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Sheila Deeth has commented on (294) products.

Divergent (Divergent Trilogy #1) by Veronica Roth
Divergent (Divergent Trilogy #1)

Sheila Deeth, February 18, 2015

Veronica Roth’s dystopia is based on a premise that warring mankind might try to resolve their issues by stressing the benefits of a small subset of virtues. But, of course, as human beings we’re all too good as stressing faults as well, and a society that’s supposed to have eliminated conflict seethes with problems underneath.

Beatrice is a child of Abnegation, brought up from birth to look to others’ needs before her own. Her perfect brother Caleb is a prime example of abnegating youth, but Beatrice's interests tend more toward those rebelliously exciting Dauntless youth. When the choosing comes, she just might not do as her parents expect. But how will a short, fairly ordinary, self-effacing young woman cope in the trials of the not necessarily virtuous valiant?

The novel takes supposed virtues and looks at the vices they might hide. It reveals a seemingly perfect world, through the eyes of a convincing protagonist, and turns it on its side. And it offers readers that enticing glimpse of dystopia behind the present day, rebellion in the making, with simple answers proving inadequate. It’s a well-paced novel with well-placed introspection, increasing levels of action and danger, and a cool and scary ending. Maybe there are more important things than obedience, passing tests, and fitting in. And yes, I’m going to read more of this series; when almost perfect breaks, what happens next?

Disclosure: I’ve not seen the movie, but I’d seen the books, and the premise seemed intriguing, so I asked for them for Christmas. I’m glad I did.
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The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Maze Runner

Sheila Deeth, February 18, 2015

Author James Dashner creates a sub-language all its own for teens trapped in the Glade, and it’s totally convincing, easy to follow, and a very cool adjunct to the description of a very strange life. Readers share Thomas’s sense of confusion right from the start, and are pulled straight into his thoughts and fears. As the Greenbean (newest member) learns his way around, the Glade becomes scarily real, but change is coming. And change is always scarier than following the status quo.

The Maze Runner offers a taste of isolation, rebellion, change and mystery, with dangerous threats, monsters all the more scary for being so scarcely described, and the battle for control, of self, others, or destiny, rising to the fore. The story’s complete by the end of the book, but more is most urgently promised and it’s hard not to insist on picking up the next book straight away.

I don’t know what the movie will be like, but I can imagine they’ll do a good job. The Maze Runner is the sort of book that creates just enough to imagine it all without boring readers in the telling; highly recommended.

Disclosure: I kept reading bits of it in stores, so I asked for it for Christmas and I’m glad I did.
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Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Unwind

Sheila Deeth, February 18, 2015

Unwind doesn’t ask its readers to imagine a dystopian future. It imagines it for them, so quickly and convincingly that it’s hard to question whether it could really happen. It surely couldn’t, on later thought, but it’s a very real, very scary world, inviting very real and absorbing questions, even as it introduces readers to a wealth of fascinating characters.

Unwinding is what happens if your parents or guardians decide to share you with everyone else for the common good. Your body is divided into spare parts, to feed the needs of a population lacking enough organ (and arm and leg and more...) donors. But what happens to your soul, or your self? And who will get unwound.

Risa is an orphan subject to budget cuts. Connor is an out-of-control teenager. And Lev is the tenth, the tithe, of a super-religious family. Each of them becomes vividly real in the space of just a few pages. Dialog is convincing, between teens and adults. Concepts are deep and absorbing -- when is terrorism okay, when should finances trump need, and when does the soul enter or leave the body -- oh, and how do we know? Faith is presented as more than just following rules, and rebellion as more than just refusing to obey. “Unwinding” the authorities proclaim, is not “death.” But it feels that way to these kids who struggle to find help in a world that rejects them.

Truly absorbing, thought-provoking, and filled with allusions to history, religion and more, Unwind is as much a classic as 1984, and a well-completed tale for all that it’s the first in a series. I’m eager to find if the rest of the books can live up to its promise.

Disclosure: I was hooked by the premise, for all that it didn’t convince me, so I asked for this book for Christmas. I’m really glad I did.
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Daynight by Megan Thomason
Daynight

Sheila Deeth, February 18, 2015

Unlike most dystopian novels, Megan Thomason’s Daynight fits several different premises together into a compellingly strange new world. First is an intriguing concept of “cleaving,” an unbreakable unity, replacing marriage, applied to any teens who allow their relationship to go too far. It certainly sounds like a convincing way to keep young adults in order, though the question of who defines “too far,” and who will choose who they cleave to when they reach eighteen makes it kind of scary. Add to this a world where disobedience is punishable by terrifying exile or by death. Then connect it to our own present world through strange portals, controlled by a powerful business corporation. Add Second Chancers to the mix -- earth’s prematurely dead, who get a second chance at life. Stir and repeat. Sprinkle politics on top...

It’s a heady mix, and surprisingly it works, through some strong characters and the author’s strong writing. The plot may be a little unconvincing at times, but the male and female voices that tell the tale can carry it well. If Kira is occasionally blind to the logs in her own eye, well, she is a teen, and she does mature convincingly during the story. And if her different love interests keep a few too many secrets, well, the same thing applies.

A thickening plot ensues, but it keeps the reader turning pages very effectively, and this reader, at least, is eager to see the rest of the series.

Disclosure: I read Daynight in the collection, What Tomorrow May Bring, and was glad to be introduced to this author.
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Prison Nation
Prison Nation

Sheila Deeth, February 18, 2015

Jenni Merritt’s Prison Nation tells the story of a girl born into an American prison of the future. Taught to value the Nation’s highest principals, she’s about to graduate into the real world outside. But why were her parents prisoners? Why is the prison so huge? And why does she feel so uneasy about her release?

The novel starts with an Orwellian sense of displacement, as readers slowly recognize where Millie is and how she comes to be there. It’s hard not to guess what she’s going to learn, but it’s easy to believe in the teen protagonist’s naiveté. After all, she’s never known a world beyond these prison walls. The past is revealed through a student’s eyes, and there’s a convincing sense of preparation for a new-world equivalent of the dreaded citizenship test.

The second half of this novel feels more simplistic, introducing what readers must already have guessed, a world with a dark and dismal heart. “In Prison Nation, the truth can’t set you free.” But freedom might be found, at a cruel price.

Spokane, Portland, and the Northwest coast are convincingly recreated, transformed by the isolation of a nation grown so proud it needs no other to intervene. The author creates a scary image of our future, taking a not-too-unlikely premise to fearful extremes, and leading her characters into extreme need. The resolution is nicely set-up and fast-paced when it arrives, but there’s an eager sense of something more outside. The story’s complete, but it really does beg for a sequel.

Disclosure: I’m reviewing the version of Prison Nation included in the collection What Tomorrow May Bring.
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