All tagged Dystopian

A Girl Called Fearless by Catherine Linka: Uneven, But Relevant & Gripping

I don't know if I suffered as severe of dystopian burnout as a lot of readers, largely because I'm self-aware enough to know that any faction-based world irritates the crap out of me, so I managed to avoid a lot of the popular dystopian-ish novels that hit the shelves in the wake of The Hunger Games' popularity.

(Seriously, what is with all the factions, dystopian authors? I just don't get it.)

I've picked up a few recently that I've enjoyed at varying degrees. I enthusiastically enjoyed Maureen McGowan's corporate conspiracy-meets-X-Men Dust Chronicles action-adventure series; I was profoundly let down by the promising water-contamination novel The Ward by Jordana Frankel (that book had so much promise!).

Catherine Linka's debut, A Girl Called Fearless, likely sits somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, yet it manages to shine a bit more brightly than many others because it's both thought-provoking and gripping.

Stream-It Sunday: How I Live Now (Movie)

Have I mentioned that I am the unofficial Queen of Streaming?

We don't have cable or satellite television, so the majority of my television consumption is thanks to my beloved Roku box. (Note to self: Write a post about how we don't have cable & manage to watch a crap-ton of television.) I dig pretty deep into the streaming services for my screen time. 

For awhile now I've been meaning to start an irregular series with my recommendations for finds on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant, and so on. I thought I'd kick off this series by featuring a movie I watch with week on Netflix, the film adaptation of Meg Roscoff's How I Live Now. 

Four Quickie Reviews

I don't review all the books I read--that seems like a daunting, and kind of stressful task, to be frank. However, I wanted to spotlight a few books that I've read recently which I think are worth discussing and recommending, albeit with more brevity than in my usual reviews. 

Because it is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin

Because it is My Blood is the second in Gabrielle Zevin's unusual dystopian mafia series, the first of which is All These Things I've Done. The narrative style of this series is one that will either work for people or not--the memoir-like reflective style is definitely different and I really love it. This second novel in the series sends Anya to Mexico, and this shift from New York makes for a a quieter, slower installment in contrast with the first novel in the series (which I reviewed here and where I detailed the premise of the series). I also really enjoyed the new characters introduced in this installment, especially Anya's new friend Theo, who brings some interesting perspective to her life.

Review: Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes

Shaunta Grimes’ Viral Nation caught my eye earlier this year for a single reason: the cover.

The cover art depicts a teen girl, wearing very the very teen girl garb of jeans, a hoodie and Chuck Taylor sneakers, standing in the ruins of an urban landscape with an equally awesome-looking dog. 

Having suffered a mild case of Dystopian Burnout, like many readers I approach dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories with a bit of caution. However, Viral Nation is a creative, fresh entry into the crowded dystopian shelves--one that deserves much more attention than it’s received.

Viral Nation is set in a future version of Reno, Nevada. A catastrophic Ebola-like viral outbreak wiped out a large portion of the nation’s population, and the remaining citizens were moved into fifty walled cities across the country, where it’s easier to distribute the critical viral suppressant--discovered thanks to time travel--needed to prevent a future outbreak. 

Twofer Review: Shatter Me & Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

One of my favorite things about the book blogging world is that sometimes it gives me the shove I need to read books I would have normally passed up. Such is the case of Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me, which came highly recommended by the lovely Angie, whose taste is very similar to my own. 

Frankly, I'd assumed that ​the Shatter Me series was yet another in a long series of dystopian copycats that are just okay. (I'm looking at you, Divergent, Legend, Delirium, et al.) However, to my surprise, I was absolutely sucked into the--and I mean this in a good way--absolute weirdness of the writing style and narration.

​Juliette has spent her teen years locked away in a prison because her touch is fatal--she's killed before. Her family has shunned her and the system doesn't care about her. So she sits in a cell. Alone. Abandoned.

All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.

She frantically scribbles her semi-maniacal thoughts in a journal, until one day, she's no longer by herself. A new prisoner is locked up in her cell--it's Adam a boy from her past who has secrets of his own. ​

​Eventually (intentional vagueness here to avoid spoilage), the story's location shifts to the compound of the regional government, where the young madman Warner, hopes to figure out how to use Juliette's power for his own destructive purposes. 

In both Shatter Me and its sequel, Unravel Me, Warner steals many of the scenes.

Review: All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

“May God forgive me for this and all these things I’ve done.”

All These Things I've Gone by Gabrielle Zevin

Looking at the books I’ve read the last year, dystopians have been the biggest bombs. Since everyone jumped on the futuristic, world-gone-to-pot bandwagon, there’s just not a lot of fresh, creative takes in the overly-saturated dystopian sub-genre. 

As a result, when I bought Gabrielle Zevin’s All These Things I’ve Done when it was a Kindle Daily Deal, my expectations were incredibly low, but I figured at a buck or two, it was a low-risk proposition. 

I was surprised that All These Things I’ve Done—despite wildly disparate reviews from readers whose opinions I trust—was a fresh and compelling entry amidst a slew of uninspiring dystopian trilogies. 

It’s the 2083 and Anya Balanchine, daughter of a notorious—and murdered—crime boss, spends her days trying to hold her fractured family together in a future New York City where commodities including chocolate, caffeine, paper and cotton are illegal or hard-to-obtain. At 16 Anya’s tasked with caring for her ailing grandmother (who’s her legal guardian) and her siblings, including her older brother who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of her family’s involvement in organized crime. 

“I wasn’t an expert on the chocolate ban as it had happened before I was born, but there were definite similarities. Daddy had always told me that there was nothing inherently evil about chocolate, that it had gotten caught up in a larger whirlwind involving food, drugs, health, and money. Our country had only chosen chocolate because the people in power needed to pick something, and chocolate was what they could live without. Daddy once said, ‘Every generation spins the wheel, Anya, and where it lands defines ‘the good.’ Funny thing is, they never know that they’re spinning it, and it hits something different every time.’” 

She works hard to keep herself out of trouble so she can legally care for her younger sister once her grandmother passes away from an extended illness. She’s prickly and unbending, which means she has very specific expectations of herself, her role in her family and how others must behave. She’s judgmental and not necessarily “relatable,” though she has wit and humor that made me root for her.

Tomorrow Land by Mari Mancusi hit my sweet spot for book brain candy.

And, yes, that’s a compliment—good book brain candy is hard to come by. However, I want to say from the outset that Tomorrow Land is campy. It’s cheesy. It’s over-the-top. But, I love action movies and comic book-inspired movies, so I’m always up for a bit of ridiculousness in my entertainment. If you don’t enjoy those things too, Tomorrow Land is not at all for you. 

Previously published in paperback as Razor Girl by now-defunct Dorchester (Goodreads, Amazon), Tomorrow Land is available only as an ebook (I believe it’s self-published, but it’s obviously professionally edited and formatted) at the moment. It is my understanding that Tomorrow Land was retooled as a YA novel while Razor Girl was an adult novel (I am curious as to the differences—Google hasn’t helped in determining this). 

The premise is a bit… wild.

{Review} Truth by Julia Karr

On the day before I started reading Truth, the sequel to the excellent 2011 release XVI, I tweeted the following:

I kind of feel like I just need to quit dystopians cold turkey. At this point, they’re just aggravating me. Hopefully ninjas or something will be the next big thing, because I need something new.

Actually, yes, ninjas would be excellent.

Then I picked up the sequel to my favorite 2011 dystopian release* and remembered that the subgenre isn’t quite on life-support yet. 

Truth picks up shortly after XVI left off—if you have not read XVI or need a refresher, here’s a quick rundown of the premise and what I appreciated about it (my Goodreads review is here): 

  • Nina Oberon lives in a future version of the United States ruled by a misogynist Governing Council with the aid of a corrupt version of the media;
  • One of the main keys to the government’s control over the population is their control over the sexual availability of girls once they are 16—each girl gets a tattoo of “XVI” on their wrist and is therefore deemed available to any man who wants them, it is a culture that encourages rape and sexual control, and it is extremely disturbing;
  • The role the media plays in pushing teen and tween girls to act and behave in a way that encourages this culture is even more disturbing because it is not all that different from modern Western society;
  • Nina’s family has a history of involvement in the resistance movement and she becomes increasingly involved in it herself as she approaches her sixteenth birthday. (This is one of the things I most appreciated about XVI—there was context for her fighting the powers that be. In so many YA dystopians, the lead is just  a special snowflake and we’re just supposed to accept that’s why she’s fighing the bad guys.); 
  • Karr’s writing is tight and makes the Nina’s hyper-commercial, disturbing world come to life; and
  • I read XVI as a standalone, not knowing it was a planned trilogy and it actually worked as a single book!

If you have not read XVI, and don’t want to be spoiled for that book, I strongly recommend you do not continue reading my review of Truth! Do not pass Go!, instead, read XVI, and come back and read my review of Truth.