Posts tagged ‘dystopian’

April 12th, 2011

The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: The Water Wars

Author: Cameron Stracher

Published: January 1st, 2011

Number of Pages: 256

Rating: 2/5


Welcome to a future where water is more precious than gold or oil-and worth killing for

Vera and her brother, Will, live in the shadow of the Great Panic, in a country that has collapsed from environmental catastrophe. Water is hoarded by governments, rivers are dammed, and clouds are sucked from the sky. But then Vera befriends Kai, who seems to have limitless access to fresh water. When Kai suddenly disappears, Vera and Will set off on a dangerous journey in search of him-pursued by pirates, a paramilitary group, and greedy corporations. Timely and eerily familiar, acclaimed author Cameron Stracher makes a stunning YA debut that’s impossible to forget.

“Let us pray that the world which Cameron Stracher has invented in The Water Wars is testament solely to his pure, wild, and brilliant imagination, and not his ability to see the future. I was parched just reading it.”-Laurie David, academy award winning producer of An Inconvenient Truth, and author of The Down to Earth Guide to Global Warming [From Goodreads]

Sorry! I don’t have a quote this time!


I can’t remember how I heard about The Water Wars, but I decided on a whim to purchase it from Borders. Perhaps I bought it because I’m always thrilled to buy a book – any book – but it’s likely I picked it up due to the blurb on the cover, which compares it to The Hunger Games. Any book deserving of that comparison must be great, right?


The Water Wars is certainly rugged, action-packed, and serious in ways similar to The Hunger Games, but explosions and bullets can only substitute so much. The book is sorely lacking in memorable characters and suspense. While I always knew something would go wrong every ten pages (and it would likely involve kidnapping or explosions), I simply didn’t care. None of it mattered. This lack of interest in the potentially page-turning plot sprouted from my inability to truly care for the characters.

Vera (I love that name) is cute. She’s likable, nice, loyal, and she probably does well in school. That’s about all I know after reading an entire book from her perspective. I never felt like I was a part of her or had a firm grasp on her past. I don’t think I could identify many weaknesses, faults, interests, or other characteristics of hers. I wasn’t as invested in her story as I might have been had she been more of a striking individual.

The secondary characters seemed to have far more potential. You’ve got the fatherly pirate, the dangerous beautiful woman with a past, the loving, protective, and proactive brother – why wasn’t one of them the protagonist? Vera’s sweetness and occasional feisty outbursts could only do so much.

A similar issue was Kai and Vera’s relationship. I felt like neither I nor she knew him well at all before she suddenly cared loads for him.

The world of The Water Wars is destitute, corrupt, and immediately appears hopeless. This is the only aspect of the novel that reminded me of The Hunger Games. The world is so similar. The government and rich corporations are almighty and omniscient. The ecosystem is in ruins due to the people’s careless wastefulness and Global Warming. In one respect, I suppose I was setting myself up to be at least slightly displeased by the story – I knew anything that focused on humanities careless treatment of the earth would be more preachy than I like.

Though the factors above weren’t my cup-of-tea, there were some things that Cameron Stracher did rather well. There is nonstop action from about a fifth of the way in to the end. Bullets! Explosions! One second they’re kidnapped by so-and-so, the next they’re freed, and then woosh! here comes [insert evil person’s name here] to add to the mounting number of kidnappings. Cameron Stracher took the advice to never let your protagonist sit for too long and throw every possible terrible experience at them to heart. Poor Vera and her brother, Will, hardly have a chance to catch their breath before something – or someone – else attacks.

Ultimately, I think The Water Wars had a lot more potential than it lived up to and believe Cameron Stracher’s books will improve in the future. The book didn’t strike me as something that would be very enjoyable to the Young Adult audience. However, I think The Water Wars is a good example of a story that might appeal greatly to teen boys!

March 11th, 2011

Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Awaken

Author: Katie Kacvinsky

Published: May 23, 2011 by Houghton Mifflin for Children

Number of Pages: 320

Rating: 4/5


Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.

Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.

In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space. [From Goodreads]

Official Review Sent to Houghton Mifflin*:

It’s not often I stumble upon a book that bottles me up inside of it. Awaken pulled me in and proceeded to yank me deeper. The concept of a nation obsessed with technology is not hard to imagine, and it’s not the concept that sells Awaken (though it certainly doesn’t hurt) – it’s the way Katie Kacvinsky twists it and the characters she weaves into it. I was sucked in so violently that the very idea of concentrating during 1st period Geometry was laughable. With a strong and interesting main character full of potential and a love story that is tantalizing and maddening, I don’t believe anyone can blame me for my brief love affair with Awaken.


I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened the covers of Awaken. This is Katie Kacvinsky’s first novel, so I had no idea how the book would feel or what tendencies the plot might fall prey to. I had a fresh and eager mentality as I began to read. It wasn’t long at all before I was almost tearing pages as I turned them rapidly in my anticipation.

The premise of Awaken is one I expect will attract a majority of YA readers, but there’s a specific facet of this book that will truly enthrall them (particularly those of the female variety): The love story.

I know that I’m at risk of sounding ridiculous and silly, but Maddie’s love story totally captivated me. It was infuriating (with a positive connotation, of course)! I’ve never read a book in which the love story is drawn out as expertly as it is in Awaken. The two characters were practically discussing their feelings but would not act, and that constant state of expectancy and jittery excitement was felt acutely by both Maddie and myself (the other Maddy). A fantastic attribute of this love story was that there was a reasonable cause for the caution with which they regarded their feelings for each other, and that gave the romance a sort of “forbidden” quality that had nothing to do with either character wanting to eat the other. Wonderful!

On a more reasonable level, Katie’s prose was distinct and remarkably different than much of what I’ve seen lately. There’s a lot more thought and comfortable settling in Maddie’s head as opposed to constant dialogue and action, and though that might turn off those who skip prose to jump to the quotation marks, I encourage readers to take the time to read what Maddie has to say to herself. Her feelings are just as complex as her world and the combination of the two are a huge part of what makes Awaken unique.

The main issue I found was that the plot wasn’t quite as developed as I would have hoped. It took a while for the necessary relationships to evolve to the point that the real plot became evident, but then it moved at a slightly sluggish pace. I would have loved to see Katie take massive twists and turns, but I think the love story was the dominant force in the book. Luckily for her, the romance was right on the mark and kept me engrossed despite the fact that the plotline didn’t seem to reach its potential. (It would make an awesome trilogy, but I haven’t heard anything about a sequel.)

The setup and development of the world and system Maddie lives in was also well done. I loved the natural ways through which she was introduced to new people and circumstances, and I found the general flow of the story to be believable. The various folks she meets along the way are spectacular in their own ways (in other words, they could be wonderfully unlikable as well as likable). There were a few characters who seemed rather reminiscent of characters you’ll find in a lot of YA literature, but that’s likely because they’re the sort of people a lot of readers enjoy reading about.

Essentially, Awaken is a thrilling, tantalizing, and unique novel, and it’s a remarkable debut. There’s no doubt in my mind that I will fight to get my hands on every book of Katie Kacvinsky’s from here on out, and there’s a good chance I’ll devour them in twenty-four hours or less. I recommend it to anyone with a hankering for a delectable romance and refreshingly “different” prose from a debut author!

*Thank you, thank you, thank you for the ARC!

December 31st, 2010

Wither by Lauren DeStefano; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Wither

Author: Lauren DeStefano

Published: March 22nd, 2011

Number of Pages: 368

Rating: 5/5

Official Review:

With a premise that is extraordinary and unique, particularly among YA literature, Wither stands out on the shelf. However, it’s not until one picks it up and reads that one realizes what a mind-boggling, intriguing treasure it is. Rhine’s story is of love, both voluntary and not, hate, confusion, and passion. I was swept away in her world, her predicament, her feelings and worries. There’s no doubt that Wither wowed me – and there’s no doubt it will hypnotize many others.


What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being 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 Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left. [From Goodreads]


What a ridiculously original and intriguing book! The premise itself is… unique and disturbing, but indubitably irresistible. I am so very, very grateful the opportunity to read an ARC (as were a friend of mine and her sister…).

Here’s the deal, this book is so fantastically interesting that I can hardly imagine anyone being able to put it down easily. The idea is simultaneously horrifying and surreal (in a, um, nightmarish way). Even during the slower parts of the book, I was desperate to know how the story would unfold – or if it even could. The darned thing was so twisted, and my feelings toward actions, characters, and what I hoped would happen were all over the place. I knew what I should feel, and it tended to be at odds with what was actually running through my head. This book makes your mind reel.

Rhine (first of all, what a stellar name!) is an ideal main character. Nonirritating, thoughtful, loving, naturally worried but not constantly overanxious, smart, clever, funny, and full of weaknesses that show that, not only is she human, but she has a beating heart just like the rest of us. Her confusion mirrored my own. Her fears and needs and wants were just what you’d expect, and her actions were all in character. Ultimately, though, the thing that made her awesome was that she could see beneath people’s skins, forgive them or dislike them, but treat them as they deserved – not necessarily as she wanted to treat them. I loved that despite everything, her visions and opinions weren’t always set in stone, but willing to change should change be necessary. She wasn’t too obstinate or inflexible. She gave second chances.

The other wives are fascinating as well. The dynamics of their situation are certainly unusual, but to them it’s surprisingly… unsurprising. Each one of them has a different take on the situation, their new home, and, for that matter, their new husband. The bond the wives share is one I think all girls or women can relate to. They are the most strong as a group, they work off each others’ energies, thoughts, and strength. They rely on each other as I would guess sisters do (I don’t have one). Essentially, it was a both a touching and heart-wrenching element of the novel.

Linden – the husband – is an incredible character! I never knew what to think of him. With every moment we spent with him, with every comment made by any of the characters regarding him, my opinion changed. Originally, his name made me cringe. He was evil. He was sick. Yet, as his character was revealed I came to “enjoy his company” and yearn to learn more about him. I can’t say anything more without giving too much away!

Gabriel is another key factor in the novel (of course). Though I thought he was sweet and learned to respect him, and though I was excited whenever he made an appearance in the book, I never felt close to him. I never quite felt like I had fallen in love with him – which is a bummer. Interestingly, I thought it was Rhine’s relationship with Linden that developed more and was the more intriguing of the two. I was far more anxious and excited when Linden entered the room.

The atmosphere was fascinating, as it was a mix of the present, future, and past. There were things that we definitely have not achieved technologically as of yet, but the society seemed to be very 1920s-like. I loved living in the world of this book for a short while (I read it way too quickly!), despite the fact that it’s horrifying. There were simply so many characters, settings, plot and character twists, and things to admire about this novel that I cannot wait for the sequel!

Ultimately, Wither is an astounding debut novel with incredible situations, moving scenes, terrific writing, and fascinating characters. I foresee many positive reviews in its future, as it is mystifying.

Thanks, so, so, much to Simon & Schuster for the ARC!