Saturday, February 12, 2011

Book Review: The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd

Book: The Carbon Diaries 2015
Author: Saci Lloyd
Published: 2009
Source: Local Library

In 2015, the global climate crisis has escalated to the point that Britain has decided to invoke carbon rationing--the first nation in the world to do so. This book follows 15-year-old Laura through the tumultuous first year, as she fights to get used to making a choice between taking a car to school and turning on her computer. Her family feels the effects too, as her parents’ marriage creaks under the strain of their new life and her rebellious older sister Kim gets involved in the carbon black market.

At the same time, Laura is trying to live her own life. What with bad grades, boy drama, and the fledgling punk band she fronts, she’s got more than enough worries. Between her personal woes and the sociopolitical upheaval, that's just twice as many opportunities for the world to end, one way or the other.

What I loved about this book was the balance between a girl’s everyday life and the worldwide concerns of a planet going to hell in a handbasket. Drought and flood in the same year? Strikes over water in Belgium? Holy wow. And yet, boys are still the same, except this time he's got the excuse that he didn't have enough carbon credits left to call.

The last quarter of the book relies heavily on infodumps, diagrams, and classroom lectures to reveal the scope of the disaster facing them, but the rest of the book is pretty seamless. It’s a thought-provoking and worrisome vision of our possible future that still manages to be an engaging story about a girl trying to make it to adulthood with her sanity intact.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Book Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Book: Delirium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Published: 2011
Source: ARC from NetGalley

Lena is lucky. She lives in a time when the worst disease that’s ever affected humanity, amor deliria nervosa, has been cured. The cure isn’t perfect; her own mother died of the disease after four attempts at a cure. And it can’t be administered to anyone under eighteen; it’s too dangerous. But she’s looking forward to her eighteenth birthday, when she can be cured and finally, finally be safe.

Then Lena meets Alex, and she learns to call the deliria by an older name: love.

I think the most chilling thing about this particular dystopia is how Oliver has thought out the affects of curing a society of love. There’s all the usual trappings; rigid rules, pitiless enforcers, rampant lies from the totalitarian government, terribly stratified society--and some that are particular twists, like arranged marriages and dictated reproduction.

But where the book really puts a rock in the pit of your stomach is when you realize that it’s not only romantic love that’s been “cured.” It’s any kind of love or indeed, any kind of strong emotion. Families are not families, they’re merely people living together until it’s time for the children to be cured and start their adult life. Deep friendships dissolve in the wake of the cure, both sides drifting away from each other. Sisters who were once close have to be reminded of each others’ existence.  Art and music are curious pagan artifacts, unable to stir reactions from the cured. What’s been cured is not love, but all the things that make us human.

As in the best dystopias, Lena doesn't start the book out as a rebel. She's the most passionate advocate for the cure, mostly due to the circumstances of her mother's death. Living in a family that doesn't really want her, she longs for the safety of the time when she won't feel the loneliness or the uncertainty.

At the same time, her starving spirit is nourished by beauty and friendship, and though she tries to squash down her desire for both it comes out in unexpected ways. My favorite was right at the beginning. Asked her favorite color in verbal exams meant to dictate her future life, she answers "Grey" instead of the more cheerful colors. What she means is the grey right before dawn, the grey that means something beautiful and magical is about to happen. Through the course of the book, Lena comes to realize that losing her capacity to see this beauty and magic isn't worth the empty safety she will gain.

In her first book, Before I Fall, Oliver showed that she wasn’t afraid to write a sad ending when it’s the right one, and that’s the way it works out here. I can’t tell you exactly what happens, spoiler free zone! but I will say that while it made me tear up, it was right.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Reading Roundup: January 2011

By the Numbers
Teen: 24
Tween: 11
Children: 11

Review Copies: 4
Swapped: 1
Purchased: 4
Library: 27

Teen: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
OH MY GOD. Ever since the very first book (reviewed here) I've known that Ness doesn't hesitate to make the hard choices when it comes to his characters. This tremendous novel winds up the provocative and demanding series just right.
Tween: Marching for Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge
The story of the civil rights movement has never been told quite like this: through the eyes of the children who were on the front lines, fighting just as hard as their parents for their own future.
Children: Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino
For such a short novel, this is proving difficult to recap in twenty-five words or less. Um, okay: loss, friendship, Vietnam, the moon landing, the way people are different underneath the surface, and a really well-done unlikeable girl protagonist. Yeah, you're just gonna have to read it.

Because I Want To Awards
Loved It But I Can't Sleep Without a Nightlight Now: Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
Just Plain Fun: Dead Guy Spy by Nathan Lubar AND Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Thank You So Much for Not Introducing Smoochies into This: How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
The Booktalk Writes Itself: Zombies vs Unicorns, edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black