Sunday, January 28, 2018

"One of Us Is Lying"

"One of Us is Lying"
Written by Karen M. McManus
Review written by Diana Iozzia
One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

I read this book a couple of days ago, after finding a ruined, beat up copy with the red paint from the pages leaked out all over the cover. Needless to say, I wasn't bothered by the condition. I had heard some negative reviews of this book, and I was curious when I saw it severely inexpensive at a charity shop. 

"One of Us Is Lying" follows four characters who are investigated after their classmate is poisoned in the detention in which they were all in attendance. All are suspects. Simon was the outsider. Bronwyn is the smart, but secretive student. Nate is the bad boy. Cooper is the baseball star. Addy is the pretty princess of the school. Who killed Simon?

This is a very obvious cut and dry young adult mystery in all of the Breakfast Club-soaked stereotypes. There's lots of timely jokes and mentions of popular social media. Tumblr, 4chan, Reddit forums, Instagram, and Facebook are full of curious insiders and intrigue into the mystery. 

I read this in about three hours on an empty afternoon, and it didn't disappoint. There are some irritating bits about sexism and mental illness, but I got over them. You know, "Oh, the boys are more popular in the news, because people like boys more". Okay, whatever, sure. I guess the book has to appeal to some feminists too. 

The ending was more surprising than I figured, but I figured the ending out right about the time that I think everyone else did. Some people I've read reviews by mentioned that they figured it off right off the hat. I felt that when reading "Murder on the Orient Express" in December, my entire focus was solving the murder, rather than soaking up the mystery. With this book, I just enjoyed it and had suspicions towards the killer, but I wasn't too worried about solving it myself. The ending is good, surprising, and necessary. As I mentioned, there are lots of story elements that fit in with the social climate nowadays, lots of political correctness and tropes of the past years, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but it was just a good YA mystery.

Friday, January 5, 2018

"The Power"

"The night was filled with monsters now."

"The Power" was a very complicated and complex read for me. I read it just near the end of the holiday season, so naturally, my heart automatically wasn't invested in it. However, I have been able to invest myself in books during holiday seasons before, so perhaps it really was the book. "The Power" follows an almost exact replica of Earth as we know it, but if women suddenly found 'the power' to use electricity in their bodies to hurt other people. I have always believed that good science fiction should include a great premise, but the story also should follow every aspect of life as affected by this change. This book may be the exception to the rule.

We have Buzzfeed, we have Wikipedia, we have Fox News. You have Reddit-like forums for young adult men to speak about the movements. I didn't think about the thought of organ harvesting, since the neck skein that gives the girls power does not appear in males. 

We also have many different main characters to pay attention to. Our main characters are Allie, Roxy, and Tunde. Allie becomes Mother Eve, an almost false prophet for the women in this world. Roxy is the badass, troubled youth. Tunde is a nosy social media-addict turned photojournalist. We also follow Margot and Joselyn. "The Power" incorporates so much of the world, which I thought was great at first. Like I mentioned, I enjoy science fiction that shows how different the world is to ours, based on this scientific change. 

The power the women receive propel a whole world change. Women are empowered to become involved in politics, become less afraid of men, and become involved in religious groups. Allie, as Mother Eve, creates a religious movement turned dangerous cult, in which females rape and torture men for enjoyment. Allie / Eve is very reluctant to her power and tries to escape the religious group, but is too caught up in the geopolitics. I did enjoy the story line of Tatiana, but I won't reveal any more about it, in case of spoilers.

I think the way the story is told is a little strange. I'm not a fan of the depictions and drawings of the artifacts found, years after the events of this story. Also, the story is written by a strange narrator, in a meta format, in which he writes the story and delivers it to Naomi Alderman. I'm not sure if her other stories are like this, but it's strange. In addition, the pacing of the story is not to my liking. Ten years seems way too quick for the politics and world changes, perhaps 4 - 5 years would be a push. I wasn't really interested in the politics and religious aspects of this.

I did enjoy Roxy's perspective at the end and Allie's reluctant leader perspective, but I just don't think this book was for me. I had thought early on that this would be an interesting video game, due to the different perspectives and the action - drama - science fiction combination. It would have to be a very story driven game, like "The Last of Us" or "Heavy Rain", but I could picture it. I also enjoyed the "good versus evil" debate, because it changes repeatedly throughout the book. It can be difficult for someone to decide who are the people on the correct side. This is a great example of counter culture. If feminism and science fiction went horribly wrong. This can bring up the "Black Mirror" debate, in which people compare the book to the British television program "Black Mirror". The program follows science fiction and technology gone horribly wrong, so you do have the comparisons line up a little.

I do not want to get too political in my review, but I personally was interested in seeing the feminist side of this novel and where it would take us, but I'm not offended where the book went, since it is slightly anti-feministic.

In closing, I enjoyed this book, but there were many aspects and plot points I didn't enjoy. The storytelling elements sometimes came off as too much, as if it was biting off more than it could chew. This was a very ambitious novel, and I enjoyed it for what it was worth. Because I wasn't engaged and often had to fight to pick up the book, I can only give it a 3 out of 5 stars rating. I think this book is good, but it just wasn't for me. I think I'll be passing this book along.