Fox on Books

Book reviews, opinions, musings and ramblings. General bookish excitement!

Archive for the tag “Dystopia”

The Maze Runner – by James Dashner

maze runnerI’m going to start providing summaries at the top of my reviews, for those who want the TL:DR version. Behold:

“Oh my god just tell me what is happening!” – my brain the whole way through The Maze Runner.

I defy you to read this book slowly. I couldn’t wait to get to the end, although that was mainly so I could have some idea of what just happened! It’s a great YA adventure story, aimed squarely at teenage boys, and a good read for anyone who wants an unputdownable tale.

I was infuriated by the first few chapters of The Maze Runner. Without ceremony, you’re dropped straight into a confusing world full of teenage boys, living in a place called The Glade in the middle of, apparently, a giant maze. Would you have questions? Because both I and our protagonist, Thomas, had A LOT of questions. Such as:

– Where is this place? WHAT is this place?
– Why am I here?
– Who am I? How can it be that I know my name and understand concepts but I know nothing about my history?
– Seriously, WHAT?? Let Me Feet Hit the Ground Running:

Let’s Talk: Genres


Originally hosted by Melissa from i swim for oceans, Smash & Kt took her original inspiration, and made it their own, expanding it to more than just books. Let’s get personal (but respectfully so) and learn more about one another! Each week, a different question will be posted along with a place to link up your posts and visit other people’s responses. This meme is definitely meant to bring out conversation and meet new people. So, Let’s Talk!

This week, we’re asking:

Do you rate a book differently based on the genre? Are there certain genres that you hold at a higher standard? Are there books that will gain an automatic “pass” or overlook of issues just because you love the genre/ type of world? If you don’t rate books, you can answer the questions based on your review criteria.

I definitely look for different elements in books of different genres. I think in a Fantasy novel, I’m always hoping for great characters – although that’s true of all genres, really – but in particular, characters that are a variation from the so-often-repeated staples. So, if you can give me someone who’s not the country lad born to be a hero, who knows not how powerful/talented he is, I’m automatically intrigued. Same goes for not having yet another wise old-man mentor/wizard figure.Or, more common lately, the young girl hero, ruthless and beautiful, reckless and underestimated.

It’s been done – and while I won’t stop reading or even let it affect my opinion of the book too much, I’ll be disappointed to see the same tropes used, with no build or extension. Give me more. Surprise me. Make me interested in your character for themselves, not just as a convenient plot prop who fills a role we’ve come to expect filled.

In YA, be it Fantasy or Dystopian or Contemporary, I expect a degree of sameness. But I think sameness can be okay in the YA genre: definitely more so than in “adult” Fantasy. My view is that YA books are looking to tell a similar story; one of growing up, at least a little. And I think one of the most powerful tools at a YA author’s disposal is the basic framework’s we’ve seen used in many stories before.

In this case, I feel like what an author builds within or beyond this frame is the important part. Yes, it’s a coming-of-age story. But how well do you connect me to it? How real are the challenges? How authentic are the characters and their reactions? So in that sense, I have a different standard.

The other things I look for in Fantasy, particularly as my taste skews toward high fantasy, are:

  • Formal/beautiful language. People like Patrick Rothfuss make me so happy, because his language is absolutely wonderful (and his story just brilliant).
  • World building! It’s got to be a place that isn’t a carbon copy of every generic fantasy novel! And it has to be somewhere I’m interested in, otherwise it’s hard to be concerned for the world’s wellbeing. Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, Patrick Rothfuss, Garth Nix and Maria V Snyder all have mad world building skills.

I’ve definitely got higher standards in Fantasy, because it’s my preferred reading material, which means I read a lot of it, and consequently spend more time thinking about what I liked and what I didn’t and why – especially since I’ve started reviewing.

So, what do you think? Should I be more consistent in my demands of authors, whether they’re writing YA or adult work? I’d love to know where you stand – leave me a comment and/or link through to your own Let’s Talk!

The Forsaken – by Lisa M Stasse

YA fiction has seen a surge of dystopian novels in recent years, some before and many after the success of The Hunger Games. The Forsaken proudly tells a reader “If you love Hunger Games read this!” So, I did. Here’s what I thought:

By 2032 the world has changed. Government as we know it has failed, and Minister Harka has stepped in to lead the United Northern Alliance, or UNA, out of chaos. Crucially, this means removing from society individuals with genetic patterns that suggest a predisposition for violence or discord. At sixteen, each member of the UNA is tested. If you pass, nothing changes. But if you fail, then for the good of society you are taken away and put on an island halfway between Hawaii and Australia designated Prison Island Alpha. Or, as the Island’s unfortunate inhabitants have dubbed it, The Wheel.

Even though her parents were taken from her as rebels years ago, Alenna Shawcross knew she was a loyal, non-violent member of society, so it never occurred to her that the test might not agree, until she wakes up on the Wheel. She must adapt quickly and navigate the Island’s fragile social structures delicately if she has any hope of surviving. Before long, Alenna and her new allies on the Wheel begin to think of escape – but is that a real option? And if so, how high a cost are they willing to pay? No, Really, What Hunger Games?

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