Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Earth Girl Review

Summary: A sensational YA science fiction debut from an exciting new British author. Jarra is stuck on Earth while the rest of humanity portals around the universe. But can she prove to the norms that she’s more than just an Earth Girl?

2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an ‘ape’, a ‘throwback’, but this is one ape girl who won’t give in.

Jarra invents a fake background for herself – as a normal child of Military parents – and joins a class of norms that is on Earth to excavate the ruins of the old cities. When an ancient skyscraper collapses, burying another research team, Jarra’s role in their rescue puts her in the spotlight. No hiding at back of class now. To make life more complicated, she finds herself falling in love with one of her classmates – a norm from another planet. Somehow, she has to keep the deception going.

A freak solar storm strikes the atmosphere, and the class is ordered to portal off-world for safety – no problem for a real child of military parents, but fatal for Jarra. The storm is so bad that the crews of the orbiting solar arrays have to escape to planet below: the first landing from space in 600 years. And one is on collision course with their shelter.

My Thoughts: With YA, I’ve read a lot of books where the main female character is supposed to be special, but doesn’t know why. And that, by itself, is OK. I think a lot of people in real life don’t understand why they’re special, but it doesn’t mean it’s not true. Unfortunately, in these kinds of books, the character reminds you repeatedly how unsure of themselves they are at each turn.  It happens to mirror some real life problems women deal with, but that’s a longer story. What was refreshing about Jarra is that I didn’t have to be concerned with that. She was exceptional, and she didn’t go off questioning it or apologizing for it.

Another standout aspect was the worldbuilding. This society that’s been built around portals, with their social caste and past that mirrors the 21st century, was so imaginative. By the beginning chapters, I was almost salivating with the thought of how cinematic this was. And that whatever problems Jarra faced to get what she wanted would be awesome to watch unravel. But here’s where things get a bit murky. Jarra’s main problems came from herself, which isn’t abnormal in a man vs. self-type conflict. But there were other problems that seemed to suggest man vs. nature, except there was no deeper connection between the inner and outer conflict.  The “rescue missions” (I won’t say more than that) didn’t tie in well enough to the internal problem.

Or maybe my issue was that Edwards set up a world where something bigger could have happened. Like, don’t give me a Star Trek world and have the whole story take place on earth. That’s what it felt like. Jarra’s personal problems could have been in the midst of a bigger/deeper “world” problem, but it wasn’t. With that said, I’m aware that this is the first of a series. And because I loved Jarra and the world, and could still see where a second book could redeem the story, I won’t give up on this series. It has too much potential!

Update: I just read the premise of the second book, and it sounds like what I wanted to happen during the first book!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The 5th Wave review

Summary: The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

My Thoughts: I read a blog post a couple of weeks back about insight into what people working at book publishing companies look for in a manuscript. To sum it up, there was nothing special this particular person was looking for. No wizards over dragons, or road trips instead of dying patients. But something that was interesting is that this person always looked forward to the novel about a subject that they weren’t really into. Basically, if you wrote about something she didn’t really like and made her like it, then the book was really good. The 5th Wave is my supreme example of that.

To my knowledge, I’ve never read a book about, pertaining to, or including aliens. I avoid it. I try my hardest, and sometimes fail to stop myself from rolling my eyes whenever my dad tells me he saw another show proving aliens exist. And I put books like this, at the bottom of the tbr list, because even though I’ll give it a try (because I’ve heard great things)… it’s still about aliens.

Here’s the thing. Books are repetitive. Stories are repetitive. There’s something a character wants, and the whole story is about either striving to get it, and getting it, or striving to get it, but not getting it (in that case they might get what they need rather than what they want.) This is pretty simple. And when life as you know it ends, it’s hard to talk about anything but grief. Well, Cassie could go on talking about grief and despair (and other things) for a full series and I’d still eat it up. She thinks brutally and honestly to the point that I’d start to get a feeling in my gut that maybe I shouldn’t roll my eyes too hard when dad starts talking about area 51. It felt that real.

As for the story, the way it was split up between the main characters seemed questionable at first, but it was all brought together perfectly by the end. I knew they would connect somehow, but I initially wondered how story A would line up with story B. And it didn’t happen the way I wanted it to. It actually turned out better than I could have imagined.

And the action! Even though we’re in characters heads a lot, there is so much action. I read the first chapter and immediately thought that this story was film-worthy. No wonder there was a deal for a movie before The 5th Wave was even released. There’s irony, which makes the best kind of stories (especially movies). There’s people you’re rooting for and people you’re suspicious about that seem to trade places out of nowhere. There’s heartbreak, and not kiddie heartbreak. I mean people suffering in terrible ways. And yet, there’s hope.  Hope that you’re a mayfly and not a cockroach (it’ll make sense if you read it), or a human and not a shark. And even though life is fleeting, that you’ll learn to use what little time you have left, alien invasion or not, to do something that matters.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Will it or Won't it: The Fault in Our Stars

I’m not sure if it’s my love for books and movies or my years at film school (or both), but when I hear certain book adapted movies are coming out, I’m either immediately thrilled about it or dreading it. This often has nothing to do with whether or not I liked the book, and more to do with whether it makes a successful film. For instance, when I heard about the Beautiful Creatures movie, it was a no for me. When I saw the trailer it was an even bigger no. When I heard about the Hunger Games movie, I was ecstatic because it felt like a successful movie series.  One that was an in between was Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I thought it could be successful, and I still stand by that. It could have. But for whatever reason, it got turned into something less incredible.

Will it or Won’t it will be about YA (mostly) book-adapted movies that I think will or won’t be successful. Which is relative. One of these movies could still do well, but not well enough that I think it should have been made. Also, there are tons of excellent films that not many people go to see. I’d still deem that kind of film successful if it had all the right elements. And I will always support YA, which is why I still saw Beautiful Creatures. And why I’ll probably still see any other Percy Jackson movie (please let them continue to improve). Up first: The Fault in Our Stars.

I was so excited when I saw that the script had made it on Hollywood’s Blacklist in 2012. This is a film that I wanted to get made before I even finished the book. I read it when it first came out, so details are a bit muddled. I do remember that it’s the perfect mix of sad and happy. You want a movie that makes you laugh and cry. It’s also “movie funny,” as in, the things I read are things I want to actually see happen. It’s romantic in a way that makes me wish I had a relationship like that (sort of). And the whole book isn’t in the main character’s head. That’s what I think makes it really difficult to turn a book into a movie. When all the important parts are in someone’s head and you can’t see it through dialogue and action. How do you know what you need to know without the screenwriter and producers changing aspects about the story (which I hate and often doesn’t work)? The Fault in Our Stars isn’t a three book series that will turn into four movies. It's not the next Harry Potter or Twilight. It’s tragic. It’s about normal lives. And I don’t know how well it’ll do money-wise. But in my own version of success: It Will.

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