16059426Title: Love in the Time of Global Warming
Author: Francesca Lia Block
Pages: 230
Year: 2013
Publisher: Henry Holt (Macmillan)
Time taken to read: 3 days
Rating: 1/5

Goodreads synopsisHer life by the sea in ruins, Pen has lost everything in the Earth Shaker that all but destroyed the city of Los Angeles. She sets out into the wasteland to search for her family, her journey guided by a tattered copy of Homer’s Odyssey. Soon she begins to realize her own abilities and strength as she faces false promises of safety, the cloned giants who feast on humans, and a madman who wishes her dead. On her voyage, Pen learns to tell stories that reflect her strange visions, while she and her fellow survivors navigate the dangers that lie in wait. In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.

This books wins the Kate Likes Books Award for Best Title Ever. I hated everything else about it.

First, there is zero character development. There is zero character, period. I feel absolutely nothing for these kids. All I know about Pen is that she loves her brother. And I guess I also know that she has magical powers, but that’s a whole other issue. I know that Hex is transgender. That’s pretty cool. Good job for representation. But like, there’s no development of the romance. Why do they fall for each other? What do they even know about each other? Pen meets him and all of a sudden she’s obsessed. It all seems too convenient.

Then there’s the magic. What???? And the Giants???? Okay, I should have been ready for the Giants. That was kind of in the flap copy, which I kind of didn’t bother to read. I really thought this was going to be a commentary on issues such as global warming and even a warning as to what life could be like if we don’t start recycling and whatnot. My point is, I honestly thought the Giants were, like, a metaphor or a figment of her imagination for the first half of the book. And I thought that was pretty interesting and was disappointed when it turned out that they’re actually real. Back to her magic. Like I said, what??? Where did that come from? Why do these people have powers? Where did they come from? How do they work? Just like with the characterization, none of this is developed.

The plot…doesn’t exist. This random Kronen guy wants revenge on Pen because she stabbed a Giant (while later in the book she talks about being so weak she can’t imagine doing any harm to the creatures or anyone for that matter). And apparently it’s supposed to be a retelling of The Odyssey…. How about authors come up with their own stories? Sounds good.

I’m so over this book, I can’t even write about it anymore. Just, don’t read this one, you guys. I guarantee everyone reading this review could write a better apocalypse story.


17383918Title: Allegiant
Author: Veronica Roth
Pages: 544
Year: 2013
Publisher: Katherine Tegen (HarperCollins)
Time taken to read: 8 days
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsis: The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered – fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend to complexities of human nature – and of herself – while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

I hate The Hunger Games a lot. The first book was okay, the second was garbage, and the third could have been okay if the ending hadn’t completely ruined everything. And the premise was ridiculous in the first place, so there’s that. I feel quite the opposite, however, about the Divergent series. Everyone fits themselves into a box (think the song “Little Boxes“), except for a couple of special snowflakes who just can’t make themselves be only one thing, and for some reason that’s evil, which sounds dumb, but they sort of explain it all in Allegiant, and I was like, Oh, things were actually for a reason and not just because it sounded good but it actually makes no sense. Cool. But anyway, I thought Divergent was okay, Insurgent sucked, and this book was like 500 pages of garbage and 40 pages of redemption and fantasticness. And since this book has been out for two and a half years and now the movie is out (which I will be going to see this weekend and I swear to god if they changed the ending I will physically fight someone), I have no issue including spoilers: TRIS DIES!!!!! THE BITCH IS DEAD!!!! GONE!! FOREVER!! It’s amazing. I hated her so much, and Roth actually KILLS HER and it makes me so happy. I felt like Roth kinda went overboard with the killing, but this death was GREAT because I know I was totally expecting a really sappy ending where Tris and Tobias live their lives in or out of the city and there would be a really cheesy epilogue where their kids are running around in their front yard and blah blah, but SHE’S F*CKING DEAD! I don’t even care that there were multiple perspectives, which y’all know I can’t stand! It was necessary because her perspective has to disappear. I really thought Roth was going to revive her somehow (I can’t stand fake-out deaths either), but she stuck to it and I am so pleased. I don’t even have anything else to say about the rest of the book. I don’t care. Everything else sucked. Tris actually dies, so this series is officially great.

I guess I should say something about why I hate Tris, which is kind of hard to put into words because it’s mostly just a vibe, but I’ll try. I think Tris is weirdly manipulative when it comes to her relationship with Tobias. It feels like she’s always acting grumpy so he’ll ask her what’s wrong, and then she lashes out, and then they fight, but he’s just confused and also grumpy, and but she knows what she’s doing to him and it’s obnoxious. I wish she’d just be real with him. But also Tobias is annoying, and he kind of does the same thing, so, oh well. OH, that reminds me: we get that Tobias was abused as a child. We know. But do we have to hear about it so often, and in such pathetically dramatic language? Don’t think I don’t feel bad for him, because of course I do, but literary-wise, it is really annoying for him to allude to a belt snapping and then sit and feel sorry for himself on every other page. Anyway, as I was saying, Tris sort of sits around feeling sorry for herself a lot too, and I get it, I totally do, but again, literary-wise, she needs to pick herself up and get into some action, because the story has to move, and Tris does not move the story at all. Until the end. When she dies. Did I mention she dies? It’s great.

Yeesh, this has been my most unprofessional review yet. But Tris is dead, so yeah. Insert confetti emojis.

11735983Title: Insurgent
Author: Veronica Roth
Pages: 525
Year: 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Time taken to read: 4 days
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsisOne choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love. Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

I read this back in 2013 I believe, and I wanted to read Allegiant, but I couldn’t remember a single thing that happened in Insurgent, so I had to reread this one. I wish I had been able to write this review before reading Allegiant because now I’m not sure which things happened in which book, but I’ll do my best.

Even after a second time, the events of this book aren’t terribly memorable. There are kind of a lot of characters, which can make it difficult to keep track of everyone. And I’m not terribly fond of Tris or Tobias, and I got rather sick of their many passionate moments, which Roth had to describe in detail rather strangely and suggestively. Those scenes made me uncomfortable, honestly. The ending is the best part because then you’re like, holy crap, what is this place? Tell me more. And then of course you don’t get any good information until the next book, so it’s like three pages of excitement after five hundred pages of awkward teen kissing and PTSD symptoms, and that’s the whole book. Oh, and the big twist with Caleb was exciting too. I felt kinda bad for him, the poor, loyal nerd. He didn’t know any better.

Also, why do people die so much? Like, relax? It’s okay if people live? Your story can still be edgy and different with alive people?

That’s all the sass I have in me for now. Happy reading, friends.

16201Title: Ella Minnow Pea
Author: Mark Dunn
Pages: 205
Year: 2001
Publisher: MacAdam/Cage
Time taken to read: 31 hours
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads synopsis: Ella Minnow Pea is an epistolary novel set in the fictional island of Nollop situated off the coast of South Carolina and home to the inventor of the pangram The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog. Now deceased, the islanders have erected a monument to honor their hero, but one day a tile with the letter “z” falls from the statue. The leaders interpret the falling tile as a message from beyond the grave and the letter is banned from use. On an island where the residents pride themselves on their love of language, this is seen as a tragedy. They are still reeling from the shock, when another tile falls and then another…. Mark Dunn takes us on a journey against time through the eyes of Ella Minnow Pea and her family as they race to find another phrase containing all the letters of the alphabet to save them from being unable to communicate. Eventually, the only letters remaining are LMNOP, when Ella finally discovers the phrase that will save their language.

I will start by saying that I really struggled over what genre to label this as, because I felt like it was more than just Young Adult but it wasn’t quite fantasy. It’s set in the contemporary world but in a dystopian sort of society in the midst of our world. This is also my second 5 star review in a row, which is crazy.

I actually didn’t love this book at first. I was put off by the pedantic language, but eventually I got into the rhythm. And then I was totally sucked in. The long words made this book a mental workout (in a good way), but it was still a quick read. I rarely say this about books, but I wish it had gone on longer.

This is definitely not a character-driven novel, but the plot was so unique and interesting that it didn’t matter. I also don’t normally like books that are composed entirely of letters sent between characters, but this worked. It did bother me that the phrase “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” can be shortened even further very easily, by changing one “the”, or both, to “a”. But the phrase with “the” in both places is famous, so I didn’t give this much thought. I really tore through this book because I was dying to know how they solved the issue. I thought it was so interesting because there was nothing physically stopping them from using the forbidden letters, no magic or anything, just the government. I knew some bad and interesting things would happen to major characters, and I was excited to find out what sorts of things could go wrong. I was not disappointed. I loved feeling the deterioration of the minds of the characters, a lot of them slowly going insane, figuratively and quite literally. It was like the opposite of character development, and it was awesome.

After reading some other reviews on Goodreads, I realize that it has satirical intentions about censorship and the power of the government, but I never really thought about it like that while I was reading it. I feel like there are two types of people who will read this, one for the letter puzzle and one for the satire. I was part of the letter puzzle group. But looking back, I can appreciate the messages Dunn was trying to send. I am always dying for books that are really different, and I love the magic of the letters of the alphabet, so this book was really perfect for me. That being said, it’s probably not for everyone, and I would understand if someone didn’t like it at all. Still, I say give it a try!

21547975Title: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Pages: 374
Year: 2009
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Time taken to read: 12 days
Rating: 2/5

Goodreads synopsisIf you ain’t scared, you ain’t human. When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone. Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade. Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive. Everything is going to change. Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying. Remember. Survive. Run.

I was really excited about The Maze Runner. I hadn’t read a dystopian novel in a while, and I was severely disappointed by The Hunger Games, so I really wanted to love this. My dad told me the basic premise, that a bunch of kids are stuck in the center of a maze and can’t get out because there are monsters that come out in the maze at night, and I thought that sounded really awesome. Unfortunately, I was disappointed yet again. (Reminder: there will be spoilers in this review.)

Dashner is a poor and inconsistent writer. My first impression of the book was that no one paid any attention when writing or editing this. On page 2, Thomas, the main character, is in the Box (don’t even get me started on the number of stupid words that were capitalized because that’s just what dystopian novels do, I guess), and he’s screaming his head off. Then on page 3, he speaks to the other Gladers and thinks to himself that this is the first time he’s heard his own voice. I don’t know what to say besides the fact that this is simply not true and no one who worked on this book noticed. This is not the only instance of inconsistency, but I will not explain any more of them. Dashner’s sentences themselves also tend to sound very unnecessarily stupid. Near the end of the book, for example, Thomas says something about how he feels as though he and Chuck “share a mom”, and I just wondered why Dashner would say that instead of just saying that Thomas feels as though Chuck is his brother. Again, there are many sentences that have a similar awkwardness and that don’t make sense, but I won’t go through them all. And Dashner’s descriptions were honestly weak. I do not have a clear picture of what the Grievers look like at all. I have no clue what they did with the maps to figure out the code, how they laid out the wax and such, and the descriptions of the Homestead and other buildings, inside and out, were confusing as well. (I’m looking forward to watching the movie so that maybe I can understand some of this crap.)

There were many elements of the story that fell flat for me as well. Perhaps the worst part was the code words, “float,” “catch,” “bleed,” etc. They meant absolutely nothing. They were just random ominous words, and the only purpose I can think of would be just to freak the kids out. Perhaps that’s explained in the next book, but I doubt it. There were a number of unanswered questions that may be answered in a later book (Why can Thomas and Teresa communicate telepathically? How did they help create the Maze? Why the heck did they need to go through this two year trial to determine whether or not they could find a cure for a disease?), but I don’t think that’s fair. I think that we as readers suffered through this whole book, and we deserve answers now. This whole thing with the Flare sort of feels like Dashner didn’t know how to end it, and he accidentally ended up with more questions than he started with, so he had to keep writing. I personally can’t suffer through any more of his writing so I’m going to be looking up summaries of the last two books.* I’m just bothered by the way this disease thing came up so suddenly, and it feels like all that work through the Maze was for nothing. And on top of all of this, it’s very offensive to me that Dashner felt the need to state that the kids in the Maze were the finest minds of their time or whatever, but there were no girls. (I don’t count Teresa because she wasn’t a real Glader.) This whole book felt forced and empty, and I’m sad that such an interesting concept was wasted.


*Edit: I looked up a summary of the second book on Wikipedia, but after the first paragraph I was so bored I decided I really don’t care what happens.