Tag Archives: YA

Review of Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

I borrowed an audio copy of Ernest Cline‘s Ready Player One from my local library.

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

Review (spoiler):
For those raised in the late 80s to early 90s this this was a sentimental cheese-fest of the best kind. But that’s really what carries the book. I enjoyed revisiting the geekery of my youth, but found the story pretty flat. It was quite predictable, the descriptions of the above mentioned geekery got tedious, it’s too dependent on coincidence and happenstance, and ultimately the ending of beat the baddy, get the prize and claim the girl was pat and unoriginal.

All in all, I wouldn’t call it bad. I actually enjoyed it as a bit of fluff. But I wasn’t super impressed either.

Thematically Will Wheaton was the perfect narrator for this book. He’s even mentioned in it. (How odd must that have been for him to read?) He did a fine job, but I wouldn’t say he was super engaging with it.

Review of Kill Me Now, by Timmy Reed

I won a copy of Timmy Reed‘s Kill Me Now though Goodreads.

Miles Lover is an imaginative but insecure adolescent skateboarder with an unfortunate nickname, about to face his first semester of high school in the fall. In Kill Me Now, Miles exists in a liminal space―between junior high and high school, and between three houses: his mother’s, his father’s, and the now vacant house his family used to call home in a leafy, green neighborhood of north Baltimore. Miles struggles against his parents, his younger identical twin sisters, his probation officer, his old friends, his summer reading list, and his personal essay assignment (having to keep a journal). More than anything, though, he wrestles with himself and the fears that come with growing up.

It’s not until Miles begins a mutually beneficial friendship with a new elderly neighbor―whom his sisters spy on and suspect of murder―that he begins to find some understanding of lives different than his own, of the plain acceptance of true friends, and, maybe, just a little of himself in time to start a whole new year. When you’re green, you grow, he learns. But when you’re ripe, you rot.

Being a 14-year-old boy must suck. Being a 14-year-old girl had it’s challenges, being 14 in general does, but being a 14-year-old boy sounds like the pits. Such were my thoughts while reading Kill Me Now.

I liked this more than I expected. It reminded me A LOT of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Though TPoBaWF has a certain gentleness that this lacks, there are a lot of similarities. Miles Lover isn’t quite as cerebral as Charlie Scorsoni, but he engages in  the same kind of stream of consciousness writing to an unknown reader. He is the same kind of socially awkward that leaves you wondering if he’s on the spectrum somewhere. And Kill Me Now puts a 14-year-old, not a child/not an adult into the same situations that people (and therefore their media) pretends they don’t engage in—drugs, alcohol, sex, casual cruelty, etc. And like The Perks of Being a Wallflower this challenging of the national script is what I appreciated most about the book. Because I have never known youths to be as pure as people like to insist they are.

I was uncomfortable with the casual racism, repeated use of Retard as a nickname, and the overt sexualization of prepubescent girls. (This one bothered me a lot more than the 14-year-old giving Miles a BJ or the rumors that his 13-year-old sisters had done the same to someone else.) I understand Reed probably included these for a reason. But I don’t know what it was. To showcase the poor decision-making of Miles and his friends, teens in general, maybe?

All in all, I think if you liked Chbosky’s wallflower, you’ll like this grittier version of the same idea. But if you didn’t like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I feel confident saying you won’t like Kill Me Now either.

Review of Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older

I bought a copy of Daniel José Older‘s Shadowshaper.

Description from Goodreads:
Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra’s near-comatose abuelo begins to say “No importa” over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep…. Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.

Sierra soon discovers a supernatural order called the Shadowshapers, who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. Her grandfather once shared the order’s secrets with an anthropologist, Dr. Jonathan Wick, who turned the Caribbean magic to his own foul ends. Now Wick wants to become the ultimate Shadowshaper by killing all the others, one by one. With the help of her friends and the hot graffiti artist Robbie, Sierra must dodge Wick’s supernatural creations, harness her own Shadowshaping abilities, and save her family’s past, present, and future.

First off, that cover is beyond beautiful, just stunning!

Second, I love that the main character’s heritage is from a Puerto Rico, but her friends and other characters are Haitian, Cuban, and from Montinique. It reminds readers that black and brown culture is a varied and important as white cultures.

Third, the narration and dialogue is wonderfully realistic. No one really speaks in fully formed, proper English all the time. Especially not those from communities where English isn’t the only language spoken. I really appreciated this.

Fourth, as a prior anthropology student, I cringed to see the antagonist abusing the study as badly as they did. But the fact that what they were engaging in was basically the ultimate act of appropriation was not missed by me.

I truly enjoyed this book. However, I also found the plot moved too fast. Especially in the beginning, when Sierra accepted and acted on very little information. Additionally, there’s a bit of a deus ex machina climax. But overall it’s a win and I’ll be passing the book to my daughter.