Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Winter's End by Jean-Claude Mourlevat

Winter's EndIn a gripping dystopian novel, four teenagers risk impossible odds to fight against tyranny in a world of dangerous choices — and reemerging hope.

Escape. Milena, Bartolomeo, Helen, and Milos have left their prison-like boarding schools far behind, but their futures remain in peril. Fleeing across icy mountains from a terrifying pack of dog-men sent to hunt them down, they are determined to take up the fight against the despotic government that murdered their parents years before. Only three will make it safely to the secret headquarters of the resistance movement. The fourth is captured and forced to participate in a barbaric game for the amusement of the masses — further proof of the government’s horrible brutality. Will the power of one voice be enough to rouse a people against a generation of cruelty? Translated from the French, this suspenseful story of courage, individualism, and freedom has resonated with young readers across the globe.
First Look: ***** I honestly thought this would be a remake of The Hunger Games.  The premise was so similar.

Setting: ***** 
It was actually kind of...bla. The whole creepy wow-this-could-be-us-in-a-century dystopia thing just wasn't there. I could barely figure out what even made it a dystopia at all. Every single place was drab and none of it stood out.

Characters: *****
They weren't likable at all. I was never cheering them on. There wasn't anything special about them to even try to make me like them.  They made decisions that no *sane, common-sense-using* human would make.  They felt sad at the smallest things, but were strangely emotionless when it really mattered.  Helen and Milos, and Bart and Milena fell in love way too fast.  It was kind of like, "Wow, I haven't seen a teenage boy in years!  You're my only only option, so I guess that means I'm madly in love with you!"

Plot: *****
It was very slow. The jacket promised me a tyrannical government I would hate, an exciting resistance movement, and more, but I didn't feel like any of it was there. The characters kept going on about how the government was bad, but yet...there was nothing to back that up. The so-called tyrants never actually did anything wrong, from what I can tell. So why does everyone hate them? The resistance was really more of a large group that liked to complain. And by the way, you can't overthrow an entire government system by gathering a bunch of people, swarm a city, and yell. It just doesn't work in real life.
Cliché-ness: ***** The tyrannical government, the Severus Snape-like teachers, the oppressive boarding school...and unless you can be unique, they've been overused.

Writing: ***** 
At first I was thinking that some of the writing quality got lost in translation, but then I remembered that the same translator worked on Cornelia Funke's books, and those were amazing. So there's no excuse here. I can't count the number of times my mind was screaming Show, don't tell!

Likes:
I do really like the name Milena. It's pretty. Other than that, not much.

Not-so-great:
I hate it when a book's jacket promises excitement and intensity and just doesn't live up to it. This book had so much potential, but I had to force myself to get through it.  And, speaking of Snape, was that what the author was going for with Van Vlyck?  A sort of I'm-evil-but-I-love-her thing?  It didn't work for me.

Total Score: *****
This book could have been so good. It had all the right ingredients for an awesome, The Giver/The Hunger Games epic dystopian novel. In the end, it was a flat, dull read. I wouldn't recommend it at all unless you really, really want to read it. But I can't see why anyone would.


Note: When I said Severus Snape-like, I mean that the teachers were mean and nasty (use both meanings of that word).  Those teachers didn't have the awesome three-dimensionalness as Snape.  I honestly think Snape might possibly be the most well-developed character of all time.

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