Uglies (Uglies, #1)

Image result for uglies scott westerfeldFirst Lines: The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.

Recently, I gave my students the opportunity to read one of a dozen different books.  Eight were related to the Holocaust (our last unit) and four are dystopians (which have a lot of similarities to Nazi Germany).  I’d read this book before in 2010, but I figured since it was one I hadn’t reread since then, I needed to try it again.

Tally can’t wait to turn sixteen.  On her birthday, she gets to have the operation that takes her from a hideous Ugly makes her an outstanding Pretty.  And with that surgery comes her chance to live in the high-tech Pretty Town, where every day is a party of epic proportions.  But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be a Pretty.  When Shay runs away, Tally suddenly learns that the pretty world isn’t that pretty after all.  And Tally will have to make a choice: find her friend and turn her in or never turn pretty.

Back in 2010, I loved this book.  I thought it was original, unique, exciting, and (somehow?) incredibly similar to The Host.  (I mean…I guess??)

Now, though, after having read a lot of other dystopians since then…I kind of just thought this was a bit better than average but not as unique or exciting as I did the first time.  I actually even struggled to keep reading it sometimes.

There were things I did still like.  Uglyville was great for world building.  There, they have their own linguistics, like how they call each other by their biggest physical flaw.  (“Shorty,” “Squints,” etc.).  Their vocabulary and technology are awesome.  Those were really immersive for the story.

But outside of Uglyville…it wasn’t as vivid.  It actually started to fall apart a little for me at those times because it didn’t have anything about it that stood out.  I got bored when she was out alone on her journey.

I do also like the overall concept, about showing how each of us are beautiful in our own ways.  How the things that stand out about us make us unique and special and, yes, even beautiful.  Seeing Tally discover that for herself is awesome.  And the fact that it’s not easy for her is something we can all empathize with.

The hardest thing for me, though, is that I didn’t feel like any of the characters except for Tally are really dynamic.  Some of them undergo a bit of a change, yes, but there really isn’t any other character I’d consider to be a main character besides her.  Even Shay and David feel like minor, mostly static characters.  And maybe that’s intentional, but I like stories where I can connect with multiple characters, not just the main one.  I struggled with that in this book.

It’s got a great premise and I’m not mad that I reread it, but I just didn’t feel the same excitement about it that I did 9 years ago.  YA has gotten a lot more daring in that time.

But some of my kids absolutely love this book, so I’m not complaining if it’s getting them reading.

Goliath (Leviathan, #3)

First Lines: “Siberia,” Alek said.  The word slipped cold and hard from his tongue, as forbidding as the landscape passing below.

It’s the conclusion to the amazing Leviathan series and I couldn’t have been more excited when I got my hands on it.  I’d only walked into the library to pick up what I had on hold and maybe one other small book (yeah, like that was a wise idea on my part).  Instead, I came away with this, which is over 500 pages of awesomeness.

*Yo, it’s the final book in the trilogy.  Yes, there are series spoilers ahead.*

Oh forget it.  I can’t do this summary justice.  I’m copying it from Goodreads: Alek and Deryn are on the last leg of their round-the-world quest to end World War I, reclaim Alek’s throne as prince of Austria, and finally fall in love. The first two objectives are complicated by the fact that their ship, the Leviathan, continues to detour farther away from the heart of the war (and crown). And the love thing would be a lot easier if Alek knew Deryn was a girl. (She has to pose as a boy in order to serve in the British Air Service.) And if they weren’t technically enemies.

The tension thickens as the Leviathan steams toward New York City with a homicidal lunatic on board: secrets suddenly unravel, characters reappear, and nothing is at it seems in this thunderous conclusion to Scott Westerfeld’s brilliant trilogy.

Awesome, isn’t it?  The best part about this story, besides the action, love (on Deryn’s end), and friendship between Alek and Deryn, is the illustrations.  They totally make the story easier to understand when you can see exactly what a perspicious loris looks like.  Or the Leviathan itself for that matter.  Westerfeld makes a world completely its own and tries to sink you into it quickly.

I’ve been with this series since the beginning, so I’ve been dying to see what became of Alek and Deryn at the end.  Would Deryn ever tell Alek that she was a girl?  What would Alek’s reaction be?  And if Deryn revealed the truth, would she also tell Alek that she was in love with him?

As if that wasn’t enough to keep me reading, its backdrop is WWI, so there’s plenty of action.  It seems like just when things start to slow down, something blows up or goes wrong and it’s up to Deryn to save them.  That never got old.  You really didn’t know what was going to come next.

It was a really good trilogy, I must say.  Now I’m excited to see what Westerfeld pumps out next.  Will it be another sci-fi, like this and Uglies were?  Probably.  The question remains, when will it be set?  Westerfeld is a magician when it comes to crafting stories like this.

Spotlight Friday (3)

Spotlight Friday is a weekly segment where I pick three books I’m looking forward to coming out and discuss why.  It’s super fun and you should totally check out the others while you’re here.

A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies

Release Date: September 27, 2011

Summary (from Goodreads): On the night of Skye’s seventeenth birthday, she meets two enigmatic strangers. Complete opposites–like fire and ice–Asher is dark and wild, while Devin is fair and aloof. Their sudden appearance sends Skye’s life into a tailspin. She has no idea what they want, or why they seem to follow her every move–only that their presence coincides with a flurry of strange events. Soon she begins to doubt not just the identity of the two boys, but also the truth about her own past. 

In the dead of a bitingly cold Colorado winter, Skye finds herself coming to terms with the impossible secret that threatens to shatter her world. Torn between Asher, who she can’t help falling for, and Devin, who she can’t stay away from, the consequences of Skye’s choice will reach further than the three of them could ever imagine.

What’s To Like: The love triangle!  I think I speak for every girl when I say that we’ve all met boys like Asher and Devin.  Asher is the stereotypical boy we know we shouldn’t like because he’s going to break our hearts and Devin, who is the kind of  guy who slowly worms his way into our hearts until we don’t want to be without him.  Also, this cover is simply gorgeous.  I have no idea what actually happens in this story, but I’m definitely interested in finding out.

Goliath (Leviathan, #3) by Scott Westerfeld

Release Date: September 20, 2011

**Keep in mind ,this is the final book in the trilogy, so if you haven’t read the first 2, the summary may be confusing/give away points in the story.  So just skip it and go to “What’s To Like.”

Summary (from Goodreads): Alek and Deryn are on the last leg of their round-the-world quest to end World War I, reclaim Alek’s throne as prince of Austria, and finally fall in love. The first two objectives are complicated by the fact that their ship, the Leviathan, continues to detour farther away from the heart of the war (and crown). And the love thing would be a lot easier if Alek knew Deryn was a girl. (She has to pose as a boy in order to serve in the British Air Service.) And if they weren’t technically enemies. 

The tension thickens as the Leviathan steams toward New York City with a homicidal lunatic on board: secrets suddenly unravel, characters reappear, and nothing is at it seems in this thunderous conclusion to Scott Westerfeld’s brilliant trilogy.

What’s To Like: If you keep up with my Next Big Thing segment, I mentioned Goliath in my latest installment because of the super awesome illustrations in it.  I’m fascinated by this story because it’s a historical fiction/sci-fi that takes place in WWI.  And one of our main characters, Deryn, is a girl disguised as a boy to serve in the army.  If that wasn’t awesome enough, the other main character, Alek, is an Austrian prince.  I love seeing what kinds of trouble they get into and I’m very excited to see how this saga ends.

My review of Goliath.

Bloodlines (Bloodlines, #1) by Richelle Mead

Release Date: August 23, 2011

Summary (from Goodreads):

The first book in Richelle Mead’s brand-new teen fiction series – set in the same world as Vampire Academy. 

When alchemist Sydney is ordered into hiding to protect the life of Moroi princess Jill Dragomir, the last place she expects to be sent is a human private school in Palm Springs, California. But at their new school, the drama is only just beginning. 

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Bloodlines explores all the friendship, romance, battles and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive – this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone’s out for blood.

What’s To Like: Vampire Academy fans rejoice!  The wait is almost over!  So, VA was like my life for a few years there and when Last Sacrifice came out, it was like Harry Potter ending all over again.  But we have a spin-off series that will (hopefully) feed our VA addiction.  The same great characters are back (I’ve heard Adrian plays a larger part in this one, but I can’t say whether or not that’s actually true or just rumor), but there’ll also be a whole new cast of characters to fall in love with.  I’m so excited!

My review of Bloodlines.

The Next Big Thing (2)

The Next Big Thing is a segment in which I talk about trends I see in YA Lit.  I’m by no means an expert, but I did spend quite a bit of time in the past year watching and recording these trends.

The Next Big Thing: Graphic Novels and Illustrations in Novels

A scene from Leviathan

 

The first time I read a YA novel with illustrations in every chapter, I thought I was reading beneath my level.  I couldn’t believe they were turning that story into a picture book!  But the more I read it, the greater an asset those pictures were.  The book was Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (the author of Uglies).  Leviathan is a science fiction that takes place in World War I.  It’s insanely good and the pictures help you understand exactly what he’s trying to say.  Which is really good because it’s hard to understand exactly what a whale flying in the sky looks like.  (I’m not making that up; it’s really in the story.)

Leviathan is the first in a trilogy, followed by Behemoth and Goliath, which will be released in September.  I’m really excited for it.  Also, if you’re interested in more novels with pictures, check out Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (it uses pictures instead of drawings, but it’s to the same effect) or Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, which will be released in late December or early January.

Graphic novels also seem to be on the rise.  Mostly, from what I’ve seen, it’s graphic novels of a pre-existing story.  For example, I spent some time yesterday standing in Barnes & Noble reading the Twilight graphic novel (but I didn’t get to finish it).

I know graphic novels are around, but I probably just didn’t notice them until I took a college class on comic books (I’m not making this up either.  It was an honors class, to boot).  But it seems like graphic novels based on other novels are making a name for themselves.  The Twilight one has already been released, but a couple of others are in the works.  There’s a Vampire Academy graphic novel to be released in August, a Hush, Hush graphic novel set to be released in October, and a City of Bones graphic novel (but I can’t find out much about it).

So it appears our novels are adding the element of pictures to enhance their story.  They do add an interesting effect, I give them that.  It’s very cool to be able to see exactly what the author is envisioning, especially when they give you crazy stuff like Scott Westerfeld does.