Tag Archives: the hunger games

The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner

I initially had no interest in The Maze Runner. The blurb on the back of the book seemed a bit tried, and lately I’ve been finding that teen fiction has seemed a kinda stale. There are always these huge trends after one popular book. With Twilight‘s monumental success, there came a wave of look-alike vampire/werewolf love triangles that were enough to make even me (a paranormal lover) a bit nauseated. So now, with The Hunger Games’ EPIC WIN, everyone is rushing to pump out another teen survival, battle-of-the-wits-against-a-higher-power type drama. And I have to say, I was NOT impressed with the first book, but I couldn’t put the second and third books down. The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure were unstoppable. And because of this, I’ll forgive Mr. Dashner.

The Maze Runner starts with the main character Thomas suddenly waking up to a life he has no memory of. He’s deposited from the lift into “The Glade”–a large green space surrounded by towering walls and populated by several dozen surly, self-sufficient male teenagers. He soon learns that their whole life there revolves around finding a way out of the Maze. During the days, the doors are open, but at the same time each evening they shut–keeping the boys inside and the monsters outside. Unfortunately, the walls change every night and after two years of trying, the original “Gladers” still haven’t found a way out.

Just when Thomas is beginning to accept his new life, all the boys’ get turned upside down with the arrival of a new Glader–who appears in the lift without warning, apparently in a coma. And better yet… a girl. Theresa. She is the chain reaction that sets off the whole story of their escape.

And yet, every day on my lunch break for a few weeks, I slogged through it. I didn’t find the language captivating, and the special slang all the Glader boys (I kept thinking of the Lost Boys from Peter Pan the whole time, by the way…) used was off-putting at first. The whole book seemed like it was just a set-up for the second and third–which both had much more action. It moved slowly, and I was ready to give up on the series–except for the insistance of one co-worker that no, really it get’s good in the end!

So, I carried on…

The Scorch Trials detailed the boys’ subsequent escape/rescue from the Maze and their horror at finding out what the real world had become. All had had their memories erased, so saying they were a bit upset learning that major parts of the world had been completely destroyed by solar storms and that the rest had been decimated by a virus called “The Flare” is kind of the understatement of the century. The Flare slowly turned the victim into an insane, zombie-like cannibal called a “Crank.” Ugh. Now their only hope for survival was to cross a hundred miles of scorching hot desert (hence the name, “The Scorch”) and numerous town infested with Cranks. Oh yeah, not to mention “The Creators” have informed them that they are all infected with the virus and only have two weeks to make it to the safe zone.

This book had all the elements of a good story. Tons of action, betrayal, grotesque violence, a love triangle, and horrible zombie killers. This is where you actually start to care about who dies and who lives. I could totally see this series turned into a movie because of this book. I admired the boys’ perseverance, because once you read what hell they went through, you’ll feel like you have sand in your teeth and white-hot sun in your eyes.

The Death Cure wrapped the whole thing up. Why in God’s name were the Creators doing this to the boys? (Oh yeah, and there’s a Group B–all girls.) Who could Thomas trust and who was a betrayer? Who will make it out alive and who will succumb to the virus?

All juicy, juicy stuff–especially since Dashner only reveals his information a tiny bit at a time, so by the third book I was screaming “OH, COME ON! Let me in on the secret!” But in a good way.

I did think the ending–or the solution, really–was a bit crest-fallen. I see where he was going with it, but I didn’t expect that. And not in a good way. ALL OF THAT MISERY, and that’s where they’re going to end up? I wanted a bit more bad-assery, just a bit.

But all in all, even though the first in the series had a shaky start, the last two more than made up for it.

The series gets 4 of 5 stars, shank you very much.

(You have to read them to get that, FYI.)

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I have been meaning to do a Hunger Games post for a long long long time. I read the book earlier this year at the urging of my 13 year old sister. What the heck does she know? I had my doubts, but The Hunger Games series definitely goes down as one of my all time favorites. Action, adventure, a tyrannical government, a battle royale, a love triangle, mutant animals, a dystopian society… This book has it all.

Now it’s getting all this buzz and blowing up because of the new moving coming out next year–just like when the Twilight movie was made. However, before you watch the movie, you’ve got to read the books! It’s the cardinal rule. Deal with it.

Read them.

All of them.

NOW.

(And you have no excuse not to. We’re talking about a book written for teenagers, not Tolstoy’s War and Peace. And you’re smarter than a teenager, right? … Right??)

THG takes place in North America after the world has been destroyed by a series of devastating wars. Only 13 colonies or “districts” are left and all are ruled over by a central, tyrannical government. Each district is responsible for the production of a certain good: electronics, textiles, coal, etc… The “Capital” controls the distribution of all these goods, and all but the richest in society are starving to death.

Enter: the Hunger Games.

Each year, there is a drawing of names and two contestants–a boy and a girl–are chosen for a battle royale-style reality show that pits children and teens against each other until only one is left standing. The winner is awarded fame and fortune, and most importantly, food for their family.

Katniss Everdeen, of District 12, has been the sole supporter of her mother and little sister since her father died in a mining accident. Her superior (and illegal) hunting skills, along with her best friend Gale, have helped keep them alive for years.

So it’s just natural instinct for Katniss when her sister’s name is drawn for the  Games, to step in and take her place. Saving her life, yet risking her own. Will she make it out alive?

Enough of the plot synopsis, let’s get to the juicy stuff. I just want you to know that if you don’t read this book soon, you will be making a grave mistake. This is the stuff that all authors hope to produce. THG is a edge-of-your-seat, up-all-night-biting-your-nails page-turner. Guys read it, girls read it, moms, and boyfriends. Everyone. Collins achieves the perfect mix of action and storyline, leaving frustrating cliff-hangers at the end of every chapter to keep you reading more.

I really can’t critique this series to tell you the truth. I was sad to see some of the characters get killed off, but that’s the way of The Games, I suppose. I dare you to not get attached.

Thankfully, I read these on the Kindle and once I finished I was able to order Catching Fire while in bed, during the middle of the night. This books makes you wonder what you would do in a situation like Katniss’ and whether you’d survive. Would you be willing to kill others to save yourself?

The saga continues in Catching Fire and Mockingjay–both of which are also a must-read. THG is my favorite of the three, but you won’t be able to stop there, I guarantee it. This is THE book of the year.

5 of 5 stars


Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

I was able to get my hands on an advance reader’s edition of Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi and I read it in a few days. The premise was good: dystopian world, teenage girl with the Rogue-like ability to kill with her touch, hot guy, bad guy, new tyrannical form of government, lots of action. So why did I hate it?

*takes deep breath*

First off, it was compared to The Hunger Games because of its suspense and action. Pahah, yeah right. That’s like The Wizards of Waverly Place claiming to be better than Harry Potter. Or an American Idol hopeful claiming to be the next Whitney, Britney, or Mariah. 

Not likely.

Secondly, we already have Rogue from X-Men, and I’m not sure how Mafi got around pretty much plagiarizing the whole idea of the main character, Juliette, having the exact same super powers. The exact same super powers. I mean, yes, it’s an awesome concept, but it’s been done. At least expound upon it or change it in some way–kill with a kiss, can only non-lethally touch members of her own sex, withers plants and food–SOMETHING.

But the language, oh the language. That’s what absolutely destroyed it for me. It was the most overly-done, laughablely dramatic inner monologue that I have literally ever read. Some of the sentences were actually painful, they were so bad. Cringe-worthy is the only way to describe it. I don’t know what Mafi’s editor was thinking, but creating meaningful metaphors and similes clearly slipped their mind. Here’s a gem. She talking about a teenage mother at the grocery store:

“Her legs were standing crossed at the ankles, her child was on a leash she thought he thought was a backpack. She thought he was too dumb/too young/too immature to understand that the rope tying him to her wrist was a device designed to trap him in her uninterested circle of self-sympathy. She’s too young to have a kid, to have these responsibilities, to be buried by a child who has needs that don’t accomodate her own. Her life is so incredibly unbearable so immensely multifaceted too glamorous for the leashed legacy of her loins to understand.

Did you catch that last sentence? The leashed legacy of her loins. It just makes me shudder every time. This is an example of trying way way way too hard at it’s finest. It’s a kid on a leash for crissakes. And no, that’s not a typo. There are about a hundred commas missing from that paragraph. It kills me a little inside, it really does.

And that’s not all. Painfully over-extended sentences like this spatter every single page like gravel in a scraped knee. Murdering minutes = spending time. Breaking knee caps = feeling weak. Deep blue pools I’m drowning in = eyes. Every fist in the world has decided to punch me in the stomach = I am upset. My heart is an exploding water balloon in my chest = my heart is racing.

The list goes on. And on. And on.

I was literally just flipped through random pages to find those.

The first half is excruciating, and the second half is bearable. Bearable, not great. Not good. Bearable. And it clearly leaves an opening for sequel, which I will be glad to pass on.

If only this book sucked the life out of me while I was reading it, I would have been spared the unendurable agony of 340 pages of my time wasted.


The Wikkeling by Steven Arntson

So… regardless of the fact that I’m an adult, I just want to clear things up by saying that I’m not a “grown up.” I still like to live in the world of make-believe sometimes.

I guess you could say I’m a dreamer.

It is refreshing to pick up a book and read a fantastical story that takes place in a land unfettered by grown up worries–money problems, relationship problems, stuck in traffic, addicted to drugs, etc… (Why is being a grown up so damn negative?) In fact, some of the best stories that have ever been told are written for children. Look at Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (to name a very few.)

The Wikkeling by Steven Arntson is no different. While I’m not necessarily comparing it to the greats listed above, I will definitely say it’s new fare in the way of children’s literature. It takes place in a city called the Addition, and life is similar to our world, yet also very futuristic. Children aren’t jet-packing to school, but car horns have been replaced by Honk Ads, so irritated drivers spout product placements instead of beeps. Kids have cameras to watch them while they sleep.  They are being monitored (by both their parents and the government) at all times via tracking cell phones that live update their actions. That means no hiddren report cards, no sneaking off to be alone with friends, no ever being completely alone. PERIOD.

So imagine young heroine Henrietta Gad-fly’s surprise when she discovers a secret attic in her old decrepit house that seems to defy time and space and allows her to be alone for the first time in her young life. Imagine her surprise to find a wounded wild house cat in said attic.

Not to mention learning that her only friends have been experiencing the same “headaches” that she has.

Or the fact that they are being stalked by an unknown monstrous entity named “The Wikkeling.”

I enjoyed this book. It’s rare that I read a book with pictures, but the illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini are silhouette in nature and definitely add to the integrity of the story.  I liked that Henrietta’s character was made out to be ugly and unpopular from the beginning, and the way Arntson pointed out that this was not going to change. It’s going against the typical notion that a girl must become beautiful and popular in order to live a good life and become a good person. Beautiful and good are not always synonymous, ladies. (Remember the Veelas from Harry Potter??) Conversely, although I liked how Henrietta’s character was shaped, I never felt particularly connected to her or her friends.

Above all, though, my favorite part was the obvious (to adult eyes) parallel to how our world is now and what it could easily become. All the constant worrying, materialism, discarding of the “out of date,” and technological upgrades make us lose sight of that which is truly important.  Al (Henrietta’s adopted grandpa) is a prime example of a juxtaposition of the old world and the new. Definitely food for thought…

3.5 of 5 stars