Book Review: Champion

Title: Ch14290364ampion
Author: Marie Lu
Genres: Dystopian, SciFi
Pages: 369
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers
Review Copy: Target!
Availability: On Shelves now

Review: I wish I could write gushing praise for Champion. I really wanted to say that I loved the novel and everyone needs to run out and buy it right now. I wish I could say a lot of things, but what I truly wish for is a different ending to the book. For me, I might enjoy 80-90% of a book, tv, or movie, but if the ending is not done well, then I usually end up disappointed with the entire product. Unfortunately, I did not like the ending to Champion and it has sullied my entire enjoyment of the novel. I will not say why I didn’t like the book because I’m not one to ruin someone’s reading pleasure and give away the end of the book, so you’ll just have to read it for yourselves.

The rest of the novel, with the exception of the last 20 pages, was tense with almost non-stop action. After all, the entire book encompasses a very short time period (a week, I think) where Day and June are literally fighting for their lives, for the lives of the people of the Republic, as well as trying to find a cure for the new plague. This makes for some very intense moments where Day and June have to make adult decisions that will effect their entire nation. That is a lot of responsibility for teenagers, but as established in Legend and Prodigy, Day and June are not ordinary teenagers. Their relationship begins strained at the beginning of the novel, but they eventually come together and the scene where they finally admit how they feel for each other is one of the best in the book. I cheered for them and hoped against hoped that Day and June would be able to have their happy ending. At that point in the story, it really didn’t look like that was going to happen, so much Kudos to Marie Lu for keeping the reader in such suspense.

One aspect of Champion that I really loved was learning more about the world that Day and June live in. In my copy there was a map of the world that showed how the melting of the glaciers affected the entire globe. We learn that Africa is a superpower and that Antarctica is a thriving continent, with a wonderful super-charged technology advanced city and even has their own language. This attention to world building detail thrilled me and I even wondered what the Antarctican language sounded like and where it’s roots where. While Prodigy explained more of what happened to the United States, Champion gives more information as to how the world changed and the former US’s status among the world’s governments. To me, the world that Lu created feels very real and I can imagine our future turning into Day and June’s familiar world.

Overall, maybe my disappointment comes from having Day and June’s story come to an end. I seriously loved Legend and Prodigy, and was eagerly anticipating Champion. Day and June, for me, are one-of-a-kind characters and I grew to really care for them. I cared for each of their individual stories, their heartaches, and I cared for them as a couple. I felt they were a realistic portrayal of a couple who pushes and challenges the other to be better, while at the same time can work together as a team. That type of relationship is uncommon in Young Adult fiction these days, but I hope that more publishers take note on the popularity of Lu’s series and publish more novels where the teens are equals to each other instead of a lopsided relationship.

Marie Lu, thank you for giving us Day and June. I will miss them greatly.

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Diversity: Doing It Right

On Oct. 9, a number of excited students of mine came running up to me with their newly purchased “House of Hades” novel by Rick Riordan, asking me if I had bought mine. I hadn’t, but couldn’t help getting caught up in their excitement at the latest book in the Heroes of Olympus series. After all, I had only gotten into the series because of them. Their enthusiasm for the series and the desire to talk about the books with me is why I started reading the books in the first place. So, when I finally got around to reading the book, I remembered another reason why I greatly enjoyed the books and why I’m currently using “The Lost Hero” in my classroom. Riordan’s books are prime examples of diversity done right.

via Goodreads

via Goodreads

Riordan has come out and said that he wrote the Percy Jackson series for his son and for ADD/ADHD kids to see a reflection of themselves in literature. While he’s never expressly stated this, based on the characters he creates, one can assume he also wants children of color to see themselves reflected in the novels as well. The Heroes of Olympus has 7 main characters, 4 of which are characters of color. Their ethnic breakdown is as follows: African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Chinese and Native American. Though technically they would be considered mixed because they are demigods, meaning one of their parents is one of the Greek/Roman gods. Even still, they are kids of colors who are the children of gods. I want to repeat that…they are kids of color who are the children of GODS!

 
Riordan could have taken the easy way out and not included diversity at all because his characters are the children of the Greek & Roman gods – all characters that we are familiar with, but he didn’t. The novels are set in our modern, culturally diverse world and the characters are reflective of that world. If one knows their mythology, the Greek/Roman gods love to have affairs with humans, so in our diverse world it is appropriate for one to imagine that the Greek/Roman gods would have affairs with all the beautiful colors under the sun. Riordan imagined this world and I’m glad for it. This careful attention to diversity is also what makes the books so enjoyable. Children of all colors can see themselves in the pages, can imagine themselves being able to control fire like Leo, pull precious metals from earth like Hazel, shape-shift like Frank, and influence people like Piper.  Children of color can see themselves as heroes, as they should.

 

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New Releases

This past summer, during a cranky moment, I made a post about the “Diversity Surprise.” Well, Veronica Roth’s Divergent series is what somewhat sparked that post. While the main characters may not be characters of color, Roth did an excellent job of filling her futuristic world with a diverse population that accurately represents a world based on today’s population. Despite my snarky reaction, I still enjoyed the series and am excited about it’s conclusion, Allegiant, that comes out on Tuesday.

Image via Goodreads

Image via Goodreads

One choice will define you.

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent. (text via Goodreads)

 

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Book Review: Antigoddess

antigoddessTitle: Antigoddess
Author: Kendare Blake
Genres: Fantasy, SciFi
Pages: 333
Publisher: Tor Teen
Review Copy: Barnes & Noble
Availability: On Shelves now

It’s not very often that an author makes a bold move in a novel, especially the first novel of a series, that shocks the reader and has them thinking “Did Kendare Blake really just do that?” I’m not going to give it away, you have to read the novel to discover yourself, but Blake makes a shocking decision about one of her characters in her new series about ancient Greek Gods & Goddess fighting for survival, that leaves the reader with the knowledge that her series will be dark and brutal and one fantastic read.

Just like another popular YA series that deals with the Greek Gods, Blake does a fine job of weaving history and mythology into the current events of the story. Blake’s gods and goddess haven’t gone away, they’ve been living among us ever since the fall of the Greek empire and are now starting to die, thus bringing about a new war. The difference here, in Antigoddess, is that the story doesn’t just involved the stories of gods, but also of the humans that interacted with them. The humans the gods interacted with and loved are now reincarnated though they do not remember their previous lives. I frankly loved that twist to the story, especially as other human characters were identified and their 2013 selves are very different from their ancient selves. Athena and Hermes, both sarcastic gods who read like ancient teenagers that possess a wisdom of the ages, go in search of Cassandra who was an oracle during the era of the Trojan War. The two gods come across Odysseus, who is now a cheeky teenage Brit, as well as Hector and Andromache, who for now remain their 2013 selves. I have a feeling that will change however, because the book, and by extension the series, is unpredictable.

And gory, and scary and often times doesn’t feel like a YA novel because Blake does not play it safe. The novel is full of gritty violence, after all, it is a beginning of a war with “immortal beings” who see the earth as their playground, just as they did eons ago. The old Greek myths are much old stories that since we are so removed from them, we don’t often think about the catastrophes the real people of the time experienced to create the mythological stories. By being set in modern day, Antigoddess reminds the reader of the regular people, the collateral damage, of the god’s playground. It’s a sobering thought and makes it hard for the reader to root for Athena’s survival when the lives of humans are at risk. Yet, Blake breathes such life into all the characters, both human and god, that when Cassandra and Athena finally come together and begin to fight, you know they will be an unstoppable team; they just have to learn to trust each other first. And that journey will be worth the read.

I enjoyed Antigoddess as it moved at a fairly smooth pace, switching between Athena’s voice and Cassandra’s voice. The plot slowly builds and there are crossovers between the two stories that has the reader guessing at the links and figuring it all out before Athena does, and eventually Cassandra. As I said earlier, Blake weaves in historical stories well, and those bits do not slow down the action one bit. In fact, the historical information given actually adds to the tension (at least it did for me). Blake created a world that I truly believable and scary, and I can’t wait to read what happens next. If you’re looking for a new series, now that many are ending, this is a good place to start.

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What I Mean When I Talk Diversity

In the spring I’m going to be teaching a class, currently titled “Writing the Other” and will focus on why we need diversity in literature, while giving practical tips and tools at the same time. As I was discussing the class with my reading group, one friend asked, “well, doesn’t calling it ‘the other’ further alienate, set up further differences?” Our group, which is diverse in its own right, went crazy explaining why the class is needed. I think we might have been a bit overzealous and I felt like we might have made her feel bad. Instead, she reflected on the conversation and wrote this touching blog post (Default white?) where she basically unpacked her privilege and thought about what she could do better. She explored the concept of the “default white”, which she admits, she had never given much thought too. In recognizing her own misconceptions, she realized the importance of having these discussions about diversity and that all of us, white, black, yellow, green and purple, have a responsibility to making our literature reflect our world.

diversity1
A few months ago I wrote about that I’m tired of the “it’s diversity surprise” but I think I have to amend my statement because as I was beta reading a friend’s novel, I had the “it’s diversity, surprise” and I was actually glad to have it. And when I sent her an email thanking her for the surprise, it made me realize that by sending the “Thank Yous” and the “Nice Diverse world” notes to authors who are not of color, we encourage more authors (and by extension publishers) to open the doors for more diverse stories. In my friend’s novel, the diversity isn’t forced, isn’t a “very special topic”, it just is. As diversity is in real life – it just is. The “it’s diversity surprise” is just a reaction to seeing diversity just as it is and not some overreaching lesson. Those stories still do have a place as well, but we also need to have more stories where diversity just is. It’s in the background where characters interact at the coffee shop, in the classroom, at the movies. It’s in the variety of friends, and not the token Person of Color, especially in a story that is set in a big city. Its in the way teachers, community leaders are presented in a story as diversity exists there as well. Diversity is everywhere and our literature needs to embrace it.

Those examples of seeing diversity in every day lives is what we mean when we talk diversity. We need publishers to understand that the world we live in is not filled with just one type of person, one type of story. The world is colorful with skin tones of every different shade, with numerous cultures that are just as valid as any other. We all have the responsibility to make diversity in literature a very real thing. No one group should be responsible for shouldering the work. We all have a stake in this world; we need to help each other when we make mistakes and lift each other up in praise when we achieve greatness.

So, what do I mean when I talk diversity? I mean that we are all in this fight together. With my friend who wrote the blog post, with my other friend who included diversity in her novel, with my fellow writers here at Rich in Color – everyone. We are a diverse group and if we want to see change, we need to make it happen.

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New Releases

It’s a big week for diverse works as 6, count them 6, books with characters of color are released. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited. So, shall we begin?

inheritanceInheritance

by Malinda Lo

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Reese and David are not normal teens—not since they were adapted with alien DNA by the Imria, an extraterrestrial race that has been secretly visiting Earth for decades. Now everyone is trying to get to them: the government, the Imria, and a mysterious corporation that would do anything for the upper hand against the aliens.

Beyond the web of conspiracies, Reese can’t reconcile her love for David with her feelings for her ex-girlfriend Amber, an Imrian. But her choice between two worlds will play a critical role in determining the future of humanity, the Imria’s place in it, and the inheritance she and David will bring to the universe. (summary from author’s webpage http://www.malindalo.com)

I am so happy this book is finally out so I can talk about it with people! Check out my review, hereand then run and get your own copy. 

 

UntoldUntold (The Lynburn Legacy #2)

By Sarah Rees Brennan
Simon & Schuster UK

It’s time to choose sides… On the surface, Sorry-in-the-Vale is a sleepy English town. But Kami Glass knows the truth. Sorry-in-the-Vale is full of magic. In the old days, the Lynburn family ruled with fear, terrifying the people into submission in order to kill for blood and power. Now the Lynburns are back, and Rob Lynburn is gathering sorcerers so that the town can return to the old ways.

But Rob and his followers aren’t the only sorcerers in town. A decision must be made: pay the blood sacrifice, or fight. For Kami, this means more than just choosing between good and evil. With her link to Jared Lynburn severed, she’s now free to love anyone she chooses. But who should that be?

(Image and summary via Goodreads)

 

InvasionInvasion

By Walter Dean Myers
Scholastic Press

Josiah Wedgewood and Marcus Perry are on their way to an uncertain future. Their whole lives are ahead of them, yet at the same time, death’s whisper is everywhere.

One white, one black, these young men have nothing in common and everything in common as they approach an experience that will change them forever.

It’s May 1944. World War II is ramping up, and so are these young recruits, ready and eager. In small towns and big cities all over the globe, people are filled with fear. When Josiah and Marcus come together in what will be the greatest test of their lives, they learn hard lessons about race, friendship, and what it really means to fight. Set on the front lines of the Normandy invasion, this novel, rendered with heart-in-the-throat precision, is a cinematic masterpiece. Here we see the bold terror of war, and also the nuanced havoc that affects a young person’s psyche while living in a barrack, not knowing if today he will end up dead or alive. — Image and summary via Goodreads.

don't know

You Don’t Know Me Like That

by ReShonda Tate Billingsley
K-Teen/Dafina

She dishes celebrity dirt no one else dares. But now, Maya Morgan is about to get a taste of her own medicine.

— Image via Goodreads and summary via Amazon

 

 

 
chasing shadows

Chasing Shadows

by Swati Avasthi, Illustrated by Craig Phillips

Knopf Books for Young Readers

Before: Corey, Holly, and Savitri are one unit—fast, strong, inseparable. Together they turn Chicago concrete and asphalt into a freerunner’s jungle gym, ricocheting off walls, scaling buildings, leaping from rooftop to rooftop. But acting like a superhero doesn’t make you bulletproof…
After: Holly and Savitri are coming unglued. Holly says she’s chasing Corey’s killer, chasing revenge. Savitri fears Holly’s just running wild—and leaving her behind. Friends should stand by each other in times of crissi. But can you hold on too tight? Too long?

In this intense novel, told in two voices, and incorporating comic-style art sections, Swati Avasthi creates a gripping portrait of two girls teetering on the edge of grief and insanity. Two girls who will find out just how many ways there are to lose a friend . . . and how many ways to be lost. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

I really want to read this. Once my self-imposed book buying punishment is over, this is one of the first books I’m buying!

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 1.32.27 AMKiller of Enemies
by Joseph Bruchac
Tu Books

This is not a once upon a time story.

Years ago, seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen and her family lived in a world of haves and have-nots. There were the Ones—people so augmented with technology and genetic enhancements that they were barely human—and there was everyone else who served them.

Then the Cloud came, and everything changed. Tech stopped working. The world plunged back into a new steam age. The Ones’ pets—genetically engineered monsters—turned on them and are now loose on the world.

Fate has given seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen a unique set of survival skills and magical abilities that she uses to take down monsters for the remaining Ones, who have kidnapped her family.

But with every monster she kills, Lozen’s powers grow, and she connects those powers to an ancient legend of her people. It soon becomes clear to Lozen that she is meant to be a more than a hired-gun hunter.

Lozen is meant to be a hero.

All of us at Rich In Color are excited about this book as in August we were able to participate in the Tu Book’s cover reveal extravaganza!

 

 

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