Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Judgment, No. 5

Before I even knew what this book was about, I knew I wanted it. Badly. That dress! It just seems...romantic--in the traditional sense of the word, a sort of idealized view of reality. And when I found out it was slightly inspired by Robert Browning's (creepy) poem, "My Last Duchess," I only wanted it more.The story of a new-money American family hoping to marry off their daughter to European royalty? It's like Edith Wharton reincarnate. And, just like pretty dresses, Edith Wharton is a weakness of mine. I love sad stories told in a beautiful way.

So I am very excited for this book. It got rave reviews for the very things I'm excited for. Like a plot secondary to character, where it's all a slow sort of ebb and flow. Yet creepy. And passionate. It's supposedly full of witticisms and refreshingly strong characters. And it's a hark back to Wharton. Which is wonderful.

Of course, it will probably be modernized, with a whole bunch of bodice-ripping and sexual tension realized. But I hope not. I hope it's as demure as Wharton was. You think, as a historical fiction novel nostalgic for those last days of American royalty, Ms Goodwin would avoid any Hollywood sort of twist. And I hope she does.

But...I'll still read it. After all, I just can't say no to a pretty dress like that. 

Verdict, No. 4

There was no love triangle! A first for me in YA fiction for a long time. I was nervous for a second--one character was obviously dying (oh, poor choice of words. I apologize) for a love triangle. But the main character, Tris, wasn't having any of it.

Maybe that's why I liked her so much. Or maybe it was because she was an actual human with flaws and strengths. Man, did she have strength. That, gentleman, is what we call a heroine. She wasn't damsel in distress; she wasn't some helpless bimbo. On the other hand, it wasn't some nasty cynic who needed softening, or some bitter barbie with daddy issues. She was nice some times and mean the others; she liked some people and hated the rest; she got jealous, she got defensive; she could be super strong and super scared. So it was nice to know that someone out there (Veronica Roth, I'm talking to you) knows what a human looks like.

Same with the rest of the characters. They weren't flat, they weren't stock characters (except maybe the diabolical villain with too much ego. But, hey, we can't all win). And since the characters felt real, the story became believable.

And the love story. Oh, I was so thrilled to see an actual relationship form. It wasn't some crazy I-hate-you-so-much-we're-bound-to-make out. Nor was it well-I-guess-since-we're-the-main-characters-we'll-have-to-hook-up. There was build up, there was confusion, there was chemistry beyond the sexual tension. And there was pay off. Without getting nasty.

So I liked the characters. The plot? Some of it was extreme, to say the least. I found myself rereading portions to see if I'd missed something or was this actually happening. And three-fourths of the book was exposition--setting up characters and relationships that you know will fall apart and change in the next few. The main problem was the climax: after such a Tris-centric book, the sudden world involvment made a lot of the exposition feel trivial. I found myself annoyed with Tris as everything went wrong because I was like, "Hello! You should have been working on saving the world, hero, instead of getting another tattoo." But I can't really complain. Roth kept me engaged and she did it through the characters, no the plot. Which, for me, was a refreshing change.

As the first in the series, she actually had a conclusion. Which was a relief. Because, frankly, I'm a little tired of series. Is there a stand-alone YA book out there anymore? I don't think so. But Roth gave a book with a plot, including a conclusion. I mean, it wasn't all happily-ever-after (there's still a world to save), but Roth didn't fall into the trap of we must destroy everything so the reader will come back for more. So I enjoyed it, I did. It wasn't perfect and there were some just really stupid things going on. And I hope the major villain/issue is fleshed out more because right now I don't really care. But it was entertaining and a little more than satisfying.

I mean, a dystopian novel that isn't self-impressed? I'll take it.

Judgment, No. 4

I have always had a thing for dystopian/apocalyptic fiction. And this book has been on my to read for a while. And why not, right? With a catch phrase like that, you just can't really go wrong.

I mean you can. Definitely. But it's all so shiny and crazy looking. A bit melodramatic, sure--what, with the flames and the cut-up font. But it's teenage angst in a messed up world. Even the back cover reads like a movie trailer for a B-grade action movie full of explosions and drawn out shots of pretty people in love. And at least the concept is original: a society split into five "factions" defined by a single characteristic.

So what do we think? It's obviously character driven. And as a first in a trilogy it's going to be a whole lot of build up. Exposition. Describing the world, making us attached to various characters, spinning a villain who can last throughout the books. As a society touting perfection, you know it's just bound to fall apart. And our protagonist is going to see it happening before it does, very astute-like. She'll be the lynch pin for society failing. She'll be the face of the good guys. And maybe it will be full of cliches, but it's off to an intriguing start.

I just hope there isn't a love triangle.