Wither (The Chemical Garden, #1)
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Publication Date: 3/22/11
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
At age 16, Rhine Ellery has four years to live. Thanks to a botched effort to create a perfect race, all females live to age 20 and males live to age 25. On the cusp of her 17th birthday, Rhine attempts to flee, but what she finds is a society spiraling out of control.Review:
Oh boy, do I have problems with this new crop of YA dystopian/post-apocalyptic lit! I am starting to think that the authors who attempt to explore this genre have no understanding of what it takes to write such books. Just making up some new horrible way people are treated in a future society and adding in some angsty love triangle isn't enough!
I don't want to sound too lectur-y, but these new, young writers probably do not realize that to create a dystopian/post-apocalyptic society that is believable, they need to: 1) understand how our current world works; 2) be able to identify cultural, political, economical trends that can possibly affect humanity in a major way in future; 3) realize that when they set their eyes on extrapolating a certain trend, they need to have their characters react to it in a logical (in terms of human psychology) way.
Let's take Wither
. About 70 year prior to the beginning of the story, humanity got itself into a huge bind. Playing with genetic engineering, scientists created a new, improved type of people, cured of decease, with longer lives, etc. Only the offsprings of these new people have some side effects - females now die at the age of 20 and males - of 25 (this number thing is weird, but ok, I am not going to linger on it). What happens now is that young girls are kidnapped and sold into polygamous marriage to procreate. The main character of this novel, 16-year old Rhine, is now one of 4 wives and is scared for her future...
You know what my problem is, right here? The notion that barely out of teen years young men would be so preoccupied with procreation. Why would they care to make babies? They will be dead in a couple of years! Why would anyone in this world care to have children or place a value on them if they never see them grow, if they never were raised by their own parents?
Such a strong pro-procreation scheme requires a lot of conditioning IMO, some structure that makes young people accept the idea they need to waste their precious years on being pregnant and producing children. You need some older people to think-up and maintain the procreation cycle, because mostly older people care about this sort of thing. Throw a couple of dozen of teens on an island, tell them they only have four years to live and see how many will think about the next generation. There are some "first generation" people around in this novel, who can live their lives until old age, but I never found them very influential in this world DeStefano created. More often than not they are domestics, and not evil masterminds.
Then the whole structure of this world is just unbelievable. Why do these people want to give birth to children when there is nobody to take care of them and so many of them run wild? Why do they kill young girls if they are so valuable as wombs? Who actually makes these young people work if they know they are about to die? What motivates them to go to work? None of these questions were answered convincingly to me.
The entire dystopian/post-apocalyptic premise is faulty in my mind. My rant here only pertains to a fraction of issues I have with it. There are great reviews, like this one
that explore holes in the world building in terms of economics, politics, etc.
You might think I am too nit-picky, question everything, but I just read Paolo Bacigalupi
's short story "The People of Sand and Slag" in which people eat sand, regrow their limbs and embellish their bones with blades and I totally bought it! When written right, any, even the most outrageous premise, can make you believe in it.
I am sure there will be some people taken by Wither
. They will like being shocked/disgusted/titillated by the scenes of polygamy, the main character's constant fear of being raped and impregnated, 13-year old girl having sex with her much older husband (and liking it), mentions of Kama Sutra, etc. I personally found some aspects of this novel distasteful.
Instead of Wither
I would recommend The Handmaid's Tale
and The Children of Men
which deal with similar themes, but in a more responsible and sophisticated way.2/5 stars
What Can't WaitAuthor: Ashley Hope PérezPublication Date: 3/28/11Publisher: Carolrhoda LabBlurb (GR):"Another day finished, gracias a Dios."
Seventeen-year-old Marisa's mother has been saying this for as long as Marisa can remember. Her parents came to Houston from Mexico. They work hard, and they expect Marisa to help her familia. And they expect her to marry a boy from the neighborhood, to settle down, and to have grandbabies. If she wants a job, she could always be an assistant manager at the local grocery store.
At school, it's another story. Marisa's calc teacher expects her to ace the AP test and to get into an engineering program in Austin—a city that seems unimaginably far away. When her home life becomes unbearable, Marisa seeks comfort elsewhere—and suddenly neither her best friend nor boyfriend can get through to her. Caught between the expectations of two different worlds, Marisa isn't sure what she wants—other than a life where she doesn't end each day thanking God it's over. What Can't Wait
—the gripping debut novel from Ashley Hope Pérez—tells the story of one girl's survival in a world in which family needs trump individual success, and self-reliance the only key that can unlock the door to the future.Review:
When I saw that this book was not only about the Mexican-American experience but that it also included a teenage girl who excelled in math, I couldn’t wait to read it. (the Mexican experience aspect because I find it fascinating and the math thing to stick it to my 5th grade science teacher who told my mom that it was no big deal that I sucked at circuitry because I was a girl and would obviously never need to know anything about it) The only other YA books that I’ve read involving Mexican teenagers are Simone Elkeles
’s Fuentes brothers books, and those are firmly anchored by their romantic plotlines. While I enjoyed those books, I’m happy to say that What Can’t Wait
is not carried by Marisa’s romantic life. Instead, we follow Marisa Moreno through her senior year of high school. No one in her family has ever gone to college but Marisa and several people who surround her believe that she has what it takes to achieve something more. Her attempts are thwarted left and right but she doesn't give in. I have to say, I always find it refreshing when a teenage protagonist is a hard worker and grounded in reality. So many YA books are based around trivialities but this one deals with several more serious issues. Yes, I remember how ridiculous many of my teenage concerns were and recognize that these books of which I speak are probably very true to actual teenage concerns and life. I guess I just like things a little more gritty. The tone of this novel is realistic, a little on the dark side, but decidedly optimistic. And the pacing is quick yet steady; I never felt like the story was rushed or that there was lag.
This book gives of a Dairy Queen
series vibe, and we all know what a good thing that is. The family situation is quite similar as well—a teenage girl who has to work hard for her family to the detriment of her schoolwork, her friendships, her love life, and her future, a dad who just doesn’t get it, a mother who seems like a pushover in many cases, and siblings who often compound family stress. There isn't much in the way of descriptive writing going on but I truly didn't mind--Ashley Hope Pérez
wrote a book that feels
like we are reading Marisa's journal of her entire year. (perhaps that is another reason I kept thinking of DJ Schwenk?)
I checked out the publisher of this novel because I had never encountered them before and I thought perhaps Carolrhoda was a word in a different language—as it turns out, the origin of the imprint name is quite a touching story. The head of Lerner Publishing Group, Carolrhoda Press’ parent company, named the imprint after his wife’s lifelong best friend who died too young of breast cancer. She was in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia and worked to bring more books to children worldwide. Carolrhoda Lab
, an offshoot of Carolrhoda Press, is a smaller imprint dedicated to publishing , “distinctive, provocative, boundary-pushing fiction for teens and their sympathizers.” (I chuckled at the teen sympathizers line—I suppose I don’t mind being labeled as such) After reading this work, I am certainly going to see what else this imprint has to offer.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley
for allowing me to read this one!4/5 stars
Author: Tabitha Suzuma
Publication Date: 6/28/11
Publisher: Simon PulseBlurb (GR):
Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.Review:
I was talking to Lyndsey
about how it feels to have a brother and the best example I could come up with is this: It feels like that force when you try to put two similar magnetic poles together, but right at that moment when it starts to push away. The love I have for my brother is so strong but he repulses me at the same time. I mean, he’s great as an adult but he is the same kid who once filled his Skeletor action figure with urine and sprayed all 3 of his sisters with it. He is the same brother who once fed 4-year old Flann a concoction of mostly Tabasco sauce while we were being babysat. (My mother made him drink it when she came home, FYI) He is the same brother who used to put his stuffed Hulk Hogan resting above his doorframe so if we tried to come in, it’d fall on us. And he is the same kid that said, “Polly want a cracker?” like a parrot all the way from Texas to Seattle on a road trip. (according to my mother) How anyone could ever be attracted to their sibling is beyond me. I do understand that it happens, usually in highly stressful family situations, but I just couldn’t get over my repulsion while I was reading Forbidden
. I wonder what the correlation is between people who enjoyed this book and whether or not they have brothers. Oh, I guess I was assuming that everyone who would read this review would already know what this book is about. If you don’t, SURPRISE! It’s about incest. (well, really it is about being in a terrible family situation)
This is written in first-person present, which really isn’t my favorite style, but I couldn’t get over the following:
“Summer gives way to autumn. The air turns sharper, the days grow shorter, gray clouds and persistent drizzle alternating with cold blue skies and bracing winds. Willa loses her third tooth, Tiffin attempts to cut his own hair when a supply teacher mistakes him for a girl…” What
is this? Most of the book reads like personal journal entries from Lochan and Maya’s present alternating perspectives but every once in a while there would be sections of text that were reflections on long periods of time. Overall, I thought the dual perspectives were successful but who writes their present thoughts like this?Dear diary,
Winter approaches faster than usual this year. Crisp, frigid air creeps into town with snowstorms right behind it. I made chicken casserole for dinner tonight. I cooked the chicken too long so it was a bit dry.
A bit jarring, eh? That’s an extreme example of what I am talking about but you get the point.
I want to make a comment on the names in this book but can someone named Flannery actually do that with a straight face? I’m not even going to tell you my other family members’ names—let’s just say it would be the pot calling the kettle black on this one. (though we DO all have Irish names so at least there’s a theme!) Willa, Tiffin, Kit, Maya, and Lochan? It reminded me of that quote from Baby Mama when the one mother reminds her kids that they have a playdate later with Wingspan and Banjo.
I found the whole story a bit predictable but was it entertaining? Definitely. And the sex scenes were really well-done, even though it makes me feel really creepy and dirty to say so. I have absolutely no idea what makes people love or hate this—my Goodreads friends are all over the spectrum and not in a predictable way. If you can stomach reading about an incestuous relationship, give it a go. It is worth the read but it was just a 2.5-3 for me.
Thanks for sending me a copy, Arlene:) 3.5/5 stars
Author: Kirsty Eagar
Publication Date: 6/29/09 (no US date yet)
Publisher: Penguin Books AustraliaBlurb (GR):
Carly has dropped out of uni to spend her days surfing and her nights working as a cook in a Manly café. Surfing is the one thing she loves doing ... and the only thing that helps her stop thinking about what happened two years ago. Then she meets Ryan and Carly has to decide ... Will she let the past bury her? Or can she let go of her anger and shame, and find the courage to be happy?Review:
Somehow Kirsty Eagar
manages to capture the feeling in your gut you get when you are so struck with nature that you stumble over yourself trying to describe it to someone else but even if you can never describe it, you’re happy to have ever seen it. I’ve got a couple of these places in my back pocket* but Carly Lee sees one every single day when she goes down to the beach. I know next to nothing about surfing (I’m pretty sure watching Blue Crush probably deducts knowledge rather than adding any) but I am still fascinated by the lifestyle and I get the feeling that the only people that will ever truly understand the surfing lifestyle are those living it…which I suppose is true about almost any lifestyle. I don’t really have a desire to go surfing but I still loved the feeling Carly got when she assessed the surf conditions, talked about the reflection off of and colors of the water, and rode a wave. She loves it and I could feel it.
We all know that Melina Marchetta is the queen of the rounded-out character. (I hear from my Goodreads
friend Nomes that MM mentioned this was one of her favorite reads of 2009) I was happy with most of the characters in Raw Blue
, from Carly’s salsa dance-crazy Dutch woman in a midlife crisis to her surf buddy Danny who has synesthesia. And of course, Carly and Ryan. Carly starts this book in a state of desperate loneliness—one where an act of kindness is sometimes unbearable and where, as she puts it, her basic needs are met but there is nothing to work towards or, I hesitate to say, live for…except surfing. Something awful happened to Carly on her school break in uni and after that, she wasn’t herself anymore. She dropped out and has been living on the northern shore, working as a cook and surfing every day, but she is almost completely isolated. She develops several relationships in the book but the primary one is with Ryan, another surfer she meets at her usual spot. This book doesn’t tiptoe around sex, the realistic development of relationships, or the effect sexual abuse can have on the victim and I was happy to see that. Carly is 19 and Ryan is 26—their relationship feels more adult and this book definitely fills that awkward void of literature that exists between YA and adult. And Ryan? Swoon.
I think something I truly enjoyed about this one was that it honestly felt Australian. The language, the personalities, the descriptions, just everything. I want this book published in the US but I want NONE of it changed or adapted. I had to look up with bitumen is and so can you. To change anything would rip the Aussie heart out of this book.
A statement of the obvious, I know, but every reader is different. We all creep around on Goodreads
trying to find our book twin—someone with 100% compatibility, someone who likes everything that you like and hates all the same things. (seriously, twin, if you are reading this—I’m looking for you!) Recommending books to people is hard. Anyway, my point is this: This book made me feel like I was reading a Melina Marchetta
book. Sometimes the descriptions were painfully beautiful, the characters were delightfully flawed, and the dialogue was almost always spot-on. If you are still reading this, you probably already know we have similar tastes so I recommend this to YOU. I’ll take the blame if you hate it but I really don’t think you will. I hope you can get your hands on a copy!
I am beyond grateful that the lovely Nic (at Irresistible Reads) shared this book and I will definitely be acquiring a copy soon. Hopefully Penguin USA will get with the program and publish this here. (If you click on the cover photo, as always, it will take you to a place you can purchase a copy)5/5 stars