Monday, 5 February 2018

Book Review: YA Round-Up #2

I have been reading a wee bit in the spare time that I have - here are some brief reviews of the Young Adult books I have enjoyed - or not.

Who Runs The World by Virginia Bergin is a dystopian novel of a semi-near future where a virus has wiped out almost all of the men in the world. The females have pulled together a new society complete with Global Agreements, a voting system and no violence. One day, fourteen year old River runs into a very sick creature who turns out to be a BOY. River has never seen a male before and drags him home to her Granmumma. He is immune to the virus but his presence disturbs the community and River starts asking questions about why things are done the way they are.

I did not enjoy the writing style of this novel very much. It was very fragmented and there was very little explanation or backstory, mainly just thoughts and observations from River's point of view. I wanted to know more details but it was obviously kept simple because River did not know these extra things.

After reading the author notes at the back of the book I understood how she got the concept for the book. She wanted to write about a world where it wasn't that the gender roles were reversed, it was one where there was no need for the concept of gender and how this would create new versions of culture and community.It is a very interesting thought and for me this was the concept that drew me to the novel. Unfortunately it didn't deliver for me personally, although I can tell that if you like the sound of the premise then you should at least give it a go, you should be able to tell by the first couple of chapters if it is for you. A Matriarchy would be very interesting!

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill

This novel is another dystopian (surprise surprise), set in a world where women are designed, not born. They are taught that beauty is everything and when they turn seventeen, men who were born in the same year as them will choose a lucky few as companions, the others destined to be concubines or chastities.

With an interesting premise I jumped at the chance to read another messed up take on a possible future. It was an interesting read but not quite my favourite style of writing. The first thing I noticed was the lack of capitalization for peoples names - but only the girls because they don't deserve to be more than an object of pleasure and procreation. But this just made reading hard! There was also very little world-building outside of the school the girls attended. It was a very negative and rather depressing take on the pressure for girls to look a certain way and there was so much cattiness between the girls. The ending was quick and unexpected.
It was quite the opposite to the previous book I read! All that said, it wasn't a terrible read, it showed insight into mental health, bulimia/anorexia and digital addiction. It has been described as a vague cross between The Handmaid's Tale and Mean Girls. I'd say this was accurate. Don't read this if you want an enjoyable book, read it if you want to be shocked.

When We Wake is the first book in a sequel about a 16 year old girl called Teegan who is living a great life when she gets accidentally assassinated while at a protest. Then she wakes up, 100 years later after being one of the first experiments for being cryogenically frozen. The world she wakes up to looks a lot different, with Australia holding the cards and although the world has got a handle on green energy, racial tensions are high and there is a very strict policy on migrants trying to enter the country. Teegan obviously goes through a big dose of culture shock, still reeling from the fact that her boyfriend, parents and literally everyone she knows being long-dead.

She gets paraded round the country as a 'miracle' of technology and some see her as the opposite. Teegan is strong and brave and quickly figures out that all is not as it seems and starts digging deeper with the help of some new friends.
The book is written as it is delivered from a live-stream video journal featuring Teegan. This is a refreshing take as she is able to add some retrospective thoughts in as she goes. There is a romance thread but is pretty minimal in the scheme of things which is nice.There is a lot of politics and activism with some crazy religion thrown in but the action and fierceness of Teegan makes this a great read. 

While We Run is the sequel to When We Wake. Teegan and her *its complicated* friend Abdi are on the run after spilling some nasty government secrets to the world. Abdi narrates this book which is a stark change from Teegan and it takes a while to get used to, especially if you read them in quick succession. Abdi is betrayed by Teegan and this really affects him. He is a very clinical thinker and it makes him both unrelatable but also endearing. His backstory comes out and it turns out his mother trained him to be this way so he could be a politician in his home country of Djibouti. Being a migrant - a legal one- in this environment brings a lot of diversity into the plot. There are a few new characters introduced and it is hard to trust any of them after what the government put them through.

A good sequel with a new perspective, plenty of action and plot twists and a nice reveal of living in the aftermath and consequences of their actions, which is not always explored.

Gated is about Lyla who's younger sister died when she was little which sent her parents into a tailspin which led them to be chosen to invest in a 'gated community' (Read: cult) led by a man called Pioneer. Having spent 12 years in the community, 17 year old Lyra enjoys the seemingly idyllic life as the chosen ones who will survive once the world turns to evil and ends.
Lyla's character is quite likable because while at shooting practice (where the targets are cardboard humans - for defense of course), Lyla just cannot bring herself to fire and is horribly punished by Pioneer for it. The story gets more intriguing when a young nephew of the local police comes to scope out the community and manages to make in impression on Lyla. And so sows the beginning seeds of doubt about the world she has grown up to believe was evil and doomed.

From there the story takes a more intense turn, ending with some major psychological thriller events involving an underground silo. I didn't see this coming and made for harrowing reading but mostly because in the back of my mind it is plausible. It does happen to various extents all around the world. I am fascinated by the psychology behind cults and their charismatic leaders and have read quite a few books along this theme recently.
The writing and some of the characters weren't amazing but the plot made up for that. I really enjoyed this read.

Gated has a sequel that I have not been able to get my hands on yet but I will!

I hope you enjoyed this round-up, I'll have another coming shortly, my reading game has been strong recently!

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