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Monday, July 28, 2014

YA Review: The Green-Eyed Queen of Suicide City

Hey, trigger warnings on this one - for suicide especially, okay, guys? Be kind to yourself. Don't read things that aren't good for you.

Alright, let's get on to the review!

The Green-Eyed Queen of Suicide City by Kevin Marc Fournier

Published: April 24th, 2012 by Great Plains Teen Fiction
Genre: YA Paranormal
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 198
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The publisher sent it to me to review.
Amazon (Paperback) / Amazon (Ebook) / Book Depository / IndieBound / And since it's a smaller publisher, here's the link on their website.

Summary (from goodreads): Bethany, a beautiful and popular teen, hangs herself the night before Halloween. Her devoted sister Rose follows her into a frozen death, and into a city where trees bleed along the banks of a river of blood. Meanwhile, Addy is visiting from Montreal, determined that Natalie's mother will give birth to her baby while she is there.

Ghostly footprints and dangling corpses, a baby born in a snowstorm, a mysterious cemetery, one girl who never sleeps and another who craves blood, New Year's fireworks and an unexpected kiss - all tied to a legendary queen who lives in the hidden centre of Suicide City.

Review: Guys, I don't know. Maybe this just isn't my thing. Maybe it's completely me, but something about this just didn't do it for me. It wasn't really hard to get into or slow to read or anything like that. The voice was decently compelling, even with the switching between 1st and 3rd person which I generally think clashes a little. But... I guess it felt like the book was building and building and building - and then it ended. The ending felt so much more like a middle than anything and there was a lot left danging. It felt unfinished.

In general, the premise was strange. Again, it might be me. I don't know. Maybe it was just that I couldn't get into the Suicide City thing. I just... it was horrifying. Terrifying. And maybe it's a thing for me that the idea that people who hurt that badly would hurt for the rest of eternity, maybe it's just a thing I can't get into. I really don't know. I just... I can't say I enjoyed those chapters, and the ending was... it got bad and it didn't feel hopeful, even. Just kind of horrible.

Plot Talk: This is a hard book to do a plot thingie for. Basically, Natalie's chapters tell what happened to her in the weeks leading up to Rose's death, and Rose's chapters describe what happens after her death and in her search to find her sister in the Suicide City.

Characters: So, The Green-Eyed Queen was told through alternating POVs. The contemporary/"normal" chapters were told in the 1st person POV of Natalie. I liked Natalie a lot. Her chapters are set a few months in the past, largely, leading up to Rose's death. Most of her chapters were more reminiscing, telling things slowly, and for the most part they weren't much linked to Rose's besides a few little glimpses into her life. Apparently they were close for some time, but that wasn't explored much and they weren't close when Rose died.

Rose was, well, dead. She was kind of numb at first more than anything, but her chapters didn't feel removed like some 3rd person POVs can, which I admire. The book never really talked about why she killed herself or anything besides that once she was in the City, she was desperate to find her sister. While Natalie's story ends with some decent closure in her arc and growth in her character, although there were still some dangling threads. However, Rose's storyline felt very unfinished. It really felt like her story was only half done.

The other characters were solid, nothing amazing. Natalie's best friend Addy was pretty typical, the "wild" best friend, you know? Raised by a single mom, eccentric. Not that unique, ironically, for how the book tried to make her unique and special. And I actually really liked Natalie's mom. She was cool. On Rose's side, the characters weren't as well developed. There were a lot more characters and they would come and go fairly quickly and fairly frequently.

All in all, I kind of wanted everyone to have more time to shine and with the book being so short, it just doesn't happen.

PG-13 stuff: Mostly mild language. One or two f-bombs that really stood out for how little other language there was. On the trigger-y side of things, there's a lot of talk about suicide, obviously, some of it cavalier. There ends up being a lot of gore and (SPOILER) there's even cannibalism. Sometimes, honestly, it's gross and disturbing. Especially the last couple chapters.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I think I've figured out what my biggest issue was with this book - it felt more like two books than one. One was basically a friend dealing with grief contemporary book, one was a pretty dark paranormal book. I don't know if that really worked for me. Because I really liked Natalie's story, but Rose's story was not super my thing and it just didn't match. And while Natalie's story wraps up decently, Rose's just kind of ends in, you know, unspeakable horror. There's basically no resolution for her at all.

There was also some slut-shaming and some comments about rape that were kind of gross. I wasn't fond of that. It got too close to jokey.

And this isn't exactly bad, but I thought it was weird - Natalie's step-dad is black... and it's not said until page 73. Out of 198. Almost all the other characters were described by page 2-3. It just kind of stood out in a jarring way.

Cover comments: It's fine, you know. It suits the story. I think it's really nice for a small-press, especially.

Conclusion: This is such a hard one for me. I thought the premise sounded so interesting, but the execution just didn't work for me. Some of the gore really grossed me out, I'm sorry to say. It felt so separated, so much like two different books, and neither of them really felt long enough. At the end of the book, I wanted more, not because I loved it so much, but because it felt so unfinished. This easily could have been 400 pages and it would have been so much more satisfying.

*sigh* I feel so wishy-washy! I have such a hard time rating this because I liked the Natalie chapters, but the Rose chapters didn't work for me. I guess I'll have to go with a 2.5 for this one.

Other Notes:

- That's all, I just needed to say that.
- There's a moment where a farm they called a "PMU farm, a pregnant-mare's-urine farm. It's where they take the" [urine] "out of pregnant horses and sell it to make birth control pills." There's a farm around here that my aunt told me was that, so I googled it. Turns out? Most birth controls these days are synthetic hormones. The only hormones made from horse urine are actually used in hormone replacement therapy. For menopause. I don't know if it's the same type of thing used in other HRT. And there are only one or two I could find, which are being more and more replaced by synthetic hormones since those have been proven to not be great for people.

I know things sometimes.

Peace and cookies,

Monday, July 21, 2014

YA Review: Replica

Look a review!! Shhh, don't spook it ;)

Replica by Jenna Black

Published: July 16th 2013 by Tor
Genre: YA Science Fiction, specifically Dystopian
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 368
Part of a series? Book 1 of the Replica Trilogy. The second book came out in March and the third will be out in November.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Nadia Lake comes from a high-class Executive family in the Corporate States. Her marriage has been arranged with the most powerful family in her state, which means she lives a life of privilege but also of public scrutiny, followed everywhere by photographers, every detail of her private life tabloid fodder. But her future is assured, as long as she can maintain her flawless public image — no easy feat when your betrothed is a notorious playboy.

Nathan Hayes is the heir of Paxco — controller of the former state of New York, and creator of human replication technology, science that every state and every country in the world would kill to have. Though Nadia and Nate aren’t in love, they’ve grown up close, and they (and the world) are happy enough with their match.

Until Nate turns up dead, and as far as everyone knows, Nadia was the last person to see him alive.

When the new Nate wakes up in the replication tanks, he knows he must have died, but with a memory that only reaches to his last memory backup, he doesn’t know what killed him. Together, Nadia and Nate must discover what really happened without revealing the secrets that those who run their world would kill to protect.

Review: I've only read one of Jenna Black's adult books, so I was sort of going into this one not knowing anything besides reading the back at the library. I also read most of this while completely stoned on knock-off Sudafed because my sinuses were killing me. (You can imagine how tidy my book-notes are.) Possibly partly because of that, Replica was a bit hard for me to get into at first. I actually considered doing the 50-page test, but the fact that I was stoned out of my mind by that point and didn't feel like standing up because I got wobbly every time I did really helped matters immensely!

No, in all seriousness, it took me until about 100 pages in to really get invested in things. It didn't seem like things really kicked up until around then, too. When they did, I did end up really wanting to know what would happen, and especially who killed Nate. (Which by the way literally happens in the second chapter. Not a spoiler.) While I had some trouble getting into it, I was glad I did. By the ends of things, I was satisfied that I'd read it and with how it ended.

Plot Talk: So Replica takes place in a dystopian-type vaguely futuristic setting. I... kind of assumes it was the future, anyways. I suppose it could have been an alrternate history type deal, but the advanced technology, the part where the US has kind of fallen, and the whole cloning/human back-up thing made me assume future. It was pretty vague, though, and I think that the world-building suffered quite a bit.

That was not really about plot, was it? Okay, so. The plot itself is your average girl is engaged to boy. Boy is not into girls but it's a political arranged marriage. Boy gets killed and brought back to life. Girl gets threatened by a government agent employed by boy's father into spying on boy. Boy and girl go to extreme measures to find boy's killer and end up discovering all the dark secret-type things you'd expect in this kind of thing.

There. Plot! *jazz hands*

Characters: This is an alternating POV book, starting with Nadia's POV. Nadia is sixteen, arranged to be engaged since the age of four (because they couldn't be legally engaged until they were both eighteen because arranged marriage is totes cool when it involves barely legal teenagers), and... kind of boring. I'm sorry! I really wanted to like her, but I didn't feel like she actually had much personality and the plot definitely did not give her a lot of agency most of the time. There were a fair amount of instances where she could have been removed from the book and it wouldn't have changed things, and that really sucked.

As the book was told in third person, I think Nadia ended up feeling removed. You didn't really know that much about her besides that she really liked tea. She didn't get nearly enough characterization for my tastes. t was disappointing because her story was really interesting and the moments where you got to see a little more of her personality were great and made me want so much more.

Nate got a lot more characterization and character growth. He went from spoiled playboy to much more grounded and realistic through the book. His POV starts with him waking up as a clone (or Replica) so you never get to see the "Original" Nate's POV, only him from Nadia's POV, which raises fascinating questions regarding the whole "what makes a human" thing. That was a really cool idea and that element was handled well.

Nate being a MOGII* person was also handled extremely well. I think it's super important that sci-fi and fantasy be diverse and that everything doesn't have to be an "issue" book. Having only one kind of story told about people like you is not really great representation, and represention is so important. Nate being gay was obviously important to his character, but it wasn't that important to the plot. It ends up just being another part of his character.

Nate's boyfriend Kurt Bishop was very important to the plot, but also not because of their relationship or his orientation. He was a chritical character for reasons other than the romance between him and Nate. This is actually a book that does not focus heavily on romance, although their relationship is focused on more than any other in the book. In general, the romance is very minimal - the only kiss is actually a kiss on the head that ends up being very poignant - but their relationship is talked about and on-screen the most. Which is great.

The side characters were good, too. I'm not always a huge fan of "mean girl" characters because I think they can be very shallow and misogynistic, and there were a few of them, and Nadia's father didn't really seem to get a lot of screentime, but her mother had a few great, really unexpected moments. And the villain kind of completely shocked me.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I really do hate that Nadia wasn't more characterized. That's something that actually makes me sad. The pacing and world-building could have been better stronger, as well.

PG-13 stuff: It's definitely an older YA, or for a more mature reader. There's some language, teenage drinking mentions of drug use, and sex. But there's also, more importantly to me, a lot of fridge horror in the cloning aspect, the realities of having a very rich popular controlling a large, very poor population where there's crime and violence and hopelessness. There's also a mention of Nadia's mother once having a miscarriage (not plot related, but some people have trouble reading that) and sex workers, including very young people, even children.

It's not necessarily bad to me to include things like this in media, but I think it's important to talk about it in reviews/discussions for people who might not be okay with reading it, so that's what I'm trying to do here.

Cover comments: I like it. It's very science-y. Sleek. It works very well for the book, I think.

Conclusion: This review is coming off a lot more negative than I expected! While the things I had problems with were almost enough to make me stop reading because I had trouble getting into it, I did end up enjoying it. I don't think the plot was too unique - it's vaguely Hungers Game-esque in the world-building - but the book did have a good amount of interesting, fairly unique element and, although the ending seemed a bit like sequel bait, it was satisfying to finish it. It's somewhat of a cliffhanger, but it was predictable enough to me that it would me a cliffhanger that it didn't bother me.

And I really did like that one of the characters was a MOGII* person because representation is super important and this kind is particularly refreshing. Diversity in YA and all that good stuff.

So while I had issues, I don't want you to think I hated it or anything. I really didn't! I liked the plot, I really liked a lot of the creepier elements, I liked most of the characters. I liked a lot of the book, I just had... issues connecting at times. I give Replica three and a half roses out of five for me personally, but I do recommend it and I think a lot of people would enjoy it.

*Marginalized Orientations, Gender Identities, and Intersex

Other notes:
- I have a note here that literally says "Thing about hair dye, cookies, etc, Laina" so apparently I was getting tired when I wrote this out.
- OH yeah, a character at one point shaves his head because "dye stinks". Dude, it's the FUTURE and body mod is huge, apparently. I have hair dye that smells like grapes. DON'T YOU GIVE ME THAT NOISE.

Peace and cookies,