Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: Icons

Welp, that happened. Unfortunately.

It's always interesting to see how an author fares as a solo act when for so long she has been part of a team-- and a rather popular team, at that. I wanted to know if I'd like Margaret Stohl's writing on its own, not because I was such a huge fan of Beautiful Creatures, but because I was not. I was expressly indifferent (even antagonistic, sometimes) toward that series and toward MC Ethan in particular, and I wanted this to be more up my alley. I wanted to like a story told by Margie Stohl because I have met her and she is awesome.

Alas, you don't always get what you want.

It's hard to review Icons because it didn't really even feel like a story to me. It felt like a bunch of characters thrown into a situation they didn't understand, with some people tossing facts at them until suddenly they think they've got it all figured out. I, however, still don't have anything figured out. What are the Icons, exactly? Why did the House of Lords come? Why are they called that? Why does the Embassy work with them? What are they doing that is so horrible it incites a Rebellion, and why have they gotten away with it for so long? What does any of it have to do with Dol's and Ro's and Tima's and Lucas's powers?* These questions should have been answered in book one. Book two should be about progressing the story along, not filling us in on the background information that the first book left out. This book does a horrible job of explaining itself, to the point where I was so confused I felt like I was trying to swim to the surface of the ocean with no knowledge of which direction was up. I wanted to just give up, stop swimming, see if maybe I'd float to the top somehow despite the fact that I'd been down so long that all the air was gone from my lungs. Holy extended metaphor, Batman. I'm just trying to give you a sense of how I felt reading this book-- that it was neverending and even a little suffocating.
[*It's possible that if I read the book again, I'd find the answers to at least some of these questions. But I am not going down the read-a-book-a-second-time-to-see-if-you-like-it-better road again.]

I haven't read very many alien books, so I can't tell you which ones come out on top of this one, but I can tell you that there are many of them. Even as someone whose experience with alien books pretty much starts and ends with The Host, the concept behind Icons did not seem groundbreaking to me. Coupled with the snoozefest of a narrator and the barely-interesting other main characters, that pretty much makes this a no-go for me. I didn't like it. 

I give this two stars because I did start to care a little about the characters toward the end. Lucas, especially. I have a soft spot for the morally confused, the ones who are torn between two different versions of right and wrong. Dol got a whole lot more empowered and became less of a looking glass in the last few chapters, too, at which point I breathed a sigh of relief. I saw what Ro and Lucas saw in her (and no, you're not going to see me complaining about the love triangle. They happen; get over it). Also I was told Ro underwent some kind of "change" that made him more endearing, but I would've preferred to be shown this change, because I don't actually know what it was. And Tima-- well, Tima was always pretty awesome. If a little obsessive and weird.

Can't say I'd recommend this one for fans of alien invasions; instead, I predict that I'll end up recommending The 5th Wave, which grabbed me more in the first page than Icons did in the whole book.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Review: Nantucket Blue

Dear Contemporary Young Adult Authors,
I know I am not too old for this genre. I know it because some of my favorite books are from this genre, and they are smart, thoughtful and romantic. I know it because there are books in this genre that don't make me roll my eyes at the teenaged main characters as if I hadn't been their age five years ago.
Contemporary young adult books should not make me feel old by comparing myself with the characters. I am a young adult. The problem is when the protagonists of these novels are not young adults, but rather immature teenagers pretending that they're near-adults just because they're chronologically close to adulthood.
Please stop writing teenagers this way. I realize that yes, there are teenaged girls who judge other girls, and come up with ridiculous lists about why they like the boys they like, and think they can force themselves to fall in love with someone (or force someone to fall in love with them) and basically just live without consequences and run and run and run away from all of their mistakes, because they're young and being young means you don't have to account for your actions. But honestly? I don't want to read about those teenagers. I don't want to read about the petty arguments, or best friends who throw away their friendships without even talking about it or discussing why this is happening, or the gossip that is not in any way related to the storyline. I don't want to read about shallow characters with nary a deep thought to be found until the very end of the book. If you're expecting me to relate to a character like that (which, let's face it, is kind of the point of the contemporary genre), you are insulting me.
This is not to say I object to characters who make mistakes. Humans make mistakes, so I expect characters to do so as well. But honestly? There's a rather thick line between "making a mistake" and "doing something stupid and ignoring it or running away instead of facing it."
Just pay attention to actual young adults in real life. You might stop severely underestimating us.

Okay, let me break it down for you: this book has 'middle-of-the-road, forgettable summer read' all over it. The main character is ridiculously insecure and judgmental (she's probably insecure because of her own penchant for judging other people-- she feels like they'll do the same to her, and it's her own black hole of STOP CARING SO MUCH ABOUT THE LIVES OF PEOPLE YOU DON'T KNOW PLEASE GOD I BEG YOU); the plot is predictable, frustrating and unimpressive; the romance is barely romantic; and the setting is not so much transporting as... just there. Instead of feeling like I was in Nantucket, reading this book felt like constructing a diorama of Nantucket and being forced to watch the story unfold through little plastic people and places. Not to mention there were so many times when something would happen in one paragraph and I'd have to go back and read the last paragraph again to figure out what was going on-- especially since the book is written in the past tense, and flashbacks were not distinguished with different language (instead of saying "I had gone" in a flashback, it would still just say "I went," which made it seem like it was still in real time). Characters would be given first names before the first-person narrator had even been introduced to them and learned their names. It just didn't make sense.

All of that said, I was at least able to finish the book because I didn't get bored. It's not a bad story. I just happen to be completely indifferent to it. No attachment to the characters, and the only relationship I really cared about was left unresolved, so I'm feeling a bit annoyed. I'll forgive the author because it's her debut novel, but next time I want more.
Rounding up from 2.5/5 stars.