Category Archives: dystopia

Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin

nameless queenIn Seriden, bloodlines do not determine the passing of the crown.  Anyone can become the next ruler.  Well, mostly anyone.  All that is required is for the king to speak their name before he dies.  So, that means the Nameless — the bottom rung in a three-tiered caste system consisting of Royals, Legals, and Nameless — are out of the running.  Pretty much everyone assumed that the king would name his daughter to be the successor, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  No one will know for sure whom he has chosen until that person chooses to reveal the magical tattoo that appeared on their shoulder after the king died.  This is where it gets super weird, though… because Coin suddenly has this tattoo.  Coin is the name she goes by on the streets, but that is just because the Nameless have to have some sort of a way to identify one another.  (She was an orphan who was raised on the streets and likely ended up with her nickname because she was a good pickpocket.)  How in the world, then, could the king have named her his heir if she doesn’t even have a name?  And how will this tattoo be anything more than a death sentence, since the Royals and Legals will surely oppose a Nameless ascending to the throne and will likely to anything in their power to transfer the magic of the tattoo to themselves?

Though there is always the possibility of a sequel, this book was technically written as a standalone, so you won’t be stuck waiting 5 years to see how it all ends!  Aside from the ability to find out how it all ends, I also really appreciated the way this author explored class and how it relates to power and politics.  Want a book with a powerful female protagonist to give you a little inspiration heading into the new year?  Look no further!

Happy Reading!

The Giver: Graphic Novel by Lois Lowry, adapted/illustrated by P. Craig Russell

The GiverI often credit one of my adjunct professors from grad school, Joyce Laiosa, with helping me discover my love for YA books.  Every book on her syllabus was carefully chosen to represent its genre so that we would have an appreciation for the depth and breadth of YA Literature.   In fact, I routinely tell people that I consider Joyce to be my Fairy Godmother in Libraryland because she is also the person who first got me involved with the Youth Services Section (YSS) of the NY Library Association (NYLA).  And though she has technically retired from librarianship, Joyce remains active in YSS/NYLA (and ALA), and I do my best to attend all of the webinars and local workshops she teaches because I want to soak up everything she has to share. I am definitely more of a novel reader, but I appreciate the need to be aware of graphic novels and do my best to stay aware of popular titles and publishing trends, so I recently attended Joyce’s continuing education workshop about graphic novels.  I am so grateful for the extensive list of graphic novels she provided and will do my best to work my way through that list over the next year.  I am happy to report that this graphic novel, the first I chose from her list,  was simply amazing.

Not only did the artist, P. Craig Russell, do a wonderful job of staying true to the original story, but his artwork was absolutely stunning.  There is a note at the end of the book that explains the very conscious choices he made with regard to color palette and style, and I think these choices, though seemingly subtle, made a huge impact on his telling of the story.  The way that he gradually introduced colors, for example, was a great visual representation of the way that Jonah’s perception changed as a result of receiving memories.  This was a fantastic way to revisit the story, and I think it is so well fleshed out that readers who haven’t read the novel will still be able to immerse themselves in the story without missing anything Lois Lowry intended.

Happy Reading!

Eight Will Fall by Sarah Harian

eight will fallIn Demura, using magic is against the law.  So, when Larkin ends up arrested for using her magic, she fears she will be imprisoned for life or even put to death.  Why couldn’t she just listen to her brother and *think* before she acted sometimes?  Yes, it was frustrating being a miner who barely earned enough to help her family survive.  And, yes, it was infuriating that a shop keeper would refuse to sell her goods when she clearly had the money she needed to make the purchase… but it certainly wouldn’t help her family if she ended up in jail, or put to death, instead of continuing to make what little she could with her work in the mines.  And while it was a slight relief to learn that the queen didn’t intend to kill her, it was a bit unsettling to hear of the alternate plans. Although Larkin always thought the stories of ancient magic and evil forces trapped far below ground were myths, it seems they must have been based in reality — because the queen was sending a party of Empaths (including her) deep underground, into The Reach, to battle an ancient power.  Can you even imagine growing up with the belief that magic was wrong and never learning to use your magic only to be sent on a mission that would *depend* on using magic to survive?!?

Aside from the fact that this is a standalone story [hallelujah!], there were a couple of things about this story that really spoke to me.  One was the fact that it was reminiscent of The Goonies, which was one of my favorite movies growing up.  I wondered whether I was silly for thinking this, but then I saw that even the author said, “For movie geeks, The Descent meets a high-fantasy version of The Goonies.”  [Awesome!  I’m not crazy!]  The other thing that I really loved was that there was so much power derived from emotion.  Too often, it seems that people think of emotions as limiting or even crippling, so I was really pleased to see a world in which magic could be fueled by emotions.  This book is due out in only 5 days, so you can probably even place a request for it at your local library!

Happy Reading!

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

43263520._SY475_Finishing this book on Halloween was definitely a good call. Just the right kind of creepy for me, since I’m not so much of a horror fan but love me some dystopian fiction!  And the best news of all?  Elizabeth Banks and Universal have already optioned the movie rights!!!!!!!!

You probably want to know what this book is actually about, though, right? Well… In Garner County, people believe that young women have magical powers.  Powers that can corrupt even good men and drive other women insane with jealousy.  In a place where women are supposed to be humble and subservient, that just won’t do. So the girls are sent off for their 16th year — the grace year — to burn off that magic in the woods. After that year, they are supposedly cleansed of their magic and ready for marriage, but not everyone survives. And though none of the girls knows what to expect, since it is forbidden to discuss the grace year, Tierney isn’t so sure she believes in these so-called powers. This story felt like The Handmaid’s Tale, The Hunger Games, and The Lord of the Flies joined forces to explore the transition from girlhood into womanhood. In a word? Amazing.

Happy Reading!

#Murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil

murder trendingI don’t know about you, but I feel like reality TV “jumped the shark” a while ago.  It seems like a lot of what the producers are trying to pawn off as “reality” is about as unrealistic as you can get.  So, it didn’t even seem like too much of a stretch to think that this story could actually come true.  Convicted killers being sent to an island prison [Alcatraz 2.0] where they would be hunted down by government-sanctioned killers and live streamed on an app called The Postman?  Why not, right?!?  I mean, especially when the beginning of the story mentioned that the President was a former reality star and used his clout to make this show happen.  I actually though to myself, “I really hope no reads this story and decides to treat it like a proposal.”

While I was horrified by the comments made by people who watched the murders via The Postman app, I wasn’t terribly shocked.  Society has already gotten to the point where many people are desensitized to violence, and plenty of people already make callous remarks on social media because the anonymity and distance that the internet provides.  So, if people in this near-future honestly believed that the inhabitants of Alcatraz 2.0 were convicted killers who “deserved” to die…  Yeah.  But what if they didn’t deserve it?  Dee swears that she didn’t kill her step-sister, and some of the other young inmates have similar tales of being framed.  Is there any chance that they can prove themselves innocent?  Who can they turn to?  Will anyone even attempt to listen to what they have to say?  And how can they possibly trust each other enough to try and team up when their very survival means that they shouldn’t trust anything or anybody?  Talk about an edge-of-your-seat thriller.

P.S. It’s hilarious, too!

Happy Reading!

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton

stronger faster and more beautifulI don’t tend to like short stories because I often feel that they leave too much of the story untold.  I never seem to feel like I get to know enough about the characters.  If it is a short story that builds upon on a story I’ve already read, though, I can usually handle it.  So, I was hesitant to read this collection of short stories.  I was nervous.  Like, really nervous.  But then I saw some of the blurbs that talked about how timely and amazing this book was, and I decided to go for it.  Worst case scenario?  I would give myself permission not to finish the book.  As it turns out, I never even considered quitting.  The first story was so compelling that I just knew I had to keep reading… And then I realized that the short stories were interconnected!  Though the stories often took readers along different trajectories and switched up the characters and setting, there were plenty of references back to characters and events that had happened in previous chapters.  I didn’t feel, at all, like I was missing out on the “what happened next” kind of stuff.  Even more than that, I really appreciated how well Dayton extrapolated from current medical research to come up with a somewhat plausible, albeit dystopian, future of genetic modification.

Happy Reading!

The Tomb: A Novel by S. A. Bodeen

the tombKiva and Seth believed that they were growing up in ancient Alexandria, but it was pretty clear to me that something was off.  It just didn’t seem very authentic, and I didn’t think it was because Bodeen had been sloppy with her research.  As it turned out, I was right.  The details were “off” because the people who set up the virtual reality program for Alexandria had been a little lazy and didn’t bother making all of the details completely authentic.  As it turned out, Kiva and Seth were actually growing up on board a spaceship and their brains were experiencing life via virtual reality so that they could still learn while their bodies were sustained in torpor chambers.  I don’t really feel like I am giving away any spoilers, though, since this was all revealed fairly early on as Kiva was taken out of torpor and sent along with Seth on board a search vessel, called The Tomb, to try and get a part for their failing ship.

Fans of Across the Universe, Defy the Stars, These Broken Stars, and The 100 should definitely check this one out.  The main “problem” I had with this book, though, is that it has quite a cliff-hanger ending and seems to be the beginning of a series — but Goodreads doesn’t name it as part of a series!  I am hoping that’s just because it’s so new.

Happy Reading!

All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

all rights reservedSpeth was nervous about giving her Last Day speech.  She had to do it right or her sponsors could back out on her, or maybe even sue her.  Another lawsuit was the last thing her family needed.  Her parents were already sent into servitude because of the National Inherited Debt Act and the Historical Reparations Agency when it was “discovered” that one of their ancestors had illegally downloaded a song.  And now that Speth was turning 15, she would be given a Cuff so that she could be charged for every word she spoke and every gesture she made — or have her eyeballs shocked if she couldn’t pay.  Speth knew it would be tough to scale back on what she said after 15 years of free speech, but she had no idea she would be tested so soon, or so horribly.  As she was walking across a bridge to give her Last Day speech, her best friend, Beecher, jumped and killed himself.  She literally could not react before giving her Last Day speech or she would be in breech of her contract.  She couldn’t imagine how she would give that speech after what she had just seen, so she decided she just wouldn’t talk.  Ever again.

But how could Speth possibly keep her vow?  She didn’t really consider how she would finish her education.  Get a job.  Or even communicate with friends and family.  It was clear that the corporations and lawyers had taken things too far by copyrighting words, gestures, and even physical likenesses… But how could Speth fight back, let alone lead a revolution, without speaking?    Much like MT Anderson’s Feed, this story challenges readers to consider the consequences of giving corporations and technology too much control over our daily lives.  I can’t wait to see what happens next in the Word$ trilogy.

Happy Reading!

Finding You by Lydia Albano

finding-youIsla was only trying to say goodbye to Tam. She just wanted to see him one more time before he went off to join the army.  But, while she was calling out to Tam on that crowded platform, she was kidnapped.  After being trafficked out of the city from which she was stolen, she and the other girls who had been taken were stripped, cleaned, and given new clothing.  Uncertain of if and when she would ever see Tam again, Isla made every effort to hide and protect the locket he had given her and stuffed it into her mouth.  And it was a good thing she was able to keep it hidden, since that locket provided a modicum of comfort and the strength she needed to survive the harrowing ordeal.

Although Isla was held captive with a bunch of other girls, that did not bring her any comfort.  They were all just as scared as she was, if not more.  And aside from being trapped in the small cell of a dungeon with awful slop for food, they were also very aware of the fact that they had been kidnapped and sold in order to be “used” by a rich man and his guests.  No one really knew what happened to the girls after they were taken away and “used,” but it was easy enough to see that their numbers were dwindling.  Isla would have to come up with some sort of a plan if she ever planned to escape — and she would have to do it sooner rather than later if she wanted to save the other girls, too.

I would recommend this book to fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and the Chemical Garden Trilogy.

Happy Reading!

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

renegadesContrary to popular belief, heroes are not always perfectly behaved and villains are not always evil.  In fact, heroes sometimes act out of spite or self-interest, and villains sometimes act selflessly to help other people.  In this story, both the Renegades and the Anarchists are comprised of prodigies — people with special powers, much like the X-Men — but their vastly different ideologies have placed them on opposite sides of the hero-villain spectrum.  The Anarchists honestly believe that society would fare better without so much governmental oversight and interference, i.e. with anarchy.  The Renegades, on the other hand, think that they are doing society a favor by overseeing everyone and bringing back law and order.  Though both sides think their way would be best for the greater good, neither side seems capable of seeing the other side’s point of view.

Enter Nova, aka Nightmare.

Nova was raised by her Uncle Ace [the leader of the Anarchists] after the Renegades failed to protect her family.  Nova has been consumed by a desire to avenge their deaths for as long as she can remember, but none of her plans seem to work out.  Luckily, the Anarchists have an alternate plan that just might work.  Because the Renegades don’t know Nightmare’s true identity, the Anarchists decide to send Nova to Renegade try-outs so that they can use her to gather intel and take down the Renegades from the inside.  Of course, it doesn’t take long for Nova, who takes on the Renegade name of Insomnia, to start to feel conflicted.  Not only does she start to fall for a guy who is a part of the Renegades, but she starts to see *why* the Renegades operate the way they do and that their methods actually have some merit to them.  What’s a girl to do?!?

Happy Reading!