Posts tagged ‘thehungergames’

June 29th, 2011

“You’re still reading dystopian?”

by Madeleine Rex

I can’t tell you how many times my mom’s asked me this question.

Now, my mom’s not much of a reader herself (this may be hard to believe, but she really is far too busy to read), but she does host a book club with me and forces herself to listen to my bookish jabbering. Therefore, she’s heard plenty about various dystopian societies. I can’t seem to quit leaping at dystopian novels, despite the fact that many of them are rather similar.

Why?

There’s simply something fascinating about a world that is a twisted and demented version of the one we’re living in. Even without the elements of fantasy, dystopian worlds manage to be just as fantastical, but in a more relatable way. The more connections I can make between our world and the one in the book, and the easier it is to understand the path that was taken to get from one to the other, the more mesmerizing and terrifying the dystopian world is. A few miscalculations, a few conniving people, a few natural disasters, and we’re there, living in a world even more dysfunctional than the one we’re living in now.

However, I’d have to say that the reason I haven’t had my dystopian fix is the same one that motivates me to read almost anything: characters. No matter what genre, and no matter how bland the world, a colorful cast of characters can steal my heart. All I’m really asking for is the opportunity to love a few more people – to make friends and enjoy their company. When I read, my ultimate desire is to be invested in the lives of fascinating people. Dystopian is a genre that accommodates intriguing worlds, horrific realities, and, if the book is good, characters with whom I can fall in love.

There are many irresistible dystopian novels out there, and their strengths vary. Some are written by adept and talented authors whose prose enchants me. Others are set in worlds so corrupt and abominable that I can’t help but read them and savor the horror. And the best of them are homes to people I adore.

Here are a few dystopian books that I’ve enjoyed and recommend, particularly to those that are skeptical about the value and appeal of the dystopian genre:


Divergent by Veronica Roth [5/5]


Wither by Lauren DeStefano [5/5] (Review)


Delirium by Lauren Oliver [5/5] (Review)


Matched by Ally Condie [5/5] (Review)


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins [Can I say 10/5?]


Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky [4/5] (Review)

What are you still doing here? Shouldn’t you be reading?

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

Synopsis:

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!

Review:

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?

Well…

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!

September 7th, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Mockingjay

Author: Suzanne Collins

Published: August 24th, 2010

Number of Pages: 400

Rating: 5/5

Yes, I lied. You may put me in time-out, but that would entail my losing computer privileges, and you would be left waiting for the review. I’m going to pretend that sounds like a loss to you and continue writing.

I truly wasn’t going to write a review of Mockingjay. I simply couldn’t fathom how I’d be able to take my scrambled and deranged thoughts and relay them in a sane way. However, I’d forgotten that Scholastic was sending me a copy for review. So, for Scholastic’s case, a review of the third and final installment in The Hunger Games trilogy – Mockingjay.

Quote: BABY SPOILER-ALERT

“President Snow says he’s sending us a message? Well, I have one for him. You can torture us and bomb us and burn our districts to the ground, but do you see that?” One of the cameras follows as I point to the planes burning on the roof of the warehouse across from us. The Capitol seal on the wing glows clearly through the flames. “Fire is catching!” I am shouting now, determined that he will not miss a word. “And if we burn, you burn with us!”

Review:

Mind-boggling. Gripping. Horrific. Beautiful. Haunting. Magnificent. Epic. – These are all adjectives I can imagine seeing and hearing in regard to every book in The Hunger Games. Yet none seem to encompass the incredible massiveness of the appreciation many of us have for them. Each individual book blew my mind, made me shudder, and made me yearn deeply for more. They are simply astonishing.

And yet I felt, and still feel, disappointed with Mockingjay.

Not because it was bad. Not because it wasn’t wonderful. It was fantastic. However, I think we all had something we expected from this book. Not everyone of us could be satisfied entirely, and the only one who truly needed to be satisfied was Suzanne Collins. I hope and like to believe that she’s happy with and proud of this trilogy that has shaken readers around the world.

I, however, found flaws with the book (in my opinion) that dampened the experience for me.  I believe the way things played out is exactly what the ending needed to be. I am satisfied with what happened. Just not precisely with the way they happened.

For example, it seemed to me that many if not all of the most gripping and potentially-stunning parts of the novel were summarized. Why are we asleep again? Why are we blacking out? Oh, yeah, so that all the awesomeness can be relayed to us later. I was highly aggravated by the fact that so much was skimmed over (and some seemingly unimportant things were given loads of “screen time”), particularly when the parts skimmed played a huge role in the character or plot development. Many scenes were anticlimactic in this way. I was left wondering how this happened or why this happened, or what Katniss’s thoughts on the matter were. I’d missed them because, oh yeah, I’d been knocked out of the story. I was certainly frustrated at the end. Why in the world was so much of the ending summarized? How can that happen after we’ve read through three books to get there?

The summarization was my main problem with the book, but alongside that was the feeling that this book could seriously have used one hundred more pages. In fact, these issues go hand in hand. So much was happening in such quick succession and important parts were being summarized. If events had been fleshed out a bit more to clearly relate the happenings of the book and the turmoil-filled world of Panem, I would have been very pleased.

Collin’s prose has developed beautifully since The Hunger Games. In an interview I read of hers, she mentioned that descriptions – and other things aside from dialogue – were something she was still learning about. As any true HG fan knows, Collins was primarily a screen-writer. I noticed the improvement. The prose was flawless and the voice so very Katniss.

But a different kind of Katniss.

Our dear girl from the Seam with the sack of illegally shot meat? So very, very changed. Which is completely understandable. What a life she’s had the past few years. What nearly insufferable things she’s gone through. Bleakness has shadowed and hung over her since the reaping at which her sister’s name was called. It’s a grievous thing to think that someone so young should go through things that no one – at any age – could really handle. How could she remain unscathed? Impossible. And yet it’s still depressing and heart-wrenching to follow and be in the head of a Katniss that has been beaten down. With a stick, with a broom, with a  metal rod, with the force of the most powerful government in her world, she  has been whipped. And it shows. I felt so disheartened some of the time to feel the difference in her, to feel her occasional hopelessness. But I cheered for her. Every happy moment was bliss. Every good time made me ache with happiness for her. It made me glad to read of her laughing, but there was still the weight of the omnipotence of her enemies.

Aside from Katniss, the world was pretty bleak, even more so than it had been in the previous two books. Underlying all that, however, was the promise, if small, of monumental change. That promise powered through the book and kept spirits up. At multiple points (and particularly at the quote above), I jumped where I sat and felt this indescribable urge to move. To make a difference and stand beside these fictional characters fighting for a world so much better than the one they were living in. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I felt that urge to do something deeply. This book, this entire story, is inspiring.

The characters we’ve loved throughout the trilogy are put through torture – mental, physical, and emotional. Betrayal rounds every corner and heartbreak hovers overhead, but the story is beautiful. What happens to various characters, and the things some of them say, make you feel so strongly. Feel anything. And books that accomplish that are powerful.

I love The Hunger Games trilogy. I feel as though no other Young Adult series will surpass it for years. The books have shaken people. They’ve made people fall in love with characters, with story, and with messages. I firmly believe that Mockingjay is a great ending to all this wonder.

I simply wish it wasn’t ending so soon.

Thanks, Scholastic!