Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

New YA Reviews - Dystopian & Sci Fi

Continuing on in my quest to catch up on reviews, here's some recent YA reads. I ended up with quite a few, so I'm splitting them up. First, here's 2 Dystopians and a Sci Fi. In a later post, I'll have some YA Fantasy reads.

Blood Red Road (Dust Lands 1) by Moira Young

It took me 2 attempts (stretched over a few months) to get into this book. However, once I got to around the 30 page mark (and def by the end of the first chapter) I was in for the ride.

There is a LOT of action in this one, and I thought it was really well done.

Set in a future where our present society is gone and our descendants survive by scavenging through the remains of our achievements. The powerful rule, most people try to keep to themselves. Trust is something that is hard earned. There are very few who can read, let alone know what a book is. Superstition and folk magic govern life. It reminded me a bit of a History Channel doc I saw on the Dark Ages, how after the fall of Rome society regressed, living near or scavenging from the architectural and engineering masterpieces of the Romans without having the know how to recreate them or maintain them.

Saba lives with her twin brother, Lugh, her father (broken by the death of his wife and the future he sees written in the stars), and her younger sister, Emmi. Of all her family, she is closest to and depends on Lugh - they were 9 when their mother died, and they had to pick up the slack. Then one day robed men come and take Lugh away. What follows is some traveling (but it goes quickly - it didn't feel like a "traveling fantasy"), betrayals, new allies and enemies, and lots of fighting as Saba searches for her brother.

Saba is not an easy character to like, but I could understand why she was that way. There is some romance, but I didn't feel it was overplayed. There are few extra characters that you get to know well, but that is mostly because this is a 1st person POV and Saba is very guarded.

Now to the caveat: this book is written in a very unconventional style. There are no quotation marks. Anywhere. The speech is not "proper English", but since it's first person (and note again, how far society has de-evolved), that makes sense. It is consistent throughout the book. The lack of quotations bothered me more than the grammar. There were quite a few times that I wondered if something was said or not. This is why it took me 2 tries to get into the book.

This is a book where you need to download the sample, check out the "Look Inside" feature, or read through the first pages at the bookstore to be sure you can get past the style. If you can, and you like action-packed Dystopian YA, then you will probably really enjoy this one. If not, then you should know that before you throw down your money on it.

Legend (Legend 1) by Marie Lu

I'm a little torn on it. One the one hand, it was really fast-paced, and it did keep my attention, but I think it's one of those where everything went by just a little too fast in some key places.

The setting: here is where I think that Lu did an awesome job. We are in Los Angeles, in the Republic of California. A military state at war with the Colonies and combating fighting within from the Patriots. There has been massive flooding on the coasts and throughout the US, I think there might still be aftereffects from volcanic activity, and in that chaos, the Republic was formed. It's a tyranny, of course, with experiments in weeding out "defective" genes, trying to create perfect soldiers.It's also treason to mention that there was once a "United" States. Lots of things here that can be explored (and I'm sure that there will be more books in this series).

The characters: the POV switches between the two main characters, Day & June. Day is a criminal wanted by the Republic of California. He recently discovered that his youngest brother has the plague, and he is desperate to steal the right medicine to give him. June is the shining star of the Republic's educational system - she received a perfect score on her Trials (a test 10 year olds take to decide where they will go in life). A wanted criminal has killed her brother and now she needs to catch him. I thought both characters were defined well enough so that I always knew which character was in the captain's chair. I also thought that each was a bit too perfect. Almost superhuman feats of physical prowess, beautiful people, although with the genetic manipulation, this wasn't too hard to believe, but I still was a bit put off. At least they did show vulnerability and they did get hurt on occasion.

The side characters: these weren't fleshed out as much as I would have liked. You got a feel for a couple of core ones, but since you already had 2 POVs propelling the story along, it was difficult to get a better feel for secondary characters.

The Romance: Here's the thing, I don't mind romance in books. I really don't. And I think if the romance happened later in the series, allowing things to progress a bit, I might be happier with it. There's a lot going on here: betrayals, lies, mortal danger, death of loved ones. There are many reasons for Day & June to be drawn together, and those are there, but sometimes the romance seemed to be more of a driving force, and I just wasn't feeling it.

I'll still read the next one, like I said, there is room for some interesting goings-on, and I do really like the world Lu created. I just have a few reservations.

A Million Suns (Across the Universe 2) by Beth Revis

I liked it, but it was definitely a middle book. Stuff happens that HAD to happen, and I'm really looking forward to the next book.

I think that the characters are very well developed. Perfectly imperfect. The two teen leads, Amy & Elder,  are in parts pragmatic, when they really take the time to think things through, but also still work from youthful idealism (the way things "should" be vs the way they really are). While it was understandable and realistic, I at times also gritted my teeth.

There were a couple of things plotwise that I scratched my head at. I don't know if the jumping back and forth between characters interfered with the momentum. I really wish we had more of Orion - he's shaping up to be an awesomely enigmatic character. He's a big part of why I'm looking forward to book 3.

The big reveal was very well done and it sets up some exciting things to come.


  1. Sorry, but the lack of quotes for me is just a turn-off. Charlie Huston does it too (dystopian also come to think of it.) in some of his books. It's pointless if you ask me. It distracts from the writing and the flow. I find it hard to follow at times and get frustrated. Instead of being into the story, I'm cursing the lack of convention that forces me to reread some paragraphs. I don't get why it is useful. For me, the convention is there so that my subconscious can parse it for me without thinking. I'm all for unique, but the lack of quotes is just irritating and doesn't do anything to make the story more real to me.

  2. I have the caveat there for a reason. :) The lack of quotes did me in the first time, and was my main distraction. Because the language was consistent, I could deal with the unique grammar and spelling. But the quotes - I don't know why it was like that. We agree on that one.

    Luckily, I still found enjoyment in the story, but I know the style will be a deal-breaker for lots of folks.