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abookaweek 2012: week thirty-seven

2012 September 16
by Romy

The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness

Category: Post-apocalyptic / dystopian

Story: Todd Hewitt lives in Prentisstown on the New World: the only town (population: 130) on a planet that was colonized by people who wanted to escape technology on earth as we know it. All the men in Prentisstown have Noise, their thoughts are projected out loud and can be heard by anyone. All the women in Prentisstown are dead, killed by the aliens that populated New World before the humans arrived. So you can imagine Todd’s surprise when he finds a real, live girl in the swamp near the town. Before he knows it, the entire town is after the girl, so he runs away with her to try to keep her safe.

Opinion: This was a breath of fresh air after Ashes. The originality of the setting, plot development, characters and style of this novel makes me seriously question the rating I gave to last week’s book. But on to this one.

The setting/premise of The Knife of Never Letting Go is that of a New World, where people tried to build a new society free of the complications of the technology-based society that you and I know. They wanted to go back to a simpler, cleaner way of living, and they ended up reinventing their religion and moral values along the way. This ties it to both the foundation of the US as well as the current trend to keep things local and grow your own food. All this serves to really ground the plot; despite space colonization, Noise and magical healing bandages, the history and sequence of events that led to the story in this book are completely believable.

While some dystopian YA characters tend to blend together, Ness gave Todd a voice of his own which helped plant him in my memory as a kickass hero, as well as bring the book to life.

But the best part, the very very best part, is Todd’s dog, Manchee. All animals in New Town are able to talk (some have a more limited vocabulary than others), so Manchee likes to say things like “Good poo, Todd,” after he has just done his business. What a wonderful dog.

riding on bicycles with melburnians: sidewalks

2012 September 12
by Romy

abookaweek 2012: week thirty-six

2012 September 9
by Romy

Ashes, by Ilsa J. Bick

Category: Post-apocalyptic / dystopian

Story: While off on a hiking trip, Alex witnesses a series of EMPs (electro magnetic pulses) with strange effects: electronic devices stop working, the man she was sharing her campfire with suddenly dies, his granddaughter survives, and Alex’s brain tumor seems to disappear, leaving her with a supernatural sense of smell. Oh, and kids everywhere have turned into zombies.

Opinion: I really wanted to like this book; it has gotten some decent reviews, and the presence of zombies doesn’t hurt either. I don’t know whether I should blame publishers for always going after the same story, or writers for copying what others are doing right now, but this story seems incredibly derivative of previous series such as The Hunger Games and Divergent.

I can deal with it being the first part in a trilogy, but I do feel that if you’re going to try to get readers to read the second and third books in a trilogy, that they should be compelled to do so because the first book is so gripping; instead, Ashes relies on a cheap cliffhanger in the story. It makes me angry just thinking about it.

But back to my point about this book being derivative. Without giving too much away (or maybe I should issue a SPOILER ALERT anyway?), here’s what I noticed all 3 of these series have in common:

Girl protagonist, dreary life;
Girl has a dramatic family history;
Girl unwillingly put in life-threatening situation;
Girl unexpectedly develops special strength/power;
Girl finds safe haven but then discovers it is not safe;
Girl rebels against establishment;
Girl caught in love triangle;
Girl doesn’t know whether she can trust one of the guys in the love triangle.

While the settings in these series do vastly differ (and are each, in fact, really interesting), the way the plot progresses is just too formulaic for my taste.

riding in cars with melburnians: taxi drivers

2012 September 5
by Romy

abookaweek 2012: week thirty-five

2012 September 2

(I’ll be reviewing 4 YA books in 2 weeks, bear with me.)

The City of Dreaming Books, by Walter Moers

Category: Young adult

Story: Optimus Yarnspinner, a young Zamonian writer, inherits very little from his beloved godfather apart from an unpublished short story by an unknown author. The manuscript proves to be such a superb piece of writing that he can’t resist the temptation to investigate the mystery surrounding the author’s identity. The trail takes him to the City of Dreaming Books.

After falling under the spell of this book-obsessed metropolis, Yarnspinner also falls into the clutches of its evil genius, Pfistomel Smyke, who treacherously maroons him in the city’s labyrinthine catacombs. He find himself on a subterranean world where reading books can be genuinely dangerous, where ruthless Bookhunters fight to the death for literary gems and the mysterious Shadow King rules a murky realm populated by Booklings, one-eyed beings whose vast library includes live books equipped with teeth and claws. (I obviously copied this blurb.)

Opinion: Obviously, this is a book for book-lovers. More specifically, this is a book for book-lovers with a very rich imagination. Unfortunately for me, I only have a rich imagination when it comes to dreaming up explanations for why eating a bar of chocolate instead of going to the gym is going to melt the fat off my body.

But really, Walter Moers does all the work for you in this book; his vivid descriptions of the catacombs and the creatures that live there require no effort on the reader’s part. That’s probably why the first time I read this I could not put it down. You’re taken on a rollercoaster adventure with beautiful images being flashed at you left and right.

The second time I read it I was still delighted by all the references to books and writing (in particular the scene where Yarnspinner eats in a book-themed cafe, which serves Printer’s Ink Wine and a Syllabic Salad), but this time I found it a bit tiresome to have every single creature or setting described to me in minute detail. Despite that, I will forever and ever love this book and its wonderful characters.


I Am the Cheese, by Robert Cormier

Category: Young adult

Story: Armed with nothing but his bike, 12-year-old Adam sets out on a trip to deliver a package to his dad. The problem is that his dad is in Vermont, while Adam is in Massachusetts. It’s hard to say more than that without giving anything away, but Ben Marcus has a good write-up over on NPR.

Opinion: Again, I can’t say too much without giving away the plot, but this story was a breeze to read through (in large part because I didn’t want to take a break from it) and it hit all the right spots for me.