Tag Archives: YA

Review of ‘Crossfire’ by Malorie Blackman

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the ARC of this book.

I loved the first few books in the Noughts and Crosses series, especially the first. However, after reading this, I wish that Malorie Blackman had stopped after the initial trilogy. I was really disappointed.

I did not realise when I started reading this book that it was part of a new series rather than a standalone book, if I had known, I may have paused before reading this. It does the most frustrating thing that books in a series can do; it builds up the background, the plot and the characters slowly and just as you are beginning to get interested in the characters and the plot feels like it has actually got started, it just stops with a ‘to be concluded’. It’s like reading half a book and then just stopping. There is no conclusion, no satisfaction.

I don’t mind reading a book in a series if at the end of a book there are a few loose ends for future books to deal with but this book simply stops, there is no resolution to any of the plot strands. It feels like one book has been divided in two just to sell more books and make more money.

In addition to the ending, I didn’t feel like the rest of the book lived up to Blackman’s previous books in this series. I found it hard to care about characters I had previously liked such as Sephy and Callie and I really didn’t care for the new young characters like Troy and Libby. I’ve seen lots of reviews describing this book as a searing indictment of today’s society and the current political situation in Britain and America, but I just didn’t see that. It felt muddled, all the characters are really flawed and I couldn’t really tell what point the book was trying to make. Maybe if I’d got to read the second half of the story, it would have been clearer, but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. I think the swapping of the races so that black people are the dominant race, which worked so effectively in the earlier books adds nothing to this book, and actually serves to confuse who we should be rooting for.

If you are planning to read this, I’d probably wait until the next book comes out to avoid the frustration of the ending.

Review of the ‘Lorien Legacies’ series

I’ve recently read the first three books in the Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore, here are a few brief thoughts on these books.

FourI Am Number Four
I saw the film of this book a couple of years ago and thought it was pretty rubbish, but I got this book free on iTunes so I thought I’d give it a go. As usual the book is better than the film. It’s a fairly enjoyable jaunt about an alien living on Earth in a small town in Ohio dealing with the perils of high school and first love while being hunted by an evil race of aliens who want to destroy the planet. He is number four of nine aliens who are being hunted and killed in order (don’t ask me why; it’s a thoroughly contrived premise which is abandoned in later books because the hero can’t die).

My favourite part of this book is the road trip that the lead character John and his best friend Sam take to Athens, Ohio, because I spent a year of university in that town so I was able to picture it exactly and it’s always exciting reading about places you know, especially ones as obscure as Athens, Ohio!

The first two thirds of the book are pretty slow, developing the relationships between John and his girlfriend Sarah, friend Sam and mentor Henri. The last third is action packed with a dramatic climax when the Mogadorian baddy aliens attack.

Mostly it’s a fun read. I gave it three stars out of five and it might have got four stars if not for the inexplicable change of heart by the human nemesis at the end of the book. His character completely changes without any explanation in the narrative for this transformation, it’s unnecessary and spoils the end of the book a bit. Also, as with the majority of YA fiction it’s written in the present tense, which I detest!

sixThe Power of Six
This book picks up where the last left of following John, Sam and alien number six on the run from the government and the Mogadorian. It also has a second narrative from the perspective of Marina, alien number seven who lives in a convent in Spain and also comes under attack by the Mogadorian.

This book isn’t as fun as the first, it feels a bit like series filler, introducing new characters of aliens numbers 7, 9 and 10 and not really progressing the story too much. However, it is still light and easy to read and if you like a bit of teen angst mixed with sci-fi battles then you’ll probably enjoy it.

I listened to the audiobook and found that the voices didn’t really match the characters. John is read by a middle aged man rather than a teenager and the actress playing Marina has a really annoying voice when doing the people with Spanish accents.

NineThe Rise of Nine
I begun to get bored with this series during the third installment. It has the feel of a series which is going to be dragged out to get the most money from book purchases rather than one which is designed to create the best narrative possible.

This book introduces alien number eight, but it takes the full book for all the aliens to finally come together in a battle against the Mogadorian Voldemort, Setrakus Ra. This really feels like filler and it’s quite frustrating waiting for all the aliens to meet up. Plus the human hero Sam doesn’t even feature in this book, so you have to read the next one to find out what’s happened to him.

I also felt that the sci-fi element began to outweigh the teen angst element in this book and it spoiled the equilibrium between reality and fantasy. I don’t mind aliens with special powers but teleportation and secret caves in Everest began to take this too far, I prefer it to be routed a bit more in reality. Otherwise the author can just keep coming up with more and more fantastical elements to get himself out of corners he’s written himself into.

Again I listened to the audiobook version and had the same reservations about the age of the narrator reading John.

I’m not sure I’ll bother with the rest of the series.

Review of ‘Love Hurts’

Love Hurts coverThanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the ARC of this book.

‘Love Hurts’ is an anthology of mostly extracts from young adult novels with a few original short stories by YA authors all based loosely on the theme of love. Authors include Malorie Blackman, Patrick Ness and David Levithan.

I’m quite surprised that this book is being sold as a full price book. I would expect it to be given away as a free sampler or sold for a token price as it is basically just a shopfront for promoting existing YA novels. It’s aim is to get you to buy more books by these authors.

I’m not really into anthologies. I find I either love the story and I am frustrated that I can’t read the full book or I’m unengaged and want to skip to the next extract. There were also quite a few extracts from good books which I have already read such as ‘Noughts and Crosses’, ‘Trouble’ and ‘The Northern Lights’, which I skipped over.

There were two extracts that I genuinely enjoyed and which had the desired effect of making me intrigued enough to consider buying the full novel: ‘You Against Me’ by Jenny Downham about a love affair between the sister of an alleged rapist and the brother of his victim; and ‘Forbidden’ by Tabitha Suzuma about an incestuous relationship between a brother and sister. I thought these were unusual premises for books and the extracts seemed well written and piqued my interest.

I think if you are going to buy a YA book, you’d be better off picking one of the featured books and buying and reading that rather than spending money on this book, as I didn’t really get much out of it. However, the cover is beautiful.

Review of ‘The Last Wild’ by Piers Torday

WrenI’ve been a bit quiet recently because 6 weeks ago I gave birth to a lovely baby girl called Wren. Throughout my pregnancy and early weeks of being a new mum I was very distracted and found it much harder to find the time to read. This is a particular shame as obviously I adore reading.

I am determined to get back to reading much more frequently and have just finished the first book since I gave birth. I managed to do this by reading out loud to Wren when I am feeding her. It’s supposed to be really important to read to children and I’ve decided that since she’s so long it doesn’t really matter what I read it’s just the reading that counts.

The Last WildI picked The Last Wild because I thought it would be a short easy read to get started with, but I’m really glad I did. It is a funny, engaging young adult book which I genuinely enjoyed and which actually lent itself quite well to being read out loud.

I didn’t know anything about this book, from the cover I thought it would be about a boy running around on Scottish moors and befriending a deer, so I was quite surprised when it opened with a boy who can’t speak living in a boarding school in a future dystopia where all the animals have died. One day the boy Kester Jaynes discovers that he is able to speak to vermin, seemingly the only non-human creatures left. He is rescued from the boarding school by some cockroaches and pigeons and taken to the last place on earth where animals live. Here he joins with a stag and a wolf cub to take on a quest to cure the illness which has killed the animals.

In some ways this book is your standard children’s quest book, with a journey and various challenges and dangerous situations along the route. However, I think it is a cut above many of these books because it is genuinely funny in places. I loved the character of the wolf-cub, who is constantly declaring that he is the best at everything and the harvest mouse who has a special dance for all situations. It’s a really fun read which I think most early children aged about 10 onwards would enjoy.

Review of ‘Found’ by Harlan Coben

FoundI love Coben’s crime thrillers for adults, but I haven’t been a very big fan of his young adult series focussing on Myron Bolitar’s nephew Mickey. However, this third instalment of the series is definitely the best so far. The premise is slightly less far fetched in this book and we get some answers to unsolved mysteries from the previous two books.

This book is a bit less action packed than the preceding books and does a better job of focussing on the school and basketball life of Mickey and his friends. The series revolves around Mickey saving missing or endangered teenagers, and the case in this book is much more believable. However, it is still a really daft premise especially the way they are directed towards teenagers they must save by pictures of butterflies appearing somewhere.

The book has a very satisfyingly conclusion, finally resolving the plot line introduced in the first book which placed a question mark over the death of Mickey’s father. I feel like now this has been resolved future books in the series will probably be better; this book definitely feels like Coben is beginning to get the hang of the young adult genre which I think he struggled with in the first couple of books.

Review of ‘City of Heavenly Fire’ by Cassandra Clare

City of Heavenly FireI find it almost impossible to believe that the author of this series is also the author of The Infernal Devices series the gap in quality between the two series is astonishing. The Infernal Devices books are exciting, well-paced, with engaging characters; whereas The Mortal Instruments series is 80% filler. Sadly City of Heavenly Fire also falls into this trap. It is repetitive, predictable and simply far far too long. I wish Clare had given up on this series after the third installment.

The sixth, and thankfully final, installment follows Clary, Jace et al as they travel into the demons’ dimension in order to defeat Sebastian. It takes them 725 pages. I have no idea why it takes so long, there is so much filler, aimless wandering about and unnecessary scenes with Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn in an attempt to sell the next series of Shadowhunter books. Even after Sebastian’s inevitable defeat there is still a good 70 odd pages dedicated to giving everyone a happy ending and tying up everything into a nice bow.

There is only one exciting and unexpected moment and this comes fairly early on in the book when SPOILER ALERT Jordan is killed. The rest of the book is so, so dull and monotonous.

I absolutely must stop wasting my time by reading these books, I swear here and now that I will not pick up any books in the next series The Dark Artifices.

Review of ‘Day 21’ by Kass Morgan

Day 21Thanks to Bookbridgr and Hodder & Stoughton for the ARC of this book.

WARNING: This review contains spoilers.

I finished The 100 at the weekend, it ended with a huge cliffhanger so I wanted to move on the next book straight away. This book also ends with a bit of a cliffhanger but it has a feeling of greater resolution which I thought was missing at the end of the first book. However, I’m not sure that the resolution was a good thing because, in contrast, this book felt a little too much like the relationship loose ends had been tied up a little too conveniently and it ends with everyone holding hands with the person they love. It’s a little twee.

Overall, I found this book as quick, easy and readable as the first in the series. However, it was not quite as compelling. The story on Earth did not move along as much as I had hoped and again the book felt a little too much like set-up for the next in the series. The middle section was a little repetitive and felt a little like filler.

I’m enjoying the Clarke/Bellamy relationship; although their conflicts are resolved a little too easily in general. I hope that the characters of the Earthborns are fleshed out a bit in the next book as they felt a little cardboard in this book.

I was glad that the book ends with the rest of the colony coming down to Earth as I felt the split narrative did not work completely. I didn’t really care about what was happening in Space, I just wanted to read about the characters on Earth. I can see why the TV series has eschewed the character of Glass, as she is definitely the least likeable of the main characters.

This series is perfectly fine, it’s fluffy, easy to read teen girl junk food, but it doesn’t have much depth and while it’s enjoyable enough while you are reading it, I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy the next in the series.

Review of ‘The 100’ by Kass Morgan

The 100Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown for the ARC of this book.

I’ve been watching and enjoying the first series of the TV show based on this book and I’ve received the second book in the series from Bookbridgr, so I was excited to see the first book available on NetGalley.

It was really interesting to read this book and see the differences between the book and the TV series. The basic premise and some of the characters are the same, but the TV producers have made some fascinating decisions about where to deviate from the book, all of which made a lot of sense to me. As a result, it’s easy to enjoy the book without the storyline being spoiled by the TV series and vice versa.

The book follows four characters: Wells, Clarke, Bellamy and Glass (yes, they all have stupid gender-indeterminate names). The first three are amongst 100 juvenile delinquents sent down to Earth from a space colony 300 years after a nuclear cataclysm on Earth to test whether it is habitable. The fourth character, Glass, manages to escape the dropship to Earth and remains on the spaceship. Each character has secrets and guilt over things they have done in the past and is trying to start afresh with this new opportunity.

The book is incredibly easy to read. It has several cliffhangers and lots of action. The characters are fleshed out with flashbacks to their past on the ship and they are all quite likeable in spite of their past misdemeanors. The teen romance element is enjoyable, with a fun love triangle developing between Clarke, Bellamy and Wells.

However, I did find this book incredibly flimsy and lightweight. It’s so clearly the start of a series which aims to get teenage girls addicted and sell as many copies as possible, it doesn’t really have a stand-alone storyline. I don’t have a problem with series as such but I think they should be more than a serialisation of a single story; each book should have a purpose and have a start, middle and end and an individual storyline which sits solely within the book while the book fits into the wider world of the series. This book just felt like setup for the rest of the series and there was no resolution of anything at the end, just a giant cliffhanger.

That’s not to say I don’t want to read further books in the series, I definitely do, but I’m not sure I would want to invest my own money in these books because they are so lightweight. I’m glad I already have a copy of the next book in the series, because I think it would have been very frustrating to reach the end of the book and not be able to continue to read on.

Review of ‘Panic’ by Lauren Oliver

PanicThanks to Bookbridgr and Hodder and Stoughton for the ARC of this book.

WARNING: this review contains spoliers.

I was excited to read this book because the blurb sounded quite similar to The Hunger Games. However, I was very disappointed; Panic never comes anything close to having the pace, tension and compulsion of The Hunger Games. To be fair very few books do, even The Hunger Games‘s sequels don’t come close to it. Yes, Panic is about a group of teenagers playing a game with potential fatal results, but the crucial difference is no one is making them do it, they can stop at any time and if any of them had any sense they would stop.

It took me ages to finish this book, not because it’s a difficult read but because it was so unengaging. The characters are flat and one dimensional and the setting is lifeless. It takes about 250 pages before anything remotely interesting happens in the plot. The idea of the game panic is stupid and doesn’t really make sense as a concept. It’s impossible to empathise with the characters because they have no depth beyond their motivation to participate in the game. The book is humourless but also lacks the extreme sense of desperateness which makes proper dystopias so compelling.

I completely guessed the big plot twist of Bishop being a judge early on in the book. The other characters never even ask him why he’s not playing panic so it’s obvious that he must be involved in some way and the other characters seem very stupid.

The book has an oddly hopeful ending, considering its dour premise and the unfortunate circumstances of many of the characters. Why should these people have happy, hopeful endings? One of them sets fire to a house and could have killed several people; another puts a bomb in a car in order to kill someone in revenge and only doesn’t go through with it because he is kidnapped and tied up not because he realises it’s the wrong thing to do. There are no consequences to their actions. I didn’t like any of them enough to be relieved that they had a happy ending.

This was a most disappointing read, goodness knows how it managed to get the ‘this book is brilliant’ quote from The Guardian on the front cover. It is not brilliant, it isn’t even average; it is sub-par, dreary YA fiction and I don’t think I’ll bother with any of Oliver’s other work.

Review of ‘What Happened To Goodbye’ by Sarah Dessen

What Happened to GoodbyeI enjoy reading Sarah Dessen’s books. They have beautiful covers and there’s something warm and comforting about them, despite the fact that all her books follow the same basic storyline: teenage girl with family/personal issues which mean that she doesn’t let people get close to her, rocks up in a new town and meets a cute boy next door who eventually leads to her letting her guard down and resolving her issues.

This book is no different, it is entirely predictable; you know exactly what is going to happen from the beginning, you know what issues the main character Mclean will face and you know exactly how those issues will be resolved. However, for a reason I can’t quite put my finger on, it is still enjoyable to read. I think this is because Dessen writes friendships and slow burn relationships so well. It’s enjoyable watching the relationships build slowly and unfurl.

I always find it hard to believe that her lead females are so reticent to jump into relationships with the cute boy next door figures. The boys are always so sweet and perfect, with slight issues of their own which make them more sensitive and interesting. As a teenage girl, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to resist a boy like that even if my family life was screwed up.

In this book the boy next door is Dave a child genius with over-protective parents who just wants to spend a year being normal. He’s not quite as compelling a character as the boys in some of her other books, but he’s nice and sweet and a good foil for Mclean.

Dessen’s books are a warm summery hug, they never do anything particularly new or different, but what they do they do very well.