Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Katherine Tegen
Format: eBook
Page Count: 352
Synopsis: Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.

No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures.

But as Ezra dives into his new studies, new friendships, and new love, he learns that some people, like books, are easy to misread. And now he must consider: if one’s singular tragedy has already hit and everything after it has mattered quite a bit, what happens when more misfortune strikes? 

Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is a lyrical, witty, and heart-wrenching novel about how difficult it is to play the part that people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.
Review: I'd heard lots of great things about this book before going into it, so I was excited. And at first, I really enjoyed this book. It had a lot of things going for it--humor, a relatable protagonist, easy-to-read prose. But unfortunately, things went downhill from there.

   Overall, I felt this book tried too hard. It tried to be meaningful, tried to be moving, tried to be one of those life-changing, turn-your-perspective-upside-down, walk-away-a-better-person novels. And ultimately, it failed. Instead, it came across as a transparent, sub-par imitation of a John Green novel.

   I'll mention the good things first. Ezra Faulkner. He's our main character, the golden boy turned outcast. I liked him. I thought I wouldn't, but I found him surprisingly relatable and likable. He's funny and pretty genuine. I also liked the humor of this book. The dialogue is really witty and dry. There are also many pop culture references littered throughout the novel, which I enjoyed. Also, I really loved the secondary characters, particularly Toby and Phoebe. Toby was Ezra's best friend when they were younger, but Ezra ditched him when he became popular. Toby was hilarious and such a good friend! I also loved Phoebe, a girl in Toby's clique. She's gutsy, animated, and all-around adorable.

   But then, you enter Cassidy Thorpe, Ezra's love interest, and all the good things suddenly become dull and negligible. You see, Cassidy Thorpe is a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl--you know the type: strange, adventurous, there to suddenly change moody boy's life. That's her. And while I'm usually fine with MPDGs, I hated her. She was just about the most transparent and obnoxious character ever. She was so typical. She liked to go on adventures and wear vintage dresses and think of life in a "new" way and weave flower crowns--basically the exact same as any other girl who is meant to be depicted as "different." But she wasn't. The author desperately tried to make Cassidy into some kind of mysterious, exciting girl, but failed. Cassidy was over-the-top dramatic and thought she was much more charming than she was.

   As mentioned before, the book was too ambitious for itself. I didn't buy into anything the author wanted me to. It wasn't emotional or meaningful and it certainly didn't make me see people/the world differently. Cassidy's last scene where she begs to be "misremembered" was so unspeakably pathetic. It hit me with full force then that I wasn't absorbing anything beautiful from this book. It only fanned the flames of my irritation.

   This book had so much potential, it really did. But the character that Cassidy Thorpe turned out to be completely ruined its chances of being an enjoyable book for me. Looking back on it, there were great things about this book: I loved the writing, the humor, and some of the other characters. But that was all eclipsed by Cassidy.

   I wanted to love this book a lot more than I did.

   2.5 keys.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Champion by Marie Lu

Publication Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Format: eBook
Page Count: 274
Synopsis: He is a Legend.

She is a Prodigy.

Who will be Champion?

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps-Elect, while Day has been assigned a high-level military position. 
But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them: just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything. 
With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

Review: I wish all trilogies were like this one. Marie Lu has crafted an incredible trilogy that only improved with each book. Champion is undoubtedly my favorite of this trilogy. The plot raced along at a breakneck pace, the characters were developed and exciting, and the conclusion was wrapped up well.

   My favorite character of the trilogy has always been June, and she still remains my favorite. She is so intelligent, yet has hints of vulnerability. I love her loyalty, her fierceness, and the way she reacts to everything that's thrown at her. I also love Day, too. Day's loyalty lies with his family above all else, which I respect. Sometimes, I found myself frustrated with Day, but overall, he was a remarkable character.

   The romance between June and Day in this book ripped my heart to shreds, honestly. The insurmountable crack between them due to June's actions before she truly knew him was so heartbreaking. There's nothing worse seeing two people who love each other, but also hurt each other. The angst, the drama, the misunderstandings... it tore my heart! I love the two of them together too much to accept anything else.

   Marie Lu definitely knew where she was going with this conclusion. The plot was always exciting and fresh. Every scene was absorbing, every decision thrilling. It was action-packed and suspenseful and emotional. It was everything I want the last book in a trilogy to be.

   Champion is a beautiful conclusion to a thrilling trilogy--undeniably one of the best conclusions I've read. I'd recommend this trilogy to everyone and anyone, as its breathtaking conclusion has confirmed this trilogy to be among one of my favorites.

   5 keys.

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