James Dashner did what seems to be increasingly popular in Young Adult fiction–he wrote a dystopian trilogy. I have only read The Maze Runner so far, since I wanted to read it before seeing the movie.
The Maze Runner, as many books do, seems to draw on previous stories and change things about them. I specifically felt there were similarities to Lord of the Flies. That’s not a bad thing, since Lord of the Flies is one of the classics.
Where The Maze Runner differs is in the setting, the time period, and the conflict. The kids in The Maze Runner are stuck in a glade that’s inside a giant maze, and the main conflict results from them trying to find a way out and avoid the monsters in the maze. In the movie, a lot of this action–the time spent studying the maze–is either fast-forwarded or not even discussed. I understand movies have to be condensed, but it didn’t seem to be handled well. I walked away with the feeling that the director was banking on people having read the book.
The movie is still entertaining, even if the fighting action sequences were too blurry to follow well. It does stick to the book in most essentials. Of course, it has a cliff-hanger ending since it’s based on the first book of a trilogy. This was still a novel (no pun intended) thing way back when Peter Jackson directed the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Is it going old? Well, it’s making money, so I don’t see the practice changing anytime soon, but it gets tiring sometimes.
The book has interesting ideas and presents them in an entertaining format. I wish the movie had followed it a little better, but it was still entertaining as well. It remains to be seen how strong the whole trilogy will be.
Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy has been compared to Suzanne Collins Hunger Games trilogy. So far, I’ve only read Divergent, but I can see why people would make that comparison. However, I don’t think the two are similar much beyond the fact that they are both young adult dystopian trilogies.
In Divergent, there is a world that is both more familiar and more unique. What makes it familiar are the location–Chicago in the future–and what is different is the idea of all people being divided into five factions, and each faction having a specific set of jobs.
The main character, Beatrice or Tris, changes factions, but finds she still doesn’t fit in. This is something that most people can relate to, at least in some point in their lives. Roth may play the concept up a lot, but it’s important to the story line. What is interesting is that the “outsiders,” those who don’t fit in, are also those who can’t be controlled like everyone else.
Maybe being the odd one in the crowd is better than you think.
A while back, a friend recommended Dean Koontz to me. I added him to my mental list of writers to read, and eventually I picked up a couple of his books from the library. I wasn’t impressed by one of his books–Velocity, I believe–but I went on to read Odd Hours anyway. I enjoyed the main character, Odd Thomas, so much that I went back and started reading the series at the beginning, with the book Odd Thomas.
I’m still not entirely sure why I enjoy the series so much, especially since I still don’t care for Dean Koontz’s other books. It’s probably due to the character Odd. The books are strange, bizarre even, with a lot of paranormal themes, but Odd’s narration and wit carry the story through any difficulties. He is a believable character, sometimes stuck in unbelievable situations. And yet I continue to read the stories.
There is now a movie out, also called Odd Thomas, and based on the first book. Anton Yelchin plays Odd, and does a good job of portraying the character without making the story silly.
I would recommend both the books and the movie to anyone who wants to enjoy a humorous, engaging story told by a likable chap. Even if you’re not a fan of paranormal stories, you should give Odd a chance!
Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein, is a sequel of sorts to Wein’s Code Name Verity, although one does not have to read one to understand the other. The style is similar, since both are told predominately through the eyes of a girl (or girls) writing a journal. The form might sound tedious, but it is well done and engaging.
I enjoyed Code Name Verity, but I think Rose Under Fire is better. It is more believable, yet more horrible in subject matter. It is the story of Rose Justice, an American civilian pilot, who is captured by the Germans and sent to Ravensbrück, a women’s concentration camp.
Rose Under Fire is Rose’s story of her time in Ravensbrück, who she met there, and how she survived. It is similar to many other stories, but it is geared toward a younger audience. As such, it is not as graphic as some books in descriptions of what happened, but still doesn’t shy away from depicting what went on.
I would recommend that young people, especially, read this book, so that they never forget what happened during World War II.
There are a lot of books written about WWII, but not that many for young adults, especially not with girls as the protagonists. Elizabeth Wein, however, has written an excellent book called Code Name Verity. The story is mainly about two girls who become friends and help out in the war effort, in different ways. They have different backgrounds and personalities, but they work together and form a lasting friendship.
Code Name Verity is written most in journal-type form, but done well so the story moves along and holds the reader’s interest. It is well-written and definitely worth checking out.
Marissa Moss published a young adult novel last fall, and it lands in the genre of historical fiction. The title is A Soldier’s Secret: The Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds, A Civil War Hero.
The book, obviously, is about the Civil War era, and particularly Sarah Edmonds, who pretended to be a man and joined the Union army. The book does take some liberty with facts–as any dramatization does–but bases most of the information on journals of soldiers who fought with Edmonds.
It is an intriguing story, and one that parents and children might both enjoy. It is a refreshing break from all of the YA books about monsters and vampires and other paranormal entities. It is fast-paced and easy to read, and incorporates real American history.
I would recommend Moss’s A Soldier’s Secret. It deals with an fascinating aspect of American history in an engaging manner.
The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat was published in 1951 and is called “The classic novel of the North Atlantic in World War II.” Monsarrat served in the Royal Navy during WWII, so I’m sure a lot of the book is based on his experiences.
The Cruel Sea is about the British Navy in WWII and how they tried, and in the beginning mostly failed, to protect convoys of merchant ships from German U-boats. It can be pretty horrifying at times, especially the descriptions of how many soldiers and merchant sailors drowned when their ships were torpedoed.
It is a slow-starting book, since a fair amount deals with new ships being fitted and sailors learning new jobs. However, it is quite fascinating in the depiction of sea life during WWII, and how low the survival rate was for any of the sailors. It is not quite as compelling of a read as, say Unbroken, but in that book the focus is on one man, whereas in The Cruel Sea there are many more characters.
The Cruel Sea is a book well worth reading, especially for anyone who enjoys history, topics of WWII, and naval issues.
Young Adult fiction writer Maureen Johnson has a new series set in London (hence the series title of “Shades of London”). The first book, The Name of the Star, has been nominated for an Edgar Award.
What I found interesting about both The Name of the Star and its sequel The Madness Underneath were that they are set in England, but are from the point of view of an American. In fact, the main character, Rory, is from Louisiana, and suffers a lot of culture shock when she decides to try an English boarding school for a year.
The main conflict of the first book, The Name of the Star is that what seems to be a Jack the Ripper copycat is on the loose in London, and Rory gets drawn into trying to solve the mystery surrounding the murderer.
Although I found parts of the plot to be quite predictable, the characters were interesting, and the books were well-written. Both books in the series are worth reading, especially for younger readers.
I enjoy seeing what best-selling authors do when they attempt to switch genres, especially famous authors who begin writing young adult fiction, such as Andrew Klavan. One of his newest YA books is called Crazy Dangerous–a story about Sam, a preacher’s kid who just wants to be “normal.”
Sam, however, can’t stand bullies, so when some new friends start tormenting a girl because they think is crazy, Sam stands up for her. He even starts to believe the girl, Jennifer, might not be as crazy as everyone else thinks. Life because crazy and dangerous for Sam when he decides to act on what Jennifer tells him.
Crazy Dangerous is a captivating book, with interesting characters and plot. Klavan knows how to write a suspenseful story without giving away too much too soon. I would recommend Crazy Dangerous to teens and adults.
Joe Queenan writes for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and other such publications. He has also published several books. His newest book is One for the Books, a book about books and his experiences and feelings as a life-long reader.
Queenan’s book is engaging and humorous, even when he is bashing writers and books, sometimes famous ones. One for the Books could probably be described as a love story about books. Queenan admits he’s obsessed with books, and would rather read than attend concerts, organize his house, or drive.
Queenan has several running jokes throughout the book. The main one is that George Eliot’s Middlemarch will be the last book he finishes before he dies. Apparently he’s tried to read it numerous times and can’t quite make it through. Another is “this couldn’t happen with a Kindle.” Queenan professes to be a Luddite when it comes to e-readers, and is proud of it.
One for the Books is well worth reading, even if you disagree with Queenan’s taste in books. He talks about what one can learn from books, the connections one can make, and how one writer can lead a reader to discover new writers. Queenan also shares insights gained from his years of reading and writing, and those he got from others. One that particularly struck me can be found on page 213 of his book. He says, “When I asked my daughter if reading was escapism, she answered: ‘No, reading is the opposite of escapism. It is introversion so extreme that you come out the other side of yourself.’”
There you have it.