Saturday, February 16, 2013

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me
By Taherah Mafi
Published 2011

Goodreads Summary: Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war– and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

I had no idea what to expect going into Shatter Me. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement; it blew any expectations I had out of the water. 

Juliette can hurt, or even kill, other people by simply touching them with her bare hands. Because of her unusual power she's been locked in an asylum of sorts. After 264 days without human touch, she begins to believe she's crazy. Then she is given a cell mate and everything changes. We begin to learn about the dystopian world she lives in and the power struggle Juliette is an unwilling participate in.

First and foremost, I have to address Tahereh Mafi's beautiful and poetic writing. I mean, wow. She wrote in such a way that Juliette's emotions come clearly through, but without simply stating what she was feeling. This was especially effective in the very intense scenes where that emotion was fear or desire. There were so many wonderful metaphors. Some made me laugh, some made me cringe with empathy, and some just made me think. Each helped me understand the situation a little better.

The character development of Juliette is fantastic. At the beginning, Juliette is scared, weak, and feeble. By the end of Shatter Me she is strong, brave, and more sure of herself. It happens as a natural effect of the situations she's put in, not abruptly. Her relationship with Adam, the love interest, also happens in a way that feels natural, although it does happen a little quickly. 

I'm currently in an environmental science class, and we have been discussing the way humans are overusing our resources. Well, what we have been talking about in class as the worst possible outcome of our gluttony of natural resources is Juliette's world. In Juliette's world flowers don't grow, fruit is almost nonexistent, and birds no longer fly. Nature is dying. And all of that happened within approximately five years. Five years is all it took for the world to fall apart. I really hope this book doesn't become in any way prophetic, because it sounds horrible. 

I read Shatter Me as an audiobook, so I have to mention how perfect Kate Simses is as the narrator. Oh my goodness. She was so good at expressing emotion through her voice and always had the right tone for the situation. She also had a decent male voice, though it was occasionally difficult to tell which male was speaking. Regardless, I loved her as the narrator. Unfortunately my library has yet to get Unravel Me as an audiobook, so I'll probably be reading it in print. 

I can't think of anything I didn't like about Shatter Me, and I absolutely cannot wait to sink my teeth into Unravel Me ASAP. The world and characters Tahereh Mafi created are compelling, and not knowing what comes next for Juliette and Adam is killing me. I'm also anxious to see more of Mafi's beautiful writing.

5/5 Stars!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Review: Rosebush by Michelle Jaffe

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by Michell Jaffe
Published 2010

Goodreads Summary: Instead of celebrating Memorial Day weekend on the Jersey Shore, Jane is in the hospital surrounded by teddy bears, trying to piece together what happened last night. One minute she was at a party, wearing fairy wings and cuddling with her boyfriend. The next, she was lying near-dead in a rosebush after a hit-and-run. Everyone believes it was an accident, despite the phone threats Jane swears were real. But the truth is a thorny thing. As Jane's boyfriend, friends, and admirers come to visit, more memories surface-not just from the party, but from deeper in her past . . . including the night her best friend Bonnie died.

With nearly everyone in her life a suspect now, Jane must unravel the mystery before her killer attacks again. Along the way, she's forced to examine the consequences of her life choices in this compulsively readable thriller.

It's been a while since I've read a mystery. Mystery isn't my absolute favorite genre, but I do sometimes get in the mood for it. When I do, I prefer the dramatic thriller type to the fluffy comedy type. Rosebush was definitely a dramatic thriller type; twists and turns galore and an ending that surprised me, though it may be obvious to seasoned mystery-lovers.

Jane wakes up in a hospital bed with very limited memories of the night before. She is told that she was hit by a car, but this isn't a normal hit and run; Jane was kneeling in front of the car when it hit her. The book follows Jane's four days in the hospital as she attempts to piece together who tried to kill her and why. 

Jane is not a likeable character. She's a "popular" girl who works very hard to convince herself she has a perfect life. She does everything she can to make her friends happy. She ignores her boyfriend's creepy possessive tendencies to the point where she thinks all their relationship problems are her fault, even if they're not. There were quite a few times I wanted to shake her and tell her to stop being so blind and realize one of her friends tried to kill her. Despite the occasional frustration, Jane grows on me as she begins to wise up and connect the dots. 

Unfortunately, I found many of the secondary characters to be underdeveloped and distracting. I had trouble keeping them all straight. I understand that in order for a book to be an effective mystery there has to be a lot of suspects, but some of them felt excessive. It was distracting when I had to stop and try to remember who these characters were in relation to Jane and the party. 

There was a subplot of Jane's issues with her mom's fiance, which were pretty much only caused by the fact that he isn't her dad. I did not like this subplot and felt like it was only there for the purpose of showing Jane's character development. I think the guy could have been easily cut from the book all together, making things a little easier to keep straight. I also felt like Jane's issues with her mother were kind of randomly thrown in at weird times and were resolved strangely. 

Now, on to what I did like; the writing and the plot/pacing. I could clearly see many of the images in my head, and I was never bored. I always wanted to keep reading, and I really liked how the book was set over a four day in the hospital. I would have quickly lost interest if it had been set over weeks or months. 

The flashbacks revealing pieces of Jane's life before the party were well done; they flowed easily with the plot and never lasted an excessive amount of time. After each one, something new would happen in the present that kept me interested. Jane regains her memory of the party in pieces, Pieces of the party were revealed in increments small enough to advance the plot so I always wanted to keep reading, but never giving too much away at once.

The way the mystery unfolds is straightforward and not confusing, though I'm still slightly unclear as to why the killer wanted Jane dead in the first place.  The ending is a little unbelievable, but most of the book is too. It astounds me that Jane was so blind to a lot that was happening in her life.

Rosebush accomplishes what it is meant to do; be a fast paced and thrilling murder mystery that kept me reading. I really liked it, though I think there could have been fewer secondary characters and more development in the ones left. I didn't like Jane at first, but she grew on me as a character and I was rooting for her by the end. Overall, I'm satisfied with how it ended and who the killer turned out to be. It was a shock to me, but I think it could be easier to figure out for fans of the genre.

3.5/5 Stars!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

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By Veronica Roth
Published 2011

Goodreads Summary: In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

I've had Divergent on my Kindle since it first came out and everyone was going on about how spectacular it is. For some reason, it took me until now, almost two years, to actually read it. The fact that I can immediately move on to the sequel if I want to is the only good thing about that decision. I should have read Divergent a long time ago. 

Tris's world is divided into five factions: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, Erudite. Each faction represents a different virtue. Every year, those at the age of sixteen are given the opportunity to choose the faction they will live in for the rest of their lives. First, they must take a test to determine which faction they belong in. Tris's results are inconclusive, meaning she is "Divergent," something very dangerous in her world.

I loved the world Roth created in Divergent. I've never seen anything like it, and it was compelling to read about the way it works. It also made me think. How effective would a world designed like that be? Would it work or wouldn't it? It was fun to consider these things as I read. Something that really stood out to me were the details; so many were the same as the world we live in. There is mention of eating cereal for breakfast; the school system seems to be very similar to our American school system; most of the names are common American names. These details were just little ways of connecting Tris's world to ours, and it was kind of unsettling.

The characters were complex and purposeful. Tris was both strong and weak, as any good character should be. She was very easy to connect to and root for. The villains were easy to hate, yet it was also easy to understand their motivations. Four, Tris's love interest, was swoon worthy yet flawed. 

The plot of Divergent was not what I was expecting. I was expecting action packed thriller from page one, but what I got was a slow build up to an action packed and thrilling ending. I'm conflicted about the lay out of the plot. Some parts of it were too slow for my taste, but I can't say I was ever bored. The ending was full of the action I'd been expecting, yet slightly confusing because of its rushed nature. 

The romance was done very well. It wasn't too fast or too slow, and Roth addressed a lot of the concerns readers might have with it by making them concerns Tris has and resolving them. I liked slow build up of sexual tension, and how Roth even addresses the universally feared issue of the "first time." Rest assured, this is definitely a YA book, and nothing gets that far or that detailed. The inclusion of Tris's apprehension about it was another thing that connects her world to ours and reminds us that she is a teenager not unlike ourselves at sixteen.

Divergent is pretty long, but I flew through it. I definitely enjoyed it and will be reading the sequel soon. I can't wait to see what happens to Tris next! 

4.5/5 Stars!