, hanging around at the only bar in town. Everything is how she left it, even the things that should have been gone a long time ago.

 

The Deal:

Ok I thought Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was freaky, and then I read this book. Peculiar Children was in-your-face creepy, like watching Psycho. Imaginary Girls was more like The Sixth Sense…you’re watching and watching and suddenly you realize you’re completely freaked out and you don’t know when it happened and then it ends and you’re left by yourself with a little bit of an eerie feeling that makes you keep looking back over your shoulder in case someone is there.

But don’t worry, I just looked, and we’re all good. I mean, I am. You probably are.

But just like The Sixth Sense, this book is beautifully crafted, one of those stories that’s good aside from the creep factor. The writing is creative and spare, and Ruby is a wonderful, larger-than-life character that fills up the pages to their very edges. That said, I think it’s going to be a book that people either love or hate. It’s surrealism is part of it’s appeal, but I can see how it might be frustrating for readers who like their books a little…neater. This one leaves a lot up to the reader, which means a greater closeness to the book, its characters, and the world they live in, but can also mean it’s not as easy to breeze through and leave behind you. The story will stay with you, for good or bad.

How Far Should You Go:

There’s this really creepy place in my hometown, all windy roads and overhanging trees and shadows, where crazy teenagers go and dare each other to get out of the car. You know, “I dare you to run to that mailbox in front of the abandoned mental hospital,” or “I bet you won’t last four steps to that creepy ramshackle hut with the light on inside.” I was the girl who would never unbuckle seatbelt, let alone set foot outside the safe confines of the car, but for this book, I’d run all the way up to the abandoned mental hospital and might even touch the doorknob.

The 13/16 Test:

Fine for Sixteen, but I think Thirteen should wait a year. Maybe next summer, before she starts high school? I think any of the different factors by themselves would be fine, but add a creepy dead girl sitch, a high school girl with, shall we say, challenging parents, and an older sister who didn’t have much guidance growing up and it just gets to be a little too much for a thirteen-year-old at times. Next year, for sure.

The Low Down:

Imaginary Girls
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Published: June 14th, 2011
Classified as: Young Adult

As I figure out my blog, I’m trying out new names and timing for different posts, hopefully to keep from having a run of nothing but reviews, then nothing but recommendations, then nothing but existential rants. Maybe adding days of the week to titles will help me get organized?

For my first Monday Review, which, predictably, means you can rely on having a review of a YA book every Monday, I’m talking about Wintergirls, Laurie Halse Anderson’s heartbreaking novel about a girl with anorexia.

Speed Read:

       …When I was a real girl, my best friend was named Cassandra Jane Parrish.

Lia is a Wintergirl. Not quite alive, not quite dead, she monitors her calorie intake with precision and weighs down her body with quarters sewn into her jacket and gallons of water gulped before weigh-ins. She is anorexic, has already completed one stint in rehab, and is on her way to fooling everyone that she is A-OK.

Then, her ex-best friend dies from organ failure. Lia and Cassandra made a pact when they were thirteen to always be the skinniest, and always be the best at controlling their weight. Between then and now, they’ve grown apart but their eating disorders, anorexia for Lia and bulimia for Cassandra, have stayed with each of them. Now, Cassandra is dead and Lia might be next if she keeps on the way she’s going.

But it’s not so easy to just turn around and stop be anorexic, even when her best friend is dead from the very thing that is killing Lia.

The Deal:

I’m not sure I truly understood what a brave book is until reading this one. When it comes to eating disorders in books, there tends to be a “right way” for a character to have an eating disorder, which is to say that the character must hate themselves for it, must consciously struggle against it, and must absolutely understand that the way they treat food is wrong and devastatingly dangerous. Unfortunately, that’s not how thought processes work in real life, which is what makes eating disorders so dangerous.

Laurie Halse Anderson didn’t shy away from really digging into Lia’s mind, courageously writing sentences like:

“Who wants to recover? It took me years to get that tiny. I wasn’t sick; I was strong.” 

A lot of people have taken issue with the fact that Lia is so brazenly against recovery at the beginning of the novel, but it adds a depth and stunning realism that makes her story all the more tragic. Her voice is one of the strongest in YA literature, bringing forth her exhaustion, her sarcasm, her intellect, and her wry observation without seeming heavy handed, and Anderson lets us see enough of Lia’s journey to understand more about eating disorders and the destruction they wreak on bodies. A truly beautiful work that is the definition of courage in it’s story, it’s main character, and the author who wrote it.

Bonus: Book Trailer! Yep, it’s silent. Kind of fittingly eerie.

Aaaaand an interview with Laurie Halse Anderson about her inspiration for the book!

 

How Far Should You Go:

So it’s December 21st, 2012, and it turns out that the end of the Mayan calendar wasn’t just laziness after all. Everyone is getting on space ships that the Russian government has been hoarding for years so that we can get off Earth before it implodes, but because of limited space you’re only allowed to take one item. If the above sounds appealing to you, I can safely recommend that the one item you take should be this book. It’s beautiful and written almost like poetry, so future human civilizations will know the power of the well written word, and it addresses an issue that, unfortunately, will pervade as long as a certain type of body is valued above healthiness, so it’s good to have around for that. Basically, beauty+brains…no way you can leave it behind on Earth.

The 13/16 Test:

I won’t lie, it’s an intense book, but it’s not intense because of anything that is technically too mature for a twelve-year-old, it’s just very straight forward and tackles the issue head on. As hard as Wintergirls was for me to read, I would definitely give it to an eighth grader. I don’t know of many girls who didn’t know a girl with some type of eating disorder from eighth grade on. I’ve been friends with them, I’ve heard about them, and I’ve had dangerous eating habits at times in my own life, so I think this one is required reading for all of us. Hopefully one day we’ll value it just for the amazing writing, and marvel at the sad reality that was body image in the beginning of the 21st Century.

The Low Down:

Wintergirls
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Speak (Penguin)
Published: March 19th, 2009
Classified as: Young Adult

I was going to wait until next week to do this, but when I woke up this morning the weather icon said FOG which pretty much sums up this book in it’s entirety, so I figured I would write about it today.

Speed Read:

Jacob has a super weird grandfather, Abe, who tells him stories about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which is on an island off the coast of Wales. All the kids there are so incredibly scary have super cool powers like lighting their hands on fire and making clay soldiers come to life and uncontrollable floating. They went to the island to escape vague but terrifying monsters. Jacob spends a lot of time being scared of the monsters, until he figures out that the monsters are NAZIS and there are no peculiar children, just orphans of war. It’s just his crazy grandfather’s way of dealing with his history as a Jewish kid during WWII. So he moves on with his life, but then his grandfather dies, and eventually Jacob obviously has to go to the island to check it out, and then some insanely creepy stuff happens, and Jacob gets all confused. Are there peculiar children or aren’t there? Are the monsters Nazis or something even more scary (hard to do)? There’s also a lot of fog.

Extra points for old, real pictures found at flea markets and such throughout the book. And a book trailer!

The Deal:

I’m having trouble coming up with something that could possibly be scarier than a book that incorporates both Nazis and creepy children being hunted by even creepier monsters. Bonus: it’s unclear which situation is real/not real, so a lot of time is spent stressing out over both. As in “OMG, are the Nazis going to bomb the island?…OMG what is that shadowy thing? Who’s the dude with no eyes? WHY ARE THE CHILDREN SO FREAKY??”

I was reading this book in my room, at night, and seriously started having heart palpitations and had to watch me some Buffy the Vampire Slayer before going to sleep to calm down. When Buffy is a comforting, calming experience, you know you’ve got some creep factor on your hands. That said, it’s a really great book! It’s been a while since a fantasy book was able to surprise me (there’s only so many ways you can do magic), but I had no idea where this one was going. It’s very much a fairy tale, in a the-Dursleys-are-so-ridiculously-evil-they’re-more-unrealistic-than-Voldemort kind of way, except it jumps right to Deathly Hallows intensity without the years of awesome magic school and Quidditch. Sometimes the dialogue is a little bit sluggish, but once Jacob gets to that island there is no turning back. I dare you to put it down before you get to the end.

How Far Should You Go:

This book isn’t quite steal-the-last-copy-from-the-Library-of-Congress good, but I would definitely steal it from a good friend without worrying about the effects on our relationship if needed. I mean, don’t compromise your immortal soul (that, children, is something we only do for Harry Potter and Looking for Alaska), but I recommend seriously considering doing some jail time in order to get your hands on a copy.

The 13/16 Test:

No issues for Sixteen here! Idk if this is really her style, but there’s nothing in the book that I would have qualms about her reading. And as much creep factor as there is, I’d also give it to Thirteen to read (although she’s going through a phase where anything without a love triangle isn’t worth her time), with strong suggestions to read it at the beach and not, you know, late at night in her summer camp cabin with a flashlight.

The Low Down:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Publisher: Quirk Books
Published: June 7th, 2011
Classified as: Young Adult