Mini-Reviews: Birth Marked, Knightley Academy, Freak Show, Last Sacrifice
I apologize for all of these young adult mini-reviews. As I mentioned a few days ago my brain is mush and I’ve just needed mindless distraction lately, so I’ve been going through all my unread young adult books. Too many to warrant a full review each, so you get inundated with mini reviews instead I promise this is almost the end!
Title: Birth Marked
Author: O’Brien, Caragh M.
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopia
Publisher / Year: Roaring Brook Press / 2010
Source: Purchased at Books of Wonder.
Why I Read It: It sounded interesting.
Date Read: 05/12/10
We ran out of oil and society disintegrated. The Enclave was built, Lake Superior has no more water, and the Enclave was built to protect a group of people. These people live in relative luxury to those on the outside, and they provide water and nutrient to those outside in exchange for a quota of babies each month.
Gaia lives outside the Enclave with her mother and father. Her mother is a midwife and Gaia is learning to be one as well. The book begins with her performing her first birth. It went well, and as it was her first she had to deliver it to the Enclave. When she returns home, she finds her loyal parents have been arrested and taken away.
Gaia is both crushed and confused. She doesn’t know why her parents have been taken, and even as she continues her life and her work she can get no answers. When she hears her parents have been scheduled to be executed as traitors, she knows that she must act immediately. She decides to take whatever risks necessary and get inside the walls to try to rescue her parents.
The Enclave is set up with a whole host of rules on who can and can’t marry, and different layers of society. It is a society with rules to govern genetics to try to keep the small population healthy. They also do what they can to keep things the same, and don’t take kindly to change. The health of the population is dwindling and that is why they want more information about the babies coming from outside. They suspect that the midwives may have kept some kind of records, and that is what they are after.
Gaia is a strong character who comes to believe in herself and in her beauty. Although her face is scared, she has to learn not to just push people away and to instead give them a chance. Through the book she really grows both in her abilities as a midwife and in her ability to trust in herself to do the right thing.
I had thought this was a standalone book but it seems there are two more books coming. I’m definitely looking forward to the next one though it doesn’t release until late 2011, apparently. I would recommend his book to anyone who likes strong female characters, and who likes dystopias of a world gone wrong.
Title: Knightley Academy
Author: Haberdasher, Violet
Length: 469 pages
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Historical
Publisher / Year: Aladdin Press / 2010
Source: Purchased at Teen Author Carnival during BEA
Why I Read It: The author was hilarious, and the book sounded like a lot of fun.
Date Read: 05/12/10
Henry Grim is a 14-year-old servant in a Victorian English boarding school for boys. He is secretly being tutored by one of the professors on staff. All 14-year-old boys in the country are tested annually to see if they are smart enough to be admitted to the Knightley Academy – an elite school for the best of the best where the sons of lords and dukes go to learn to be knights. They are trained in diplomacy mainly, including history, fencing, medicine, and more.
When the examiner comes to Midsummer School for Boys where Henry works, the professor tutoring him convinces him to sit the exam – because he does live at the school and the examiner simply said that the students had to live there. Henry ends up passing with flying colors and being admitting. This sets of a chain of events that result in two other common boys being admitted.
When the boys arrive at Knightley Academy they find things aren’t as easy as they would like. All the other boys look down on them, even if they are brilliant. They are being threatened by someone, and they find that there may be more at risk than just their academic career.
I really liked this book, but it was WAY too reminiscent of Harry Potter. The outcasts get accepted, the main boy is approached on the train, he makes it known he is with the other common boys, a teacher is horrid and mean to them, and on and on. The book just seemed too formulaic and seemed almost like it was trying too hard, by times, to follow the story line of Harry Potter.
Overall, a great story that kept me entertained, I just felt I couldn’t get as in to it because the similarities kept popping up and taking me out of Knightely Academy and making me think of Harry instead.
I would have liked this book a lot more if I had never read Harry Potter, I imagine. I would still recommend this as a fun book especially for younger teens (and teen boys especially), as it is still a great story.
Title: Freak Show
Author: St. James, James
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, GLBTQ
Publisher / Year: Speak / 2008
Source: Purchased from Book Depository.
Why I Read It: It was recommended to me by Ana (though she hadn’t read it yet either!).
Date Read: 07/12/10
Billy Bloom was sent to live with his father in Florida which is a big change for a fabulous label defying gender bending drag queen. His favorite activity is dressing up and concocting huge elaborate costumes. What he ends up doing most often is hiding in the cupboard under the sink where he can hide and think of nothing.
School is a nightmare. Billy decides he needs to fit in and so dresses as manly as he can… i.e. he shows up to his first day of school as a pirate. Needless to say, this did NOT go over so well in the white cookie cutter school. He is forced to deal with bullies every day who torment him, with not even teachers standing up for him.
I don’t want to give up too much here, but Billy ends up fighting for his life and his sense of self – he knows he deserves respect and goes for it. The story was hilarious, over-the-top dramatic, sad, and horrifying all at once. Billy as a character was just… wow. I really liked the story and the way it played out. I couldn’t help but root for Billy throughout and loved the second part of the book especially.
But. Oh gosh Billy did NOT do himself any favors with a lot of his actions. Also the drama was just way too much for me. I don’t do drama well, so there was a lot of eye-rolling. That didn’t take away from the story though. I think it was SUPPOSED to be over the top like that.
Either way, interesting and fun story. I recommend it for anyone who wants to know what life may be like for a gay drag queen in Florida. It really highlights the horrors of homophobia.
Title: Last Sacrifice
Author: Mead, Richelle
Length: 594 pages
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher / Year: razorBill / 2010
Source: Bookmark – my local indie bookstore
Why I Read It: I love this series, had to know how it ended!
Date Read: 07/12/10
This mini-review WILL contain spoilers for the previous books in the series. If you haven’t read the first 5 books, don’t read this. I won’t include spoilers for Last Sacrifice though.
I have to start by saying that I really enjoy the Vampire Academy series. I have an issue with many young adult series but something about this one quickly drew me in. (My review for the last book can be found here.) I really enjoy the dynamics between the two ‘races’ the Moroi and Dhampir. The Moroi are the full vampires, the Dhampir are half vampire and must work as protectors. In my review of the last book I pondered if that was an indirect or direct race analogy of one being always above the other with rules keeping that firmly in place.
In this book Rose is fighting for her life and to prove her innocence. The Queen is dead and Rose has been accused. Dimitri is still under lock as the Moroi don’t believe he could really have been turned back to Dhampir from Strigoi. After being broken out of prison, Rose and Dimitri hide out away from court and work to learn if the rumor of another Dragomir child is true. While they are secretly doing that, Lissa and their other friends are working to learn who really killed the Queen and clear Rose’s name.
I absolutely loved this final installment. It was full of action and drama and romance, but I also felt it was well written and flowed well as well. I liked how respectful Dimitri was, even if things weren’t always perfect. I also loved that the Alchemist Sydney was back – she was a lot of fun. Predictable in parts, and the ending was a bit too perfect in some ways, but I couldn’t help but love it anyway!
Basically a light and thrilling read that was a great closer to the series. I’m glad to have one series at least crossed off the list as I seem to be in the middle of way too many at the moment!