Book Review: On the Edge of Gone

goneTitle: On the Edge of Gone
Author: Corinne Duyvis
Genres:  Speculative Fiction, Dystopian
Pages: 456
Publisher: Amulet Books
Review Copy: ARC from publisher
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: January 29, 2035. That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one.

Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter outside their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.

A last-minute meeting leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship, scheduled to leave Earth behind to colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But everyone on the ship has been chosen because of their usefulness. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?

When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?

Review: I was talking to a co-worker about The Walking Dead and why he doesn’t watch it, and he remarked that he hates to read/see stories that has our worlds in ruins, that it hurts him, It was in that conversation I realized just why I was so sad about Corinne Duyvis’s new novel. It’s not that the novel was bad (because it wasn’t) or that it wasn’t a page turner (because it was) but what made me so sad was that it was the story of the destruction of our world, and having that knowledge made me really sad. In books like Hunger Games, where the dystopian future is man made, you root for the hero to overcome systematic oppression. In On the Edge of Gone, the disaster is a natural one and our hero, Denise, is just trying to survive in a brand new dangerous world, and that is what made me so sad. Which is, in a sense, a bit ironic because I’ve always wanted a book that dealt with the disaster in the moment, not years later, which I got, but it also broke me.

Let’s look at the first line shall we, “The first time my future vanished was July 19, 2034.”  Talk about a punch to the gut from the start; and the novel never lets up. It opens with Denise’s reaction to the announcement about the comet, and then fast-forwards to the day of, specifically 30 minutes before the comet is supposed to hit. Denise and her mother have not left the house yet, and it will take them about 45 minutes to get to the shelter. Logically, I knew that Iris would survive the blast, however, Duyvis writes Denise so well that I felt her panic, and frustration at her mother’s lack of urgency to get to safety. I wanted to scream at her mother as well. In fact, there were many times I was frustrated with a number of characters, but when your world is ending how rational is one really going to act? When it comes to matters of survival, won’t we often look out for our own?

And that is the main question that Denise faces throughout the book as she tries to get a spot on the generation ship for not just herself, but for her mother and her sister. She struggles with trying to help others survive, yet look out for her family as well. I love that Duyvis explores Denise’s guilt and turmoil over the desire to save her family versus her desire to help others because the inner conflict made the novel very true. Denise is a caring person, evident in her love of cats so much that she works at a animal shelter, but yet is learning how to deal with others in the worst scenario possible. Denise’s world, er everyone’s world, has been shattered and Denise must work a little harder, due to her autism, to adjust to life after the comet.  Denise is fully aware of how she can be perceived (which also hurt when Duyvis didn’t hold back on the micro aggressions Denise faced) yet she makes an active effort to adjust her behavior to be accepted on board the generation ship. Denise uses this opportunity to prove, not only to everyone else, but mainly to herself what she is truly capable of.  And in the end, well, I don’t want to give it away, but Denise does find that her future vanished as she knew it on July 19, 2034, but she got a new one by learning more about herself, and her ability to survive, than she ever thought possible.

Recommendation: Buy it now!

P.S. While we here at Rich in Color focus on characters of color, I’m glad that Duyvis wrote a character who, in addition to being bi-racial, is autistic. I’ve had, and currently have autistic students and love that there is a book where they can see themselves reflected in a novel, where they get to be the hero. Many people think there is only one type of way a person with autism interacts with the world (a micro aggression that Duyvis brings into the book) and those of us who work with students who have autism know that they are completely different and unique in how they perceive the world. Denise is a perfect example of the broadness of the autism spectrum and how a person with autism’s mind works.

Share

Review: Trail of the Dead (Killer of Enemies #2)

trail
Title: Trail of the Dead (Killer of Enemies #2)
Author: Joseph Bruchac
Publisher: Tu Books
Genres: Action/Adventure, Dystopia/Post-Apocalyptic
Pages: 400
Review Copy: ARC from publisher
Availability: October 1, 2015

Summary: In the sequel to the award-winning Killer of Enemies, Apache teen Lozen and her family are looking for a place of refuge from the despotic Ones who once held them captive and forced Lozen to hunt genetically engineered monsters.

Lozen and her allies travel in search of a valley where she and her family once found refuge. But life is never easy in this post-apocalyptic world. When they finally reach the valley, they discover an unpleasant surprise awaiting them―and a merciless hunter following close behind.

Hally, their enigmatic Bigfoot friend, points them to another destination―a possible refuge. But can Lozen trust Hally? Relying on her wits and the growing powers that warn her when enemies are near, Lozen fights internal sickness to lead her band of refugees to freedom and safety. Alongside family, new friends, and Hussein, the handsome young man whose life she saved, Lozen forges a path through a barren land where new recombinant monsters lurk and the secrets of this new world will reveal themselves to her… whether she wants them to or not.

Review: Bruchac is a master storyteller. From the beginning to the end, he weaves a tapestry made of many intriguing stories. They come from many sources. Much of the book is told from Lozen’s point of view. She shares stories told by her father, uncle and mother. Some of my favorite stories revolve around Coyote. The video below is Bruchac reading a portion of the book involving Coyote if you’d like a sample.

Other parts of the book are delivered through the eyes of her enemy. That adds a rather disturbing twist to the tale. Her enemy’s mind is not a pleasant place to visit and his world view is horrifying. His complete lack of empathy and his pure enjoyment of other people’s misery can be unsettling and more than a little creepy. Once in a while it was unclear who was narrating at the beginning of a chapter. That could be a little confusing for readers, but it becomes clear eventually. I couldn’t tell if that was a deliberate tactic on Bruchac’s part or not, but he did have me puzzled a few times.

I appreciated the inner conflict that Lozen was facing in addition to the monsters outside. Her phenomenal skills would have been unbelievable if she didn’t have weaknesses somewhere. All of the killing she has done begins to take a toll on her mentally and spiritually. She realizes that there is a dark side to what she’s been doing even though she has only been killing to protect herself and her family.

I also appreciated getting to know some of the other characters. Killer of Enemies focused in on Lozen, but in this second book, Lozen is grappling with her inner turmoil and is forced to rely on others. As she allows more people to get past her defenses, readers get to learn more about them. If you were wondering, yes, the love interest does become more interesting. This aspect of the book doesn’t overwhelm or become the sole focus of the story, but it does add another intriguing layer.

Even with all of the developing relationships and internal conflict, there is still plenty of action in the story. Bruchac doesn’t spare us the details either. We see the monsters up close along with weapons, blood, guts and gruesomeness often at top speed.

When I finished reading, one of the first things that popped into my head was this is a very entertaining book. There was plenty of action, introspection and even humor. I had to smile then when I read the author’s note. Bruchac explained that while there are certainly important lessons to be learned in this series, “My first aim is to entertain you.” I would say that his goal was met.

Recommendation: Get it soon especially if you read and enjoyed Killer of Enemies. This is one of those books that will keep you on the edge of your seat and will even get a laugh or two out of you along the way.

Extras:

Goodreads Book Giveaway (through September 28, 2015)

Joseph Bruchac reads from Chapter 15

Audrey’s review of Killer of Enemies

My mini-review of Rose Eagle (prequel e-novella to Killer of Enemies)

Share

Dystopian YA lit!

Recently, I was recommending YA lit to a friend and, of course, the first book out of my mouth was The Summer Prince. As a result, dystopian YA lit has been on my mind, so here are six of my favorite dystopian YA books written by/about POC!

16718816Control by Lydia Kang

When a crash kills their father and leaves them orphaned, Zel knows she needs to protect her sister, Dyl. But before Zel has a plan, Dyl is taken by strangers using bizarre sensory weapons, and Zel finds herself in a safe house for teens who aren’t like any she’s ever seen before—teens who shouldn’t even exist. Using broken-down technology, her new friends’ peculiar gifts, and her own grit, Zel must find a way to get her sister back from the kidnappers who think a powerful secret is encoded in Dyl’s DNA.

A spiraling, intense, romantic story set in 2150—in a world of automatic cars, nightclubs with auditory ecstasy drugs, and guys with four arms—this is about the human genetic “mistakes” that society wants to forget, and the way that outcasts can turn out to be heroes. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

9275658Legend by Marie Lu

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

13453104The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

15721624Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct… but in reality, a new primitive society has been born.

Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader’s newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted. Fen meets Daniel, a scientist from the Outer States who has snuck into the Delta illegally. Brought together by chance, kept together by danger, Fen and Daniel navigate the wasteland of Orleans. In the end, they are each other’s last hope for survival. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

16034526Stranger by Rachel Manija Brown, Sherwood Smith

Many generations ago, a mysterious cataclysm struck the world. Governments collapsed and people scattered, to rebuild where they could. A mutation, “the Change,” arose, granting some people unique powers. Though the area once called Los Angeles retains its cultural diversity, its technological marvels have faded into legend. “Las Anclas” now resembles a Wild West frontier town… where the Sheriff possesses superhuman strength, the doctor can warp time to heal his patients, and the distant ruins of an ancient city bristle with deadly crystalline trees that take their jewel-like colors from the clothes of the people they killed.

Teenage prospector Ross Juarez’s best find ever – an ancient book he doesn’t know how to read – nearly costs him his life when a bounty hunter is set on him to kill him and steal the book. Ross barely makes it to Las Anclas, bringing with him a precious artifact, a power no one has ever had before, and a whole lot of trouble. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

13552764The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Ashala Wolf has been captured by Chief Administrator Neville Rose. A man who is intent on destroying Ashala’s Tribe — the runaway Illegals hiding in the Firstwood. Injured and vulnerable and with her Sleepwalker ability blocked, Ashala is forced to succumb to the machine that will pull secrets from her mind. And right beside her is Justin Connor, her betrayer, watching her every move. Will the Tribe survive the interrogation of Ashala Wolf? [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

 

Are any of these books on your reading list?

Share

Review: Rebellion (Extraction #2)

18625184Title: Rebellion (Extraction #2)
Author: Stephanie Diaz
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Pages: 324
Review Copy: publisher
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Availability: February 10th, 2015

Summary: The uprising has begun.It’s been seven days since Clementine and Logan, along with their allies, retreated into hiding on the Surface. The rebels may have won one battle against Commander Charlie, but the fight is far from finished. He has vowed to find a way to win—no matter the cost. Do the rebels have what it takes to defeat him…and put an end to this war?
As Clementine and Logan enter a desperate race against time to defeat Commander Charlie—and attempt to weaken his power within his own ranks—they find themselves in a terrifying endgame that pits them against a brutal enemy, and each other. With every step, Clementine draws closer to losing Logan…and losing control of herself. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: Rebellion is the sequel to Extraction, which is definitely a great dystopian/sci-fi YA book to get on your reading list! As with most dystopian and sci-fi books, there’s plenty of detailed settings and descriptions used to set the tone in the first book. If you don’t read Extraction first, you’ll be at sea with Rebellion.

That said, Rebellion is a solid follow-up to Extraction. At the beginning of Extraction, Clementine is one of the chosen few who gets to be taken to the Earth’s Core to live, safe from the poisonous acid that rains down from the moon and poisons the surface of the world. Clementine then uncovers various conspiracies that would be super spoilers if I mentioned them here, so I won’t. Suffice it to say that the ending takes the series to the next level. The book goes from standard dystopian to awesome sci-fi in one big plot twist.

As with Extraction, Rebellion is slow going at first. It follows the tried-and-true dystopian story line of Girl Against the Government, but with one main difference: Clementine’s past traumas and fears do play a role in the book, and are portrayed consistently, for the most part. The book hits its stride in the second half, when it switches gears from dystopian to a more sci-fi take.

Still, Rebellion leaves a few questions unanswered. Like a lot of dystopian YA, there’s always the mystery of what makes the protagonist so special? Why is she the One to rise up against the government? But with the Extraction series’ track record of sweet sci-fi plot twists, I have faith that any mysteries about Clementine will be resolved in the last book.

This is a drastic oversimplification, but: The Extraction series is like Divergent and Ender’s Game had a baby. A less problematic, more girl-power-awesome baby. Rebellion is a great book for anyone who’s a fan of dystopian YA or sci-fi. (Seriously, though, read the first book Extraction before Rebellion, or you’re going to be so confused.) I’m definitely looking forward to reading the sequel to Rebellion!

Recommendation: Get it soon!
Share

Mini-Review: Rose Eagle

roseTitle: Rose Eagle
Author: Joseph Bruchac
Publisher: Tu Books
Genres: Dystopia/Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction, Romance
Format: Digital only
Review Copy: Digital copy via Edelweiss
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: A prequel e-novella to the award-winning Killer of Enemies.

In the Black Hills of South Dakota, seventeen-year-old Rose Eagle of the Lakota tribe is trying to find her place in a post-apocalyptic world.

Before the Silver Cloud, the Lakota were forced to work in the Deeps, mining for ore so that the Ones, the overlords, could continue their wars. But when the Cloud came and enveloped Earth, all electronics were shut off. Some miners were trapped in the deepest Deeps and suffocated, but the Lakota were warned to escape, and the upper Deeps became a place of refuge for them in a post-Cloud world.

In the midst of this chaos, Rose Eagle’s aunt has a dream: Rose will become a medicine woman, a healer. She sends Rose into the Black Hills on a quest to find healing for their people.

Gangly and soft-spoken, Rose is no warrior. She seeks medicine, not danger. Nevertheless, danger finds her, but love and healing soon follow. When Rose Eagle completes her quest, she may return with more than she ever thought she was looking for.

Review: Rose may be “Gangly and soft-spoken,” but she is no slouch when it comes to fighting the terrifying monsters that are wandering the country. At first, I was afraid that Rose was much the same as Lozen from Killer of Enemies. While I really enjoyed that novel and Lozen’s rather kick-ass ways, I didn’t want to read the same story again with different names. It quickly became apparent though, that Rose was distinctly herself. She has a special gift (no spoilers here), but she also lives in a state of uncertainty and reserve. She keeps to herself and believes that she’s unattractive. Beyond that, Rose is tentative about social interactions, in spite of the fact that she can face down monsters.

I enjoyed getting to know Rose and would love to learn more about her. It may be the nature of a novella, but I didn’t feel that I had enough time with the characters. The relationship also had moments that felt rushed. Fortunately, Bruchac is already working on a sequel to Killer of Enemies that will allow us more time with Rose. The sequel will connect the paths of both Lozen and Rose.

Rose Eagle has a wonderful mix of action and moments for thought. It takes place in South Dakota and the controversy about Crazy Horse Monument was brought up among other things.

Recommendation: Rose Eagle was entertaining and I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys dystopias and especially for those who read and enjoyed Killer of Enemies. Get it soon.

Share

Review: Stranger (The Change #1)

StrangerTitle: Stranger (The Change #1)
Author: Rachel Manija Brown, Sherwood Smith
Genres: science fiction, dystopia
Pages: 432
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Review Copy: the library
Availability: November 13, 2014

Summary: Many generations ago, a mysterious cataclysm struck the world. Governments collapsed and people scattered, to rebuild where they could. A mutation, “the Change,” arose, granting some people unique powers. Though the area once called Los Angeles retains its cultural diversity, its technological marvels have faded into legend. “Las Anclas” now resembles a Wild West frontier town… where the Sheriff possesses superhuman strength, the doctor can warp time to heal his patients, and the distant ruins of an ancient city bristle with deadly crystalline trees that take their jewel-like colors from the clothes of the people they killed.

Teenage prospector Ross Juarez’s best find ever – an ancient book he doesn’t know how to read – nearly costs him his life when a bounty hunter is set on him to kill him and steal the book. Ross barely makes it to Las Anclas, bringing with him a precious artifact, a power no one has ever had before, and a whole lot of trouble. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: The book Stranger centers on what happens when Ross Juarez, a teenaged prospector, is rescued and brought to the town of Las Anclas, a post-apocalyptic take on the classic Western setting in the desert — complete with saloons and mysterious strangers. The town is under constant threat by invaders and is walled off from the desert by huge, mechanized gates. Out in the desert, crystalline trees kill anyone who happens upon them. Inside the town, some people are Changed and have certain powers, while other people remain Norms… naturally, there’s conflict and tension between the two groups.

The detail and strong worldbuilding in Stranger are both its strength and its weakness. The detail-heavy prose, combined with the huge cast of characters, made the book difficult to get into at first… but, once the stage was set, the story really hit its stride. It’s a thrilling adventure to read, once you get far enough in.

The story is told from five perspectives — Mia Lee, Felicite Wolfe, Ross Juarez, Jennie Riley, and Yuki Nakamura. The variety of characters in the book is portrayed in a skillful way and each provides a unique view of the story. People of different ages, sexualities*, and ethnicities are integrated seamlessly into the world. It’s so rare to find a book that depicts POC and LGBTQIA characters in a way that doesn’t rely on stereotyping or tacky descriptions… in this regard, reading the Stranger was a refreshing change from the norm. Diversity is done well in this book.

The best part was the relationships — the friendship between Mia and Jennie, the bond between Mia and her father, and Yuki’s romance. This, together with the cool setting, made Stranger a delight to read. If you’re into Westerns, or well-written somewhat dystopian fiction, the Stranger is worth reading. Pick up Stranger when you have the chance!

Recommendation: Get it soon! The post-apocalyptic Western take is definitely worth a read.

*SPOILERS: I was so sure that this one character would turn out to be aro/ace and hugely disappointed that (once again, SPOILER), it wasn’t to be. I guess you can’t have everything…

Share