Gone by Michael Grant

Gone by Michael Grant

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If there’s one thing I can’t get enough of is dystopian fiction. We all know the Hunger Games and many may turn their noses up claiming to have read the original Battle Royal, the genre is heaving. I admit, I’m a little late to the game but I have finally begun the Gone series by Michael Grant. Being a fan of the genre, hearing colleagues swoon over it and finding the first book in a charity shop for a pound, I jumped straight to it knowing that all the books were out and nothing was going to slow me down. I’m so clever and wise because it happened: I am hooked.

So here’s the situation, it’s a normal day. Sam is at school and ‘poof’. He finally looks up to the board and sees that his teacher has disappeared and so have some of the boys in his class. There’s noise in the corridor. All the teachers have disappeared. There’s awkward jokes about school being over, no more teachers and no more homework. Something is very wrong. Everyone over the age of 15 have disappeared: ‘poofed’. There’s not parents at home, no grown ups, no police and no idea what or why this is happening. This is the ‘Lord of the Flies’ aspect of the commonly used description of ‘modern day, supernatural Lord of the Flies’.

The supernatural was the unique selling point for me, that’s what makes it stand out from the other dystopian fiction I’ve read. Apart from ridiculously advanced technology, other novels and series I have read have been entirely plausible. A great wealth divide and killing for entertainment? That’s seems to be the way the world is going. In Gone, there is not reasonable explanation for the disappearance, and don’t get your hopes up about getting one. I loved the hints to the nuclear power plant. Is it to blame or worse, who will control it?

Another UPS (my word of the moment, not sorry), is the power struggle. Before, we have seen this with rich versus poor or young versus old. That’s not the case here as children don’t carry too much for money. After the adults disappear, most of the children revelled in eating sweeties and staying up past their bedtime. They didn’t think much about raiding daddy’s wallet or claiming land. The land is owned by all and is declared: the Fayz (Fallout Alley Youth Zone). The rival comes from a secret. This is a promising start to a series. I expect many more twists and reveals as these children grow… that is up until the age of fourteen years and 363 days.

The Girls by Emma Cline

The Girls by Emma Cline

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They say you should never judge a book it by it’s cover, but should you judge it on it’s blurb? How does this sound: “Willingly, Evie begins to drop into their tranquilised circle, oblivious of the danger that sits so cruelly at its centre. If not for Suzanne, she might not have gone. But, intoxicated by her and the life she promises, Evie follows the girls back to the decaying ranch where they live.” I’d heard rumours that it was Charles Manson-esque thriller of hypnotising leaders and deadly consequences. Being a morbid and fascinated with serial killers, I dived right in. I knew it was fiction, what I did not know was how dull such events could be.

Our leading lady is a fourteen year old by the name of Evie. She has troubles at home so it’s easy to see why a carefree life without the restrictions of money would be so appealing. Evie lives as her grandmother’s granddaughter and her mother’s child. Being a famous actress, their late grandmother left them comfortable. There’s nothing exciting about confortable. She sees girls rummaging through a bin and she envies their beauty, grace and nerve. She follows them, befriends, becomes ‘part’ of their world through a series of intimate meetings with the ranches leader and guests.

Unlike some of the other girls, she does not fully commit herself. She keeps one toe at home, leaving and returning much to the leader’s pleasure. Evie’s not vying for the leader’s attention, she wants to be accepted by The Girls. One in particular: Suzanne. To be honest, it was a disappointing read but this is my own fault. I’d heard parts of the story and the bits that thrilled me are second place. They happened to be going on in the background. This is a coming of age story of someone who is bored and listless. She is constantly an outsider to this ‘family’ and that wasn’t satisfying as a reader. Did not meet expectations.

Truth or Dare by Non Pratt

Truth or Dare by Non Pratt

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Never have I had to pick up a book and make sure I was reading it the right way around. One story and two sides. As this is teen fiction, these two people are two complete opposites. Our girl is shy and our guy is bold. Our girl has been the laughing stock of the school and our guy is popular. Claire Casey and Sef Malik team up to create the internet duo known as Truth Girl and Dare Boy. They’re not seeking YouTube stardom, its for a good cause. It’s to support Dare Boy’s brother’s care.

There’s a lot of comedy to come from opposites being in such a tight space; their studio is a sheet up in a caravan. There’s a lot of drama to come such high stakes. There’s a lot of heart to come from finding the real person. I was so engrossed with these two characters because I cared so much but that’s the nature of the game. Truth and dare. Their dares made them fun. The truth made them human and unfortunately, that was lacking. The details of the video were said in passing. The drive is the fundraising but the channel made it an entertaining read. That’s really the only criticism I have, and is it a criticism? To want more? A book full of the thrill of running away from pranks and the dangers of running away from your problems.

One Little Mistake by Emma Curtis

One Little Mistake by Emma Curtis

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It’s that time again. Its domestic crime time. It’s friend versus friend. Secrets will be revealed and there’s danger at the end of every cul-de-sac. Yes, the fictional world where the nice old lady next door could be a cannibalistic mass murderer but that’s not the most thrilling thing to happen because it’s not happening to our uber relatable heroine. I read this book as it was sent to me as a proof to my office. They thought I would like it. They must have thought it was something different from the norm of that genre because my thoughts are quite plain. But this was special.

Vicky Seagrave is happily married to her university sweetheart who is dreamy, rides a motorcycle and has a good job in the city. They found out Vicky was pregnant while the relationship was quite new and they have been together ever since with two more children to make the perfect five. One more and you’d have to buy a people carrier. Her children are beautiful and polite. She tries hard to be the wonder woman people believe her to be. She can’t let anyone know the discomfort and lack of connect she feels with her son, the release of escaping into another man’s arms. All of that is slightly overshadowing by her leaving her son alone in the house only for a man to break in. The struggle leaves her son with a broken arm.

This is just the beginning. This is page 44. I say these things because you need to understand that Vicky does not have a grasp on anything. She’s spinning too many plates. After the break in, her friend Amber is her greatest ally. She sees to things. She is a source of comfort and answers. She lies. She knows the consequences of what happens if it gets out Vicky left her child unattended. The rest of the book is an essay in why Vicky should not have trusted Amber.

It’s dramatic sure, but it’s clever and well-constructed. It says a lot about the life behind the white picket fence. Rather than going to going out with a bang, it carefully wears away everyone’s exteriors to reveal that there’s no such thing as perfect. Even Amber, who seems calm and in control, has secrets and a past and wants the best things in life for herself. There is no good and evil, there is what they have and what you don’t. One women’s little mistake is another’s opportunity for control.

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

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Survival. Survival. Survival. This is a book about survival. The place is Poland and the time is 1939. Anna is just seven years old when her father disappears. He said he would only been gone for a few hours and she is left in the care of a friend. When her father doesn’t return, she is thrown out on the street to fend for herself until she meets The Swallow Man. A gentleman who is more chameleon than a small bird. War is coming and the Swallow Man knows how to survive.

They leave for the cover of the woods. It’s cold and barren. They live on the smallest amounts of food and thin clothing. Winters and summers come and go. Anna learns how to forage but with the threat of war the most important technique she learns is how to adapt to people. The Swallow Man teaches her how to let the other party speak first. Mimic their language and mannerisms. You must present yourself as an ally rather than a foe. Never speak first and speak Road; a mixture of this technique and a back story that will help them live another day.

This book reminded me a lot of Our Endless Numbered Days. It is a survival story. Unlike Our Endless Numbered Days, there seems to be no end because there is no past and present told at the same time. There is only the present. Much like for Anna and the Swallow Man, we don’t know the destination or how many days they have. The only end we know is the end of the book. You’re running out of pages and there’s no hint of a resolution. How will it all end?! I wonder if the author knew or like Anna, we take each day as it comes and hope for a tomorrow.

The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock

The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock

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I heard Benjamin Johncock talk so passionately I had to buy his book. Jim Harrison, great name, is a test pilot. He’s career is about risking his life for the development of flight. However, man wants to fly to the moon. Jim Harrison, great name, doesn’t see the need for a pilot. They want to move from monkey to man, they don’t need pilots but men with a death wish to sit on their hands and take the glory. That’s the historical aspect of the book, the angle Johncock was talking about that peaked my interest. Jim Harrison, great name, is a broken man.

It all starts out so promisingly. Jim and Grace are the perfect couple. Jim enjoys a drink or two at Pancho’s, great name, bar with his flying friends. As man shoots for the stars, Jim seems to sink deeper as his world falls apart. Despite the heart break, this book was a pleasant surprise. I had no expectations and it reached the stars themselves. Okay, bad puns over and I’ll talk about what I loved about the book.

For every squared jawed All American character, we have people of heart and one who’s down right bonkers. Pancho, great name, was my favourite character. She was eccentric but your best friend in a time of crisis. She’s the first to make fun of you but tell you if you’re being a dickhead. I adored her relationship with Jim. It was the stability Jim and we as the reader needed throughout the dramas and pressures that happen. For lack of a better word, it was a solid book. It had everything: history, drama, love, comedy, danger, action. It’s a flawless debut novel. Thank you Benjamin, pleasure to have meet and sorry it took me two years to finally pick up your book and read it.

Desolation by Derek Landy

Desolation by Derek Landy

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Welcome back to the scary underbelly of America where demons reign and nightmares live. Not all demons are scary though. Amber is scary looking when she’s in her demon form but she spends more time as a shy, awkward human we all identify with. Amber is still on the run from her parents who originally planned to eat her but now want to kill her out of spite because she got them in trouble with The Shining Demon. He’s kind of a big deal.

Thankfully, Amber is not alone. She is joined by the maybe once bad, now good guy Milo. His background is eerily and mysterious as is his car. Brought together due to life threatening circumstances, the two now share endless verbal battles and a desire to stay alive. This brings them to Desolation Hill, a typical small American town with a big secret. Amber and Milo aren’t the only ones that notice something is off. The Derek Landy version of Mystery Inc have joined the party as well as five demonic bikes affectionally named the Hounds of Hell.

As you can imagine, this is escapism at its best. The danger is real but so is the humour. You cannot flaw Landy’s dialogue. There are no awkward pauses to be found. Everyone that comes into contact with our daring duel are meet with the wit and pace to rival the Gilmore Girls. However, I have one small criticism. I’m also partially to blame for that. During action sequences, such as fights and flights, I can get a little muddled. I’m reading at such a speed desperate for more but there could be more clarity. It’s a terrifying and confusing situation for our characters and they may not know themselves, but I’d kind of want to know what the hell is going on. Maybe for the third, I just need to slow down.