The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Official Summary: “A heart-stopping story of love, death, technology, and art set amid the tropics of a futuristic Brazil.
The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.
Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.
Pulsing with the beat of futuristic Brazil, burning with the passions of its characters, and overflowing with ideas, this fiery novel will leave you eager for more from Alaya Dawn Johnson.”
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson is an impressive example of complex world building. In this book, Johnson has created a future where war and environmental catastrophes have left much of the world uninhabitable, technology has emerged that allows humans to live significantly longer, and, at least in Brazil, society is ruled by a queen and powerful women called aunties. Because of these three facts: 1) much of the world, including North America, has been abandoned and many people have immigrated to Brazil, 2) anyone under 30 has virtually no power in Palmares Tres society because there are so many older members of society to fill the ruling class, and, perhaps less obviously, 3) the society’s kings are regularly sacrificed and endorse the next queen with their dying breath on the theory that such a system is incorruptible since no king will have a motive to choose an unworthy queen if he knows he is about to die. As the story opens, the society is at a turning point. Many years before Brazil made the choice to limit the types of technology that could be imported taking them on a divergent path from other countries around the world, such as Tokyo 10, where individuals have the ability to upload their entire consciousness into the cloud. The main character of the novel is June, a young artist struggling with her father’s suicide, her mother’s remarriage to one of the powerful aunties, and her own conflicted feelings about her country. When a charismatic and irreverent teen named Enki is elected as the latest Summer King, to live for a year and then be sacrificed, she finds that both she and her best friend Gil are irresistibly drawn into his orbit.
If this seems like a complicated summary, it should be noted that it is actually a very simplified description of the story, which is a complex, detailed study of a futuristic society that has become too entrenched in its system. Johnson has clearly given a great deal of thought in developing this world, which is simultaneously mind-bending and surprisingly believable. Despite this futuristic setting, June is, in many ways, like any teen today and therefore relatable. She is a headstrong and rebellious girl who enjoys expressing herself through public art that walks the line of legality. Readers will be drawn into her exploits and will understand as she eventually gets pulled into events she can’t possibly anticipate. The beginning part of the book in particular is enthralling as you watch the world come into clear view through Johnson’s descriptions. Having said that, I felt that the last quarter of the book suffered as the focus moved from this world and June as a character and into a conflict that felt rushed and didn’t quite fit with the rest of the book. I think that ultimately this section of the book either needed to be longer to have an opportunity to grow more organically or that the book should have retained its more narrow focus on the society itself.
However, this ending is really only disappointing because the earlier sections of the book are so impressive. I would recommend the book for the world that Johnson has created alone. It is a fascinating idea of a post-apocalyptic world that has been transformed by technology in both destructive and constructive ways. This book will be appreciated by all science fiction fans.
Check it Out: The Summer Prince is currently available.
Readalike: If you enjoyed the futuristic nature of Palmares Tres, try Neuromancer by William Gibson. If you enjoyed the discussion of body modifications and augmentations, try Amped by Daniel H. Wilson.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon
Official Summary: “17-year-old Sophie lies on her deathbed in California, awaiting the inevitable loss of her battle with cancer…
17-year-old Declan stares down two armed thugs in a back alley in Galway, Ireland…
17-year-old Anat attempts to traverse a booby-trapped tunnel between Israel and Egypt…
All three strangers should have died at the exact same moment, thousands of miles apart. Instead, they awaken together in an abandoned hospital—only to discover that they’re not alone. Three other teens from different places on the globe are trapped with them. Somebody or something seems to be pulling the strings. With their individual clocks ticking, they must band together if they’re to have any hope of surviving.
Soon they discover that they’ve been trapped in a future that isn’t of their making: a deadly, desolate world at once entirely familiar and utterly strange. Each teen harbors a secret, but only one holds the key that could get them home. As the truth comes to light through the eyes of Sophie, Declan, and Anat, the reader is taken on a dark and unforgettable journey into the hearts of teens who must decide what to do with a second chance at life.”
Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon is a very unusual thriller. As it opens, several teens find themselves on the brink of death at various places around the world and then suddenly awaken in what at first appears to be a hospital. They come to realize that the facility is strange and completely abandoned other than themselves. No staff, no food, and worst of all, no way out. As they meet one another, the teens form a tentative alliance in the hopes of finding out how they came to arrive at this facility and how they can escape. But, they are destined to discover that the facility is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how strange and inexplicable their lives have become.
In this book, Gagnon weaves a world that seems on its surface to be exactly like ours, but in reality has a number of mysteries hiding just beneath this facade. The way that she describes the facility in which the teens find themselves and the events that led them there keeps readers guessing throughout the book. She does an excellent job of slowly revealing details both about the characters and about the world itself in a way that is engaging and makes the book a true page-turner with elements of both horror and science fiction mixed in. While not all of the characters are likeable, you will find yourself rooting for them. And, beyond this, you will find yourself curious about the explanation for all of the mysteries in the book. While there were some questions that I wished had been more completely answered, the conclusion wraps up the main plot lines of the book and leaves readers satisfied.
This book is a good option for those who enjoy thrillers with heart-pounding action sequences and an element of mystery. Once you start it, you won’t be able to put it down.
Check it Out: Strangelets will be released on April 9th.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Prodigy by Marie Lu
Official Summary: “June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.
It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.
But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?
In this highly-anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestseller Legend, Lu delivers a breathtaking thriller with high stakes and cinematic action.”
***Review Contains Spoilers For Legend***
Prodigy by Marie Lu picks up a short time after Legend ended as June and Day make their way to meet up with the Patriots in Vegas and find Tess. Both are dealing with the fallout of their escape, from John’s death to June’s abandonment of her life. Both are also struggling to determine who they should trust and where their loyalty now lies. But, when they arrive at the Patriots’ headquarters, they are quickly drawn into a new plot that will not only separate them but will make them question themselves and everything they have ever known even more.
As the second book in a planned trilogy, Prodigy packs a lot of action into a single book, but ultimately raises more questions than it answers. Lu uses this book as an opportunity to more fully flesh out her world. In this story, readers learn far more about the Republic, the Colonies and the Patriots, as the characters themselves also discover more about the truth that has always been hidden from them. But, this is not to say that the book is full of information at the expense of action. If anything, Prodigy packs in even more action and conflict than Legend. My only complaint about this book is that it exhibits less originality than the first volume and seems to fall into some predictable plot trappings that are seen in many dystopian novels. Lu manages to overcome this predictability though with her strong characters and setting.
While it is difficult to describe the book in great depth without giving too much away, readers who enjoyed the first book in the trilogy will not be disappointed by this continuation and will be left eager to find out how Lu resolves the story.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Legend by Marie Lu
Official Summary: “What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.
From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.
Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.”
With the current trend of young adult, dystopian novels still going strong, Legend by Marie Lu seems like it is just another entry in the genre. But, it distinguishes itself by having a complex plot set in a well-developed world. The book alternates between the points of view of two fifteen year olds living in this world. One scored a perfect score on the “Trial” every 10 year old must undertake and has been propelled to a life of comfort and privilege working for the government. The other was taken from the “Trial” and experimented on before escaping to live a hidden life fighting back against the government. When fate sets in motion events that lead to an encounter between them, they will both come to question their assumptions about their world.
As someone who reads a lot of dystopian futures and had heard good things about Marie Lu’s new Legend trilogy, I had very high expectations for this novel and I was certainly not disappointed. Lu does an excellent job of building a world that seems fully realized while still leaving some elements only sketchily described to provide a sense of mystery and discovery as the characters themselves fight to learn more about their government. The approach of alternating between Day’s and June’s points of view gives readers a chance to experience both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum in this world and also gives a better sense of the way that the two characters slowly come closer together in their beliefs and their knowledge of the world. Because the book is structured around their own discoveries, it is easy for information to be seamlessly relayed to the reader without it feeling heavy handed. The ending of the book will leave readers satisfied but eager for more of June and Day’s story. I would highly recommend this book for fans of dystopian future who are looking for their next great read.
Readalike: While many books aim to be similar to the Hunger Games trilogy, Legend actually succeeds in this regard and would be a perfect read for Hunger Games fans and vice versa. Those who enjoy Legend will also enjoy Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, which is a more near-future take on the same issues of government control.
Note: Review based on review copy from publisher.
The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Official Summary: ““Cat, this is Finn. He’s going to be your tutor.”
Finn looks and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task now is to tutor Cat. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, Finn is her guardian, her constant companion… and more.
But when the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world.”
In The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, Cassandra Rose Clarke creates a vivid world in which natural disasters have changed the climate of many parts of the country and robots have developed to a point where they are sentient. While the time period is never established, the feeling is that this is a very near-future world that has been ravaged by unknown natural forces that are only ever hinted at and never explicitly described. In the aftermath of this great change, humanity turned to robots to try to rebuild their world and adapt to their new surroundings. But, once the robots gained sentience and started being too much like humans, some people began to worry. The book opens when Cat, the main character, is just a child and there is a stigma to having an android with many people fearing and hating them. Raised with the android named Finn as a tutor from a young age, Cat can’t comprehend this hatred and she actually feels more comfortable with Finn than with most of her human classmates and friends since she was home-schooled and somewhat isolated for much of her childhood.
As Cat grows up and ventures out into the world, first to school and later to university and beyond, this attachment to Finn changes. Over time, she grows to love him and wants him to be able to love her in return, but he is incapable of these types of emotions despite the fact that he is a one-of-a-kind android designed to mimic humans in every way possible.
The Mad Scientist’s Daughter was nothing like what I expected. While it is clearly a science fiction story, as evidenced by the futuristic setting and technology, it is at its heart more of a character study than anything else. Clarke uses a society with androids to explore humanity and human rights in an interesting and engaging way, but even though this is a very satisfying part of the book, the story is really about Cat and a study of her personality and her choices, both good and bad. The world is an interesting mix of old and new that feels very real and well-developed without Clarke resorting to extensive exposition to set it up. All of the characters from Finn and Cat down to the minor characters that we only see briefly feel believable and familiar.
While I started the book looking forward to a more traditional science fiction novel, I think I liked the book as it is with a narrow focus on Cat and mere hints of the world around her even better than I would have liked a more sprawling science fiction novel focused on androids. Cat is an engaging character struggling against a society that she doesn’t quite fit within. She will keep you turning the pages to see where she goes next.
Check it Out: The Mad Scientist’s Daughter will be released on January 29th.
Readalike: If you enjoy Clarke’s writing, you may want to try her young adult novel, The Assassin’s Curse. If you are interested in another novel about an android, I would recommend The Alchemy of Stone, a very different, but no less engaging, novel from Ekaterina Sedia.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Broken by A.E. Rought
Official Summary: “Imagine a modern spin on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where a young couple’s undying love and the grief of a father pushed beyond sanity could spell the destruction of them all.
A string of suspicious deaths near a small Michigan town ends with a fall that claims the life of Emma Gentry’s boyfriend, Daniel. Emma is broken, a hollow shell mechanically moving through her days. She and Daniel had been made for each other, complete only when they were together. Now she restlessly wanders the town in the late Fall gloom, haunting the cemetary and its white-marbled tombs, feeling Daniel everywhere, his spectre in the moonlight and the fog.
When she encounters newcomer Alex Franks, only son of a renowned widowed surgeon, she’s intrigued despite herself. He’s an enigma, melting into shadows, preferring to keep to himself. But he is as drawn to her as she is to him. He is strangely…familiar. From the way he knows how to open her locker when it sticks, to the nickname she shared only with Daniel, even his hazel eyes with brown flecks are just like Daniel’s. The closer they become, though, the more something inside her screams there’s something very wrong with Alex Franks.
And when Emma stumbles across a grotesque and terrifying menagerie of mangled but living animals within the walls of the Franks’ estate, creatures she surely knows must have died from their injuries, she knows.”
Broken by A.E. Rought is a modern-day retelling of the Frankenstein story. The book opens with high schooler Emma in a cemetery. She is struggling with her grief for the loss of her boyfriend Daniel who died over the summer in an accident that continues to haunt her. Her family and friends are worried that she has been slow to move on after this event, but one day at school she meets a new student, Alex Franks and is immediately drawn to him. Despite her grief, she finds herself responding to him in a way that she hasn’t responded to anyone since Daniel’s death. At first she questions herself, but slowly she falls under Daniel’s spell even though she discovers that his father is a menacing local doctor. But, as much as she enjoys spending time with Alex, she does notice some unsettling facts about him, including his wounds from the accident that brought him to Emma’s school and the medicine his father requires that he take.
Rought draws out the suspense and mystery of the story over the course of most of the book, but astute readers will have guessed the twist due to several parallels between this book and Frankenstein. I was a bit disappointed by some of the characters in the book as well, particularly Emma’s mother, who seemed to be too much of an obvious stereotype of an overbearing mother in a way that made her somewhat unbelievable. While the fast-paced book will keep readers engaged, the ending felt contrived and included an unbelievable twist that takes readers out of the story.
This book is a very dark retelling of the Frankenstein story that includes a number of characters who seem to be entirely amoral. While this can sometimes seem believable, here it didn’t have credibility. It is most suited for those with a penchant for very dark books or re-imagined classics.
Readalike: Those who are interested in adaptations of Dr. Frankenstein’s story will want to try Kenneth Oppel’s series about the young Victor Frankenstein, starting with book one, This Dark Endeavor or, for a non-young adult take on the story, The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters by Suzanne Weyn
Official Summary: “A new generation is creating a monster….
When Doctor Victor Frankenstein died, he left behind a legacy of horror…as well as two unacknowledged, beautiful twin daughters. Now these girls are seventeen, and they’ve come to Frankenstein’s castle to claim it as their inheritance.
Giselle and Ingrid are twins, but they couldn’t be more different. Giselle is a glamorous social climber who plans on turning Frankenstein’s castle into a center of high society. Ingrid, meanwhile, is quiet and studious, drawn to the mysterious notebooks her father left behind…and the experiments he went mad trying to perfect.
As Giselle prepares for lavish parties and Ingrid finds herself falling for the sullen, wounded naval officer next door, a sinister force begins to take hold in the castle. Nobody’s safe as Frankenstein’s legacy leads to a twisted, macabre journey of romance and horror.”
With Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters, Suzanne Weyn has sought to continue the classic story of Frankenstein by focusing on the next generation. In her new take on the tale, she has created a pair of twin daughters that Victor Frankenstein abandoned in a desperate attempt to protect them from the monster he created. These daughters have grown up knowing neither their mother, who died when they were babies, nor their father, of whom they know little. They are therefore shocked to one day discover not only that their father was actually a rich and titled man, but that they have inherited his fortune and his castle on a remote island. As teens who have been struggling against the restrictions placed on them by the grandfather who has raised them, they are only too happy to accept this inheritance and move to the castle.
Once they arrive at the castle, however, mysterious events begin to occur and it isn’t long before acquaintances start disappearing or dying. Initially unsuspecting of their father’s work and completely unaware of the monster he created, the girls are slow to realize the danger of their situation. Told from alternating perspectives through several characters’ journals, starting first with that of Victor Frankenstein and then in alternating chapters those of each of the daughters, the story builds suspense by hinting at events and only describing what the characters see or suspect. This makes for a much more suspenseful and engaging read than I initially expected that the book would be. The author does a good job of drawing the reader into the setting in the early 1800’s and also of describing the remote Scottish island and its inhabitants.
This book is a creepy but enjoyable read that will appeal to those who favor the Frankenstein story or those who like historical horror books more generally. The twins are so different from one another in personality that readers will likely find one to identify with, at least partially, and both are depicted as believable teenage girls of their time. Overall, a quick and fun read.
Check it Out: Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters is currently available.
Readalike: Those who enjoy this book should consider Weyn’s other books such as Invisible World, another historical novel or alternatively another Frankenstein re-telling such as This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Official Summary: “When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.
Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.
When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.
When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.”
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken opens with the main character, who the reader later discovers is named Ruby, already imprisoned in a camp and being punished for the acts of another with the harsh White Noise that is used to incapacitate and control the inhabitants of the camp. Only after this jarring opening does the book begin to slowly reveal the horrible disease, and the incomprehensible powers that emerged in its wake, that led to the creation of these camps. The world that is ultimately revealed is a dark and tortured one that has fallen apart in a multitude of ways leaving a society that seems similar enough to ours that this could be set in present day, and yet completely dissimilar to ours in its brutality and anarchy.
While dark near-future tales and dystopian stories have been popular recently, The Darkest Minds sets itself apart with the vivid way in which the society is described. By frequently leaving the reader to pick up hints and tidbits before piecing together the full story of any of the characters, Bracken manages to heighten the tension in the story while also staying true to her world where everyone is too suspicious of those around them to willingly open up to strangers. While being kept in the dark can be initially frustrating and makes it a bit harder to get drawn into the book as it opens, the slow revelation of details ultimately makes them much more tantalizing and powerful. It also saves the book from the problem of dry exposition that one often sees in science fiction novels. However, this approach also makes it very difficult to describe the book without giving away too much of the dark and detailed plot.
For fans of near future science fiction, dystopian futures and stories of characters with mental powers, this is the perfect choice. The plot is unique and intense. It will keep you on the edge of your seat wondering who Ruby can trust and who is secretly out to get her. While a sequel for the book has already been announced, The Darkest Minds finds an excellent balance between leaving some plot elements open and at the same time satisfying readers by wrapping up several storylines in an intriguing manner.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Holiday Gift Guide
‘Tis the season for holiday gift giving and nothing makes a better gift than a great book, so here are my recommendations for the perfect book for everyone on your list.
For book, technology and puzzle lovers:
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A novel unlike any other, this book will equally delight those who love books and those who love technology. It is about a mysterious secret society, a 24-hour bookstore, Google and curiosity. A great option for virtually any reader.
For the World War II enthusiast:
Code Name Verity: This book was marketed as a young adult novel, but in reality readers of all ages will love it. The book is structured to keep you guessing until the very end, which makes the beginning a bit mysterious, but it pays off in a major way by the end.
The Maggie Hope mysteries: Set in London during World War II, these books follow Maggie Hope, a brilliant young mathematician, as she serves London - and solves mysteries - in the midst of dropping bombs and German spies. Two books, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary and Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, are currently available with the third scheduled to be released in 2013. Perfect for those who love mysteries or World War II.
For the mystery fan:
The Informationist: If the Maggie Hope series doesn’t sound quite right for the mystery lover on your list, consider The Informationist or its sequel, The Innocent. These books follow the tough and independent Vanessa Munroe as she travels the world and solves crimes. Perfect for fans of darker mysteries like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
For the magical realism fan:
Moscow But Dreaming: I’m not usually one for short stories, but both of my recommendations in this category are anthologies. This one by Ekaterina Sedia paints a haunting picture of Moscow. The stories are widely varied with each relating to Sedia’s native Russia in some way. Many have the feel of a fairytale and all have fantastic elements. Perfect for fans of Russia or magical realism.
Suddenly, A Knock On The Door: Another great anthology, this time from Etgar Keret, who specializes in stories that integrate fantastic and unbelievable elements into mundane daily life. Perfect for Keret’s existing fans, but also wonderful for anyone who enjoys stories condensed into an extremely short form.
For the science fiction fan:
Amped: From the author of Robopocalypse, this book tells of a future where anyone can be “enhanced” with implants. As those with implants exhibit superior performance to the rest of humanity, society quickly turns against them. An action-packed adventure tale that has already been optioned for a movie.
Redshirts: Do you know a Star Trek fan? This book is for them. John Scalzi’s affectionate send-up of Star Trek and scifi tropes more generally will be a great gift for anyone who is obsessed with science fiction but also willing to laugh a bit at this obsession.
For the urban fantasy fan:
The Alex Verus series: New this year, Benedict Jacka’s new series is perfect for fans of Harry Dresden books or really any urban fantasy fans. Alex Verus is a mage in London who has attracted the notice of some very powerful people and is thereafter dragged into the politics and in-fighting of magical society. These great, fast-paced mysteries will be a new addiction for the recipient. The series starts with Fated.
This Case Is Gonna Kill Me: The first in a new series about a world where the Powers (vampires, werewolves and elves) control the upper echelons of society holding places of power in a wide range of industries. Linnet Ellery is a new associate attorney at a law firm run by powerful vampires. Given the worst of the worst cases because of her low status as a non-vampire, Ellery gets drawn into the mystery of one client’s case. Great worldbuilding and an interesting variation on typical urban fantasy tropes make this a worthwhile gift.
For the steampunk fan:
Shadow and Bone: Not exactly a steampunk novel, this book takes place in a fantasy country that has many elements reminiscent of steampunk, which has been referred to by the author, somewhat facetiously, as Tsarpunk. It is a young adult novel, but will appeal to steampunk fans of all ages.
The Friday Society: Another young adult book that will be a good gift for steampunk fans of all ages, this one is a set in London and has a great cast of characters. The story flies along and will leave the reader hoping that this book is just the first in a new series.
God Save The Queen: Another steampunk novel set in London, this time in modern-day London, this is a very different approach to steampunk. Perfect for fans of the genre who are growing fatigued with its cliches.
For the horror fan:
White Horse: I disliked this book, but in this case, that is a good thing. It is a creepy, unsettling horror novel that was a bit much for me, but will be perfect for fans of the genre.
For the graphic novel fan:
Saga, Volume 1: Great for fans of Brian K. Vaughn’s Y: The Last Man, this volume is the first collection of a new comic book series from the author. It is a dark and adult story, but adult graphic novel fans who enjoy science fiction will enjoy it.
For the college-bound teen:
Easy: Part of the New Adult genre, this is the story of a girl who grows up and gains independence while at college. Parts of the story are dark, but it is an excellent book that really surprised me. Great for fans of realistic stories with a hint of romance.
For the young adult literature fan:
The Fault in Our Stars: Easily one of the best books I have read this year (and named best book of the year by Time Magazine), this story of two teen cancer patients never becomes too sentimental. It will make you cry but it will also make you laugh. Perfect for fans of young adult literature, or in fact anyone else.
Every Day: Another great book for readers of all ages, this book combines elements of fantasy and romance into a book that is more than either genre. It tells the story of A who is trying to build a relationship despite waking up in a different person’s body each day.
Dark Star: This book is perfect for the Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan on your list. Set in a world where superheroes really exist, it follows one high schooler as she learns the truth about herself and her family and finds her place in this world. Funny and action-packed at the same time.
For the tween fantasy fan:
Iron Hearted Violet: Violet is not a typical princess and this is not a typical fairytale. This is a story that has kingdoms and dragons and all of the other trappings of a typical fantasy tale, but also has a very modern sensibility and a unique take on these tried and true genre elements. Great for fans of fantasy and fairytales.
Ghost Knight: Filled with ghosts and knights as the title would suggest, this book follows a young boy as he leaves home for boarding school and discovers a ghost. It is a fun story with great characters. Perfect for fans of the Harry Potter series.
I hope these suggestions help you with your holiday shopping!
Crossed by Ally Condie
Official Summary: “Rules are different outside the Society.
Chasing down an uncertain future. Cassia makes her way to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his sure death - only to find that he has escaped into the majestic, but treacherous, canyons. On this wild frontier are glimmers of a different life and the enthralling promise of rebellion. But even as Cassia sacrifices everything to reunite with Ky, ingenious surprises from Xander may change the game once again.
Narrated from both Cassia’s and Ky’s points of view, this hotly anticipated sequel to Matched will take them both to the edge of Society, where nothing is as expected and crosses and double crosses make their path more twisted than ever.”
Since it started with Matched, Ally Condie’s dystopian trilogy has gained a group of enthusiastic fans. Book two in the series, Crossed, picks up right where Matched left off. Cassia, Ky and Xander are all split up, with Cassia and Ky far from Central and far from each other. All of them are fighting the Society and their own destiny as they try to once again find one another. And, each of them is slowly revealing their secrets to themselves and others.
The book focuses on Cassia and Ky, alternating between chapters told from the perspective of each of them, but readers are also given glimpses of Xander and insights into his secrets as well. As the book opens, Ky is in the Outer Provinces and Cassia is in a labor camp in the Tana Province trying to find her way to him, even though this will mean going through the dangerous Outer Provinces. The action of the book focuses on the journey each of them goes on to find each other and, perhaps more importantly, to understand one another. They are forced to reconsider their choices from the first book and decide what sacrifices they are willing to make for one another. While this might sound as though it would make for a slow-paced novel, all of this emotional action takes place with a backdrop of the fully-realized scenery of the world outside of the Society. Characters, both old and new, are thrust into a fight against nature and the Society as they attempt to escape from the oppressive rule of the government.
Crossed will be a worthwhile reward for fans of Matched. I enjoyed it even more than the first book in the trilogy, which spent a lot of time setting up the world of the Society. This book assumes that readers will have read the first book, so readers will likely want to start with that book, but Condie does a good job of including enough information about the preceding events that it is possible to start here without feeling lost. With the new setting outside of Central, this book paints a much more full picture of the Society, and particularly those people that have been abandoned and rejected by this government. In Crossed, the reader learns about the formation of the Society and the events that lead to a situation where citizens were willing to accept restrictions on their freedoms. It offers a consideration of the morality of decisions that delved deeper than Matched did. The book ends having wrapped up many major plot elements while still leaving enough open to leave the reader eager for the conclusion to the trilogy. I would definitely recommend Crossed for fans of novels that consider the difficult choices that would face citizens in a dystopian future.
Readalike: Fans of this trilogy will likely enjoy other dystopian novels. Those looking for other options in this genre should consider the Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver or the Chemical Garden trilogy by Lauren DeStefano (start with Wither).