Welcome to my blog where I give my honest opinion of Young Adult Fiction.
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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Matched by Ally Condie

For once I have nothing negative to report on. I am much too excited for Thanksgiving in two days. I love this Holiday because it gives me an excuse to eat like a complete fatty and have absolutely no one judge me on it. Being with friends and family just makes the day even better. So I wish everyone a great Thanksgiving, and if you live outside the US, I hope you have a fabulous day even if you are not celebrating anything.

The reason I have chosen today's book is that the author recently had a chat on Twitter about the final book in the series and I realized that I didn't remember half of what happened in the end. So I re-read the whole series this weekend. Today's book is....

Matched by Ally Condie
Matched takes place in a country named "The Society" where the oppressive government has control over every aspect of someone's life. The Society determines where you work, what you wear, what you will spend your free time doing, when you die, and most importantly who you marry. Anytime during the 17th year, citizens of the society will be Matched to their perfect spouse. 17 year old Cassia Reyes is Thrilled when she is paired with her best friend from childhood Xander Carrow. However, Cassia see's another face on the screen, on that she knows well from her childhood, Ky Markham. When she starts to fall in love with the second boy on the screen, Cassia will have to choose between love, and the life she always wanted and thought she would get.

The first thing that drew me to this novel was the Society. The amount of control they have over the citizens is unfathomable. The Society only has 100 of everything: 100 songs, 100 painting, 100 stories...etc. And every story and song is changed to reflect the views of the Society itself. How no one becomes thirsty for knowledge I have no idea. The world is so bad that you can't run in public, your dreams are monitored, your food is prepared for you, and when you reach a certain age, you are slowly killed. The whole matching aspect to the world is, the word sick comes to mind. Choosing, based on an algorithm, who will marry who is the ultimate form of control. Choices are one by one, slowly being taken away from the Citizens of the society.

Another aspect of this novel that I enjoyed was Cassia's emotional journey. She starts as a perfect daughter. She has friends, a good job, her family is well regarded, and her future looks bright. Her whole world seems to be fitting together perfectly when she is Matched on her birthday (just like she always wanted) with her best friend in the world world. Her life, however, slowly begins to crumble. When she see's Ky's face on the microcard instead of Xanders, she begins to see both of the boys in a new light. She begins rebelling against the Society by reading banned poems and learning to write. And she does what she is most definitely not supposed to do: she falls in love with Ky. Though she is in an emotionally compromised position, Cassia struggles to not let it show. Her portions of food begin to get smaller and there is an Official constantly watching her back. But she does what no algorithm could have predicted in the end.

Cassia's whole journey of going from perfect citizen to rebel without a cause is a brilliant story. The emotion behind the words on the page suggest that Ally Condie is an amazing writer who took her time to get everything write. The questions left on the page leave plenty of room for the sequel, Crossed, to grow and evolve. The biggest question left over from this first installment is: Who put Ky in the matching pool? I regret to inform you that you don't find out the correct answer until the end of the final book.

This story of oppression, love, sacrifice, and choice is one that many will enjoy reading. Fans of the Delirium series will enjoy Ally Condie's amazing story.

And though it has not been confirmed that the movie will be made, the rights have been optioned. Ally Condie has also gone on record saying that Logan Lerman would be a great Ky. So keep that in mind while you read. :)

-Shawnee Smith

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dualed by Elsie Chapman

Once again I find myself blogging away my feelings. I'm so peeved at my teacher that I can't take it anymore. Currently I am researching Finland's educational system. Why you may ask? Because my teacher is insane and thinks that the way to teach us English is to make us write an argumentative research paper. Just for future reference, its not. I mean I guess its fine for students from other countries and people who suck at English or haven't been in a classroom for twenty years. But when it comes to people who excel in the English language, we find our selves bored and once again have to teach ourselves. It's not what I'm paying for.

So this is what I do. I write my feelings for a minute or so and then turn to my passion: books. Today's book is....

Dualed by Elsie Chapman
This dystopic novel takes place in a future town called Kersh, where inside the town you are safe but outside is dangerous. In order to create a "perfect race of soldiers" each person who is born has an Alternate (Alt) or a twin. This alternate is born to separate parents and raised completely differently. To create a breed of soldiers every child anywhere between the ages of 10 and 20 are "activated" and they have 30 days to find and kill their alt, or be killed. The story follows West Grayer, a trained killer, who has already lost her family due to accidents and Alts. When she is activated and goes out in search of her Alt, she discovers that maybe her Alt is the one that should live and not herself. Plagued with doubt West must complete her mission so she can continue her life.

I bought this book to read on a plane when I went to New York City, and the fact that I could actually concentrate on the plot through my excitement proves that this book is brilliantly written. It's action packed, and while the ending is quite predictable, the twists and turns during West's journey are mostly unforeseeable. And lets just say that I would hate to live in this society because I would most certainly be killed by my Alt. That's just a fact.

One of the elements of this novel I really enjoy and have continued to think about after I have finished the book, is West's inner war with herself. Not her Alt, but herself. When he brothers best friend, Chord, was activated, West and her older brother pressed Chord to leave immediately and take care of his Alt. Thing of course go terribly wrong and West's older brother is killed by Chords Alt. But when West is activated and Chord tries to get her out of the house and find her Alt immediately, she does not comply. Instead she continues to take striker jobs, where she takes out other people's Alts. She constantly runs from her fears instead of facing them head on like she is able to do with other situations. She has no problem killing people, until it comes to someone that looks like her. Added to her problems, once West realizes that her Alt is better than her in every way, she becomes plagued with even more doubt. her reasoning is: Why should she live when her Alt is better suited to win, why should she even try?

In the end West realizes that she really can have a life and she is meant to live and she can beat her Alt, blah blah blah. Like I said, predictable ending. Oh and she totally hooks up with Chord. Again, predictable. That's just how stories end. For once I would like to read a story where the main character does not live (Thank you Veronica Roth for making this true for at least one story.) In my mind, a book is not good unless someone meaningful is sacrificed. I don't care if a character who only said two words was killed, give me a character that was a catalyst to events in the story, or even the main character. Yeah I would be upset that they're dead but the story would be AMAZING. I completely went off on a tangent....my bad.

In the end this story is a tale of survival, self-doubt, and a horrible, horrible society that I would not like to live in for five minutes, let alone long enough for me to get activated. Overall I give this story a 7 out of 10. Definitely worth the read and something you will remember, but there were points that could have been improved upon.

-Shawnee Smith

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Legend by Marie Lu

Today has been filled with excitement for many reasons...
1.) Tomorrow is my birthday YAY
2.) Tomorrow I will be attending a Michael Buble concert and...
3.) I have been waiting all week to review my favorite novel of the moment

What is that novel you may ask? oh you already know 'cause I put it in the title? Alright then...

     Legend by Marie Lu
Legend takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where the former United States has been split in half. What is left of the Eastern seaboard has become known as The Colonies and the Western seaboard is The Republic of America. The Colonies and The Republic have been at war for years. At age 10 all members of the Republic are forced to take a test called "The Trial" where they will be scored on physical, mental, and public speaking tests. The Trial determines the path of the rest of your life. When Metias, 15 year old military prodigy June's older brother, is murdered by Day, the 15 year old most wanted criminal in the Republic, June vows to hunt Day down and punish him for not only the murder of her older brother but for all the other crimes he has committed in the past five years. During their journey, June and Day find out that their Government is not what it says it is. Instead it is cloaked in secrets, deception, and conformity. Day and June must then decide who they believe in: Themselves, their Government, or The Colonies.

This action packed book is a great read for both genders. Written in dual point of view of both Day and June you get intimate knowledge of what both lead characters are thinking at any given moment during the story. May I be the first to say that though both Day and June are badasses, they are bad ass in their own specific ways and compliment each other nicely. June is the prodigy who can count minutes, temperature, and length accurately in her head. She can use practically any weapon or fighting skill under the sun without even thinking. But Day is street smart. He can, and has, live on the streets with no money or food and survive. He is also better at fleeing crime scenes and leaving behind no physical evidence. This guy pulled off his first perfect crime while the rest of us were learning to ride a bicycle. He's badass. But just their skills alone is not what makes Day and June so lovable to readers. Their obvious physical losses drives these characters to be compassionate, driven, and not self centered. They are also wise above their years, its hard to imagine that all of their problems would be dumped on a 15 year old. Sucky society man.

Though this book is considered "dystopic" because of the oppressive government, there is a bit of a utopia mixed in. The fact that race, age, and gender plays absolutely no role in discrimination. No one cares that June is a girl or 15 for that matter. No one cares that her and her commander are female. Also no one really cares that Day is Mongolian. These normal discriminatory factors are left out of the story almost completely. Instead the role is filled by complete class discrimination. Meaning the rich is really, really rich and privileged and the poor is extremely poor and treated horribly by street police. Also the poor has a harder time of passing the Trial, and well, living.

I get asked why this is my favorite novel alot. and truth be told, I don't really know. I like the story, and the characters are real. I like the choices of discrimination made by the author. I have read and re-read and my only answer is that the story is captivating. You will devour the words on the page like it is the only nourishment that you have. Well it was like that for me.

Though this book does not get enough credit and it is not nearly as popular as it should be, I thoroughly enjoy reading it. I always recommend this book to anyone who likes to read novel about a dystopic society or a mystery-esque novel. So go pick up this book and start reading!

This book is a series but by advice from my friend, I decided that I would only post one book at a time. All I want to do is talk about Prodigy and especially Champion. Because too much happens in those and I NEED TO TALK ABOUT IT. Thanks Lexi.

-Shawnee Smith

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Nerve by Jeanne Ryan

Once again I find myself procrastinating with my school work, or in this case actually physically getting off my lazy butt and driving to class. I have no motivation to attend an English class where my latest assignment was to write a cause and effect essay about The Hunger Games. Please someone explain to me how that assignment had anything to do with English? I get that it was a book and all, but why should I be writing about a twenty first century novel/movie? Shouldn't I be learning about classics like Moll Flanders or Hamlet?

On my great journey of procrastination I have decided to write to all of you who actually did find this blog. The book I have chosen for today is...

   Nerve by Jeanne Ryan
Nerve takes place in a contemporary Seattle (REPRESENT!) where the best entertainment is a live Web game titled Nerve. High school student Vee is a sheltered child since an unfortunate incident a few months earlier. Though she is under lock and key with her parents she decides to take place in a preliminary round of Nerve. She was unaware that the dare she completed would send her through to the live rounds. Vee must then decide how far she wants to go in this contest. Because the farther a contestant goes, the greater the prize, but also the more dangerous and deadly the dare.

The farther you get into this book, the more creepy it gets. I don't get creeped out easily by movies or "scary stories" at Halloween time, but reading this book in broad daylight in the middle of spring caused shivers down my spine and goosebumps on my arm. It was insanely creepy. How creepy you may ask? Well the company that was running Nerve seemed to know everything about everyone in their competition. They knew their contestants deepest fears, darkest secrets, dreams and aspiration, and they also somehow had a way to know what each contestant was thinking. Very creepy. Oh and the ending is the creepiest part but I wont give anything away in case you decide to read it ;)

Other than the general creepiness of this novel, it was incredibly well written. Debut author Jeanne Ryan made Vee into a completely real teenager who wanted nothing more than to finish the game alive.  I found myself rooting for her throughout the whole book. The plot itself is amazing as well which is what drew me to the book in the first place. Truth or Dare but without the truth part. Its kind of brilliant. Also the dare with the celibacy meeting is worth reading this book for. I laughed so hard my mother thought I was on drugs, oops.

I definitely recommend this book to readers who like sci-fi or dystopic fiction. There is also a slight mystery to the book that comes in questions like "Who runs Nerve?" and "What happened to Vee?" that you have to riddle out, or wait in agony to let the story unfold the answers. There is also a part of me that is really hoping that there will be a sequel. So far it has been announced as a stand alone novel but the ending leaves room for a sequel if the author (or fans) truly wanted one.

So if you find yourself not being able to put down books like The Hunger Games or Divergent than you will thoroughly enjoy this novel.

Oh, and since there seems to be people actually reading this, if there are any books you want me to review or you want to read them but you're not sure if they're worth your time, leave the title and the author is the comment section and I will see what I can do :)

-Shawnee Smith

Friday, November 8, 2013

Hello/The Testing

Hello everyone in the blogosphere. I don't expect anyone to ever find this blog but in case someone randomly clicked on this sad page because they were bored, or high, or whatever, I guess I will say Hi! :)

Some generic facts about me is that I love books and reading. I excel in English classes which is why I have began this blog. If not only to get my thoughts out about YA Fiction books, but to make sure that my writing does not go downhill in the sad excuse of an English class they are forcing onto me at the local community college. Just so you know how sad that English class is, the hardest assignment I have received is accurately placing commas in various sentences. Pretty pathetic. So until I can move on to a higher level class that will actually teach me something useful, I thought I would put my talent to use and start a blog.  (And yes, I am currently procrastinating writing an essay for that class.)

A blog about YA Fiction is the only natural choice for me because
A) I don't like talking about myself and
B) I have a little black book (actually its pink and sparkly) filled with various novels I have read over the past year and a half.
 With exactly 99 reviews written in between its little covers I believe this will be a easy, and FUN, route to take.

So onto actually reviewing a book. I have chosen a book that I believe will become quite big. I have faith that this author will go on to write other fantastic novels. So for my debut review, I have chosen...

           The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau.

The Testing takes place in a post apocalyptic world where society has raised hell on itself, and the Earth has quite literally fought back with earthquakes and tsunamis. In the not so distant future, Malencia Vale, also known as Cia, wants nothing more than to follow in her fathers footsteps and be chosen as a candidate for The Testing after she graduates from school in her small colony. The capital takes the best and brightest students from all the colonies every year to participate in this event, that if they pass will set them on a path to higher education and become one of the societies leaders. When all of her dreams come turn, Cia soon realizes that The Testing is far more dangerous and deadly than she was led to believe. With power hungry candidates and Testing Officials who will gladly put the candidates in harmes way to obtain results, Cia must decide who she can trust, or risk her life in the process.

I have always been a fan of dystopic novels like The Hunger Games and Divergent. So when I read this novel it was no surprise that I could not put it down and got a few paper cuts from flipping the pages too fast. From the first words till the last, Joelle Charbonneau creates a world so vivid you feel as though you are living inside of it. I would have liked to know where the capital was before the ending of the book. I was constantly confused while the candidates were in their last round of testing as to where they were traveling. It was revealed but I just wish it was revealed a smidge sooner.

The characters however, were kind of perfectly written. I loved seeing the drive that Cia had to not only complete The Testing herself, but to help as many others as she possibly could finish as well. This showed that she was the typical heroine that you would expect to see in this kind of novel. Thomas as the male lead, and Cia's love interest (as to be expected), is the boy-next-door type that many girls fantasize about ending up with. He's tall, handsome, extremly smart, and has the charisma to put anyone at ease. There is a dark side to him that has only been partially revealed and I look forward to seeing more of in the next installment (is that weird of me to want to read that? yes? oh....)

There were many unanswered questions at the end of the book leaving plenty of room for the sequel, The Testing: Independent Study, to branch out on when it comes out in early 2014. I would list my questions but I don't want to give any spoilers away incase someone does wander across this and decide to take my recommendation and READ THIS NOVEL.

So if you have not gotten what I am trying to say about this book, it is brilliantly written by a talented author. It is definitely worth the time, effort, and money if you do purchase it. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed novels like The Hunger Games. If you don't know what The Hunger Games is, you have been living under a rock and I suggest you start living.

-Shawnee Smith