Monthly Archives: January 2014

Book Review: Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

Title: Awaken (GoodReads)
Author: Katie Kacvinsky
Page Count: 309
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Dystopian

Goodreads Summary:
Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.

Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.

In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.

This book is set in the year 2060, and it follows a pretty natural progression from our current world. All schools are online. People rarely leave their houses, choosing instead to chat with people online and join online groups. Maddie plays soccer in person, but that’s about the only time she leaves her house. People’s food – or the processed crap they say is food – is sent to them, so they don’t have to leave their house for that reason, either.

The scariest thing about this book is that so much of it sounds exactly like life is today, or else it sounds exactly like what we’re heading toward. I can see much of this happening, and that fact is the main reason I kept reading this book. I wanted to see how much of this world was like ours. I was hoping for more explanations for how certain things got to this point – not that it needed much explanation as, like I said, so much of this is already happening now. This book has such a great premise, and the relatability of the concept is such that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen this book reviewed more places.

And then I read it, and I’m sad to say that this book did not live up to it’s potential. The world building was a big part of the problem. I wouldn’t have thought she would need to do much world building here, as it’s basically our world fifty years from now, but it turns out it needed more information. It’s almost as if the author couldn’t tell whether she wanted to make it exactly like now or try to change to have it be “futuristic,” and so she ends up with this weird mix of present and future that doesn’t really make sense. It’s illegal to chop down real trees, but her mother gives her a paper journal. How did she get it? If the trees aren’t real, where do we get our oxygen? If they don’t leave the house for anything, why would they have a soccer teams? Why wouldn’t they just play virtual soccer?

My main problem, though, was that there was a lot more “telling” than “showing.” This is a problem that I have with my own writing, so I’m sympathetic, but I still found that weakened the story. There were a lot of info dumps, and we get to hear the message on practically every other page. While I get that it’s probably really hard to write a book like this without talking about the evils of technology, it would have been nice to see that worked in a bit more and not just front and center the entire book. There were also even times when instead of showing Maddie talking, we would see her speak, and then she would say something like “I said x” where “x” was literally what she would have said. It doesn’t save time, so all it did was take me out of the novel.

I also didn’t like the love interest, which brought the whole book down. For a “selfless” person, Justin spends an incredibly large amount of time talking about himself and his commitments and how valuable his time is. He always knows the right thing to say to Maddie, but we don’t really see much of why he knows her so well, so it comes off as creepy. Or at least it did to me. I didn’t trust him. He and Maddie have a lot of deep, intense, and/or personal conversations that don’t really seem to fit the situation.

I did like, though, that Maddie didn’t just immediately betray her family for the boy she supposedly loves. You see that all the time in young adult books, and I appreciated that that didn’t happen here.

Overall, this was a great concept for a book, but it just didn’t live up to the expectations I had for it. I kept reading because I was hoping it would get better, but that never happened. I found Maddie’s emotions to be all over the place (and not in a way that would make sense), and the end just sort of falls together, and that just made things worse. Apparently this is the first book in a trilogy (or at least a series), but I will not be reading the rest of them.

1.5 stars

Book Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Title: Pushing the Limits (GoodReads)
Author: Katie McGarry
Page Count: 392
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: Contemporary YA

Goodreads Summary:
No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.

But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

I’ve been hearing about this book forever, but it took me a while to get around to it. Now that I’ve finally read it, I understand why everyone loves this book.

Echo and Noah are interesting characters. They boy used to be part of the popular crowd, but then real life intervened. Noah’s parents died, leaving him to bounce between different foster homes trying to find comfort in drugs and sex while he struggles to gain custody of his younger brothers. Echo’s mother tried to kill her, but she can’t remember what happened – all she knows is that she has “freaky” scars on her arms that she constantly tries to hide.

I’ve read a lot of “good girl meets bad boy” stories, but this one seemed different. There were actual reasons behind all of their actions. They were complex characters that had relationships with other people. I liked reading both points of view, and I was actively cheering for this couple. They got involved a bit sooner than I thought, but this book also showed that just because you fall in love doesn’t mean you don’t still have to struggle to make the relationship work. I appreciated that a lot.

I also appreciated Echo’s relationship with her parents. At times I wanted to hit her for not hating her parents as much as I did, but of course they’re her parents, and it’s not always easy to hate people – especially when you’re still hoping for their love. Echo’s struggle to be good enough for her parents’ love was very relatable and heartbreaking.

I sort of wish the ending had been a bit longer. Things come together a bit quicker than I would have liked. There were also some parts in the middle where I felt the story dragged a bit. I started wondering what all we still had left to find out – or at least how what we had left to find out could possibly take up that many pages.

Still, this was a great book, one that I’m very glad I finally read.

4.5 stars

Book Review: Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott

Title: Perfect You (GoodReads) 
Author: Elizabeth Scott
Page Count: 282
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: Contemporary

Goodreads Summary:
Her father has quit his job to sell vitamins at the mall, and Kate is forced to work with him. Her best friend has become popular, and now she acts like Kate’s invisible.

And then there’s Will. Gorgeous, unattainable Will, whom Kate acts like she can’t stand even though she can’t stop thinking about him. When Will starts acting interested, Kate hates herself for wanting him when she’s sure she’s just his latest conquest.

Kate figures that the only way things will ever stop hurting so much is if she keeps to herself and stops caring about anyone or anything. What she doesn’t realize is that while life may not always be perfect, good things can happen — but only if she lets them…

I probably shouldn’t have read this book right after I read Something, Maybe, as the same sorts of problems I encountered with that one showed up in this one. The dad was the same as in that one – a grown man who refuses to deal with negative emotions, who thinks only of himself, and who has practically zero redeeming qualities. There’s also a main character who’s so oblivious to the world around her that I have a hard time finding the plot believable at times.

I did like this book more than the previous one. I found myself relating to Kate more than I would care to admit. I wanted to hate her for jumping to (obviously false) conclusions and cutting Will off before he even got to finish a sentence, but that still sounds like something I would do: be so afraid of rejection and humiliation that you hurry to reject the other person first. It’s stupid, but I can definitely look back and see when I did that, so I guess it’s realistic.

I didn’t find Kate’s father all that realistic, but maybe I’m just lucky and haven’t come across someone like that. I just found him so infuriating, and I ended up hating everyone else in the family for not yelling at him, for continuing to make excuses for him as he throws their savings down the drain so he can follow his “dream” of selling vitamins, even though he was constantly leaving the kiosk to go to the movies or get food or buy video games. He was just so selfish and irresponsible, and it takes forever until someone besides their grandmother finally noticed.

Really, the only character I really liked (besides Will) was the grandmother, whom everyone else seemed to hate. I get that she can be a bit judgmental at times, but she obviously cares about them, and she’s right about most everything (except for the bright purple shoes), and it was annoying to watch everyone else side with the father when she would put him down, when clearly she was the one who was right.

It sounds like I hated this book, but I didn’t. I found Kate rather immature at times, and she was kind of annoying, but I could still mostly understand her, and I was looking forward to the moment when she would finally stop getting in her own way and just be able to get along with Will. He was cute and amusing. I don’t really understand why he put up with her, but my boyfriend puts up with me, so I guess it’s at least realistic. I loved their “10 second rule,” which is pretty much how my boyfriend and I correspond most of the time.

Overall, this book was rather infuriating, but it wasn’t horrible. And I got the ending I was hoping for, so it was mostly worth it in the end.

2 stars