Book reviews, musings and waffle from a British lit addict

Review Minis: The YA Edition

If you missed my first collection of review minis, you can catch up on what the heck I’m playing at and see what I thought of some of my recent forays into crime fiction with the Mystery Edition here.

I seem to have a funny relationship with YA fiction at the moment. I keep craving it and keep finding myself disappointed.  In Spring, however, I was having a lovely time.  Perhaps that’ll teach me that sweeping statements about a whole type of fiction isn’t what’s required but better choosing.  The highlights?  Well, since you asked…

Forgotten by Cat Patrick (Find it on Goodreads here)

Stories based around memory loss must be terribly hard to write.  I have to confess that when I start one, I’m almost waiting for a clanger of a plot hole.  I think what made this one easier to go along with was that the central character, London Lane, can’t remember the past but can “remember” the future.  Since you have to suspend some belief anyway, it’s not too much of a stretch when the odd day seems a little bit too easy or where London seems a little bit too comfortable for someone who shouldn’t have the faintest idea of who she’s talking to and what on Earth she’s doing.  It does manage to touch on the moral implications of being able to peek into your friends’ futures and ideas about whether you would want to know your future if given the opportunity, even if it does so in a fairly light fashion.

I read this in a single day – it’s definitely entertaining and the pace, in particular, with the London’s occasional glimpses into the future is very well-judged.  There’s a good balance between plot development and the musings of a teenage girl that is trying to navigate her adolescence with post-its.  And it was also extremely nice to read a self-contained story. No cliff-hangers, no labouring of points and no meting out facts so that the story arc can be spanned over multiple instalments?  Bliss!  If you’re looking for a way to spend a day that won’t result in you having to sprint to your local bookshop or desperately willing away the next few months of your life in anticipation of a resolution, grab Forgotten.

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 for being a light and not-horribly-confusing book about memory loss 
Insurgent  by Veronica Roth (Find it on Goodreads here)

***This is the second in a series – beware of SPOILERS for Divergent!***

Divergent was one of my favourite books of last year (review here) so I downloaded the eBook of the sequel eagerly.  Thankfully, Hanna had given me a heads up about a re-cap of the first in the series on Roth’s blog because Insurgent jumps straight back into the action.  It’s a strange one because when I’m reading a series quickly, it can be annoying to have to wade through a couple of chapters of filler before the author lets you get back into the story but, if it’s been a while since you read the first book (a la Divergent for me), those snippets can be handy or you spend the first few chapters thinking, “Who’s that again? Where are we?  What’s going on?!.  It’s a brave decision, I think, but one that, on the whole, I liked.  It suits the pace and style of the series.

In this instalment, Tris isn’t quite the feisty lady that she was in the first.  A little bit of the fight that I loved so much had gone but I don’t think that many people would be super well-balanced if both of their parents had died and they’d killed one of their friends and was sort of in hiding.  So I’m prepared to forgive Tris the odd eratic moment.  Sure, I was frustrated that she wouldn’t flipping well listen to the people around her but her (realistic!) flaws are part of what make her one of my favourite YA characters of recent years.  And I still love Four.

The story still hares along at break-neck pace and is almost impossible to put down.  I was quite disappointed in the ending.  It wasn’t badly written or anything but I’d had an inkling earlier on that this was the way the story was going but I was hoping that I was wrong.  The book also seems to just…stop.  I can see the commercial merit in whopping cliff-hangers, and it’s a good set up for the final book, but I did feel lead on, almost; lured to a dramatic finish and then cut off.  I suppose, though, that particular criticism could be read as a way of saying that I was enjoying the story and didn’t want to finish reading but it was just the way that it wasn’t written like an ending.  It just stopped.

Rating:  4 stars out of 5 for being a generally superb second instalment in a series that I can’t wait to get back to in Autumn 2013.

Ill Wind by Rachel Caine (Find it on Goodreads here)

This is another book that shoves you straight into the middle of the action.  It opens with Joanne Baldwin running for her life and pretty much never gives you chance to catch your breath.  I spent the whole time I was reading this feeling as though I was just a few steps behind and that I was trying to chase the plot down and get a handle on what was going on.  It’s quite exciting and has an unpredictability about it that is fun but that’s about it.

The inevitable downside to having your story start in high drama is that you have almost no time to develop characters that a reader can care about or to create the world that they’re causing all the mayhem in.  Joanne was so busy dashing about and re-enforcing the sense of impending doom that her motivations get lost and even though she mentions plenty of times that there are reasons why she won’t accept the help regularly offered to her from a range of sources but doesn’t feel the need to really share what they are, which is extremely FRUSTRATING to read.  There’s also a strange relationship with a chap called David who appears as a hitchhiker and pops up at random moments being all mysterious.  As another side effect of racing everywhere, the plot becomes quite repetitive: run, rest, fend off a pursuer that’s caught up; repeat three times (at least…).  A case of action over substance.

Most of my disappointment came from the fact that the ideas behind the story were fantastic and I was looking forward to reading about them, I just didn’t get to see enough of them in the end. Weather Wardens that can control the elements sound awesome and the Djinn sound pretty cool but I couldn’t reallytell you much about either.  Enough that I’m prepared to read the next book to see which direction the series goes in but not enough that finished this one feeling satisfied.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5 for promising some brilliance for later in the series but delivering something luke warm as a starter.