Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Quick & Dirty Reviews, Dystopian Style

Apparently, the hot new sub-genre in YA fiction is dystopian. At least that's what I hearing around the internets.  From The Hunger Games to Feed, The Forest of Hands and Teeth to The Uglies and many, many, many more, dystopian is the new black paranormal.  Don’t believe me?  Author Julianna Baggott hit pay dirt with PURE, her dystopian trilogy, not only scoring a major publishing deal from Grand Central Publishing but selling the film rights to Fox 2000.   And check out What’s Behind the Boom in Dystopian Fiction for Young Readers that appeared in The New Yorker last summer.  If The New Yorker has noticed, why it must be true.  Below are a couple of reviews of some of the latest in YA dystopian fiction.  

Enclave by Ann Aguirre:  Already a successful writer of adult urban fantasy/paranormal fiction, Ann Aguirre plunges into the YA world and comes up with a winner.  The world of Enclave is one in which children band together in underground communities in order to survive the perils of the post apocalyptic world - threats that include starvation, fatal illnesses, mortal injury, and if that's not bad enough, there are the friggin zombies (known as Freaks), that hunt them.  (Sounds pretty good, right?)  Our heroine is Deuce, a young woman who has survived long enough to earn the right to have a name and no longer be known by a number as the rest of the brats are.  As a designated hunter she is paired with mysterious loner and fellow hunter, Fade.  Their job is to provide meat for the rest of the College Enclave and kill any Freaks who threaten the safety of the community.  But the Freaks appear to be getting craftier, more dangerous and the threat escalates.  When the leadership of their home enclave refuses to listen to warning, Fade and Deuce are banished and must go topside if there is any hope of survival.
This was a solid read for me with elements that reminded me of both The Lord of the Flies and Logan's Run.  Good world building and once the two go topside, recognizable as my home town which was neat.  Nicely paced with well drawn characters and a dark, evocative world. However, there were a few missteps that, while slight, kept this from being an A.  The book could have been longer and without getting too spoilerish, ultimately, the story felt somewhat unfinished.  I know it is a series so there will be plenty of time to explore details in later books but I found the book's end somewhat anti-climatic  That being said, I still really liked this book.  It's a good summer read.  Grade: A-

Outside In by Maria V. Snyder:  The second book in The Insider series picks up shortly after the successful revolution that occurred in Inside Out.  Inside is now ruled by a committee made up of members of the rebellion but all is not well.  Despite the imprisonment of the Treva rulers, morale is bad and the various factions within the ship are divided.  Acts of sabotage by persons unknown are wreaking havoc with vital systems and, it turns out, the ship is not alone in that section of space.  And those others want to come Inside. 
This was an enjoyable but not particularly compelling novel.  Part of the problem is the heroine. Trella led the revolution but now that it is over, she has no interest in helping to make order out of the chaos.  Instead, she walks away, leaving the cleaning up and reconstruction to others.  Trella wants to go back to being the Queen of the Pipes. While I found her behavior believable for a seventeen year old, there is also something frustrating in reading about a heroine who shirks her responsibilities. Especially when things are not getting better, the divide between factions is growing more contentious and there are saboteurs bent on wreaking havoc.  The relationship between Trella and Riley does not really mature from the first novel and when they hit some problems, I wasn't invested in the outcome.  Trella also avoids pursuing her connection with Doctor Lamont any further.  The girl has emotional intimacy issues that lead to a lot of choices I found irritating and weakened a previously strong character. Fortunately, the action packed plot builds nicely as far as the central mystery goes. There are double crosses and triple crosses and Trella (as well as the reader), is not sure who to trust, leading to an exciting climax.  Bottom line, the story was pretty good but it was hard for me to care about the character's personal problems.  Grade B    

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