Review: The Program by Suzanne Young

The Program
This book is 80% romance + 20% sci-fi. I love the premise and the real-life issues that The Program builds upon, but the pacing was a bit too slow for my liking (because of all the romance). But this series is begging me to finish it, and I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS UGH. I’m still trying to educate myself on trigger warnings, but I think it’s good to mention that they seem applicable to this review, as I will touch on depression and suicide in the context of this book.
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Mini Reviews: Gathering Blue, Messenger, & Son by Lois Lowry

The first book of a series is usually the most famous (or infamous) one, and the same can be said for Lois Lowry’s The Giver quartet. Instead of sequels, Lowry calls the next three books “companions”, and that’s how I view them: I can do with or without them, and some of them really enhanced my understanding and appreciation for the world that she’s created, while others are a little too bizarre for my liking.

Gathering Blue
 

 
Gathering Blue is set in a society that does not tolerate physical flaws – with a deformed leg, Kira is the exception to that rule solely because she has the embroidery skills to mend a very important robe. While housed in a nicer place than she’s ever been in before, Kira discovers the secrets that the Council of the village has been hiding from the rest of the people. Like in The Giver, this dystopian world seems normal from the main character’s eyes because it’s the only thing they knew, until they start seeing the cracks and shadows in which secrets are hidden. I thought Gathering Blue was okay because it still had an interesting premise, but it does lack character development and relationship-building. I also thought that it would be connected in some way to the setting and characters from The Giver, and was disappointed when this felt like an entirely new world. It makes more sense after reading all four books, but at this point, I wasn’t too excited after Gathering Blue.

Messenger
 

Title: Messenger
Author: Lois Lowry
Series: The Giver Quartet #3
Publication Date: April 26, 2004
Genre: (Young Adult) Dystopia / Science Fiction

 
Finally, the link between the first two books is made! In Messenger, which is set in the Village that welcomes all rejects from other communities, Matty – Kira’s friend from Gathering Blue – is our protagonist. As the Village starts showing signs of evil (ex. villagers being not as welcoming to new folks and who, for some reason, start becoming less friendly and good in general), Matty plays a key role as a messenger in delivering and retrieving messages from the outside world because he is one of the few people who can go into the woods that surround the Village and not get lost. Characters from The Giver also show up in Messenger, and it’s interesting to see the concept of “magic” come up again. What I didn’t really like is the ending. There’s probably some sort of symbolism in what happened and what Matty and the other characters stood for (ex. good vs. evil, strengths and weaknesses of humanity, etc.), but it requires too much thinking. As a story, it’s abstract, but also somewhat magical – Messenger was also super short, where I would’ve preferred something lengthier with more analyses/reasoning behind certain events.

Son
 

Title: Son
Author: Lois Lowry
Series: The Giver Quartet #4
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Category: (Young Adult) Dystopia / Science Fiction

 
Son is my favorite follow-up/companion story to The Giver. It connects all of the characters and settings in the previous books while also providing new characters and new settings that really complement what Lowry had created previously. In another writer’s hands, this story could’ve definitely become a more modern standalone dystopian piece with full-blown romances and conspiracies and sci-fi/fantasy elements – but in Lowry’s hands, the simplicity and nuances in the imagery and the characters are very characteristic of her writing, and they force the reader to think a lot more (this is a good thing!). Good imagination is key to reading this!

bird

Overall, I think The Giver Quartet is a series that blends science fiction and fantasy in an interesting way. These stories make you think, whether it be analyzing how symbols and motifs play a role or imagining and embellishing the scenery and people in your mind. Lowry provides a simple skeleton on which you can build your own ideas upon, and I think it’s good to have these types of stories once in a while.

Have you read the rest of the Giver quartet?
Have you read any books that combine fantasy and sci-fi elements?

Review: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

The House of the Scorpion

This book is a children’s book? Really??? The House of the Scorpion has a super-creative world and plotline, and it’s nothing like I’ve ever read before. This dystopian novel features many concepts I don’t see much (or at least not well done), including drugs, slavery, cloning/immortality, and immigration. Farmer was able to integrate all of these concepts to produce an engrossing vivid, mildly disturbing, and action-packed story.

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Review: Parasite by Mira Grant

Parasite

Typical awesome Mira Grant story, with an amazing narrative and a whole lot of suspense. The only thing I didn’t like: THE CLIFFHANGER. AHHHHHH. 😫 As someone who’s working in public health, Parasite is like the crazy-but-believable cure-all dream that we have for solving all health problems. The grossness of parasites just adds to the disgusted-but-can’t-look-away feeling. 🐛 (Not sure why it’s categorized as “horror” on Goodreads though, since parasites are just icky… unless you Google Image them, which I DO NOT RECOMMEND DOING.) I love the amount of research that has been done to add a layer of detail to the storyline. Our main heroine is pretty kickass, and the plot line is engrossing even when it got predictable.Read More »

Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player OneUgh, I so regret not being more of a gamer/pop culture fanatic, because I would’ve loved this book so much more!!! Ready Player One is GOLD. It’s like all the nerdiness in the world just gathered together and turned into a brilliant nerdy masterpiece. I could actually see humanity’s future ending up like this, and it’s amazing and terrifying and definitely makes a great setting for a dystopian novel. Although there are some things I didn’t like about it, this book was really good.
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Review: Hungry by H.A. Swain

Hungry

I love food-related books, so I thought I was going to be blown away by Hungry after reading the premise. But even though the protagonist was likable and the adventures were exciting, the plot is too convoluted and the insta-love was annoying. I’m actually in awe at how unexpected some of the plot twists are (yes, there are multiple!), and I wish this book was more focused.
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Review: The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The City of EmberThe City of Ember is like a more intricate version of Lois Lowry’s The Giver – more characters, more depth, and more potential. However, there are some similarities that I’d rather not have, such as detached characters and somewhat juvenile problems (but this is middle grade, so…). This dystopian story has an interesting premise (imagine having a limited amount of lightbulbs in a world without sunlight!) and it’s really only the beginning of a very long adventure of revelations and betrayals, I’m sure. It got me hooked from this first book though, so I’m excited to keep reading!Read More »

Mini Review: Glitches by Marissa Meyer

Glitches

Title: Glitches
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: Lunar Chronicles #0.5
Publication Date: December 5, 2011
Category: (Young Adult) Novella / Fantasy / Dystopia

 

 

This prequel to Cinder tells of how Cinder comes to her new family and learns about her cyborg side. Evil stepmother is evil, and I feel for what eleven-year-old Cinder has to go through in a household that doesn’t want her. With gorgeous cover art and clear thematic points, Glitches shows the “glitches” that Cinder finds in her new body, and it does a good job in evoking sympathy for the protagonist and setting the scene for Cinder.