Happy 4th! What better way to celebrate the holiday than with some reading?? Oh, you'd prefer beer and fireworks? That sounds good too. In fact, I'm heading up to Milwaukee in a couple hours to visit my best friend and celebrate the 4th with exactly that! But first, let me share two books I read this past week that I just loved.
Let me preface this review by saying that both of these were books that I did not expect to love. Both were a little slow for the first chapter. (I'll admit that since I've started reading EXCLUSIVELY teen fiction I've fallen to victim to the instant-gratification-induced mindset of needing my books to hook me almost instantly. I think I regress in age with each teen book I devour, and it is entirely possible that by the end of the summer I will mentally be 12 1/2 years old.) To be honest, the "world building" in each of these books was confusing to me at first. Where was my straight-forward, Hunger Games-style, easy to understand dystopian world? But trust me when I say this: these books are worth getting through the first chapter, suspending disbelief, and forcing yourself to adopt some shred of patience when they aren't instantly dropping you into a romantically-charged fight-to-the-death arena. Both books were wonderful. Read them.
Summary: (courtesy of goodreads.com) New soul. Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why. No soul. Even Ana's own mother thinks she's a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she'll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?..Sam believes Ana's new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana's enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else's life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?
My thoughts: Like I said, this book moved slowly at first which is actually completely fitting as the characters are anything but rushed. I loved meeting Ana, the protagonist, and watching how the deep scarring from her upbringing of being called a "Nosoul," a soulless being incapable of emotion much less love, influences her actions and words. It is powerfully beautiful to watch Ana grow to understand herself and realize that she truly is a soul-filled person and to watch Sam patiently accompany her on this path to self-acceptance. Of course there is a little romance--but it is so sweet and beautiful. I love love love a break from the "we spotted each other from across the cafeteria/parking lot/yard/biology lab and instantly fell in love and will run away from home/turn our backs on friends/drop out of school/become a vampire in order to never be separated from each other again" completely crazed romance that is in so many teen books these days. This romance (although completely fantasy as well, don't get me wrong) was like a breath of fresh air. I found myself forcing my eyes to stay open as I devoured this book well into the night, only to pry them back open early the next morning to finish it. Not a perfect ending and not a perfect book, but I loved it.
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Summary: (courtesy of goodreads.com) WORLDS KEPT THEM APART. DESTINY BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER. Aria has lived her whole life in the protected dome of Reverie. Her entire world confined to its spaces, she's never thought to dream of what lies beyond its doors. So when her mother goes missing, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland long enough to find her are slim. Then Aria meets an outsider named Perry. He's searching for someone too. He's also wild - a savage - but might be her best hope at staying alive. If they can survive, they are each other's best hope for finding answers.
My thoughts: Again, I had a hard time getting into this book at first. The dystopian word Rossi constructs was a little...challenging for me to visualize. I felt kind of dumb during the first few chapters actually, especially considering this is another teen book. However, it all comes together and after finishing Under the Never Sky, I actually like the fact that Rossi didn't devote a chapter explaining her "world" to us point blank--I like that she trusted her readers to understand the world as the novel played out. Aria and Perry are truly awesome characters and I loved the way the omniscient narrator alternated between sharing their thoughts and emotions with us with each chapter.
What I loved most, though, was the development of their relationship. Like Incarnate, this development is so different from most of the teen reads I've been devouring as of late, but in a totally different way. Aria and Perry have been raised in completely different worlds--her in the technology-saturated protection of the "pods" in which many humans have taken shelter and constructed their own digital worlds, and him in the wild expanse outside of the pods where the human race has divided into powerful tribes seeped in ritual, customs, and unique cultures. They are completely opposite in every way and pretty much hate each other through a good chunk of the book. And you know what? If this ever happened in real life, two people thrust together into a painful situation like Aria and Perry WOULD hate each other, or at least drive each other crazy! I know the boy-meets-girl, boy-hates-girl, boy-and-girl-learn-to-love-each-other plot isn't new by any means, but it is less common in teen fiction than it is in Hollywood rom coms. I loved it in this book, and really really loved the ending which I promise not to spoil.
The good? Both books are the first in brand new series. The bad? Book 2 for each is light years away. (Or so it feels at least!)
What are you reading this week?
As always, cover photos and italicized summaries are courtesy of goodreads.com.