What I read in April, part two: Pure, Every Other Day and Trust Me Too

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pure by Julianna Baggott  
'We know you are here, our brothers and sisters. We will, one day, emerge from the Dome to join you in peace. For now, we watch from afar.'

Pressia Belze has lived outside of the Dome ever since the detonations. Struggling for survival she dreams of life inside the safety of the Dome with the 'Pure'. 

Partridge, himself a Pure, knows that life inside the Dome, under the strict control of the leaders' regime, isn't as perfect as others think. 

Bound by a history that neither can clearly remember, Pressia and Partridge are destined to forge a new world.  

The world-building! The plot twists! The creepy 1984-vibe! I found Pure to be a fairly brilliant dystopian novel. I believe it has been optioned for film, and I imagined as a movie at several points as I was reading - it's very strong and exciting and fast-paced plot-wise. My tastes in books often tend towards the borderline ridiculous, so some readers may find some plotlines a little difficult to believe, but I thought it was fantastic.

I found the romantic aspects to be an unnecessary addition. Is there some unspoken rule that all books for teenage readers must feature minimum one romantic plotline? This book hardly needs it, and it all felt a little rushed near the end. I loved the world outside of the Dome - I mean, I wouldn't want to go there, but it seemed very well thought-out and was well evoked. The people melding with household objects, the ground, other people - all incredibly creepy. I found it somewhat difficult to believe these things would stand out to Pressia - she has lived in a world where most people have disfigurements like a doll-head hand or a sibling attached to them most of her life - so sometimes found it over-described (I could understand it being shocking to Partridge, having grown up in a world where people are perfect). I didn't have as clear an idea of the world inside the Dome, and it was less exciting anyway.

I would recommend this to an older YA audience, and fans of dystopias. Though there's a lot of time spent on each character's thoughts, I think the strength of the novel lies in the plot, and it is very plot-driven. It's the first of a series, but functions well as a standalone (if anything things are a little too neatly finished) and I'm looking forward to reading the next.

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes  
Every other day, Kali D'Angelo is a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She goes to public high school. She attends pep rallies. She's human. And then every day in between...She's something else entirely. 

Though she still looks like herself, every twenty-four hours predatory instincts take over and Kali becomes a feared demon-hunter with the undeniable urge to hunt, trap, and kill zombies, hellhounds, and other supernatural creatures. Kali has no idea why she is the way she is, but she gives in to instinct anyway. Even though the government considers it environmental terrorism. 

When Kali notices a mark on the lower back of a popular girl at school, she knows instantly that the girl is marked for death by one of these creatures. Kali has twenty-four hours to save her and, unfortunately, she'll have to do it as a human. With the help of a few new friends, Kali takes a risk that her human body might not survive...and learns the secrets of her mysterious condition in the process.  

I loved the alternate universe of Every Other Day - where things like hellhounds, chupacabras and basilisks are an everyday part of life, and even protected by the government. But also there are no sexy threatening supernatural boyfriends! Always makes me happy when there aren't any of them. I thought it was original and refreshing and it did not go in the direction I thought it was going in at any point during the novel. Usually I can figure out how a book will end about fifty pages in, but not with this book.

I loved the various hunting scenes. The bit with the basilisk! The part with the zombies! It's a very strong novel plot-wise. There are plenty of endearing but less-developed characters, which makes me wonder whether this is the beginning of the series - there are clues at the end that it perhaps is, which is exciting, because I'd very much like to read more novels set in this world. I would have preferred a bit more character development, though - there's a particular point where being invested emotionally is important, and I wasn't, and perhaps that event was not that necessary - other revelations overshadowed it. (I am trying not to be spoiler-iffic here. If you have read the book hopefully you will know what I am talking about.) I think it's hard to pack in that amount of plot + world-building + tight timeframe and also have a full cast of well-rounded characters in one book.

Worth picking up if you like paranormal romance but are not as keen on the romance part! If you mainly like the parts with creatures and fighting and such, this is for you. Also there's a conspiracy and an ice dragon and a lot of very interesting twists.

Trust Me Too (Edited by Paul Collins)  
Trust Me Too delivers a wonderful diversity of writing and art. It contains a host of short stories, along with heartfelt and witty verse, and delightful yet thought-provoking illustrations. Many of the offerings provide glimpses into other worlds – known and unknown, past and present. 

If reading is something you do to find your way into the lives of other people, you will discover much to enjoy within. Welcome. Have fun getting lost in these worlds – but remember to return to the present once you’ve finished reading!

This is a great anthology overall. The Obernewtyn prequel is great, and makes me very much want to pick up Obernewtyn again, and it is one of many wonderful stories. If you are reading it cover to cover, as I did, I think having a more defined theme would have made it a more satisfying and cohesive reading experience. I think it's even better if you dip into it and read individual stories out of order - it's a wonderful and varied selection, with a lot of great writers. Susanne Gervay's Boo, Deb Abela's Don't Let Go, Sandy Fussell's Dingo Boy, Michael Gerard Bauer's Oh Brother, What Art Thou? and Kim Kane's Scaffolding are some of my favourites, and if I don't stop now I'll end up listing pretty much every story in the book. (I think it would work really well as a text to study for upper primary/lower secondary students... so many excellent stories that would prompt lots of interesting ideas and questions and such.)

I think what lets this collection down is the fact that the cover appears very much targeted towards a young teen male audience, when the stories are varied enough for older teenage readers and girls to enjoy it as well. While the variety of the stories is wonderful, and many readers with different tastes will find stories they will love within it, I think age-appopriateness is an issue across the stories. While some of the stories are definitely aimed towards a younger audience (the age range recommended by the publisher is 11+), there are certain, darker stories which I don't think would be as suitable for younger readers. Jack Heath's Rats was pretty terrifying, Justin D'ath's Stilled Lifes x 11 really very disconcerting, and Michael Pryor's Shop Til You Drop was also very creepy. These were some of my other favourite stories in the book, but I probably wouldn't have let my eleven-year-old self read them. (Depends on the eleven-year-old, obviously.) I don't even know who to specifically recommend this too - perhaps give it as a gift to a young not-so-keen reader, or pick it up if you like fantasy stories, or simply read it if you're a fan of one of the authors (you will probably be a fan of a few more by the end of it). It's a potpourri of awesome. See, this is why I'm a writer. Metaphors like that one.
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