Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Review: Enclave by Ann AguirreEnclave by Ann Aguirre
Series: Razorland #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 259
Genres: Dystopian YA
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Outpost, Horde

In Deuce's world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed 'brat' has trained into one of three groups-Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms.

Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember. As a Huntress, her purpose is clear--to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She's worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing's going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade.

When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce's troubles are just beginning. Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn't like following orders. At first she thinks he's crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don't always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth.

Thoughts: Some authors are just born better than others. Call it a natural selection or literary Darwinism, but I have found it to be one of those undeniable facts. They sit a cut above their piers, and make you glad to be a reader. Enclave is the third Ann Aguirre book I’ve read, and it confirmed what I suspected: she is one of those authors.

In case you were wondering, Enclave is a zombie apocalypse book. There are a lot of dead bodies, a few crazy!backwards!gangs, and people who will try to eat you. But that being said, it is a very different take on the whole thing. In fact, I could probably go into a whole spoiler-filled debate about whether or not Enclave should be called a zombie apocalypse book… but you’ll have to read it to see what I mean.

Okay, so on to the goodness. I absolutely adored the two main characters – Deuce and Fade. For starters, both of the characters are basically adults.  Life has made them grow up fast, and there’s little time to sulk about it.  A century ago, it was completely normal to raise children at the age of 15 – so it’s only logical that we’d fall back into the habit post-apocalypse. Both Deuce and Fade have embraced their responsibilities and are all the stronger for it.  Deuce rather reminds me of Rose from the Vampire Academy series (only about 15 years more mature) in the sense that she puts protecting others first. It’s inspiring to read and I hope more YA authors (*cough* and adult authors *cough*) consider writing more responsible!mature!characters. As Enclave proves, they can be just as entertaining.

Even though there is some romantic tension between Deuce and Fade, there are many more important things that take precedent (like survival, and whatnot). Not to mention the fact that, despite being hardcore warriors in their own right, they are pretty innocent when it comes to the whole romance business. It’s a different world, and that kind of intimacy is something that couldn’t stay alive. As readers, of course we know what to look out for, but seeing characters who do not even know what a family is… well, watching them start to develop one on their own is amazing.

Aguirre also hits on a few issues that I think some people will really be… um… shocked by? That’s not the right word… let’s just say she includes a few plot twists later in the book that may have you up in arms. We have all gotten rather accustomed to some things being labeled as badbadbad – unforgivable under any circumstance. But sometimes self-preservation is more important than justice – occasionally a person can do evil things for an apparently good reason.

I’ll leave you to ponder that one.

Bottom line? Ann Aguirre will rock the YA world. She absorbs you into her novels and pulls twists out of places you didn’t even know existed. I’ll be buying the hardcover.

Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Review: Delirium by Lauren OliverDelirium by Lauren Oliver
Series: Delirium #1
Published by HarperTeen, Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 411
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

Thoughts: I read a number of reviews for Delirium before writing mine, and was surprised by the diverse reaction. There are a ton of glowing reviews out there, a few “I don’t get the fuss” reviews, and a some “this is just a bad book” reviews. And each and every review I’ve read – across the spectrum – I have agreed with. There are some themes are raised by the book that some people hated and others loved – it’s just a matter of taste. You know when you really enjoyed a book when the negative reviews don’t change your mind.

While I really enjoyed the plot and the characters and all of the over-arching themes explored in Delirium – it is Lauren’s writing that makes this book a keeper.  Lauren just has such a soft, elegant style to her writing. She molds and shapes her words and sentences with stellar technique. The way she writes reminds me of Maggie Stiefvater: she writes lyrical books that make you want to draw hearts around paragraphs while you’re reading.  Lauren understands love – not just romantic love, but family love – and her descriptions of the emotion are simply stunning.  This book made me re-examine the relationship I was in at the time, reminding me to appreciate love – and the delirium that accompanies it.

Even though I wasn’t over-the-moon-in-love with all of the characters, I enjoyed their part in the story.  I went in expecting to read a straightforward forbidden romance, but what I ended up with was, well, something else altogether.  Delirium was romantic, but it was also so much more than that.  It was a book about the bonds we share with family, friends and even our pets.  Stunning stuff. Not to mention, it has a few pretty fantastic twists that I never saw coming.

Bottom line?  Go out and get yourselves a copy right now – especially if you are a fan of Linger or Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.  Delirium is a lovely, elegant novel that I’d recommend to even the most hesitant of readers.  And don’t be put off by the doom-and-gloom you’re rightly expecting – it’s totally worth it.

Review: The Line by Teri Hall

Review: The Line by Teri HallThe Line by Teri Hall
Series: The Line #1
Published by Dial
Pages: 220
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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An invisible, uncrossable physical barrier encloses the Unified States. The Line is the part of the border that lopped off part of the country, dooming the inhabitants to an unknown fate when the enemy used a banned weapon. It’s said that bizarre creatures and superhumans live on the other side, in Away. Nobody except tough old Ms. Moore would ever live next to the Line.

Nobody but Rachel and her mother, who went to live there after Rachel’s dad died in the last war. It’s a safe, quiet life. Until Rachel finds a mysterious recorded message that can only have come from Away. The voice is asking for help.

Who sent the message? Why is her mother so protective? And to what lengths is Rachel willing to go in order to do what she thinks is right?

Thoughts: The Line is an odd book. It has a universe with real potential, filled with political, social and (perhaps) magical intrigue. There’s no zombie apocalypse, but something peculiar sure is going on.

But The Line also has some rather significant problems.

For starters, the writing just wasn’t that great. I had to reread chunks of text just to work out what was supposed to be going on. As for the story, it featured a lot of telling and little showing. The characters were little more than plot devices – albeit a very interesting plot. Without exception, I found them extremely one-dimensional and often outright illogical. View Spoiler »

But despite my rather take-it-or-leave-it opinion of the characters, I enjoyed the politics enough to continue reading. Luckily, Hall dials up the tension for the last 1/4 of the novel. The action started rolling, whole new mysteries were presented, and the characters started seeming less like plot devices – I actually wanted to find out what happened next!

And then it was over, and I went back to being rather blasé about the whole thing.

Bottom line?  Not the best book, but it is set in a fascinating universe. Hall’s writing is less than stellar, but I genuinely believe it will improve with her next novel.

Cover Note:  This book is gorgeous and has a relevant cover. Honest!  That beautiful greenhouse on the cover? It actually exists in the novel. Hell, if you need reason to get this book after reading my review: Get it for the cover!

Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie RyanThe Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Series: The Forest of Hands and Teeth #1
Published by Gollancz
Pages: 310
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But, slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future - between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

Thoughts: The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a beautiful, terrifying book. I completely understand why people are so enamoured with Carrie Ryan’s writing!  It is elegant, poetic and well, frankly, gorgeous. This book swallowed me whole and didn’t let go until I’d finished the whole thing.

The world Ryan creates is simply terrifying. Actually, the entire book is one long nightmare.  It is a cross between The Handmaid’s Tale (by Margaret Atwood) and The Village (film by M. Night Shyamalan) – only with zombies. Scary stuff, especially for a wimp like me!

Unfortunately I was unable to relate to any of the main characters in this book. I didn’t actively dislike any of them, but I did often felt their personal dramas were an annoying distraction from the action. The romantic triangle in the book had a lot of tell-no-show aspects – referencing feelings from before the book began. It was disappointing, but probably for the best – true love can’t last long during a zombie apocalypse!

Bottom Line?  The Forest of Hands and Teeth haunting book. I’d recommend it to older teens and adults – especially those who don’t pick up “genre” books. Ryan has a way of making a book about zombies into a book about everything but zombies.

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