Sunday, December 25, 2011

Book Review: The Hunger Games

Star Rating 5/5

The Hunger Games

By Suzanne Collins

Each year the Capital hosts the Hunger Games, reminding the citizens of their lack of control and power. Two tributes, one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen, are chosen from each of Panem’s twelve districts. Then broadcast for all to see, they enter the arena to fight to the death. The tribute that wins is set for life, while the others lose theirs. Because in the end, only one can win.

Since her father’s death, Katniss Everdeen has struggled to create a life for herself and her younger sister Prim. Each day she slips under the fence that encloses the twelfth district to illegally hunt and gather food. With her game and the grain she gets from adding her name multiple times into the lottery for the Hunger Games, she and Prim survive. They’re even happy at times until its time for the games again.

This year Prim is twelve, and though her name has only been entered in the lottery once she is chosen. Unable to allow her little sister to risk her life in the games, Katniss volunteers. Now she’s got to do more than eek out a living for them—she has to win the games or neither of them will survive.

The Hunger Games is more than another thrilling dystopian novel. Collins asks many thought-provoking questions through the world and citizens of her book. The Capital and its people are not so different from modern Americans. With our society’s focus on and glorification of violence in the media and even sports, it is not too difficult to imagine something as horrifying as Panem’s Hunger Games. As I read I was reminded not only of Rome’s gladiators but also of modern movies, television shows, and video games. Perhaps Collins’ novel begs us to question how accustomed we are to violence and our acceptance of it. When does violence become commonplace? Where do we draw the line? And, more importantly, how do we combat our own acceptance of real-life tragedy—abuse, neglect, gang violence, terrorism, and genocide? These are some of the questions The Hunger Games asks each of us, taking it from an exciting book to a definite must-read.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Book Review: The Host

Star Rating 5/5

The Host

By Stephenie Meyer

Wanderer has been in multiple hosts, each on a different planet, but she has never experienced anyone like Melanie Stryder or any place like Earth. No host has fought her for her body, and yet no planet has been so worth fighting for—for either of them.

When the Wanderer’s fellow souls decided she should be put into the body of Melanie Stryder, they believed Wanderer would be able to easily access Melanie’s mind. Unfortunately, unlike the other hosts Wanderer has had, Melanie refuses to leave or give Wanderer full access to her thoughts. Instead Melanie barrages Wanderer with painful memories, taunts her constantly, and rarely lets any information about herself or the human resistance slip. That is until Melanie shares her love for Jared, one of the few remaining free humans, and accidentally lets Wanderer know about her little brother Jamie. Soon Wanderer finds herself in love and determined to protect a family she’s never met and who could never accept her. After all, she’s taken over Melanie’s body and her true family—the other souls—have taken over the entire planet.

The Host is a thoroughly engrossing novel. Meyer doesn’t disappoint with her venture into science fiction. Her alien species is well-crafted, keeping the reader from easily writing them off as villainous. The readers will find themselves questioning whose side they are on—the souls or the humans—and whether either side is “right.” As I read, I struggled constantly as I tried to figure out who I felt was the hero and who was in the wrong. I was impressed by Meyer’s ability to keep me waffling—against my own species, no less! I loved this book and see this as Meyer’s best novel thus far. Move over Twilight, The Host has taken me over.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Book Review: Uglies

Star Rating 5/5


By Scott Westerfeld

Ever since she moved into Uglyville, Tally Youngblood has gazed out her dorm window at New Pretty Town and dreamed of being there. Now she is just months away from her sixteenth birthday and then she will finally be living her dream. All she has to do is stay out of too much trouble and await the day of her operation—the day all Uglies have been taught from birth to wait for—the day she will become a Pretty herself.

The days pass slowly since her other friends have already changed, that is until she meets Shay, an Ugly with her same birthday. But Shay isn’t like Tally’s old friends. While Shay wants to escape Uglyville, she doesn’t want to go to New Pretty Town. She doesn’t want to be a Pretty at all. She wants to leave the city entirely and go to the Smoke—a place where everyone is ugly. Tally can’t imagine that such a place exists, but when Shay decides to run away Tally wonders what will become of her friend. Now Tally has to decide whether she is with Shay or not and whether she is willing to be ugly for life.

Scott Westerfeld creates a sickeningly realistic dystopia in his novel Uglies, resulting in a horrifyingly beautiful juxtaposition of our world and each of us. A criticism of more than Western society’s quest for beauty, Uglies (as a novel and as a trilogy) challenges the reader to question his impact on the environment, his power over his conditions, his acceptance of perceived authority and reality, and his desire to conform. These challenges are delivered largely through the protagonist, Tally, but also through the experiences of the other characters. Tally is more than a character pushed from scenario to scenario, unable to control her circumstances or direction. Throughout the novel (and the trilogy), she makes choices and changes herself in spite of the conditioning, dangers, and alterations she experiences. Like each of us, Tally attempts to discover what she wants and who she is in a world that is constantly trying to shape her to meet its own ends. Tally’s story will hook you from the start and keep you reading and wondering through the entire trilogy. My advice to you: grab all three books at once or you’ll be running to the library or bookstore, dying to get your hands on the next book!