18 July 2011

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship Breaker Bookplate

Set initially in a future shanty town in America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being dissembled for parts by a rag tag group of workers, we meet Nailer, a teenage boy working the light crew, searching for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. The harsh realities of this life, from his abusive father, to his hand to mouth existence, echo the worst poverty in the present day third world. When an accident leads Nailer to discover an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, and the lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl, Nailer finds himself at a crossroads. Should he strip the ship and live a life of relative wealth, or rescue the girl, Nita, at great risk to himself and hope she'll lead him to a better life. This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss. Yet amidst the shadows of degradation, hope lies ahead.

I ordered this book because I saw it on so many award lists (Andre Norton Award, Michael L. Printz Award) and I wondered what all the fuss was about. To be honest, the book blurb kept me away for quite some time. It just seemed stale and formulaic, like someone was trying to cash in on the dystopian trend and didn't quite know how to go about it. I'm glad I finally gave in, though, because this book was excellent and nothing like the impression the blurb gave me. Lucky is a great character, believable as a rich girl in her situation, and her situation is a great plot twist that sets her up to be not only rich and privileged, but also intelligent and competent in her situation. Nailer is a great foil to her and a unique voice, providing us with insight into how unique her “ordinary” (to the reader) life is and helping to illustrate how his world has changed from ours. The plot follows logically, and although it seems that everyone is motivated by the same thing (money) it doesn’t seem contrived to me because money and survival is a constant obsession with people living constantly on the brink of not having any to survive on. Although Bacigalupi has written another book in this world, I haven’t read it and I didn’t feel that it was necessary to understand what was going on, although I am tempted to find it now that we’ve been introduced. In all, this was a very good book and I will be looking for more work by the author in the future.

13 July 2011

Possession by Elana Johnson

Possession Bookplate

Vi knows the Rule: Girls don’t walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn…and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi’s future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they’re set on convincing Vi to become one of them….starting by brainwashed Zenn. Vi can’t leave Zenn in the Thinkers’ hands, but she’s wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous: everything Zenn’s not. Vi can’t quite trust Jag and can’t quite resist him, but she also can’t give up on Zenn.

This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

I honestly don’t know how I feel about this book. It’s another in a long series of mind-control dystopias overcome by love. It also has a love triangle between two “good” guys, which is so cliché in YA Lit right now. The result is coherent, though, and, if not quite fresh, definitely not stale. Yet I just get the feeling that somehow it’s not my thing, even though there are no technical difficulties I can point to that make that so. The plot is tight, is not overly verbose or stale in its exposition. It is surprising yet logically follows, and shows some good worldbuilding. The characters are realistic and engaging. Vi makes good decisions for a teenager but shows that she is still young and not always thinking things entirely through. She sometimes lets her head rule her heart and sometimes she’s emotionally impulsive, something that makes me happy because real people are rarely just one or the other. She also reacts as I would expect someone who is fighting brainwashing to react. Jag is a great foil to Vi, having grown up independent and knowing inside information that makes him more confident in his reactions. I also wasn’t as annoyed at his hiding information from Vi as I usually am in these situations: for Jag it made sense because he was protecting people and wasn’t sure he could trust Vi even if he had feelings for her. I saw the exposition about Vi’s father coming from a long way off, but it only felt slightly contrived and I’ll give it a pass. Zenn was the least developed character in the book. I’m still not sure why he acts and reacts like he does in a lot of situations. I don’t think this is too bad of a thing, though, because it helps the reader to feel like Vi does: uncertain of his motivations and slow to trust. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, but I suspect there is more down the road, and I think I found enough in this book that I’ll be tempted to go along for the next book in the series if it manifests itself.

11 July 2011

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Linger Bookplate

In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

Since the final book in the series, Forever, comes out tomorrow (and because I’m going to a signing on Thursday!) I had to catch up on Maggie Stiefvater’s werewolf series. I’m so glad I did. This is a very good book. It does suffer a little bit from “middle syndrome” (the thing that makes the plot seem to be stalled for the majority of the book because it’s really the lull before the climax of the third part, see “Empire Strikes Back”) but it has enough going on to make it stand up on its own as well as work well to advance the story. Although Grace and Sam seemed to be in a holding pattern, character-development-wise, the work on Isabelle and Cole more than made up for it. Although I think the ‘foreshadowing’ on Cole’s secret was laid on a little thick (especially since the reader already knew the secret, and especially because nothing came of it), but his interactions with Isabelle were great, and I like the match of the two of them. They both seem to understand the other’s pain without condescension or a time table, and although they deal with it differently they still respect the other’s choices. There’s also subtle foreshadowing that there’s going to be a fight about their different approaches in the future. The major plot point is interesting. I like how there’s more exposition on how the “werewolfing” works and how the “cure” served Sam even though they didn’t quite know what they were doing. My only disappointment was that we didn’t see much of the new wolves other than Cole. Hopefully all that will be resolved in the third book, though.

08 July 2011

Luminous by Dawn Metcalf

Luminous Bookplate

As reality slips and time stands still, Consuela finds herself thrust into the world of the Flow. Removed from all she loves into this shifting world overlapping our own, Consuela quickly discovers she has the power to step out of her earthly skin and cloak herself in new ones-skins made from the world around her, crafted from water, fire, air. She is joined by other teens with extraordinary abilities, bound together to safeguard a world they can affect, but where they no longer belong.

When murder threatens to undo the Flow, the Watcher charges Consuela and elusive, attractive V to stop the killer. But the psychopath who threatens her new world may also hold the only key to Consuela's way home.

Although this book turned out good it got off to a rocky start. The author rather dumps you from the "real" world into the Flow, and I felt very disjointed and confused over what was happening and where we were. I think it was done to emphasize the disorientation and confusion of Consuela, but it isn't done in a way that made me identify with the character. Instead I wanted to put the book down. It was just too fast, plopping us into the fantasy world without explanation or reason, and the contrivance is only emphasized by Consuela’s placid acceptance rather than questioning of the issue.

I endured, though, and as the author got around to explaining what happened and why I started to enjoy the world and the characters, although I never really felt as if I understood it or them. In order to maintain the mystery of the plot the characters all have hidden agendas and ulterior motives, and you're always questioning why they're doing what they're doing, but you're also questioning why you care. There are a lot of characters that seem to be put in place so that they can die to amplify the plot, but because you didn't ever identify with them it doesn't work as well as it could.

However, even with these major flaws there is something about the book that is absorbing and makes you want to keep reading despite all the incertainty and confusion. Perhaps it is the artful dealing with the subject matter: what happens when we die, and what about people who seem to be *dead* but are still functionally alive? What do they experience? What do they feel? Add in an overlay of murder mystery and a dash of romantic subplot and the question is very deep as well as entertaining. This gift extends even beyond the ending, turning an ending that is simply ambiguous into a cliffhanger mystery that keeps you thinking about the book even after you're done with it. Although this book wasn't altogether my cup of tea I can see many people who would be able to look past its flaws and fall completely in love with the great existential mystery that is presented in this book.

I received this book free from Librarything as an ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.