Saturday, 24 August 2013

Sever by Lauren DeStefano


The Chemical Garden Reviews
Wither, Fever, and Sever
Published: February 20 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Website: Author’s Website

Introduction
After months of experiments, Rhine is captured once again, but at least the truth is out. Unfortunately, not many people are willing to believe her. Reed, Vaughn’s brother, is an unexpected ally. In the final installment of the Chemical Garden Trilogy, Rhine journeys to find her twin brother Rowan, discovers Vaughn’s secrets, the virus’s secret, and the truth about the world. Her genetics hold vital information for developing the cure, and her brother is closer to all of this than she imagined.

Title
I was hoping there’d be some severing of some limbs, and I am sorely disappointed that there are not. Only metaphorical severing.
In all seriousness it’s an appropriate title. It’s an end to certain ties, and this is the final book.
Could it have a better title? Probably.  

Cover
                The cover isn’t too bad. Ring’s off, there’s a bird NOT in a cage, and airplane, a globe. All fitting. What I hate are the bloody apples! NO.
                Stop with the apples.
                I’m so tired of the religious imagery.
                You can say that it’s the only thing she eats at Reed’s house. And it’s way too easy to associate the apples with the knowledge that she gets from Reed or his books.
                Can authors find some other way of being stupidly clever than inserting apples=knowledge and/or other religious themes with apple iconography? Please?   

Death
There’s a death or two in here. One, the HUGE one, confuses me. I’m not entirely sure how this character died. For such a pivotal moment, I think it could have been explained better.
All I know is that I read the page and…a character died. I’m like, oh wait what?!
I still have no idea what happened. They just died and the plot moves forward. I’d love to talk about this with people who have read the book, though I feel like this character has to die because of the way that the author has written the series. Urgh it’s hard to write this without spoiling it.
But as far as deaths go, this death is stupid. At least make it clear why the character died. Make it worth something.

Character Development
                What struck me in the first installment, Wither, was the character development and the wide away of cast members. Here are my brief thoughts: 

Linden
                With the end of Fever, I had such high hopes for Linden. The truth-about how brides are Gathered, what Vaughn does with dead bodies, everything- would finally come out!
                And Linden is the biggest tool, ever.
                It killed me inside when he denies everything. And this isn’t too much of a spoiler, as it happens at the beginning of the story. And the story would be much different if Linden believed Rhine.
But my emotional agony kept me emotionally invested in the story. And it pays off. Linden has spectacular character growth that I rarely see. What DeStefano did with the character is amazing, and a true testament to her ability to write.
Though there is a constant tugging of affection between Linden, Cecily, and Rhine that I disliked. With everything that has happened, it would be excessively unhealthy for Rhine to actually love Linden (not that I’m particularly convinced that Rhine loves Gabrielle). It is very frustrating that the author keeps hinting that Rhine actually loves Linden.

Cecily
                As hinted at in the second book, the baby grows up.
                In some ways she stays the same, which is something that I liked. A character, much like a real person, does not completely change, no matter how much personal growth they experience. She grows up and matures in ways that are suitable to her environment, and she still displays hints of her spoiled tendencies. I like her much better now than her bratty incarnation that we are introduced to in Wither. 

Vaughn
                Not sure if I can count this as character development. I think that the reader FINALLY gets the whole picture in the last installment of the series. We finally get the rationale, the truth, that has propelled this whole story into action.
                Even with his explanation, he is a typical evil villain who tries to explain away his motives for the greater good, though.

Rose
                Before I start, I like Rose. I liked her in Wither and Fever, which is an interesting feat for a character who died in the first portion of the first book. More information is revealed about her lineage in Sever, but I feel like it was so forced. Like the author looked at the grand scheme of the book and realized that she could insert Rose in yet another slot and twist up the story more. The revelations about Rose in this book just made me go “Meh, whatever.” 

Plot Holes? Spoilers!
                It’s hard to discuss this without major spoilers. This book explains that cell phones and radios barely work because of the equipment like signal towers not being maintained. There are communication issues. Ok. And like in basically every dystopia, the government is a bunch of liars. Ok. But…
                How does Hawaii not know about the virus? Sure, the American government can lie to their citizens, but how does Hawaii not have a clue?
How does Rhine’s and Rowan’s condition cure everyone if they are so unique?
                If everyone knows about Rowan and what he is about to blow up, why aren’t the police there to stop him?  
                Why doesn’t Rhine go about trying to find out if Gabriel is safe? Linden is right there, ask him.  

Ending
I know some readers will hate the final chunk of pages. I loved it. It reminded me of the ending of Alice: Madness Returns.  
I don’t want to give it all away. It has a quietness that I feel is so fitting. The chaos that has been inflicted is ended simply, suddenly, like the crumbling away of a cliff, and it leads to a sudden end.   
There are still some questions lingering in my mind. I am not entirely sure I get the concept of the chemical garden. I can take some stabs at it because I’m told I’m excessively clever, but I was hoping that it would be explained fully. I hoped that the concept would blow my mind and make me lose my vision for a second because it is so radical. Perhaps I don’t feel like I get it because the chemical gardens are only mentioned a few times.

Verdict
                The Chemical Garden series is a fine dystopia for young adults. The writing is detailed, the world is altered yet believable, and the characters are well-rounded with motivations and develop naturally. I highly recommend it for mature teens who need a book with more than the typical fashion and love themes. It is a suitable gateway into adult literature, especially for the dystopian genre. There are some plot holes that I think adults who are analyzing the book will pick up on. But the world is immersive, and now that I have finished the series, I’m going to wallow in self-pity.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Swearing Conundrum


I have been thinking about swearing in YA literature lately. I looked up the topic on the internet and most of what I found was from a writer’s perspective.

What I would like to ask is: how do readers of YA literature feel about swearing in YA books? As an adult or a teen. Tell me in the comments-it will be a great help in my endeavors!  

I feel that most teens swear. Some don’t, and that’s fine. Or they are from another world that doesn’t have curse words. Also alright. But every day, downtrodden teens? They usually curse to relieve the stress and give their frustration a vocal outpouring. So there is the reality, but then there are the readers. You don’t want to offend those that don’t swear-or anger parents or schools. And when does it become too much?

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch

Published: October 1st 2012
Publisher:Scholastic Press
Website: Author's Website


*Mild Spoilers, mostly for comic relief!

Introduction
Glenn is different. She’s so smart she has the paperwork to skip a grade and go directly to a prestigious institution that will train her to travel to planet 813 and help colonize it. Instead of bonding with her peers, she looks at star maps on her tablet. Or she takes care of her father, a wraith of a man, who is obsessed with building some kind of machine. He is this way because their mother walked out on them 10 years ago. This is linked to a boarder around their land, the Colloquium, dividing it from a wasteland called the Rift. As it turns out, many people believe that there is more to this wasteland than the government is telling them. Glenn’s father’s project propels Glenn, and her conspiracy theory enthusiast friend named Kevin, into a land that shouldn’t exist.
See that introduction? Save yourself 310 pages and fill in the gaps. Whatever you imagine, it will probably be more interesting and convincing than what Hirsch wrote.
Well, ok, I’ll go into more detail about this book, if you insist.

Plot
For a book that is 310 pages, not a lot happens. It is like The Lord of The Rings-there is a lot of walking, a lot of talking, and a lot of empty space. A lot of me wondering how long it will take me to finish this so I can get on to Sever.
Like Velveteen the blurb doesn’t adequately describe what is actually in the book. The blurb on the dust jacket does not describe the magic world they go to. I’m not much for magical themes in books (with a few exceptions, of course), and the blurb hints at the possibility, but I argue that it doesn’t adequately describe the complete transportation to a world that is similar (to put it in simple terms) to The Lord of the Rings world of swords and sorcery.
From the dust jacket of the edition that I have, it sounds like a government is being evil (of course!) and two teens are doing…stuff to fight the government. Yay.  
But it’s not like that. Anyway, moving on…
Without giving too much away, the author gives us some of the stupidest justifications for doing whatever she decides that I have ever read.
It would have been far more interesting if Glenn fought the stigma of having a mentally ill-but genius-father, and got to go to planet 813 with her cat Hopkins.

Action Scenes
There’s some action. Lots of people get shot. By the end of the book there are so many injuries I just didn’t care, and the characters stopped reacting appropriately to what is being done to them. That irks me to no end. In the beginning, someone is shot, they almost die, and they are encumbered by this injury for a long time. Good, good, all clear here. Then people are thrown about, ribs broken, almost drowned, bashed, shot with arrows, shot with poisonous darts, etc. What happens? Everybody just brushes it off like a boss. EXCEPT they are not a boss, or bosses. These are people who just stopped feeling pain…because. Because the author wanted action scenes but not the after effects of injuries. Hasn’t he ever watched Dragon Ball Z? Goku goes to the hospital because you know what hurts? Fighting.  

Good Guys VS Bad Guys
            This story is about politics, not good and evil. I hate it when books try to make you feel like everything is so clean cut. It’s my problem with Final Fantasy XII-it’s all politics, but just because one side is an advanced empire, you’re supposed to hate them. No, that’s not how reality works. Just because one side has technology and guns, and one side has less advanced technology and magic, does not automatically make the technology and guns people bad.
             Not that this book can make the reader decide who the bad guys are. For a long time I felt like I was just supposed to hate everyone. And boy, do I hate everyone.

Glenn
            I’m so smart. But I’m a little sad. Because I’m sad I’m going to take my cat and go to a distant planet so I don’t have to deal with anyone ever again.
            Oh, hey, magic. I mean, no. I like science. Magic can’t be real. Let’s not accept this fact until a little more than halfway through the book. I still think we can go back to the empire Colloquium after we destroy the one ring the bracelet in the fire of Mount Doom a blacksmithing town.   

Kevin
            I am a boy. I like Glenn because. I hate the government because of conspiracy theories I read on the internet.
            I am a boy.

Aamon
            I AM TOTALLY NOT A CAT.
            Meow.

Cover
            There’s something positive: I like the cover. Bravo *claps hands.

Verdict
Perhaps it is a problem that I refuse to put down a book without finishing it. I am usually not a fan of magic themes, especially those set in medieval-ish times (I know it isn’t the case, but the Rift is devoid of technology). The blurb sold me to give it a read. I wanted to like it. The beginning had me intrigued. Going to planet 813 sounded awesome. Even the possibilities of the Rift were exciting. After that, I died inside, slowly, in agonizing pain. Overall, it was a disappointment for me. I wouldn’t recommend it to a teen reader because there are MUCH better fantasy books out there. I wouldn’t recommend it for a book club pick because of the length and the slow plot-I’m afraid that no one would finish it. I’m glad that I ordered it from my library in November of 2012 and I got it in July 2013 (sarcasm). Considering how long I waited for it, and how much I despised most of it, I am thoroughly disappointed.