In Claysoot, boys are Heisted on their 18th birthday. Almost magically, they are taken away from their walled community by an unidentified flash of light. If anyone in Claysoot tries to escape by climbing the wall, their body is returned as charred ash.
Because the community is constantly losing their men, teenagers are slated to each other for the purpose of a short-lived courtship in order to populate the town. Although Gray is not slated to Emma, the town clinician’s daughter, he’s admired her for years. Unfortunately, Emma only sees Gray as a younger, hotheaded version of his older brother, the sensible Blaine. Soon after Blaine is Heisted, Gray is slated to Emma. He convinces her to act like they are interested in each other in order to prolong their courtship. This will buy them some time to avoid having a child before Gray is Heisted (due to occur in less than one year). As they spend time together and begin to trust each other, they admit skepticism about their walled town and the Heists. In asking questions, they discover answers that provoke them to climb the wall.
As I’ve described just enough to not give away any twists in the plot, I realize that the above only summarizes the first 100 pages. The story changes drastically when Gray and Emma leave Claysoot, which is refreshing. Many dystopias prolong the mystery of “Why are we trapped here?” until the very end of the book. But this plot moves quickly. The quality of writing is strong, and although the themes are typical of the genre, I was interested and eager to read through the end. Without going into details, themes included are: corrupt government, threat of rebellion/civil war, organized resistance, medical experimentation, high-tech equipment, and LOVE— complete with its trials and tribulations! The romance seemed realistic, by the way :)
Aristotle goes by Ari. He’s a loner 15-year-old in El Paso whose only friends are his parents. Unfortunately for him, his mom asks too many questions and his dad answers too few. Secrets are big in Ari’s family, ranging from his imprisoned older brother (an off-limits topic) to his father’s service in Vietnam.
On a hot summer day at the local pool, Dante introduces himself to Ari by offering to teach him how to swim. Ari is fascinated by Dante, who is easy going and seems to have such an uncomplicated life. After an unexpected event during that first summer when they meet, their friendship is tested and evolves throughout their journey into adulthood.
There are many things to love about this book: the gorgeous cover, the lyrical language, and especially the main characters (Aristotle, Dante, and their parents). The plot has surprising moments and is ever-changing, like Aristotle and Dante themselves. I definitely recommend this title to anyone looking for solid literary YA fiction.
Unwinds are teenagers whose guardians have decided to have their brains wiped clean of memories, often because of disciplinary problems. This book’s three main characters, Connor, Risa and Lev, are all being unwound for different reasons. If they are lucky enough to evade the authorities until they turn 18, they will become free citizens.
I tend to review newer titles here, but I read this for the first time recently and consider it an excellent dystopia. Very well thought out characters and plot. Several issues are covered surrounding abortion (though this word is never used), including adoption, foster children, religious conviction, and general politics. The medical aspect (body harvesting) was also very intriguing. SO many more topics were covered— urban legends, terrorists, mob mentality, civil war, and of course the classic dystopian theme of the government overstepping its bounds. Amazingly, these themes all fit together well and the outcome is not overwhelming. The characters were very interesting— Lev’s & CyFi’s story especially stayed with me. I liked Connor’s character development, and how the author forces us to reevaluate his arch-nemesis, Roland, near the end. Their power struggle is also a great addition. There are some very terrifying moments which are very satisfying… but it’s not too scary for younger teens. I definitely recommend this book. Five years after this book’s release, the the sequel “UnWholly” was published (released August 2012).
In this book, Slating is a common method of dealing with teenaged criminals. Rather than putting them in jail, they are sent to a hospital to have their memories wiped. They reemerge in society as a clean slate, taken in by a foster family. Kyla recognizes that she’s different from other Slateds— she asks too many questions and has nightmares that might be memories. In addition, her Levo bracelet doesn’t work properly. It’s meant to warn the paramedics when she becomes too angry or distressed, because Slateds should be happy. But when Kyla gets angry, her Levo bracelet indicates that her levels are normal. She and her friend Slated Ben notice that more and more people of all ages are disappearing these days entirely— are they being Slated illegally? Or worse?
I felt this book had a slow pace because Kyla struggles repeatedly with the same doubts and questions throughout the book. There are several adult figures whom she’s not sure she can trust or not— her mother, father, teachers, school administrators, group counselor, and the doctor who invented Slating (Kyla visits the doctor regularly during check-ups at the hospital where she was Slated). It annoyed me a bit that there were so many characters that Kyla had these interactions with, constantly questioning internally whether or not she could be honest with them or what their ulterior motives were. Kyla’s relationship with her fellow Slated sister Amy was loving and felt refreshing to read about, though it is much less of a focus during the second half of the book. The reader gets a solid picture of how Slating affects people through Amy and Kyla’s friend Ben. It seemed right that a society like this would have supporters and terrorists, which was also an interesting addition.
A lot of dystopias cover similar issues of wiping peoples’ memories clean as a form of government control (Unwind by Neal Shusterman, Beta by Rachel Cohn, and certainly several others that I can’t think of at this moment). Perhaps I was a put off by reading about the same themes and the slow pacing. The ending was revealing but quiet, and left the reader with questions that will no doubt be addressed in the sequel, Fractured (September 2013). I didn’t love this book, but if what I’ve mentioned in this review doesn’t bother you much, try it out and see if you feel it’s worthwhile to read the rest of the trilogy.
April is Poetry Month! Our Brookline Coolidge Corner Library has a display with free poems. April 18th is National Poem in your Pocket Day, but we’ve put our poems out early to celebrate throughout the month.
The Brookline Library’s Coolidge Corner Branch lost & found was getting out of hand, so we rigged up this eye-catching display. “Dear little kittens, have you lost your mittens?”