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Thursday, April 3, 2014

The 100, The Future of Us, and Avalon Mini-Reviews

Well, here I am.  I'm back.  I actually spent last week on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, which was awesome, and also part of the reason for my blogging break.  (That ship that broke a propeller and had to stay in San Juan three extra days?  I was on it.)  I've returned to snow and cold, though, and also back to posting reviews.
This is possibly the wrong GIF to use.  No, I do not care.
When I returned, though, I realized that I had managed to set a new record for myself.  I've been three reviews behind, even four.  Somehow, I found myself sitting here, seven reviews behind.  There was no way I could put out seven quality, full-length reviews, so I went for mini-reviews instead.  (Though I have a few books that I would've liked to take the time to express my full annoyance.)  Without further ado, here is the first set of mini-reviews.

The 100 (The Hundred #1) by Kass Morgan
In the future, humans live in city-like spaceships orbiting far above Earth's toxic atmosphere. No one knows when, or even if, the long-abandoned planet will be habitable again. But faced with dwindling resources and a growing populace, government leaders know they must reclaim their homeland... before it's too late.

Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents are being sent on a high-stakes mission to recolonize Earth. After a brutal crash landing, the teens arrive on a savagely beautiful planet they've only seen from space. Confronting the dangers of this rugged new world, they struggle to form a tentative community. But they're haunted by their past and uncertain about the future. To survive, they must learn to trust - and even love - again.

Released: September 3rd 2013    
Pages: 323
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers  
Source: Library

There was nothing about this book that didn't look awesome.  100 death-row teenagers running around on an uncolonized planet with no adult supervision?  Um, hello, yes.
In the first few chapters, this was so promising.  The characters' motivations were compelling, and the plot actually felt like it was going somewhere.  Pretty soon, though, it started spiraling downward.  First, the setting is never fully explained--but the main twist about their home spaceship is entirely predictable.  So predictable that I'm not even going to mark this spoiler.  The spaceship is quickly becoming uninhabitable?  Wow, I would've never called that, because I've never read a sci-fi novel before.

Also, let's talk about the act of sending a hundred teenagers down to Earth.  You pull all these teens, who fully expect to be executed on their eighteenth birthday, out of prison cells, throw them right onto a spaceship, and wave goodbye.  You don't give them any training or any guidance.  You don't give them a way to communicate with you.  How could anyone ever expect that to work?  How does this make sense?

My main complaint, though, is the overbearing romance of this book.  Apparently, kissing is more important to these characters than survival.  All four main characters sat and moped because of their romantic problems.  There was insta-love that made no sense, and characters making dumb decisions because of it.  I signed up for Lord of the Flies in space, not this kissing-fest.  

Overall, I'm disappointed.  While I didn't outright hate this, I certainly don't recommend it.  If you're looking for a modern, sci-fi sort of Lord of the Flies, go for Gone instead.
Similar Books: It involves teenagers alone in space, like Glow.  It's a spaceship book with a romance focus like Across the Universe and Starglass, and it has the sci-fi Lord of the Flies element of Gone.

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
It's 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They've been best friends almost as long - at least, up until last November, when Josh did something that changed everything. Things have been weird between them ever since, but when Josh's family gets a free AOL CD in the mail, his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they're automatically logged onto their Facebook pages. But Facebook hasn't been invented yet. And they're looking at themselves fifteen years in the future.

By refreshing their pages, they learn that making different decisions now will affect the outcome of their lives later. And as they grapple with the ups and downs of what their futures hold, they're forced to confront what they're doing right - and wrong - in the present.

Released: November 21st 2011    Pages: 356
Publisher: Razorbill                    Source: Library

I wish I had more time to review this, because it deserves a full-out, GIF-laden rant, which I just can't do right now.  I'm disappointed.  I have anger I need to vent about this book, and I get great satisfaction from ranting with GIFs every so often.  Going into this, I was expected an interesting exploration of how knowing the future affects actions of the present, the ripple effect of changing the future, etc.  Instead, I got 356 pages of relationship drama that never once addresses the massive time paradoxes it creates.  Seriously--these paradoxes put the ones in The Prisoner of Azkaban to shame.  (I'll let the people over at Cinemasins point out all the issues with PoA's time travel for you.)

Both point of view characters frustrated me.  Emma never stopped to think about the implications of how carelessly she manipulated her own future.  Josh spent too much time ignoring the obvious problem created by seeing his future Facebook profile.  Both of them did too much moping and brooding about their crushes for my liking.

But wait--it gets better.  The plot of this book literally ends because Emma's future self deleted her Facebook profile.  The characters themselves resolve nothing.  It's just "Oh, my profile's gone.  I must've deleted it in the future.  Well, that was fun."  End of book.  Are you kidding me?  Deleting a Facebook profile is something that is rarely done out of maturity.  It's just another way for people to get attention, and most deleters end up back online in a few weeks anyway.  And then, there's the fact that Emma saw on Facebook that her best friend would get pregnant at fifteen.  In order to stop this, she steals the (expired!) condom out of Josh's wallet (she knows it's there because...reasons?), takes his sweatshirt, puts the condom inside the pocket, and then lends the sweatshirt to her friend.  She's afraid her friend will go sleep with her boyfriend, so she makes a comment about how soft the inside of the sweatshirt pockets are, so her friend will find the condom.  Excuse me?  This isn't good friendship.  This is dishonest, rude, and just plain weird, and it won't solve anything.  This book is a giant "NOPE!" for me.  Not recommended.
Similar Books: It's a realistic novel with a minor paranormal or science fiction aspect, like Every Day, Invisibility, or Bruiser.

Avalon (Avalon #1) by Mindee Arnett
Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they're damn good at it. Jeth doesn't care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents' ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he'll go to get the freedom he's wanted for so long.

Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon's cult hit Firefly.

Released: January 21st 2014   Pages: 432
Publisher: Balzer & Bray        Source: Library

I'm going to throw eloquence out the window in favor of adapting a slang term for my own reviewing purposes: DAT COVER.  I don't even know what that thing is on top, but it's fabulous.  When I first saw this book, I didn't even care what it was about.  I just knew I needed to get my hands on this beautiful piece of art.  Then I read the description, and I needed it even more badly. 

I love how the description calls this "a great match for fans of Firefly".  It should be more like "this book is basically Firefly.  With teenagers."  (Apparently the author has a daughter named Inara, so don't tell me Firefly wasn't the main inspiration for this.)  So many of the characters match up.  Jeth is Mal.  Lizzie is Kaylie.  Celeste is Inara, possibly.  The little girl...I'm completely drawing a blank on her River.  Her adoptive older siblings, whose names also escape me, are Simon.  Shady is Jayne.  Flynn is Wash.  And so on.  I bring this up not to complain about lack of originality, but just to point out how accurate the comparison in the description is.  Also, is nobody going to talk about the fact that Jeth's full name is Jethro?  Hello, Colin Morgan, anybody?  

While I didn't fall in love with this book, I still really enjoyed it.  The plot is compelling and never gets slow.  The characters are dynamic, real, and interesting.  This is one of those books that, while I liked it, I have little to say in a review.  I don't have any specific criticisms, either.  Overall, it didn't disappoint, and I'm eager to read the sequel.   

Similar Books:
It features lots of spaceships, and teenagers flying and/or in spaceships, like Glow and A Confusion of Princes.  It also reminds me of Black Hole Sun and Airborn.

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