Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2)–Death, Resurrection, Death, The Great Resonance…Oh, and Death!

33555224Genre: Young Adult Dystopian

Rating: 5/5

Thunderhead (The second book in the Arc of a Scythe Trilogy), by Neal Shusterman, takes place almost a year after the events in Scythe.

Scythe Anastasia, once known as Citra Terranova, is a junior scythe still following under her previous mentor, Scythe Curie. She dawns a turquoise-green robe and gleans for what is right. She allows her victims to select the way they wish to die, something unheard of, yet very unique, among the Scythedom.

Meanwhile, Scythe Lucifer (also known as Rowan Damisch) uses Goddard’s stolen ring to pose as an actual scythe, all while gleaning scythes who show ill intentions. Permanently. Acid and fire can burn the body too far to be recovered from deadish. Scythe Lucifer will glean those who seem to find a passion for killing, such as Scythe Goddard, or those who show racial bias, among other discrepancies that go against being a scythe.

When Scythe’s Anastasia and Curie’s lives are at stake, a boy who works close under the Thunderhead, Greyson Tolliver puts his own life and desires on the line to save them. He even becomes unsavory, unable to speak to the Thunderhead, who he knows more as a parent than his own mother and father. Unsavories do things that society looks down upon (causing accidents, starting fights, etc.), and the Thunderhead does not speak to those marked with the red U on their I.D. Going deep undercover, Greyson loses his identity and past, completely rewritten, all to save the two Scythes. But who is threatening their lives?

I don’t want to get into too much detail or be too spoilery, so I’ll stop there. But lets just say, this book is absolutely epic! Some Scythes come back from what was thought to be true death, some scythes die (okay, a TON of scythes die), we learn more about the Tonists and the Great Resonance, Farraday searches for a mystical land, and we finally get to see Endura, the island of the Grandslayers and a place containing multitudes from scythe history. There is also extremely subtle romance, but it’s just enough and it’s perfect! The last 50 pages or so are absolutely intense, heart-pounding, and gut-wrenching, leaving the reader dying to read the third and final book in the series: The Toll.

Also, if you get your hands on the Barnes and Noble Exclusive edition, you’re in for an awesome treat. The B&N edition comes with annotations by Neal Shusterman in the back of the book, comments and thoughts on each chapter, such as why he did what he did, or what made him think of a certain idea, or even what he was doing when he was writing a certain chapter!

 

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The Darkest Minds–A New Paperback Edition In Time for the Movie!

35099464Genre: Young Adult Dystopian/Romance

Rating: 4/5

SPOILER-FILLED REVIEW

Unlike many dystopian novels, this one is a bit of a twist in the way society changes after children are affected by a disease, and many gain psychic-type powers during the age of puberty. After children are afflicted with these powers, the government fears–or wants to use–them. They are sent to different camps that the government claims are for “rehabilitation,” to remove the children’s powers. Of course, it’s more like they are doing various types of testing. Each child is labeled with a color based on their tested power.

  • Green-Mellow, generally good with photographic memory and details.
  • Blue-Move things with their mind; psychic
  • Yellow-Manipulate electricity
  • Red-Fire
  • Orange-Mind control and manipulation; add or remove memories

Eventually, all reds and oranges are taken, most likely killed. Different camps operate in different ways. Thurmond is terrible. After Ruby accidentally erases all memories of herself from her parents, she is taken to a camp. Being an Orange, she manipulates the man testing her to classify her as a Green: not dangerous the way Oranges are, and won’t end up in the firing line.

When one of the nurses helps Ruby and another child escape nearly six years after she has been in the camp, she learns about the League, an operation that wants to release the children…to use them for their own gains. Children with sharpened powers and trained to follow orders can be a great military asset, of course.

Ruby suspects something is off with the League before she even gets there. Stopping at a gas station, she runs away, following a little Japanese girl named Zu (Yellow), when she also meets Chubs and Liam (Blues). The foursome spend their time on the road trying to deliver a letter to a deceased friend’s parent, and to find an Orange known as the Slip-Kid. In a world where there aren’t many children left in freedom, it’s easy to be reported and sought by the camps, League, or bounty hunters.

When they finally reach the Slip-Kid’s camp, they find that life there may seem free, but there are too many similarities to the Psi camps for Ruby’s comfort. Not to mention the Slip-Kid is the president’s son, and an extremely powerful Orange.

Now Ruby must decide between her friends, family, abilities, and finding out how to do what’s right in the end, even if she has to change who she is to ultimately reach that point.

This book is interesting and well-written. Despite there seeming to be not a whole lot happening, the pacing feels quick. The way the economy is described is interesting as well, and I feel that it needs to go into more depth of that eventually. It’s interesting enough that I do want to see what happens next, but no need to rush into it. One of the thing’s I liked about the January 2018 paperback release (pictured) is the nearly 50 page exclusive short story featuring Liam and his older brother, Cole. It was a good short story in that it added some hindsight to the type of relationship Liam and his brother have, and that Liam may no longer have a place in the world. I recommend this edition, if anything, for the extra content. Overall, good read that I would recommend for a teen audience.

 

War Storm (Red Queen #4)–Is It a Worthwhile Finale?

27188596Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Dystopian

Rating: 5/5

War Storm is the fourth and final major installment in Victoria Aveyard’s best selling Red Queen series. I was lucky enough to be at her publication party at Diesel, A Bookstore in Brentwood, where well over 100 people came to celebrate the release of this book, along with Victoria Aveyard in Conversation with Marie Lu. What an amazing event.

Nearly a month and a half later, I finally finish this 657 page beast that is War Storm.

More political and war/battle-filled over anything, the politics, strategies, and battles keep this novel fast-paced and full of constant action, which is generally always a good thing. Not only do Mare, Evangeline, and Iris return as leading ladies and perspective characters, but we finally get perspective chapters for both Cal and Maven (two chapters each). This shows Aveyard’s craft and ability as a writer by being able to take on these different perspectives and have these characters stand out from each other, and we can also see some of their reasons for doing things.

Some of my personal comments:

  • Iris is a SCARY lady
  • Evangeline is my favorite character (love her attitude and style)
  • I root for Cal

The ending is not quite what I imagined, and it is open in a way that there could be more short or side stories, or maybe even a little novella to show what some of the characters are doing in future. Overall, it is conclusive, and I feel that the ending is what it needed to be, whether it’s what I was expecting, or what I wanted, or not.

We, the reader, are taken all over the country in this book, and get to see different political sides to things and how different sets of people are living with this war going on. Montfort is very interesting, and we can blatantly see many political aspects in this novel that shout at what the U.S. is experiencing in 2018, something to help young readers look at and connect themselves with current issues through the reflections in the novel they read.

I don’t particularly want to give away any plot, so I leave you with this: War Storm is a fantastic read to match Red Queen. While Glass Sword and King’s Cage feel a bit droll, this wraps the series up nicely. I highly recommend finishing the series, even if you have been annoyed or frustrated with previous volumes, or picking up the series for the first time, to reach this final point. I also leave you with this promotional image from the publisher. Even after finishing the book, I still can’t figure out what some of these might be!

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P.S. A worthwhile finale!

Scythe-Should You Read It?

Image result for scythe shustermanGenre: Young Adult Fiction/Almost Dystopian?

Rating: 5/5

While the world of Scythe is set in a far future society, the world is almost like one giant utopia. Almost.

Citra and Rowan have grown up in a society hundreds of years beyond the Age of Mortality. Science and medicine have come so far as to be able to revive a person from things such as jumping off buildings (known as “splatting” in this world), a knife to the heart, and even beheading! The only thing that people cannot be revived from is a flaming death–the remains are too far gone to be able to revive.

People grow up with nanites withing their bodies, little machines that can emit pain killers, balance one’s fat ratio, and control one’s emotions, making every human perfect in terms of peace.

In this society where people can no longer die, murder isn’t even a contemplation. It just doesn’t exist. But the population of humanity could reach a high point, and then the entire world would be in poverty, running out of resources. That’s where the Scythedom comes in. The Scythedom is an organization that ordains people–called scythes–to select people at random to glean (their society’s word for kill), for population control and peace. There are only a number of scythes per region in the world, and they are responsible for gleaning a certain number of people every year, a quota to meet to keep the population in check in a world of immortality. How a scythe selects their target, their meathods of gleaning (weapon of choice), and where are completely up to them as long as they follow the ten commandments of the Scythedom. Scythes cannot kill based on any form of bias, such as race, gender, of popularity. Their selections should be random.

Citra meets Scythe Faraday when he visits her home for dinner only to glean her next door neighbor. Rowan meets Scythe Faraday when he comes to a school to glean a student. The two show traits that would make a good scythe: schythes shouldn’t want to be a scythe, shouldn’t enjoy killing.

Faraday takes the two on as apprentices, but a scythe who enjoys killing and wants to change the Scythedom for the worse, claims he shouldn’t have two apprentices. Now Citra and Rowan must both strive to be selected as a scythe, but only one can get the scythe ring. And their first act will be to glean the loser.

First and foremost, you should read this book! It is an utterly amazing and unique take on population control as well as future technology and what people can do with it. It also has a number of controversial issues regarding some of the ways people are killed, especially Scythe Goddard’s methods which involve mass gleanings–reflecting all too well the events of society today. A book that can highlight these issues is important to bring forth discussions, especially in young people. This book is recommended for readers age 12 and up for these reasons.

One of the other things I really like about this book is that it has reading group discussion questions and activities–both of which can be applied to fit the needs of a classroom. As an educator, I see an exponential amount of promise in this book and using it in the classroom. Because of the questions and activities–which can be easily adapted for any grade level 7-12–this book can be easily made into a current events unit because of how much it reflects many of today’s controversies. I also think students should have more of a variety in what they are required to read at school, rather than just the “great literary canon,” because some of those ideas might not fit with a certain generation of students, although many elements can still be applied today. It’s important to find something that relates to student passions, and students today follow current events now more than ever before, once again making this a viable book to bring into the classroom.

 

Uglies (Uglies #1)-Should You Read It?

Image result for ugliesImage result for uglies

Genre: Young Adult Dystopian

Rating: 5/5

It has been more than 10 years since I have read this series by Scott Westerfeld. I have now read it for second time, and my opinion is still the same: this book is amazing! The characters are interesting and dynamic, the plot relates to a topic that many tend to talk about today, the writing is superb, and this novel shows people what it means to find who you are and not what society dictates you to be. I grew up with the old cover (right), and I absolutely love that cover, in addition to the fact that you cannot find the first edition in bookstores anymore, unless you happen across one at a used bookstore.

If you are new to the world of Uglies, I share with you some of the well-crafted characters and plot.

Tally Youngblood is an Ugly and she is counting down the days until her 16th birthday, when she gets the surgery to be a Pretty. When she meets a girl named Shay, Tally is excited to have found a friend, but also put off by the girl’s this disinterest in becoming a Pretty. With Shay, Tally learns about natural beauty, that being a Pretty isn’t necessarily all that it’s cooked up to be. But it takes her a long time to discover this.

When invited to run away from surgery day with Shay, Tally denies the opportunity, still excited to become a Pretty. But a Special Circumstance prevents Tally from being allowed to have her long-awaited surgery. Tally is asked by a unique, intelligent group of Pretties, called Specials, to find where Shay went, and to draw the Specials to The Smoke, a hiding place of Uglies who do not wish to conform to the mandates of society.

Upon joining the Uglies of The Smoke, Tally meets David and learns the meaning of true beauty and loving oneself. Upon meeting David’s parents, Tally learns secrets about the Pretty surgery that have her questioning the society she has grown up in. Now Tally aims to fight, to change the dystopia she lives in, a world of perfect beauty where people cannot think for themselves, a world of corrupt societal values.

So why did I read this book again? While there are many many books in my collection that I wish to read again, there are so many books and so little time, making rereading anything an absolute challenge. But this is a book I love so much that I had been dying to reread, to revisit Tally, The Smoke, and Uglyville. To revisit a society that makes you perfect when you turn 16. The time is ripe, whether you are reading this for the first time, the second, or the tenth, because Westerfeld has announced a four book series taking place years after the Uglies series, based in the same world. With one book coming out each year, starting 2018 to 2021, it is exciting for new and old fans of the series alike.

Be sure to check out the Uglies graphic novels as well, which add to the depth and perspective of the world–Uglies: Shay’s Story and Uglies: Cutters.

The Fever Code (Maze Runner Book 5)-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Since The Kill Order was a somewhat lacking prequel to The Maze Runner series, I lowered my expectations for The Fever Code, but this book was interesting and fantastically crafted!

This story gives us the reveal to the mystery that readers have been wondering since reading The Maze Runner: how the maze was built! The novel starts with how Newt was taken from his family, along with his sister, who is also a candidate in the maze trials for group B (the all girl group).

Following this single instance of Newt’s capture, the rest of the story is taken in by Thomas’s third person limited perspective. When Thomas first came in, his name was Stephen, but WICKED used a sort of torturous shock therapy until his brain was ingrained with the name: Thomas.

We get to see a somewhat rushed version of Thomas’s childhood, when he meets Teresa, and how they get involved with the other guys, such as Chuck, Minho, Newt, and Alby. Thomas and Teresa are special, though, compared to the other children. They are the two from group A, designing the maze for the boys to study the killzone (the brain) to fight the Flare. Aris and Rachel are the designers of the maze for group B, the equivalents of Thomas and Teresa.

Once the mazes are built, the children start getting inserted into the mazes to begin the maze trials. Thomas, Teresa, and their buddy Chuck, begin to observe their old friends through the beetle blades. On top of Thomas’s and Teresa’s observational work for WICKED and the maze trials, they find that one of the leading officials has the Flare, and that he has been hiding it from WICKED. Since Thomas, Teresa, Aris, and Rachel are immune to the Flare, Dr. Paige sends them to remove this threat, among other suspected officials who are infected, before the whole facility and their killzone project becomes marginalized! The kids have never killed anyone before, and this mission will test their limits.

Jorge and Brenda, who appear in The Scorch Trials, make an appearance as well, explaining that the mazes are only the first trial, and that once the Gladers find their way out of the maze, all of them will then have to go through the Scorch.

When it is Thomas’s turn to enter the maze, those of us who have read the initial trilogy can figure out the story from there. His thoughts and feelings about going in demonstrate his feelings for WICKED, but Teresa still believes, no matter what, that WICKED is good.

Overall this was a fantastic book. I would recommend it more after having read the whole series first, BUT it could also be read as the first book for new readers going into the series. It was well paced and fun to see the characters in the WICKED facility before they ever entered the maze, and it was also interesting to see Jorge and Brenda and their involvement before Thomas meets them in the scorch. This was a great addition to the series, and it would actually be pretty fun to see another installment, if it can meet up with the standards set by this prequel!

On a side note: Don’t forget to check out Dashner’s worthwhile, internet adventure Mortality Doctrine trilogy, The Eye of Minds, The Rule of Thoughts, and the Game of Lives, wherever books are sold!

Harmony-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Japanese Dystopian Fiction

Rating: 4/5

I have had this book on my shelf for years (I believe I picked it up for a dollar at a used book store). It caught my eye, rightly so, but with so many books to read, this one was not high on my list. That is, it wasn’t until I came across the anime movie of the same name based on the novel by Keikaku (Project) Itoh.

This Japanese dystopian fiction takes place many years in the future, after an event called the “Maelstrom,” an event described with nuclear destruction and warfare that has change the way the world works. Now, people do not see or know violence, and their very lives are governed by the “WatchMe” installed when they become adults, alerting them to health needs and basically becoming an internal camera that can scan people or tap into the web or news at will.

Ruled by the Admedistration, three high school girls–Tuan, Miach, and Cian–aim to kill themselves together to demonstrate that their bodies and will are their own. When one supposedly succeeds and the other two fail, life returns to normal.

The events from high school are written as recollections in the novel while Tuan, now a member of the World Health Organization, begins a new investigation, one she recognized must have some connection to her friend who committed suicide. When over 6,000 people attempt suicide worldwide at the same exact time, including Tuan’s friend, Cian, her friends last words begin the lead to find out who is behind the control of the WatchMe: “I’m sorry, Miach.”

With some organization having the ability to tap into each person’s personal tech to control their will, Tuan must find a way to stop it. When the second wave hits, instructions that people must either kill another person or kill themselves before the deadline, or they will all attempt suicide, is a means of having toe world break free from the utopia and to demonstrate that a person’s free will belongs to the individual, not the government.

Tuan’s search to find out if Miach is alive and behind this leads her to her father’s research, and from there, the truth behind the reason for creating chaos to make the word a place of harmony once more.

220px-Harmony_(2015_film)_poster.jpeg (220×311)

This book was interesting and is worth the read for any fan of dystopian. It was a nice comparison and contrast between American dystopian novels and Japanese dystopian novels. The similarities and differences are interesting to analyze. The anime adaptation was also interesting. It was very well animated with vivid visuals, and it followed the book phenomenally. A must read for fans of Japanese or dystopian fiction.