Posts tagged ‘dystopian’

Catching Fire

Title: Catching Fire
Series: Sequel to The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Narrator: Carolyn McCormick
ISBN: 9780545101417
Pages: 391 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press, c2009.

“And if a girl from District Twelve of all places can defy the Capitol and walk away unhardmed, what is to stop them from doing the same?” he says. “What is to prevent, say, an upraising?”
It takes a moment for his last sentence to sink in. Then the full weight of it hits me. “There have been upraisings?” I ask, both chilled and somewhat elated by the possibility.
“Not yet. But they’ll follow if the course of things doesn’t change. And upraisings have been known to lead to revolution.” President Snow rubs a spot over his left eyebrow, the very spot where I myself get headaches. “Do you have any idea what that would mean? How many people would die?” […]
“Please don’t hurt Gale,” I whisper.
(21, 28)

Katniss is in trouble. BIG trouble. After defying the Capital by allowing herself and Peeta to escape, the two of them tour each of the districts as victors of the Hunger Games. But their meer presence and show of affection is not doing enough to quell the dissent felt by the public. She has quickly become a symbol of dissent and unrest, however unexpected and unplanned it is to Katniss. President Snow places the blame solely on her shoulders, and threatens to hold her friends and family responsible if she can’t convince him otherwise. She finds no consolation in Gale or Peeta as she struggles to come to terms with her feelings for both of them. As the new year’s Hunger Games approaches, Katniss finds herself in more trouble then she bargained, and is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice rather than live with the uncontrollable consequences of her actions.

It took me about a disc and a half to really get into the audiobook of this sequel to the very popular Hunger Games. Once I got to the third disc though, I was hooked. Suzanne Collins has a way with words, and brings to life the conflicted and convoluted feelings that Katniss finds herself experiencing. I can’t find one good passage to quote, because there are so many excellently crafted scenes to choose from where Katniss is debating with herself what is the right way to act. While some readers might see her as whiny, I think she has every right to be self-endulgent. She’s been through a lot, that poor girl, and there’s more to come I’m sure.*

Not only are the emotions high, but the plot twists are many and varried, as they should be in any story that takes place in this world of Districts, espionage, intrigue, and secrecy. While listening, I found myself shouting at my radio, mostly things like “WHAT?!” when some twist of fate or unforseen strategy was revealed without any sort of introduction. It’s fast-paced and engaging, with events happening in a breath-taking and blinding speed that leaves readers struggling to keep up. Heck, even Katniss was confused by events sometimes because she (in conjunction the readers) is trying to piece together the minimal amount of clues garnered. I’m trying really hard not to say anything that would be construed as a spoiler. I worked really hard to avoid spoilers after this book originally came out because of I had heard there was a cliff hanger ending. And yes, I admit that it was a shocker, but I think it was somewhat predictable given other events throughout the book.

Regardless of whether or not you’re Team Peeta, Team Gale, or Team Katniss, I do feel sorry for Katniss. She is a strong character, smart and filled with really good instincts, but she is also being manipulated by so many people that she can’t really trust anyone, even the people she thinks she can trust. Her position is one of an unwitting revolutionary or martyr, and in that case she has little control over her decisions, actions, or her life in general.

*As of this writing, I haven’t read Mockingjay, because I didn’t want it to influence my review of this book, but you can be sure I will be reading and blogging it shortly.

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Witch and Wizard

Title: Witch and Wizard
Author: James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet
ISBN: 9780316036245
Pages: 314 Pages
Publisher/Date: Little, Brown and Company

Byron stood behind the bigger men, smiling wickedly. “Take them to the van, Byron said, and the soldiers grabbed me again.
“No! Mom! Dad! Help!” I shrieked and tried to pull away, but it was like wriggling in a steel trap. Rock-hard arms dragged me toward the door. I managed to twist my neck around for one last look back at my parents, searing my memory with the horror on their faces, the tears in their eyes.
And right then I felt this whooshing sensation, as if a stiff, hot wind were blowing up against me. In an instant, blood rushed to my head, my cheeks flooded with heat, and sweat seemed to leap from my skin and sizzle. There was a buzzing all around me, and then . . .
You won’t believe me, but it’s true. I swear.
I saw — and felt — foot-long flames burst out of every pore in my body. (27-28)

Wisteria and Whitford Allgood (otherwise called Wisty and Whit) are yanked out of their beds in the middle of the night, accused of being a witch and a wizard, and allowed to take one item with them. They are then locked up and, after a very unfair trial in their Hitler-meets-Voldemort dystopian society, are sentenced to death upon their eighteenth birthday, which isn’t very far away for Whit. Their powers quickly evolve and they realize that nothing is what they seemed. Will their powers aid them in escaping and reuniting the siblings with their parents?

I’ve got to be honest, I was unimpressed with this book. I don’t know if it was the hype, the 17 person long waiting list for the library’s’ copy, or the extremely short chapters which, in most cases, were pointless. That really kind of bugged me a LOT. If the narrator doesn’t change, if the action doesn’t change, if the setting doesn’t change, then WHY does there have to be a new chapter. Whenever anything shocking happened (which was way too often in my opinion), the chapter would end and make it seem more climatic than it actually was. One chapter ended “It looked like this whole jail was full of kids, nothing but kids.” (42) and then the next chapter started “Yup, it’s pretty much just us kids around here these days,” (43) as if we didn’t already know that it was kids.

For a book the length that it is, I was surprised at how little actually happened. The beginning starts with the family about to be hung, and the flashes back I don’t know how many days/weeks, and by the end of the book they haven’t gotten back to the execution part. If you’ll remember correctly, Brandon Sanderson did the same thing when he wrote Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians and I was thrilled. Alcatraz… however has a lot more character development than this book, where Whit and Wisty are practically interchangeable. Most of the kids they meet are of the same mind-set as they are, and the villains are very one-dimensional (they’re bad, they’re very bad, they’re evil, etc.) without the motivation that most characters need.

The ghost world, which Whit’s dead girlfriend navigates, is also dropped into the story line with no introduction and almost no explanation, leaving readers more confused than the main characters. A map plopped in the middle of the book helps some, but does little to explain the rules of navigating what appears to be alternative realities of some sort. The random distribution of powers also boggles my mind, with Wisty getting a majority and I feel like Whit is severely lacking in the powers department. They at one point give a catalog of their powers to someone they meet, and Wisty has done seven seperate magical acts, whereas Whit has only done two, one of which Wisty can sort of do too. I feel bad for Whit.

I feel the only reason this book is getting the hype it’s receiving is because of the James Patterson name attached to it, but even still there was a collaborator, Gabrielle Charbonnet. Apparently the two of them have paired up previously, penning Sunday at Tiffany’s in 2008. I haven’t heard anything about that book either, but after reading this collaboration, I’m hesitant to continue. I do have an ARC of this book, and I was going to hold off posting this review until I read it, but I’m tempted to pass it on unread. I can’t compare this book to the Maximum Ride series (which I know is also extremely popular), but I thought such a huge name author like Patterson was better than this.

The reviews that I’ve seen for this book seem to echo my sentiments, which makes me happy I’m not the only disappointed reader. Booklist summarized it as “Wisty and Whit are standard-issue teen smart alecks, the baddies are stock villains who use phrases like dangerous fiends, and the meandering plot seems to make up the rules as it goes along.” The Amazon average places it at 2.5 stars, with over half the review giving it one or two stars. You want to see what I’m talking about? Read the first 20 chapters free online. The Book Smugglers also gave a review of it, and I was thrilled that the recommended The Golden Compass to readers who are looking for something more magical and much more developed. James Patterson seems to be selling out his name, and needs to stop before he looses his following for good.

The Carbon Diaries 2015

Title: The Carbon Diaries 2015
Author: Saci Lloyd
ISBN: 9780823421909
Pages: 330 pages
Publisher/Date: Holiday House, c2008.

This 60% reduction is way over the top. We were supposed to get there by 2030, but after the Great Storm everything changed, and it all became more hectic. Even so, why is the U.K. going first? I know we were hit the hardest in the storm–that was one messed-up time; houses literally ripped out of the ground, thousands of people homeless over the whole winter, no gas for a month. I guess something really happened to people then. It was like everyone went: That’s enough. Stop now. Europe’s going to follow–I mean, they’ve got to in the end–but right now its like they’re happy for someone else to do it first. So looks like we’re the stupid guinea pig freaks, giving up everything while the rest sit back and watch. (3-4)

The year 2015 has just started, and with it carbon rationing, the process of limiting carbon emissions by alllocating an allowance to every resident in an effort to slow global warming. Sixteen year old Laura Brown is trying really hard to adapt to this new style of life, where the car sits idle in the garage, her use of electricity is heavily regulated, and even her purchases are dictated by how much carbon was used to produce and transport the item. Her band the dirty angels have to rotate where they practice so they don’t monopolize one family’s carbon allowance. But the rest of Laura’s family isn’t coping very well. Her older sister was supposed to go to the states for fashion design during her break year, her dad loses his job teaching Travel and Tourism, and his mom gets fed up with the family and joins a feminist group. When the weather wants to threaten their new way of life, will they all come together, or will it push them apart for good?

It’s hard to think of the things that occur in this book could actually occur. That’s what sticks though, is that we’ve seen some of these things happen already. We’ve seen rationing of material items during the World Wars, we’ve seen natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami, forest fires, mudslides, and now the volcano. So even while reading it you feel the need to say “This is so unlikely,” in the same breath you’re forced to admit that it is possible.

I got very fruastrated and angry towards Laura’s parents, who seemed fairly uninvolved regarding their two children even before the rationing started. Once the rationing started, they became even more self-absorbed. Her parents understandably suffer from the stress of the rationing, but at one point seem completely clueless of the fact that one of their daughter’s has not been home for days. I wonder if Lloyd is trying to emphasize the fact that hardships either seperate or bring together families and friends.

A glossary of terms, both “ecoterms” and those of the British language, are explained in the back of the book, which is much appreciated. It also includes references for metric system conversions and Internet links for readers who want to learn more about living green. Another aspect of the book that I like is that things are spelled out fairly well, with illustrations, maps, newspaper articles, and charts in order to add comprehension to what is happening in the story. Not every author includes those kinds of things.

Laura says at one point that she hates someone because “he’s got no hope and now I’m scared I haven’t got any, either. That I’m just acting out a part and I know there’s no future for any of us.” (242) It’s a scary thought, but for me it’s really a story about overcoming adversity, which Laura also realizes towards the end of the book. “I think I finally understand about pretending everything is normal. If we don’t we’ll go under.” (312) So regardless of your political or environmental views, I think there is something relatable for readers. That being said, the book does get very political, with different groups coming to light in response to the policies and multiple riots and marches taking place, which Laura seems to try to stay oblivious about as much as possible and argues her beliefs as opposed to one party’s beliefs. And yes, she does suffer from peer pressure, but seems fairly resistant, with one noticable exception.

I think Lloyd did an admirable job applying current day knowledge and projecting future fears. Whether it will happen or not, I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see, since 2015 really isn’t that far away.

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