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Book Review: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

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I decided to give this book a shot after hearing it was such an insightful deconstruction of rape culture and everyday misogyny. Instead what I got was that odd feeling of reading a different book than everyone else and a lot of wasted potential.

Three years ago, Alex Craft’s sister was raped and murdered and now Alex spends her time getting violent revenge on those those who have wronged women. We follow two other perspectives: one is from Jack who is the school’s golden boy who’s really interested in Alex and Peekay, the preacher’s kid who befriends Alex. She is dealing with the aftermath of breaking up with her boyfriend and seeing him with someone else. Both Jack and Peekay form friendships with Alex throughout the book. It fits mostly into the coming of age of YA contemporary.

What could have been an amazing look at victim blaming and slutshaming in our culture right now especially in high school turned into such a generic story. Where did it all go wrong? First of all, one that thing that stood out to me was the overcliched romance. Popular jock (Jack) is in love with Alex, the outcast girl. Can it get any more cliche just from the setup alone? Jack’s perspective was all about how interested he was in Alex and what a special snowflake he thought she was

Other girls push the dress code, showing a solid few inches of cleavage or leggings that hug so tight you don’t need an imagination…But Alex is different, remarkable because her clothes are utterly nondescript.

But Jack’s perspective is apparently about more than just the generic romance. A lot of reviews I’ve seen have said that Jack stands for the male gaze and the ingrained problematic views that comes with that privilege. If that’s the case, then Jack’s point of view is completely useless because there is no sense of development or even reassertion of these so called problems. The quote mentioned above is a problem of sexism, of girls having to reject their femininity in order to be considered worthy, but Jack never changes this perspective throughout the book consistently commenting on how Alex is different. And simply stating a problem is not going to cut it if you want to start a conversation about this important topic. It’s like my friend telling me her house got robbed and not telling me how she felt about it. Aside from that, I never thought I really got to know Jack (what does he even like??) or for that matter any of the other characters including Peekay and even the main character herself.

Peekay spends the novel dealing with the aftermath of breaking up with her boyfriend. She gets the most development out of all the perspectives. Peekay is sort of a stand in for girl on girl hate. She consistently slut shames her ex’s current girlfriend  Branley (the hot IT girl at school). I liked her story the most as she comes to realize that Branley is just a human being who likes sex. I liked these aspects but they always felt only surface level to me, never reaching the kind of character depth that I was craving.

Alex, our main character, dishes out nuggets of wisdom on misogyny but it always feels out of place like the author put these thoughts here without any proper context. Plot events happen so that these nuggets could be placed. Like aha! this is an example of victim blaming wink wink. In fact, I wish the author just made a list of all the everyday sexism that exists and it wouldn’t have made a difference. As with the other main characters, I never felt I knew Alex. The fact that she gets revenge on her sister’s killer by murdering him (not a spoiler, it happens in the first two pages) doesn’t have any sense of weight let alone repercussion until the very end. That could be excused because Alex is a sort of wish fulfillment character, a character that acts on what some women feel or want to do about the injustices put on them but the whole reason she did this was because of her sister and I never even got to know about her sister. She is a vague presence in the novel and if the author spent even a little bit of time developing her, I would understand Alex’s motivations, her attitudes, and it would have made the story’s themes that much stronger.

Characters aside, the plot was again so much wasted potential. The “shady” characters devolve into stereotypical “back alleyway” stereotypes of rapists portrayed in the media. The book also ends in a “showdown” of sorts which completely reduces Branley to the jealous girlfriend type that is so common in korean dramas and completely degrading to her as a character. This book is suppose to be about sending messages as to how slut shaming and victim blaming and not judging someone by how many sexual partners a girl has and Branley was the target of a lot of those but in the end, her character was given no justice, reduced to another trope when the whole novel hints that she was someone other than what Peekay made her out to be, the deconstruction of the stereotypical “bitch”. The ending takes away from all that progress that the author was trying to tell us. There is no sense of growth, of realization, of irony or deconstruction of the social commentary that the author was trying to point out this entire novel! Instead, what I got was a sort of martyred wish fulfillment ending that feels false and doesn’t solve anything. These problems haven’t been solved yet so it’s fine that the book can’t solve it but it doesn’t raise any thought provoking questions either.

I get the author’s intent and I admire it; she talks about the subtle ways that society treats women compared to men. I also especially love this quote.

Tonight they used words they know, words that don’t bother people anymore. They said bitch. They told another girl they would put their dicks in her mouth. No one protested because this is our language now.

This is such a great concept to explore; it has multiple facets and ideas hidden in it. But it was just sort of thrown in there. Unfortunately, the generic story and generic characters and lack of any sort of development and nuance to both characters and plot just kill (pun not intended) any sense of an insightful look inside any of these issues she sought to criticize

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Book Review: Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Image result for signal to noise silvia moreno-garcia

Title: Signal to Noise

Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Category: Coming-of-age, Contemporary, Literary, YA

Pages: 272

Synopsis: Goodreads

Rating: tealstartealstartealstartealstar(4.25)

In my little world of reading, I had forgotten how underrated a good coming-of-age story was and lately I find myself drawn to them more and more as I grow and change. Angsty me just really likes seeing fictional characters find themselves I guess and this book was no exception.

Signal to Noise takes place in Mexico City and is written in alternating chapters passing back and forth between the past and the present. At the beginning, it’s 2009, and our main character Meche has come back to Mexico City for her father’s funeral. We find out that she had left the city 15 years ago because of something that happened between her and her friends. She’s not happy to be back so she plans to settle her father’s affairs and leave.

Flashback to the past (1988), Meche and her two friends Sebastian (awesome name) and their friend Daniela are attending high school. Meche lives with a father who drinks to escape his unhappy marriage and a mother who is struggling make ends meet. Sebastian lives with an older brother who could care less what he does and an abusive father while Daniela lives in a relatively normal albeit conservative home. As in a lot of serious high school coming of age stories, they’re constantly bullied and sort of the outcasts of the school. They want what most outcast teens want: someone to notice them (preferably from the popular kids) and to catch the attention of their crushes (who just happen to be the popular kids). Well, luckily for them, they find out that Meche’s collection of vinyl records hold magical powers that inexplicably grant them wishes…

This book is such a rich story. It’s set during relatively contemporary times but it has the comforting and nostalgic quality of a fairy tale. From its interweaving of ’80’s music references to its love of Mexican folklore and Mexico City to its old-school moral proverbs, it has the perfect mesh of modern and vintage. I especially love the parts when Meche’s grandmother is telling her little fables and words of wisdom. It just added a touch of nostalgic magic that tied the story together. It also made the magical realism aspect seem more integrated and believable. The magical realism itself was pretty light and doesn’t appear until around a third of the way through the novel but it does play a big part of the story and I find that this aspect adds an air of urgency and possibility to the character’s desires even when Meche is wishing for something like a nice dress. I think the magic of granting their wishes just reminded me that although high school problems are temporary, when you’re living in it, they feel as significant as life and death.

“Why can’t music be magic? Aren’t spells just words you repeat? And what are songs? Lyrics that play over and over again. The words are like a formula.”

As an older reader, following these three friends through high school, some of their problems might seem trivial but it never feels that way. There’s a sense of desperation and hopefulness to them that you can’t help but want those wishes to be granted. Sebastian wants to buy new clothes but what the reader knows he wants is someone to tell him he’s worthy despite his poverty. Their friendship is instantly investing because despite being lonely and poor, they always find nuggets of hope in each other’s company and that’s what makes this book above all, a book about friendship. That despite the never ending hardships  whether it be estranged parents or fights with other kids and that feeling of alienation and powerlessness Meche, Sebastian, and Daniela feel in their daily lives as many kids do during high school, the fact that they have someone who just gets them is often enough to weather what feels like an inescapable hell.

You don’t get to rewind your life like a tape and splice it back together, pretending it never knotted and tore, when it did and you know it did.

Garcia has such a knack for revealing just enough information about a person’s character that you get a sense of their character right away. The way that she layers these characters is amazing because it’s not something that’s obvious and it’s only after finishing the book and seeing these characters as a whole that I was able to fully appreciate who they were. I find that in a lot of coming-of-age stories featuring high school protagonists, they’re sort of the self-sacrificing types who will do good. Meche is not like that. Meche can be charming and pragmatic but also extremely bullheaded to a fault. As layered and sympathetic as Sebastian and Daniela are, Meche completely shines as a main character. She can hold a grudge and is brash and reckless like no other main character I’ve read this year. You can see how amusing it is to pair her personality with Sebastian who is kind of like Daniel from The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. He’s more of the quiet, reflective type who loves books and the written word. Daniela serves as more of the sidekick in this trio but she’s a fun character nevertheless. She spends her time reading romance novels and daydreaming about being swept off her feet. The three of them together is just a good time and I could see the remnants of who Meche was follow her into her adult self.

It’s kind of weird that writing a review would make me a like a book more but it did for this one. It’s truly one of the best books I’ve read in 2016 and I didn’t even mention that I did tear up at one point. I also think it’s perfect for a winter read because you can read it in one or two sittings and just get immersed into a tender and touching coming-of-age story.

 

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Book Review: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

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Title: The Sympathizer

Author: Viet Thanh Nguyen

Genre: Literary, Historical Fiction

Pages: 371

Rating: tealstartealstartealstartealstar

 

 


As a lover of stories, I think it’s always surreal but fascinating to meet an author of a book you like and it was no different with Mr. Nguyen. I got to hear him speak at a Critical Refugees panel a few months ago before I had even read this book, although I had heard of it. He served as a moderator for this panel and I was struck by his reflective, introspective questions. I suppose I was also fascinated because he was a Vietnamese immigrant who is an associate professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at USC, usually Vietnamese people pick careers in math and science in my experience.

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Left: Rapper praCH; Middle: Poet Mai Der Vang; Right: Viet Thanh Nguyen

From what I recall, he was very interested in asking the implications of being a refugee. The feeling of not belonging to either ideology. That contradiction is explored in our main character. He is a communist spy, half Viet and half French, who moves to the United States after the fall of Saigon and spends time with the General and his servicemen in order to send back information to his communist commander back in Vietnam.

I really liked reading about post-Vietnam war America and the attitude towards Americans for withdrawing from the war when the South still needed them. It was never more clear to me how much loathing the Americans instilled from the Vietnamese. He talks about Vietnam’s role in world history as cursed and bastardized, passed from Indochina to the French to the US and then to civil war. It parallels our own main character’s role in the book. Both are never really allowed to form their own identity. So the political atmosphere of the book really interested me. What also interested me was theme of being the Sympathizer. Our narrator is constantly torn between two sides, between his fealty between his two friends, between his half heritage, between the North and the South. Even as he is feeding information about the revolution’s side to the communists, he secretly feels sympathy for the Left. Even as he kills revolutionaries so he won’t be discovered, their deaths still haunt him forever. Seeing that dynamic made me see the merits of both sides, but also the failings and as you go on through the book, that juxtaposition can also be found with the bigger themes of the book like the relationship between America and Vietnam.

Why do those who call for independence and freedom take away the independence and freedom of others?

His character is a double-edged sword however because he sympathizes with both sides so in the end, I don’t know what his stance actually is, what he actually believes in although I did see more leaning toward the Left as most Viet people living here would lean towards. But I suppose maybe that’s the point.

Last Viet Evacuees by Boat
Last evacuees from Saigon before Fall; Picture from Time

Most of the time is spent in our narrator’s head so there is little room for other characters to develop and shine but they were colorful enough and served their purpose enough so that the book didn’t feel like it was missing something.

The writing was a little too quippy at times but I didn’t mind it. It had splashes of Kurt Vonnegut with somewhat dream-like sequences and hints of 1984 by George Orwell in it. I really like some of his turn of phrases where he turns sentiments you already know and turns it into something quotable.

“To live was to be haunted by the inevitability of one’s own decay, and to be dead was to be haunted by the memory of living.”

In the end, this book is really an ode to the Vietamese. And I think Nguyen captures the very essence, the “Vietnamese-ness” of Vietnamese immigrants which is probably not that helpful in describing this book but it’s true. It’s always in touch with the subtle similarites but also alienating differences between the two like the cultural barriers between immigrants and Americans, the inherent conservativeness versus the so-called looser ways of Americans. To see this brought up in a well-written style and to see this book receive the Pulitzer Prize gives me a lot of hope for more representation.

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book review · Uncategorized

Book Review: Crooked Kingdom

Image result for crooked kingdom

Title: Crooked Kingdom

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Category: YA, Epic fantasy

Pages: 536

Synopsis: Goodreads

Rating: tealstartealstartealstartealstar

 


There is something so immersive and satisfying about Crooked Kingdom. Maybe it’s the fact that Bardugo infuses so much history to this universe of Grisha and Ravkans and Shu and Fjerdans, the most realized world I’ve read in a YA fantasy in a while. Or maybe it’s the fact these characters have so much history themselves: both personal and with each other. Reading this, I felt like whole books could have been written about each and every one of these characters. These individual strengths play off each other to create this great dynamic between attentive worldbuilding that affects these rich and vulnerable characters just as much as the characters affect their world. Both aspects collided once again along with a higher stakes plot that make it standout from other YA fantasy and even its predecessor, Six of Crows.

These characters continue to be layered and dynamic as well. Just as Kaz and his crew are defined by their brutal pasts and their place in the merciless hierarchy of Ketterdam, so they are defined by the ways they overcome their personal demons that have shadowed them from these brutal pasts. In CK, there was an emphasis on Wylan’s, Jesper’s, and Nina’s pasts and their development which I loved so much. Wylan continues to strive for a place to belong despite his father’s best efforts to belittle his existence and to come to terms with his weaknesses like his illiteracy (he is actually too good for this world). Jesper reunites with his father and faces the lies he’s been hiding since he joined Kaz. He also comes to terms with his powers as a Grisha. Nina does as well and gains some awesome (like really awesome) powers along the way. That’s not to say that each character did not get a satisfying resolution. Each had their own moment/finale to find some closure to what they were looking for and felt satisfying (except Kaz in my opinion). I particularly liked Inej’s resolution 😉 These characters are not endearing because of their traumatic pasts so much as their yearning for better things that they have longed for since they were little kids and to see them achieved (or not) was just real cute.

I’m glad the romantic relationships also find their resolutions. However, I was worried because a lot of these romantic moments did not really happen until the latter half of the novel. I wish there were more! It’s a great testament to Bardugo that I rooted for not one, but all three ships in this book. And the reason for that is because Bardugo doesn’t change for example, Kaz’s ruthlessness to be with  Inej and vice versa for Inej. There was this one part near the end of the book where Kaz does something for Inej that made me squeal but it didn’t compromise who his character was.

Plotwise, these characters face their biggest challenge yet: to retrieve Inej and destroy Van Eck once and for all. The first half of this book was slow because there was so much planning and not enough execution of that actual planning but the latter half did not disappoint with its nailbiting action scenes and politics and the last 100 pages made all the scheming worthwhile in an epic finale. If you thought Kaz was smart in Six of Crows, this book shows his scheming prowesses like never before. And we get to see some of this scheming with significant cameos from characters in the Grisha trilogy. Definitely a treat for those who read the Grisha trilogy (I only read up to the 2nd book and quit the series but I still got a kick out of it).

I never thought I would try anything Bardugo wrote again as I was disenchanted with the Grisha trilogy but this duology and especially Crooked Kingdom proves that Bardugo has the ability to surprise me and I will now gladly embrace any future book of hers with open arms. 

Let me know what you thought of this duology and Crooked Kingdom in particular!

 

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Book Review: The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanigihara

Title: The People in the Trees

Author: Hanya Yanagihara

Categories: Adult, Literary Fiction, Science Fiction

Synopsis: Goodreads

Rating: tealstartealstartealstartealstar (3.75)

 

 


Honestly, who wrote the synopsis on the flap of this book?? It literally spoils half the book. Half of the book. So please don’t read the flap of this book before reading. Ok? ok.

From the very first page, The People in the Trees establishes itself as a foreboding and ominous scientific parable cemented with a morally ambiguous narrator at its center,

TPITT is loosely based on Daniel Carleton who won the Nobel Prize for his work on the disease kuru, later convicted of child molestation.

echoing scifi classics like Frankenstein and The Island of Dr. Moreau. We first meet our unreliable narrator, Dr. Norton Perina, in jail. He was accused of several accounts of sexual assault and rape including statutory rape. We don’t know anything about him at this point in time except the fact that he is a renowned scientist who discovered Selene’s syndrome–a condition in which a person, upon eating a rare turtle, becomes immortal. Ronald Kubodera, Perina’s acolyte, convinces Perina to write his memoir to try and clear his name. So it’s a story within a story as we hear about Perina’s life and how he came to be where he is now.

This is Yanigihara’s debut novel and it’s a very ambitious one. Its strength lies in its portrayal of Perina. Perina is, though not a particularly original character, a deeply compelling one. Throughout the entirety of the novel, you don’t quite know what to make of him. The book follows him from his young childhood to his time at Harvard Medical School and then to the islands of U’ivu. You vacillate between disgust at him (“I rather enjoyed killing the mice”), confusion at his infatuation with Tallent, another renowned scientist, or sympathy at his loneliness and want to protect the island that he studied in or even understanding at his love for science.

He remains a mystery until the very last page sentence of this book and his mysteriousness is not really cleared up even with the footnotes from scientific journals and texts provided by Kubodera, an even more unreliable editor as he practically worships Perina. I’m not usually a fan of footnotes; I find them tedious but I think the addition of these footnotes provides a rich history of the people of island Ivu’ivu and a realistic and plausible aspect to Norton’s story so that even when you find something unbelievable the footnotes provide a level of authority that you can’t help but believe.

Island of Ivu’ivu based on Angra dos Reis in Brazil

Much of the book is spent on the island of Ivu’ivu and to the descriptions of the island and the island people where Norton and his colleagues Tallent and Esme study. It’s a little bogged down at times but it’s so believable and they feel like a real people with a culture. As Perina continues to conduct experiments, the scientific community wants to get in on this turtle so they tear down the island to get them. Yanigihara touches on the themes of colonialism and imperialism as well as the different moral standards that the Ivu’vians abide by compared to Western culture. I think these themes could have been explored more and in more surprising ways especially because it was one of the more fascinating aspects of the book but I felt those were kind of glossed over.

The prose is extremely readable though not as precise or controlled or even as fleshed out as it is in A Little Life. This book is also graphic (animal lovers beware) though it is definitely tame when compared to A Little Life. But as I’ve said before with A Little Life, I never thought the violence was contrived or added just to be there. The structure of the novel  It’s not a thriller; it’s most definitely a character study on Norton. We don’t even get to find out about his jail accusations until the last fourth of the book where things get really weird..and you’re left wondering is he a psychopath genius? Just another mad scientist? A well-intentioned psychopath? And it left me thinking about it long after I read the final pages.

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Book Review: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Title: Lair of Dreams

Author: Libba Bray

Pages: 613

Synopsis: Goodreads

Ratingtealstartealstartealstartealstar(4.25)

NO SPOILERS FOR LAIR OF DREAMS BUT THERE WILL BE SPOILERS FOR THE DIVINERS. SPOILERS WILL BE IN BLACK BOLD.


“Every city is a ghost.”

And so begins the second installment of the magical journey into 1920’s New York. A sleeping sickness has taken over. People are literally being sucked into their dreams and burned from the inside out. But while this is happening, we follow our Diviners and their struggle to fulfill their own dreams. Evie dreams of becoming more famous and adored as America’s “Sweetheart Seer”; Henry dreams of finding his lost lover; Jericho dreams of loving Evie and restoring the museum; Mabel dreams of Jericho; Sam dreams of his missing mother; Memphis and Theta dream of being together without secrets of their powers, and newcomer Ling Chan, dreams of a life without burdens and prejudices.

Reading this book was like being in a dream. Countless authors–historical, fantasy or otherwise–are exceptional worldbuilders. They make me feel like I’m a part of the world they have created. But Libba Bray takes worldbuilding to a whole other level. Because I don’t just feel like I’m a part of the world, I. am. truly. there. And when I read this book, I understand why this book took 3 years to write. Libba Bray leaves no stone unturned. It’s not just the accuracy of the locations of NY (Chinatown and Beach Transit Co.) or the precise depiction of 1920’s culture (racism, sexism, homophobia) but she also takes care to keep the figures of speech, tones of inflection and dialogue consistent not just for the time period but for every single character in this book. It makes the reading experience totally immersive and I was never once confused which perspective I was reading from and there were a lot of perspectives (with a focus on Henry and Ling, then Evie and Sam, Memphis and Theta, with Jericho and Mabel having the fewest chapters). And just to show the intricacies of her worldbuilding, I’ve taken an Asian-American studies class in college and I learned about the discrimination of Chinese immigrants including the Chinese Exclusion Act and paper sons and daughters  and every single thing that I learned about that topic was interwoven cohesively and accurately throughout this book. This is not something she could have done by just randomly looking up one Wikipedia article. And because of this, Bray manages to capture the surreal beauty of the 1920’s but also its prejudices and jarring hatred.

A gust of wind battered the colorful paper lanterns hanging from the eaves of the Tea House restaurant on Doyers Street. Only a few diners remained, lingering over plates scraped clean of food and cups of tea whose warmth they were reluctant to leave.

It sounds dense which is probably why I’ve heard so many reviewers downrate this book because it is slow. But I think what I realized is that this book was never meant to be fast-paced. Which is actually a bold writing move considering that YA novels thrive on their quick and snappy plots. But not this book and it doesn’t care. It has no problem being the tortoise. It is utterly reassured in its pacing and forced me to really savor Bray’s words and by consequence, her characters whose layers are slowly revealed one by one throughout this story. And even if the plot isn’t entirely satisfying, the characters and their depth definitely make up for it.

I adore each and every one of these characters. I really do. Henry and Ling totally made my heart melt with their friendship. I loved their Inception-like dream walks together and you get tons of backstory on them.

“Pos-i-tute-ly isn’t a real word,” she said.

“Why, it pos-i-tute-ly is! It’s in the dictionary, just before prob-a-lute-ly.”

“You’re doing that simply to annoy me.”

Jericho honestly is on my list of fictional boyfriends. Sam gets a lot of spotlight in this book and we can see him for more than just a sleazy pickpocket. Memphis and Theta get a lot of action and not as much backstory because those were explored in the last book. But I think I adore Evie most of all. I feel really protective of her because I know a lot of readers don’t really like her lol. I get it. She is annoying. She is selfish and petty, really ditzy sometimes, indecisive, hedonistic to a fault and is basically drunk all the time. In fact she is drunk at a part in the book when they are all basically running for their lives. But I love her because she is so realistic? Not sure if that’s the right word but her character is just so interesting because she hides her insecurities and fears through this facade of “happiness” and parties but even at the end of the book she still hasn’t quite finished running away from her problems and every other Diviner sees right through her except for herself.

And because in any other YA book, Evie would not have been the main character or at least not as focused on. It would have been Mabel (the quiet do-gooder) or Theta (the responsible take-action girl) or even Ling (the sarcastic, witty and determined girl) but it’s not. I love that Bray allows Evie to be flawed in ways that other YA heroines aren’t allowed to because it would make them too “unlikeable”.

Tangents aside, the book comes to a head in the last 100 pages where almost all the action happens. It answers a lot of questions about the Diviners and the sleeping sickness mystery but it also opens up another door of questions that I think sets up the next book for a lot more plot development specifically involving Sam’s mom and I’m super excited.

It’s not as good as the first book, but Lair of Dreams is a very worthy sequel. I’m afraid that the next book isn’t going to come out until probably 2018 but if this is the end product, I suppose I can wait. 

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Book Discussion · book review · Uncategorized

Discussion: On rereading and how a 4-star book became a 2-star book

15753977Author: Marie Lu

Categories/Genres: YA, scifi, dystopian

Pages: 305

Previous Rating: 4/5

Reread Rating: 2/5

VERY MILD SPOILERS BELOW

 


I have very fond memories of Legend by Marie Lu, an action-packed dystopian YA novel set in future LA. June is one of the Republic’s best students. Day is a wanted criminal. June’s brother, Metias, is killed and June wants revenge. They discover government secrets. While this is happening, a rebel group called the Colonies is always mentioned and there’s also a plague going around because why not. I’m pretty sure it was one of my favorite books at one point and I considered it one of the better YA dystopian books around.

Before I reread it, I only remembered that I liked the romance and that I really liked the conspiracy elements. I thought it was well-written and that the world was well-developed for such a short book.

So I decided to give it a reread and in a surprising turn of events (a rude plot twist), I ended up being severely disappointed to the point where I wanted to time travel back and slap my old reading self and ask myself why I was reading this.

old self: *On the computer* *sees present me*

me: so why exactly did you like this book?? I don’t get it??

old self:

WTF who are you??!!!

me: GET MORE STRICT WITH YOUR RATING SYSTEM.*disappears*

old self

she looked a lot like me..

That’s probably one of the sad things about rereading. Sometimes your favorites just don’t hold up and then you realize your nostalgia was filling in the gaps for you once you get further away from the book. You remember the feelings but you don’t remember much else. 

Granted I did read this book almost 6 years ago so the experience of rereading was almost like reading a new book. Almost. It’s more like slipping on an old Halloween costume and finding out that it’s too short and tight now. But anyways this book is classified as a dystopian and now that I’ve reread it, I struggle to really comprehend why it’s classified as such because honestly, nothing about this government is explained. Here are some worldbuilding things that irritated me that I did not notice the first time I read it.

  1. You have to take a Trial test (which sounds like the SAT–I would definitely fail that) and that basically determines whether you get a good or a bad job which I feel like is logistically kind of hard. I mean is it a scantron test?? What if the grader grades it wrong? What if it doesn’t go through the machine right?? What if someloses it ??What if I bubbled in incorrectly but I knew the answer?? So many things could go wrong..

2. There’s also no sense of what the hierarchy of this government is. Like there’s an Elector, also a Commander but no one else?? Like is LA run by two people?? Damn, this is basically hiring a 16-year-old to catch a notorious criminal..makes sense.

3. Oh, there is also a plague which does not seem to exist out of the confines of the plot. The plague affects one person in this entire book and there’s not really any mention of the plague ever..like ok..

I suppose I’m just more way more picky about worldbuilding now. What once was merely an annoyance is now a nuisance that I can’t brush off. It’s also interesting how much scientific inaccuracies bother me now. Take, for example, this quote:

I have what the Republic considers good gene–and better genes make for better soldiers make for better chance of victory against the Colonies.

Do you know how many genes there are?? What do you mean good genes? Genes are good for some things, not good for others. And if she’s talking about intelligence, there really is no such thing as an intelligence gene and even if there are, it depends on the type of nurture you had. Nature vs. nurture and all that.

But honestly, the real question is should I even be bothered by this? I mean so what, if there are scientific inaccuracies. I suppose I care because there’s already a lot of misinformation out there. Maybe it’s an aftereffect of being a science major for four years.

And the thing about reading action-packed books is that the second time you read them, you know what’s going to happen so that air of surprise and anticipation is just not there anymore. You should come for the plot but stay for the characters. Except the characters aren’t the best either. I actually should applaud Marie Lu a little for creating such believable characters within such a short span of time (this book clocks in at 305 pages with a pretty big font too). But that does not stop me from being bored by these characters. June and Day also basically kind of sound the same. June and Day do sound different in the sequels but that does not really come across here. I also read reviews about people complaining about the “instalove” between June and Day and I really didn’t think so back then but now the instalove was hitting me in the face and I’m wondering how I didn’t see it before. They basically start trusting each other like the day after they meet each other. And it’s just basically smooth sailing from there. Now I don’t mind instalove, as long as you build conflict even after they fall for each other like for example The Wrath and the Dawn. I suppose in 6 years I’ve met so many different characters that these characters just don’t cut it anymore.

So after this enlightening experience, I suppose I am now

  1. a more picky reader
  2. I care a lot more about worldbuilding
  3. I need more complexity in my characters
  4. I’m also more attuned to an author’s writing

 

But here are some questions I’m curious about: when you read a book, are you more attuned to certain aspects more than others? Does your profession allow you to detect some types of inaccuracies more than others? If so, do they bother you while you’re reading? Have you reread a book recently that disappointed you? How much of your preconceived notions when you read it the first time affected your reread of it? How much of nostalgia affected your view of the book after you’ve read it? I would love to hear your thoughts =)