By Kiera Cass
Publication date: April 23, 2013
HarperTeen, 336 pages
Source: Borrowed from a lovely friend
In America Singer’s world, a bride is chosen for the prince through an elaborate televised competition. In the second book of the Selection series, America is one of only six girls left in the running. But is it Prince Maxon—and life as the queen—she wants? Or is it Aspen, her first love?
— Goodreads.com description
Is it possible to hate every single character in a book?
And, furthermore, still like a book?
Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. If you recall, I really loved the first book in this series, The Selection. I got caught up in the story and could not put the book down. Sure, I got other readers’ complaints about the simplicity of it all and the lack of world-building. But I was enjoying myself, so I really didn’t care.
Same thing with The Elite, except replace “enjoying myself” with “was so mad at all the characters I didn’t have time to care.” LORD. These fools made some poor decisions! Team Aspen? Team Maxon? Team America? Who cares; they’re all idiots. But I can’t help myself…I love reading about them.
If you didn’t like book one, book two probably won’t change your mind. If you loved The Selection, like me, prepare for some serious Book Two Syndrome*, but know that I was still entertained and can’t wait to find out what happens next in this dramarama series.
*AKA you know the author is going to do the exact opposite of what you want her to, but heck, that’s part of reading a trilogy so just roll with it, prepare to have your heart ripped out and pray it’ll all work out by book three.
By Neal Shusterman
Publication date: Nov. 6, 2007
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 335 pages
Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.
The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.
— Goodreads.com description
When two of my best friends highly recommended I read Unwind by Neal Schusterman, I was like “What? Who’s heard of that book?” I hadn’t! Not a peep. Well, shoot, where have I been? Because this futuristic thriller, out since 2007, is a darn good book.
Here’s the deal: We’re in a future where if, between 13 and 18, your parents think you’re a “bad kid,” they can choose to have you “unwound.” That means that you are essentially cut up and split up in bits and pieces like a sort of demented system of organ donation. People’s entire arms are transferred, brain tissue, eyeballs, you name it.
Soooo you can imagine that this book is creepy as all get out. And I sort of loved that. So Connor, Risa and Lev are all up for unwinding for very different issues (Connor’s “bad,” Risa’s an orphan and they’re out of funds to care for her, and Lev’s parents are religious zealots who believe in “tithing” a child as a sacrifice of sorts). They all end up on the run together – and you know how I love books about kids on the run!
I definitely had some issues with Schusterman’s writing style (a bit boring in parts, honestly), but I so enjoyed the overall concept and story here that I’ll definitely read on to book two, Unwholly, which came out this year.
The Darkest Minds
By Alexandra Bracken
Publication date: Dec. 18, 2012
Disney Hyperion, 496 pages
When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.
Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.
When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.
When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.
— Goodreads.com description
DID THAT JUST HAPPEN? HOLY CRUD, ALEXANDRA BRACKEN.
Okay, I’m still reeling from the ending of this book, but let me backtrack a bit:
Kids on the run! In the woods! Glory me, I love nothing more in books. Well, besides romance. Thankfully, Alexandra Bracken delivered both and then some in The Darkest Minds.
This book was just brilliant, full of so many things to love: friendship, betrayal, bravery, secrets, mind games, budding romance…everything! “Intense” is the word for this book – from the action scenes to Ruby’s quiet, reflective moments isolation and sorrow, you feel every bit intensely.
I’ve been a Bracken fan since Brightly Woven and am so pleased to have fallen in love with this book as well. Beautifully done!
BONUS TIME: Alexandra Bracken is stopping by today to discuss share parts of her playlist for The Darkest Minds, including one of her personal favorites…
I’m not above including songs in the book that I, personally, love. “Layla” is actually one of my all-time favorites, and always included on my road trip playlists. The lyrics were inspired by a book by Persian poet Nizami, “Layla and Majnum,” about a man passionately in love with a woman he can’t have due to her parents’ objections. It’s about unattainable love, really. The more infamous backstory is that Eric Clapton wrote this because he was in love with Pattie Harrison, George Harrison’s wife. Talk about a strange love story—George basically just stepped aside and let Eric have her!
There’s a quick reference to it in The Darkest Minds that I think speaks for itself—it’s a moment that Ruby recalls that reflects one of those few moments of warmth and happiness they get to share as a group:
It was a glimmering memory of my own. Of a few days before, when Liam had been in the driver’s seat, singing along to Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla” at the top of his lungs, so off-key that it had even Chubs laughing. Zu had been sitting right behind him, moving in time with the music, her entire body rocking out to the wailing electric guitar. And it had been so easy then, to laugh and pretend, even if just for a second, that we would be okay. That I belonged with them. (pg 286)
This is another instance of Liam giving someone a classic rock-related nickname. The song itself, if you’ve heard it, doesn’t make a lot of sense outside of the fact that it’s a man proclaiming his love and loyalty for a Lady Jane who may or may not be Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII. Even Mick Jagger said, “Lady Jane is a complete sort of very weird song. I don’t really know what that’s all about myself. All the names are historical but it was really unconscious that they should fit together from the same period.”
Really, Liam’s being a bit of a wise ass with this one. The Lady Jane in the story is definitely not someone you’d ever, um, aspire to love. The “Lady Jane” in The Darkest Minds is the skiptracer who’s been ruthlessly following the Black Betty crew, even before Ruby climbed aboard. They have no idea what her real name is, only that she has some kind of an English accent—hence the Stones connection.
In The Darkest Minds, you’ll notice that most of the radio stations the kids are listening to really only play classic rock. This is partly because Liam’s driving and driver picks the station, partly because there really are no teeny bopper pop stars (or, you know, a real audience for them), partly because I think people find their favorites to be comforting to listen to, and partly a decision that was made by the remaining broadcasting companies.
Essentially, most of the radio stations decided that they’d avoid playing tracks that reference children or being young, believing it’d be too painful for their listeners to hear. “Forever Young” is about as sweet and hopeful in that field as you can get, which is why Ruby hears the radio DJ freak out when the track starts playing by mistake.
This was actually inspired by a rumor that went around after September 11th, that I think was, eventually, proven false. Supposedly, several of the big broadcasting companies put out these “no play” lists of songs that they felt would be too terrible for listeners to hear following the enormous tragedy. Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” and the Foo Fighters’ “Learn to Fly” are two that I remember were rumored to have been “banned.”
A lot of the emotional undercurrents of The Darkest Minds were directly inspired by the feelings and observations I had as a teenager in the aftermath of September 11th. I wanted to examine what happens to society in the wake of a huge national tragedy, and how the fallout seems to filter out to every aspect of life. The idea of corporations feeling like they had to protect people from experiencing their own feelings was really interesting to me.
Alexandra Bracken was born and raised in Arizona, but moved east to study at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. She recently relocated to New York City, where she works in publishing and lives in a charming apartment overflowing with books. You can visit her online at www.alexandrabracken.com or on Twitter (@alexbracken).
The Darkest Minds Blog Tour Schedule
January 6: TheSkipKids.com
January 7: Mundie Moms
January 8: Laura’s Review Bookshelf
January 9: The Book Smugglers
January 10: Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf
January 11: The Book Muncher
January 14: The Compulsive Reader
January 15: Anna Reads
January 16: Emily’s Reading Room
January 17: *Headdesk*
January 18: BlookGirl
January 21: Once Upon a Twilight
January 22: Sara’s Urban Fantasy Blog
January 23: Good Choice Reading
January 24: Novel Novice
January 25: Tynga’s Reviews
ick, tick, tick, tick, tick
time for war.
Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.
She’s finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.
Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.
In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam’s life.
— Goodreads.com description
You know that feeling when you can’t keep reading because it’s just to painful and raw and emotional and you’re worried that you’re being slowly and fully depleted and the words are like shards of glass, attacking your heart, shredding it, but you have force yourself to turn the page because you also can’t imagine living another moment not knowing what happens next and when it’s over you can barely breathe and you just want to throw yourself to the floor in a fit and just lie there and process and try to move on with your life but how can you move on without knowing what will become of these people you’ve so grown to love and to hate hate hate with every fiber of your being?
That feeling = Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi, the sequel to her stunning debut, Shatter Me.
Look, I think a lot of things about this book. No, I FEEL a lot of things about this book. Love, anger… I can’t even begin to think about it logically. If you couldn’t tell, it’s like this book summoned up a tornado within me. And I’m sort of angry about it all.* But, damn, that’s a powerful reaction. And when a book can make you feel that way? That’s a beautiful thing.
*Warner can kiss my #$%!!!
A world-defying love is put to the ultimate test in the heart-stopping sequel to Veronica Rossi’s “masterpiece,” Under the Never Sky. (Examiner.com)
It’s been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission. Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don’t take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe’s precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both.
Threatened by false friends, hidden enemies, and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, Can their love survive through the ever night?
In this second book in her spellbinding Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi combines fantasy and dystopian elements to create a captivating love story as perilous as it is unforgettable.
— Goodreads.com description
I was highly anticipating this sequel to Under the Never Sky, and Veronica Rossi really lived up to my expectations!
One quick recommendation before we go any further: Reread book one before you start in Through the Ever Night. The cast of characters is large, their relationships are complex and the world is very unique. It’s not the sort of series you can jump in and out of and pick up as you go, you know? I did a reread, and I’m so glad I did.
As my friend Jamie said, though, it’s not too often you like a sequel better than the first book..and I totally felt the same way about this book too. Perry! Aria! Roar! Cinder! The characters are so strong but broken, so likable and determined.
Oh, gosh, I don’t know what to say. Read this series if you’re into dystopian novels. It’s fresh, it’s different, it’s damn good. The end.
PS: One caveat: Is that supposed to be Perry on the cover? Because that is NOT Perry. Oh well!