Saturday, 15 February 2014

Pure - Julianna Baggott

Pure (Pure, #1)Pure (Pure #1) - Julianna Baggott
Grade: YA
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . .

Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost--how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . .

There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked: Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss--maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it's his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her.

When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again. (Description from Goodreads)

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I didn't know much about this book and series before I started reading it, other than a work mate loved and that the tagline said fans of The Hunger Games would enjoy the series. I'm always nervous about recommendations like that, with strong comparisons to BIG book franchises; but I LOVED this book! It wasn't perfect, but it was an addictive, on-the-edge-of-my-seat, action-packed story. One of the best dystopian/sci-fi novels I've read in a while.

We start the story with an introduction to the changed world Pure is set in. An atomic explosion has rocked the world, causing surviving humans to fuse with living and inanimate objects - dolls, birds, other humans, cars - anything they were connected to at the time of the explosion. These changes alone would have made for an interesting storyline, but not all humans faced the Detonations. Some were saving in a Dome structure set to regulate air and sustain human life. These people were protected from fusing to objects and are known as The Pure - not a single defect on them. There was so much potential drama between these two settings that my heart was soaring. Rebellion? War? Forbidden love? I couldn't decide which one I was hoping to see. In the end, rebellion and war were the one's that won out for me, especially because my chosen relationship occurred outside the Dome and Pure sphere.

This book was a perfect example of when third person stories work so well. Out two main characters - Pressia (a girl from outside the Dome) and Partridge (a boy 'lucky' enough to be saved by the Dome) - both have equal POV page time, showing life on the outside, the twisted system inside the Dome and the clash of worlds when these two meet. There are a couple of other POV changes throughout the story, which at times weren't really necessary, but it all worked out ok for me. I loved having these two voices and views - they were strong, detailed and made it easy to fall into their world. And what I loved more was that there was not even a speck of romance hinted between them. I'll admit, I worried at the start that there might be, especially when I decided - long before there was any obvious chemistry and before Pressia and Partridge me - that I wanted Pressia to end up with the courageous, intelligent and loyal Bradwell, another boy from outside the Dome with birds fused into his back.

But relationships aside - because they were actually a minor part of the story - I loved the action in Pure. We're introduced to the idea of a militia group on the outside, intent on recruiting any 16 year old kid and turning them into soldiers to fight against the Pure. But a twist midway through the book turns everything on it's head and we find out not everything about the Dome is quite what Pressia or Partridge have been led to believe. And now it's time to fight against the Dome - there was just so much action!

My only complaints were that some of the plot-points popped up out of nowhere. We're not told exactly what time the story is set in. You assume it's a bit in the future, because Children were being chipped with tracking devices and biotechnology developments were a lot bigger than I expect they're at now (not that I would really know). It was all a bit uncertain where the story was placed in terms of our own timeline. Pressia, Bradwell and Partridge were also very quick to figure out important changes for the story. They would have no clue what their next move should be, but someone would say one word and suddenly all doors were open again - and everything was explained like it was obvious, even though it was completely unknown 2 sentences ago. But this didn't stop me from loving the book.

I'm so happy the third book was just been released, because it means I can get my hands on books 2 and 3 as soon as I can. Looking forward to it!

4.5/5 stars

(Also posted on Goodreads)

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell
Grade: YA
Rating: 4/5 Stars

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn't stick out more if she tried.

Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book - he thinks he's made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor... never to Eleanor.

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you're young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose. (Description from Goodreads)

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This was a mix of super cute, adorable moments and painful heart break. Eleanor & Park's slow friendship and quick jump into love had me addicted from the start. I loved it.

There seems to be this growing theme in YA novels to place an importance on relationships in the past. Whether it's a storyline literally set in the past, or just characters obsessing about style, clothes, or music from an iconic era. There's something so powerfully about being set in a period where no-one is permanently attached to their phones or chatting online. Every look, every word, every action is more important. I loved how Rainbow Rowell captured this. She made you feel like no line could be overlooked. I loved it.

I also loved how neither Park nor Eleanor fit a mould. There was nothing about them that made you think they could be any old character in a YA contemporary. They weren't perfect, but they just worked we'll.

It was hard not to feel sorry for Eleanor. Described as being bigger than your average teen, she struggles with her body image the entire book, often wondering how Park could possibly find anything about her worth liking and you kind of can't blame her for doubting herself because she grew up in a horrible home situation. Sometimes I feel like this trouble family life theme is an attempt to bring extra drama to a book, but not this time. This time, all I wanted was for Eleanor to have something worth loving in her life.

Thankfully, she had Park. Park was and interesting love interest. Obsessed with music and comic books, he has a relatively happy family life and is well respected at school; although hardly Mr. Popular. He did judge Eleanor at first sight, but he fell for her almost as quickly and tried so hard to show her that people can love you, regardless of growing up in different lives.

I'll admit, there was a lot of love and kisses being thrown around; I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, wondering when the dramatic twist would pop up and change everything. It did happen, and it wasn't quite what I was expecting. The ending seemed a little rushed for my liking, and while I feel like it was wrapped up; there was still a lot left unsaid, that leaves me questioning the future for Park and Eleanor - but in a good way.

I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to read more of Rainbow Rowell's stories.

4/5 stars

(Also posted on Goodreads)