The Innocence Treatment
Young Adult / February 15, 2018

Author: Ari B. Goelman. Summary: Lauren has a disorder that makes her believe everything her friends tell her–and she believes everyone is her friend. Her innocence puts her at constant risk, so when she gets the opportunity to have an operation to correct her condition, she seizes it. But after the surgery, Lauren is changed. Is she a paranoid lunatic with violent tendencies? Or a clear-eyed observer of the world who does what needs to be done? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Yet another story fails to live up to a great premise. I do really like the format; some readers don’t like framing devices, but I’ve always felt like a good one can add a lot to the atmosphere and to the story. The Innocence Treatment is both a series of diary entries written by the main character, and a book annotated and published by her sister, which provides for some cool footnotes. And the ambiguous ending. But the actual story? So-so. Lauren is a bland personality. The dystopian aspect is hugely important to the overall story, yet we have very few details there. The side-characters she interacts with are even flatter, up to and including her boyfriend. The whole…

Ready Player One
Adult / October 24, 2017

Author: Ernest Cline. Summary: It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them. For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS…

The White Mountains
Young Adult / September 9, 2017

Tripods #1. Author: John Christopher. Summary: Long Ago, The Tripods — huge, three-legged machines — descended upon Earth and took control. People no longer understand automation nor machines, and unquestioningly accept the Tripods’ power.But for a time in each person’s life — in childhood — he is not a slave. Will still has time to escape. My Thoughts: The White Mountains is an older sci-fi that I’ve been meaning to get my hands on for a while now, and… well, I’m not sure what I was expecting, so it couldn’t disappoint expectations. No, that’s not quite true. It’s a simpler story than I expected. Simpler in a couple of ways. First: the first book is a very straight-forward dystopian journey. ​All revelations on the tripods are saved for the next book (which I haven’t read yet), and there’s minimum but satisfactory world-building and development of the mind-control theme. I think one recent trend I’ve grown unconsciously used to is the “save the world” dystopian story, and The White Mountains is far too practical for that. Three boys, trying to survive. That’s it. Not a bad thing at all, mind you; I rather like it, it just took me by surprise…

Little Brother
Young Adult / August 5, 2017

Author: Cory Doctorow. Summary: Marcus aka “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems. But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days. When the DHS finally releases them, his injured best friend Darryl does not come out. The city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: “M1k3y” will take down the DHS himself. (Published summary) Content Review: Sexual Content: Character hears girl shout “Pervert! Get your hands off me!” Character’s half-listening to a call-in radio show about sex problems (but this is stated, the actual text not shown). Two teens are kissing,…

Young Adult / May 28, 2017

Unwind #2. Author: Neal Shusterman. Summary: Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simltaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished. Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself. (Published summary) Content Review: Sexual Content: “Dad’s late nights at the office aren’t really at the office. They’re with Nancy.” // “I would love to be your first. You can do that, right? I mean… you’re complete, right?”…

Young Adult / May 27, 2017

Unwind #3. Author: Neal Shusterman. Summary: Connor and Lev are on the run after the destruction of the Graveyard, the last safe haven for AWOL Unwinds. But for the first time, they’re not just running away from something. This time, they’re running toward answers, in the form of a woman Proactive Citizenry has tried to erase from history itself. If they can find her, and learn why the shadowy figures behind unwinding are so afraid of her, they may discover the key to bringing down unwinding forever. Cam, the rewound boy, is plotting to take down the organization that created him. Because he knows that if he can bring Proactive Citizenry to its knees, it will show Risa how he truly feels about her. And without Risa, Cam is having trouble remembering what it feels like to be human. With the Juvenile Authority and vindictive parts pirates hunting them, the paths of Connor, Lev, Cam, and Risa will converge explosively—and everyone will be changed. (Goodreads summary) Content Review: Sexual Content: Man threatens rape, non-graphically. Character says he’s impregnated three girls. Scene with male teen hanging out with three girls with his shirt off – they’re all acting in a flirtatious,…

Young Adult / May 9, 2017

Unwind #4. Author: Neal Shusterman. Summary: Proactive Citizenry, the company that created Cam from the parts of unwound teens, has a plan: to mass produce rewound teens like Cam for military purposes. And below the surface of that horror lies another shocking level of intrigue: Proactive Citizenry has been suppressing technology that could make unwinding completely unnecessary. As Conner, Risa, and Lev uncover these startling secrets, enraged teens begin to march on Washington to demand justice and a better future. But more trouble is brewing. Starkey’s group of storked teens is growing more powerful and militant with each new recruit. And if they have their way, they’ll burn the harvest camps to the ground and put every adult in them before a firing squad—which could destroy any chance America has for a peaceful future.(Goodreads summary) Content Review: Sexual Content: Girl/boy sleep together (in the innocent way) but after a brief non-explicit conversation in which they decide not to have sex. / “Whatever he wants, he knows she will oblige… but the fact that he can have it so easily makes it so much less desirable.” / Some kissing. / Character ‘rewards’ one of his lackeys with a girl (talks her…

Young Adult / April 11, 2017

Unwind #1. Author: Neal Shusterman. Summary: Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives. The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state, is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive. (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: Shusterman has pulled off the impressive feat of writing a book that directly addresses multiple present-day problems without being boring or preachy. It’s an action-packed dystopia – I couldn’t put the book down. The dystopian element of unwinding is distinctly disturbing, and this is exactly the point. Content Review: Sexual Content: Light kisses. Character says “I’m not like my dads – my compass points to girls”. Boy corners girl in a bathroom and threatens to further assault her, before backing off when…

Young Adult / February 15, 2017

Arc of a Scythe #1. Author: Neal Shusterman. Summary:  Thou shalt kill. A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control. Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own. (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: Scythe was interesting, but it didn’t live up to the standards I’d been expecting. The concept was novel: a world so advanced that death has been virtually eliminated, and mankind has taken that role upon themselves. Our two main characters, a boy and a girl, provide contrasting arcs as they are sent down very different training paths, one under an abusive, unethical master and the other under one of the ‘good scythes’. However, because this is Neal Shusterman, I was expecting a heavier emphasis on the practical and ethical results of the worldbuilding, and possibly more unexpected twists. Instead, I got…

Young Adult / January 31, 2017

Talon #3. Author: Julie Kagawa. Summary: The price of freedom is everything. When forced to choose between safety with the dragon organization Talon and being hunted forever as an outcast, Ember Hill chose to stand with Riley and his band of rogue dragons rather than become an assassin for Talon. She’s lost any contact with her twin brother, Dante, a Talon devotee, as well as Garret, the former-enemy soldier who challenged her beliefs about her human side. As Ember and Riley hide and regroup to fight another day, Garret journeys alone to the United Kingdom, birthplace of the ancient and secret Order of St. George, to spy on his former brothers and uncover deadly and shocking secrets that will shake the foundations of dragons and dragonslayers alike and place them all in imminent danger as Talon’s new order rise. (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: Feels like this series has gone downhill. Talon was a fun action-romance with a twist, and it worked well that way. But now Julie Kagawa is combining dystopia with romance, and as so often, it doesn’t work. Ember is agonizing over her love-triangle choice while she ought to be thinking about her plans, her loyalties, her brother….