Whisper by Chris Struyk-Bonn

Whisper by Chris Struyk-Bonn

whisperWhisper has a cleft palate. In this young adult dystopian tale, she and other deformed children are cast out of society because of their abnormalities.

This story is about how she survives and holds her new family, made up of other rejected children, together despite obstacles at every turn.

Whisper was a far darker story than I expected.

Terrible things kept happening to Whisper and I kept telling myself that it would turn around soon. And it didn’t.

If she wasn’t running from someone who was trying to harm her, she was freezing or starving. She’d get a modicum of security and then lose it.

I was really cheering for Whisper to embrace her special abilities, but she never seems to manage it.

Honestly, I was disappointed by the heroine’s decisions at multiple times in this story.

As one of the children tells Whisper: “You will never go far in this world if you don’t know how to rescue yourself.” And, in my opinion, she never did what was best for her own survival.

The author describes the setting as “near future” but if she had taken out the cars, refrigerators, and indoor plumbing, it could just as easily have been the recent past.

It wasn’t too long ago that superstitious people believed birth defects marked someone who would ruin the crops, bring bad luck, or comets shooting across the sky spelled misfortune. In fact, in some parts of the world, this type of thinking still reigns.

I think it’s human nature to try to explain the unexplained and to condemn others for their differences, the physical differences being the easiest to pick out. That doesn’t make it right.

My main complaint about this read was the repetitiousness. After short bursts of frantic activity, Whisper’s life would settle into a routine that was really uninteresting.

If I had to read about her messing up the homemade bread one more time, I was going to put the book down.

Maybe the author was trying to get the reader invested in the process, but I simply wanted the story to move on. I was already interested in Whisper- I was just over the baking and cleaning.

The same feeling hit me during the multiple music lessons and the days spent playing violin on the streets for change. I guess I prefer my dystopian novels with more explosive action and less daily slogging.

Fans of How I Live Now or Gated may enjoy the pacing and story line of Whisper. As for me, I’m headed back to more action-oriented dystopian reads.

I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads. Thanks for reading!


The Invasion of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #2) by Erika Johansen

The Invasion of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #2) by Erika Johansen

invasionoftearlingThe Invasion of the Tearling picked up where the last book left off. The Mort army is invading the Tear because of the actions of Kelsea, their new queen.

I won’t say what exactly those actions were, in case you didn’t read the last book. Let’s just say: she’s breaking with tradition in more ways than one.

Kelsea has started to embrace her power in this book. It suits her.

The girl who had been raised by Carlin Glynn would never have trusted in visions, but Kelsea’s world had broadened well beyond the width of Carlin’s library. The Mort would come, and the Tear army wouldn’t be able to stop them. All they could hope to do was slow them down.” pg 33, ebook.

I remember being rather unimpressed by the first book in this series. It felt cliched to me and predictable, except for the shadow creature and the introduction of the magic of the gems.

This book has more of both of those things. I approved.

Trigger warning in The Invasion of the Tearling for anyone who has had issues with cutting.

“Just the skin,” Kelsea whispered, staring at her arm, focusing all of her will on a tiny inch of flesh. She had borne worse; surely she could handle this. “Just a scratch.” A shallow line of red appeared on her forearm. Kelsea bore down, watching the line deepen, her breath hissing through her teeth as the skin parted with a sting, allowing a thin line of blood to well up and hold.” pg 117, ebook.

There’s also domestic violence, rape, non-graphic torture and some hints of sexual abuse. I suppose a young adult could read this, depending on their maturity level. 16+ may be appropriate. I would hesitate to go any younger.

Queen Kelsea has a lot on her plate: “My people are starving and uneducated. We have no true medicine. On the eastern border is an army that will crush us into dust. These are real problems, and so for a time I’ve let the others lie.” pg 208, ebook.

Will she be able to save everybody?

“And Kelsea wondered suddenly whether humanity ever actually changed. Did people grow and learn at all as the centuries passed? Or was humanity merely like the tide, enlightenment advancing and then retreating as circumstances shifted?” pg 381, ebook.

I wonder that sometimes too.

Recommended for readers who enjoy their fantasies on the gritty side. I don’t feel like it ever veers into the truly “dark” but there are some disturbing elements to The Invasion of the Tearling.

Thanks for reading!

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

bravenewworldAlthough not my favorite of the classic dystopians, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is certainly a ground-breaking work about societal control through genetic manipulation, subliminal conditioning and socially acceptable drug use.

You are not born into this world; you are decanted. The institution of the traditional family has fallen apart- is even considered obscene.

Children run about naked and wild, experimenting with sex from a shockingly young age. This is a world where everyone’s body belongs to everyone else. Promiscuity is encouraged as well as mass consumption and instant gratification.

Men and women take a drug called “soma” to mellow out any pesky emotions. It is also used in quasi-religious ceremonies and public gatherings to create a kind of ecstasy.

A strict caste system is in place from the moment a baby is decanted. Societal mores are whispered into children’s ears thousands of times per week while they sleep. So, when they grow up, they fit seamlessly into the role that the world has chosen for them from conception.

Not everyone is happy in this world. Can you imagine that? Perhaps they just need more soma…

Recommended for those who enjoy classic works that examine the way society’s systems constrain and suffocate those who, for whatever reason, don’t or can’t fit in.

Thanks for reading.

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

gatherthedaughters<i>Gather the Daughters</i> is about a small community that lives with no electricity or modern conveniences on an island. They have a church made of stone that sinks into the ground and a holy book written by “the ancestors.” These ancestors are saint-like founders who, according to tradition, fled the wider world to preserve the human race during an apocalypse.

Traditions are dark and strange on the island, but not questioned because they were written by the ancestors.

The tale is told from the viewpoint of four girls: Vanessa, Caitlin, Janey and Amanda.

<i>”From the fires of wickedness we grew forth, like a green branch from a rotten tree,” he reads. “From the wastelands of want came the hardworking men of industry and promise. From the war-striken terror came our forefathers to keep us safe from harm.” Like everyone else, Vanessa mouths the words along with him.</i> loc 122, ebook.

Because of the small number of people on the island, everyone has an assigned job- that they keep for life. Reproduction, meetings and courtships are also controlled by tradition.

Sometimes the way things are done seem irrational or cruel, but the community does not change. Take the perpetually sinking church: <i>”Every ten years or so, when the roof is almost level with the ground, all the men on the island gather to build stone walls on top of it, and the roof becomes the new floor. Vanessa asked Mother why they couldn’t just use wood, but Mother said it was tradition, and it would be disrespectful to the ancestors to change it.”</i> loc 229, ebook.

Similar to <i>The Handmaiden’s Tale</i>, <i>Gather the Daughters</i> is ultimately about what happens when society dictates and controls relationships, sexuality and education through religious doctrine. It is also examines the male/female balance of power.

<i>Gather the Daughters</i> is a gripping read. But not mysterious. It was fairly clear in my mind from the start where this story was headed, but I cared about the main characters. They have heart and I couldn’t help but want them to live in a better world than the one they were born into.

I could see this being a great choice for book clubs. There’s plenty to talk about, especially with character motivations and the structure of society.

Reader warnings: survivors of childhood sexual abuse could be triggered by this read. There are also some domestic violence scenes.

Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for a free advance reader’s copy of this book. Reminder: the short quotations that I pulled for this review may vary in the final printed version.

Thanks for reading!

The Last Star (The 5th Wave #3) by Rick Yancey

The Last Star (The 5th Wave #3) by Rick Yancey

thelaststarThe Last Star is the final entry in The 5th Wave, a trilogy about aliens, teenagers and the end of the world. It is also a morality play about what matters. Why do cars, jobs and stuff matter so much when, in the end, it is all about our relationships and love.

I’m sorry to say that I found the ending to be unsatisfying. Yancey wove such a puzzling yarn that I felt like he didn’t completely untangle all the knots. To be fair, there was a lot going on. But, I read the last pages and I felt a big, internal: “huh?”

This book also reminded me of The Road. “From piles of blackened bones to corpses wrapped head to toe in tattered sheets and old blankets, just lying there in the open like they’d dropped from the sky, alone or in groups of ten or more. So many bodies that they faded into the background, just another part of the mess, another piece of the urban vomit.”pg 70.

The Last Star also raised big questions about civilization and its durability. How thin is the veneer on civilization? What would it take for humanity to turn on itself? Most dystopian writers say, not much.

I don’t know. I’m of two minds on the issue. One part of me says, civilization is a flimsy set of agreements that could easily crumble with enough fear, famine and plague.

The other part of me, the eternal optimist side, says that there is something within each of us that even the worst calamity couldn’t touch.

Kill the body, yes. Kill hope, yes. But kill the soul and its purpose? No. I feel like that part would find a way. And part of that soul’s purpose, I think, is connection to others. That means, civilization. So, there’s something more permanent to it, something fated.

Anyway, The 5th Wave as a three-part story is intense, gritty and could lead to some excellent discussions because it leaves a lot of open-ended questions and ambiguous answers. Rather like life.

Thanks for reading!

The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave, #2) by Rick Yancey

The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave, #2) by Rick Yancey

theinfiniteseaGritter and more disturbing than The 5th Wave, Cassie, Ben, Ringer, et al are still trying to survive the end of the world. The mystery of the aliens increases. The manner in which the war against humanity is waged sinks to new lows. Yancey takes the story on some unexpected turns and I liked them.

The pace of this story is relentless and the lines are blurred between the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” It gives you a tension headache if you don’t take a break from it every couple of chapters. At least, it did for me. “Anyway, no debt is ever fully repaid, not really, not the ones that really matter. You saved me, he said, and back then I didn’t understand what I had saved him from. … Now I was thinking he didn’t mean I saved him from anything, but for something.” pg 128.

But for what! Yancey answers most of the questions he introduced the reader to in The 5th Wave. He also weaves in some complications. I won’t say anything about those… but they’re very serious and deadly. “No one can be trusted,” I said. “Not even a child.” The cold bored down to my bones and curled inside the marrow.” pg 148.

“I understand the game within the game now: There is nothing private, nothing sacred. There is no part of me hidden from him. My stomach churns with revulsion. He’s violated more than my memories. He’s molesting my soul.” pg 188. The aliens still seem to have the upper hand with the technology that can peer into people’s minds. With all of the creepy things in these books, that bit bothered me the most.

Will our intrepid teenage-survivalists solve the mystery of what the invaders want or what they are before everyone is dead? I don’t know… but I’m going to read the last book and find out. Recommended for young adults or the young-at-heart who enjoy dystopian/mystery thrill-rides.

Thanks for reading!

The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1) by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1) by Rick Yancey

the5thwaveMajor spoilers ahead. Please do not read if you haven’t read this book.

The 5th Wave is about the end of the world and aliens, yes, but it also explores why life is worth living.

Cassie didn’t know how good she had it until the alien spaceship appeared in the sky and life was never the same. First, there was chaos, but now it is clear that the aliens want to exterminate everyone. And, if they just want the planet for themselves, why are they waging war in such a sadistic manner? It is a mystery and Cassie is going to figure it out.

I was really into the narrative when Rick Yancey chose to change characters and continue the story from a different point of view. I felt that it was unnecessary and broke the flow.

Also, and this is another pet peeve of mine, must every young adult dystopian contain romance as a major part of the plot? The Hunger Games, Divergent, I could go on… and this. You’d think the teens would be far too busy staying alive to fall in love, but that’s clearly not the case from the literature.

I really liked the manner in which Yancey introduces his aliens. First, you get to see their results on humanity. Then, he drops breadcrumbs about how they got here. It’s creepy. “There will be no awakening. The sleeping woman will feel nothing the next morning, only a vague sense of unease and the unshakable feeling that someone is watching her. … And what the shadow has come for- the baby within the sleeping woman- will feel nothing. The intrusion breaks no skin, violates not a single cell of her or the baby’s body.” pg 17, ebook. So scary.

I read a few reviews in which this book was accused of being a copycat of The Host and I feel that it deserves a comment. They are similar in that they both contain aliens, both are dystopians and both have the alien consciousness inside human consciousness. But, those are very broad strokes. The details of the books are different enough and I feel that Yancey has his own plans for his story.

In The Host, the aliens feel more misunderstood and benevolent than the scary creatures in The 5th Wave. This book has a lot more action, The Host is more nuanced. To be fair, superficially, they seem too similar for that to be a coincidence. But in reality, they are as different as Star Wars and Dune. Wait a minute, bad comparison? 🙂

Here’s one of my favorite passages: “Forget about flying saucers and little green men and giant mechanical spiders spitting out death rays. Forget about epic battles with tanks and fighter jets and the final victory of us scrappy, unbroken, intrepid humans over the bug-eyed swarm. That’s about as far from the truth as their dying planet was from our living one. The truth is, once they found us, we were toast.” pg 19, ebook.

Also this one, for obvious reasons: “.. I have a thing about books. So did my father. … While the rest of us scrounged for potable water and food and stocked up on the weaponry for the last stand we were sure was coming, Daddy was out with my little brother’s Radio Flyer carting home books.” pg 33, ebook. Seriously. If the apocalypse ever comes, I’m going to camp out in the library, Station Eleven style. Who’s with me?

Recommended for people who like dystopians and intense survival scenes and aren’t annoyed by angst-y teen romance. The 5th Wave is one scary alien story. They’re here and they’re out to get you and everyone you know! And, so far, they’re doing a VERY good job.

Thanks for reading!