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Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Always War by Margaret Peterson Haddix

For as long as Tessa can remember, her country has been at war. When local golden boy Gideon Thrall is awarded a medal for courage, it’s a rare bright spot for everyone in Tessa’s town—until Gideon refuses the award, claims he was a coward, and runs away. Tessa is bewildered, and can’t help but follow Gideon to find out the truth. But Tessa is in for more than she bargained for. Before she knows it, she has stowed away on a rogue airplane and is headed for enemy territory. But all that pales when she discovers a shocking truth that rocks the foundation of everything she’s ever believed—a truth that will change the world. But is Tessa strong enough to bring it into the light?

Released: November 15th, 2011          Pages: 197
Publisher: Simon & Schuster             Source: Library

First Look: ***** For some reason, when I first heard of this, I thought it was about WWII.  Probably because the title "The Always War" reminded me of "The Never War".  It's an interesting connection, actually, and I'm a bit surprised that the publishers let Haddix use such a similar title.  (For the record, The Never War (by D. J. MacHale) was published in 2003, is part of a New York Times bestselling series, and has over 8,000 Goodreads ratings.  So it's not exactly an obscure book.)  Even after I realized this book was not about WWII, I still kept it on my to-read list.  I've read four other books by this author and have never been hugely impressed by her work, but I figured I'd give it a shot.  Anyway, it has a really awesome cover.

Setting: ***** Are there only, say, three different dystopian worlds that authors use in their books?  I'm really starting to feel that way.  I'm having a hard time finding a good, unique dystopian world.  (For the record, they do exist.)  America was at war, yes, and the standard of living was not what it is in the present.  And...?

For me, in a dystopian world, there's got to be some sort of drive.  Something to force the characters out of their comfort zone and force them to make a change in the world.  I want an urgency.  And in this book, Tessa wasn't really out to change her dystopian world.  I didn't feel that sense of something-needs-to-change.  In reality, all she wanted was to follow Gideon.  That's the only reason she got into the adventure to begin with. 

Characters: ***** The only character who interested me at all was Dek.  I wanted to know more of her story, but I never got to.  Other than her, we had basically two other characters--Gideon and Tessa.

I found it hard to get a sense of Gideon's personality because he had serious issues.  Tessa seemed to think he was some sort of brilliant revolutionary or something.  Honestly, he had some PTSD and needed therapy more than anything else.

And Tessa...Tessa, Tessa, Tessa.  What am I supposed to do about you?  I got hardly any sense of who she was.  I knew little about her backstory, and she didn't do anything to contribute to the story.  She was a bystander in the story.  She was along for the ride, it seemed, and nothing else. 

Plot: ***** I almost gave this four stars, moved way too quickly.  I don't have to say this often in my reviews, but it does happen.  The entire novel felt rushed.  I could barely get a sense of what was going on before it was BAM!--off to the next plot point now! 

I felt like I only read half a book.  I spent most of the time wondering why this part was skimmed over so much, where all the backstory was, etc.  There was so much of this storyline that could have been expanded on, and this would have made the book longer. 

Uniqueness: ***** There wasn't anything to make this stand out from other dystopians.  I felt like I had read about this exact same setting before.

Writing: *****
Again, like with the plot, I felt like I only read half a book.  The writing did more skimming along the top of the story than narrating it.  I wanted to know more about the characters, the world, the plot, but I didn't get it.  I didn't feel connected to the story at all.

Likes: The plot twist with the war and the computers was cool, if not a bit predictable.

Not-so-great: Nothing not already mentioned above. 

Overall: I read this over a week ago, and I'm still feeling like I only read half of this book.  Except that I read it all.  It was rushed to the point of skimming over some seemingly important plot points.  The characters did nothing to make me like them, and Tessa didn't even do anything herself.  The setting felt like a copy of other dystopian books.  Not recommended.
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