The Fog Diver by Joel Ross

The Fog Diver, by Joel Ross, was published in 2015 by Harper.

A deadly white mist has cloaked the earth for hundreds of years. Humanity clings to the highest mountain peaks, where the wealthy Five Families rule over the crowded slums and rambling junkyards. As the ruthless Lord Kodoc patrols the skies to enforce order, thirteen-year-old Chess and his crew scavenge in the Fog-shrouded ruins for anything they can sell to survive. Hazel is the captain of their salvage raft: bold and daring. Swedish is the pilot: suspicious and strong. Bea is the mechanic: cheerful and brilliant. And Chess is the tether boy: quiet and quick…and tougher than he looks. But Chess has a secret, one he’s kept hidden his whole life. One that lord Kodoc is desperate to exploit for his own evil plans. And even as Chess unearths the crew’s biggest treasure ever, they are running out of time.

Rating: 1/5

I’m starting to realize that I’m not a fan of books that take place in our world hundreds of years later after some sort of natural disaster or pollution destroys/changes the earth. It lends to some really sloppy worldbuilding, where the writer throws in random references to things without rhyme or reason, simply because he or she thinks it would be funny. That’s the type of worldbuilding in The Fog Diver, where even though it’s been hundreds of years, Chess’s father somehow has a scrapbook of current pop culture that contains references to completely random things that aren’t connected in any way but are cobbled together for humor. Where did Chess’s father even get that information?

So, yes, the worldbuilding in The Fog Diver was not my cup of tea, to put it lightly. There also seemed many things wrong with it besides just random references, such as the fact that even though they live on mountaintops, not only do the mountaintops have green peaks (how high up does this fog go, and why is there never any description of snow at all?) but all the kids know what a camel is (because there are camels on the mountains, apparently), even though there’s no feasible reason as to why there would be camels. Are they in a mountain near a place where camels were? And if there’s camels, why aren’t there horses? Why aren’t there mentions of mountainous animals such as mountain goats, sheep, llamas, whatever? Why do they even know words like “coyote”? I get that people suddenly inhabiting mountaintops might dilute the animal population, but surely these animals would still be around because of the milk, wool, and food possibilities.

Basically, the world makes absolutely no sense; it’s as if Ross just ran with the idea of mountaintop living without actually thinking about what that would actually mean. I’m okay with the kids knowing what wheat is, since wheat can be grown on mountains, but I had shifty eyes throughout much of the book regarding most of what was revealed about the world.

In addition, the writing isn’t that great, and Chess’s angst about who he is is piled on a little too thickly. The book is also poorly paced; the beginning trudges on and by the time the end hits you realize the entire book was about one thing that the group talked about in the beginning and took the entire book to actually complete. I’m also left with zero curiosity about the Fog, any machine that may or may not control it, and anything else having to do with this world and the characters. The Fog Diver is poorly conceived and poorly explained and simply isn’t interesting enough to make up for its worldbuilding flaws.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Dystopian, Steam Punk, Middle Grade

What was going on? Were we running? From what?

I climbed my tether, hand over hand, swinging sideways as the raft turned in crazy angles. I reached the deck just in time to catch a glimpse of Bea vanishing into a hatch. At the wheel, Swedish handled the lumbering three-ballooned raft like a racing thopper, playing hide-and-seek behind white waves of Fog.

I climbed toward the crow’s nest. “What’s going—”

“Mutineers,” Hazel said without lowering her spyglass.

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2t4GPrU

The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau

The Prophet of Yonwood, by Jeanne DuPrau, was published in 2006 by Random House. It is the prequel to The City of Ember.

Eleven-year-old Nickie sees so many possibilities for her trip to Yonwood, North Carolina. Her family has just inherited an old mansion from her great-grandfather, and Nickie hopes it will become her new home. She is ready to get away from the city, where impending war has bred an environment of fear and anxiety. Perhaps Yonwood will be the place where Nickie can do a little good in the world—and maybe even fall in love. But Yonwood is not exactly the haven Nickie had imaged. A local woman has received a terrifying vision of fire and destruction, and her tormented mumblings sound like they might be instructions for avoiding the coming disaster. As the people of Yonwood scramble to make sense of the woman’s mysterious utterances, Nickie explores the oddities she finds around town—her great-grandfather’s peculiar journals and papers, a reclusive neighbor who studies the heavens, a strange boy who is fascinated with snakes—all while keeping an eye out for ways to help the world. Is this vision her chance? Or is it already too late to avoid a devastating war?

Rating: 1/5

I have to confess something—I didn’t actually finish The Prophet of Yonwood (I got about halfway through before I had to stop). I don’t usually post reviews of books that I don’t finish, and the not-finishing-books-thing happens rarely in any case. Yet I thought I should post a review, anyway, since this book is part of a series that I’ve reviewed here on the blog.

The reason I didn’t finish The Prophet of Yonwood was because I found it incredibly boring and dull. It lacks the beauty of The City of Ember and doesn’t have sequel-interest like The People of Sparks. The worldbuilding was confusing and of the type I dislike: expositional, with random bits of information thrown out at you. I found myself asking over and over, “What’s that? Who’s that? How did that happen?” and not in a curious, I-want-to-know-more way, but in an “I’m really confused and this doesn’t make any sense” way.

I also found The Prophet of Yonwood an extremely unnecessary book. I never cared in The City of Ember or in The People of Sparks about how the world got that way. And The Prophet of Yonwood, with brand-new characters, expositional storytelling, and a tendency to take its dear sweet time getting anywhere important and instead going on for a few chapters about a boy and his two pet snakes, tries to make me care—and I don’t.

Also, there’s some weird science fiction/supernatural stuff going on and I’m not a fan. Sorry, DuPrau, but The Prophet of Yonwood made me not want to pick up the last book at all.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Anti-organized religion.

Genre: Dystopian, Middle Grade, Realistic

At first he thought he was imagining it, it was so faint. A light seemed to be growing behind the curtained and shuttered windows on the ground floor. IT was a bluish light, like moonlight. It gleamed very faintly around the edges of the windows, in the gaps between the shades and the frames, until a narrow, pale-bluish rectangle appeared around all the ground-floor windows. What was it? Did Hoyt have twenty televisions that went on all at once? Was he doing some weird sort of experiment? Whatever it was, it gave Grover an eerie feeling.

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/2a7pnKW

Sever by Lauren DeStefano

Sever, by Lauren DeStefano, was published in 2013 by Simon & Schuster. It is the sequel to Fever.

After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them. Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.

Rating: 2/5

One thing I couldn’t stop thinking about while reading Sever was how empty the world is. I’ve mentioned this before about a few other books and how utterly alone the protagonist and the people around her seem. It gives everything in the book a self-centered, shallow note, unfortunately—Rhine’s world literally revolves only around herself and the people who have conveniently been involved with and connected to her throughout her life, and everyone on the periphery is very quickly introduced and just as quickly put aside.

I found it a bit too unrealistic that everyone Rhine met was connected in some way or another. Vaughn, Madame, Rose…after about the third such revelation I just rolled my eyes. Can’t a stranger ever stay a stranger? Can’t there be just a carnival owner who imprisons and drugs Rhine without there having to be some grand connecting story line?

I also thought the ending was anticlimactic and disappointing. The resolution of the virus was so anticlimactic that I thought it was a trick. And once again, Gabriel shows about as much personality as a wet paper bag, and Linden, the one who Rhine continued to think about and who left much more of an impact (and the one who’s more interesting), is conveniently shoved aside (not that I really wanted Linden with Rhine either, what with the whole polygamy thing). I almost bought Gabriel and Rhine as a couple in Fever, but Sever completely destroyed that, along with the last of my enjoyment of the trilogy.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Implied sex, some graphic imagery.

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult

“Can I see your plane?” I ask. “Does it fly?”

He laughs. It’s nothing like Vaughn’s laugh. There’s warmth in it. “You want to see the plane?”

“Sure,” I say. “Why not?”

“No reason not to, I suppose,” he says. “It’s just that no one’s ever asked before.”

“You have an airplane in your shed, and no one has ever asked to see it?” I say.

“Most people don’t know it’s there,” he says. “But I like you, not-Rose. So maybe tomorrow. For now, we have other things to do.”

Overall Review:

The Wither trilogy started out promising, but very quickly fell apart in Sever as the poor worldbuilding and lacking romance unraveled the whole thing. I was annoyed with the “everyone Rhine meets is important to her life and if they’re not they’re very quickly gone never to be seen again” plot, and the resolution of the virus is so anticlimactic that I literally could not believe it and thought there was going to be another twist. A disappointing finish to an overall disappointing trilogy.

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/299eISb

Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Fever, by Lauren DeStefano, was published in 2012 by Simon & Schuster. It is the sequel to Wither.

Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion, but danger is never far behind. Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago—surroundings that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness. The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous—and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the mansion…by any means necessary.

I really wasn’t expecting Fever to be quite so, well…literal. But yes, most of the novel is one character or another wandering around in a state of fever. The last half of the book is just Rhine being delirious and sick and making strange decisions that are either the result of her sickness or the result of her awful characterization. Girl, you need to stop blaming Cecily for trying to make the best out of a situation for which she was raised and has no experience outside of that situation. It makes you appear shallow and selfish.

So, yes, I wasn’t pleased with the plodding plot, because Rhine is sick for most of it and nothing really happens, except at the end where Rhine becomes all fatalistic and then gets the burst of inspiration she needs to continue on with her goal, blah blah blah. And the one reveal we get is meant to be surprising, but I was just confused about what it meant. Does Rhine have the virus or is it just some form of withdrawal?

Also, I didn’t think Gabriel could get even less interesting than in the first book, but I was proven wrong. He is an incredibly bland character and I don’t buy his and Rhine’s romance or even their connection. Give him some personality, please.

The good points are that the writing is still good and at least DeStefano does her hardest to sell the more incomprehensible parts of her world. And the parts where Rhine and Gabriel are traveling, and their time in Manhattan, did have a striking dystopian feel to it, so kudos there.

Rating: 2/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Drugs and drug abuse, prostitution, implied sex, some graphic imagery.

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult

“So you can’t tell me where he is,” I say. It’s not a question.

“He is not as you remember him,” Annabelle says. “That is all I can tell you.”

“But he’s alive?” I say.

“I don’t see any indication that he isn’t.”

I hesitate, the next question staying on my tongue for a long time before I finally let it out. “Has he given up on me?”

Annabelle looked sympathetic. She gathers the cards back into one pile, tucks them safely away. “I am sorry,” she says. “I don’t know.”

Overall Review:

Fever is a bit of trudge, because true to its name Rhine and Gabriel take turns being ill in some way or another and nothing much else happens. Rhine is an annoying character, because she thinks she has the right view on everything when she’s actually being selfish, and Gabriel is like an amorphous blob of a boy, so bland and personality-less that the scenes with him are more irritating than anything. I’ll still read the last book, but so far this trilogy is pretty shaky.

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/1TCLp9a

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither, by Lauren DeStefano, was published in 2011 by Simon & Schuster.

Thanks to modern science, every newborn has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out. When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home. But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden’s eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.

Wither is one of those books where beautiful writing and thought-provoking situations mask an inconsistent world (or a world that simply doesn’t make a lot of sense). I’m glad that DeStefano clears up fairly early on some of the nature of the virus that kills people so young; the way it was described at the beginning, I thought that it just caused people to drop dead when they hit a certain age which made absolutely no sense to me. But there is variation, and that helped to lessen the unrealisticness of the whole concept even if I still don’t understand how something like that would work, or how it came to be in the first place (no doubt the purpose of the second or third book).

Speaking of unrealistic, the whole science/naturalism divide made absolutely no sense to me. I suppose it could be explained away with a breaking down of what terms mean in this dystopian world, but still, naturalism is not what Wither says it is and science often goes hand-in-hand with naturalism (naturalism uses science, for goodness sake!), so that divide was incomprehensible to me. Also incomprehensible was the reveal that only the United States exists; everything else was wiped out and is just a collection of floating bits of dirt or something. Yeah, sure. (Luckily, it’s implied that’s not true towards the end of the novel.)

And I don’t want to seem like I’m completely bashing the book, because honestly I did like it—the writing was good and there was some pretty imagery and even though the romance aspect has been done a million times before and is really boring by now, I did like that the book spent so much time on Rhine’s experience as a bride. And DeStefano did a fantastic job of setting up the tension between the brides, even if I thought Rhine was being a bit selfish and stupid at the end in terms of Cecily, and I liked the good development of the creepiness of Linden’s father (who is no doubt coming back, and probably will be revealed to have had some sort of hand in some aspect of the virus).

So, not all bad. I just didn’t understand the world, and that cut back on my enjoyment.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Polygamy, implied sex, some graphic imagery

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult

“Why do you call him Governor Linden?”  I ask her. During our wedding dinner Housemaster Vaughn explained to us that he was to be addressed as Housemaster, because he was the highest authority in the house. But we were expected to call our husband by his given name as a sign of familiarity.

“Because I hate him,” she says.

There’s no malice n the words, no dramatic outburst, but something in her gay eyes says she means it.

Overall Review:

Wither has beautiful writing and imagery, and there’s a lot of interesting things to pull out of the book—but the world does make the quality of the book go way down, in my opinion, because oftentimes the world makes no sense and is outright nonsensical at points. In addition, the romance is generic and Gabriel is an empty husk of a character, ultimately forgettable.

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/1TAzN8f

The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons

The Glass Arrow, by Kristen Simmons, was published in 2015 by Tor.

Once there was a time when men and women lived as equals, when girl babies were valued, and women could belong only to themselves. But that was ten generations ago. Now women are property, to be sold and owned and bred, while a strict census keeps their numbers manageable and under control. The best any girl can hope for is to end up as some man’s forever wife, but most are simply sold and resold until they’re all used up. Only in the wilderness, away from the city, can true freedom be found. Aya has spent her whole life in the mountains, looking out for her family and hiding from the world, until the day the Trackers finally catch her. Stolen from her home and being groomed for auction, Aya is desperate to escape her fate and return to her family, but her only allies are a loyal wolf she’s raised from a pup and a strange mute boy who may be her best hope for freedom…if she can truly trust him.

I was actually pretty shocked to discover that this book is a stand-alone novel. I don’t know if it’s just because it’s the trend, but I was fully expecting a cliffhanger/threads left hanging ending. However, everything was wrapped up neatly and resolved in this one book, which…was actually a little disappointing.

Now, I’m glad that Simmons did the one-off (if it turns out to be one), because YA is overflowing with trilogies and duologies to the point of tediousness, but I really felt like this book could have had more.

Much, much more could have been explored in terms of the mayor and his son and his brother; Greer was a decent villain but we didn’t see him nearly often enough to get quite the feeling that Simmons wanted us to get from him. I was fully expecting the book to end with Aya back in the hands of Greer and another book to come. But that didn’t happen, and it made that part of the book seem a little rushed.

I also thought the premise of the book was slightly heavy-handed, although dealt with well within the world as a whole. The worldbuilding and characterization were good, for the most part, but again, it felt a trifle rushed, especially at the end. I thought, “Wait, that’s it? It’s over?” Again, maybe I’m just too used to drawn-out YA series, but this book almost seemed to end too tidily. It made a few things a little unbelievable, in my opinion.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Warnings: Violence, death, implied rape, sexual situations.

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult

“Your name should be Kiran,” I tell him. “Because your eyes, they look like…” I pause. I don’t know why, but I feel like I’ve said something stupid again. The Driver, Kiran, looks over at me when I stop talking, and nods as though he wants me to continue.

“Well, what do you want me to say, Kiran?” I ask him. The name fits. I’m pleased with myself for thinking of it.

He leans back against the wall again, not understanding a word I’m saying. So I talk. Because no one has listened for a long time.

Overall Review:

The Glass Arrow is, as far as I know, a stand-alone book, yet there were a few things in the novel that I wish had been developed further and, yes, extended in another book. A lot of Greer’s villainy was lost in the short amount of time spent on him, and I felt Aya should have spent more time in the mayor’s house than just a day. It wraps up almost too neatly for me, although maybe I’m just getting used to the way YA draws out everything over two or three or more books.

You can buy this here: The Glass Arrow

The Heir: One-Trick Pony

The Heir is written by Kiera Cass. It was published in 2015 by HarperTeen. It is the sequel to The One.

Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she’d put off marriage for as long as possible. But a princess’s life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can’t escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests. Eadlyn doesn’t expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn’s heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her…and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she’s always thought.

Cass is starting to feel like a one-trick pony. At least, that’s how I felt when I found out she was writing a fourth Selection book. At least she sort of changed things around and made her protagonist completely different from America.

I do think Cass’s writing has improved marginally from the first three books; she still can’t worldbuild and there’s this odd moment where a character talks about rebellion and uprising as if they’re completely different things, but I never had the problem I had in the first three books where I felt like I couldn’t continue reading because of the bad quality.

But the book is still not great, and there’s a whole list of reasons why, but I’ll just mention three:

  • By trying to make Eadlyn a “strong” female protagonist, Cass makes her selfish, shallow, and cruel. Eadlyn is not just an unreliable narrator. She’s an unreliable narrator who you will want to strangle by the end of the book because of her actions and thoughts. Towards the end, she does start to at least realize how people perceive her, but it’s difficult to get through. She manipulates and pits the boys against each other and tries to make her brother choose between her and his girlfriend. That’s not a strong protagonist, Cass. That’s an unlikeable one.

  • The beginning and end of the book completely contradict each other. At the beginning, Eadlyn says firmly that she doesn’t need a man in order for her to be a good ruler (or something along those lines). Yet the end of the book has people constantly telling her (and Eadlyn realizing herself) that she needs romantic love in order to be The Best Ruler She Can Be and that she should go through with the Selection. Because romantic love makes you a complete person and you’re incomplete and not at your best if you’re single. Or something. Yeah, sure. Ever hear of Queen Elizabeth I?

  • Besides the obvious love interest (whose relationship with Eadlyn is centered on lust), there’s the obvious rapist and the obvious violent fighter. Because of course if you stick 35 men together, at least one of them will try and assault the girl, right? And at least one will try and slap her around, right? Because men are despicable, terrible beings, right? Please. The only author I’ve read so far who has handled the issue of rape/attempted rape in a way that doesn’t seem contrived or as a way to “get rid” of that character is Melina Marchetta. Cass throws it in as an excuse to get rid of a character, which is not the way that particular issue should be treated at all.

Rating: 1/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Some sensual scenes, attempted rape (not graphic), violence.

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult

“Your Highness,” he said with a comical bow. “I’ve come to sweep you off your feet.”

“Hardy har. Get in here.”

Kile walked in and surveyed my shelves. “Last time I was in your room, you had a collection of wooden ponies.”

“Outgrew that.”

“But not being a bossy tyrant?”

“Nope. Just like you didn’t outgrow being an insufferable bookworm.”

“Is this how you win over all your dates?”

Overall Review:

The Heir was a tad more enjoyable, I thought, then the first three books, if only because Cass almost completely abandons worldbuilding in favor of what made her “famous” in the first place, the Selection, so I didn’t notice the terrible worldbuilding as much. There are still way too many problems with the book for it to even be considered decent, though.

You can buy this here: The Heir (The Selection)

Pulse: I Want Back The Time I Spent Reading This Book

Pulse is written by Patrick Carman. It was published in 2013 by Katherine Tegen. It is the first book in the Pulse trilogy.

With the help of her mysterious classmate Dylan Gilmore, Faith Daniels discovers that she can move objects with her mind. This telekinetic ability is called a “pulse,” and Dylan has the talent, too. In riveting action scenes, Faith demonstrates her ability to use her pulse against a group of telekinesis masters who are so powerful they can flatten their enemies by uprooting streetlights, throwing boulders, and changing the course of a hurtling hammer so that it becomes a deadly weapon. But even with her unusual talent, the mind—and the heart—can be difficult to control. If Faith wants to join forces with Dylan and save the world, she’ll have to harness the power of both.

I’ve read Patrick Carman’s Land of Elyon books, which is why I picked up Pulse. But reading this actually shocked me, because I didn’t remember Carman writing as badly as he writes in Pulse. Maybe’s he’s experimenting with a new style, or maybe my memory is just bad and I can’t remember the way Elyon was written, but I almost stopped reading 30 pages in.

I can’t even describe why his writing was so bad. It’s something that you have to read for yourself to understand. The viewpoint was all over the place, often switching from sentence to sentence, and the writing itself was so mechanical. There’s only so many times you can listen to descriptions like “She examined it like a scientist” before you want to go read something else. There were also way too many “Faith didn’t know it, but…” or “If Faith knew what blank was planning, she would have thought twice about blank.” Also, Carman tries way too hard to dump meaning into a single activity: “There was no doubting an artistic ability that blossomed most powerfully during times of grief. There had been a lot of grief lately, and her work had turned darker and more mature. It was sad, really, that the world had to turn so dark in order to bring out her true talent.” Yes, we get it. Just start playing the violins already.

Also, all the worldbuilding information is dumped at you in one conversation in the middle of the book, which is a really clunky way to worldbuild. Also, the summary’s description of the action scenes as “riveting” is hilarious. They’re about as riveting as watching paint dry.

Honestly, this book had me alternating from being bored to tears to wanting to never read a single word in it. It was that bad. So bad that I can’t even bring myself to give you a quote because I don’t want to subject you to the terrible prose.

Rating: 1/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Sexual situations, psychic teenagers.

Genre: Dystopian, Supernatural, Young Adult

Overall Review:

I never want to look at this book again, or read another one in the trilogy. It’s a shame, because I like Carman’s Land of Elyon books. I don’t understand why his writing style changed so drastically (if it did at all; it’s been a while since I’ve read Elyon).

You can buy this here: Pulse

In The Afterlight: Solid Finish, But Predictable

Note: Possible changes are coming! Don’t be surprised if the entire look of the blog changes.

In The Afterlight is written by Alexandra Bracken. It was published in 2014 by Hyperion. It is the final book in the Darkest Minds trilogy. Also check out my reviews of the first book, The Darkest Minds, and the second, Never Fade.

Spoilers for the series.

Summary/Blurb:

“Ruby can’t look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government’s attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. Only Ruby can keep their highly dangerous prisoner in check. But with Clancy Gray, there’s no guarantee you’re fully in control, and everything comes with a price.

When the Children’s League disbands, Ruby rises up as a leader and forms an unlikely allegiance with Liam’s brother, Cole, who has a volatile secret of his own. There are still thousands of other Psi kids suffering in government “rehabilitation camps” all over the country. Freeing them—revealing the government’s unspeakable abuses in the process—is the mission Ruby has claimed since her own escape from Thurmond, the worst camp in the country.

But not everyone is supportive of the plan Ruby and Cole craft to free the camps. As tensions rise, competing ideals threaten the mission to uncover the cause of IAAN, the disease that killed most of America’s children and left Ruby and others with powers the government will kill to keep contained. With the fate of a generation in their hands, there is no room for error. One wrong move could be the spark that sets the world on fire.”

Thoughts:

Bracken’s trilogy as a whole is fairly formulaic, but enjoyable nonetheless, and In The Afterlight, while pretty predictable, is a solid end to the series. Snarky Chubs is my favorite and Cole continues to be an intriguing character, although what I thought was going to happen with him didn’t actually happen. And Bracken never explained why he was the way he was.

I do wish that the romance had been a little more original. There was the usual “fall in love with guy, break up with him for reasons, get back together but have trouble trusting/agreeing/etc.” with the inclusion of “guy and girl sleep together and all their problems are solved.” Yeah…there’s nothing wrong with that portrayal of sex at all…

Books like these are best read close together, but it’s been a while since I’ve read Never Fade and as a result I think my connection to the characters faded a little bit. Ruby and Co. seemed to be really connected to characters like Zu, a connection that I just didn’t feel. Also, Vida’s connection to Cate didn’t make sense to me. Perhaps I would feel the connection more if I had a fresher memory of the events of The Darkest Minds.

The one glaring mar of this book was the ending. Everything was wrapped up a little too neatly, I thought, and Chub’s speech at the end almost completely ruined the book for me. You shouldn’t need one of your characters to give a speech talking about what your book is really about, because 1.) what happens in the book should have conveyed that already and 2.) it makes the message seem really shallow. I also had a really hard time buying what Chubs was saying because it made absolutely no sense. It was so unsubtle and out of place that it was really jarring, and it made the message lose a lot of depth.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Warnings: Violence, graphic imagery, death, swearing, kissing and non-graphic descriptions of sex.

Genre: Dystopian, Supernatural, Young Adult, Realistic

Passages/Quotes:

My hands shook like crazy as I tried to work the handle on the front door, the enormous metal indentation popping and protesting. There was so much adrenaline running through me, it was amazing I didn’t rip the whole thing off its hinges. “Liam? Liam, can you hear me?”

He turned toward me slowly, coming out of his stupor. “I told him it would roll.”

I almost sobbed in relief as I reached through the window and kissed him. “You did.”

“I told him.”

“You did, I know you did,” I said, low and soothing as I reached in to unbuckle his seatbelt.

Overall Review:

In The Afterlight is a solid finish to a formulaic and slightly predictable, yet fun trilogy. I didn’t buy some of the connections the characters had, but I am putting that down to the length of time that passed between my reading of each book rather than to any fault of Bracken’s. I absolutely hated the ending, however, since I thought it cheapened the book’s message and made Bracken sound like a cheerleader.

You can buy this here: In the Afterlight

Shatter Me: No Thanks

Shatter Me is written by Tahereh Mafi. It was published in 2011 by Harper. It is the first in a trilogy, no surprise there. Mafi’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon.

But Juliette has plans of her own.

After a lifetime without freedom, she’s finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time—and to find a future with the one boy she thought she’d lost forever.”

Thoughts:

Okay, so I try my best, with books I don’t like, to find something good to talk about, even if it’s a “this was decent.” But I actually am struggling to come up with even one thing that I liked about this book.

One of the first things I notice about a book is its writing. And this book has what is possibly the most annoying type of writing I have ever come across. The nitpicky part of me screamed every time numerals were used (as in “4 walls, 1 door” rather than “four walls, one door”) and Mafi used a sort of run-on sentence type of writing where Juliette repeats words for emphasis three, four, even five times on almost every single page. There was a distinct lack of commas and some of the descriptions were incredibly…strange.

There was little to no worldbuilding, so I just ended up confused about how the world ended up the way it did. There’s no need to go into expositional detail (a la The Selection), but some glimpses would be nice.

How convenient that Juliette’s True Love can touch her. How convenient that Juliette’s Nemesis can touch her, too, so that he’s free to become even more creepy and Evil by groping her.

Seriously, by the time the romance kicked in (which was in about ten pages, mind you) I was so over the book (more accurately, as soon as the romance kicked in I was over it). Adam/Juliette is entirely too convenient, way too perfect, and the most puke-worthy thing I’ve ever read. I actually found myself skipping the parts where they interact with each other because I simply could not stand it.

I could go on, but I fear if I do I will revert to snark, and that’s something I try to avoid (sometimes unsuccessfully).

Rating: 1/5

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Warnings: Kissing, sensual/sexual situations, swearing, violence

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

Passages/Quotes:

“They want to re-create everything,” he continues. “They want to redesign everything. They want to destroy anything that could’ve been the reason for our problems. They think we need a new, universal language.” He drops his voice. Drops his eyes. “They want to destroy everything. Every language in history.”

“No.” My breath hitches. Spots cloud my vision.

“I know.”

“No.” This I did not know.

He looks up. “It’s good that you’re writing things down. One day what you’re doing will be illegal.”

~Mafi 38

This child.

He must have a mother a father someone who loves him this child this child this child stumbling forward in terror. He could be speared through by a metal stalagmite at any second.

Saving him is simple: I need to pick him up, find a safe spot of ground, and hold him in my arms until the experiment is over.

There’s only one problem.

If I touch him, he might die.

~Mafi 166

Overall Review:

I struggled to finish Shatter Me and regretted every minute I spent reading it when I could have been reading better books. Too much convenience in the romance; too much romance, full stop, so that the plot became really weak and the worldbuilding almost nonexistent. The writing was also annoying and I couldn’t stand Juliette’s incessant need to count everything, as if how many steps someone took or how many walls a room had was actually important to the story as a whole.

You can buy this here: Shatter Me