Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “young adult fiction”

Katie’s #16 #CBR4 Review: The Awakening by L. J. Smith

After reading the first chapter of The Awakening I didn’t have high hopes for this series.  Our protagonist seemed like your typical, vapid but popular girl and all I could think was that there had better be some serious character development.  There were some intriguing plot hooks right away which left me with questions I wanted to know the answer too though, so it wasn’t just stubbornness which kept me reading.  Initially the writing wasn’t especially impressive, relying too heavily on metaphors and similes to set the mood – something I think I was probably guilty of when writing fiction for Power of the Pen contests in eighth grade.

Read the rest here.

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #25 Delirium by Lauren Oliver

The Hunger Games trilogy’s success has spawned a whole slew of dystopian society novels trying to grab a piece of this trendy readership pie.  I am far more critical of this phenomenon having lived through it already for both Harry Potter and Twilight.  Every time a writer creates something unique that catches on, writers and publishers alike seem to flood the market with similar offerings.

I found Delirium, by Lauren Oliver, on a table at Chapters with a buffet of other dystopian novels and a sign that read “If you loved Hunger Games… try these!” The photoshop montage cover that has become so affordable for publishers to produce (instead of the older tradition of hiring an illustrator) did little to make the book stand out from its companions, but the first part of the back jacket copy caught my attention.

“They say that the cure for LOVE will make me happy and safe forever.  And I’ve always believed them. Until now.”

Intrigued, I picked up the book and began to skim through the first chapter.  The first person narrative and writing style was gripping enough that I decided to add it to my basket.

Delirium is an easy read.  The writing style is simple yet highly descriptive.  The premise around which the novel is based, that love is a disease that must be cured and eradicated, is griping enough for most of us that it lures the reader on.  The awakening of a sense of individuality in the main characters, so threatening to any strictly governed society, is both poignant and captivating.  There were a few moments that felt a bit too overblown to me, too Romeo and Juliet or Edward and Bellaish… until I  remembered the emotional highs and lows of my own teen years.

Lauren Oliver does a great job of creating a rich and detailed background against which her story can take place.  Her limited range of characters are developed enough that you come to care about them as the tale unfolds.  The plot twists are clever and well planned.  As Delirium raced towards its conclusion, I found myself checking ahead to see how many pages were left with a touch of dread.  Sure enough, the ending felt abrupt and dissatisfying.  Like Matched, one of the other dystopian YA novels I’ve already reviewed, the story seemed to rely a bit too much on setting up the next book and leaving loose ends rather than creating a world and a tale that left the reader wanting more because of how well it was crafted.  The preview for Pandemonium, the next book in the trilogy (really? It’s a trilogy?) was OK… and I will probably pick it up if I see it on sale… but if this first paperback format is released to sell me two HARDCOVER books afterwards… I think I will pass.

Paperback format, 441 pages, published in 2011 by Harper

taralovesbooks’ #CBR4 Review #7: Divergent by Veronica Roth

 

Cannonball Read IV: Book #7/52
Published: 2008
Pages: 388
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian

Divergent is yet another dystopian YA novel. In this one, society is divided up into five factions which correspond with that factions core values: Candor (honesty), Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (peace), and Erudite (intelligence). Beatrice was born into the Abnegation sector, but on their 16th birthday, everyone gets to choose either to stay in their present faction or join a different one. It’s rare to switch factions, but Beatrice decides to leave Abnegation and join Dauntless. She also finds out during her placement test (which tells them what faction they’d be best suited to, although can choose whichever they want) that she is actually Divergent. Divergent is a rare person who exhibits strong traits from more than one faction. It’s also dangerous, so Beatrice is told to keep quiet about it.

 

Read the full review in my blog!

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #22 Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Reviews for books #18-21 can be read on my BookHoardingDragon blog.

Graceling is the last of the novels that I picked up last fall at a Scholastic Book Fair.  When I complained to my oldest child that I didn’t know what to devour next, she pulled it off her shelf.  I was a bit skeptical as I started into the story by debut author Kristin Cashore.  Fantasy writing seems to divide itself into one of 2 categories, stories where the characters drag you in to a world that just happens to be made up and stories where the author takes a bit too much of a reader’s time to describe the details and setting of the marvelous and unique world they’ve created.  I was a bit afraid that Graceling would fall into this “map-based” category.

Graceling’s heroine, Katsa, lives in a world with seven kingdoms, where sometimes people are born with eyes that are two different colours.  This visible physical feature indicates the inner presence an extreme degree of talent, known as a Grace, that gifts such people.  Sometimes, it can be as simple as an extreme skill at baking or healing… but in other cases, it can herald a much darker purpose.  Katsa is Graced at killing, so she is feared by almost everyone as she does the bidding of her uncle, King Randa of the Middluns kingdom.  When she meets another Graceling with skills that seem to almost match her own, she is both challenged and unsettled, especially as they are both caught up in a deepening mystery that could threaten all of  the Seven Kingdoms.

Graceling caught me by surprise and drew me into the story far deeper than I expected.  The plot twisted in ways that I couldn’t predict, which I am often able to do with beginner novels.  The main characters grew and developed as the pages turned until I came to care deeply for what happened to them.  Though the ending was not what I expected, it was still  one that I could live with and add to in my own mind.  I far prefer this to the current marketing trend of leaving everything hanging to sell the next book.  In other online reviews for Graceling or her second novel, Fire, Kristen Cashore  seems to draw criticism for a radical feminist viewpoint.  I’m not sure that refusing to wrap up a tale with a Disney-like Happy Ending necessarily makes her a feminist… I just thinks it make her a writer that lets both her characters and the readers decide their futures for themselves.

Hardcover format, 471 pages, published in 2008 by Harcourt Books

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #05: The Lighthouse Land by Adrian McKinty

The Lighthouse Land by Adrian McKinty bookcoverThe Lighthouse Land introduces us to a 13 year old boy in New York City, who has survived cancer via an arm amputation which has left him mute from the shock.  His life changes for the better after he and his mother inherit their own small island and home off of the coast of Ireland.   There he becomes friends with a boy-genius his own age and they discover a portal to another world.  After becoming friends with a girl on the alien planet, they help to fight the pirate-type race who are attacking her people.

Again, I chose to listen to the audiobook version for this review.  At the beginning of The Lighthouse Land, I did not like the use of the future tense “you will”.  Maybe it was a little more confusing hearing it, rather than reading it, since it is unexpected.   Fortunately, this does not continue for very long, and I stopped myself from giving up on it too soon.

I also thought that the narrator, Gerard Doyle, sounded amateurish, by tending to end his sentences on a high note.  I was shocked to discover that he has won numerous narrating awards, including Best Voice in Young Adult Fiction in 2008.  So, I’m very curious now to listen to something else he has narrated to compare.  I did feel that his voice was better suited to the characters later in the book, rather than the ones in the New York setting.  I’m not sure if this was the writing or his voice, but Gerard was almost certainly chosen as narrator because of the Irish setting after New York.

Overall, I thought this was just an OK book.

continued at Loopy Ker’s Life

 

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #04: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Original Hardcover Cover

I’ve held on to my copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond since I was about 11 years old and have re-read it many, many times. In a time when the word “witch” brings up images of Harry Potter-type stories, it might be helpful to clarify – this book is historical fiction, NOT fantasy. 🙂 “Witch” refers to the Puritan colonist ideas of what a witch was in the 1600’s. Generally, anyone who was a little different, especially a different religion, might be accused of being a witch in league with Satan. For this review I decided to listen to this old favourite in the audiobook version for the first time, to compare it to the experience of reading it myself. 

The Witch of Blackbird Pond starts with a 16 year old, free-spirited girl named Kit, traveling on a ship from Barbados to Wethersfield, Connecticut – a Puritan colony up the Connecticut River, in 1687.  Kit was raised by her wealthy grandfather in Barbados in a completely different lifestyle from the Puritans. But after his death, she is now on her way to live with relatives who she has never met before. Kit struggles to fit into her new life and to understand the Puritans, but, while her relatives try to be welcoming, they make little effort to understand her in return. It is quite the culture shock for her to go from having wealth, status and slaves to being poor and an outsider having to learn daily household chores.

Kit does her best to become friends with her cousins, Mercy and Judith, while they are all getting to know each other and are developing romances with the very few eligible young men around. But eventually, she rebels against the intolerance of the community and finds comfort by becoming friends with the lonely, old Quaker women who lives at Blackbird Pond.

continue at Loopy Ker’s Life

Note: I rated the audiobook as 3-stars, but would give the print version 5 stars

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #11 End of Days by Eric Walters

 End of Days by Eric Walters

I picked End of Days up at a Scholastic Book Fair late this fall and tucked it away as a Christmas gift for my girls. My daughter in Grade 7 told me that many of her friends had read it and raved about it.  That was enough to pique my curiosity, so I put on my warm jammies last night as the temperature plunged to -17 Celsius and curled up in bed to read it.  If not for the grumbles of my husband, I might have stayed up to finish the book because it was VERY hard to put it down.

Imagine that one of the space probes sent from Earth to explore the galaxy suddenly appears to be returning to earth.  Scientists deduce that it has been captured by the gravitational force of something very, VERY large that is now heading towards Earth on a collision course that will impact with our planet 24 years in the future.  Suddenly, important scientists appear to be dying, but in reality they are being whisked away to a secret location to work on a plan to stop the asteroid.  Throw in other groups with different agendas, a brilliant narrative where some chapters begin with T-Minus 17 years, T-Minus 1 year etc. and it is easy to see why I had to finish the book this morning.  Getting other work out of the way so that I could write this review actually took longer.

Canadian author Eric Walters knows how to tell a story from many points of view without every having the narrative feel choppy or disjointed.  The combination of apocalypse and conspiracy theory themes makes this book a perfect one to recommend for the Cannonball Read IV challenge and a great addition to any library.  Classified as YA fiction, this book has enough action and intrigue to satisfy any adult reader who “borrows” it from their teenagers bookcase.  If you live outside Canada, I highly recommend buying this book from Amazon if you can’t find it at your local bookstore!

Paperback format, 316 pages, 2011 by Doubleday Canada

rdoak03’s #CBR4 Review #5: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

A mysterious package arrives, containing cassette tapes recorded by a dead girl. This clever device takes us into the messy world of the teenage mind. Read more here!

effcubed’s CBR4 #4: The Future of Us

Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler imagine what would happen if your teenage self could see into your future–your future on Facebook.

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #5 The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Jay Asher’s novel Thirteen Reasons Why was a pivotal story for our family that helped one of my daughters get through a very difficult time.  I continue to recommend it to teachers and parents alike when the issue of bullying comes up.  I purchased this newest book for my girls as a Christmas gift and stole it from the bookshelf as soon as one of them was done reading it.

The Future of Us is a double narrative set in the mid 1990s as the Internet was just coming into being and things like Facebook were far in the future… or at least they were supposed to be.  The two main characters, Emma and Josh, are neighbours and childhood friends who have had a falling out… until the free AOL disk installed on Emma’s new computer accidentally gives her access to their Facebook profiles 15 years in the future.

The premise of this story was intriguing and the two points of view, set over a week in the characters lives, created two very different points of view and sense of voice.  I found myself wondering if they had started this collaboration as a variation of the old “letters” exercise between authors where each one has a chance to alter the story slightly as they send their pieces back and forth to each other.  Midway through the book, I found myself disliking the female character so much that I actually took a break for a few hours.  I’m not sure if Asher’s character Josh is just more likable than Emma or whether his writing and slightly more descriptive style is just stronger.  My daughter, who’d had a similar reaction when reading the story, urged me to soldier on and I am glad that I picked the book up again.  It had a very nice message in the end and an ending which allows a reader to imagine their own possibilities.   As someone well beyond the angst-ridden teenage years, I felt sorry for Emma’s desperate search for the “perfect future”.   Instead of looking for that one Happily Ever After, maybe we need to remind others that every day of our lives is a chance to make changes, grow and reach for dreams.  There is never just one perfect path to find, but a wealth of possibilities too infinite to imagine.

Hardcover format,  356 pages, published  in 2011 by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Group

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