Posts Tagged ‘YA fiction’

Requiem Requiem. The conclusion of the Delirium trilogy. The book where everything that has been building, everything that has happened so far in this amazing story, comes together and we get to see how it finally ends.

I haven’t so eagerly awaited the release of a book, or gone into a book with such high expectations, since the final three Harry Potter books, so poor Requiem was under a lot of pressure right from the beginning. I read a few reviews before I even bought the book and that may have been a mistake because all of them criticised the ending and thought it was the worst book of the trilogy, but of course I had to make up my own mind about it.

If you are reading this thinking “what on earth is she talking about?” then I suggest you go and read my reviews of Delirium and Pandemonium then come back. There will most likely be spoilers from those two books in this review, which I can’t really avoid since Requiem is the final book of the trilogy, but I just thought I better give fair warning.

I went a bit crazy taking notes while I was reading this book because I was so invested in the story and there were so many “OMG!” moments that I sort of just wrote down every little thought or feeling I had as I read. As a result of this excessive note-taking, this review may be a little bit all over the place, so I apologise for that. It’s not often that I get so passionate about characters and their stories, so this was a pretty special experience for me.

The biggest way Requiem differs from the previous two books is that it features alternate chapters from Lena, our protagonist, and Hana, Lena’s best friend in Delirium. I haven’t read Hana’s Story (available as an e-book only) so I hadn’t seen or heard from Hana since Delirium. I was excited to be able to fill gaps and see what was going on back in Portland both with Hana personally and the city in general.  I was also very curious to see how she and Lena would inevitably come together again – why would they include the Hana chapters if that wasn’t going to happen?  It was particularly difficult to put down because I so desperately wanted to see how it would all play out.

Using alternate chapters was probably one of Oliver’s best decisions for this story¸ because I can’t even imagine how she could have included so much information from both sides – the Wilds and the controlled cities – without them. They did interfere with the continuity a little bit, because you were forever jumping from Lena to Hana then back to Lena again, but it didn’t negatively impact the overall story. They also enabled so many questions to be answered, particularly about Hana who played such a huge part in Delirium.

[Side note: It kind of blew my mind that Hana had grown and changed so much in such a short amount of time – it’s been less than a year since we last saw her – but then, so had Lena.]

From the fifth Lena chapter I could already feel something building, especially with the evidence of the governments ever-growing presence in the Wilds. This tension continued to build right up until the climax of the story when an all-out war broke out. I did note, though, that even though there was a rising tension through the story from both Hana and Lena’s sides, I felt like it should have been more intense considering the war that it was leading up to had the potential to change everything. I did get emotional around page 268 (yes, I actually cried) and there were many emotional reveals and scenes, so the lack of intense rising tension was easily redeemed by the emotional tension.

I was so torn between Alex and Julian that I did not envy Lena actually having to be in that situation one little bit. I loved Julian by the end of Pandemonium but Alex is Alex, the first boy, the first love, so I felt Lena’s pain as she loved both of them, struggling to figure out who she loved more. I’m glad about who she ended up with; I think that’s how it was always meant to be. Speaking of the end, despite many negative reviews, I loved it. Yes, it left HEAPS of unanswered questions, but it was perfect anyway.

The description and word choices are as beautiful as ever. I know I have said this before, but Oliver is a truly talented writer who has a way with words that I can only aspire to. After reading Before I Fall and now the Delirium Trilogy, I will definitely be checking out her other work.

I made the mistake of letting myself fall very behind in my book reviews, but I am finally starting to catch back up again. Today I flash back to a book I read in early March called Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (2007).

Thirteen Reasons Why cover

Thirteen Reasons Why tells the story of Hannah Baker through an unwitting narrator, our protagonist: Clay Jensen. Clay arrives home from school one afternoon to find a shoe-box containing seven cassette tapes outside his front door. He discovers that these tapes were recorded by Hannah Baker, a classmate who has passed away. The story follows Clay around his small town as he listens through these tapes, learning things about Hannah – and himself – that will change his life forever.

The story had a solid start. I remember being taught in my creative writing classes at university to always start a story with a hook – a question or a statement that would compel the reader to keep on reading – and Asher absolutely nailed it. In only four pages he raised a number of very important questions that I just had to find out the answers to. These include, among others:

–          Who sent the package?

–          Who is Jenny?

–          Who, exactly, is Hannah and what happened to her?

–          What is on the tapes?

–          What is the list? Who else is on it?

From the next chapter these questions start being answered, but at the same time more are being raised. Asher took that initial hook of raising questions that you just have to find out the answers to, and continued it throughout the story. This resulted in an entire novel that is a constant stream of questions and answers that doesn’t conclude until the very last page. I think this played a huge part it what makes the book so addictive.

The whole concept of the book – the story itself, as well as how it has been set out and told – is quite brilliant. Even though it features incredibly heavy content to read and absorb, you feel compelled to keep going. You absolutely have to know what and who comes next, and how that person contributed to what happened. From person to person the suspense builds as you come closer and closer to seeing where Clay fits into Hannah’s story.

Throughout Thirteen Reasons Why I found myself feeling more and more for Clay as the story went along. He gets to be so emotional and he feels so horrible even before he finds out where he fits into Hannah’s story. I can understand that his experience would have been one hell of an emotional roller-coaster ride and the way Asher wrote Clay; the way the character internalises everything and doesn’t hold anything back; really makes you feel what he is feeling. Even though it is truly painful to read at times, I don’t think you would want it any other way.

I won’t say too much about Hannah, because I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t read Thirteen Reasons Why, but I was fascinated by her story. What happened was awful and it really should never have come to that, but the way she goes through the stories of everyone who impacted her in some way, right down to the end where she is so at peace with it all and completely rationalises her decision, was a very interesting read. I said it once already, but this novel is truly a brilliant piece of writing.

From a technical standpoint, the story does jump around a little bit in a few places. It’s something that I noticed, but it doesn’t affect the story too much. I also didn’t particularly like the ending, but I do understand why it ended the way it did. I’m sure every reader has their own opinion on that!

 

will grayson

Slowly but surely I am making my way through all of John Green’s young-adult novels, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson – co-written by  David Levithan – was number three. After falling absolutely head-over-heels in love with Looking For Alaska and enjoying all but the ending of Paper Towns, I went into Grayson with understandably high expectations. I can confidently say that it was fantastic.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson, through alternate narration written by authors Green and Levithan, tells the stories of two teenage boys both named Will Grayson. They are polar opposites, for the most part, and are living their lives completely oblivious to each other’s existence, until one night in Chicago they cross paths. What follows is the funny and emotional tale of the now somewhat intertwined lives of the Will Graysons.

I was drawn in right from the beginning and found this book quite difficult to put down. It covered everything from teen love and lust, anger and pain, loss, homosexuality and friendship. While every issue discussed and experienced in the story is relevant and important to reality, it seemed like the authors were trying to cover as many issues as possible in one novel. It was a little overbearing at times despite the fact that for the most part the way the issues were written about didn’t come across particularly serious. To give an example, the story features gay boys and their relationship, one who has been comfortably gay forever and one who only comes out part-way through the story. The one who comes out during the story suffers from depression, but it doesn’t have anything to do with his sexuality or how he has been treated because of it. So instead of writing a common issue, where a teen gay might be depressed because of their confusion over their sexuality and not knowing how to deal with it, they’ve thrown in depression for the sake of having a kid in the story with depression. That may seem unnecessarily critical, but obviously mine is only one opinion.

The only other real criticism I had was that I felt that the story of Levithan’s Will Grayson’s (I call him Will2) father was more important than the amount of time and attention it was given. It felt brushed over and I think you would understand Will2’s personality more if the time had been taken to really explain what happened with his dad.

The alternating chapters helped hold my attention throughout the novel and also made it easier to read when some of the content got quite emotionally heavy because you were able to take a break between chapters about each Will. The story of Will2 in particular was very intense and would have been quite emotionally draining to read all at once. If I was to choose, I think Will2 would be my favourite of the two, although I did change my mind a few times during the story. Reading each Wills point of view became particularly interesting and entertaining after they met, because there were times when you were seeing the same event or situation from both perspectives.

As far as writing style goes, Green has this way of describing things that makes you really understand what his characters are experiencing, and his portrayal of his Will Grayson (who I call Will1) exemplified this skill. I had never read any of Levithan’s work previously, but he wrote Will2 brilliantly, matching Green’s first-rate descriptions and passages with some of his own. They worked well together, blending the two stories to create one very compelling novel.

My favourite parts of the story include the huge surprise I never saw coming in chapter 8; the coming out speech in chapter 12; Will1’s best friend Tiny’s monologue in chapter 16 and of course, Tiny’s musical at the very end of the novel.

If you’re a John Green fan, this is a must-read. For anyone else who enjoys some good quality young-adult fiction, you will love this too.

pandemonium

The second book in Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy, this novel is definitely appropriately named. After my experience with Delirium – you can read my review HERE – I started Pandemonium with very high expectations. Luckily I was not disappointed. Right from the start it was emotional and intense and within the first few pages I was captivated (and not just because I was desperate to see what was going to happen post-Delirium).

Set in the same dystopian America we visited in Delirium, this novel delves further into the system of, and figureheads behind, the ‘love is a disease that we can and need to cure’ mentality. We see this world again through Lena’s eyes, but as a result of her experiences in Delirium – and the events that occur throughout this story – the way she sees things changes quite dramatically. For those who may not yet have read Delirium I won’t go into too much more detail about the plot of Pandemonium so that I don’t ruin the story for you. I will say, though, that there is another boy, another case of the deliria, and many more twists, turns and occurrences that I never, ever saw coming.

From a more technical view point, Oliver’s writing is as good if not better than Delirium. Once again I found her use of language and metaphor to be fantastic and continued to enjoy the way her writing lures you into a false sense of comfort before something huge an d usually unexpected happens. In this novel Oliver chose to use a slightly different layout and way of telling the story. Pandemonium is separated into ‘then’ and ‘now’ chapters, alternating the telling of Lena’s story between the events that followed on from the end of Delirium and where she finds herself months later. The seamless transition between these chapters left me pleasantly surprised. Jumping from past to present does not always work and it isn’t always particularly easy, but Oliver nailed it. It was very effective for this story and the impact would not have been the same if it had been written in chronological order instead.

The countdown is on for the release of the final novel in this trilogy, Requiem, so we can finally learn when, where and how Lena’s story ends!

This is my reading list for 2013, as it currently stands.

I will update and add to this list as I find more books I want to read, just as I will update when I finish a book. I hope to review most, if not all of these, but we shall see how that goes!

Anything I plan to re-read is marked with **.

Books will be crossed out as I read them!

If you have anything you would like to recommend, please do!

1. Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

3. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

4. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

5. What Happened Next by Colleen Clayton

6. Friday Night Lights by H.G Bissinger

7. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green

8. Easy by Tammara Webber

9. Requiem by Lauren Oliver

10. Zigzag Street by Nick Earls

11. The Green Mile by Stephen King

12. The Devil Wears Prada by (started in 2012, but got bored – want to try to finish it)

13. The Outsiders  by S.E Hinton **

14. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky **

15.  Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

16. Speak by  Laurie Halse Anderson

17. 1984 by George Orwell

18. Forget You by Jennifer Echols

19. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

20. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

21. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

22. The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do

Delirium cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every now and then you read a book that changes you. It might not be a best-seller, or even remotely well-known. You might come across it purely by accident while you’re scanning the shelves of your local bookstore, find the blurb interesting, and take it home with next-to-no expectations. But somehow, for whatever reason, it mesmerizes you. It drags you into its fictional world, into the hearts and souls of its characters and it finds a way to keep you wanting, desperate to know what happens next. Recently I read a book like this. It was called Delirium.

Delirium, written by Lauren Oliver, is set in an immaculately constructed dystopian America. This is a world where love has been identified as a disease – amor deliria nervosa – for which they have managed to find a cure. The deliria, as they call it, was once viewed as a wonderful thing, something to be dreamed of longingly and celebrated, but that is partly why they believe it is so dangerous. It affects your mind and body, making you think irrationally, feel things you shouldn’t feel and do things you shouldn’t do. The cure, a procedure performed on or very soon after your 18th birthday, aims to leave you safe and happy forever. Naturally, things don’t always go as planned.

The story begins with the protagonist, Lena, exactly 95 days from her 18th birthday and, much to her delight and relief, her procedure. She believes everything she has ever been taught about the deliria and has come to fear it, as is expected of her. But, of course, it isn’t all as simple as journeying with her through those 95 days and then reaching the end of the story. I don’t want to give too much away, because it truly is a brilliant novel and I encourage you all to read it. I will say, though, that while there are a few obvious and anticipated plot twists, there are some other things I definitely didn’t see coming that made the story that much more exciting to read. The best part? After completing Delirium I discovered that it is actually the first book of a trilogy! I went out and bought the second book, Pandemonium, immediately and have already started reading it. The final book, Requiem, is due out early next year.

From a writers point of view, Oliver’s use of metaphor is fantastic. Some of my personal favourites include “…makes the city smell like a giant armpit” (p.160) and “I feel like I’m back in my dream, getting slurped into the dark, floundering like an insect stuck in a bowl of honey” (p. 247). Oliver describes things beautifully without ever feeling the need to over-describe them. Some of the other novels I have read lately have been dripping with unnecessary adjectives, so it is refreshing to dive into Oliver’s work. Her characters are created so that you can get into their heads and really understand them; every little detail has been accounted for. I can’t wait to finish Pandemonium, after which I will be counting down the days until Requiem is released.

Watch this space for a Pandemonium review coming soon. Make sure you read Delirium in the mean time so I don’t spoil too much for you!