Danny Wright signed up for the Army National Guard when he was 17 years old because he felt compelled to both serve his country and to honor the memory of his father, who died while serving in the Army. At first, he was proud to wear his uniform and excited to get to train with high-powered guns… but that all changed only a short time after he finished bootcamp. Why? He was called in by the Governor of Idaho to help with protests in Boise (about a proposed new federal ID card) and things got very out of hand very quickly. One accidental shot turned into a firefight in which civilians were injured and killed, and people started making comparisons to the Kent State shootings that took place during a Vietnam War protest in 1970. Knowing that he fired the shot that started it all, and seeing how quickly people snapped to pass judgement when they did not have all the facts, he was glad that the Governor pledged to protect the identities of the guardsmen who were involved. But, how long would the Governor be able to protect them when the President of the United States of America was demanding answers?
I especially appreciated the way Reedy worked in both extreme news coverage and polarized social media reactions. I was impressed to see a YA novel tackle the very complex topic of federal government/federal laws vs state government/states’ rights, but the audiobook impressed me even more. Much like Countdown, this audiobook uses a variety of sound effects and multiple readers to create sound bites that mimic news broadcasts and to set apart the non-narrative portions of the book. The only “down side” to listening to this audiobook all at once (on a road trip) was that the “near future” setting seemed entirely too plausible and actually made me feel a little anxious as if I were really listening to the news.
Amadou (15) and his little brother Seydou (8) had already been harvesting cacao for two years before Khadija arrived on the farm. They came willingly when they thought that they would be working for a single season to help make money for their impoverished family, but they soon discovered that they had been fooled. The “bosses” told the boys they would only be able to go home after they earned back their purchase price, but no one would tell they boys how much they had cost or how much they earned each day. Between their long hours of dangerous work — harvesting cacao pods with machetes — and their beatings when they failed to make quota, they boys quickly learned not to focus on anything but the task at hand. They got along well enough with the other boys, but didn’t exactly make any friends. All of their time was focused on survival. Then Khadija showed up and their world turned upside-down. Not only did a single child show up, when the bosses normally waited for a bigger group before making the expensive trip out to the farm, but Khadija was a girl. A girl who was determined to escape from the very moment she arrived, and who tricked Seydou into helping her break free from her bindings… After Amadou took the blame and helped them bring her back, though, he was forced to spend time with Khadija while they both recovered from their beatings. Would he be able to help her adjust? Or at least keep her from getting himself and Seydou into further trouble with the bosses?
I really wish I could say that this book was a dystopia rather than realistic fiction… It’s just so heart breaking to read about child/slave labor as it relates to the farming and harvesting of cacao (aka cocoa) in West Africa. As someone who absolutely loves chocolate, I am going to have to spend some time with the Food Empowerment Project’s Chocolate List to see which companies they recommend and try to adjust my purchasing/consumption to more ethical companies. I highly recommend this book for both the lesson in modern day slavery and the message of hope, bravery, and courage despite terrible odds. I especially like how this book describes the brutality of the farm without getting overly graphic, making it appropriate for even younger tweens.
I am fairly certain that every person has something they look back on with regret. Some people, though, have much worse regrets than others. Take Sebastian Cody, for example. When he was only four years old, he accidentally shot and killed his four month old baby sister. Can you even imagine the shame and depression that could stem from such a horrific tragedy?
This story takes place ten years after that tragedy, the summer after Sebastian’s ninth grade year. His mom is insistent that he have a “productive” summer, but he really doesn’t see the point. After all, he plans to kill himself at the end of the summer. All of his troubles began with a gun shot, and he plans to end them the same way. But then, a new girl moves into his neighborhood. Aneesa isn’t like anyone he’s ever met before. Not only is she a Muslim girl who wears a hijab, but she is so straight-forward that she often surprises Sebastian with her blunt honesty. It’s nice just to have a friend who doesn’t judge him for what he did all those years ago, but he wonders whether everything would change if only she knew the truth. Much like Jay Asher’s What Light, this book expertly explores coming of age, friendship, and self-forgiveness.
As a child of the 80s (having been born in 1979), this book felt so much like coming home. All of the references to 80s pop culture, especially geek culture, were just so spot-on! I was not an arcade kid, since we didn’t have an arcade close enough to my house, but I definitely played more than my fair share of video games on personal gaming consoles like the Atari 2600 and NES. I also have fond memories of playing puzzle and sim games on the Commodore 64 and Mac Classic in “computer class” at school. I also watched waaaaaay too much TV and too many movies, so most of Cline’s references felt like a conversation with an old friend. It’s beyond obvious that Ernest Cline was a fellow geek and that he loved all the cheeseball 80s stuff just as much as my friends and I did. For real… If you are a fanboy/fangirl of geeky 80s pop culture, you NEED to read this book!
Even better than the reminiscing, though, was the foreshadowing of what could come to be if we (citizens of the world) don’t change our reliance on fossil fuels and unplug a little from the world of “social media” to actually interact with the people and the world around us — in real life! Imagine, if you will, a future in which most people around the world are so immersed in a virtual reality “utopia” known as the OASIS that they rarely leave their houses. Since most people no longer have their own vehicles or even the financial means to utilize public transportation, the OASIS was the closest thing they would ever get to traveling. Kids even started to attend school in the OASIS because the virtual world created it’s own schools to let pressure off of the failing public school system. When I read one quote, I wondered if Cline was really just that attuned to the forthcoming changes in our society back in 2011 or if he somehow traveled through time to 2016 before he finished his story — “Now that everyone could vote from home, via the OASIS, the only people who could get elected were movie stars, reality TV personalities, or radical televangelists.”
One of the creators of the OASIS, James Halliday, had very few friends and never married or had any children. By the time of his death, he had even been estranged from his former business partner and one-time best friend for about a decade. So, before he died, he crafted an elaborate “Easter Egg” hunt within his virtual world to determine who would receive his fortune. Halliday’s last will and testament was announced to the world with a video chock-full of 80s references and explained that his heir would need to use their knowledge of Halliday’s favorite things to puzzle out the location of three keys and three gates/trials he had programmed into the OASIS. Everyone went nuts at first, but excitement waned after the first five years and only hardcore Gunters (a condensation of “egg hunters”) like Wade kept up the hunt. When Wade finds the first key and his name shows up on the leader board, though, the OASIS is suddenly hopping again and the competition stirs up adventure, danger, and even romance. I can’t wait to see how the movie of this book turns out…
Posted in action/adventure, audiobook, book review, dystopia, GLBTQ, LOL, mystery, romance, sci-fi/fantasy, sports, you think you've got problems?
Tagged Ernest Cline, Ready Player One
A while back, I decided to stop posting about the subsequent books in the various series I’m reading. This was for a variety of reasons, but the two most important reasons were because (1) it was just too tough to keep up with all of the series I am interested in finishing and (2) I wanted to provide more variety for my blog readers. Well… I am going to have to break that rule today because I just have to tell y’all about Stars Above!
First of all, I think it’s important to note that some of this story takes place before Cinder, and some of it takes place after Winter. If you haven’t yet read the other books in the Lunar Chronicles yet, do yourself a favor and GO READ THEM FIRST! 😉
I really enjoyed the opportunity to look at the stories we’ve already read through the eyes of different characters (like when Kai first meets Cinder, as told through his perspective), and the fact that readers have a chance to get a little more background on characters like Michelle Benoit and Carswell Thorne. But I think my favorite story in the collection was “The Little Android,” which was a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.” Meyer’s unique adaptation of fairytale characters (Cinder from Cinderella, Scarlet from Little Red Riding Hood, Winter from Snow White, and Cress from Rapunzel) is one of the things I love the most about this series, so I was glad to get a “bonus” tale in this collection of stories. It’s hard to believe I waited almost a full year after it was published to actually get around to reading it, but I guess that is what happens when your TBR pile is out of control… 😉
If you’re a Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BtVS) fangirl like me, you will probably agree that Patrick Ness must be a huge BtVS fan too… I mean. You can’t help but get a Sunnyview/Hellmouth vibe from everything going down in Mikey’s small town! (I can’t seem to recall where, exactly, it was other than some hick town in Washington state… Did he ever mention the name of the town? Anyway…) I don’t make this comparison to BtVS lightly, by the way, because there are just so many parallels. Between all the supernatural creatures that randomly show up and attack the teenagers in their town, the fact that the adults seem to be in complete denial of what has been and is currently going on, and the fact that the story is a tongue-in-cheek offshoot of the classic “chosen one” theme, I can’t imagine a BtVS fan who would be disappointed in this story. Mikey even reminds me of my favorite BtVS characvter, Xander, who once said, “They’ll never know how tough it is, Dawnie. To be the one who isn’t chosen. To live so near to the spotlight and never step in it. But I know. I see more than anybody realizes because nobody’s watching me.”
That being said, I don’t want people to think I’m saying this was just a BtVS ripoff, either. The characters in this story are most definitely unique, as is the plot of the story. I enjoyed the fact that the supernatural elements of the story were almost periphery to the main plot. I honestly think that the interpersonal relationships, dysfunctional families, and personal struggles of the characters could have kept this story afloat even without the battles between the chosen ones (who all seemed to be “indie kids”) and the supernatural creatures like vampires, werewolves, and the Immortals. It was rather ambitious of Ness to merge teen angst and tough issues with a lighthearted, satirical supernatural story — but it worked very well.
To be very honest, I originally read the first book in this series when it was published back in 2013 and somehow forgot to review it back then. (I seriously checked and couldn’t believe it wasn’t on here yet!) I really liked it and thought that it was an interesting concept, but I didn’t really realize that the series had become a whole *thing* until I was recently talking to some people who mentioned the CW television series. I am one of those weirdos who doesn’t really watch TV — I know, it’s hard for most people to comprehend — so I didn’t even know the television series existed until after they had started airing the 4th season! Yeah… That whole “not working with teens in the public library anymore” thing probably played a large role in my oblivious nature as well, but I digress. I decided that I was going to “binge listen” to the audiobooks and, as it turns out, my lack of knowledge about the continuation of the series has paid off nicely. Instead of waiting a year or more after one book ends, I can literally head on over to OverDrive and download the next audiobook from my local public library as soon as I am ready (as long as it is checked in — and I was extremely lucky in this instance).
So, who were The 100? They were 100 juvenile delinquents who were scheduled to be executed on their 18th birthdays but, instead, were allowed to be guinea pigs for re-settlement of Earth. Why did they leave Earth in the first place? Well, *they* didn’t. But about 300 years prior, when a “cataclysm” (i.e. nuclear war) left Earth uninhabitable, a few hundred people were herded onto The Colony — a space station of interconnected ships that orbited the Earth — to keep the human race from dying out. For centuries, people lived and died in The Colony and could only dream of a day when the radiation would wear off enough that it would be safe to live on Earth once again. After it became clear that The Colony’s life-support systems would not last much longer, though, it was decided that The 100 could be sent to Earth as advance test subjects. When I heard the premise of this book, all I could think was “futuristic Lord of the Flies” and I was sold. If you enjoyed Across the Universe and/or These Broken Stars, you should definitely check out this series.