April May was working for a startup in New York City when she discovered something “absolutely remarkable”… It didn’t really have anything to do with her job, though, except for the fact that she was on her way home from work when she found it. She was trying to get home via the subway when her Metro card wouldn’t work. Since it was 3am, there was no one to help her and April decided to just try another station. It was on her way to a new subway station that she discovered Carl — a gigantic statue that resembled a Transformer wearing Samurai armor. April had no idea where the statue had come from, since there was nothing to identify the statue or its creator. But, surely someone had created it. Right?!?
I loved so many things about this story. First of all, I appreciated the fact that April came very close to brushing off and walking right by this amazing thing because she had already become so jaded and generally unimpressed by all the impressive things all around her. How often do people ignore the beauty of nature or the hard work of an artist simply because they are in a hurry to get somewhere? Far too often, in my humble opinion. Second, I loved the fact that Green explored the ways that fame and our world’s obsession with social media can fundamentally change a person. April went from a person who didn’t even really have a social media presence to a world-wide celebrity who was addicted to the fame this viral video spawned. Most of all, though, I loved the fact that April continued to assume the best about humanity (and The Carls) as she strove to both solve this mystery and fight the hatred that resulted from the fear of the unknown.
Imagine, if you will, that you have been taken away to another country and forced to live in an isolated cabin in a small beach town where you don’t know anyone. You’ve essentially been kidnapped, but the person who took you swears that they are isolating you to protect you. To make matters even worse, you can’t recall enough about what happened before you left the country to know for sure. All you truly know is that your ex-boyfriend was attacked, later died, and the person who whisked you away says that many people believe you are to blame. This is Evie’s life. Though Evie isn’t even her real name. Nor is her “Uncle Jim” really her uncle — or named Jim, for that matter. Her real name is Kate Bennett and she is doing her best to piece together her memories of what actually happened.
Perhaps other readers will figure things out more quickly than me, but I was shocked when I finally realized that my assumption of Jim’s identity and his motives had been so wrong for so long. Aside from the twists and turns of the story itself, this book also included some fascinating information about post traumatic stress, how memories are made, and how the mind can be manipulated.
Poor Jenny was in a terrible accident when she was only 7 years old. While she was at a sleepover, the house caught fire… and she was the only one to survive. Ever since then, her mom and step-father have done everything they could to keep her away from anything having to do with flames so that they could avoid exposing her to any further trauma. It’s just too bad they couldn’t do anything to change Jenny’s mental fixation on fire. Every once in a while, when the scar on her arm began to itch, it was like fire itself was calling out to her. And though she knew the terrible things fire could do, it made Jenny feel powerful whenever she started a fire — because she was in control of what would burn. But was she really?
Jenny’s mom and her step-father thought it might do her some good if she went to live with her father for a while, but Jenny didn’t really want to go. The only reason she agreed, basically, was because the police in her hometown were coming too close to uncovering the truth about who might be responsible for the arson of an abandoned building. If she could get away for a while and keep herself out of trouble, maybe things would blow over. But, unsurprisingly, the itch came back. The main question in my mind wasn’t whether Jenny would get found out, since it seemed far too easy to follow the clues back to her. It was more whether she would get her urges under control before it was too late, because we all know the old adage: “If you play with fire, you’re gonna get burned.”
I 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!
Ella isn’t psychic, but she has always had the ability to read people very well. Many of the members in her family have a condition called synesthesia, which essentially scrambles up the senses. Her grandmother sees sounds, her uncle can taste words, and Ella can see people’s emotions as somewhat of a colorful aura. Then she meets a guy named Alec, who seems to know her from an earlier time — because he calls her Nora instead of Ella, and she hasn’t gone by the nickname Nora since she was a small child. To make matters even stranger, Ella can usually tell if people are lying to her, based on her synesthesia, but she can’t seem to “read” Alec at all. And when he starts to tell her that everything she knows about her past is really a lie, Ella has no idea whether she should trust him and to whom she might turn for the truth.
Moonbeam had a hard time adjusting to life on the outside. Ever since she was a small child, she lived inside the fence of Holy Church of the Lord’s Legion and was brainwashed to believe that everyone outside the fence was an agent of The Serpent. Even after she was freed from living in the cult’s compound, though, she could still hear the cult’s leader [Father John] speaking to her, in her mind, any time she felt uncertain about what she should say or do. Though she wanted to believe that the psychologists truly wanted to help her and her “brothers and sisters,” she had a very hard time convincing herself to let go of her long-held suspicions and to trust anyone outside of the cult. To make matters worse, Moonbeam found it particularly difficult to trust anyone in a position of authority since she believed that she held at least some of the blame for the fire.
I really appreciated the way the story alternated between “before the fire” and “after the fire” so that readers could become slowly acclimated to Moonbeam’s story rather than being overwhelmed with everything at once. Especially since that was the way the cult gained people’s trust and took away their freedoms — gradually. The most incredible thing about reading this story was knowing that it was inspired by the true story of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX. Readers who found this book interesting and want to read more YA fiction about teens growing up in religious cults should check out The Chosen One and Sister Wife.
Kiva 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.