Book Report: Pandemonium

What you need to know: Pandemonium is the second in (yet another Young Adult dystopian) Delirium trilogy from Lauren Oliver. I’ve not read her best-selling Before I Fall, but I can’t recall reading a bad review of it (though I have zero desire to read it). Delirium itself was recommended to me by VH1′s Kate Spencer (whom I’ve never met but keep hoping will become my internet pal because she’s a funny lady).

Set in a similar time to the present but in an alternate dystopian US, love is a four-letter word. Marriages are matched and planned by the government, boys and girls grow up separated from one another, and once you hit 18 you’re given the Cure – a brain surgery that takes away most of your emotions and the ability to love or even care. Oliver sets up an interesting world (first in Portland, Maine and then Brooklyn) without poetry, most music, or religion as we know it. The Bible has been replaced with The Book of Shhh and opponents of the Cure have been killed, imprisoned, exiled to the Wilds (the wooded areas of the country between the government approved walled-in cities), or some combination of the three. Romeo and Juliet is taught as a cautionary tale in health education class – two teenagers who catch deliria, the disease that infects and causes love.

Overall: Boy, am I excited for the second Divergent book to come out this May.

Le sigh. Okay, look: I liked Delirium, a lot – despite of some of Oliver’s easier clichés and explained metaphor (no, she literally explains her metaphor just in case we didn’t get that cows running loose are like the cattle society had become). In fact, I went from finishing the first book to pre-ordering the second via my Kindle (sweet goodness do I love that thing) in a matter of moments. It was just my luck that I finished the first book less than a week before the second came out on February 28, 2012. Yes, it took me more than a month to finish this thing and another week to bring myself to finally review it. This should not be taken as a sign of its difficulty – nay, when you sit and commit yourself reading is rather easy – but rather a sign of how lackluster Pandemonium is after its predecessor.

To indulge something that’s been bothering me for a while because I am fortunate enough to live in the first world where problems are laughable, let’s take a brief moment to compare the young woman on the cover of both Delirium and Pandemonium to the narrator, Lena’s, description of herself:

I’m not ugly, but I’m not pretty, either. Everything is in-between. I have eyes that aren’t green or brown, but a muddle. I’m not thin, but I’m not fat, either. The only thing you could definitely say about me is this: I’m short. (Delirium page 14)

(I will fight the urge to comment on said comparison but please feel free to do so in the comments.)

Did I prefer Delirium to Pandemonium? Absolutely. Will I still read the final installment when it comes out next year? Well, geeze, I can’t very well not see if my predictions are as dead-on in the third as they’ve been thus far.

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Book Report: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

What You Need to Know:

Published as part of the escalating distopic YA trend, Enclave hit shelves and e-readers in April 2011.  Before you ask, yes, it is another trilogy.

  Aguirre has previously been known for her science fiction and fantasy literature (including some romance novels).  Outpost, the follow-up to Enclave is scheduled for a fall 2012 release.

Overall:

I don’t hate it, but I can’t guarantee that I’ll be running for my copy of Outpost the way that I pre-ordered Mockingjay (and then read all weekend without leaving my apartment or socializing with the world at large).  Like all trends, YA distopia has hit the economical masses and quality has suffered.

Let’s put it this way: Francine Pascal is always listed as the author of Sweet Valley High and you’d never know which ghostwriter was which.  The writing doesn’t have a distinct style and there’s a lot of work that seems to have been skipped over, but damn is it fun to read.

‘From this day forward, you will be called Deuce.’ Location 89*

Let’s just get this out of the way – naming a protagonist Deuce is rarely a good idea. The first note in my copy of Enclave follows this line from the naming ceremony: already felt cheesy but Deuce makes me laugh. Is that really the reaction you want from a reader of dystopian thrillers?   Continue reading

Book Report: Divergent by Veronica Roth

What you need to know:

Divergent takes place in dystopic Chicago – or rather, what we would now call Chicago – separated into five factions of people with specific personality traits, community roles, and lifestyles.  Veronica Roth, the 22-year-old author and Northwestern University creative writing alum, reportedly worked on the story that would become Divergent instead of her homework.  Makes you reconsider how you spent your college years, doesn’t it?

Overall:

The debut novel and first in what will become the Divergent Trilogy is engaging, well-written, and difficult to put down for more than a walk to the bus stop (as is evident by the amount of people I likely annoyed while walk/reading a la Belle in Beauty and the Beast).  A bit more editing or idea generating may have been helpful in order to keep the pace and excitement through to the end, but I’m certainly excited to see how the second of the series (the recently named Insurgent) will turn out.  On a scale of Twilight (killer of literature) to Harry Potter (exciting and best-selling), I give Divergent a solid Percy Jackson rating: it’s a great book that will be made into a movie but maybe not do quite as well as HP and the gang once it hits theaters.

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