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Dystopian Science Fiction

Warcross by Marie Lu

February 10, 2021

The online black market has exploded in activity ever since Tokyo billionaire, Hideo Tanaka, created the virtual reality world of Warcross. Each day, millions of people across the globe join the server to play, buy, sell, trade, or just see the world as a different reality.  For young New Yorker Emika Chen, this futuristic world is not just an escape from her troublesome life and infinite debt, it’s also her only source of income as she hunts and hacks to survive. Emika’s life drastically changes overnight when she hacks into the competitive Warcross Championships, with the ambitious goal of stealing a valuable power-up in front of two hundred million people. Will she succeed in paying her debt, or will the eviction notice on her apartment door reach her first? Packed with constant adrenaline, this book will leave you wishing there were more pages to read.

As readers follow Emika Chen while she finds her way through the crowded neon streets of Tokyo, they will share her feelings and thoughts, allowing the author, Marie Lu, to carefully craft a plot woven with mystery and full of unexpected turns—right up until the end.

Readers will tear through Warcross, not just because of its fast pace, but also because Lu will leave them hanging at the end of each addictive chapter: a shared trait with Lu’s popular Legend series. Lu blends text messages and depictions of Warcross life bars into her captivating plot, giving readers an exceptionally personal experience: something lacking in other examples of the science-fiction genre. 

As she dives right into the action in the present tense, and makes sure that every word on the page is a necessary part of this futuristic world, Lu succeeds in flawlessly introducing and developing new characters all while she keeps readers intrigued. The reader will find that Lu does not overwhelm with many different characters, but instead focuses on developing and giving the backgrounds of the small band of individuals. This allows the reader to have a deep connection with the characters. Just after finishing the first chapter, we know Emika’s job, how she gets around, the fact that she is poor, where she lives, and how she ended up having six thousand dollars in credit card debt.

I recommend this thrilling science-fiction novel from experience—as someone who has read many books in this genre. I have immersed myself in Warcross’s smart and intriguing plot multiple times for the sole reason that I want to be in Lu’s world again. Every science-fiction fan out there should pick up this addictive book. Trust me: Warcross will blow your mind and leave you wanting to go back and reread this ten-out-of-ten.

Aymeric

Penguin Young Readers Group, 353


Unwind by Neal Shusterman

February 3, 2021

“In a perfect world everything would be either black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference. But this isn’t a perfect world. The problem is people who think it is.”

This is a world where the government believes in “unwinding,” a way of disassembling criminals or unwanted children from ages thirteen to eighteen without killing them, as an alternative to abortion or disowning. Meet Connor—a seventeen-year-old “troublemaker” who found out about his unwind order, Risa— a sixteen-year-old orphan and a talented pianist that lives in a state home, and Lev—a thirteen year old born into a religious family, who was planned to be tithed (a religious way to give back to God, willingly unwound soon after their thirteenth birthday when they become eligible for unwinding) and is proud about it. Readers follow along as the trio teams up to evade the Juvey-cops and attempt to end the practice of unwinding for good. 

The gripping novel Unwind by Neal Shusterman is written in third-person omniscient, focusing on Connor, Risa, and Lev. I thought this was effective because when the characters split up, readers could follow each of their stories and know what they are thinking and feeling. It shows the reader opinions of other characters that are relevant to the story and how their opinion of unwinding changes throughout the book. Shusterman also includes excerpts from news articles that inform the reader of what laws the government is passing. 

This fast-paced book keeps the reader guessing at every turn. Shusterman leaves each chapter as a cliffhanger, making the reader try to predict what will happen to the characters. He also includes allusions to real life events.

The themes of this story are morality and injustice because the plot revolves around the idea of unwinding an unwanted, which will lead the people to rethink their opinions on the laws in this society. The audience will experience the characters questioning their own beliefs and their way of living. If unwinding existed, would you stand up for the runaway unwinds? Would you go AWOL or accept your unwinding?

I rate this title a ten out of ten and recommend it to anyone who would like to read a fast-paced sci-fi dystopian thriller about unequal treatment and morality. There are three other books in this series: Unwholly, Unsouled, and Undivided. Shusterman has also written multiple other books, including The Ark of a Scythe Trilogy, The Skinjacker Trilogy, and The Star Shards Chronicles. I have only read the first two and enjoyed them almost as much as Unwind. I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes a page-turner that makes the reader stop to think about what the world might become.

Nico

Simon & Schuster, 335 pages


Champion by Marie Lu

Daniel “Day” Alten Wing is a teenager who used to live on the streets as the government’s most wanted and dangerous criminal. Since those days, he has changed to become the most-liked person by the people in the government and is in a high-ranked military position. June Iparis is around the same age as Day and, after figuring out what happened in her brother’s death, was made one of the Princeps-Elects. June and Day have very strong stories about how they got to be the way they are: both have gone through sacrifices and loss of family. 

Champion is the third book in Marie Lu’s Legend series, and it has a very high-tension plot, with the main problem being that the colonies are angry at the government because they have accused it of spreading a deadly virus, which it doesn’t yet have a cure for. The colonies decide they must threaten to attack and destroy the government. The government stands no chance if it’s attacked, so it needs the cure fast: the colonies have helicopters and well trained soldiers. So Day has to risk his brother’s life—who is the last of his family members left—if he wants to save their country, because the scientists found that the virus started from Eden, Day’s brother.  

This book is written in first person perspective, and each chapter alternates between the two voices, which I thought really worked well for knowing what both Day and June are thinking, even when they are split up, or what their thoughts are when thinking about each other. 

One thing I think Marie Lu did well was that each character that made an appearance added to the plot. There weren’t any characters without a purpose in the book. The author has a very strong bias towards the two main characters, which makes readers almost feel their problems and issues with the virus, as well as their work at jobs they do. I found this very effective, and it helped me enjoy the book more. 

The genres of this novel are science fiction, strong, fast-paced action adventure, with a good mellow mystery as the Plague virus spreads and characters work to figure out a cure for it. The book also features chase scenes, some violence, and an unexpected romance between the two main characters. All of this combines to create a wide range of types of books. It is very similar to the books earlier in the Legend series, so I would recommend reading this right after reading the others. It is a good page-turner and really the audience into the story. 

I rated this book a ten out of ten and really liked the action-packed scenes of antagonists and protagonists facing off, and would recommend this book to anyone who has read the other books in the series or Marie Lu’s other series, Warcross. The tension that Lu has built up in Champion makes any reader want to keep reading. 

Owen

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 339 Pages


Divergent by Veronica Roth

March 3, 2020

Futuristic Chicago is split into five factions. Each  one is designed to maintain a happy, healthy, hard working community that balances all of the strong human traits. Sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior has lived in Abnegation her whole life; they’re the faction that values selflessness above everything else. Now, Beatrice has the opportunity to decide her own fate, and choose which faction she truly belongs to. But when her aptitude test goes wrong, Beatrice discovers that she is in great danger and has a big decision to make.  Will she choose selfless Abnegation and stay with her family and all she’s ever known? Or should Beatrice betray her family and her faction, and choose one of the other four? It’s faction before blood, after all. Beatrice makes a decision that leads to some terrifying, nerve wracking, and suspenseful moments, all to find out where she really belongs.

Veronica Roth creates a dystopian novel with constant suspense, each chapter fast-paced and exciting. Readers will find themselves wondering what faction they would belong in, right along with Beatrice, who now goes by “Tris”. Each page has strong sensory diction, making it easy for the reader to follow along and imagine all of the unexpected buildings, people and places in this futuristic world. Roth writes in a dramatic tone, which adds to the plot and will have the reader wondering, What’s next? Each chapter ends with a cliffhanger, and the reader might be completely unsure of what could happen in the coming chapter. 

Tris will surprise at every step of the way. She was once a quiet girl who kept her eyes down, but through the effective first person narrative, readers will watch her become brave, strong, and intelligent. This narrative shows every thought and feeling Tris experiences, explaining why she made each and every daring decision. 

This leads into the theme of Divergent, which explores how humans act, and how no one fits into one category. Tris is unsteady and unsure of herself, but as the book goes on, the reader will realize along with Tris that she does not have just one trait. She has lots of important qualities that make her who she is, which she will realize eventually. Readers will follow along with Tris as she makes friends and enemies for the first time, falls in love, and learns just how imperfect her society is.

Tris, her friends Four and Christina, and many others face their fears, learn new skills, work together, discover secrets about their society, and stand up for themselves and others. Each character has an intriguing story, and distinct personality. This book will have readers rooting for an assortment of characters, at different moments throughout the book.

I rated this book a 10 out of 10 and enjoyed every detail and description. There are two other books in this trilogy, Insurgent and Allegiant, and I am sure they will be as thrilling as Divergent. I would recommend this book to anyone ages eleven and older, because there are a few gory scenes. Anyone who enjoys suspense, friendship, and dramatic and dangerous scenes will love this book. You will empathize with Tris for her daring and kind personality, and completely enjoy her perspective.

Isabelle

HarperCollins, 487 pages


Renegades by Marissa Meyer

When Nova Artino’s Uncle Ace is killed in a battle, along with his invincible helmet, Nova and her fellow Anarchists are forced to move down into the sewers like rats. Nova is a young girl who would do anything to avenge her parents, little Evee, and now her uncle. On the other hand is a young Renegade, (the Anarchist’s nemesis) named Adrian Everhart, the son of Lady Indomitable, the deceased Renegade. He’s now under the wing of the Grand Warden and Captain Chromium, the invincible superhero. No one knows how Lady Indomitable fell from a building with the ability of flight, or who did it. 

Some people in the world of the book have special abilities since they were born. Nova can put people to sleep with her touch, and Adrian can draw objects and scenes and make them come alive. 

After failed tries by Nova to kill captain Chromium, she decides to go undercover as a Renegade for the recruitment every year. She gets in as Insomnia— she never needs to sleep. She makes friends quickly on her team: Ruby, who can grow red crystals instead of blood and makes weapons from it; Oscar, who can make smoke come out of his hands in any shape or form he wants; Danna, who can turn into one hundred butterflies and back into a human, and Adrian. Eventually, she will have to decide— Adrian or her family.

The book is written in the third person with switching perspectives from Adrian to Nova, and Meyer has an effective way to describe the objects in the room to make it seem like the reader is there with Nova and Adrian. Meyer also includes effective dialogue to make the situation seem believable. I enjoyed how Meyer could trick the reader into believing something that might not be true or to hide something to make her audience want to read more. She also creates suspenseful scenes, like when they are on their missions or when Adrian comes to visit Nova’s house. 

Meyer also had the characters change throughout the novel. For example, in the beginning, Nova was wanting nothing but revenge, but she matures and shows what she really wants inside of herself. Adrian starts out being an awkward teenager with superpowers, but he starts maturing, becoming an adult, and making his own decisions against the council. 

I loved how this book showed what would happen if the audience were living in a society with people that have superpowers. She showed it would be the rejects vs. the people in power that rose to the top. But in this situation, the people who didn’t have powers were under the control of Renegades. 

The pace of the book made the reader want to continue, with suspenseful scene after suspenseful scene. Meyer lets the characters cross paths without knowing it or go on missions together, and it keeps the audience reading for the moment where Adrian will find out that Nova is Nightmare. 

I rate this book a ten out of ten, and I recommend its high suspense and action to anybody who enjoys action-adventure, sci-fi, and romance. The third book in the Renegades series has just come out, and it is phenomenal. Meyer has also written the Cinder series, which is science fiction, and I loved it. This is not a book to be missed with its compelling story and lovable characters.

Nestor

Feiwel & Friends, 592 pages


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

February 29, 2020

For a poor eighteen-year-old orphan, Wade Watts, Oasis, a virtual universe, is the only escape from his miserable reality. But his Utopia suddenly melts into chaos when the owner of the Oasis, James Halliday, dies of cancer and puts the ownership of the game used by billions up to whoever can find an Easter egg hidden somewhere in the Oasis. Years later,Wade is too poor to leave his school planet and get back in time for class, but the whole world is shocked when his level three avatar is the first to find the copper key. As Wade takes on an almost impossible quest while racing all the gunters, he finds new friends and teams up with them to attempt to defeat all of his competition.

Ernest Cline uses first person to convey Wade’s perspective throughout the book, which helped me see his struggles and how Wade thinks when he is figuring out the cryptic riddles. I loved the way that Cline included a lot of movie, book, and video game references, including The Shining, and Joust (an arcade game). Using first person is also an effective way to describe the Oasis because readers see it through Wade’s eyes. 

The plot is suspenseful and fast-paced: Wade has to be ready to run away at any moment in reality and in the Oasis because if players die in the game, they lose all of their items and have to restart. Even though this is an action book it still will make readers emotional. I like how the title was an echo of the first words players see in the game after they have said the phrase that they use as a password. The game then says  “Ready Player One,” and players enterthe Oasis. 

If you’ve read Ready Player One already I recommend Warcross by Marie Lu. Fans of Ernest Cline would love this book because their virtual reality settings and conflicts are very similar. Ernest Cline’s first novel will leave you wanting this to be a series — and you’re in luck because the sequel is expected to come out sometime in late 2020. Additionally, there is a movie that came out on March 29, 2018, and if you look closely you might find some Easter eggs. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who is in sixth grade and up because it does have swearing in it, and to readers who like sci-fi and action. I rate this book a ten out of ten because it has a lot of action: you will never be bored while reading. 

Nico

Penguin Random House LLC., 385 pages


The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

February 14, 2019

Jack Whitmore lost control in the wrong place at the wrong time. One night, after stumbling away from a party, Jack is kidnapped by a man posing as a doctor, named Freddie Horvath. Freddie keeps Jack trapped in his van. The van’s windows are painted black so Jack has no idea where he is or what is happening to him, and Freddie beats him repeatedly. One day Freddie leaves for a few hours, Jack sees his opportunity, escapes, and runs home. I enjoyed how Smith continued to circle back to this reference throughout the book; it brings a sense of reality and an awareness of the past to Jacks journey.

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith then takes us to England. Jack and his friend Connor are leaving their home in Glenbrook, California, to visit a boarding school that Jack’s grandfather attended. Once Jack arrives in England, he decides to go to a local pub. When he is at the pub he meets a stranger named Henry. After they share a few drinks, Henry tells Jack about a mysterious pair of glasses. He then gives Jack the glasses and says they will take him to a place called Marbury.  Marbury is a world not under, above, or even next to ours – it’s another dimension. Marbury consists in a separate reality. Curious, Jack decides to use them. He looks through the glasses and discovers Marbury and sees the bloody war that is currently taking place. As the days pass, Jack starts finding it harder and harder to put the glasses down, until the point where going to Marbury becomes an addiction. I thought that the way that Jack gets strung to the lens and he has to balance them with reality added another aspect to the book to contribute the craziness of the novel and its conflict.   

Then readers are introduced to Seth, a ghost that lived and died in Marbury that Jack mysteriously sees frequently when he looks through the lens. Except something is special about Seth: unlike all the people that live in Marbury, Seth has the ability to cross from Marbury into reality. Jack finds Seth taunting him, announcing himself with the distinctive sound of roll… tap tap tap. Jack meets two boys, Ben and Griffin Goodrich, who accompany Jack and his trip through the endless void of Marbury. Marbury is tearing Jack’s thoughts apart piece by piece; it starts to interfere with Jack’s relationships outside of Marbury: his and his best friend Connor’s interaction, and his overall time outside of Marbury. Smith impressed me by intertwining the narratives of Seth, Jack, and Connor.

I would recommend this book to anyone thirteen or above due to consistent PG-13 content. There is a sequel to this book, called Passenger. I found that Passenger was slow and was not a good read. I abandoned Passenger midway through due to the lack of these elements. But that did not limit my enjoyment of the first book, and I hope that readers try The Marbury Lens.

Sam

Feiwel and Friends, 370 pages


Legend by Marie Lu

February 11, 2019

Daniel Altan Wing’s (Day’s) family thinks he is dead. In reality he is the Republic’s most wanted criminal. After failing his trial to become a Republic soldier, he is sent off to the labor camps and is expected to die, but manages to escape. When he returns to his hometown he sees a plague symbol on his family’s door and takes action. He raids the hospital and, during his escape, throws a knife at Captain Metias Iparis, allegedly killing him.

June Iparis is the first person ever to score a perfect 1500 on her trial,  but soon after joining the Republic’s force she finds her brother, Metias Iparis, dead. Enraged, she starts planning to chase down and get revenge on Day. During her search, she is dragged into a fight, stabbed, and taken in by a boy on the street. What she doesn’t realize is that Day is hiding in plain sight. Will she figure it out? And if she does, what will she do?

Readers will love the way Marie Lu develops both of the main characters in this work. In the beginning June is very naïve about the republic and the world outside of it, but as the story progresses she becomes increasingly aware of the problems in the world. Day, on the other hand, is very skeptical of the Republic throughout the entirety of the novel, but as the book continues he becomes more tuned into the problems outside of the Republic, as well as the ones inside of it.

The perspectives switch between a character inside of the government and a character fighting against it which is an effective feature as it gives readers the point of view of each side: their opinions and how they see the issues within their cities and outside of them. Lu also avoided showing the same scene from each character’s perspective, which let the story continue at a fast pace and kept the reader engaged throughout  the entire book.

The first person narrative  that Lu used was extremely effective as it helped the reader focus in on the complex issues faced by both characters in the novel. This also helps readers delve into the minds of the characters and really understand what is happening in each of their lives at the moment.

Lu did a great job of explaining all the rules in the new world of the Republic within the first few pages so that she could get directly into the plot of the book. Since the whole novel takes place in a world similar to ours, but with a much more advanced civilization and a different set of rules for the citizens, Lu had to teach readers everything about the new world in order for the plot to be understood.

At the end of this book I found myself rushing into the sequel, Prodigy, and the final book, Champion. I rated this book a ten out of ten and would recommend it to fans of Divergent, by Veronica Roth, as there are some similarities in the plot and genre. Be ready to enter a new world from the perspectives of June and Day with a gripping plot that will not let you put the book down.

Henry

Speak, 352 pages


Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

February 9, 2019

Zélie Adebola remembers when there was magic in the air, in the sea, and in the soil. Zélie Adebola remembers her mother’s magic protecting her from evil forces and helping her in any way. Zélie Adebola remembers when magic disappeared. Zélie Adebola remembers her mother’s slaughter. She will never forget, and now she can do something about it, with a newly found scroll of power that restores only a small portion of magic, she can fight King Saran and his evil ways. With the help of her brother, the king’s daughter, and a bunch of others along the way, she will fight without rest to restore magic fully: to the Maji, to her fellow Diviners, and to the world.

Adeyemi created an amazing plot in this book and used effective strategies and structure to give the reader a full experience. One of these was multiple perspectives–every chapter the point of view changes and is always in first person, so it’s like the reader is in each character’s head and knows his or her thoughts. Because of the multiple perspectives, the reader is not limited to one person, but gets to know all the important characters.

And who are those characters? They are Zélie Adebola, Amari, and Inan. Zélie, as explained before, was a girl destined to have magic, specifically over death. Then it all disappeared and her mother was slaughtered. After she gets the scroll to save magic forever, a reader would think that she would be on board with bringing magic back a hundred percent, but after meeting a group of Diviner rebels, she actually has second thoughts: Is it safe to bring magic back? Would it really make everything better?

One of the most important characters is Amari, King Saran’s daughter. She is the one who brings the scroll to Zélie and needs her help to escape. Amari is one of those characters that looks soft and vulnerable on the outside, but on the inside, she has the skills of a ninja master. She’s brave, determined, and wants to help anyone in need–in this case Zélie and the Diviners.

Then there’s Inan. He may not be the most important or destined character, but he’s a red devil with white angel wings and a halo. He’s obviously a devil, although he also has good qualities, and knows what’s right and wrong, but he’s King Saran’s son, so that adds conflict to the plot.

This title may seem like a good, classic, “Bring magic back” fantasy. But that’s not simply the case with this book; it has much deeper meanings. For one, there’s a strong racism metaphor, but instead of black skin, it’s white hair, because anyone with white hair has magic, or had magic. These white haired people are the Diviners, and they are discriminated against. Seeing the impact of this discrimination definitely changed my view of this fantasy book’s world and the real world.

 Overall, this is one of the best novels I’ve ever read, with the most intriguing characters, plot, and themes. I recommend this book to anyone who loves magic, meaning, and thrill. Adeyemi’s novel is 100% a ten out of ten title. I hope any reader will enjoy!

Jackson

Henry Holt, 532 pg.


The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

February 5, 2019

Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow live in the city of Ember, a place eternally shrouded in darkness, except for the electric light bulbs spread across the town. However, food is running out, and the lights have been flickering constantly. When city jobs are assigned, Lina’s worst fear comes true: she’s assigned to the most menial task—Pipeworks laborer. However, by circumstance, Doon happens to have her dream job: messenger. He offers to trade, in order to inspect the generator—the cause of the blackouts plaguing the city— and she is overjoyed. But then she discovers scraps of parchment hidden in a closet, which could shine a light on everything hidden in the darkness of Ember. They could even lead to a path out of the city. This is the dystopian story of The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau—and the beginning of a great series.

But this isn’t just a book about a few pieces of ripped parchment and a city in darkness. It’s a book about how limited conditions for the many can elevate the few, and therefore an allegory for corruption and authoritarianism. Explaining these crucial events in detail would spoil the plot of the book, but it’s enought to say that corruption is contained within the darkness of Ember. As Ember is essentially a poverty-ridden police state, similar to today’s North Korea, when this corruption is discovered, the full extent of its leaders’  power is revealed. This unfolds throughout the entire book, beginning with the event mentioned above, and continuing into the sequel, The People of Sparks, where DuPrau also handles such delicate and controversial issues as xenophobia. DuPrau weaves these in expertly, beginning with a detour from the path out of Ember, and incorpoating it throughout the rest of the book and its sequel.

I loved how the novel showed exactly what it would be like to live in a world deprived of such basic technology as a movable light. It was interesting to ponder what our world would look like without the technology we have developed, and even as a possible, hopefully distant, future way of life. It challenges the popular notion of futuristic ways of life as dominated by technology by presenting a vision of life without it.

The third person narrative voice usually makes readers feel much more distant from the characters, but DuPrau utilized it so expertly that it makes the audience feel just as close to the characters as they would if the novel was written in first person, and it spreads out the focus between the two main characters evenly. For example, when Sadge Merrall returns from the Unknown Regions ranting and raving, readers will almost feel Lina’s anxiety and fear, even through third person narration. For another, when Lina and Doon are being pursued by the police, third person is perfect, as it doesn’t have to use just one perspective, and the reader would be much less confused.

DuPrau kept the pace speedy, as this is an adventure novel at its core, but she also added some truly powerful and insightful moments. I enjoyed this; it never felt slow or drawn-out, but wasn’t shallow or without theme. The strong plot makes for a quick but insightful reading experience. I flew through this, never lacking for theme or pace.

I rated this book a ten out of ten, as did many of my peers. This is for all the features that I have already mentioned, as well as so many more that I could not possibly fit into this short review. As I have mentioned, there is a sequel, The People of Sparks, and it is exactly as enjoyable as its precursor. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a fast-paced dystopian adventure with elements of mystery and can still appreciate a captivating and insightful theme. Everyone who has tried The City of Ember has enjoyed it, so therefore everyone should try it.

Ian

Random House, 270 pages


The Rig by Joe Ducie

April 6, 2017

Will Drake has escaped four high security prisons, but can he break free from the supposedly inescapable Rig? Being trapped miles from land, surrounded by the icy Arctic Ocean is no place for Drake, but he is determined to escape. In fact, when he first arrives at the Rig, he doesn’t feel intimidated and only sees his situation as a challenge.

Every teen prisoner is assigned a daily job, and Drake gets one of the hardest. Each day he must clean the Tubes, where the waste and sewage from the Rig goes (don’t worry, Ducie doesn’t go into too much detail about this). There are other stronger, tougher boys who also clean the Tubes and force Drake to be the one who climbs inside to clean them while the other boys lure him down with rope. Drake also meets a boy named Tristan who teaches him about how the Rig works, and they become bunkmates. When Drake gets in a fight with a very tough boy named Grey, he gets sent to the nurse’s office, where he meets Irene, a girl whose daily job is nursing and who knows some secrets about the Rig. Drake agrees to meet her one night, and she shows him something that completely changes Drake’s perspective of the Rig— and the book’s genre along with it.

I thought Ducie did a great job describing the setting. The whole book took place on the Rig, so I was able to keep track of what took place where. I got a strong sense of how scary and dangerous the prison was. Duice also developed the characters well. Tristan knows all about technology, and he understands how the Rig’s security functions. Irene likes to explore the Rig and knows its many secrets. Drake uses his friends’ knowledge to build a plan of escape. Drake does not like to make friends at first, as he accidentally killed a friend he made while escaping a prison before the Rig, but he grows to enjoy spending time with Irene and Tristan. Together they make a great team.

I also enjoyed how the book was set up. First, Drake arrived at the Rig and learned where each room was. Then, he made friends with Tristan and Irene, at the same time as he learned about his nasty job and the daily schedule. Finally, he planned escape. This effective setup resulted in a real page-turner and a fast-paced novel.

The only aspect of this book I would change is when Drake starts to play Rigball, a game like lacrosse, but with electromagnetic sticks (Tristan finds these interesting) and no rules on tackling or fighting. I found this part a bit unsettling, but with all the violent people on the Rig this was a realistic way for them to have fun.

Prepare yourself for an amazing book full of strong imagery, great character development, and an exciting plot. I would give it a ten out of ten and recommend it to anyone who enjoys exciting escape stories with a fantastic setting and awesome characters.

Forest

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., 308 pages


The Selection by Kiera Cass

March 21, 2017

For thirty-four other girls, a chance to be drawn for the Selection is the dream of a lifetime: a chance to glide around in silken ballgowns, to be weighed down with glittering jewels, and most of all, a chance to win Prince Maxon’s heart—if only to be princess for a day. When thirty-four other girls are drawn for the Selection, it will be a dream come true… For thirty-four girls, but not for America Singer.

America and her family of artists and musicians are Fives in Illéa’s caste system, just three castes away from the lowest of the low. When a letter arrives offering an opportunity to enter the Selection, America’s mother couldn’t be more delighted. Despite the generous compensation and life-long fame that the Selection has to offer, America finds the competition ridiculous—after all, America is in love with Aspen Leger. But when Aspen convinces her to put her name in for the contest, America reluctantly complies. She is chosen—and thrown into a whirlpool of cameras, costumes, and royalty. Aspen is torn from America as she’s thrust into this new world, which sparks resentment and her determination to stay in the competition. As the Selection wears on and girls disappear each week, America becomes friends with the prince. America soon discovers that Maxon is much more than the stuffy royal she thought she knew.

In this book, Kiera Cass puts a thrilling spin on the present day Bachelor phenomenon. Cass’s The Selection is set in the strict dystopian country of Illéa. In this society, all citizens must conform to the rules and occupation that their caste requires. As the book continues, two rebel groups—the Northern and Southern rebels—attempt to infiltrate the deep-rooted system, which causes jaw-dropping twists that delve into themes of action, reaction, and breaking conformity. These surprises create a respite from the romance and drama of the rest of the story.

Each character in The Selection is expertly crafted with layers on layers of personality and flaws—this creates unique interactions and makes it challenging to anticipate what will happen next. Cass describes each character with an earnest reality, as if you could run into any of them on the street. America is written as a real teenager struggling to survive in a world built on status and mistrust, with the added complications of having to decide what her heart wants—a life that everyone can relate to at times. As readers enter this story, they will discover that every girl chosen for the Selection yearns to win and is involved in the process for a reason. Cass makes it easy to experience America’s discoveries of the competitors, the rebels, her family, and her country in countless unexpected ways.

There are two books in The Selection series, The Elite and The One, which also feature America’s journey in the Selection. The Heir and The Crown are the two most recent companion novels to the series. These titles focus on Princess Eadlyn Schreave, the first ever female heir to the throne, and the challenges she faces during her Selection. Cass crafts each book in the series with thought and power, making it almost impossible to favor any of the five above one another.

I recommend this book to anyone from the ages twelve and up. The Selection is a dystopian novel, packed with contemporary realistic fiction sub-plots and themes that make the book possible for any reader to enjoy. I adored this read, and the rest of the series, so much that my rating can’t possibly be contained in a simple ten. The Selection series by Kiera Cass certainly deserves the praise it has gotten from readers and critics alike—I strongly believe The Selection has earned its place on the shelf next to other instant YA classics like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and The Hunger Games.

Hope

Harper Teen, 327 pages


Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

January 31, 2017

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Finn is not your average boy, growing up in a not- so- average place, surrounded by an unusual group of people. Finn is captive in the living prison called Incarceron that can kill and breed people at will. No one except the inmate’s legend, Sapphique, has escaped the dreaded world. No one has come in or out since the prison was built, although Finn believes he came from the outside. In fact, no one believes there is anywhere else. He embarks on a dangerous quest with his oath-brother Kerio to escape Incarceron using a mysterious crystal key and visions of Sapphique, before Incarceron finds them.

Claudia is the daughter of the warden of Incarceron. She lives in a kingdom where she is forced to marry the second son of the royal family and become the queen of the kingdom. She is trying to find Incarceron’s location with the help of her tutor, Jared. Searching through her father’s belongings, she finds a crystal key she believes will unlock the door to Incarceron. A mysterious artifact brings Claudia and Finn together to uncover a secret plot that has to do with the missing prince of the kingdom and the creation of Incarceron.

Catherine Fisher’s imagination has brought to life this blend of science fiction, action adventure, high technology, kings and queens, and lots of deception, conspiracies, and heart. Readers follow Finn and Claudia through their quest to uncover the truth. Fisher switches between third- person perspectives of Finn and Claudia. When I got to an exciting part, the novel would change perspectives so I was always wanting to read on to find out what happened to the characters. Both characters have to overcome many extra problems they run into, in order to accomplish their main goal.

Fisher leads this book into its follow up, Sapphique. She has written another amazing novel called Circle of Stones. I rate this book a ten because I never stopped being interested in the plot. I also liked how Fisher made Incarceron alive. She used personification to give a prison human qualities, and throughout the book  characters talk about a certain emotion Incarceron is feeling at the time— for example, a rumble or a creak would be how Incarceron shows its emotions. I recommend this book to any one who likes action-adventure, science fiction, corruption, fantasy, and rebellion.

Fisher leads you on two adventures that collide into a story that will change everything for both characters. Meanwhile the reader asks so many questions: Who should they trust? What can they do? Who’s bad and who’s good? What is Incarceron?

Dial books, 442 pages

Marcus


Monument 14: Savage Drift by Emmy Laybourne

January 27, 2017

Now at Quilchena Refugee Camp in Canada, Dean and the survivors from Monument 14 are safe. The only concern is that Josie is missing. She is now at a Type O containment camp in Missouri where everyone is going crazy due to the reaction from their blood type, and a mean guard called Vengar bosses everyone around. Niko finds out where she is from the start of the book and is determined to rescue her. Jake, Astrid (who is still pregnant), and Dean want to go with him. So a man at the refugee camp takes them to an airport in Idaho where their newest adventure begins.

Monument 14: Savage Drift is a great conclusion to the Monument 14 series. I appreciated how Laybourne switched between the perspectives of Josie and Dean, which were very different, especially at the beginning when Dean and his friends have all that they needed at Quilchena Refugee Camp, while Josie, at the Type O containment camp, is treated terribly. People there are constantly fighting, but a kind man named Mario looks after Josie and the other kids. I also enjoyed how Laybourne recorded the number of each day since the hailstorm at the bottom of each page. I could easily keep track of which day it was. I thought Laybourne described the setting well. I could picture it although I think that the first book had better imagery because the characters spent the whole novel in the store. However, I would change how much Dean, Jake, and Astrid argued. In the other books they seemed to get along better and worked as a team to protect the little kids.

Laybourne’s character development was also effective. Dean, at first, seemed to stand up for Astrid too much and argued with Jake often, but as the book went on, he learned that he was overly protective and became more of a leader, with a little help from Niko. Josie, on the other hand, was very helpful to Mario and in looking after the little kids. She also was good at standing up for herself when crazed Type Os were being cruel to her. As the book went on she kept trying to escape, never giving up.

Overall, I really liked this book. I enjoyed how It switched between Josie and Dean’s perspectives, and the settings were intriguing and easy to picture. I would rate it a nine out of ten and recommend it to anyone who likes exciting, survival books and great character development.

Forest

Square Fish Books, 308 pages


Sweet by Emmy Laybourne

January 25, 2017

Laurel is an average teenage girl—with a wealthy best friend. Tom Forelli is a celebrity who needs to shed his childhood “Baby Tom-Tom” image. The Cruise to Lose is the opportunity of a lifetime for both of them.

When the diet drug Solu is created, the company holds a luxury cruise for only the richest of the rich to get a sneak peek at their new, seemingly-magical, sweetener that not only tastes exactly like real sugar, it also helps the eater lose weight. At first, Laurel and Tom’s paths cross in a somewhat cliché way (literally running into one another), but their reason for staying in each others’ lives is unique: neither has taken Solu, which means neither has experienced the strange symptoms popping up in the rest of the passengers, such as extreme addiction to the point of murder. The passengers get crazier and literally bloodthirsty, including Laurel’s best friend, Vivika, and Tom’s to-the-public “girlfriend,” reality-star Sabbi Ribiero. As the only sober people on the ship, Tom and Laurel unite to put an end to the cruise and take down Solu before it is released to the public.

Laybourne switches perspectives between Tom Forelli and Laurel. Because these two characters are so alike in personality but come from contrasting backgrounds, I felt the plot had more dimensions to it. It creates the expectation of predictability in the readers’ minds, then goes in a surprising direction. There are twists and turns no reader could expect, giving the novel its breakneck speed.

An aspect I particularly loved was how Laybourne packed multiple themes into one book to appeal to multiple audiences. It contained bits of dystopian science-fiction, contemporary realistic fiction, disaster/survival, adventure, and magical realism. Even if you prefer only one of those five genres, Laybourne’s way of fusing them together is intriguing and unique: perfect for this novel.

Prepare yourself for a book filled-to-the-brim with shocking twists (including a conclusion no one could’ve foreseen) that you can finish it in a day. Sweet reveals human nature’s dark side when we want something badly, but also the beauty of two different personalities working together.

Zoe

Feiwel and Friends, 272 pages


The Maze Runner by James Dashner

February 13, 2016

The_Maze_Runner_coverThomas wakes up. A stranger to a small, pitch-black room, he feels his surroundings shoot up to the sky until he jolts to a stop. The top opens up to a blinding light. He can’t see anything for a moment, and all he hears is, “Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the glade.”

Author James Dashner puts his protagonist Thomas into a twisted, evil place called the maze. The setting is a huge field in the middle. Surrounding it is a maze with a box in the center that brings up new supplies and a new boy each month. But one month the very first girl comes up with a note: This is the last one.

I really enjoyed the book because it drew me right into the reading zone with all of the suspenseful action scenes around every corner—or every turn of the page. For example, my favorite is when Thomas runs into the maze to save his friends and fights off the Grievers, an enemy, at night. Nobody has ever survived a night the maze. One of the best traits of Thomas as a character is his bravery and how he is willing to help others, like he does in that scene.

This also leads me to the theme. It shows up in different chapters throughout the book: its perseverance and to never give up hope or leave anyone behind. Thomas does just that in the scene where he runs into the maze to save his friends. He believes in each one of them.

I loved how Dashner would give the reader some information and then hold the rest back. He would give me enough details at the right time so that I could make a connection, but it would not be predictable. For example, he tells readers that inside the Grievers stinger there is a number— that number is what section they come from and maybe an escape route.

Dashner did a great job with all of the plot twists, such as when Thomas kills the first Grievers ever. The next day, when the doors to the maze open and they don’t close, the Grievers roam into the glade when night falls. This had me reading for hours to grasp more of the juicy content that was provided over the course of this book.

I would recommend this novel to anyone. It was amazing and, as a reader, I was able to finish it in just a sitting. I rated this book a ten out of ten, and it is definitely a re-read book. There is also a series that goes along with the book— this is the first— and the rest of the series is definitely promising. The movie based on Dashner’s novel follows the storyline of the book perfectly, so give this book a read first and then enjoy the film.

Joe

Delacorte Press, 386 pages


I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

I_Am_Number_Four_CoverNine Loriens escape from their planet after being attacked by dozens of Mogadoriens. The Lorien Alien nine go to Earth, but the Mogadoriens follow them a few months later on a quest to finally destroy all Loriens that are still alive. The nine survivors all have powers that develop over time. They all split up to different states and countries and with mentors that act as parents and teachers to them and help them live grow their powers, in order to someday to be ready to defend themselves.

The main problem in this novel by Pittacus Lore is that the nine need to grow and master their powers so they can fight back and kill the Mogadoriens, which is the main problem in the book. I think that the Lore crafted that conflict well. He was able to bring the characters to life, and draw the reader in to make it seem like he or she is in the book along with the characters.

During the novel the nine develop more powers, have fights with the Mogs, who are always looking and hunting the Nine down, especially the main character named John Smith who is Number Four. The Loriens have to be killed in order by the Mogs. If they go out of order it will have a reverse effect and make the person die who-is trying to kill them. When the book begins One, Two, and Three have been killed-now they are after Number Four.

John’s life is fun: he enjoys himself, he goes to school, and there is even a romance between him and Saharh, but as a Lorien in hiding he has a big secret to keep from his friends and his girlfriend, which is another main problem.

Number Four’s mentor is named Henri, and I think the author Lore has crafted every character to add new meaning to the book. He gives each one powers, and their character development is all based around them growing their powers to fight back.

Lore crafted the theme and plot with details about what the Nine are there for, how they will survive, and how to fend for themselves while also helping others in danger. I would rate this book a ten because the author makes the plot and theme build so much and has great character development. This novel kicks off a compelling series of books, all of which readers will want to devour as soon as they finish I Am Number Four.

Sam

Harper, 440 pages


Monument 14, by Emmy Laybourne

February 11, 2014

Monument 14 In 2024 in America, a sequence of natural disasters is taking place and millions of people are dying— a volcano erupts in the Canary Islands, which causes the island to explode; this creates hail and a ‘megatsunami,’ which triggers the largest earthquake ever recorded. All of this inflicts damage on NORAD’s storage facility, which causes a toxic chemical to leak into the air. At the same time, fourteen kids get trapped in a superstore on their way to school while trying to escape the hail.

I read this book in three days and I rated it a ten. Monument 14 had a fast-paced plot for the most part, but when it slowed down, it was the fascinating premise and the character interactions that kept me reading. The secondary characters all had distinct and different personalities.

Something I found interesting was that the main character, Dean, isn’t too memorable; there isn’t anything about him that makes him stand out when compared to protagonists of other books. I think that this actually contributes to the story because the plot is complicated, so having a stand-out lead character might overwhelm the reader.

Another thing I found interesting is that although there are thirteen other kids in the superstore, Monument 14 is told only from Dean’s point of view. Typically, in a situation like this, authors choose to switch among perspectives. Emmy Laybourne didn’t, which helped me get to know Dean better because I spent the whole book in his head. This also added some originality to Monument 14 because not many authors would choose to do this.

I would recommend Monument 14 to anyone who likes dystopian survival novels; this book fits perfectly into the genre.

If you like this book, the next installment is called Sky On Fire— I can’t wait to read it.

Sara

Square Fish Books, 294 pages


Monument 14: Sky on Fire, by Emmy Laybourne

February 4, 2014

Sky on FireJust think: it’s a normal day, and you are going to school. You forget to say goodbye to your mom, you go out to get on your bus, and your little brother is right behind you to catch his bus, too. When you are on your bus and you hear a noise—a clang, clang, clang. You see hail coming down. It gets faster and faster, bigger and bigger, and then the bus is sliding. Your bus crashes into a big box store. You finally see your brother’s bus backing up to save you—well, you hope.

That is the scene that begins Monument 14 and continues in Monument 14: Sky on Fire by Emmy Laybourne. It is the sequel in what is planned as a trilogy. Both books are about the main character, Dean, his brother, Alex, and their friends as they try to survive. One of the problems is that there is a bad cloud of poison. If you breathe it in, you can get terrible symptoms depending on your type of blood. Type A gets very bad blisters, B gets reproductive difficulties, AB becomes paranoid, and O gets rabid and kills all who come near.

I like how Emmy Layboune makes the people who come into the book and all the different problems so real. That is why I rated it a 9.5 out of 10. I didn’t like that the book focused so much on boy-girl relationships. But it is a good book, and I think everyone who likes action and adventure, dystopia, and teen issues would enjoy this exciting sequel.

Carissa

Felwel and Friends New York, 215 pages


The Circle, by Dave Eggers

January 30, 2014

The CircleExploring a scenario not too distant from reality, Eggers writes a dystopian novel that questions the extent to which technology has been pushed. In this book, The Circle is the Earth’s most powerful internet company, based in California; its slogan is “All that happens must be known.” A young woman named Mae Holland gets a job there, meeting up with her best friend, Annie. Mae takes a tour through the campus, and views The Circle: beautiful glass buildings, outdoor swimming pools, tanks of rare deep-sea fish, and almost everything else you can imagine. It seems perfect. When The Circle reveals a miniature surveillance camera that’s almost unnoticeable and can wirelessly stream to a larger screen anywhere in the world, the thought seems harmless. But is this new piece of technology threatening society’s privacy? The short answer is yes.

Eggers tells a thrilling story of how technology can change our lives for better or for worse. He brilliantly describes the many ways it changes Mae’s life— privately, socially, and in many ways she wished could stay the same. He describes how her relationship with Annie changes, how her personality changes, and how stress devours her everyday life. The Circle takes the reader on a fantastic journey through the life of a technology-run world.

Eggers discusses the fact that in our world, spying creates tension throughout society, but describes it through a fictional scenario. When reading this novel, one can’t help but think of current issues such as the National Security Agency spying on civilians. Eggers wrote in a way that I could see Mae change, Annie change, and The Circle change, all because of a small creation— originated by a simple thought: all that happens must be known.

The Circle is a wonderful book that opens up all sorts of questions about modern technology, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s open to understanding the drawbacks to “advances” in society.

Noah

Alfred A. Knopf, 491 pages


Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow

January 29, 2014

Little BrotherIn San Francisco, the Bay bridge is bombed by terrorists. Marcus Yallow, a senior who hacks security tech to skip school, gets caught with his friends by the Department of Homeland Security. They are detained as enemy combatants. Once released, Marcus learns that the city has become a police state: everyone is suspected of terrorism. He starts his own movement against the DHS through technology.

Doctorow’s lead was interesting: he starts with Marcus at his school and then progresses to Marcus skipping with his friends and going to the bridge. Then the bombing happens, and he gets caught by the DHS. I liked the lead, because it gave me time to get used to Marcus and Doctorow’s writing style, in an engaging way.

The theme that I found in Little Brother was about the government and our society: in the name of keeping us safe, the government can take away all of our rights. Also when we act scared and add security to make us safe, like cameras in classrooms and data-mining, the country just gets weaker and even more scared, especially when the safety measures don’t work.

I  thought that the theme of Little Brother is even more relevant now, with the NSA phone tapping and data collection. Doctorow wrote in 2008 about a dystopian world, but now, in 2014, his story of San Francisco is scarily close to the real world—only the NSA surveillance wasn’t as apparent to us, and Marcus Yallow is like a younger Edward Snowden.

I rated this book a ten. From the very beginning it was funny, but it also conveyed world issues in a realistic sense. I loved the use of encryptions and technology by Marcus, as well as facts: say one in a million people has a certain disease, and you have a 99% accurate test. In a city of one million, the test will falsely identify 9,999 people as infected with the disease, while correctly identifying one person. This is called a false positive: the 99% accurate test functions with a 99.99% inaccuracy rate.

A funny blend of history, tech, math, and politics, Little Brother is an essential novel for any young adult reader.

Parker

Tor Teen, 416 pages.


The Beach, by Alex Garland

February 13, 2012

Debut novels, it seems to me, are either fantastic or ghastly. The Beach, written by twenty-seven-year-old Alex Garland, is one of the fantastic ones. It is a gripping novel, narrated in flashbacks and dreams. It is horrific; it is marvelous.

Richard is a traveler staying at a hotel on the Ko Sanh Road in Bangkok when he first hears of “The Beach.” Right away, three things happen: Richard meets Etienne and Françoise; a man called Daffy Duck who is staying at the hotel slits his wrists; and a map of Thailand marked with an “X” is tacked to Richard’s door. The “X” is The Beach, which is supposed to be a contemporary utopia.

The genre of this novel is dystopian fiction, but there’s also a lot of action-adventure and mystery. It was a compelling and thrilling read that I could not put down.  I would recommend this book to any seventh or eighth grader who wonders if a perfect community can actually exist. Just a warning: Richard and the other characters swear with astonishing frequency and vulgarity, and violence is not glossed over. That being said, The Beach is one of my ten favorite books.

Character development—of lack of same—can be an interesting plot device. Garland does not waste many words on the majority of those who inhabit The Beach. I thought that it was kind of strange at first, until later on, when Richard brings up the matter himself, and I realized why.

One other thing I found to be unusual: Mr. Duck, the man who kills himself, visits Richard in his dreams. Again, it seems like Rich is just hallucinating, and it’s an irrelevant detail. But as I said, it’s very difficult to predict anything with this novel—the conclusion was a complete surprise to me.

What I like most about this novel is that everything matters. Even seemingly insignificant details end up playing a major role later on, as the plot thickens. The visuals are also stunning, and the tone in which Garland writes, or Richard flashes-back, foreshadows what will happen next.

Garland wrote The Beach in short, choppy-at-times chapters that echo how his character is remembering events. They are titled with obscure phrases such as “Cab!” that don’t make any sense until you’ve finished the half-page to four-page passage.

I can’t say anything about the theme. It is hinted at throughout the novel but only fully revealed in the conclusion, which ends up being an effective approach, as it left me with a lot to muse about.

I rated The Beach a ten out of ten. I loved the element of mystery and its fast pace. I loved the characters Garland wanted me to love; later I hated them. I laughed, and I would have cried if it hadn’t been such a satisfying end. Anyone who enjoys dystopian fiction must read this novel: it’s amazing.

Morganne

Riverhead Books, 436 pages

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The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

May 25, 2010

CollinsHGSuzanne Collins writes about a future United States of America broken up into twelve districts and in the middle is the Capital, where people who control the country live. Every year, the brutal leaders choose two tributes, starting at the age of twelve to eighteen, from each of the districts to fight to the death. Katniss, the lead character is chosen to represent District 12 in the arena where the Hunger Games are held. District 12 is fenced in (like all of the other Districts) and it’s illegal to hunt. Also, there is a place called the Hob and there they sell many things, and most of them are illegal like alcohol, and many of the people from District 12 live in fear because if they get caught they either die in jail or have brutal punishments that can lead to death.

But that’s also where Katniss learned to hunt, in the illegal forest surrounding the District. When she is chosen at the “Reaping” to go to the Hunger Games, that’s when breaking the law by hunting for her family can help her. In the Games, you have to fight and kill other tributes, until you are the last alive.

My rating of this book would be a ten out of ten, because I thought this book was filled with action, thoughts and feelings, and suspense. A part that was full of action was when the Game Makers, who control every aspect of the deadly arena, were shooting fireballs out thin air and trying to burn Katniss. When I read this, I was mostly shocked and surprised at how far they went to kill her, and the whole idea of the Hunger Games itself hit me. A book I would compare this to is the Maximum Ride series, because there is a lot of fighting and action. A example for suspense is when Katniss was at the reaping and they were waiting to see if Katniss was going to be one of the two tributes chosen.

A part that was filled with thoughts and feeling was when Katniss, a 16-year-old girl, is in love so much that she would sacrifice herself for that person.  For example here is a quote:

“Then you shoot me.” I say furiously, shoving the weapons back at him. “You shoot me and go home and live with it!” And as I say it, I know death right here, right now would be the easier of the two.

In my opinion I think Katniss is a tomboy because she loves to hunt and be outside and hates dressing up or being frilly or flashy or anything like that. But throughout the book, when she did have to do more feminine stuff, like dress up, she did as she was told and didn’t argue. (So she was independent throughout the book.)When she had to hunt humans in the Games, she refused, so she was independent throughout the book. It might just be me, but I really like strong female characters.

At times, Katniss can be really caring because her love and devotion to her friends and family. For a example, when a tribute named Rue dies, Katniss buries her in flowers because Rue reminded Katniss of her litter sister Prim. This book is definitely worth your time reading.

Catherine

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The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness

May 18, 2010

NessPrentisstown is a place where there are no females as a result of the Spackle war. During the war with the Spackle, an alien race, a disease called “the Noise” got picked up by the men, so every man can hear each other’s thoughts. Todd Hewitt is a regular boy in Prentisstown, until he finds Viola, a girl, the only girl he has ever met in his life.

Todd finds himself on the run from the mayor of Prentisstown and his army without knowing why. Todd picks up Viola on the way. Todd is confused why he had to run and learns secrets along the way that confuse him even more. The secrets teach him facts about Prentisstown and himself that he hadn’t thought about. They make him angrier and angrier which eventually leads him to take a final stand against the mayor.

I rated this book a ten, because it is filled with action and adventure. Almost all the action comes from Todd fighting with the mayor’s army and there is a lot of shooting and hand to hand fighting. Patrick Ness expertly crafts the exciting parts by balancing out action with sensory details and dialogue. There is more than enough action to enthrall you, but not too much to make it boring. The author puts in a lot of action but not enough to make it action, action, action. For example, this is a quote from when Todd fights Mr. Prentiss Jr:

“I grip the knife and squeeze Viola’s hand once, hard, for luck.

It’s now or never.

AND—

‘NOW’ I yell.

We jump up and a gun blast rings out, splintering the branches over our heads, but we run anyway.”

The author’s writing style is very fast paced, with little stops for thoughts and feelings or description. When there is fighting, all that is described is the fighting itself, but it is described with a lot of detail. This is the quickest five hundred page book I have read! I read it in one day, it was such a quick read.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is a great dystopia title with lots of sensory details and an exciting plot. It won the Guardian Children’s fiction prize and is the first of a great trilogy. Until the end of the book, Patrick Ness keeps you guessing about what is going to happen to Todd and Viola.

Xander

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The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer

May 6, 2010

scorpionMateo Alacran, known as El Patron, rules a small stretch of poppy fields between United States and Mexico, the futuristic country of Opium.  In Opium, things are run far different from anywhere else.  El Patron, a drug lord, is selfish and cruel because anything that he possesses, becomes his forever.  Whether the possession is a person or a useless object, it will remain his to the grave.  In Nancy Farmer’s future, clones are considered to be scum, lower than animals, and are not welcome anywhere because when a clone is made its brain is damaged forever because of the crude law.  Matteo’s life is saved, and he is forced to set out to live as normally he can while being a clone.

Mateo Alacran, the clone of El Patron, is forced to live his life in Opium where he is ignored, hated, and shunned by everyone except for his “father,” El Patron, his adopted mother Celia, and trusty bodyguard Tam Lin.  The only reason Mat is not banned or enslaved from Opium is because of El Patron’s orders to protect Mat.  But how long will those orders stay true?  Mat is confused why clones are hated and determined to find his destiny.  Can Mat survive in a place where he is hated?  Is their a place where he will be accepted as a normal boy, or is he destined to live his life forever thought of as a dirty clone?  Why does he exist in the first place?

Nancy Farmer does an amazing job of creating a problem so intriguing that you are forced to read on.  She adds the thoughts and feelings of Mat and great description of Opium and its rules.  The people of Opium are so different from our world now that you have to pay close attention to everything that happens or you will be lost.

I highly recommend this book to everyone who enjoys action, suspense, and mystery because you will love figuring out the purpose of Mat’s existence alongside of him.  For example, when Mat sees a brain damaged clone, he wonders how he can be a clone too and thoughts cloud his brain.  You experience all his thoughts and clues to solving the mystery with him.  Nancy Farmer creates such a crude and unfair future with many twists and turns you will be intrigued to read more and won’t be able to put this book down until Mat is safe along with the people of Opium and the rest of this future world.  In this amazing book, Nancy Farmer teaches about friendship, loyalty, and what it means to risk everything to right the wrongs of the world even if you’re only a clone, powerless and never meant to be.

Eloise

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