Genre: YA Dystopian Literature

Notes: 22/50 (no way I’m gonna make 50 books by the end of the year..blurgh.  The challenge continues another year)

Review: Okay, so I liked this book better than the first one of the series. Maybe because I’ve grown accustomed to the spelling and understand the political situation on New World a little more.  Plus I’ve gotten used to the NOISE.

To me, this novel (and the series) grapples with the question of “What is it to be a man?”  And it’s a question we see today.  A disturbing amount of teenage boys (and girls) think being violent and not allowing any “disrespect” is what makes a man.  In this society, men are only men if they have killed another man.  The refrain “We are the choices we make” echoes throughout the book and forces people to consider what kind of people they want to be.

Our protagonists Todd and Viola are separated for most of this book and each has to make his/her own choices.  What does it mean to be a man/woman?  What side of this war am I on?

As much as this story is about Viola and Todd and their choices, the villains in this story aren’t really villains, which makes their choices that much harder.  In the first book, it is easy to see Mayor Prentiss (now President) as a stock villain. However, book 2 explains his motives and his absolute conviction that his antics will bring peace to New World/New Prentisstown/Haven. He reminds me of the Mayor in the Walking Dead series in the way that he probably doesn’t see himself as a bad man – but he has to do bad things to keep the peace and get things done. He sees himself as a hero and as a man who has to do the dirty work no one else has the balls to do.

Mistress Coyle, the woman who is trying to overthrow him, is even more confusing.  She means well, I’m sure of it and I’m positive I would be on her side.  But she does…regrettable…things to strike back at the president’s men.  She reminded me a lot of Coin in The Hunger Games series.  A strong woman who did necessary evils, but unfortunately has all of the trappings of a dictator herself.  Even if she believes what she is doing is right, her means are no more justified than the tyrant she attempts to overthrow.

My one critique of the story lies in Todd and Viola.  I found them a bit irritating.  I can’t explain why exactly, but their love for each other and obsession with each other didn’t feel real to me. They’re 14.  It is one of the primary reasons I despise the premise of Romeo and Juliet.  They’re no overt sexual tension, but their feelings are so damn intense (maybe I’ve forgotten what it means to be a teenager already?  I’m sure my 14 year old self would defend that plenty of 14 year olds have intense feelings.  Isn’t that one of the hallmarks of adolescence?) but my jaded 24 year old self could not accept these characters were 14.  However, I will acquiesce and say that they have gone through more than most people do in a lifetime and that has aged them prematurely (they’ve killed for godsakes) and their shared experiences forged a bond stronger than most people see in their lifetimes.   And Todd just giving up because Viola “abandoned” him made me want to throw down the book in disgust.

Also, minor quibble: the font change between Todd and Viola’s chapters was annoying.  They weren’t different enough to announce THIS IS A DIFFERENT CHAPTER in capital letters.  And why do we need to differentiate them still further?  Each chapter had either TODD or VIOLA printed neatly at the top so we would know who narrated the section.  I am competent enough to follow those cues without the text changing, thanks.

Bottom Line: On the whole, good book.  Very emotional.  Very intense. It’s a little contrived and has been done before (YA dystopia, can’t get enough), but I can’t wait until I can get my hands on book 3 because this one left us with a cliffhanger!

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