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Of Plagues and Monarchy: Book Round-up

September 9, 2012 by Kiersi

The summer flew by so fast it might as well have been Mitt Romney’s chances of winning the election. Instead of spending an entire post discussing each of these books, I decided to do a Book Round-up and just give you a brief opinion blurb on each.

One thing I’m seeing in YA, and especially dystopian YA, is an almost fetishistic obsession with monarchy. Whether it’s Elder in Across the Universe (who is, essentially, a prince), or the mad queen in The Pledge (oh, wait, there’s also a mad queen in Cinder), monarchy seems to be in with teen fiction.

Frankly, it disturbs me a little. There’s a worrisome two-dimensionality in the love interest that is good-looking and infallable, but also ridiculously wealthy and powerful to boot. I want more books about ordinary people becoming great, not about people born into power and wealth with whom I have nothing in common.

But perhaps I am reading too much into it.

Across the Universe, by Beth Revis (book cover)

Across the Universe, by Beth Revis

This book gets: ♥♥♥♥ out of 5

Across the Universe, Beth Revis – This is a book that starts out unbelievably strong and immediately afterward makes some serious stumbles. The premise is surprising and creative, the writing is brilliant, but the romance is without any chemistry. Though it takes a while for Revis to get into her stride, Across the Universe is still a solid read. It gets extra points for being honest-to-goodness sci-fi, and for actually taking place in space.

A Million Suns, by Beth Revis

A Million Suns, by Beth Revis

This book gets: ♥♥♥ out of 5

A Million Suns, Beth Revis – The sequel to Across the Universe picks right up where the first volume left off–always a problem with the trilogy fad. Read these books one after another, and you might understand what’s going on when A Million Suns starts out. Revis plays with some interesting themes, but her dialogue is just not very good, and the book suffers from that inescapable, soggy “middleness” that seems to come hand-in-hand with being the second volume in a trilogy. Nonetheless, I think it deserves a middle-of-the-road rating for a strong ending that will lead fluidly into the third installment. Revis designed her three-book story arc with care, and I’m positive it will pay off. And monsters.

Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

This book gets: ♥♥♥♥ out of 5

Cinder, Marissa Meyer – Yet another book that could have been a masterpiece if it just hadn’t been written as a series. I was even on board for a lot of the hyper unrealistic kind/handsome/intelligent/natural leader/tooperfectforhisowngood prince-as-a-love-interest business until the less-than-dramatic, not-so-finished finish. (How many words can I hyphenate in one paragraph?) Honestly, the characters are great, the prose is simple and easy to read, the premise blew my mind (cyborgs are so awesome how did I not know how awesome they are?!), but the ending just let me down so hard. Also, too much foreshadowing. Any half-wit can figure out the mystery long before the big reveal.

An update: Macmillan has offered up a sample of the Cinder audiobook for your enjoyment. I’ve listened to part of the audiobook already and it was very well done. (I love the doctor’s ambiguously eastern European accent.)

A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness

This book gets: ♥♥♥♥♥ out of 5

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness – Yeah, you read that right. A perfect score. This book is just that good. It’s more of an upper-middle grade-level book than a true-blue YA, but that won’t stop readers of all ages from enjoying this peculiar tale. Ness hits on a few key ideas with the pen of a true master. Family, loss, coping, guilt. And the framework weaved around it all is clever and textured like the bark of that crazy yew tree. Or yew tree monster. Whatever.

The Pledge, by Kimberly Derting

The Pledge, by Kimberly Derting

This book gets: ♥♥♥ out of 5

The Pledge, Kimberly Derting – Another dystopian YA, another monarchy, another day. The plot of The Pledge reads like a bunch of other dystopian YA books had all been cut up and collaged back together with globby white glue. I mean, everything about it was fairly solid–the action moved along, the characters were likable (despite the prince who is perfect in every way making an encore appearance), and it had a good, clean resolution–but I was just so bored by its averageness. Oppressive government: check. Mysterious outsiders: check. Vulnerable little sister: check. I want to see Derting’s next offering as we move out of the dystopian craze; as an author, she has the potential to shine, just not with this book.

Legend, by Marie Lu

Legend, by Marie Lu

This book gets: ♥♥♥♥♥ out of 5

Legend, Marie Lu – A fast-paced, time-sucking read from the very first to the very last. Lu pulls out all the stops in Legend, from the dystopian future to the ever-tired “plague” (another encore appearance after Cinder) to the oppressive military regime–but she does it with such style and self-awareness that she totally pulls it off. We get some sweet dual-narratives from our male and female leads, we get a girl character obsessed with rules and authority (so unlike the Katnisses that YA seems to always get), and a tightly-woven plot of pure giddy joy.


6 Comments »

  1. I have The Pledge sitting on my bookshelf. My reading going down hill lately. I’m swamped with edits and fast drafting.

    • Kiersi says:

      It really isn’t a bad book. I enjoyed it. It just wasn’t anything special. I know how you feel–I end up staying awake until the early hours of the morning just trying to finish a book! Then get up early and start all over again…

  2. Brenda says:

    I can’t say any of those were on my TBR list, but the last one sounds good. I quite liked the Discovery of Witches. It’s nonsensical in a couple places but I just didn’t care. Diana stuck with me long after reading the book. I hope you enjoy it.

    • Kiersi says:

      Discovery of Witches has been… an interesting experience. I’m actually paused in my reading (or rather, listening, as I have it on audiobook) because frankly, the story was sagging in the middle. I liked the concept a lot but Harkness’s writing just didn’t grab me.

  3. Great, snappy reviews, Kiersi. You also teach a little bit about writing in the mix. I review books, and it’s nice to read a reviewer who really enjoys the art. Cool!

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