Review: “If I Stay” by Gayle Forman

If I StayThere will come a day when I read something other than YA fiction but apparently today is not that day.  Gayle Forman’s “If I Stay” is, however, completely devoid of dragons and goblins and magic (except for love which is a kind of magic, right?).  It is considered a Quick Pick (10-Day Loan) at my library so that suggests its highly popular (or that our teen librarian wants it to be popular).  I have heard of Gayle Forman before but I’m fairly certain only in my Twitter interactions/observations of some of my favorite YA authors (if you are not following Rainbow Rowell or Tim Federle, fix it).

“If I Stay” stars Mia, a high school cellist with rocker parents, a precocious little brother, and a precocious rocker boyfriend.  She leans towards the refined classics and pretty much everyone leans towards the heavy metal power ballads but music, regardless of genre, binds them.  The loving little family of four go on a holiday drive when tragedy strikes.  Their car is hit, killing mom and dad on impact and baby brother follows shortly thereafter.  This really can’t be seen as a spoiler alert sort of situation; it’s essentially the first thing that happens in the book and sets up the rest of it.  At any rate, Mia, not dead, is shipped away to the hospital where an interesting thing happens: she finds herself in a purgatory-like state wandering the halls of the hospital, watching the chaos unfold including her body in bed fighting for life.  The story is told in alternating flashbacks to how her relationships with the various people who visit her in the hospital began and grew and her observations of the scene at the hospital.  It is an interesting way to tell a story especially in that the flashbacks show the audience just how much she has lost when losing her family to this tragedy.  It adds to internal conflict she faces as she questions whether or not she should stay alive or accept death.

It would also be worth mentioning that this book is currently being made into a film by New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.  You can find the trailer and more information on this August 22 release here.

Review: “Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom” by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Phil Noto

maelstromI mostly read this to impress someone who knows a lot about comic books and who said I would make a great Supergirl.  So then I *had* to read more about her and this was the only one available at my library at the time.  The story of Supergirl is that she is firstly Kara Zor-El, elder cousin of Superman/Kal-El but some how arrives to Earth after he does reversing their aging experiences – he’s now a man and she is stuck in her late teens, early 20’s.  Not only does she have trouble transitioning to this new familial role, she also struggles see her time on Earth as valuable.  Initially she balks at the idea that she should work to understand the people she is sworn to protect and to learn to live among them accepting not only theirs but her own weaknesses.

Meanwhile, Maelstrom, a vengeful laborer on Apokolips has fallen into worshipful love with Lord Darkseid.  In order to prove her worth to him, she decides to bring him the head of Superman.  To Earth she goes but instead she finds Supergirl and battle ensues.  Both appear to be on the losing side as Supergirl has to be rescues by Superman and Maelstrom manages to not kill Superman.  Maelstrom is sent back to Apokolips to face Lord Darkseid’s wrath and Supergirl is sent on a character-building camping trip with Superman.  Eventually Supergirl and Maelstrom return to blows and decide who is the superior fighter.

I enjoyed this comic book (I don’t think I’ve ever actually read one cover to cover) but I did find Supergirl’s pretentious ramblings difficult.  This is perhaps a great move on the writer’s part: she is literally trapped in her late adolescence, a time where all she has to think about is herself and yet she is thrown into these impossible situations where all of humanity is in her hands.  It is going to be an ongoing struggle for her as she juggles the urge to be her age with the sense of duty to protect.  Maelstrom was a difficult character to understand; her manic infatuation for Lord Darkseid was the only thing that propelled her forward.  One would have to think that if he did not exist, she would have no depth.

Also, Supergirl said this and it offended me:

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Review: “The One” by Kiera Cass

indexTo sum up “The Selection” series in one sound? Meh.  It was okay.  I’m glad I read it.  I might ask for the box set for the holidays because it is so pretty (i.e. pretty dresses in pretty colors; I’m a sap).  I would recommend it to someone if they were trapped in the Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian Teen Death Brawl Love Triangle story line (“The Hunger Games,” “Divergent,” “Crossed,” etc.) and couldn’t find their way to realistic teen literature.

“The One” ends the story in a fairly predictable pattern.  America is still in the final group despite being hated by the King and undermining the Prince whenever she can.  Still Maxon and America work together with the Northern rebels.  The Northern rebels appear to be the civilized rebels in favor of information that might better the people while the Southern rebels just like to hack everyone to bits. Speaking of mercilessly going about life, the next task the Elite (the final gals in the selection) must face is the Convicting.  They must condemn a man to punishment for his crimes in a public show of their adherence to the King’s rules.  Also, coincidentally, this is a time in which the Prince is expected to give them jewelry of his own choosing.  All the other women follow through and condemn their respective criminal and of course, America finds a loophole and gives the man her jewelry to pay his penance.  People love it, King Clarkson hates it.

So there they are, working to over throw the government when America’s dad dies.  She is rushed to Carolina where here snotty older brother outs her and Aspen’s relationship(?). She decides it is time to come clean about that chapter of her life with Maxon so upon her return she prepares herself to tell him only to discover that in her absence he has decided to announce her as his bride.  For whatever reason he witnesses her in some sort of embrace with Aspen infuriating him and unleashing a very unbecoming side of himself.  Just as he is preparing to announce Kriss as his wife-to-be, rebels from the South break into the room killing several people, injuring others.  The story ends with the King-to-be Maxon declaring his undying love for his wife-to-be.

First off, Maxon and America’s will-the-won’t-they relationship is a headache.  Come on people, you are dealing with real lives here.  Get your nonsense together.  Secondly, why in the world does Aspen put up with this for so long?  Fortunately he does eventually see through America’s bull nonsense and develops a thing for a maid and its sweet but the constant devotion (of a romantic level) to someone who isn’t so sure about you and is also dating the Prince is kind of a drag.  Pretty much every character in this book is a standard literary stereotype and that’s sad.

Poor guy striving for the unattainable girl? Check.

Wealthy guy with the heart of gold?  Check.

Poor gal who wants to change the world if only she had the influence to do it?  Check.

Rich gal who doesn’t care about the lot of you because you get in the way of her moisturizing routine?  Check.

The primary series was okay, entertaining and what not.  There is however a really cool thing where there are two novellas, one told from Maxon’s perspective and the other from Aspen’s perspective.  I started “The Prince” but I was also kind of done with the whole series, so…

Review: “The Elite” by Kiera Cass

16248068Okay, yes.  So sue me.  I binge read the entire “Selection” series by Cass in a week.  My world has not changed for the better because of it, it more or less has just moved forward.

“The Elite” picks up right where “The Selection” ends.  America and Prince Maxon are on a date and America confides in him that she would like to know what Halloween is.  He takes her to a secret library with what I can only imagine is a catalog computer and they learn all about Halloween and decide to host a costumed ball in honor of it.  The day following the delightful ball, America is quickly awoken and taken outdoors with the six, excuse me, five remaining women; one, Marlee, is missing.  It has been discovered that Marlee and a guard have fallen in love and developed a relationship and in penance for their actions against the Prince, they are to be killed.  Prince Maxon is merciful and decides to have them beaten instead of killed though America doesn’t see it as such and causes a disturbance as she goes after Marlee to protect her.  Though the public adores her actions, the King is furious.

Prince Maxon continues to make more aggressive advances on the other women hurting America.  This, in combination with the King’s near-constant fury, solidifies the idea that America does not belong at the palace and when it comes time for the women to outline their ideas of a sweeping change they would make for their kingdom, she manages to choose the one nearest her heart but also the one with the most potential to overthrow the kingdom: remove the castes.  Though furious, everyone at the palace are distracted by another rebel attack.  This time they’ve gotten into the palace and America and Prince Maxon just happen to run into each other as they are being shuttled into a safe room.  America quickly notices that the Prince is hurt with several wounds and scars on his back.  He confides in her that the King abuses him.  America cleans him up and they reaffirm their affections for one another though she becomes convinced that he wants her to leave.  When they are cleared to leave the safe room, she goes to pack her bags.  After one final run in with the King, America changes her mind and decides that not only does she love Maxon but that he is worth fighting for.

I thought this one was pretty weak especially compared to “The Selection.”  While the series has not entirely rocked my socks off, “The Elite” was very weak.  Every time Prince Maxon needed to make a big decision or something important effecting how he would rule his kingdom, America just happened to be there.  A metaphor for the final book, yes, but still?  Every single event?  That’s a bit much.  Also King Clarkson is a terrible person.  How can his beloved Queen Amberly not see that?  Not only that but what in the world is Aspen doing wasting his time on America?  He continues to protect her as a guard but clearly there is something more.  Sure he is fighting for his love, but it becomes increasingly obvious that America only has time for Aspen when she is frustrated with Maxon.