Jan 26, 2014

Review: Bumped

Before I get into my feelings on Megan McCafferty's dystopia Bumped, I'm working at the library right now and the teens here just taught me a neat trick. If you smash your phone's touchscreen, something many people are prone to do, you can put tape over the crack and the touchscreen will still function.  As someone who fears breaking touchscreens, this is fantastic information.

Moving along.

Bumped. A dystopia where teen pregnancy is a blessing, even encouraged by the adult population.  Why? Because due to a virus, practically no one over the age of 18 can procreate. As soon as a teen girl becomes fertile, she is to get pregnant ASAP and hand over the baby to the highest bidder. Teens are even hired as "pros" and essentially pimped out for their highly esteemed genetic qualities. Within this universe, there lies a religious community who is against this way of life, preferring their infants to be born into families. Identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth, each living in a different area.  When they meet, the entire "bumping" system is set to come crashing down around them.

If I didn't already know this before, I certainly know it now. I am officially tired of the dystopia trend.  Having thoroughly enjoyed McCafferty's Jessica Darling series, I assumed that I would enjoy her dystopia.  I was wrong.

There's a chance that my overexposure to dystopias is what caused me to dislike this novel so much, especially because there are positives to consider.  For instance, the reader is immediately thrown into the universe. There's no long explanation of how the nation got to this point (as evident in dystopias like The Hunger Games and Divergent - where it's even more out of place as their first person narration should deem the background unnecessary).  Instead, the Bumped reader dives right into the strange lingo and new concepts and must fill in the blanks as they progress through the story.

Unfortunately, the plot not only tends to run in place to fill up pages, but also relies on cliche characterizations of religious people to forward the action. It was a struggle for me to get through the entire novel and I think I may just read a summary of the sequel (because even when I dislike a series book, I still need to know what happens).

If you're interested in a dystopia that focuses on reproductive rights, I would suggest that you instead try Neal Shusterman's Unwind or Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

Jan 17, 2014

Review: A Mango-Shaped Space

A Mango-Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass, is a title that I have consistently recommended to students but, as of December 2013, had never read myself.  I knew that it was realistic fiction about a girl who saw letters and numbers in color (synesthesia), that the novel made many people cry, and that there was a cat named Mango (three guesses as to why everyone cries; hint: my theory about books with dogs on the cover).

After recommending it so many times and consistently getting positive feedback from the readers, I decided it was time to actually read it myself. I loved it.

At the start of the novel, Mia reflects on a traumatizing third grade experience when she tried to explain the proper colors for each number to her math class.  Ridiculed by her teacher and classmates when they did not follow along, Mia was forced to keep her visions a secret. But when she starts algebra, the combination of numbers and letters makes her secret too much to bear. Mia learns that her condition has a name, synesthesia, and dives into a world of information.  Mia must balance her new appreciation of her colorful life with her classwork, friends, family, and her cat Mango, whom she believes contains a piece of her grandfather's soul, a man who had always understood her in more ways than she could have known. 

I really welcome stories that offer new perspectives.  You can never really see what another person sees, especially in Mia's case. What I enjoyed most about this novel was the emphasis on trust.  Mia experiences so much disbelief from others: her teachers, classmates, parents, even her best friend, that it's heartwarming to see her remain so trusting as she works to educate both herself and others about her condition. It's also important for the child and young adult readers to experience the distrust and teasing that Mia encounters in her quest for the truth.

I think the only aspect of the novel that bothered me was the fact that she never got caught for falsely going to acupuncture to heighten her synesthesia. If you've read it, did that bother you?

Jan 10, 2014

Happy (Belated) New Year!!

Happy New Year! I hope you're all having a great start to this year.  It's been quite an interesting start to my 2014, book wise. 

For starters, I rang in the new year in Las Vegas of all places with Britney Spears of all people (and it was no less than fantastic!) Now I know that Vegas doesn't seem like a bookish place, but for this non-gambler it was a great chance to fly through a bunch of books (reviews on those later). 

Secondly, a pipe burst above my apartment in the middle of a blizzard.  I woke up at the wonderous hour that is 5:30 a.m. to a waterfall in my bedroom, closet, and bathroom.  After moving my possessions out of harm's way, yet another waterfall burst through the ceiling just one inch from my bed.  I kid you not, I turned to my roommate, shrieked "WE HAVE TO GET EVERYTHING OUT OF HERE!," grabbed all of my Harry Potter books and ran down the hall.  Then I returned for my library books.  I think the TV was the last thing I removed.  Priorities!!

Lastly, a group of students recently noticed my Shelfari and have become obsessed with creating their own to-read-lists.  In their efforts to come up with lists, they've started a new game called "Miss P. what is this book about?" At first it was an honest attempt at creating lists, but when I kept knocking quick book talks out of the park, it became their quest to find a book I couldn't describe off the top of my head.  It's actually a lot of fun and thanks to this new game, I've added books to my list!

Now for my bookish resolutions:

1. Read more books that I'm unfamiliar with.  Last year was full of me catching up on series that I had never finished.  While I still plan on pursuing finishing various series, I want to explore more, especially in graphic novels.

2. Be better about blogging!

3. Read recommended titles faster.

4. Read at least one "adult" book a month.  Maybe.  We'll see about that.  I do love living in the world of children's and YA literature, but sometimes it's nice to know what the grown-ups are talking about. Plus,v many teens have a taste for the older books.