Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Year We Fell Apart, by Emily Martin | a frustrating contemporary on rebuilding relationships

22449806Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.

As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.

The Year We Fell Apart contains a combination of elements I usually love in contemporaries, a heartfelt romance and an amount of frustration/angst to challenge the couple together and individually. Unfortunately, while The Year We Fell Apart was engaging enough, the classic combo didn’t work out so well this time around. This book tried to accomplish a number of things, from rekindling a friendship, dealing with problems rattling a family, redeeming oneself, but it all ended up quite directionless ultimately.

The writing was extremely simplistic besides a few moments and I often felt as there were ‘holes’ in the story. The ‘introduction’ of the characters, the relationships, and Harper’s history with Declan was very, very vague and continued to be the same throughout the entire story. It was as if the reader was already supposed to know every thing that took place, and there was very little detail on the things that mattered. There was so much angst with unclear context; Harper and Declan’s past relationship is slowly revealed over time but nothing is ever stated definitely and the order of events is still confusing. This is why the drama and angst feels so forced, there is hardly any context to balance the amount of commentary on Harper’s pain and frustration. I’m sure the cancer subplot was added as another reason for Harper’s constant angsting, but it was entirely useless since it failed to add any message to the story.

Harper herself is indeed a flawed heroine, but is incredibly hard to warm up to and understand fully. I can sympathize with her to an extent, but she keeps repeating the same mistakes and expects comfort from those around her without recognizing her issues. She’s extremely selfish and hardly grows throughout the story, regardless of her comments toward the end of the novel. I suppose her actions would have made more sense if the book delved deeper into her psyche and psychological state, but it decided to focus more on her deal with Declan. In fact, most of Harper’s narration is filled with constant, repetitive comments on Declan’s attitude, his appearance, and whoever he’s hanging out with. It’s annoying and unrealistic, and also amazing how there is so much commentary on Declan yet so little on his history with Harper, through that could just be attributed to bad storytelling.

The most underdeveloped portion of The Year We Fell Apart would be whatever the fuck happened with Harper and Declan, if that isn’t clear already. Like I said before, their relationship is so damn unexplained, and their random up-and-downs get even worse as the story goes on. Harper starts talking all this shit on why she split from Declan and how she was afraid of losing people, and it was all so contrived and nonsensical. If anything, these two just skirted around their feelings and thoughts for each other and decided to finally confront it in the last 10 pages. Those 10 pages where the best part of the book but there is still no depth in their relationship.

I feel as though this book would have been so much better if there was a focus, a central point. Harper’s identity and struggle to make amends, her damaged relationship with Declan, and her mother’s cancer are all interesting plot points but they serve no purpose because they aren’t utilized correctly. If the story focused more on how Harper dealt with her mother’s illness and how family values and dynamics changed due to it, it definitely would have been more well-rounded. If the story also delved deeper into Harper’s psychological state and her issues with fixing herself, that aspect would have gone well with the rest of the themes too. The book definitely took on more than it could handle.

The Year We Fell Apart is a standard angsty romance that is entertaining enough, but there are many better contemporaries out there that explore the same themes deeper yet keep a good balance among all of them.

-Haven

Books, Reviews

A Conjuring of Light, By Victoria Schwab

5 Amazing, Amazing, Stars

Witness the fate of beloved heroes – and enemies.

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

Many of you out there know that last month, for high schoolers, was AP testing season. I personally, had five AP tests to take, and a whole bunch of stress that came with it. So instead of studying, what did I do? I picked up A Darker Shade of Magic for the second time. And then I picked up the next book. And the next one. And my soul (and hopefully not my test grades) cried with the wrenching knowledge that I had just, within the span of a week, finished what is perhaps one of the most expertly crafted YA series of all time.

This isn’t a great book. This is a phenomenal one. For all the filler and buildup of the previous book, this blew away all my expectations for what the final book in this series should be, and I can probably go as far as to say that this third installment is probably the best one out of the three.

A Conjuring of Light picks up immediately after the previous book, and I have to say, the stakes were high. From the very beginning the pace is fast and action-filled, and did not relent until the end. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, and spent a solid five hours (that I personally couldn’t afford to spend) flipping pages faster than I could read them.

Lila and Kell are back, and as awesome as ever, but what I didn’t expect was how much I would yearn for moments with Alucard and Rhy, both of whom I mistakenly assumed were side characters but absolutely are not. They are layered and likable in their own ways and really add depth to the story. Although there is character development, the personalities of all the characters does remain constant throughout, and I adore each and every one of them.

But the one person who stole my heart was Holland. Holland is the epitome of a tragic hero, someone forced into terrible situations that left him more than a little mangled, and I was drawn to him most of all. We get a lot more backstory on Holland’s end in this book, and it added so much to an already extremely layered character. Holland goes from villain to background character to something in between hero and villain in these three books, and in my opinion, that kind of complexity makes for the best kinds of characters. I definitely shed a tear at the end because I love his character so much.

I mentioned this in my review of the previous book, but in addition to the exquisite world building, the Schwab’s style of character romance is on point. Romances in real life don’t take precedence over all other more pressing matters, and it absolutely does not intrude even a bit on the plot here. Romantic endeavors are pushed aside to be pursued in calmer times, and that made me cherish the few ship-worthy moments. Nobody likes it when the main characters finally get together after multiple books of teasing, only to lose their capacity to keep their mouths off each other as soon as their relationship becomes official.

If I had to point out a flaw, I would say that I would have liked some answers with regards to Kell’s past, as well as a bit more dimensionality to the main villain, but these are minor in the grand scheme of the book.

Overall, the Shades of Magic series, and particularly this last installment, are phenomenal by many standards, and if you haven’t read it yet, I would suggest you get your hands in a copy as soon as humanly possible.

~Aliza

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Lola And The Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins | an adorable and charismatic contemporary romance

22247695Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion… she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit – the more sparkly, more wild – the better. And life is pretty close to perfect for Lola, especially with her hot rocker boyfriend.

That is, until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket return to the neighbourhood and unearth a past of hurt that Lola thought was long buried. So when talented inventor Cricket steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally face up to a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door. Could the boy from Lola’s past be the love of her future?

Fall in love with the international bestseller from queen of young adult fiction, Stephanie Perkins.

I’m half embarrassed to say I actually liked this book, but I believe there was no way I couldn’t have fallen for this book eventually, at least a little bit. Even with its flaws and occasional cheesiness, Lola And The Boy Next Door is undeniably charming.

Plot + writing: The book got off to a somewhat slow start, but quickly fell into a pattern that I could recognize and follow. The writing was delightfully sweet but not saccharine, and there is just a very light, happy vibe to it even when something stressful is taking place (and trust me, there are a lot of stressful moments). Perkins also has a great talent for combining the most relatable feelings when it comes to crushes and liking someone with the fun maintained throughout the book. All the confusion, heartache, and butterflies are so subtly and perfectly conveyed, creating a great balance between deeper subjects concerning love and the mindless entertainment that Perkins does so well. I will admit that elements of this book can come across as somewhat unimaginable, from Lola’s outlandish apparel to the overall outlandishness of some events that take place. However, Lola’s feelings and struggles with being herself and finding love are so realistically told and the romance is so positively swoon-worthy, that these elements don’t do much to hinder the overall message of the story.

Characters: The characters are actually quite likable, despite the occasional eccentric behavior they display in the commonly eccentric situations presented. Lola is a witty, quirky, realistic teenage girl who I’m sure any teenager could relate to. It is easy to presume her personality as being childish or immature (her ornate wardrobe could play a part), but despite all the wacky situations she stumbles into, Lola remains a likable character who is positively and negatively affected by her hormones just like the rest of us. Cricket is a fairly fleshed-out and realistic character as well, and I definitely liked him more than St. Clair in Anna And The French Kiss. Speaking of Anna And The French Kiss, both Anna and St. Clair make cameos in this book, which was absolutely great. I think they stuck around for a good amount of time without taking the spotlight away from Lola’s story, and even shared details of their future after leaving Paris.

One thing I have to comment on is the amount of side characters in the book, which is significantly lower than Anna And The French Kiss. While I do like this, I wish the main secondary characters were more fleshed-out and three-dimensional, similar to the leads. Rashmi and Josh from Anna were pretty layered side characters, and Lindsay (Lola’s best friend) and Calliope (Cricket’s twin sister) don’t really match up to their amount of depth. Max is a bit confusing, because while he was a flawed person and boyfriend, I thought the sudden change in character toward the end and the lack of resolve in his relationship with Lola … well, lacked resolve. I do feel as though his character and many of the secondary characters could use some work. Lola’s dads are great though.

Romance: The romance obviously takes center stage in this story, and it is just as adorable and fuzzy yet angsty as one might imagine it to be. Cricket and Lola are a charming pair and aren’t short of any chemistry. While there is a substantial dosage of cheese, it’s not too much to make you cringe (well, not always at least). The angst factor is similar to any real-life situation dealing with young love (young being the key word), and I loved the angst because I could totally feel where Lola was coming from. Coming to terms with your feelings for someone, experiencing heartbreak, and discovering your self-worth are all such relatable feelings and Perkins depicted it all so realistically. Cricket and Lola’s relationship is full of ups and downs, but the ride is so worth reading about.

While I enjoyed Anna And The French Kiss, Lola And The Boy Next Door was definitely and surprisingly more engaging to me, and I’m so looking forward to the next installment and whatever Perkins decides to write next. Would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a fuzzy romance with the right amount of depth to match it.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Radio Silence, by Alice Oseman | a beautiful read on happiness and discovering your true self

30653843You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl.

I just wanted to say—we don’t.

Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying. When she’s not studying, she’s up in her room making fan art for her favorite podcast, Universe City.

Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As. But no one knows he’s the creator of Universe City, who goes by the name Radio Silence.

When Frances gets a message from Radio Silence asking if she’ll collaborate with him, everything changes. Frances and Aled spend an entire summer working together and becoming best friends. They get each other when no one else does.

But when Aled’s identity as Radio Silence is revealed, Frances fears that the future of Universe City—and their friendship—is at risk. Aled helped her find her voice. Without him, will she have the courage to show the world who she really is? Or will she be met with radio silence?

You guys. THIS BOOK.

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While Radio Silence already has a number of 5 star reviews under its pocket and was was one of my top anticipated novels of the year, I was still completely taken by surprise by how enchanting this book was. The pacing was great, the characters were extremely charming and relatable, and the messages involved were so relevant and important among youth specifically. By now y’all should know I don’t throw 5 star ratings around casually, but Radio Silence is incredibly deserving of it.

Radio Silence follows the ambitious and intelligent Frances Janvier, who’s determination to get into Cambridge University is only topped by her love for Universe City, a science-fiction podcast series narrated by the enigmatic ‘Radio Silence’. After Frances is contacted by the creator to incorporate her fanart into the visual aspect of the podcast, Frances discovers that Aled Last, the quiet, studious kid that she had always ignored, is in fact Radio Silence. From there, Frances and Aled develop an unlikely yet strong friendship, bonding over their love for all things nerdy and the parts of them they are accustomed to hide from everyone else. However, after Aled’s identity  is unintentionally revealed and their relationship takes a turn, Frances realizes she needs to come to terms with who she really is to move forward. As Frances delves into her passions and her past, she discovers a multitude of secrets about Aled, Universe City, and herself.

The wonderful writing and definite plot: Radio Silence is told in a very casual and informal way, which surprisingly works for a book carrying such heavy themes. There’s actually a perfect balance between dialogue and commentary, and all the characters’ personalities shine through so easily. The pacing is absolutely perfect, despite the book being 410 pages (which seems to exceed the typical length of a contemporary) it never drags or loses its direction due to the short chapters and wonderful storytelling. There was an incredible amount of diversity, we have characters of all races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations who are represented in a relatable and respectful way.

The lighthearted, relatable atmosphere was so lovable and consistent throughout but the book itself never shied away from more serious topics, such as depression, suicide, emotional abuse, and exploring one’s sexuality. In fact, the whole book is centered on these issues many face, along with much subtle discussion on growing up and staying true to yourself. We read the book in the perspectives of those that excel in academics, and therefore considered ‘smart’ (Frances, Aled, Daniel, etc.) and those who particularly don’t, and are considered ‘not smart’ (Carys, Raine, etc.). As someone who comes from a culture that puts extra emphasis on academic accomplishments/success and college, I could totally understand the characters’ struggle with societal and familial pressures, as well as their own inner conflicts on what they want to do and who they want to be. I feel as though I read this book at the perfect time, as I will soon be applying for college and choosing a path myself.

The realest characters ever: The characters were absolutely brilliant. Frances is so lively, funny, and understandable through all the emotions she experiences in this book. Her main conflict surrounds the divide in who she really is and how people around her see her, and her struggle with staying true to herself was so, so real. Frances’ determination and ambition concerning her grades and academic accomplishments, as well as her fear and doubt towards her future and who she truly wants to be, is conveyed with such sincerity and honesty. Aled is the most precious character ever and I just wanted to give him a hug throughout reading this book. He was also incredibly relatable (I’m saying that word way too many times in this review, but guys. Seriously.), and I adored his friendship with Frances. There are hardly any male-female non-romantic relationships in YA that don’t have romantic undertones, but Oseman just nailed it with Frances and Aled’s adorable, genuine bond.

Even the minor characters, such as Daniel, Raine, and Carys all had their own distinct personalities yet were realistic and completely fleshed-out. I don’t want to delve into their characters too much, I will probably say too much because I adore them all. But, guys. THE CHARACTERS ARE A WIN.

There was also a slight mystery element incorporated into the novel, through Universe City and Frances’ interesting past with Aled’s twin sister, Carys Last. Thankfully, this aspect only captured me more and never caused the original plot to lose direction. Instead, Oseman masterfully interconnects the Frances’ past and present with the mystery making for an incredibly engaging and surprising read.

Radio Silence is a gem that deserves to acknowledged among the masses of new YA fantasies getting all the hype right now. If you can relate to dealing with college, stress, hormones, nerdy obsessions, making friends, making difficult choices, discovering yourself, an identity crisis, or anything and everything that has to do with being a regular teenager, read this damn book. It will do you some good in a number of ways.

-Haven

Books, Reviews

A Gathering of Shadows, by Victoria Schwab

4 Stars

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Okay, it took me forever to get to this book. Not because it was boring or anything, but because it wasn’t out when I originally read A Darker Shade of Magic, and after waiting a year for the book, I didn’t remember enough of its predecessor to pick it up. I stalled on rereading ADSOM, and only just got to it when I saw that Haven was reading it on her Goodreads feed.

Man, did I realize what a mistake I had made. ADSOM, despite having earned a spot on my “favorites” years ago, didn’t actually strike too deep a chord with me. I knew the world building was fantastic, but not until rereading did I realize how fantastic. The world building, plot, and characters were beautifully and expertly crafted, more so than I’ve seen in a while, and I couldn’t pick up the second book fast enough.

But this review is not about A Darker Shade of Magic (but if you haven’t read it yet, go read it now), but rather the second book in the series. A Gathering of Shadows picks up four months after the events of the last book, with Kell and Lila having gone their separate ways in Red London. We’re quickly introduced to what our beloved characters have been up to, and they’re just as awesome as ever. Lila is one of the coolest kickass characters I’ve ever read about, in a way that doesn’t actually seem forced; one of my pet peeves these days is authors forcing a character to either be kickass or useless, with no in between, and it irks me to see female characters reduced to two generic genres. Lila has squirmed her way onto a ship in AGOS, and introduced to an extremely likable character: Alucard Emery. Alucard is a great addition to the series, and his and Kell’s rivalry is adorable, at least once they meet in this book. Rhy and other favorites are also back, with varying levels of page time for each.

But as much as I adore this series, I can’t ignore this book for what it was: a filler. In my opinion, this entire book could have been scrapped and pertinent details crammed into the other books in the series, because all this novel does is set up the final installment. The plot of this book revolves around The Element Games, which is exactly what is sounds like, but with no real stakes. The villain just sits back and plots ominously the entire time, and the Games don’t even start until around the 60% mark, and Kell and Lila don’t reunite until much later in the book. It’s infuriating, how little stakes there are, and how long it took for anything to get done, because this was a filler book. The only reason to read it is for you to become deeply acquainted with Alucard (who is awesome, especially with Rhy) and for the last 10% of the book where stuff gets real, and the stakes are finally raised.

It’s still a great series, and I’m admittedly biased because I zipped through these books so fast I’m writing this review right now having already read through the last book (which is SO. FREAKING. GOOD). The series as a whole has one of the best world building and plot of all time, and the side romances are barely there, just a bit to complement the plot, not take over the plot. Read this book, if you’ve read the first one and aren’t sure to continue, because this and the third book will absolutely blow you away.

-Liz

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

All The Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven || nope nope nope

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Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
 
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
 
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
 
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

I’ve always intentionally ignored All The Bright Places for some unknown reasons. There are so many things I’ve heard about this book, and I always had the notion that I would hate it if I ever did read it. Well, I did read it eventually, and I did strongly dislike. I was so disinterested in this novel and something felt totally ‘wrong’ with it as I was reading it. What directly bothered me about it is hard to pinpoint, but I felt very uncomfortable with the story and the romance and … everything, really. I hate to give it such a negative rating, but it is what it is.

The writing + plot: The writing was fairly typical of a contemporary novel, however I couldn’t get into at all. It lacked the emotion behind discussion of serious topics such as depression and suicide, as well as the popular dark comedic flair that is frequently seen in the likes of The Fault In Our Stars or Side Effects May Vary. It felt as though the prose was missing something very significant to bring the characters, story, and message to life. The writing obviously would have struck a cord within other readers, but it wasn’t doing anything for me and largely contributed to my disinterest in the story. While the plot/storyline progressed slowly, much of the events that took place seemed driven by the overelaborate and pretentious themes penned by Finch, and I was not here for it. The whole thing felt very superficial and shallow, despite claiming to discuss mental illness and other deeper subjects.

Mental illness: There seems to have been much controversy over the way mental illness is depicted in this novel, and while I do not doubt Jennifer Niven’s knowledge and experience with the subject (her author’s note is proof that she kind of knows what she’s talking about), something does feel very wrong here to me. Theodore is obviously mentally ill in some way, as we see in his frequent thoughts on death and suicide, as well as his narration. However, it seems as though his condition (later revealed to be bipolar disorder) is covered up in a set of quirks that is intriguing to everyone around him. His ornate narration and quirky, showy persona are meant to make him stick out to capture Violet and intrigue everyone else, yet his actual mental illness is never expanded on or portrayed realistically in the face of others. Nearly nobody in this book treats Theodore realistically when it comes his mental health, and while it shows the misunderstandings and poor handling of mental health in our society, Theodore’s issues with death and suicide are merely used as ‘quirks’ to make the character different. His bipolar disorder seems almost ignored and it creates a false image of mental illness through romanticizing Theodore’s condition. I don’t know if that conveys how I truly feel, but I felt very uncomfortable by the depiction of mental illness in this book. The topic seemed to only serve the purpose of moving the plot along, not creating a realistic and relatable picture of mental health conditions and how it is handled.

Characters: Many readers have also stated that the characters become their illness and problems in this book, and I can see that. Theodore’s narration is essentially a collection of cheesy metaphors, Virginia Woolf quotes, and pretentious and unrealistic musings on Violet and life. His voice sounded like a mix of Holden Caulfield and Augustus Waters, and I could at least try to get past that if Theodore sounded like a realistic teenager who was struggling with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Throughout the entire story, I could never reach the true Theodore, past all the ‘quirks’ of his. Violet is an extremely flat character, the emotion and grief she supposedly felt for her sister lacked depth and was so toned down, it was barely there. I could not connect with her at all, but at least her narration was a tad more bearable than Theodore’s. Every other character hardly serves a purpose but to scrutinize Theodore, Violet, or Theodore and Violet. The adults are hilariously incompetent, they take completely unrealistic actions and seem to be oblivious to everything around them, and they are probably that way to allow these teenagers to say and do all the stupid shit that took place in this book.

The romance: Theodore and Violet’s relationship is the weirdest, confusing, most disturbing thing ever. All Theodore ever does is lust after Violet and responds to her ‘leave me alones’ with further harassment. He creates a Facebook account just to talk to her, messages her constantly, and even stalks her. It’s creepy and weird, and even weirder that Violet manages to fall for him so soon after telling him to leave her alone. One second she’s openly refusing his attention and the next she’s ripping her clothes off. Their romance is a mix of insta-love and every indie-romance cliche you could think of. And this whole idea of them ‘saving each other’ feels so fake because their whole relationship is built upon emotional manipulation.

I hate the uneasy feeling All The Bright Places gives me, and it’s not even an uneasy feeling I like, where I read something so profound yet raw that makes me feel uncomfortable in the best way possible. Everything about this book feels so false, and I would urge readers to look elsewhere for a story which portrays mental illness correctly and does not romanticize it.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Scythe, by Neal Shusterman

3 Stars

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

I am a ginormous fan of Shusterman’s Unwind, and I rank it among some of my all time favorite books. I was used to his style of dystopia: the ones that were so well crafted, they barely felt like a teen dystopian novel in how much they made you think. Scythe’s premise contains all of these trademark Shusterman elements and after hearing him read the first chapter put loud when he visited my school (it was an interesting experience), I was thoroughly intrigued. However, this book, although enjoyable, fell flat in so many ways: the characters, the predictable plot twists, and just the way it dragged.

Scythe is about a utopian future where humans have achieved everything they’ve ever aspired to achieve (such as immortality), and as a result, need to curb population growth by installing scythes, who are the only people who can cause death by “gleaning” (aka killing) people. Our main characters are Citra and Rowan, who have been chosen as scythe apprentices- a position they don’t want, according to the blurb.

This premise sounded great to me, but immediately after starting the book, I began to see some discrepancies. Citra and Rowan, while they do dislike the act of gleaning, both accepted the position of scythe’s apprentice, meaning they absolutely had a choice in this, unlike what the blurb implies. Their characters are not too three-dimensional, and I didn’t care much about them until they started diverging and going on different paths. My biggest problem with this book, and what probably contributed to a certain degree of boredom, was the lack of risk in anything. In this utopian world, anyone who accidentally dies is automatically brought back to life in revival centers, and can only be truly killed if they are gleaned by a scythe. This eliminated any concern I had for the characters, because their lives were never really at stake.

However, despite what I may have implied so far, I didn’t dislike this book. Scythe Curie and Scythe Faraday were fascinating characters, and the world did feel like a utopia. The plot did move slowly, but wasn’t unbearably so, and was overall an enjoyable book.

Writing this review a few weeks after reading the book has changed my initial view of it, I would have to say, as the faults seemed to rise above the fray and distinguish themselves more so in my mind with time. However, I would be remiss to disregard the Neal Shusterman spark that his books always have. Despite Scythe being one of his more subpar works, it does make you think to some regard, and that, I believe, is the most important trait of them all.

-Liz