Night School

I guess it was unrealistic to think it would last forever.  It started with The Hunger Games.  After being blown away by that book and then discovering this whole genre of dystopian and apocalyptic books with their amazing worlds and complex characters I started this blog.  Book after book I was not disappointed – – until I was.  Lately, it seems that all my posts are along the lines of how much I disliked a book instead of the hot streak I was on for the last few years.  Where is the next Suzanne Collins, Ally Condie, or Jonathan Maberry?  Has the popularity of this genre, with its Hollywood turn, been the cause of less talented writers jumping in?

When I write a bad review I want to say that I am conscious of the fact that no, I haven’t published a book.  Some would say that critics do what they do because they couldn’t do the work themselves, but was it necessary for Siskel and Ebert to make a film to be able to comment?  Is it necessary for those of use who have book review blogs to have written a book to be able to give our opinion?   Think about this on a different scale, do you have to be a trained chef in order to express the opinion that an entree was terrible or wondrous?  I think all that is required are taste buds.  By that token if someone were to ask what qualifies me to write a review, well I could hem and haw and mention my bachelor’s in Journalism or my Master’s in Creative Writing.  I could talk about having read thousands of books in my lifetime and hundreds in this particular genre.  Really, though I don’t feel too much of a need to justify myself as I started this blog to reflect on what I read and thought, it’s my personal opinion and if it leads people to a book that they might not have heard about otherwise, or one someone was on the fence about reading, then that’s great.  All I have wanted to do is share a love of this genre, and maybe that has made me a bit protective of it, and disappointed that the quality of work seems to be slipping lately.

I am particularly conscious in this review that the author, Christi Daugherty, is a new author and I don’t want to discourage this woman from writing at all, I just want to encourage her toward better writing.  Night School is the story of a teen Allie who is a teen delinquent stereotype, good girl gone bad after some vague family tragedy.  Her concerned parents end up sending her to some weird boarding school full of the rich, smart and beautiful.  It’s far from some military academy so it seems weird to me that Allie doesn’t question the fact that she is not allowed to call her family, in fact all electronic devices…computers, cell phones, etc. are banned.  I don’t see that as being viable in our digital age. Anyway, Allie’s tough girl makeup comes off as he becomes best friends with Jo and has two boys vying for her attention.  Her apathy at not questioning the students who are allowed up past curfew and patrol the grounds seems unrealistic.  I guess in a nutshell that’s my issue with the book, everything about it lacks anything resembling real life.  The characters are cartoonish in their stereotypes, the romance reads like it was written by someone who has never been in one, and the great mystery of this unusual school is yawn inducing compared to the regular nightly news.

Lately when I have read a book that I haven’t much liked, I feel that having invested a certain amount of time in reading it, that I must continue with the next one, even if that means skimming it.  Not this time, if there was just one decent element I would have fallen back into this habit, but nothing excited me about the world building, the characters or the plot.  So I am expelling myself from Night School I really have my fingers crossed that the next book I read in this genre will put me squarely back on track to enjoying this genre again.

 

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The Cage

The Cage by Megan Shepherd is a technically a dystopian story, although in this case the repressive regime is made up of aliens.

Cora wasn’t exactly a typical teenage girl even before the alien abduction. She is the daughter of a Senator and an actress and has recently been released for a long term stint in juvie for manslaughter. After waking up in an alien environment where different landscapes and climates all jut up next to each other, she finds she is not alone. There are other teens, Rolf a Norwegian genius, Nok a Thai model, Leon a Maori from a criminal family, and finally Lucky an American boy who may have a connection to Cora. Actually, there was one more teen who woke up but something terrible has happened to her. That will be a problem as now there is an uneven number of teens and yet each teen is supposed to be mated with one of the others by a 21 day deadline.

Their alien abductors watch from behind one way glass scattered throughout the environments, similar to the one-way glass in police stations, except in this case the aliens are more like scientists or anthropologists observing their behaviors. The aliens have put different types of puzzles into each locale and if they solve a puzzle they receive tokens which can be redeemed for different items, similar to gaming places now.

Supposedly the aliens have abducted them for their own good as humans are destroying the Earth , unlike the aliens that are higher beings with telepathic and other abilities despite looking very similar to humans.   Their caretaker alien is named Cassian and he has a particular affinity to Cora. Cora who the others get angry with as when she solves a puzzle she is given many more tokens than the others. Other incidents like this cause a rift in the group.

Rolf and Nok have reasons based on their pasts that make them believe that despite their captivity their extended cage is not so bad. Leon is too haunted by a memory from their first day to care about anything else. Lucky is consumed with guilt over an action he took back on Earth and which is revealed later in the story. Cora simply wants to go home, home even with all the problems of divorcing parents, her peers who can’t relate to her after her time in juvie, and all the pressures of being a Senator’s daughter. Plus, there is Cassian and her mixed feelings about him.

It’s the latter which hurts this story as Cassian becomes part of a love triangle that also includes Lucky. I personally am not sure I would feel anything but hatred for my abductor, but maybe she has Stockholm’s Syndrome? I kind of think it sense the wrong message to young girls everywhere that there could be anything attractive about a character like Cassian who has control over you, am I wrong? Its that sick dominance thing combined with the stilted triangle that made me no fan of this book. Even the ending wasn’t great and it was confusing to boot as to whether this was a one-off story or whether it had the inevitable sequel…turns out it does. That kind of stinks for me because after what an economist would term a sunk cost, I wrongly feel that I must continue with the next.

 

Wolf by Wolf

Are we on the cusp of a trend?  First, I hear about and watch the first episode of The Man in the High Castle about an alternate future in which the Allies lost WWII and Germany and Japan have taken over America and Europe, and then I read Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin which also shares that plot, though the stories unfold differently from that major plot point.

How we and our world would be different today if the Allies had lost WWII is an intriguing question, so I wonder if other books and movies will explore this creating a full-fledged trend.  In Wolf by Wolf, Yael and her mother are Jews sent to a concentration camp.  Upon arrival, the camp’s doctor takes special notice of Yael, an encounter that keeps her from the gas chambers, but being chosen to live may be even worse as the doctor has selected her for an experiment.  That same quality the doctor saw in her is what helps her survive both the experiments and the deaths of so many people that she cares about.  In an odd twist of fate the sick experiment also gives her the means to escape and she is taken in to be raised by Resistance members, though they don’t know Yael’s big secret for years.  Eventually, she reveals it to her Resistance family and they realize they now have a possible means to carry out an operation that might mean the overthrow of the Nazis.

Yael will enter a grueling multi-country motorcycle race posing as a previous year’s winner.  Not only is the race challenging with the competitors known to do whatever it takes to try to win, but Yael will also find that despite studying the dossiers of all the competitors, there is much about her competition and her former relationships with them that is not found in the files, so the race holds both physical and psychological challenges for her.  Her Resistance training concentrated much more on the former, leaving this young woman to try to figure out how to behave in situations she has never experienced.

Y’know I have always thought of dystopian novels as future authoritarian societies and governments such as the Factions in Divergent or the city-states in The Hunger Games or the Society in Matched, but this novel actually takes place right after the end of the war in the 1950’s.  So not only does it take place in the past, but rather than creating a whole new world and society, it takes one that really existed, Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan, and simply extrapolates from those existing facts.  So many authors of this genre spend a good part of their book on the world building, yet in this one Ryan Graudin doesn’t need to do that as we all studied WWII in school, she can devote more time to building the characters instead.  In the case of Yael this is such a gift as the character is both fascinating and heartbreaking.  In addition to this novel being part of the dystopian genre, it also has some supernatural elements, and normally I don’t like that kind of mixing, but in it works and it serves a purpose, the story line would not be possible without this additional element.

The Heir

I think we are all a little tired of authors and filmmakers who take one good idea and stretch it out across too many books or films, am I right?  I mean look at The Hobbit!  One good book was stretched into three poor movies due to greed.  In order to stretch this single story across three, new plot-lines and characters were added that weren’t even in the original Tolkien story.  Frankly it made me both sad and angry.  Even books that aren’t made into movies seem to be following this trend of going on too long.  In TV shows the expression for that is ‘jumping the shark’ based on the show Happy Days which kept running long after Richie and Fonzie were growing old and most plot-lines had been explored, so they came up with the ridiculous episode where Fonzie jumps over a shark while water skiing, hence ‘jumping the shark.’  Ugh.

So how does this relate to my current book review for The Heir by Kiera Cass?   Well, when I saw that the author had written a continuation of her Selection series which already was three books long, I felt that this was another example of trying to capitalize on the popularity of the first three books by created another related series in order to maximize profit and fame.  Well I was pleasantly surprised that this first book of the new series was better than I expected.  I should have known better as I had also doubted the first series, thinking from the description that it would be like the book version of The Bachelor.

The Heir takes place twenty years after the events of the first series.  American Singer married Prince Maxon and the central character of this book is their daughter Eadlyn.  Eadlyn is actually a twin, but because she was born a few minutes ahead of her brother, she will be the next ruler of Illia even though she often wishes otherwise.  It is understandable that such a responsibility would weigh heavily on anyone, but to add to the pressure, she will also be the first female ruler.  Perhaps that’s why she is very guarded and fiercely independent.

However, her parents decision in the first series to remove the Castes, a system whereby people’s ability to work in certain jobs, live in certain neighborhoods and who one could date or marry hasn’t turned out exactly as expected.   it was this Caste system that to me made the first series dystopian fiction, this one is less so, but since I already reviewed the first series, I am including this on the blog too.  There are pockets of uprisings throughout the nation, so the Queen and King decide that in order to provide a distraction to give people something positive to focus on, they will have a Selection, such as the competition that brought them together in the first place.

It is strange in The Heir that Eadlyn knows almost nothing about her parents’ Selection as it had such repercussions for the country.  Even if her parents never shared the story, as those of us who read the first series know, the whole things was written about in newspapers and magazines, documented by photographers and filmed for TV weekly during the competition, so how could she be so unaware of the details?  This is a Princess who studies her country’s history and protocols and she never came across any of these details?     A note to anyone yet to read this book, I would suggest rereading or skimming the first books before starting this series as other characters from the original series are in this one, but so much time had passed since I read it, I couldn’t remember which of the women had been good or bad in the original Selection to match them up with their lives in this new series.  Even America herself who was such a vivid character in the first series is never even referred to by that name, she is simply the Queen or Mom to Eadlyn, which is a bit of a shame that she is relegated to taking such a back seat to her daughter in this one.

I do find it strange in both series that this competition that appears in both series, The Selection, seems to old-fashioned, yet the story takes place post modern times since they have all the same technology…yet some of the activities during the Selection are balls, taking tea, strolling the gardens, horseback riding, etc. which seem like something out of the 1800’s, yet the Princess wears some modern clothing, likes pop music, etc. so it’s a bit jarring sometimes.

What was unexpected to me was how Kiera Cass conveys in a very real way what it must be like to be royalty who must struggle between being in the public eye and guiding their people, and trying to have private thoughts and feelings while during their duty.  Maybe that’s why so many of us even in modern times as so fascinated by royals such as Kate and William, while seemingly a modern couple they are also an anachronism.  Also, how in this electronic age do they maintain a private life?  And what is it like to be born into royalty knowing that your birth dictates a very narrow path for your life?    Eadlyn’s struggle with all of this feels pretty real and that’s what took this book out of The Bachelorette  territory and into something more interesting.

 

 

 

 

The Glass Arrow

As a woman, the scariest dystopian books are about a future world where women have lost about 300 years of progress and are treated as chattel to be bought and sold.  Such is the case in The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons.

Aya has grown up isolated in the mountains with her mother, cousin and another woman and her children.  They are all in hiding outside the big city where all girls who are ‘pure’ and possibly fertile are put in a special dormitory in the city to await their turn at auction and Aya’s mother doesn’t want that to happen to her daughter.  It’s not just the idea that her daughter might become some man’s possession, but Aya’s mother knows first-hand that a girl not found to be ‘pure’ will have an X carved into her face with a knife and be given to the brothels.  Even girls who do attend and are bid on at the auction, have to face a ‘private meeting’ with their prospective buyer who sometimes take advantage of the girls, a rich pimp could bid on a girl at auction and make her his working girl.  Even if a ‘respectful businessman’ buys a girl, if he tires of her eventually, he could send her back to the dorm to be auctioned off again while he finds a new wife.

No, scraping a living out of the mountains is a better life in Aya’s mom’s mind and Aya agrees.  Brought up free and strong, she knows she is so much more than anyone’s piece of property.  However, the fresh air and food she consumes outside of polluted city make her a prime target as it means she is fertile enough to bear children, especially the male ones wanted by the city.  Just like what still happens in many countries today, girl babies are sometimes killed as they lack value.  They live when the female count is low.

Things weren’t always like this, Aya’s mom has told her stories of a time when all women walked proud and free until the Red Wars when men turned on women similar to the Salem Witch Trials and killed most women and enslaved the remainder.  These tales told deep in the mountains have always been scary for Aya to hear, but they are not near as scary as the day Trackers invade her family’s mountain home.   Freedom is never more precious than to those who have lived it and now may lose it.

The Registry

The Registry by Shannon Stoker had some good ideas, but between the poor execution and one-dimensional characters, this dystopian novel didn’t deliver.

In our world, especially in places like China, boy babies are more valued than girls.  In Ms. Stoker’s world set in the not too far future, it’s girls who are highly valued.  If a couple has a baby boy, he is abandoned to an orphanage because not only is he worth less money than a girl, but being left to fend for himself since early childhood will make him tough and all boys have to serve in the American Army.  Girls on the other hand are raised by their parents and once they are the right age, they are entered into the Registry.  Basically, a catalog for eligible girls similar to current day websites for foreign brides where women are basically bought.  Mia’s family is fortunate to have all daughters, even one prettier than the last, especially the youngest Mia who will fetch a high bride price unlike her best friend who while pretty receives a very low rank in the Registry…is that because of her intelligence?   After all, men in this near future don’t want a wife who is educated or naturally intelligent.  A woman’s role is to serve and support her husband.

As a feminist I was infuriated by the little clip at the top of each chapter taken from the ‘girl’s guide’ a sort of handbook for how women are to behave.  My fury stemmed from the fact that while this is a fiction book, some of these attitudes are alive and well in the present, not this possible future where a high percentage of the U.S. population was wiped out and led to this supposed ‘change’ in male and female roles.

Also, while Mia is the main character and supposed heroine, she is vapid and happy to go along with being sold by her parents like cattle until her much more worthy older sister escapes from her husband and comes home to warn clueless Mia what being married of is really like.  Even then, while Mia no longer looks forward to being a bride, she still doesn’t do anything substantive to win her freedom, instead relying on her best friend to help plan her escape.  Then Mia selfishly pulls in one of the working boys to her plan, never considering what the consequences will be for him for helping her.

She is incapable of putting together a decent disguise, packing a runaway bag with useful items, teaching herself to drive or anything of use.  Yes, in the book she, like other women, are very sheltered, but even once she learns some horrible truths she still doesn’t do much to save herself instead relying on other people’s sacrifices.  Some have compared this book to a junior version of The Handmaid’s Tale, but in that book Offred kept fighting the twisted society and government, she figured things out, she didn’t sacrifice her friends, etc.  The only thing Mia is good at is being annoying.  The other difference between the two books is everyone, even the villains in The Handmaid’s Tale, are fully fleshed characters whereas in The Registry  the characters are so cartoonish, from the evil fiancee who does everything but twirl his handlebar mustache, to the stereotype gay couple, and the lightweight Caleb who serves as a piece of the almost required love triangle.

The ideas in the story would have made for a chilling and realistic story in the hands of a master such as Margaret Atwood, alas Ms. Stoker gets and A for story idea and an F for execution.

The Jewel

I thought the novel The Jewel by Amy Ewing was going to be very similar to The Selection by Kiera Cass, but I was wrong. I actually liked The Selection in a kind of guilty pleasure way which surprised me because I have never watched a single episode of The Bachelor and the plot seemed fairly similar to what I have heard about that TV show. In each, two attractive girls are swept away from poverty and their family. In the case of The Selection, the main character has to compete for a prince’s hand and therefore get a makeover, training in manners, public speaking, etc. while navigating contestants who may be their enemies. In The Jewel, Violet is sent to a boarding school and trained for her role as a surrogate to a wealthy family. On her graduation, she is given a makeover and thrown into the Auction where wealthy women will bid for her.

Obviously, The Jewel is a much darker story than The Selection where most girls want the opportunity, and even the reluctant ones will do it to help their family, and no one is really forced to stay in the competition. While Violet will live in luxury, she would trade it all to go home to her family, even if that means a hard life of work, but she doesn’t have a choice, to run is to be executed, to stay is to give up her freedom and her body to the woman who bought and controls here, the Dutchess. Therefore, this book suddenly reminded me much more of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Just like in that story, there is an infertility problem, in the case of The Handmaid’s Tale it’s the women religious zealots that have trouble conceiving and therefore force women to become Handmaiden’s impregnated by their husbands who have become the leaders of the U.S. government. In The Jewel it’s the royal women who can’t bear their own children, but at least the surrogates aren’t impregnated by the royal husbands but through the in vitro process. That’s not the only similarity; each woman is marginalized in their dystopian society by being stripped of their identity. In The Handmaid’s Tale, the main character is called Offred, literally meaning “Of Fred” the man she is forced to become a concubine for by the new Christian regime. When Violet graduates from her training, she is called only 197, which is the number ranking she receives at the auction. Even the relationship between Violet and her best friend Raven, also a surrogate reminded me of the relationship between Offred and Moira both are rebels against the system, but it is the friend who experiences the violence and horror more than the protagonist.

There is even a dash of The Hunger Games in The Jewel. The dash comes in the form of Lucien who was the servant who prepped Violet for the auction selecting her dress and styling her hair and makeup. Lucien reminds me of Cinna of The Hunger Games in the way he forms an instant bond with the person he assigned to work with, and each in their own way help both their charge, and help incite a rebellion. Moreover, each of them are strong characters, despite the fact that they are not one of the main characters, their charisma and mystery makes you wish Suzanne Collins had provided more a backstory for Cinna, whereas we get to learn a lot more about Lucien’s life and his motivations.

Yes, there is a silly love story in The Jewel, but even that has a dark twist with the man in Violet’s life also as much of a prisoner as Violet is, despite the fact he seems to be able to interact more freely. Getting back to the comparison with The Selection, not only is The Jewel a darker story, but it is a lot more sexual as well.

Breathe

For some reason I use a lot of movie examples when writing about how I feel about books….Well here is one more, Breathe by Sarah Crossan is like the B Movie version of Wool by Hugh C. Howey. The two have a similar plot idea that there is a society of people living in a contained space because the air outside that space will kill you. In addition to the apocalyptic event that created each of these situations, each book is also a dystopian novel because of course there has to be a quasi-government that is both controlling the citizens and hiding some truths from there. Wool was the superior version because it is simply a more mature book, and I don’t mean that the main character was out of her teens unlike the protagonists in Breathe, I mean there is a depth and maturity in Wool missing from Breathe.

Here’s where I always second guess writing a sentence like the above, after all Breathe is a YA book and maybe if I was still a sixteen-year old girl the level of writing would be just fine for me. However, I am not a sixteen girl and I also suspect that with the state of worldliness of teens today, they may also feel that the writing is a bit immature for them too.   The author Sarah Crossan was a high school teacher, I was too, but my teaching career ended years ago so maybe I am off- base, but I was bored and I think th teenage attention span is even shorter than mine.

The book just had far too many stereotypes for me too. There are the rebels who know that the government has been lying to them and have their own lair in the Outlands outside the domed city with its pumped in oxygen. Of course one of the rebels is a beautiful teenage girl, Aline, a hard case who lost her parents and has nothing but contempt for the ‘Premiums.’ The Premiums are the 1% of their society who live in the nicest neighborhood sector and can afford to buy all the oxygen they need while the rest of society struggles with fatigue and overwork brought on by the lack of oxygen and the depression caused by the lack of opportunities available to them. Bea, another ‘auxiliary’ is one of those who don’t understand that no matter how hard she works, she will never get the opportunity that she deserves. When she debates Quinn, her best friend and the boy she secretly loves, she wipes the floor with him. However, it’s Quinn, the Breathe Director’s son who is accepted into the leadership program not her. To make matters worse the hiking trip to the Outlands that Quinn has treated her to doesn’t go the way she hoped. Instead of getting some time alone with Quinn hoping he will notice her as something more than a friend; he helps their classmate Alina who is on the run because he has a crush on her. Once they are deep in the Outlands Alina parts from them but they decide to follow her, which brings them into contact with a drifter who makes them see these people in a different light, and the rebels themselves where they get a mixed reception.   Yes, the love triangle thing has been done too many times in other books, and done much better. Quinn is really immature and selfish and I can’t understand why any of the girls would find him interesting, at least in most of these triangles the guy is a tough guy with a heart of gold underneath, but Quinn is just a wimp.

Really, the most interesting part of the book for me was in the flyleaf where the author states she got the idea for the book when traveling in Washington State (where I live) and seeing tree logging she thought, “Don’t people understand that we need trees to breathe?”   She is right, we do though few seem to realize that, especially where I live where old growth trees are being torn down to build yet more luxury townhomes and condos. So therefore, I give Ms. Crossan a thumbs up for weaving real world conditions into this cautionary tale.

The New Order

While I can’t say I am a big M. Night Shyamalan fan overall, I did like his movie The Village for one strong reason, the idea that outside the village normal life was going on. It’s that idea that just outside a dystopian world or apocalyptic situation is a place where people are carrying on as normal that interests me. I mean, how many of us faced with either scenario just wish we could close our eyes and when we open them again everything would be alright, everything would be as it was?   That’s not to say our present world is perfect, far from it, but faced with darker alternatives we would take the bad with the good of our present times, right? If you can go from the horrific situation you are in back to some normalcy, what are the repercussions? Your innocence is gone after what you have endured, you view situations with more assessing and jaded eyes and how can you ever truly relax again when being on the defense is the way you survived when others didn’t.

If you haven’t read The New Order by Chris Weitz yet, you may want to visit this post after you have done so, otherwise you about to read a major spoiler.

The Young World left us with two quest members dead, See Through and Kath. Jefferson was nearly killed by the Old Man who injected him with the Sickness to see if the new Cure mixed up by him and Brainbox worked, which it did. So one would have expected that this next book would be the remaining team struggling their way back to Manhattan with the Cure and whether the teens of all tribes should be given it.

Instead, we are confronted with the reality that the Old Man was not the only adult left alive. Indeed, millions of adults and kids survived the sickness, they just happen to be living overseas. So why don’t the teens know any of this? Well the very people who can explain what’s happened to the world are the ones keeping the teens a secret from the rest of the world. Yes, there is a worry about the Sickness mutating, and yes, there has been a rebalance of the world order, but when it comes down to it those reasons are nothing in the face of the Lord of the Flies existence the kids have been living for years now. So when the Washington Square Park and Haarlem kids are put into isolation on a Navy ship and interrogated, they aren’t feeling like helping the adults much. In fact, when they are each contacted via a coded message from a rebel group within the adult military troops, all of them decide to side with the rebels, except Captain who at least keeps the secret. However, during the kids’ escape plan to head back to NYC, Donna is separated from the group and ends up in England instead.

That’s the part that fascinates me, how she goes from a hellhole of eating rats and trying not to get eaten by cannibals, to living in picturesque Cambridge as a university student. So while Jefferson and the gang have to go back into the violence knowing that there is another world out there, which is bad enough, I feel like Donna has the harder struggle. Yes, she is no longer fighting for her life, but she has to assimilate back into the world, keep the big secret and swallow the guilt she feels about living in the lap of luxury while god knows what is happening to the rest of them.

Yet that doesn’t excuse her behavior when it comes to so quickly replacing Jefferson when she is told that he was killed. It’s one thing to move on to another relationship, but to sleep with the other guy when she wouldn’t even sleep with Wash, let alone his little bro, just struck a weird note with me. Also, the fact that when she met Mr. Welsh, for all his civilized British ways, she knew he was just using her as much as the U.S. Navy had tried to. He was just doing it in a classier way, but yet she lets her guard down and that just didn’t make sense.

One thing I did prefer in this book was that instead of only alternating narrators between Donna and Jefferson, that the author let a few of the other characters have a turn. Peter’s turn made me chuckle with his “It’s like this. I’m not a sidekick, I just play one in life” line and his social commentary on being a gay black kid. I wish he had gotten more than two chapters as a narrator. The fact that Kath, yes, that Kath, the one who was supposed to be dead got a turn blew me away as I typically see a plot twist coming a mile off and I was blown off my feet by it. The most interesting narration though was Brainbox’s even though his were the shortest. Diving deep into the mind of a genius is a wild ride and I found the way he spoke in his head to be very James Joyce stream of consciousness. It was great, but also a little hard to follow, which may explain why his chapters were shorter than everyone else’s and how his thoughts moved and the detachment in them was a little spooky.   It was a little strange that Mr. Weitz didn’t make the switch to these other narrators until near the ending of this second book, if I had a chance to interview him that is something I would definitely ask about.

I did like that The New Order ended with three different sets of actions and perspectives converging….our uncertainty whether Brainbox will live and if he does will he help save the world or end it, Jefferson realizing that instead of guiding the teens to a new world that he may have to force them into it, and Donna swinging back into the action for a hell of a lot of vengeance and may prove to be just as much of a wild card as Brainbox. We shall see.

The New Order

While I can’t say I am a big M. Night Shyamalan fan overall, I did like his movie The Village for one strong reason, the idea that outside the village normal life was going on. It’s that idea that just outside a dystopian world or apocalyptic situation is a place where people are carrying on as normal that interests me. I mean, how many of us faced with either scenario just wish we could close our eyes and when we open them again everything would be alright, everything would be as it was?   That’s not to say our present world is perfect, far from it, but faced with darker alternatives we would take the bad with the good of our present times, right? The New Order by Chris Weitz explores this conundrum.  If you can go from the horrific situation you are in back to some normalcy, what are the repercussions? Your innocence is gone after what you have endured, you view situations with more assessing and jaded eyes and how can you ever truly relax again when being on the defense is the way you survived when others didn’t.

If you haven’t read The New Order by Chris Weitz yet, you may want to visit this post after you have done so, otherwise you about to read a major spoiler.

The Young World left us with two quest members dead, See Through and Kath. Jefferson was nearly killed by the Old Man who injected him with the Sickness to see if the new Cure mixed up by him and Brainbox worked, which it did. So one would have expected that this next book would be the remaining team struggling their way back to Manhattan with the Cure and whether the teens of all tribes should be given it.

Instead, we are confronted with the reality that the Old Man was not the only adult left alive. Indeed, millions of adults and kids survived the sickness, they just happen to be living overseas. So why don’t the teens know any of this? Well the very people who can explain what’s happened to the world are the ones keeping the teens a secret from the rest of the world. Yes, there is a worry about the Sickness mutating, and yes, there has been a rebalance of the world order, but when it comes down to it those reasons are nothing in the face of the Lord of the Flies existence the kids have been living for years now. So when the Washington Square Park and Haarlem kids are put into isolation on a Navy ship and interrogated, they aren’t feeling like helping the adults much. In fact, when they are each contacted via a coded message from a rebel group within the adult military troops, all of them decide to side with the rebels, except Captain who at least keeps the secret. However, during the kids’ escape plan to head back to NYC, Donna is separated from the group and ends up in England instead.

That’s the part that fascinates me, how she goes from a hellhole of eating rats and trying not to get eaten by cannibals, to living in picturesque Cambridge as a university student. So while Jefferson and the gang have to go back into the violence knowing that there is another world out there, which is bad enough, I feel like Donna has the harder struggle. Yes, she is no longer fighting for her life, but she has to assimilate back into the world, keep the big secret and swallow the guilt she feels about living in the lap of luxury while god knows what is happening to the rest of them.

Yet that doesn’t excuse her behavior when it comes to so quickly replacing Jefferson when she is told that he was killed. It’s one thing to move on to another relationship, but to sleep with the other guy when she wouldn’t even sleep with Wash, let alone his little bro, just struck a weird note with me. Also, the fact that when she met Mr. Welsh, for all his civilized British ways, she knew he was just using her as much as the U.S. Navy had tried to. He was just doing it in a classier way, but yet she lets her guard down and that just didn’t make sense.

One thing I did prefer in this book was that instead of only alternating narrators between Donna and Jefferson, that the author let a few of the other characters have a turn. Peter’s turn made me chuckle with his “It’s like this. I’m not a sidekick, I just play one in life” line and his social commentary on being a gay black kid. I wish he had gotten more than two chapters as a narrator. The fact that Kath, yes, that Kath, the one who was supposed to be dead got a turn blew me away as I typically see a plot twist coming a mile off and I was blown off my feet by it. The most interesting narration though was Brainbox’s even though his were the shortest. Diving deep into the mind of a genius is a wild ride and I found the way he spoke in his head to be very James Joyce stream of consciousness. It was great, but also a little hard to follow, which may explain why his chapters were shorter than everyone else’s and how his thoughts moved and the detachment in them was a little spooky.   It was a little strange that Mr. Weitz didn’t make the switch to these other narrators until near the ending of this second book, if I had a chance to interview him that is something I would definitely ask about.

I did like that The New Order ended with three different sets of actions and perspectives converging….our uncertainty whether Brainbox will live and if he does will he help save the world or end it, Jefferson realizing that instead of guiding the teens to a new world that he may have to force them into it, and Donna swinging back into the action for a hell of a lot of vengeance and may prove to be just as much of a wild card as Brainbox. We shall see.