Rainbow Rowell: Rave About or Rant About?

Name: Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow RowellOrigin: Nebraska, USA
Books: Attachments, Eleanor and Park, Fangirl
Recognition:In 2013 Rowell published two young adult novels: Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. Both were chosen by The New York Times as being some of the best young adult fiction of the year. Eleanor & Park was also chosen by Amazon as one of the 10 best books of 2013 and as Goodreads’ best young adult fiction of the year.Fangirl was chosen for the tumblr reblog book club.
Her Blog:http://rainbowrowell.com/blog/

 

First of all, I want to fangirl a bit about her name because is just so awesome! The first time I heard about it, I thought it was a pseudonym because it matches her writing so perfectly. It’s quirky, alliterary (probably not a real word since I’m getting that ugly red squiggle underneath) and the ‘Rainbow’ part adds a touch of irony- very nice.

So what is this going to be, a rant or a rave? If you haven’t already guessed, it’s definitely going to be a rave. Rainbow Rowell convinced me of something that, a year ago, I would have thought was impossible. She (gasp!) got me into contemporary young adult. Let me tell you- this was a major feat. In fact it’s practically award worthy because I had sworn never, ever, ever to read contemporary. About a year ago, I was just getting into the whole young adult thing. I had read a handful of YA contemporary and they all turned out to be bad. Uninspired, bland, shallow. Really bad. Then along came Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell like a dragon hell bent on encouraging me not to misjudge it’s entire race.  The blurb was cute and catchy. The title even more so. Especially since I had spent two whole years reading and writing huge (and I mean HUGE) amounts of fanfiction. Obviously, I fell in love with the book. The rest, as they say, is history. Actually no, it’s not- if you take a look at my blog, you’ll notice that nowadays I review quite a few contemporary young adult books. I would have missed a lot  good books (This Song Will Save Your Life , Wanderlove , 45 Pounds: More or Less , Just One Day) if I never got into this genre. So, I owe Rainbow Rowell a lot. A lot more than I can say thankyou for.

And what exactly makes her so awesome? I think it’s a combination of things. First and foremost is her characters. They’re quirky, interesting, unique, surprisingly profound but at the heart of it still realistic and well rounded. Eleanor deals with bullying and self-image issues at school and her home life is a train wreck waiting to happen. But at the same time, she never loses her sense of humour or her individuality. Cath is socially awkward. The thought of actually interacting in person with real people turns her into a nervous mess but she’s a gifted writer. She has the talent to write amazing stories which have major fan-followings Unfortunately for her, her writing teacher doesn’t believe in fanfiction and fanfiction is what Cath writes best. But Cath is the kind of character who grows as the story progresses. She moves (or maybe shuffles is a more appropriate word for it) out of her comfort zone and shell and actually forges new relationships.

Which brings me to the next thing I love about Rainbow Rowell’s books: The Relationships. How does an author create such different characters? More importantly, how does she make such different characters get along? Most importantly, how does she make their relationships so…memorable and perfect? I have no idea but let me give you an example. Reagen is a girl who’s larger than life. She’s prone to mockery and is excessively blunt. How does she even get along with (much less become BFF’s) with quiet, nervous, head-in-fanfiction Cath? I don’t know how it does, but it works. Rainbow Rowell proves that in fiction at least, the best pairs are the ones with the least in common.

How else would you explain Eleanor and Park? Eleanor is all red hair and wrong clothes. It’s impossible not to stare at her and the force of her personality (and her size) makes everyone seem duller and flatter. She comes from a broken home…quite literally, her home is broken. Her parents, both not so great to begin with, are divorced. Her mom remarried a man who loves to drink and loves to bully…and bully he does, but he does so much more (I can’t say much more without giving major spoilers). Park, on the other hand, has a wonderful home life. His Dad met his Mom in Korea, married her and brought her home. They still kiss and hold each other like they haven’t seen each other in months. They are simply adorable. Park himself is popular enough and respected enough at school but sometimes he feels like he doesn’t fit in. And that’s where the tagline for the book comes in: Two misfits. One extraordinary love.

But the real oomph and glamour of the book doesn’t come from the characters and their relationships (although we’ve already mentioned that they’re much better than great).  What makes these books so spectacular is the writing. Yes, the writing.

“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”
Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park

“I…” – her voice nearly disappeared – “think I live for you.”
He closed his eyes and pressed his head back into his pillow.
“I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,” she whispered. “Which means, when I see you on Monday morning, it’s been like sixty hours since I’ve taken a breath. That’s probably why I’m so crabby, and why I snap at you. All I do when we’re apart is think about you, and all I do when we’re together is panic. Because every second feels so important. And because I’m so out of control, I can’t help myself. I’m not even mine anymore, I’m yours, and what if you decide that you don’t want me? How could you want me like I want you?”
He was quiet. He wanted everything she’d just said to be the last thing he heard. He wanted to fall asleep with ‘I want you’ in his ears.”
Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park

“Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy,” Wren said. “It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for.”
Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

Just… isn’t giving up allowed sometimes? Isn’t it okay to say, ‘This really hurts, so I’m going to stop trying’?”
“It sets a dangerous precedent.”
“For avoiding pain?”
“For avoiding life.”
Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

Rainbow Rowell’s writing is so unabashedly sweet and profound (but not in a in-your-face way). Sometimes just reading quotes from her books is enough to make me catch my breath, sigh and let loose a few tears. I chose a few of them but these are just the tip of the iceberg. On a scale from 1 to 5, her quotes are a ten on quotability. For some more of them, click on the link here (it’ll take you to goodreads). Better yet, read the books.

   

 

 

 

 

 

They might not be pretty, but seriously (in this case, at least), don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

Wanderlove: A Book Review

Book: Wanderlove Author/Authoress: Kristen Hubbard

WanderloveWanderlove

Cover: 5/5

I love both covers. Okay, the first one might be a bit of a cliché with a petty girl being wistful and the second might be a little cartoonish but both of them cover (pun not intended) the main aspects of the book. The first cover is gorgeous. A little bit sad, wistful and hopeful at the same time. Personally, I think that the violet flowers (could they be violets by any chance?) were a great addition, somehow bringing colour, vibrancy and playfulness into a cover that would have otherwise been sort of dull, without messing up the pensive quality of the book. The second cover is something that I can actually imagine Bria, the MC, drawing. It’s a outline map of Mexico with all the important sights that she saw marked and sketched (or pencil-shaded) with exquisite detail. Along with the quintessential, anonymous backpacker girl (you’ll see why that girl is so important in the story; she’s sort of Bria’s muse). And the backpacker girl just so happens to look a bit like Bria. Coincidence, right?

Plot:5/5

It all begins with a stupid question: Are you a Global Vagabond? No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path. Bria’s a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan’s a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they’ve got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward. But Bria comes to realize she can’t run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back. Kirsten Hubbard lends her artistry to this ultimate backpacker novel, weaving her drawings into the text. Her career as a travel writer and her experiences as a real-life vagabond backpacking Central America are deeply seeded in this inspiring story. Wow! Wow! Wow! It’s hard to imagine a plot more exciting and wholesome than what this blurb promises but somehow it’s true. This book is full of new experiences, adventure, gross hotels, travel tips, art, self-discovery and second chances. It seems hard to believe that all this can be found in just one book. But this book is not just any book. Dun dun dun. This is a backpacking book. And a pretty good one too. The scenery adds to the plot and brings it from great to swoon-worthy (if you’re the type that swoons over books; and I totally am.) . Mayan cul­ture, pineapple liquitas, the vibrancy of crowded cities, the jun­gle, the humidity, the rides on the chicken buses, and the bluest waters with exotic fishes in it.

Characters: 4/5

Backpacking has been on my bucket list since…forever. My destination wasn’t Guatemala and Belize (it was Europe in case you wanted to know), but whatever. Same difference, right? And just like Bria, I have the tendency to overplan and compartmentalize. Thankfully not overpack though. Travel has been over-romancised in Bria’s mind. She wants nothing more than to learn how to be spontaneous. Her goal for the summer is to learn how to travel effortlessly and ‘just go with the flow’. Unfortunately Global Vagabonds, the tour group that she signed up with, is non-conducive to her goals.  Every­thing is planned out for her from the walking tours to the food they eat. There’s no downtime or room for self discovery.  Once an oppor­tu­nity to ditch them arises, she takes it to prove her­self to all her  doubters back at home that she can do this. And to herself as well. Bria is the kind of character that evolved as the book went on. In several ways. As a traveller, she lost her fear of shabby rooms and humongous insects. As an artist, her drawings became more emotional and complex. And as a person, she tried new things, overcame several fears, regained her self confidence and started acting more spontaneously.

Rowan has a…checkered past. He subscribes to a policy of wanderlove.

“Wanderlove is about forgetting the bad things and focusing on the good. Out with the old and in with the new… The only way to escape the past is to keep moving forward.”

His life used to be like a nonstop rave, with rowdy parties and pounds of…something (that is probably not bananas). But during the time the book is set, he’s on the straight and narrow (except for a few stray pranks here and there, misguiding not-so-well-travelled travellers). But seriously, other than the pranks part, Rowan was a sweet guy with a lot of travel knowledge and an interesting perspective on life. Starling was a pretty interesting character. She’s Rowan’s half-sister and alleviates her first world guilt by volunteering as a teacher in third world countries for pennies. Throughout the book, her goal numero uno is to keep Rowan happy and safe. Even if she has to keep him safe from himself.

Romance: 5/5

Loved, loved, loved the romance in this book. It’s an interesting pairing but it makes so much sense. I liked Bria and Rowan as friends. The way they shared their philosophies, talked about books, travelled together and encouraged each other to step out of their comfort zone. But those two had chemistry and I was really, really glad when the friendship turned into something more. The romance was so believable. Their issues were handled perfectly. All in all, I think the romance was sweet and believable.

Ending:4/5

Perfect ending. The story ending is the closure but not-yet-the-end type. And that’s my favourite type. We closed one chapter of their life but that doesn’t make the story over (I’m not a fan of Happy Ever After’s in case you didn’t notice). But I’m cutting off 1 star for the cheese. Sometimes it works but not this time…

I can wait until tomorrow to call my college, where I’ll probably be sleeping on a cot in the basement, but at this point, I don’t care. When you fall for a guy like Rowan, nothing’s certain. But I’m pretty sure we’ve found the antidote to Wanderlove: each other.

Seriously, overkill.

Quotables:

Envy is when you want what someone else has. Jealousy’s when you also don’t want them to have it.”

“Hearing about vacations is like hearing about dreams — no one cares except the person who’s experienced them.” “What everyone forgets — even me — is the people who actually live here. In places like Central America, I mean. Southeast Asia. India. Africa. Millions, even billions, of people, who live out their whole lives in these places — the places so many people like us fear. Think about it: they ride chicken buses to work every day. Their clothes are always damp. Their whole lives, they never escape the dust and the heat. But they deal with all these discomforts. They have to.
“So why can’t travelers? If we’ve got the means to get here, we owe it to the country we’re visiting not to treat it like an amusement park, sanitized for our comfort. It’s insulting to the people who live here. People just trying to have the best lives they can, with the hands they’ve been dealt.”

“Prices are relative. So is poverty. So is happiness.”

And this one made me laugh because it’s just so…Bria.

“I want to draw you. All of you.’ Then I pause. ‘That came out wrong-you can keep your clothes on.”

Plotholes:3/5

At the beginning, Bria comes across as sort of snobby and a bit of a brat. In fact, when she was on the plane and lied that she was a photographer, I wanted to simultaneously laugh at her, slap her and slam the book shut. Not necessarily in that order. Besides up till, like 1/8th of the book, it seemed like Bria and the author was keeping us (the reader) at arms length. But seriously, don’t give up on the book. It gets better. And once you get Bria’s backstory, all will become clear.

Overall Rating:4/5

A great summer book when you’re stuck at home. I almost felt like I was on the trip with Bria. I loved the characters and the plot was pretty good. And the cover’s really pretty. Almost like an accessory. So stop making excuses and pick up this book. As soon as possible.

5th Wave: Book Review

Book: 5th Wave

Author/Authoress: Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave (The Fifth Wave, #1)

Cover:4/5

It’ pretty, isn’t it? It also fits the book pretty well. In fact, I can imagine several scenes in which the picture on the cover would be appropriate. 4/5 stars for this cover.

Plot:

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up

Contrary to what the blurb suggests, this book is not about zombies. Not even close. It’s about aliens. Evil aliens.

For some reason (which is not revealed in this book but which will probably be revealed later), aliens decide to take over the Earth. Not content with simply being considered superior and having humans completely downtrodden, they want to remove all humans from the face of the Earth. And to do so they will go to extreme lengths. Really extreme. By extreme they mean much more than electromagnetic waves which prevent satellites and electricity from working and diseases for which there is no cure. I can’t tell you much more about the plot without give you spoilers. Just let it be known that it’s spooky, creepy and at points nail-bitingly scary. And more full of twists and turns than a road up a mountain.

Characters: 4/5

Cassie: Cassie is an overly-sarcastic and flawed (she knows it too) heroine who made a promise to her dear and departed Dad to keep her brother safe. Except he gets captured by aliens in the disguise of soldiers. So it’s her job to get him back. As soon as you read the first few pages, it’s obvious that she’s deeply paranoid and missing a few marbles here and there. But we can excuse her for that. After all, she has been through a lot. Fans of Katsa (from Graceling) and Penryn (from Angelfall) will probably love this character.

Evan: He’s the love interest. And is a pretty interesting character if I do say so myself.  Just as insane as Cassie and defintiely more dangerous. He saves Cassie’s life (this is debatable). However I really can’t tell you much without giving major spoilers. But since, I want to talk some more about this awesome character, let me give you 3 words: He’s a traitor. Okay that tells you a lot while telling you absolutely nothing. But hopefully, this hint makes you curious enough to read this book.

Ben Parish: This guy carries a whole lot of emotional burden. Ben Parish is driven by a desire for revenge against the aliens who murdered his sister, and his own guilt because he was unable to stop them. He’s crazily loyal and a pretty fierce protector. He would have made an ideal soldier but then he finds out the evil plot. Good for him, not so much for the aliens. Also, for some reason it is impossible to simply refer to him as Ben. Hence he is always known as either Ben Parish or zombie.

Nugget: He’s Cassie’s little brother and is sometimes stupidly naïve and trusting. But he’s only 5 so I guess it’s pretty much justified. I think one thing I envy him for is his blind faith in Cassie and then in Ben. Despite being so young, he’s pretty much able to hold up his own in the team and I found his POV super interesting.

Besides these gems, we also have side characters who are pretty well rounded. We have the emotionally-stunted, Annie-Oakley like Ringer (three guesses why that’s her nickname in the Army) and the brilliant survivor who used to be Cassie’s dad.

Romance:2/5

Okay, the romance in this was pretty bad. For some reason, Cassie has a huge crush on Ben Parish, a guy who she hasn’t seen since the beginning of the end of the world. …we-ird.

Then, if the romance between Cassie and Evan was a pattern of  footsteps, it would be like: one small step, one small step, a huge leap, another leap, run back as fast as possible, stampede forward (the space of four huge, flying leaps). Definitely weird. But if it’s any consolation, there was some chemistry between the two. And it wasn’t just because both of them were kind of crazy and weird.

Dialogue:4/5

This book is extremely quotable. We have the deep, profound stuff like:

“We’re here, and then we’re gone, and it’s not about the time we’re here, but what we do with the time.”

Cruelty isn’t a personality trait. Cruelty is a habit.”

“How do you rid the Earth of humans? Rid the humans of their humanity

“What doesn’t kill us sharpens us. Hardens us. Schools us. You’re beating plowshares into swords, Vosch. You are remaking us. We are the clay, and you are Michelangelo. And we will be your masterpiece.”

And there’s the badass, honest stuff which somehow just makes you proud to be human:

“But if I’m it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I’m going to let the story end this way. I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.”

“You can only call someone crazy if there’s someone else who’s normal. Like good and evil. If everything was good, then nothing would be good.”

“When the moment comes to stop running from your past, to turn around and face the thing you thought you could not face–the moment when your life teeters between giving up and getting up–when that moment comes, and it always comes, if you can’t get up and you can’t give up either, here’s what you do: Crawl.”

And then there were sentences that were humorous in a dark sort of way. Just what you need when you’re in the middle of a book full of the scary and the serious.

“We’d stared into the face of Death, and Death blinked first. You’d think that would make us feel brave and invincible. It didn’t.”
“There’s an old saying about truth setting you free. Don’t buy it. Sometimes the truth slams the cell door shut and throws a thousand bolts.”
“What were they thinking? ‘It’s an alien apocalypse! Quick, grab the beer!”
“I would kill for a cheeseburger. Honestly. If I stumbled across someone eating a cheeseburger, I would kill them for it.”
Plotholes:3/5
The romance= Not good. Other than that, I don’t really have any complaints.
Overall Rating:3.5/5
Freakishly scary in some parts, this is what I had hoped what the Ender’s Game would be like. Anyone who’s a fan of aliens, apocalypses, survival and dystopian need to read this book. Falls in the same category as Ashfall by Mike Mullin, The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, Unwind by Neal Shusterman or Angelfall by Susan Ee.

 

Also Known As: A Book Review

Book: Also Known As (Also Known As #1)

Author/Authoress: Robin Benway

Also Known As (Also Known As, #1)

Cover:3/5

Yikes! No offense (and we all know that when someone says that they really do mean offense ) but I can see why Maggie hates that uniform. And I only saw the shoes, socks and skirts. Having spent 5 years in private schools, she has my sympathy. Completely. But it’s not my sympathy which gives this cover a 3/5 rating. It’s all the spy terms that are subtly written. Espionage, mole, spy, detective, double agent… as Maggie would say.’ Not beige’. Definitely gives the cover some originality And that’s why the cover gets the (somewhat) salvageable score of 3/5. 3 marks for the cool words.  5 marks off for everything else.

Seriously, you should compare these two and since Also Known As was released later (2013) than I’d Tell You I Love But Then I’d Have To Kill You (2006), I’m going to have to say Also Known As is the knockoff.

Plot: 3/5

Which is more dangerous: being an international spy… or surviving high school?

Maggie Silver has never minded her unusual life. Cracking safes for the world’s premier spy organization and traveling the world with her insanely cool parents definitely beat high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. (If it’s three digits, why bother locking it at all?)

But when Maggie and her parents are sent to New York City for her first solo assignment, her world is transformed. Suddenly, she’s attending a private school with hundreds of “mean girl” wannabes, trying to avoid the temptation to hack the school’s elementary security system, and working to befriend the aggravatingly cute son of a potential national security threat… all while trying not to blow her cover.

From the hilarious and poignant author of Audrey, Wait! comes a fast-paced caper that proves that even the world’s greatest spies don’t have a mission plan for love.

Yep, it definitely looks a little cheesy but doesn’t everyone like cheese? This was a super cute read and the little snippets of technical know-how on safecracking and spying that were slipped in made me feel like this was not a huge waste of my time. Not that I know how to pick a lock or anything…Nope, not at all. 

Characters:3/5

In these kind of books, it’s the narrator’s voice that can make it or break it. And in this case it was definitely make it. Robin Benway gave Maggie a quirky, sarcastic and witty style of speaking/thinking. You know how some authors make their characters (espescially in young adult novels) a whiny voice so that the narrating voice isn’t monotonous or flat? Yeah, this author doesn’t. She’s a drama queen but not whiny. Another thing that middle aged authors don’t seem to get? Despite what our text messgaes look like, we teenagers do not exclusively speak in abbreviations. We don’t say stuff like ‘brb asap ttyl bff’. And Robin Benway understands that. Or at least his characters do. 

I have a bone to pick with the parents in this story. Other than having a couple of cute lines and worrying themselves sick about their daughter, they barely seem to exist. I mean, hello, they’re supposed to be spies. Couldn’t they have done a little more than sit at home doing  crossword puzzles and discouraging their daughter from having friends? Couldn’t they, you know, actually hack? Or use their impressive language skills to do more than scold their daughter and make nice with her french teacher?

But other than the parents, we have a pretty cool, diverse cast in this book. Angelo, a retired forger and a elegant and calm man plays the role of god-father/ best friend for Maggie. Wanna know what’s so cool about that? He’s a LGBT. Bu what impresses me most about him? His Yoda like advice.

Roux is a lot like the MC and maybe that’s why they both get along well. They’re both sarcastic, quirky and outcasts. Maggie’s an outcast by virtue of being the ‘new kid’ and Roux’s one because she cheated on her ex-best friend. Roux has a lot of interesting dialogues (both while she’s drunk and sober). She has a way of ingratiating herself with everyone even though it would seem her boisterous and blunt personality should take away from that instead of contributing to it.

Jesse started off with a less than spectacular introduction. We/Maggie learns that he shoplifted a book. Worse (for Maggie at least), he got caught. In fact, I think she makes some remark about how meeting his golden retriever would probably be the best part of having to befriend him. But her opinion quickly changes after he helps her take the very drunk Roux back home. She realises he’s actually a  sweet and nice guy and not just a rebel-without-a-cause.

Romance:4/5

The romance is sooo adorable. The couple often has their awkward moments. But who gets texting and phoning etiquettes right on their first try? There was something easy and natural about their relationship (once you get past the fact that she met him solely because he was her assignment). There’s a slow, sweet pace to their relationship. You know, the whole friends and then more than friends thing?  I love, love, love how their conversations go. Definitely one of my favorite YA pairings.

Ending:2/5

This is something I’m not a fan of. It wrapped up too neatly with everyone finding out the villain was shot and that everything was okay. Also, I was annoyed that the villain shifted in the middle. All of the family conflict that would have been inevitable had it really been Jesse’s dad was avoided. What a copout!

Also, I was really annoyed with the epilogue. I mean it’s nice that the whole family stayed in New York for Maggie’s sake but it’s pretty unrealistic.

Plotholes: 2/5

Not a fan of the limited role of certain adults (ahem, Maggies’ parent’s I’m looking at you). Nor was I fan of the ending. Or the epilogue. 

Overall Rating:3/5

It was a sweet and cute read with quirky, interesting dialogue and cool characters but it was nothing really special. This is more of a beach read than anything else. Nothing thought-provoking or profound in here but it was a fun read while it lasted.

Unwind: A Book Review

Book: Unwind (Unwind dystology #1)

Author/Authoress: Neal Shusterman

Unwind (Unwind, #1)

Cover: 4/5

Right away the cover sets the tone for this book. Creepy, disturbing and dark. Just looking at the cover gave me chills. However, for those for you who are worried, the book is not as ghastly as the cover implies. The characters are very human. It’s just the world they’re placed into that is disturbing. One thing I love about the cover: the fingerprint identation. Identity is a major aspect of this book and what better way to represent that then by a fingerprint?

Plot:5/5

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

Yes the plot is actually as creepy as it sounds.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman is a novel about a world gone insane (to a frightening degree) in which children between the ages of thirteen and eighteen can be legally signed over by their parents or guardians to be put through a harvest camp so that others can take their organs, tissue and blood. Yes, you heard me. Organ harvestation camps.

In these camps, ‘problematic’ children and tithes (people who are brought up for the express purpose of being donors) have all of their organs harvested (or at least 99.44%) so that they can be reused. To make this world even more screwed up, transplants are pretty common in the world. You have less than stellar vision? No problem, you don’t need to get glasses. Glasses are so pointless when you can just get a new eye. Going bald? Ouch! you better cover that spot up soon. You can always use the lustrous locks of some poor teen.

“I’d rather be partly great than entirely useless.”

This is what a boy about to be unwound says. And it reflects pretty well what society seems to think. Entirely useless children have no real place in it. They are more valuable in parts than as a whole.

So what’s the history behind the organ camps? Well apparently there was something called the Heartland Wars in which people fought over the issue of the legality and morality of abortion. The verdict? Abortion is illegal when the child is a foetus but you can always have all of their organs harvested while they are  between the ages of 13 and 18. How’s that for morality? And if you just can’t wait to get rid of the child, you could always use the ‘storking’ method. People can leave infants on other people’s doorstep and thus legally handing over their responsibilities of the child. And they’ll be forced to take it in. Perfectly legal and moral. As long as you don’t get caught of course. The problem is usually the storked families don’t want the infant anyways.

Anyways, as much as the plot creeps me out, you can see the sheer potential Neal Shusterman has created in this world. And he doesn’t disappoint. This book is crazy good in a creepy sort of way.

Characters: 5/5

The book is told in multiple POV’s. Thus, giving us a good feel for the thoughts and emotions of each character. I’ll write about them in chronological order.

Connor: He’s a troubled teen. Not particularly good but not particularly bad. He’s not vicious, spiteful or difficult. But he has quite a temper, goes looking for trouble and mostly lazy.  But his parents are also lazy and selfish. Bought in by all the unwinding-is-good propaganda, they sign him up to be unwound. And this is where the story starts. Understandably, Connor is not really into the idea. So he runs away in the middle of the night. He’s tracked by a Cop. To get away from him, he uses Levi as a hostage.

Lev is a tithe, a child born and raised to be signed off as an Unwind as soon as he turns thirteen. There’s no polite way to say this. But Lev is … brainwashed. His oldest brother is vehemently against the process, but his deeply religious parents have convinced Lev that being tithed is a great honor that he must follow through to the end. And Lev is not happy that the end will come later rather than sooner.

Disturbed by the chaos of an AWOL Unwound holding a tithe as hostage, Risa makes a plan to escape. She’s a ward of the state whose piano playing skills weren’t enough for her to make the cut. The budget cuts. And so she is signed up to be unwound. Unsurprisingly this doesn’t fit in well with her ambitons.

When these three meet, they make a plan to stay off the radar of the Cops (in the book the cops incharge are called juvenile authorities) who plan to take them to the harvestation camp (Okay, Risa and Connor do.)  Lev, who feels he was deprived of the purpose and honour of giving up his life, gives them up but immediately feels remorseful (frankly, that part really annoyed me). Thankfully, all three of them escape (there wouldn’t be much of a story if they didn’t). Risa and Connor end up in the basement of a safe house and Levi ends up in the company of an interesting kid called CyFi who suffers from something like dual personality because half of his brain was a transplant from another kid.

In the basement of the safe house Risa and Connor end up in the company of several children. One of them is Hayden. His parents divorced but were unable to decide who received custody. In pure spite, each of them signed the papers agreeing to let Hayden be unwound so that the other wouldn’t get custody. Talk about priorities. Another is Raymond. Raymond is a violent, psychopath who attacks Risa in an effort to get to Connor. He’s also a traitor. But even he doesn’t deserve the fate he receives. He’s unwound at Happy Jack Camp (that name is revolting, isn’t it?). That chapter is one of the most disgusting, horrifying scenes I’ve read. Scratch that. It is the most horrifying scene I’ve read. I almost puked. His unwinding takes place with him strapped to a table, conscious and under anaesthesia. The whole time, a nurse talks to him and warns him that he’ll lose ability and feeling in each of his limbs as they get harvested. Definitely not a scene for the faint hearted.

All three main characters grow and change so much in this book. Connor becomes responsible and trustworthy. He starts thinking before he acts (Risa’s influence no doubt). But his rough around the edges personality never truly goes away. Risa is the character who changes the least. She was never naïve, but I think her experience makes her a little jaded. Still she remains clever and full of life throughout the book. Holy Hell! does Lev change a lot? It was heart breaking to see him go from annoying little tithe to angry suicidal bomber to loyal and regretful friend. I predict that Lev’s a character to be watched throughout the series.

Romance:5/5

The romance in this book was like a little sidenote to the whole story. But you should feel assured that it was a good sidenote. The romance between Risa and Connor was sweet and intense but it didn’t take over the entire story like romance tends to do in most dystopian novels. Hello, Divergent or The Hunger Games? The character were willing and able to put the needs and necessities of other Unwinds before their own romance. And thank god each thought of theirs wasn’t nauseatingly sweet thoughts about the other.

Ending: 5/5

On a scale of 1-5 for cliffhangers, I’d put the book at about 2.5. The ending was pretty bitter sweet with each character having lost stuff important to them. <spoiler> Risa loses the use of her legs, Connor loses his arm and it gets replaced by an organ from an Unwind (which is something he feels is morally irreprehensible) and Lev gets put in jail trapped in a suit which doesn’t allow him to move at all. </spoiler>

Plotholes:5/5

This book really makes you think. It’s the type of dystopian book which has quite a few political undertones (and overtones too). I mean, pro-life or pro-choice- that’s quite a difficult decision to make. Maybe that’s why it’s so sensitive.

It speaks about identity and at points it even gets a little spiritual. Like if you are divided into parts and not really dead, would your soul disappear or would it just be spread. After reading this book you’ll practically be forced to deliberate on topics like morality and ethics of organ harvestation and how much control parents/guardians should really have.

Overall Rating: 5/5

It’s rare enough for me to give one book a 5/5 rating but two in a row? The sky must have fallen. But Unwind deserves this rating. Deep, interesting and unique characters, a twisting and new plotline. Plus it really makes you think. I’d recommend this book to everyone over the age of 13 because there is one chapter that is particularly revolting (Raymond’s unwinding). That chapter is not terribly descriptive but it is the stuff of nightmares, so beware.

 

Hate List: A Book Review

People hate. That’s our reality.

Book: Hate List

Author/Authoress: Jennifer Brown

Hate List

Cover: 4/5

It’s different. But I like it. I don’t usually go for covers that have so few shades in them (black grey and one colour- blue) but for some reason I like this cover. I think it may have to do with the fact that the cover is the kind of art the main character Valarie would appreciate. It’s the kind of art that she would draw herself. The cover represents confusion, grief and just a little bit of depression. All three of which are in the book

Plot:5/5

“You may not have pulled the trigger, but you helped cause the tragedy.”

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

The plot is amazing. I’m serious. I have never read anything like this. Maybe part of the reason this book is so good is because of the narrator. Jennifer chose a girl who was close to the shooter and partially responsible (in everyone’s eyes) for the shooting. Not only does this book focus on the tragedy, but it also focuses on the aftermath. After all,  who could be a more compelling narrator than the girl who dated the shooter and inspired him to start the shooting but was completely horrified by the shooting and willing to sacrifice herself to stop it? This book is powerful and thought-provoking. How exactly is guilt doled out and who deserves it? It also deals with major issues like suicidal tendencies, forgiveness and bullying.

Characters:4/5

This book had a really strong set of characters. The setting jumps back and forth between the actual shooting, pre-shooting and the aftermath. Valerie was a good narrator who was able to really bring out the character of her parents, ex and friends through flashbacks. Her guilt is the most overpowering emotion in the novel. Her trust in herself is shaken and she wonders how she didn’t see it coming.

The relationship between Valeries’s parents is strained and their relationship with Valerie is also somewhat strained. Her father, who was kind of an absentee after the divorce, becomes even more distant after the shooting. He blames her for starting the shooting and in the process not only ending several lives but ruining his.

“We drove on in silence, Dad shaking his head in disgust every few minutes. I stared at him, wondering how it was we got to this place. How the same man who held his infant daughter and kissed her tiny face could one day be so determined to shut her out of his life, out of his heart. How, even when she reacyhed out to him in distress – Please, Dad, come get me, come save me – all he could do was accuse her. How that same daughter could look at him and feel nothing but contempt and blame and resentment, because that’s all that radiated off of him for so many years and it had become contagious.”

Yeah, not a nice guy at all. Her mother on the other hand blames herself. A part of her keeps wondering if it was partially her fault that Valerie got involved in the shooting and with Nick at all. She constantly worries for Valeries mental health, fearing suicidal tendencies. And you can tell how much her mom’s opinion counts for Valerie by her reaction when she realises that her mother is no longer only tries to protect her from being hurt by the outside world, but also to protect the outside world from being hurt by Valerie. The psychiatrist is the most important adult character in this book. He gives Valerie the courage to move on past her guilt and start living her life. Throughout the book he’s supportive and offers little tokens of advice. Her crazy, whimsical, eccentric art teacher plays a similar role in the book and teaches Valerie to express her emotions.

The high school students in this book are immensely complex too. There’s Jessica, the ex-bully who’ life Valerie saved. She makes a conscious effort to reach out to Valerie throughout the book. I think she’s the only one in the entire novel who doesn’t blame Valerie for the shooting at all.  At one point in the book she wonders if she had tried being nicer to Nick, would the whole chain reaction of events leading to the tragedy have been stopped?

But I think the character who walks away with the prize for the most complex character is Nick. Everyone is surprised when he turns up at school with a gun in hand. No one ever thought he was violent. But one day he snaps and takes the list that he and his girlfriend of people they hated. And he tries shooting everyone on it.

The violent persona we keep hearing about juxtaposes with Valerie’s memorise of Nick. She makes an effort to differentiate between the violent, shooter Nick and her Nick. Her Nick is the kind of guy who purposely lost to let her win, was obsessed with death and even more obsessed with Shakespeare. She wonders where the two started to blend. At the end she and Nick’s best friend conclude that they didn’t know when he decided to shoot up the school because Nick himself never knew.

Ending:3/5

Yeah, I’ve come up with a new section to put in my reviews. Over here I’ll tell you what I think about the ending and I’ll give you fair warning if there’s a cliffhanger. So, since this is not a series obviously there is no cliffhanger. That being said I feel that everything wraps up too perfectly at the end. The parents of the victims forgive her, most of the students forgive her, her friends forgive her and she forgives herself. And she decides to take a trip. Everything feels a little…overdone. Like this is the kind of story that you can say The End for.

 

Plotholes:5/5

Like always, Jennifer Brown can takes ensitive subjects like domestic violence, mental disabilities and terrorism amongst youth and present it tastefully without insulting anyone. There’s a strong anti-bullying sentiment in this novel (just like in most of her books). Thought provoking and profound, Hate List is the kind of book who’s message you cannot hate.

Overall Rating:5/5

Okay, it was actually a 4.75 but I decided to round it up. Why? Because this book is awesome and awful at the same time. This book made me cry a lot. I mean A LOT. The ugly I-can’t-stop-and-why-did-this-have-to-happen variety.  That’s what I mean by awful. But at the same time it was awesome too. I mean if it wrenched that many tears out of me, it means I seriously did have to care about the characters and the events taking place in the book.  This book is an intensely emotional and profound read. It is definitely one book that every middle schooler, high schooler and adult needs to read. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it has replaced Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell as my favourite contemporary YA.

This Song Will Save Your Life:A Book Review

Book: This Song Will Save Your Life

Author/Authoress: Leila Sales

This Song Will Save Your Life

Cover: 3/5

An ordinary girl wearing huge headphones (on closer inspection, I realized that they’re the type that DJ’s wear) and glasses (which everyone somehow manages to connect to geeks) is featured on the cover. And, I guess it makes sense. I’m more annoyed with the huge title and how it manages to take up 95% of the cover. Besides I don’t really like the pink letters which spell out love- which is not the main premise of the story.

Characters:5/5

Elise, the main character, has spent her entire childhood knowing that she’s different. Maybe even weird. And she’s been ostracized for it. This book deals with bullying at a primal level. It deals with the desire to fit in and to have friends. And everything about this book is spot on. I really felt for Elise as she explained her reasoning to spend an entire summer learning how to be ‘cool’. How she spent exorbitant amounts of clothes and  researched and memorized  pop culture. At the same time I sort of wanted to shake her and ask her ‘Why the hell do you want to pretend to be someone your not?’ And the funny thing is, Elise answered my question perfectly. She wasn’t hoping for a miracle-to become popular. All she wanted was to fit in, find a group of friends and NOT be ostracized. Unfortunately, she manages to mess that up in school leading her to attempt suicide. She goes as far as to make a ‘dying’ playlist and slash her wrists before realizing she really does want to live and that this was just a call for attention. And it does give her attention. Negative attention from her parents and worse from the people at school. Someone starts writing a parody blog in her name about why she was so desperate to kill herself. She spends most of the book regretting her actions and wishing she could take it back and wondering if some parts of the blog are actually true. The other parts of the book she spends establishing herself at a club. Her love for music initially helps her to fit in but she soon learns that it’s her personality which helps her to make friends. And she learns that she has a huge talent for DJing. The fact that she was able to take her passion, music and become an amazing DJ was a huge inspration to me personally. I’d like to think that we’re all just talented enough to do what we love even if we’re much younger than traditionally expected. I think all of us can identify a little bit with Elise’s character, either to a greater or smaller extent. I’d  strongly suggest you read Emily May’s review of this book.  She’s explained Elise’s character much more eloquently and with more feeling than I ever could have.

I love Elise’s friends too.  Vicky is the practical, bubbly girl who plays in a band, Pippa is the partying wild child and Char is a mysterious, professional DJ. All of these characters were three dimensional. They were real people who had real lives. Another thing I loved was the fact that just having friends didn’t make Elise’s life perfect. Sure, they made her life easier but ultimately Elise was the star of her show. They don’t know about Elise’s harsh past which makes their connections plenty times stronger and a hundred times more believable.

Elise’s family was perfect too. Her parents are divorced and not particularly good terms with each other but both of them are very supportive of Elise. You can see the love and affection that binds them all together.  From the crazy, animal-pretending,over-achieving-carbon copy of her older sister, younger sister to her dad who used to be in a band, they really do support each other.

Plot:5/5

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together

Personally, I loved this book. And I have to say, Leila Sales gets kudos points for developing this plot. Parts of it were sad, parts of it were profound and parts of it were fun. But all of it was realistic. If I were to ever write a book, I’d like to keep this one as a yardstick to measure it against.

Romance:5/5

The romance was the slow ‘we became more than friends’ type and I loved it for that fact. Char and Elise’s romance was a complicated thing and it was beautiful while it lasted but it was riddled with problems. First of all, there was the age gap. Elise was 16 while Char was in his 20’s. Not to mention, his reluctance to give away the details of his non-DJ life.  Then, there was the fact that Elise found Char insensitive at times. And that her friend, Pippa was in love with him. When you look at all of these things, it’s not really surprising that they broke up. Although that’s not the reason Elise focused on. Elise felt that Char was happy with her only as long as she fit into the mould of the girl he wanted her to be. As soon as she became a more successful and popular DJ than him, he couldn’t see himself with her anymore. I can’t judge whether this was the main reason they broke up or not since the whole book was in Elise’s point of view but it definitely was a contributing factor. But Char somewhat redeemed himself towards the end when he wished her good luck for her debut as a real Friday night DJ. First loves rarely last but they are sweet as long as they do.

Overall Rating:4.75/5

You need to read this book as soon as possible. It’s beautiful and profound with an interesting MC and a great set of secondary characters. There are some books which stay with you forever and This Song Will Save Your Life is definitely one of them. I’ve already read it thrice and I expect I’ll read it several more times. It’s definitely ‘classic’ material.