Tag Archives: teen

Emma Maree Reviews: Pandemonium

pandemoniumBook: Pandemonium (Delirium #2) by Lauren Oliver

Series: Delirium, Book #2

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Sci Fi/Dystopian/Romance

I’m pushing aside
the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana
and my old school,
push,
push,
push,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and fame.
 
Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.

I love that title, even though I always feel like it needs an exclamation. Pandemonium! It’s such a great word:

pandemonium [ˌpændɪˈməʊnɪəm]

n

1. wild confusion; uproar
2. a place of uproar and chaos

[coined by Milton to designate the capital of hell in Paradise Lost, from pan- + Greek daimōn demon]
pandemoniac , pandemonic [ˌpændɪˈmɒnɪk] adj

I’ve had a complicated relationship so far with Lauren Oliver. While I loved her debut, “Before I Fall”, and the concept of “Delirium”, the actual book left me flat due to it’s confusing ending.  I also get grumpy about the UK cover redesigns, though “Pandemonium” and upcoming final book “Requiem” have much nicer covers and I’ve actually grown to like them and how they fit in with the “Before I Fall” cover.

Thankfully, “Pandemonium” was full of pleasant surprises. It’s a much tighter-written and ambitious book than “Delirium” was, alternating between the past and the present as Lena adjusts to a hard, scraping-for-survival life in the unregulated Wilds outside the city (‘before’) and sneaks into New York City to tail the son of the president of Deliria-Free America, an organisation that viciously promotes the idea that love is a disease and the only safe humans are those ‘cured’ by a lobotomy-like procedure (‘after’).

Lena is a stronger person, even as she deals with her grief over “Delirium”‘s events realistically, and she’s a much more enjoyable character to follow this time round. Oliver also expands the world laid out in the previous novel, taken it from a sketched-out dystopia into a realistic future society with a lot of moral grey areas.

The scenery descriptions are nicely done, though occasionally repetitive (snow seems to crackle a lot in the Wilds), and the new characters introduced are varied and feel like they have a lot of depth to them. The two story lines also alternated nicely, with very little opportunity for confusion, up until the merging point which felt a bit unclearly defined.

I’m very happy with how “Pandemonium” turned out. While a lot of middle trilogy books can be weak and plotless, “Pandemonium” is miles stronger than “Delirium” and restored my faith in Lauren Oliver’s writing. I’ll be looking forward to reading and reviewing “Requiem” closer to its March release date.

I bought a copy of this novel myself for personal reading, but I’ll note that Hodder & Stoughton have previously provided me with review copies of “Delirium” and “Requiem” in exchange for honest reviews.

Emma Maree Reviews: Heart-Shaped Bruise

Book: Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Psychological/Crime Fiction

They say I’m evil. The police. The newspapers. The girls from school who shake their heads on the six o’clock news and say they always knew there was something not quite right about me. And everyone believes it. Including you. But you don’t know. You don’t know who I used to be.

Who I could have been.

Awaiting trial at Archway Young Offenders Institution, Emily Koll is going to tell her side of the story for the first time.

“Heart-Shaped Bruise” is the diary of young criminal Emily Koll, written from her prison — a young offender’s institute in England.

This book has some balls: we’ve got a hard-to-categorise story (is it crime? mystery? psychological? contemporary?) with a hard-to-like protagonist who’s in jail for something horrible. It’s a daring book, and I love it.

I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to relate to Emily, who’s bitter about her imprisonment, difficult to talk to, and cold to her fellow inmates. But how can I not like a girl who talks about her grief like this:

“It was like a blackness that crept into the corners of my life until everything was grey and dirty. My insides felt burned out, like if you cut me open, all you would find would be smoke. No heart. No bones. There was nothing left, just the anger.”

I spent my time reading it and highlighting lines that resonated: Yes, Emily, I know that blackness. I know your pain. Your betrayal. Your black, unstoppable fury. If I’m being honest, I think it’s difficult to be a woman and not know exactly how she feels. She makes it so easy to understand her story.

Even though what Emily does might be unimaginable to some of us, the pain she goes through to reach that breaking point is something most of us can relate to.

If you’ve ever tried to write an unlikable character, it’s worth picking up this book as an example of how to do it right without losing your character’s edge.

Emma Maree Reviews: Shiver

Book: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Series: The Wolves of Mercy Falls

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Paranormal Romance

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human… until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human—or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

One thing that surprised me about Shiver was that I really liked the protagonist, Grace. She’s a beautiful blonde, oblivious to her own good looks – but she’s also clearly, visibly smart, and not just because she talks about reading books. She knows Sam’s a werewolf about three chapters in, she works out what happened to a recently changed ‘victim’ on her own, she even works out a few of Sam’s secrets before he gathers up the guts to tell her. After reading so many YA romances with female leads that leave me wanting to scream at the stupid girls, this was such a refreshing change – and the surprises didn’t stop there.

There’s no drawn-out waiting for Sam to ‘reveal’ his supernatural secret – she works it out, the story moves on. After so many books with drawn-out “Say what you are.” “Vampire”-style reveals, slow-to-happen first kisses that shake the heavens, and heavy hints to mysteries that main characters can’t work out, it all feels very fresh. I don’t have any problem with these tropes (I like working out the mysteries, and slow lead-ups to first kisses can be done well) but it’s nice to have something different.

I also love the way Stiefvater does chapters – they’re scenes, as long or short as they need to be, swapping between characters with a temperature reading to hint at the ever-so-important outside temperature during the chapters. The short scenes add a lot to the pacing, and they help the story to zip-along even in the mundane day-to-day moments.

There are a few slower moments in this book – family drama, school drama, day-to-day life. It gives the book a nice touch of reality, but it can slow down the pacing a bit. About half-way through the story I got a little tired of the constant romantic drama and wanted some action – this is a werewolf story, damn it, give me epic wolf fight scenes or even just ominous confrontations.

In the end, the slower pacing was all that stopped me making that jump from enjoying this book to loving it. I really wanted more action, but this series’ is focussed on the romance first, then the characters, and the action last of all. I went into it with the wrong expectations, but if it’s a paranormal romance you’re after, this book will tick all of your boxes.

Emma Maree Reviews “If I Stay”

This felt like a very fresh book to read, for a lot of reasons. It’s filled with references to classical music and classic rock. It uses flashbacks to tell a lot of the story without slowing down. Most importantly to me, the main character Mia didn’t speak like a teenager. The 17-year-old cellist thought like an adult, acted like an adult, fell in love like an adult. It all made her so much easier to relate too, while the difficult situations she had to deal with in her life kept the focus on how young she still was.

When her entire family die in a car crash Mia is left with a choice: stay and be with her the boy she loves but with her parents and little brother dead; or leave, avoiding the pain and taking the chance to be with her family.

The story is broken up into sections of time, with flashbacks in-between telling the story of Mia’s life before the crash. The hospital scenes are told expertly, and the both past and present contain a huge amount of memorable characters –  Mia’s boyfriend, an up-and-coming guitarist trying to balance his relationship and his tour schedule, her punk rock parents, her drummer little brother, her grandparents, and a long line of relatives and friends.

While at first she’s quite detached from events, Mia goes through all kinds of emotions after the crash – her grief, her anger, her self-doubt and her loves all form vital parts of the story. The decision of whether or not she should stay is never clear-cut, because you can tell how much she loves her boyfriend and her grandparents, and how much she loves her parents and little brother.

Sometimes gruesome, sometimes funny, and always honest – Gayle Foreman’s “If I Stay” is a novel that will stick in your mind long after you’ve finished it.

Click here to read my review of the sequel, “Where She Went”.