Panic by Lauren Oliver | Book Review

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So, the most recent book I’ve read is Panic by Lauren Oliver. Oliver is one of my favorite authors and hasn’t disappointed me yet (except for, maybe, the third Delirium book.) Here I’ll breakdown what works in the book and what doesn’t.  (slightly spoiler-ish)

Idea/Creativity: When I first read the synopsis for this book I wasn’t so impressed – it sounded like it would be another Hunger Games rip off. Luckily, it turned out not to be. Panic is about girl in a crummy town that gets in on a local tradition among high schoolers. That tradition is a game called Panic which basically involves doing a series of dangerous stunts. The prize is a large sum of money. The main character, Heather, plays the game as her personal life is in turmoil. There’s also romantic tension between her and her friend Bishop along the way. A selected group of judges oversee the competition and their identities are kept fiercely secret.  This is the jist of the novel.

The idea isn’t bad. It may not be a Hunger Games rip-off but it’s not particularly original.  If I had to rate on creativity alone I can’t say I would rate all that highly. However, this doesn’t mean the book is bad – plenty of unoriginal books are still fun to read. I feel that the author does well with the premise although the basic idea feels like it’s been done before.

Story Flow: This is a pretty fast read. Much of the story revolves around the game, of course. But the characters still have a lot of personal conflict the story focuses (However, the threat of the game and when the next event will be always looms over their head) on. So I would say there’s never really a dull moment in the story since there’s always something significant going on. It also constantly switches between characters Dodge and Heather’s point of view and this helps the story move fast.

Characters: The main characters are Heather and Dodge, whose POVs the book is told from (mainly third-person limited). Dodge has revenge on his mind since his sister was paralyzed in the game during the final challenge. Heather wants to escape the town of Carp and give a better life to her sister, Lily. Both of them are good main characters. They’re flawed with good intentions, and I thought they would have made a better relationship dynamic than Heather and Bishop did.

The other important characters are Natalie and Bishop, Heather’s two best friends. Out of the main cast, Natalie is the worst. She was extremely annoying. Heather deserved a better best friend and Dodge deserved a better love interest. As for Bishop, he’s not as bad but he is boring. The relationship between him and Heather fell completely flat, in my opinion.

Main characters aside, the side characters are one of the biggest flaws of the book. There’s supposed to be other people in the game but we learn almost nothing about them – they’re essentially like nameless entities. There’s a character named Ray (that Dodge has bone to pick with) who lasts to the very end but we never get to know much about him – he’s completely one-dimensional like all the others outside of the main ones. Even Dodge and Heather’s sisters lack any true depth.

There is a kind woman named Anne who befriends Heather but she didn’t have much development either. Her main characteristic is that she has a farm. And there’s a couple tigers on that farm.

Setting: The story takes place in a town called Carp. It’s a boring, soul crushing place. In fact, one of the claims in the book is that Panic got started because the teens simply had nothing to do. There’s also a lot going behind closed doors with drugs and such (as seen through Heather’s home life). I thought the setting was well done. It really captured the dread that crappy small towns can carry.

Ending: Heather gets a pretty good ending but Dodge’s was a bit disappointing and there wasn’t much closure when it came to him. However, the narrative clearly favors Heather more so she’s the one that ended up finishing the final challenge. Which the story shows with some cool imagery involving a tiger. Even though Dodge deserved a better ending, I think the book had a decent end regardless.

Final Thoughts: Panic is a good book. It may not do anything new and has its flaws but it’s a good book. Following Heather and Dodge is fun and intense to read about. Some of the challenges are cool but I mostly like how the game is incorporated into the sadness of the main characters.

Due to how much I enjoyed the book overall, I will give it a solid 4.5/5.

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Before I Fall (2017) | Movie Review

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Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is one of my favorite books. The plot follows Samantha a girl in a group of mean girls who experiences an accident. She soon finds herself repeating the same day over and over again, this is because there’s something she has to fix.

I was excited to learn that the film was being made into a movie. I always thought it would make a very good film. And….it did! The movie was a very good adaptation. It stays pretty loyal to the source material (there are still changes, of course.)

However, I’ll avoid doing too many book comparisons and look at the movie as a separate entity. The main girls in the film – Samantha, Lindsey, Elodie and Ally are your typical popular teenage girls. Their focus is on social lives, boys, parties, etc. However, they have a mean streak (Lindsey, in particular) and much of that is directed at an outcast girl named Juliet, a former friend of Lindsey’s. Samantha isn’t really  mean just a passive witness of meanness at first.

I saw a reviewer say that the girls were too unlikeable and unrealistically nasty. And I didn’t see it, I’ve seen girl- on-girl bullying that was much worse in high school. So, I think that reviewer is really naïve and may have missed the point. The girls are realistic, for the most part, and their level of cruelty isn’t uncommon to see in real life – far from it.

The girls eventually go to a party which leads to an intense scene when Juliet shows up uninvited. After the party, there’s an accident. There’s a bright light and soon Samantha wakes up in her bed. But she’s experiencing the same day all over again. And she will keep repeating the day until she finds out what she has to fix. This unravels a whole mystery and Samantha’s emotions go on a whirlwind.

Watching Samantha go through this strange phenomenon is interesting. I didn’t feel the film got boring when it kept making her go through the same thing. Her going through all the stages of grief was well-presented.

My only issue with the film is that they could have done more with Juliet. She’s the key to Samantha’s situation and I felt they could have done more with her background. In the book, much more is learned about her. In the movie, however, they made it seem like her falling out with Lindsey was what drove her over the edge when there’s much more to her story.

When Samantha finally learns what she has to fix and does so near the end, I felt the movie kind of amped up the cheesiness as well. That could have been toned down.

But other than that Before I Fall is a great film and good adaptations to one of my favorite books.

4/5

 

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams | Book Review

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The Chosen One is a Young Adult book follows the story of a young girl named Kyra who lives in an isolated polygamist community. Unlike her family who follow all the rules of the community, she shows a bit of a rebellious streak by visiting and reading forbidden books from a mobile library and having secret meetings with a boy named Joshua. The women have no say in who they marry and to Kyra’s horror the prophet says that she must marry her sixty year old uncle who already has six other wives. As the story goes on it becomes more and more intense as Kyra faces punishment for her disobedience.

The book is a quick and easy read that most should find engaging. Everything’s pretty simplistic as in the book doesn’t really go deep into any of the concepts. The basic premise of how things work in the community is given but there’s not really much of in depth look into it. Prophet Childs and The God Squad are the bad guys of the story but not much is explained about them, we see them doing terrible things and for the most part that’s it. I would of like to have seen the psychology behind everything, if that makes sense. Especially Prophet Childs, being that he’s the evil prophet and all. The dreaded Uncle that Kyra has to marry in my opinion wasn’t looked into enough either.

Another issue is Joshua, he has next to no character development which caused me to care very little about him. It seems he just exists to give Kyra a big reason to rebel, but other than that he’s hardly a character at all, he’s just seemed like an afterthought. So basically, he was somewhat pointless and needed to be more fleshed out character.

With all that said, The Chosen One is overall a satisfying book. The writing’s also simple, I think most people should get through this in a day or two. The build of is great and the thrills keep on coming till the end. Kyra’s voice is pretty emotional and I never felt annoyed or frustrated with her. Although I sometimes forgot she was so young. The book’s pretty much pulls the reader in from start to finish so it’s definitely a good recommendation for someone who’s not sure they’ll like reading. 4/5

The Duff by Kody Keplinger | Book Review

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The Duff is a Young Adult book about a girl named Bianca Piper who is best friends with two beautiful girls and is “plain” by comparison. She gets labeled a Duff (designated ugly fat friend) by a popular, attractive boy named Wesley who’s known in school for sleeping around. Bianca throws cherry coke when he he gives her the label and claims to be repulsed by him. But things aren’t so good at home and soon sex with Wesley becomes a distraction for her issues.

This book is definitely a page turner, Bianca’s drama really pulled me in. I think many teens could relate. Even though I’m an adult now a lot of things in the book reminded me of my own teen years. Bianca’s bad attitude annoyed me at times, I understand why she was this way but it was still a bit much at times. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like her, she’s definitely a decent character and someone I could see myself being friends with.

Bianca’s friendship with Jessica and Casey (the pretty, popular girls) was something I really liked. I love seeing good female friendships in books and this book does a good job with that. They’re all supportive of each other and care about one another. Normally in books like this they’d make the pretty girls shallow and stupid but in here they actually have substance. Now as for Wesley, I liked him overall even though at times I wasn’t sure. I don’t usually like the whole falling in love with the jerk/man-whore thing but here it was somewhat tolerable.

Another great thing about this book is it’s stance against labels often given to women like “duff” and “whore” all meant to make women feel bad about themselves. It’s great to see a YA book without the slut shaming. The Duff has been on my “to read” list for a year now and I’m really glad I finally read it. 4/5. 

The Child Thief by Brom | Book Review

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The Child Thief is a re-telling of Peter Pan. It follows a much darker version of the tale, not surprisingly. Taking place on a magical island, the book features Peter and the group of children he has a stolen – most of them from abused, broken homes. The island isn’t as magical as it used to be, in fact, it’s a dangerous place.

Brom’s The Child Thief is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. As a retelling it expands on and does something very new with the original source material.

Turning Peter Pan into a darker character isn’t necessarily new but I think Brom does it the best. I wouldn’t call Brom’s peter evil – or good, for that matter. He’s just a very complex character capable of both terrible and great things.

The Flesh Eaters are the main villains of the story – they’re old world Christians who came to the island/Avalon, and somehow the magic turned them into deformed, cruel creatures. The imagery of them was very unique. They were one of the coolest aspects of the book.

Like Peter and the other children, the flesh eaters are complex. I like that the novel gives them some background and gives the reader a chance to decide to sympathize or hate them. It certainly isn’t easy to decide on either one.

Peter has a group of lost boys (and a few girls) that follow him, of course. Most of them are decent. A lot of focus is put on “Nick,” the only one who really questions Peter’s actions.

Character-wise my only issue was with the characterization of Sekeu, she had the potential to be a really awesome character but I felt that the novel doesn’t use her to her full potential. And it’s just sad to see a badass female character go to waste.

The Child Thief is essentially satisfying from beginning to end. In fact, I think it will end up going on my favorite list.

4.5/5

11 Great Young Adult Books

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I love reading books from all age groups. Children’s, teen, adult and anything in between. Here’s a list of some of my favorite teen/YA books. Some of these have been my favorites for a long time, while others are more recent reads that managed to have a big impact on me. Not in any particular order:

The Blue Mirror by Kathe Koja
Blue Mirror
The Blue Mirror might be extremely short but it leaves a big impact. An all around beautiful story with a good message. Very underrated.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
before i fall0
A ‘mean girl’ needs to redeem herself and she gets the chance to do so when she repeats the same day over and over until she gets it right. Well-written and amazing book.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl0
Rich characterization, good romance and a nice little exploration of fanfiction culture. It shows how much impact a fandom can have on someone’s life.

Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
Killing Mr. Griffin
Teenagers plan to kidnap their teacher, what an awesome premise. Duncan’s book is a quick and suspenseful read.

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
duff0
A good book that makes you think about the labels often put on women. Not perfect, but still very much worth the read.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Delriuium
YA dystopia novels, they’re everywhere. But I feel this is one of the best, if not the best. Oliver does well with a premise (love being treated as a disease) that could have easily ended up being cheesy.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Jennifer Donelly
Two girls from different time periods, their stories become intertwined. Revolution is a well-crafted and interesting read, despite the moody main character.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Tuck Everlasting
Such a great story…that deserves classic status!

Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
Nevermore
Despite the awful cover, this book is great and creative. Well worth the read.

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
The Chosen One
Quick and simple read but it’s still a good book. The best part of it is the main character, Kyra, who’s voice is emotionally powerful and realistic.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Book Theif
Let’s just say…Believe the hype. Believe the hype!

So those are my favorite YA novels, so far. SMILY