#15 = The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

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THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer A. Nielsen

jacket flap blurb

Four boys.

One treacherous plan.

An entire kingdom to fool.

In a faraway land, civil war is brewing. To unify his kingdom’s divided people, a nobleman named Conner devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him on the throne. Four orphans are forced to compete for the role, including a defiant and clever boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point—he must be chosen to play the prince of he will certainly be killed. His rivals will be devising their own plots as well, so Sage must trust no one and keep his thoughts hidden.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of deceit unfolds, until finally, a truth is revealed that may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

Jennifer A. Nielsen has woven a heart-racing tale full of danger and bold adventure, lies and deadly truths that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

thoughts

This is an excellent book. The characters were interesting and complex—surprisingly so. The book starts out fairly shallow, with only clever dialogue and an engaging premise to drag people in. But the further you go, the more the characters are fleshed out. It doesn’t lose it’s snappy wit, but it gains depth.

There are a number of small twists throughout the story that keep you guessing who can be trusted and who can’t, but the biggest surprise comes near the end. See, Sage really is the long-lost Prince Jaron. It was something I starting asking myself about halfway through or so; if Sage could actually be Jaron. But by the time the reveal rolled around, I’d convinced myself it wasn’t possible—after all, the book is written in first person, if Sage was Jaron, wouldn’t it be pretty clear?

But it’s not. It’s written so that you can’t tell, can’t be sure one way or another. There are hints—they’re just sentences really, and they are initially confusing. But once you find out Sage is Jaron, it suddenly makes a lot more sense.

The one thing that bugs me, though, is how much more of Sage/Jaron’s thoughts we get after the reveal. Stuff to clarify what has happened up to that point, what went through Sage/Jaron’s head that we weren’t privy to. I wonder if there was a better way to get that information across. For one thing, I think it would have been okay for us to learn where Sage/Jaron hid the “gold” rock at Conner’s house. I don’t think it would have made his status as prince any more or less clear.

My favorite character, besides Sage/Jaron, was probably Mott. And after him Tobias. The one character I wasn’t sure about was Imogen. I couldn’t understand why Sage/Jaron was so interested in her. Was he attracted to her? Did he just pity her? Did she remind him of someone? I don’t know. I suspect he was attracted to her, but it’s really unclear. A lot of Sage/Jaron’s actions are written in a way that leans towards the third person objective style (observe actions and dialogue without thoughts—like a movie, essentially, but just following one character), except it’s in first person. So it’s hard to say how Sage/Jaron really felt about Imogen.

And, actually, it’s hard to say what he really felt about a lot of things. I’m not a fan of the objective style (I’ve never actually read a book in it, but I have read numerous short stories). It works for movies because viewers can see the actor’s faces and body language, which can communicate subtleties. But in a book, all of that is missing. Which is normally just fine, because books can do something movies can’t: get directly inside a character’s head and head what they’re thinking, witness the inner workings of their personality.

But with the style this book is written in, most of that is cut out. I think the author could have included more of it in the same slightly-confusing, make-the-readers-guess way she did for a lot of the hints that Sage was Jaron. And she could have included a lot more about how Sage/Jaron felt about Mott, Tobias, Roden, Imogen, Conner, and other characters. That’s pretty much the reason why this book gets four stars and not five.

And yes, this is the first of a series. A trilogy, it looks like. But no, thankfully it does not end on a cliff-hanger.

rating out of five stars

★★★★☆

is it worth reading?

Absolutely.

want to read it for yourself?

Buy at Amazon Buy at Powell’s

#14 = Reboot by Amy Tintera

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REBOOT by Amy Tintera

jacket flap blurb

Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes, she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie—Callum Reyes—is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet he’s still her newbie. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed an order before and knows that if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.

thoughts

I suppose I’m biased against this novel. I went in expecting, essentially, a Vulcan-style main character (from Star Trek, in case that wasn’t obvious). Instead, I got a she’s-not-as-emotionless-as-she-seems-because-underneath-it-all-she’s-just-like-everyone-else. And there’s nothing wrong with that sort of storyline, I just went in hoping for something different. It wasn’t what I wanted.

Not to mention, I was disappointed when the anti-kissing/personal-contact Wren started desiring to kiss and possibly have sex with Callum. I was thinking, before then, oh, look, an asexual YA character, that’s interesting. But no. Instead I get this whole if you don’t want to have sex, there’s something wrong with you / any asexual character can be converted into a “normal” person. And that kind of pissed me off.

But all-in-all, I still enjoyed the book. There were a few parts where Wren seemed overly emotional, and by the end, I was left confused whether the higher numbers were actually less human than the lower numbers. I sort of thought they were, or at least they were supposed to be and it was only logical that they would be, but at the same time Wren didn’t feel like a high number. Not after about the first third of the story, anyway.

Besides Wren, I liked most of the characters. Leb was cool, Callum was okay, and the rebels were interesting (especially Desmond). I liked Addie, too. I liked the interactions between the Reboots and the humans. I thought it was kind of odd for Wren to believe HARC was actually trying to help people, considering they had food and medicine aplenty and didn’t offer it to the many starving people in the slums.

Plot-wise, it was okay. It was fast-paced, but it wasn’t especially surprising. It was hard to celebrate at the end, though. It should have been exciting, but it wasn’t because it just felt dull, predictable. The writing was good, and I liked that it ended with the REBOOT TERRITORY sign, but I felt like something was missing.

For one thing, I think the second line of the sign: ALL HUMANS TURN BACK, was…odd. I mean, it made sense, but at the same time there seemed to be an subplot about the Reboot/human relationship that wasn’t wrapped up and didn’t quite correlate with the sign. I mean, there was some indication that the Reboots would help the rebel humans fight HARC, but that sign doesn’t represent it.

Of course, there is a sequel and perhaps this has something to do with that. But I’m not sure there’s anything about this book that makes me feel compelled to read the next one. There was nothing glaringly wrong with the book, but it just wasn’t…enough. The characters weren’t vibrant enough, the plot wasn’t fascinating enough, and the twists were non-existent. There was a dissonance between the rules set up at the beginning (higher number = less humanity/emotion) and the characters and actions portrayed in the story.

On a final note I thought it was strange that off all the curses the humans would use, they wouldn’t use the obvious: “zombie.” Maybe the author just didn’t want it to be an overtly zombie book? I don’t know. It seemed pretty obvious.

rating out of five stars

★★☆☆☆

is it worth reading?

Meh.

want to read it for yourself?

Buy at Amazon Buy at Powell’s

#13 = The Unidentified by Rae Mariz

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THE UNIDENTIFIED by Rae Mariz

jacket flap blurb

Fifteen-year-old Katey (aka Kid) goes to school in the Game—a mall converted into a “school” run by corporate sponsors. As the students play their way through the levels, they are also creating products and being used for market research by the sponsors, who are watching them 24/7 on video cameras.

Kid has a vague sense of unease but doesn’t question this existence until one day she witnesses a shocking anticorporate prank. She follows the clues to uncover the identities of the people behind it and discovers an anonymous group that calls itself the Unidentified. Intrigued by their counterculture ideas and enigmatic leader, Kid is drawn into the group. But when the Unidentified’s pranks and even Kid’s own identity are co-opted by the sponsors, Kid decides to do something bigger—something that could change the Game forever.

This funny, sharp, and thought-provoking novel heralds the arrival of a stunning new voice in teen fiction.

thoughts

The world-building took center stage, but it was definitely not the only good aspect of this book. I really enjoyed how the Game started off seeming like a good thing—or at least a giant step up from our current education system—and then, bit by bit, we and Kid discover that it’s anything but. And we don’t just realize a lot of new information. Some stuff is new, and we know more and more about the world as the book goes on, but mostly, its just looking at the situation from a different angle and recognizing how controlling and manipulating the Game truly is.

The characters were interesting and complex, too. I liked how the romance took back stage to the more important things that were going on. I liked Ari’s character and how, like the Game itself, it was revealed that she wasn’t the friend Kid thought she was. I liked Tesla’s development from just somebody Kid kind of knew into someone she could trust. I liked Kid’s relationship with Mrs. Winterson. I liked the Unidentified (naturally), and how their hatred of the system is used by an aspect of the system to get something that aspect wants. I liked Mikey.

But despite all this, there was something missing. And I’m not quite sure what it was. Perhaps it was the fact that Kid is not that interesting of a viewpoint character to follow, and while I supported her, I didn’t feel all that angry when she was wronged or panicked when she was in trouble or happy when she succeeded. Perhaps it was the fact that it didn’t feel quite finished; despite the way it’s written to feel like a stand-alone, the ending left something to be desired—something hard to pinpoint.

All in all, it was good but it felt like it was missing something. Some core, something that pulled it along, some need or longing in the main character that would make the whole thing more vibrant, more alive, more immediate. It needed, I suppose, passion. Both more of it in Kid and more of it in the writing itself.

And, on one last note, the prologue is pointless.

rating out of five stars

★★★★☆

is it worth reading?

Yeah.

want to read it for yourself?

Buy at Amazon Buy at Powell’s