Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Review: Wild Magic

Set in the fantasy world of Tortall, this is the story of Daine, a thirteen-year-old orphan who discovered she possesses the hidden "wild magic" which allows her to communicate with animals and harness their minds. Soon, Daine finds herself needing all of her strength, as together with her friends, Numair the Mage, Onua the Horsemistress and Alanna the Lioness, she battles against the Mages of Carthak to save Tortall from destruction... (1993)

When I first read the blurb around three years ago, I thought “Yes! This sounds like a cracking take on animal magic fantasy, I must read it!” Having taken a considerable break from the genre and being in need of some light, quick reading, it seemed the perfect time to race through a good ol’  Scholastic Point book.* So I got stuck right in, only to reach what I’m now calling The Point of Meh after four chapters. I wanted to like it, I really did, but it did nothing for me. I mean, it’s okay. Perhaps if I was twelve, and this was my first venture into the genre, it would have had a better impression on me, but I’m doubtful. The protagonist, Daine, is bland. She has it too easy. Of course, she’s unusually gifted and super powerful,  but with all the personality of a scoop of instant coffee. The supporting cast is mildly interesting and pleasingly diverse (at least, that’s how I imagined them), and the forces of antagonism are suitably apocalyptic. There’s just not enough conflict, tension, or mystery to satisfy my fairly easy-to-quench thirst.  All in all, disappointing.

2/5 Stars

 * A couple of years ago I bought a bunch of 90s’ Point Horror, Romance, Crime, and Fantasy. My aim was to refamiliarise myself with the format, style, and concision which had made such an impression on me as a teen. For the most part, it’s been great, both rereading old favourites and discovering previously unread titles. Even though most were written over twenty years ago, they have certain qualities which are somewhat remiss in popular contemporary teen fiction.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Review: Gone

In the blink of an eye, everyone in Perdido Beach, California, over the age of thirteen disappears. Gone too are phones, television, and the internet. As the kids struggle to survive in this new world, the world itself continues to evolve. A sinister creature lurks in a mine in the desert; animals are mutating; and some of the kids are developing dangerous supernatural powers that grow stronger by the day. A battle between good and evil is imminent, and for some of the kids, time is running out. On their fifteenth birthday, they disappear like everyone else. The first novel in Michael Grant's Gone series is an action-packed thrill ride that will leave readers hungry for more. Don't miss the series that Stephen King calls "exciting, high-tension." (2009)

Perhaps I wasn’t in the right mindset, but it must have been 3 or 4 times I picked this up and just couldn’t get into the story. It had all hallmarks of the type of YA I love, but it just didn’t grab me. Sam was kind of boring; the usual unassuming hero. Then there’s the love interest. Astrid is a teenage copy of the same icy, intelligent, beautiful blonde who turns up under different names in the work of so many books penned by male authors. All the same, I kept reading and eventually got into it. Had I not been resolute to push on, it’s unlikely I would have finished. I’m not entirely sure why, as it’s not badly written, it just didn’t grip me. The villains are believable, cruel as only kids can be, and assuredly frightening. There’s tons of action, oftentimes grisly, and the sense of impending doom heightens the tension to a rupturing climax. So yes, I did enjoy reading and consider it quality dystopian YA. Will I read the rest of the series? Probably. But I’m in no rush.

3.5/5 Stars

Friday, 8 September 2017

Review: Kiss Me, Stupid


by Alison Creaghan

Lorna is shy, serious and determined to do well. Like her friends Abby and Sulvinder, she's sure of one thing: boyfriends are a waste of time, So the three of them make a pact to stay young, free and single. But one by one, their defences start to weaken...

Lorna gets to know Joe and falls in love for the first time. Joe falls in love for the first time. And then Sulvinder meets Jazz and starts to see him in secret. Suddenly their old pact seems stupid - why did they ever want to avoid feelings like this? 

But then things start to get more complex. Is Joe really right for Lorna? And why is Abby spending so much time with Sulvinder's boyfriend? Maybe they should have stayed clear of boys after all... (1994)

You know what? This little story is one of the most accurate representations of teenage relationships I’ve ever read.  It’s only 211 pages long, but there’s heaps of interpersonal ups and downs, several subplots, and it all takes place in the space of a year. The prose is extremely accessible, and the dialogue is authentic. It’s always a relief when a teen male character doesn’t speak like a 30-something woman, amirite?  When it was first released it was considered a contemporary romance. There are time-worn elements, particularly regarding the tech (no mobiles/internet), but they don’t detract from reader engagement, IMO. Adult themes are tackled perfectly for the target audience, and there’s a fair amount of diversity, considering when it was written. Where the story falls down is the actual romance. Sure, there are plenty of relationships in the mix, but it felt like my emotional investment was intentionally misdirected.  I can accept that in other genres, but romance? Nope. Even so, the overall message is as relevant now as it was when the book was published 23 years ago. Had I read this as a teen, that message might have saved me some heartache. 

3/5 Stars