Saturday, January 7, 2017

Three-Star Books Read in 2016: Young Adult Fiction

Young Adult:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love. 
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...
But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I don't get fan fiction. I mean, I know what it is, but it holds no appeal for me, and I find the furor surrounding it mystifying, so I'm clearly not the best audience for this book. Why do you need to make Harry Potter fall in love with Draco Malfoy? Can't you just.... write your own book? Rowell is still very readable, though, and the family dynamic between Cath and her twin and her father is realistic and affecting. The good guy/bad guy scenario was a little facile for my taste, and even if I did get fan fiction I think the notion that Cath would hand it in as a legit assignment is a stretch. But oh my god I loved Reagan the roommate, and Levi is a great character. My one other quibble, which annoyed me disproportionately, is when someone mentions Harry Potter, when it's clear that Simon Snow is meant to be the Harry Potter of this universe. It's like in Law and Order when the couple in question is meant to symbolize Rihanna and Chris Brown and then someone mentions Rihanna and Chris Brown. It breaks the fourth wall in a clumsy and unnecessary way.

Bottom line - this is a perfectly nice and well-written coming-of-age, dealing-with-family-shit, first-love, finding-your-voice story. It just didn't wow me.

The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron: What isn't written, isn't remembered. Even your crimes.
Nadia lives in the city of Canaan, where life is safe and structured, hemmed in by white stone walls and no memory of what came before. But every twelve years the city descends into the bloody chaos of the Forgetting, a day of no remorse, when each person's memories – of parents, children, love, life, and self – are lost. Unless they have been written.
In Canaan, your book is your truth and your identity, and Nadia knows exactly who hasn't written the truth. Because Nadia is the only person in Canaan who has never forgotten.
But when Nadia begins to use her memories to solve the mysteries of Canaan, she discovers truths about herself and Gray, the handsome glassblower, that will change her world forever. As the anarchy of the Forgetting approaches, Nadia and Gray must stop an unseen enemy that threatens both their city and their own existence – before the people can forget the truth. And before Gray can forget her.

This was kind of cool and original, and the author manages the world-building and the plot conceit very well. The relationship between Nadia and her sister is nuanced and the love story feels honestly won. 

Never Never by Brianna Shrum: James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up. When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child - at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children's dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up. But grow up he does. And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate. This story isn't about Peter Pan; it's about the boy whose life he stole. It's about a man in a world that hates men. It's about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan. Except one.

I read the first bit eagerly, then lost interest, then pushed myself to finish. I'm honestly not sure if it dragged because of the book or my mood. It's the most engaging re-imagining of Hook I've read (or one of them - I read a lot of Peter Pan retellings), and one of the most disturbing takes on Peter Pan himself (and I always find him a bit disturbing, I think it's weird if you don't). It gets a bit darker and more violent in the middle than seems quite fair given the tone at the beginning.
Time's Edge (Chronos Files #2) by Rysa Walker: To stop her sadistic grandfather, Saul, and his band of time travelers from rewriting history, Kate must race to retrieve the CHRONOS keys before they fall into the Cyrists' hands. If she jumps back in time and pulls the wrong key--one that might tip off the Cyrists to her strategy--her whole plan could come crashing down, jeopardizing the future of millions of innocent people. Kate's only ally is Kiernan, who also carries the time-traveling gene. But their growing bond threatens everything Kate is trying to rebuild with Trey, her boyfriend who can't remember the relationship she can't forget.
As evidence of Saul's twisted mind builds, Kate's missions become more complex, blurring the line between good and evil. Which of the people Saul plans to sacrifice in the past can she and Kiernan save without risking their ultimate goal--or their own lives?

Please see next book.

Time's Divide (Chronos Files #3) by Rysa Walker: The Cyrists are swiftly moving into position to begin the Culling, and Kate’s options are dwindling. With each jump to the past or the future, Kate may trigger a new timeline shift. Worse, the loyalties of those around her—including the allegiances of Kiernan and the Fifth Column, the shadowy group working with Kate—are increasingly unclear.
Kate will risk everything, including her life, to prevent the future her grandfather and the Cyrists have planned. But, when time runs out, it may take an even bigger sacrifice to protect the people she loves.

To be honest, the spark had kind of gone out of this trilogy for me by halfway through the second book. I'm not sure why, exactly, and it's likely that many people will find it enjoyable. It's a well-thought-out, well-explained plot, which can be really difficult with time travel. It gives a good sense of several very different times and settings. I love that Kate has such a healthy appetite; I hate those swoony waifs who always forget to eat until they faint clean away, or always pass up food like martyrs or something. This girl eats. Her relationship with her parents is nicely done, and the way they're sort of sidelined so she can get down to business is realistic.

I didn't buy the romance. Not the love triangle, for once - that actually made sense here. With two Kates from two timelines, two love interests were an easy sell. The romance just isn't written convincingly. Kieran's role makes sense, since he's involved in the whole time battle thing. Trey is just a cute guy who, almost literally, follows her home so she keeps him. There's too much telling, not enough showing. Even the goofy lines from The Princess Bride, which I should love, fall cheesily flat. And the phrase "a kiss that shook me to my very foundation" is used, which is pretty much unforgivable in my book.

I did want to keep reading to find out how it all turned out, and it was wrapped up well. I just felt that delicious sense of 'have-to-keep-reading' with the first book and it didn't feel like it was maintained throughout, for whatever reason. 

The Girl Who Never Was by Skylar Dorset: THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS is the story of Selkie Stewart, who thinks she’s a totally normal teenager growing up in Boston. Sure, her father is in an insane asylum, her mother left her on his doorstep—literally—when she was a baby, and she’s being raised by two ancient aunts who spend their time hunting gnomes in their Beacon Hill townhouse. But other than that her life is totally normal! She’s got an adventurous best friend who’s always got her back and an unrequited crush on an older boy named Ben. Just like any other teenager, right?
When Selkie goes in search of the mother she’s never known, she gets more than she bargained for. It turns out that her mother is faerie royalty, which would make Selkie a faerie princess—except for the part where her father is an ogre, which makes her only half of anything. Even more confusing, there’s a prophecy that Selkie is going to destroy the tyrannical Seelie Court, which is why her mother actually wants to kill her. Selkie has been kept hidden all her life by her adoring aunts, with the help of a Salem wizard named Will. And Ben. Because the boy she thinks she’s in love with turns out to be a faerie whose enchantment has kept her alive, but also kept her in the dark about her own life.
Now, with enchantments dissolved and prophecies swinging into action, Selkie finds herself on a series of mad quests to save the people she’s always loved and a life she’s learning to love. But in a supernatural world of increasingly complex alliances and distressingly complicated deceptions, it’s so hard to know who to trust. Does her mother really wish to kill her? Would Will sacrifice her for the sake of the prophecy? And does Ben really love her or is it all an elaborate ruse? In order to survive, Selkie realizes that the key is learning—and accepting—who she really is.

Quick, fairly entertaining read. Near the end I just kind of wanted it to be done, and yet I downloaded the second book from the library as soon as I finished the first. Then I didn't read it. But I might. 

(Don't You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn: Welcome to Gardnerville.
A place where no one gets sick. And no one ever dies.
Except...
There’s a price to pay for paradise. Every fourth year, the strange power that fuels the town exacts its payment by infecting teens with deadly urges. In a normal year in Gardnerville, teens might stop talking to their best friends. In a fourth year, they’d kill them.
Four years ago, Skylar’s sister, Piper, was locked away after leading sixteen of her classmates to a watery grave. Since then, Skylar has lived in a numb haze, struggling to forget her past and dull the pain of losing her sister. But the secrets and memories Piper left behind keep taunting Skylar—whispering that the only way to get her sister back is to stop Gardnerville’s murderous cycle once and for all.

I loved Another Little Piece so much that it's probably not fair to compare this, but even trying to give it a fair shake, I don't think it's as good. The concept is solid but the characters just don't come alive the same way, and the action seems to drag in the middle. I love her imagination, and I'll keep reading whatever she puts out. I wish someone would convince her that she doesn't HAVE to name every book after a song.

2 comments:

Steph Lovelady said...

The Forgetting and (Don't) You Forget About Me sound right up Noah's alley.

Nicole said...

I don't get fan fiction either. I kind of refuse to read anything that's even close to it (like the knock-off Jane Austens) (I think it's Jane Austen) (too lazy to google).