As someone who watches the TV series Pretty Little Liars, I was somewhat hopeful for this book. Sure, the actresses are not very good and everything is over-dramatic, but there is something about this show that pulls you in and makes you want to keep watching. The number of people I know who have said this is their guilty pleasure show is ridiculous. But the book itself does not come off nearly as suspenseful as its small screen counterpart.
The show follows Aria, Spencer, Hannah, and Emily, four girls who would be losers at school if not for the fact that Allison, the most popular girl in school, has decided to be friends with them. Allison is the girl that everyone wants to be friends with but she is also the girl who knows all of their secrets. But when Allison disappears, the girls grow apart, only to be brought back together by mysterious text messages by someone named “A.” Because “A” knows all their secrets, just like Allison did and will stop at nothing to torment them with it.
Whereas a single episode of Pretty Little Liars feels jam-packed with excitement, the book felt like it didn’t cover enough ground. Maybe it is just that watching the show I know everyone’s secrets and so nothing is a surprise, but it felt like I was learning very little about each girl. And where the show makes the girls likable despite their secrets, the book makes them feel mostly shallow and dull. Aria is a teen looking for her identity and having an affair with her teacher, Hannah is thin and popular but at the expense of shoplifting and her health, Emily has a boyfriend and a crush on the new girl, and Spencer, ever-competing with her sister, starts sleeping with her older sister’s boyfriend.
I don’t often recommend this, but I would say skip the book version in favor of the TV show. It’s not that is it so terrible, it is just that with so many great young adult books out there, there are others worth reading first.
Tally has gone from Ugly to Pretty to dreaded Special. Now she is specially enhanced to help keep the people of her city in line–the pretties stupid and the uglies ready for their operations.
Once again we have the all too long passage of isolation where Tally is forced to reconsider her life while out in nature alone. I get that it is a theme, that being out in nature changes you. At the same time, it gets slow and tedious and a bit repetitive. (I say that despite enjoying the book.)
It is hard to get in touch with Tally and the other main characters because their personality change from one moment to the next. Tally is the sort of character who tends to get forced into situations and only takes action as a last resort. As a result, she is not my favorite character (of the many books I have read), but the fight itself–the bigger struggle against the city and the operations–is still interesting.
[SPOILER:] I am not sure how I felt about the resolution of the love triangle, it felt like an easy out. Tally never truly had to choose and technically she got them both in the end yet there was never the sense that her feelings for David ever resurfaced exactly. It is powerful to see her reaction to Zane once she finally sees him. It really highlights the ideas of being obsessed with beauty, being controlled by the government and brainwashing in a way that nothing else could.
Though not my favorite dystopian series, Westerfeld has a way with words that makes even the slower sequences enough to keep you turn pages.
In the follow up to Uglies, Tally has become a pretty. We all know why, but Tally doesn’t remember much about her last few days as an ugly or why she ended up pretty. There are a lot of things she isn’t sure of, thanks to a procedure that affects the brain. But events conspire to help Tally remember why she became pretty and how she can regain the clarity and understanding that was taken away from her in the operation.
The story remains imaginative and interesting. Westerfeld has delved into his world and let us see the inner workings of pretty town (which were as mysterious to us as to the uglies in book one). Seeing this helps fill in the details that were missing before.
Like in the first book, there are long stretches of time where Tally is alone or stuck in her head. Sometimes it gets a little slow because of this, but it does help portray just how different the operation makes a person.
Shay’s storyline is a bit shocking and I am not sure I truly believe her character would take the turn she does. I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to ruin it. (Perhaps if the change was a bit more gradual it would be a bit more believable, but it seems fairly sudden and very extreme considering who she was before.) In a way, it almost feels like it was done for shock value over anything else. It was a good twist, but not the most realistic one.
One of the more interesting elements of the book was the love triangle involved. Since Tally does not remember David much, it makes sense that she would fall for someone else in New Pretty Town. This is one storyline that I would have liked to see more of and it felt like when the issue could finally be confronted, so many other things were happening and we didn’t get a chance to really go into it. If I could change one thing about book two, it would have been that. Even one more day would have been nice.
The series remains exciting and I can’t wait to see where book three takes it. (As interesting as it would be on screen, it would probably be a nightmare to shoot with all the surgeries and physical changes each character must undergo. I suppose a really good makeup team might suffice.)
School is almost over and Rachel Berry is not willing to spend all summer letting her talents rot away. Instead, she had a star powered summer planned. But Mr. Schuester has other plans. He wants the Glee club to become counselors for a Youth Musical Camp. When Rachel hits her head, she gets a taste of what the stardom is all about. She returns to McKinley High for a performance and finds that nothing is the same.
For me, this was the weakest story of the three so far. Although there is character development, it is caused by what is clearly a dream (and a very unrealistic dream at that). On top of that, there is no goal or driving force to the story. Rachel has nothing specific she’s working for (sure there’s the general non-specific plan to become a famous Broadway star, but that isn’t really an immediately attainable goal, at least the way this is presented).
It would have been nice for them to make it clear when this story is meant to take place in the Glee world a little earlier. It isn’t until a few chapters in when they mention things that help you place it in the larger story. Yet even those details contradict with events on the show (such as various relationships and who is together when). The characters themselves seemed a bit more caricature than the true personalities we have come to know.
Much as I love Rachel, I would have liked to know more about the other characters (the other books usually spend a bit more time on everyone else but everyone’s issues were resolved within minutes).
Considering that dream stories are general the bane of an editor’s existence, I am surprised this story didn’t get stopped before it was written. Overall, this book doesn’t fit in with the fun reading of the other books. It lacks the substance and true character.
Tally Youngblood is about to turn sixteen, which means she can finally become pretty, like all of her friends before her. At sixteen, everyone has an operation to turn them into beautiful people and tally is the last. But until then, she has to kill time in Ugly Town, without her friends for company. Desperate to see her best friend Peris again, Tally sneaks over to New Pretty Town to see him and in the process meets Shay, another Ugly who is waiting for her sixteenth birthday. The two become quick friends, but when Shay disappears before her surgery, everything changes for Tally. The authorities insist that Tally help them find Shay, or she will have to stay Ugly forever.
Westerfeld does a masterful job of taking society’s obsessions with beauty to the extreme. He is particularly good at showing how flawed the obsession with beauty is and how brainwashed people are about it.
Tally was a realistic character who, unlike most book characters in these types of dystopian societies, is not a rebel. She likes to play some pranks, like any Ugly does, but at heart she truly does want to become a Pretty. It is only circumstances out of her control and the friends she meets that makes her begin to question this chosen path. (This makes her somewhat passive in the beginning, but she grows into an active character.)
The weakest point of the novel is a stretch of time where Tally is on her own. Having no conversation and companionship, though important to the story, makes things go a bit slowly for that section. However, any loss of pace there is quickly made up in the excitement that follows.
I would like to find out more about the country as a whole (we get a little bit of it, but for the most part we only really see Tally’s community) and what adulthood is like in this dystopian world. Since it is a four book series, I am sure there is more to come and already I have begun reading book two. This is definitely one of the better dystopian novels out (and came out slightly before this new obsession with this genre) and I highly recommend it.
Emma has never had any doubt that she will follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a dragon slayer. So when she is assigned to slay fairies, she is anything but happy. She takes it out on Curtis, the attractive but quiet boy who gets “her assignment” instead. But when Emma finds herself fighting dangerous creature that only she can see, she will need to dig into her mother’s past and find a way to put her dislike of Curtis aside. Otherwise, the entire world–and most especially the people she cares about most–will be at risk.
I have always found the idea of special schools for magically gifted kids to be a logical and particularly enjoyable facet of many fantasy series. This was something I was particularly excited to read in this book–a school where people who can see evil elemental creatures are specially trained to slay them. I was disappointed not to get much time spent in the actual school as I would have liked, but many of the other elements of the story worked so well that it wasn’t something that bothered me.
Emma is the most well developed character (which makes sense considering it is first person from her perspective). Ashby had to walk a fine line to keep Emma’s whining from being irritating, but she managed to make her a sympathetic and realistic teen. Her friends are somewhat less developed, though they have some fun quirks that make them enjoyable anyway.
I would have liked to find out why Emma tested to be a fairy slayer (especially is fairies were considered unkillable). I didn’t love the fact that ultimately there was nothing inherently about Emma (or her family history) that made her able to see the creature that no one else could find–it ultimately felt like chance and anyone could have done what she did had they been where she was when she was. It also felt like the way to fight the creature was a little out of place with a series where all creatures have kill spots that make them explode. It felt a little silly.
Despite these complaints, I really enjoyed the book and hope Ashby opts to write another adventure for Emma. (At present it seems like she’s going to lead a fairly dull life and that would be a shame.)
It’s big news for the drama geeks at Orion University when Hartley Blackstone, a major Broadway producer and the creator of a major acting school in NY, plans to audition the students for two spots in his program. one boy and one girl will win. Bryan Stark, along with his two best friends Hope and Sam, are dying to get the spot, but they have to contend with the other talent in the school as well as some personal drama of their own. But when the Blackstone gives Bryan a scathing critique of his acting skills, Bryan is forced to wonder if the one thing he has spent all his time doing–acting–was a waste of time.
Whereas The Four Dorothys story was a mystery where Bryan mostly took a backseat, this book has Bryan front and center. This fact makes the story comparatively stronger. It has less exposition and allows us to really connect to the characters more closely.
There is still the issue of Bryan’s closeted gayness, which again mostly gets skirted over, but at least he deals with some other issues. Mainly, the fact that his best friends have been in relationships with the soccer kids he doesn’t like. Particularly his former best friend Drew, who was Hope’s boyfriend for years before they suddenly, inexplicably break up.
Everyone’s a Critic was by far the superior book, but the resolution felt lacking at the end of the book. It isn’t bad and would probably connect well to people who have had their dreams shattered, but there are stronger teen novels out there.
Bryan Stark attends Orion Academy where all the students are talent-filled and ego-ridden. When the school puts on only one theatrical performance per year and is jam-packed with skilled kids (or at least, powerful parents), how do you make sure every kid shines? Naturally, you have multiple kids play each part. Orion is putting on the Wizard of Oz, with two Glinda’s, two Scarecrows, and most importantly, four Dorothys. But when the girls playing Dorothy start being sabotaged, Bryan has to figure out who is sabotaging the Dorothys before his friend Sam becomes the next victim.
When I first saw this book, all I could think was, Glee? My friend and I joked about how it must be the same story until I became curious enough to actually find out. Glee turned out to be superior. There is more heart behind the stories of Glee than there are here. These are sort of fun, mindless stories that are good to kill a bit of time.
Bryan is a closeted gay teen, but the story is hardly about this. In fact, he is mostly a bystander in this entire book, which is a little irritating. His gay storyline could be interesting but since it is a non-player in the book it ultimately doesn’t do much. (I’m fine with there being no drama surrounding the fact that he is gay, but he has kept this fact a secret which means there is, at least in his mind, some issues with it which go unaddressed.)
My biggest complaint is that there was no real twist. It became clear who the culprit was very early on and we were never surprised to find that the person we (and Bryan) expected was innocent. Sure, the lesson you can take from that is that some people are exactly as evil as they seem, but it doesn’t make for a great story.
Ultimately, it isn’t a book that I would recommend but I’ve read worse.
Gladiator culture becomes part of US culture, first through an attempt to find peace without war, then as a high stakes game of life and death. As the culture evolves and the organization in charge changes the rules to ever increase the profit, the life of those within its system become ever more complicated. Lyn has had seven gladiator fathers, her mother is the epitome of a gladiator’s wife, and Lyn is expected to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Lyn isn’t sure this lifestyle is for her, but when the fighter who kills her seventh father picks up her dowry bracelet, the rules state she must marry him. Otherwise, her family may lose everything.
This book is one of the most fascinating books I have read in a while (perhaps since the Hunger Games). Haines manages to create a very real and frighteningly possible world where money and media surpass ethics and morality. Gladiator’s lives are nothing if not used for entertainment.
Lyn’s journey–from questioning child of seven gladiators to grieving daughter to fiance to a warrior in her own right–is so touchingly real. you cannot help but root for her, even without knowing how you want things to turn out. Should she marry her father’s killer? The answer seems obvious, but Haines manages to make you wonder if maybe you do want the pair to end up together.
Some of the characters are complicated and strange. You can’t help but want to yell at some and to step in to protect others. Which exactly the balance you want in a good book.
Here we have an excellent social commentary without becoming too bogged down in political climate. I thought this book was great and I only hope Haines intends to write more Young Adult.
Ancient heroes defeated dangerous, bloodthirsty trows and claimed the valley where the creatures had lived. The heroes each claimed a part of the valley where they set up their houses. Generations later, the heroes’ descendants have forsaken the sword for more peaceful solutions, but this has not prevented feuds among the heroes’ houses. Halli Sveinsson comes from one such heroes’ house and he has always dreamed of being like the heroes in the stories. He gets the opportunity sooner than he expected after a prank he plays goes to far and leads to disastrous consequences.
Halli is an unusual protagonist because he dreams of the glory of battle. The heroes he idolizes are known for their bloody battles and the disregard with which they treat one another. He goes on a quest to avenge the loss of someone close, thinking he can be just like them. Instead he learns the truth of what it means to kill a person and is forced to re-examine everything he has ever believed about the legends he has grown up on.
This is just the type of story that I normally enjoy most, but for some reason I could not really get into this book. The writing felt a bit stiff and old-fashioned, almost a bit unnatural. The ending in particular left me more confused and less clear on what was happening and how it played into the legends we’d come to know. It felt random in some ways, almost like it had virtually nothing to do with the book itself.
Ultimately an okay read, but not something where I am dying to read what happens next.