Friday, July 27, 2012

Under the Never Sky

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Since she'd been on the outside, she'd survived an Aether storm, she'd had a knife held to her throat, and she'd seen men murdered. This was worse.

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland - known as The Death Shop - are slim. If the cannibals don't get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She's been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild - a savage - and her only hope of staying alive.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile - everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.
-Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

This dystopain-lite novel was ok. If you are looking for a more intense, menacing, or developed dystopia, I would recommend that you keep looking. For a more exciting sci-fi novel with, again, stronger dystopian elemends, I'd really suggest Across the Universe and its sequels. For a survival flavored dystopia, check out After the Snow. Finally, if you like your bleak futures and evil governments softened by a little romance, go for Matched or Delirium.

If it sounds like I'm really underselling this book, it's because I kind of am. Sorry! There were things to like about it- for instance, it had all those elements I mentioned in one handy place (sci-fi, dystopia, romance, survival). I liked the male lead, Perry, and his role in a post-apocalyptic tribe of hunters and gatherers was pretty neat. The action sequences were solid, the roving, killer electrical storms were interesting. The main reason I'm reviewing this one though, is to bring up one of the coolest reasons to read sci-fi in 2012: our technology is developing so quickly, that you can read about some amazing future tech in a book one day, and see a REAL WORLD EXAMPLE OF IT IN THE NEWS THE NEXT DAY.

In Under the Never Sky, Aria and her fellow city dwelllers have an ocular device that connects them to each other in a huge network and enables them to access information, view their surroundings differently, and communicate across large distances. Kind of like, oh, I don't know, the device worn by Steve Mann, the "father of wearable computing." He made the news in July when several workers at a French McDonalds " took exception to his "Digital Eye Glass" device and attempted to forcibly remove it from his head." This has been referred to in the news as possibly the "world's first cybernetic hate crime." Welcome to the future, people.

Oh, and if the idea of a wearable computer on your face appeals to you (and honestly, why wouldn't it? Think of the reading you could do! The things you could Google while walking through a museum! You could play Angry Birds with your eyes!! Just don't go to French fast food establishments), there's good news! Google is well on its way to completing on of its many (somewhat terrifying) endeavors: Project Glass.

This device runs Android, the same operating system used by millions of smart phones already. I don't know about you, but I'm a little excited for our rapidly approaching/kind of already here sci-fi future.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Vote for Your Favorite Teen Novels!

Choose up to ten books and help npr complete their list of Top 100 Teen Novels!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Where Are the Parents in YA Fiction?"

Here is an article by blogger Kait Nolan that makes some excellent points about the lack of parents/effective parental figures in young adult literature. The crux of the argument is that authors miss a great opportunity for realistic tension when they kill off or otherwise remove the parents in a YA story, and that it can be kind of lazy move:

"While I totally get that (Parents, not shockingly, want to stop bad stuff from happening to their kids.  They don’t always manage it, but they try.), I think that there’s definitely a missed opportunity for conflict by eliminating parents.

Your heroine needs to kick ass and save the world…and still make it home by curfew or she’s gonna be grounded.  Meaning she has to sneak out to save the world from the next disaster.  And it’s not just situational conflict that can arise.  There’s the inevitable emotional conflict that comes up as teens are attempting to assert their independence from parents who still think of them as children.  Hellooooo?  That’s classic teen angst relatability right there."

Nolan gives some examples of books that do include present parents to good effect. I can't think of any similar examples off the top of my head, although I will point out that some of the best parts of Buffy the Vampire Slayer are thanks to the Slayer's loving, protective, sometimes clueless but always awesome mom, Joyce Summers. As Nolan points out, which makes for a better, more relatable heroine? A self-sufficient teen with no restrictions, or someone in danger of being grounded, misunderstood, and influenced (but still, hopefully, supported/loved) by a parent?

Born Wicked

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word... especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other. -
Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, or if you know my eccentric quirky reading habits, you'll know that there are some books that I love for being especially seasonal. This is one of them. Even though it's July, this story instantly conjured up crisp September days and chilly October nights. Witches! New England! Leaves! Plenty of descriptions of apples, pumpkins, cider, and other evocative foods! That was one of the things I loved about Born Wicked, but certainly not the only thing.

The world building offers an intriguing alternate history of America, and I think Spotswood does a solid job of bringing up gender politics/using witchcraft as a metaphor for feminine power and/or sexuality, and the Brotherhood provides a credible threat to the main characters. The sisters' personalities and relationships are believable and interesting, and at times Little Womanesque in a way that adds authenticity to the 19th century New England setting. The romance was a little fluffy and swoony for my taste, and every so often I thought that Cate was teetering towards Mary Suedom, but these are pretty minor quibbles.

I wish I had found this book a few months from now, and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a great seasonal read, a historical take on witches, or some (light) alternate history. Definitely looking forward to the sequel, Star Cursed, which is due to hit shelves February 7, 2013.

Hunger Games Taking a Page From Harry Potter?

Quick bit of movie news- it sounds like Mockingjay will be released as two separate movies, much like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Twilight: Breaking Dawn, and The Hobbit.

What do you think? Is there enough material for this to be a legitimate split, or is the studio trying to spin out a lucrative franchise?