Monday, May 16, 2011

CR Reviews #15 - 17: Delirium, Before I Fall, Matched

Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Matched by Ally Condie

I picked up both novels by Lauren Oliver at the library a few weeks ago, after having read a few reviews here on CBR3. I was intrigued by the many positive things said about her writing style and her originality, and most of all, her ability to really paint a picture of a real teenager.

I first read Delirium (not for any reason other than that it was a new release from the library, and would be due sooner). Delirium is the story of a futuristic society that has outlawed love. Love has been found to be the cause of all of the world's problems, and when citizens turn 18, they have a procedure (a lobotomy? seems to be something like that) that leaves them incapable of love, and sends them on their way to live an emotionless, stepford life with a partner chosen for them by the government and children they don't particularly have any attachment to.

Lena is almost 18 and about to undergo her procedure, when she meets Alex, a mysterious and handsome young man that introduces Lena to another way of life, where people make their own choices and have their own feelings. Lena begins to question everything she's ever known, including what happened to her mother…as a child she was told that her mother -- who had undergone the procedure unsuccessfully several times -- had committed suicide because of her "delirium". As Lena begins to remember more about her mother, and Alex reveals more about the lies being told to the public by the government, Lena wonders about her own future, and if she can possibly change it.

I didn't love this book, but will check out the next installment in the planned trilogy (by the way, why is every YA book part of a trilogy?), as I am interested in finding out what the government is hiding and whether or not their initiatives are global, or strictly something going on in the US, and am also curious about Lena's mother.

I'm quite glad that I read Delirium before I read Before I Fall. If I had read Delirium second, I doubt I would have even finished it, as I would have been completely disappointed. Before I Fall is a beautifully written, painfully true-to-life account of what life as a teenage girl is like.

Before I Fall is the story of Sam, a popular senior girl at a posh suburban Connecticut high school. She is a part of the most powerful clique in the school (clearly, the "mean girls"), and in the opening pages of the book, not a very nice person. In the first chapters, she and her friends go to a party, drink excessively, and get into a car crash, that seemingly kills Sam.

However, when Sam wakes up the next morning, she's not quite sure if she is alive or dead. Sam is then forced to relive her last day on earth over and over, until she changes her life and her relationships for the better, and can finally be at peace.

More than just a teenage version of Groundhog Day -- really a very moving and beautifully written story of teenage friendship and relationships. My one complaint (which has been noted by other reviewers here) is regarding the ending and the character of Juliet…but I won't get into the details for those who haven't read the book yet. I just wonder how Sam's choice will really make Juliet's life any better…to me it seems like Juliet might actually be worse off in the end.

Lastly, I finished reading Matched, by Ally Condie, sort of a partner for Delirium. Matched also tells the tale of a futuristic society, in which all choices are made by the government (the Society) -- food is provided, jobs are assigned, spouses are chosen, and even the date of your death is prearranged.

Cassia and Xander, best friends forever, have just been "matched" together to become husband and wife. When Cassia decides to find out more about her future with Xander and turns on a small computer with information about him, she instead finds that maybe he isn't her perfect match after all. She sees another boys face -- the face of another friend, Ky Markham.

Cassia finds herself coming into contact with Ky more and more, and can't help but wonder if he is her soulmate instead of Xander. Ky and Cassia begin a dangerous, secret friendship, growing ever closer and closer, until of course, the government steps in and tears them apart.

Again, this book is the first in a proposed trilogy…the second installment should be out later this year, where we can find out if Cassia can ever be with Ky, and what the government is covering up. Like Delirium, I'm not desperate to know what happens to Cassia, but am quite curious about the world in which she lives, so I'll probably pick up the next book to find out.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

CR Review #14: A Visit From the Goon Squad

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

I had been reading lots of reviews for this book, mostly positive, and mostly intriguing. I made a note to put it on my library list, and then forgot about it. Then it won the Pulitzer prize, and I made a note to check my library list to see how long the wait was. Still wasn't dying to read it, but curious nevertheless.

And then, one day, I read a tweet that made me push it right to the top of the library waiting list…a tweet from John Taylor of Duran Duran. He called it the greatest book ever and told everyone to run out and get it immediately. As a lifelong fan of Duran Duran, this was the sign that I needed that it was time to read this book.

A Visit From the Good Squad is made up of a bunch of inter-weaving chapters, crossing different eras in time and different locations around the world, all more-or-less dealing with the same group of characters. We meet Sasha, a kleptomaniac who lives in New York City and works for a record producer. In the next chapter we meet her boss and learn about his family and his neurosis. Then we flash back 30 years and find out how he was in a rock band and meet the girl who was in love with him from afar. And in each chapter after that, we hop from character to character, era to era, city to city.

I really enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book, loving the story of the rock & roll and punk lifestyle and finding out more about the tertiary characters in that world. But I didn't love the end of the book -- 30 pages of powerpoint and then a futuristic chapter. Interesting and original, but just not for me.

I'll still give Jennifer Egan another shot, as I found her language and characters to be rich and lifelike (someone else in the CBR3 reviewed The Keep, so that's next for me). Sorry, John Taylor, this was not the greatest book ever. I guess this is why I've always been more of a Simon LeBon girl.