My thoughts on YA dystopia

“I tuck caution into my pocket and hope I can reach for it if I need to.”
― Tahereh Mafi

You know what the Hunger Games, the Giver and Unwind all have in common? Though it’s tempting to say insanely limiting governance, it’s more (or perhaps, less) than that. They’re all dystopia.

Dystopia covers a pretty broad spectrum of things. In young adult fiction, there’s Mindy McGinnis’ Not a Drop to Drink where there’s no governance, just an acute scarcity of water and too many people who’re willing to kill for it. There’s also Red Rising, which is somehow science fiction and fantasy and dystopia combined. My point is it’s hard to figure out what the common identifying feature is.

Personally, I believe it isn’t dystopia without the bleak sense that things are bad (and that they’re just going to get worse) . It’s about people feeling trapped and powerless. It doesn’t have to be about a government; It doesn’t have to be the apocalypse, even.

Imagine you’re in a car that’s sitting in a ditch. You turn on the ignition and the wheels turn, throwing up a cloud of dust. There’s this whiny noise like the wheels already know their effort is futile.
When you turn off the engine, you’re even more stuck in the rut. This is the attitude of most of the characters in a dystopian novel. They’ve seen efforts to make things better, and they’re convinced it won’t work. So, they just sit in their cars which are in ditches.

For most people, it’s not hard to learn, to find a pattern of thought that works and stay that way.

– Veronica Roth, Divergent

Then- behold! There comes a dashing young hero (or heroine) who was born in the stuck car (yikes! my metaphor is getting really stretched here). She’s grown up in the stuck car and so she’s bitter, deprived and cynical. In a word, she’s completely “ordinary”.  But she sees something ahead of the ditch. Maybe it’s an ice-cream truck passing by on the road. So, she along with a group of sidekicks and love-interests loyal, talented friends come up with a contraption to save the day. They pull the car out of the ditch with the help of sheer will power held together by scotch tape (it’s magical, you know). The ending goes something like: Everyone lives happily ever after (except for the few that got squished underneath the car).

“Hope. It’s the only thing stronger than fear.”

-Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire

I get why dystopia is attractive. I really do. There’s something intoxicating about a person who is close to normal stepping up to save the world. It’s lovely to read a bleak, depressing book and think “Man, we sure have it better than they do.”

Image result for dystopia

From a Georgia Tech blog. Ironically enough, it’s graffiti.

But right now, most dystopia is not my cup of tea. I can’t justify reading something so profoundly unhappy and bitter when the world isn’t even close to perfect. I’ve moved on from the point where pissed-off and bitter characters seem more like children to me than kindred souls. Those are just excuses. Let me muster up some courage to tell you, I just don’t get it anymore.
I don’t know if it’s because the sudden flooding of dystopian books have cured me of my liking or if I just grew out of it naturally.

Do I hate dystopia? No, that’s like saying I despise hope. Or that I can’t take pleasure in misery. I totally can. It just has to be really high-caliber hope and despair.

<Evil cackle>

Half Wild: A Book Review

“The point of being good is doing it when it’s tough, not when it’s easy.”

Book: Half Wild (Half Bad #2)

Author: Sally Green

Half Wild (The Half Bad Trilogy, #2)

Blurb:

“You will have a powerful Gift, but it’s how you use it that will show you to be good or bad.”

In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, seventeen-year-old Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most powerful and violent witch. Nathan is hunted from all sides: nowhere is safe and no one can be trusted. Now, Nathan has come into his own unique magical Gift, and he’s on the run–but the Hunters are close behind, and they will stop at nothing until they have captured Nathan and destroyed his father.

My Thoughts:

This book is like taffy; It’s a bit tough in the beginning  but it sticks to your teeth.
Weird description, but it holds true. I  promise. 🙂

In the first book, I felt sorry for Nathan. In that book, he was a child. Prosecuted, abused, frightened, eager to make the world like him. Nathan was the child locked away in the attic that you cry for. The poor little kicked puppy trying to so damn hard to be perfect. It was impossible to hate him- I could see why he wanted his family to accept him. But at the same time, it was impossible to be impressed by him.

In this one, he’s evolved. He isn’t a child any more; if I had to put him into an age group, I’d say angry teen who belongs to a gang. He’s come to terms with the fact that there’s a rift between Black witches and White witches. He’s no longer bright-eyed, bushy-tailed- believing that if he’s quiet enough, sweet enough, good enough- the White witches will stop judging him for the deaths that his Father caused. He’s jaded and angsty. He’s violent, less likely to look for ‘painless’ solutions. He’s turned into a serious badass (complete with missing finger) and he’s stopped trying to impress the Whites (well, except for Annalise but I’ll get annoyed about that later).

Now, here’s what I really hated about the book: Annalise and Nathan’s obsessive quest to save her. Oh! Annalise with the soft white skin and blue eyes. Oh! Annalise who’s a helpless, judgemental little twerp. Oh! Annalise- who I just can’t seem to appreciate but Nathan had to spend the first quarter of the book rhapsodising about. Oh! Annalise I am so tired of hearing about you.
<Spoiler> She betrays Nathan to the white witches at the end and I’m almost glad because, finally he realises that he’s idolised her, </spoiler>

One unique thing about this book: I have the feeling that the pretty girl will be replaced  as the love interest by the capable gay guy. That makes the protaganist bi-sexual (and a bit confused in the interim). No, I’m not making up weird slash fanfiction plots; <spoiler> Nathan does kiss Gabriel </spoiler>.  I really hope it ends up this way. I adore Gabriel. I loved the Nathan/ Gabriel dynamics when they were friends and I saw those dynamics shift (the dynamics are still as  beautiful) in this book.

“I can’t not be with you, Nathan. I wanted to leave you in that grave and walk away but I couldn’t. I can’t walk ten paces away from you without it hurting me. I treasure every second with you. Every second. More than you know.”

This was a pretty good middle book for the series. It carried along the plot further, made the relationships more interesting and elaborated on the history of the world.
Obviously, if you haven’t read Half Bad yet, you should start with that one. Also, if you’re wondering if Half Lies is worth springing for, (It’s a short story about Gabriel’s sister. She was a Black Witch who fell in love with a White Witch and when she was captured, the White Witches executed her.)  it definitely is.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

 

 

Red Rising: A Book Review

Book: Red Rising

Author: Pierce Brown

Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy, #1)

Blurb:

The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity’s last hope.

Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.

My thoughts:

Any sci-fi fans out there? Any dystopian fans?
If you’re anyone of these, you’re going to love this book.
With absolutely no emphasis placed on worldbuilding (despite the amazing and complicated world that Pierce has created) you’re going to be thrown in head-first, just like Darrow is.
What happens when you find out that your whole world- no, your whole universe is a lie?
If you’re Darrow, then you infiltrate the upper echelons of the liars to bring out their hypocrisy and to snag their power. And you lie your ass off.

After his wife is executed, the only thing Darrow wants is revenge. The Sons of Ares transform him physically from a lowly Red to an upper-caste Gold. As he enters an institution to turn Gold born children into war-machines, space ship commanders and all-around masters of the universe, he’s thrown into a very dangerous game (modelled after life) where he’s forced to kill, to lead and to betray.

And as he forms strong friendships with his enemies-the Gold, he struggles with his own identity.
His own sense of communism is offended by how many liberties he and his friends take- but at the same time, he knows these liberties are the only things which allow him to survive.

This book deals with people. How to lead people, how to betray people and how to trick people. Darrow is a strong main character prone to flashes of anger and somewhat naïve at the beginning. The supporting characters- his wife, Mustang, Trey, Julian, Caleb, Roque, etc. are fleshed out character with real ambitions, real friendship and real betrayals.

The writing in this book is stupendous. Sometimes crude, sometimes flowery- always powerful.

Pick this book up and you’ll have 382 pages of action, violence and drama.
This dystopia is better than the Hunger Games and more exhilarating than Divergent. Read it.

Overall Rating: 4/5


Quotables:

“Funny thing, watching gods realize they’ve been mortal all along.”

“ ‘I live for the dream that my children will be born free. That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.’
‘I live for you,’ I say sadly.
She kisses my cheek. ‘Then you must live for more.’ ”

“Personally, I do not want to make you a man. Men are so very frail. Men break. Men die. No, I’ve always wished to make a god.”

“Promises are just chains,” she rasps. “Both are meant for breaking.”

Young Elites: A Book Review

Book: Young Elites

Author: Marie Lu

The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1)

Blurb:

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

My thoughts:

I thought the Legend series by Marie Lu was okay at best so I wasn’t too excited when I heard about Young Elites. That quickly changed after I read the blurb and an interview with Marie Lu saying that she wanted to write about the creation of a villain.

description

Right from the start, Adelina stole my heart (and I was a willing victim).  She’s deformed and is abused by her father who is willing to sell her off as a mistress for a little bit of gold. It’s impossible not to feel any sympathy for her but at the same time Marie Lu has done an excellent job showing Adelina’s dark hatred and her desire to inflict pain, making it obvious that she is no hero. This is made only more obvious when Adelina buckles quickly under Teren’s threats against her sister Violetta to give him information about the Young Elites. I got caught up in this wondorously complex character who likes causing pain but at the same time despises herself for enjoying it. She hates her father but at the same time she really wanted to please him and I think she really did regret committing patricide. This probably makes me sound like a twisted person, but I enjoyed watching Adelina descend the steps towards insanity and darkness. I hoped for her redemption, but at the same time I knew she was never gonna get it.

Adelina’s relationship with Violetta was one of my favourite book sibling relationships. Adelina resents her sister’s naivety and innocence and is clearly jealous of Violetta’s charisma.  Combined with Adelina’s sadistic tendencies, you’d think that Adelina would do her best to hurt her sister. Surprise! She’s fiercely protective of her sister and constantly thinks about her well-being.  Violetta is one of the few people Adelina loves unconditonally and she would do anything (and everything) to keep her safe and happy. Later in the book, it’s revealed that Violetta has a huge secret. I can’t tell you what it is without giving major spoilers but I can tell you that Adelina’s love for her sister is not unrepriocated; Violetta does her best to keep her elder sister safe as well.

Contrary to what the blurb suggest, there is not a love triangle. In fact, the romance plays a smaller role than you would expect. I was not a huge fan of the love interest, Enzo. Sure, he was dark, dangerous, royal and mysterious but his coldness at the beginning of the book kind of put me off and I wasn’t a fan of the tough training he imposed on Adelina. But I guess I’m kind of a hypocrite because during reading, I found myself anticipating the Adelina/Enzo scenes; they had an explosive amount of  chemistry .

So if the book wasn’t full of romance, what was it full of? Action. Swords, knives and control of powers.Not just quantity but quality too. I loved  watching Adelina use her powers (even if I was somewhat creeped out at the same time). Marie Lu did an amazing job giving a description of the working of everyone’s powers and the energy web. Can I just say- Wow!

On a more serious note, the book spends a huge time discussing how the scary appearance of malfettos (those are the young elites) bred first contempt and then fear amongst the society. It got worse when the government started using them as a scrapegoat for all sorts of mishaps and accidents. Stuck among a society which openly discriminated against them and reviled them, the young elites struck back with attacks. And then it continued in a pointless circle (see what I did there?) which just kept escalating. Pretty profound actually, if you think about it. I guess it reminds us not to hate people just cause they look different, or act different.

This book doesn’t have much of a storyline but I found myself enjoying it just the same. It was all thanks to the elaborate world-building and awesome characters. At parts it got kind of dark and disturbing and I didn’t always like it but as a whole I loved the book.

My Ratings:

Cover: 2/5

Plot: 2/5

Characters: 4/5

Romance: 4/5

Action: 5/5

Plotholes: 4/5

Ending: 3/5

Overall Rating: 4/5

Recommend it to: Anyone who wants to read something dark set in an amazing world with powerful characters. At the same time, all the reasons to read this book make it PG 13.

Book similar to this: Cruel Beauty, The Masque of Red Death and Pure

5 YA Books You Need to Read (Even If You Are An Adult)

There are a lot of people who say they don’t like Young Adult fiction. Maybe they think it’s too childish- that everything’s over-explained, that it’s overdramatic and over-exaggerated. But that’s ’cause they’re reading all the wrong books. Here are 5 YA books which you will love even if you’re against the whole genre (at the moment.)

1.)

Book: On the Jellicoe Road
Author/Authoress: Melina Marchetta

On the Jellicoe Road

Blurb: Im dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago.

Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs – the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.

And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor’s only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother – who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.

Why you need to read it:
Forget John Green. If you want real, pure, strong emotions, a realistic YA about growing up with amazing dialogues and a lovely romance– you need to read this book. This is definitely not just a book for teens. Of course, it can be read by teens as well but On the Jellicoe Road actually has a very sophisticated subject matter.The book deals with abandonment, responsibility, learning to depend on others and moving forward even while remembering the past. But what really stole my heart is the writing; the way the story is told is simply stunning.
Each and every character was multi-faceted and 3-dimensional.There’s Taylor, who suffers from abandonment and authority issues but is still given the enormous responsibility of leading her school in the rivalry against the Cadets and Townies. And then there’s Jonah who killed his own father and owes Taylor more than she knows. I can’t say much more about the characters without unravelling parts of this amazing story. And trust me, trying to figure out how everybody’s past is connected to each other’s is part of the reading experience. Just trust me on this- All of the characters had powerful, important, utterly moving back stories. And somehow, Melina Marchetta managed to expertly wind them together so that at the end we have a bunch of puzzle pieces that fall together perfectly to create a mind-blowing book.


 2.)
Author/Authoress: Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor & Park
Blurb: Two misfits. One extraordinary love.
Eleanor
… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.
Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
Why you need to read it: 
I’m never sure if I really love this book or hate this book. But I do know that this book is unforgettable.
Why I love it: I love the characters. I love how they’re so relatable even though (and maybe because of this) they are both misfits. And even though you’d never think the combo would work, I love how the big (in both personality and size), loud, red-headed,tough, loner Eleanor fits with popular (superficially at least), generally good and happy Park. I love the way they encourage each other and help each other with their problems. I love how they react when they learn something new about the other’s life, especially when it’s so unfamiliar to them. And I love the way they’re able to find common links and similarities with each other even when they seem so, so unlike. But what I really love about this book are the things Eleanor and Park say to  each other. The things they say… Oh my God!…they’re  simultaneously sweet, uplifting,heartbreaking and bitter-sweet. But at the same time, they simply reek of honesty and whenever they say something truly profound, you can tell they truly mean it. 
Why I hate it : I hate how this book is able to wring so many tears out of my eyes. I hate how I can’t read another book set in this time period without subconsciously referring to this one. And I hate the sad, unfinished feel of this book. The ending is perhaps the most heartbreaking one I’ve read. There are no happy ever afters in this book; Only an ending which we all wish is unfinished but is instead unfortunately and ultimately final. I wanted to rage and scream at the ending because Eleanor and Park deserved so much more. In fact, even though it probably detracts from the story, I wrote up my own Happy Ever After for them (which, trust me is serious business since I’m normally against happy endings in books).


3.)
Book: The Giver
Author/Authoress: Lois Lowry
The Giver (The Giver #1)
Blurb: Jonas’ world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.
Why you need to read it: 
This book is a freaking classic. I’m serious. We could wait our whole lives for a YA dystopian book this good. Lois Lowry is a genius who created a creepy world that’s oddly enthralling. Just imagine it- everything that makes life painful and unhappy…hunger war, pain, negative emotions- gone as if they never existed. But along with it, everything that makes life, life – contentment, happiness,love- they would all be gone. Along with choices and free will and the ability to make decisions. The themes in this book are so strong and so profound and perfect. This is the kind of book you can read over and over again and get something new out of it every time.I read the book for the first time when I was in fourth-grade and I’ve read it 3 times since. And without fail, I find a new piece of symbolism hidden somewhere deep inside the book that makes me look at the whole story with new eyes.

4.)

Author/Authoress: Neal Shusterman
Unwind (Unwind, #1)
 Blurb: Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.
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.
Why you need to read it:
I am a huge fan of this book! HUGE! Here’s what I can really say about this book: It’s the kind of book which makes you think. Set in a crazy world where abortion is illegal but organ harvesting of teenager’s isn’t, this dystopian book has quite a few political undertones; the biggest issue in the book being pro-life or pro-choice. It speaks about identity and at points it even gets a little spiritual. For example,  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.
The characters in this book were truly amazing. Neal Shusterman is a genius for creating such realistic characters that grow and change throughout the book. Each of them had a distinct voice, so for the first time ever- I didn’t completely hate the idea of having more than two POV’s in a book. If you have the time, then let me convince you to read this book right away. Read my review of it here.


Author/Authoress: Elizabeth Wein
Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity, #1)
Blurb: Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.
When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.
As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?
A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in The New York Times, Code Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.
Why you need to read this book:
Whatever you read in the blurb about history, WWII, fighter planes and torture – you need to know that they’re not important. Okay, they are pretty important (in real life and this story) but most of that won’t matter to you much by the time you’re halfway through the story. Because as soon as Maddie enters the picture, the story of Verity’s and Maddie’s friendship will completely blow you away. This is one of the best friendship I’ve ever encountered in a YA book. Both of them look up to each other and will do anything and everything to keep each other safe.The phrase “Kiss me Hardy. Kiss me, quick” may sound totally innocuous to you now, but after reading this book, you won’t be able to say that sentence without spontaneously bursting into tears.
 But that’s not the only aspect of the book that completely wowed me. Something that I see authors and filmmakers struggle with is how to portray a strong, kick-ass female who can hang with the boys and still retain her femininity. Elizabeth Wein has no such problems doing so. I have looked high and low but have never seen such an amazing interpretation of a ‘strong but feminine woman’.
After reading this book, I stared at the book for almost 5 minutes in shock. This book makes you feel so much; It will tire you out emotionally and leave you at a loss for words. Consider me awed.

So if you’re an adult who’s not really into YA but has been coerced/begged/threatened into giving it a chance, you should pick up one of these books so you can join us happy campers on the YA bandwagon. If you’re already into YA fiction and are hoping for something mature, emotional and basically amazing to read then you should also pick up one of these books.

Which book would you put on this list?

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.

 

The Darkest Minds:A Book Revew

Book: The Darkest Minds

Author/Authors: Alexandra Bracken

The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds, #1)

Cover:2/5

There was nothing wrong with the cover …. But nothing really made it stand out (you would think that the orange on the cover would be like a flashing beacon, but no it actually isn’t). Combined with the fact that Disney was the publisher (I’m not really a Disney princess fan; not when they messed up the fairytales so much) , this book really didn’t look so appealing. So, I passed it up for a long time despite its good rating for other books with better covers (but inferior content). Moral of the story for publishers: Readers judge books by their covers. Moral of the story for readers: Trust your fellow readers and goodreads.com; seriously, they rarely guide you wrong.

Plot:5/5

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control. Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her-East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.

The plot in this book deserves more than 5 stars. It was attention grabbing and I’ve definitely never seen something like this before in this genre. If any such book exists, it’s a cheap knockoff (even if that book was written earlier)

Characters:5/5

The characters in this book were amazing. From Ruby, the main character to Chubs (I guess his designation is the sidekick but he was too smart for me to think of him as one) to Zu, the adorable little girl who was mentally traumatized enough into not speaking. Most books have one character (if they’re lucky) who stands out. But the awesome thing about this book is that there are many such characters.

Ruby: Ruby starts off at the beginning of the book knowing almost nothing about the world she lives in. But she has a good reason for this. Ever since she turned 10, she’s been stuck in a rehabilitiation camp (the concentration variety) because the adults are scared of her awesome super powers. So far this sounds like the plot to a cheesy comic, right? Wrong. Let’s just drive the stakes a little bit higher. Majority of the children in America had succumbed to a mysterious illness and died. The rest…developed super powers. Naturally everyone was scared. So they stuck their kids in camps which were designed to make the powers go away. That’s one brilliant thing about this book: The government and adults acted almost exactly like you would expect them to act in such a situation. However because this is dystopian fiction, the camps are horrible. The children in them are mistreated- the most dangerous ones are killed, the rest are treated brutally, not allowed to talk, forced to do hard menial labour, etc. Disturbingly,there are several parallels between the ‘rehabilitation camps’ and the Jewish concentration camps set up in Nazi Germany during WWII. But this really didn’t set in for me until Ruby tells us how her mom had told she would be allowed to shave when she was 12 but she didn’t actually do so until she was almost 16. In this book, Ruby is special because she is one of the last ‘oranges’ (that’s a code name for her power level and basically means she can mess with people’s minds- literally! ) and also dangerous for that reason. But here’s the catch: She has no idea to control her powers. Right from the beginning we can see how much her powers scare her. With one touch, she erased her best friends memory. <spoiler> somewhere in the middle we learn that she also erased her parent’s memory and in the end she erases Liam’s memory.<okay, relax spoiler’s over>. Ruby’s a good character. She’s nice without being too sugary. Scared enough without being a total coward. Powerful but not invincible and awkward enough without being cringe-worthy.

Liam: If Ruby’s a good character, than Liam is an even better one. Having come from a less notorious camp, he’s less troubled than Ruby and much nicer, sweeter and more naive for it. Liam is the kind of guy who has an actual personality. As soon as he meets her, Liam is all for travelling with Ruby. However this is not because of some twisted love-at-first-sight thing (thank god!) but more a reflection of his personality. He’s not the type of love interest whose life would revolve around his love for the MC. Ahem, Malcahi from Sanctum, I’m looking at you. No, Liam had much more going for him such as his need to help others and his  loyalty to his friend. Definitely a swoon-worthy romantic love interest.

Zu: It’s hard to learn about a character who doesn’t talk. I mean, can’t talk. Although no one ever says what, it’s implied that Zu was tortured and tested upon in the camp and was so affected she stopped speaking. Despite the fact that she doesn’t talk, it wasn’t exactly hard to learn about her. She’s a yellow (that means she can make stuff explode) but more importantly, she’s a loving little girl who’s interested in dressing up, needs a serious dose of self-confidence and fiercely loyal to her family (whether they’re related to her by blood or just bound together by necessity).

Chubs: Chubs is a character I really enjoyed. Annoyingly assured his intelligence was superior, a little bit (okay, actually a lot) distrustful and insecure- he’s the type of character who grows on you. And he didn’t just grow on me as a reader, he grew on Ruby too. As he came to trust her more, they had surprisingly insightful and profound discussions.

Clancy: This is a character who oozes charisma (not surprising, since he is the President’s son). At first I was kind of annoyed with him for appearing because I really didn’t want a love triangle. But there’s a lot going on underneath the polished and charming exterior of this boy. I guess you could call him the villain of the piece but I was never really able to muster up any real hatred for this character (By the way, Ruby wasn’t able to either). Sure he was petty, arrogant and jealous with a strong cruel streak. But that somehow added to his charm (believe me, I know how messed up that sounds) but somehow he managed to make it all up with a short letter to Ruby.

R-

I lied. I would have run.

-C

 

Romance: 5/5

The romance in this book was surprisingly good. It wasn’t too heavy, neither was it too light. It didn’t hurt that the characters involved in it were so brilliant either.

Plotholes: 4/5

 This book was surprisingly realistic. I mean if a virus such as IANN did exist I could imagine the world (or at least America) going to Hell in a handbasket like this. Of course there were some unhealthy messages in here. For example, Ruby’s whole relationship with Clancy but the book made it clear that the relationship was unhealthy.

Overall Rating: 5/5

No, I’m not surprised I gave this book a five star rating and you shouldn’t be either. It was amazing, I promise you and totally deserves this rating. Buy this books as soon as possible so that you can read it over and over and over again.