Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Program: review + a giveaway!

Title: The Program (The Program #1)
Author: Suzanne Young
Rating: 5 stars!
Source: I received a finished copy from the publisher, to review without bias.
Summary: Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.

   I try to read many of my local author's books when I can. Many of them visit my bookstore often, so I have plenty of opportunities to keep up with their new books, and meet them. (Of course, Stephanie Meyer visits less often, due to her supreme popularity, but that's okay with me.) I'm not sure how I've missed Suzanne Young's books in the past, but now I'll definitely be paying more attention to them!

   Sloane lives in a possible-reality world where teenage suicide is a worldwide epidemic. No one is really sure what is causing it, but in her state a few school systems have teamed up to create The Program. Claiming they have the cure, The Program takes at-risk teenagers, or ones who show signs of infection (depression, bad things like that) and take them to their super-secret facilities to "fix" them. Which might or might not include the erasing of most your memories in the process.

   This sounds similar to a run-of-the-mill dystopian storyline who has a corrupted government determined they're doing the right thing, but The Program stands on it's own, and the more contemporary setting really set it apart in my mind. So make sure to know, it is not dystopian, from anything I could tell. At least, with my definition: some world-ending event and the aftermath. This could very possibly happen right now. And no futuristic-y things are mentioned. Let's go with "government conspiracy book" because at this point in the series, you're not really sure what's responsible for the craziness.

The first part of the book is rather depressing, as one would expect by reading the summary. As much as I was engaged in the story, I felt myself being dragged down with Sloane's slowly deteriorating mind...until I realized, the fact that I was affected like this was the sign of a very good story. When I realized this, my wary opinion of the story changed dramatically and I read almost the rest of the book in one sitting.

The character building really holds this story together. Any book concerning memory tends to end up high on my favorites list, and what Sloane goes through vaguely reminded me of what we read in Flowers to Algernon. I'm not comparing the two books (as just books) in the least, because they're very different. But some plot points are familiar. Like in the way that we learn about the character and their life, then they try something/something happens to them, and then it completely changes who they are, and they completely lose themselves. Then toward the end...they almost end up close to the beginning stage again...if you've read both, do you get what I mean? I do intend to compliment The Program by badly explaining this concept. Wow I just read that through, and it still makes better sense in my head. Moving on.

I like Jay Asher's blurp on the cover: "Suspensful and touching, The Program feels frighteningly real." Because YES that pretty much describes the book perfectly. I should have just erased this entire review and only typed out that quote. The Program is such an excellent book because the psychology of it is truely frighteningly real. Who are you to trust when you're whole life of memories have been taken away so you don't even know who you are anymore? And then would you take that wonderful numbing medication? At a few points, I put myself in Sloane's shoes and tried to figure that out, and those questions are harder than you think.

It's been a few books since one has sucked me in like The Program has, so it was a great surprise, and I am glad to have it on my bookshelf. I highly recommend adding it to yours.

You'll like this book if you enjoyed....Any of Lauren Oliver's books, Jay Asher's books, or Flowers for Algernon. Also, If you usually read contemporary YA, or maybe if you don't (like me,) don't rule it out, because it's a fresh pick in the category, with a hint of an alternate reality vibe.

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Giveaway open to US addresses only

Suzanne Young currently lives in Tempe, Arizona, where she teaches high school English. When not writing obsessively, Suzanne can be found searching her own tragic memories for inspiration. She is the author of several books for teens, including The Program, A Need So Beautiful, and A Want So Wicked.

Visit the Official Site of The Program
Visit Suzanne Young's Official Site
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Friday, May 3, 2013

Clockwork Princess: review

Warning: Major spoilers for the first two books, Clockwork Angel, and Clockwork Prince, so don't read even to the summary below, if you don't want the plot ruined! :) Go read the first two, and then come back.

Title: Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices #3)
Rating: 5 stars
Source: bought hardback from Changing Hands Bookstore 
Summary: Tessa Gray should be happy - aren't all brides happy?
Yet as she prepares for her wedding, a net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute.
A new demon appears, one linked by blood and secrecy to Mortmain, the man who plans to use his army of pitiless automatons, the Infernal Devices, to destroy the Shadowhunters. Mortmain needs only one last item to complete his plan. He needs Tessa. And Jem and Will, the boys who lay equal claim to Tessa's heart, will do anything to save her.

   Love triangles are overdone, and usually a pain in the ass to read about, in my opinion. But for Clockwork Princess, I have to admit, it's probably the most well done conclusion to a love triangle that I've ever read. No doubt the most unique.

   The one single part of CP that disappointed me was Jessamine. It did take me 100 pages in to realize she was missing though. (I think of her as a vintage Isabelle.) Jessamine only has about, oh, three pages in the whole book. She is crucially important in one way, but other than that, I think Cassie just didn't have a place to put her anymore. And I respect that, even though I was a little sad about it, I'm glad she didn't drag unnecessary characters around because it would have felt less natural.

   For the past two books, my friend and I have made snarky-mean comments on how similar this series is to the Mortal Instruments series. Well, for me (my friend has yet to read it) CP finally broke that mirror, and I was able to appreciate it without constantly comparing it to MI books. Anyway, a shit load of stuff happens in here, and branches off in so many directions, I'm not surprised it's gained independence. I liked it so much more than Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince.

   Many scenes remind me of Gothic novels, like Jane Eyre, which Tessa actually referred to a handful of times, among others. I like the dreary 1800's London weather, it just made the whole book have an on-edge feel to it, as characters race on horseback across rainy countrysides in order to save--oh wait, I can't tell you that part.

   One of the similarities to MI is Will, and Jace. Of course. But now that I've finished CP I don't find them remotely of the same character. I could easily say Jace is more like Gabriel Lightwood (who was hilarious in here, by the way) or maybe a mix of Gabriel and Will. But my opinion has definitely changed. No offense to either of them, but while Jace may be the greatest Shadowhunter of his generation, Will is the smartest of his. Their wit it pretty well matched, just in different ways.

   I like Will as a love interest. (I don't really have much of an opinion of Jem, sorry, but I can't say any of the things I would like to express anyway without HUGE spoilers. But I do like his character.) Back to Will though, I admire his admiration for great literature and poetry, even if his own poetry sucks. I loved and hated that he identified with Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities which I really should read soon too. I just think he is a very good character who develops greatly along the series.

   And Magnus. There would be no Cassie Clare book complete with the awesome Magnus Bane. He's in here lots! And is actually kind of nice in many parts. Mostly. I never get tired of him though, rude Warlock or nice friend. I hope all works out for him and, I can't think of that right now...

   As I'm writing this, I'm realizing more and more how little I can actually write in this review without spoilers. Because SO much happened between the 560+ pages, and like all of these great secrets were finally revealed...well, you will just have to read it yourself to find out! 

   A splendid ending to the series, and I can only hope the ending to the Mortal Instruments series, City of Heavenly Fire, will be just as satisfying.