Monday, 29 December 2014

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters

Published: June 10 2014
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Website: Author’s Website
Format: Audiobook, Unabridged 
Narration by: Christine Lakin

Quick Review

During a run, Swanee dies from an unexpected cardiac arrest, leaving the people around her reeling. One of the people left behind is her girlfriend, Alix. Swanee also left her troubled sister, Joss, behind.
The death of Swanee unravels the lives of everyone around her. With her death, Swanee’s lies also unravel, and it is apparent to Alix that her girlfriend was living a double-life. A mysterious caller continues to text Swanee’s cell, not knowing that she died.
Alix has burning questions, and for some reason, Joss isn’t helping Alix understand what Swanee did.
As Alix struggles to fathom Swanee’s lies and if she ever loved Alix, she becomes close to someone through her own lies. Alix has left her own trail of deceit and destruction in her quest to figure out Swanee, and she’ll have to answer to someone she met because of Swanee’s death. 

            This was narrated by Christine Lakin, and I have no complaints. The narrator has a grasp of the subtleties of the emotions that she is delivering, but she is very natural sounding too. No matter what character she was reading, she sounded like someone I could meet in real life. This naturalness is something that Tavia Gilbert (narrator of Eve) doesn’t have. Such an effortless voice grounds this story in reality.

            Obviously, this story is about two girls in a romantic relationship, planning on spending their lives together. What I really enjoyed was that the book wasn’t all about “OMG I’M INTO GIRLS AND NO ONE ACCEPTS IT!” Alix and Swanee are already lesbians without doubts (so it seems), though they are “out” to various degrees. I appreciated that this book was a tragic love story gone wrong, and the characters involved happen to be young women. I think some of the elements were thrown in there because the author felt like she had to (it gets a bit preachy). The lesbian characters treat intimacy the same as heterosexual book couples. The media tends to glorify and sexualize lesbians, and it’s nice to see that this doesn’t happen in this book (not too much, anyway - what’s there is more of a funny way to hang out that is awkwardly sexual).  

            The very beginning was boring to me. As in, I was walking down the street in the cold pre-sun darkness and I was considering taking off my mitts to listen to a different audio book. Alix’s parents drugged her after Swanee died. Yes, it strikes Alix deeply, and for a stretch of time she can’t accept that Swanee is dead. But how do I let go of the fact that her parents drugged her? I can’t. Not only is it deplorable, it’s unrealistic. Mix the drugging with Alix’s inability to accept Swanee’s death, and that was a painful beginning.  
            Personally, I didn’t find this to be too angsty. Can we ever know how we will react if a loved one dies unexpectedly?

Alix has a fantastic character arch as she realizes her late girlfriend wasn’t that great of a person, even though Alix loved her. On the other hand, Alix isn’t the greatest person, girlfriend, friend, daughter, or sister in the world. While this bothers a lot of people, I enjoy imperfect protagonists. No one is perfect, and I do have to say that her parents don’t allow her too much grieving time (seriously, her girlfriend just died, how reliable of a babysitter do you think she’ll be?), so her behaviour is probably at its worst.

Final Verdict
            Alix discovers other people’s secrets that fundamentally changes how she sees them. This happens in reality as we grow older, our delusions are stripped away, and there are plenty of moments in like this in the book. This is a beautiful romance and tragedy novel that happens to have two girls instead of a girl and a boy. I highly recommend LIES to teens and those who enjoy teen lit and who are open to the concept of two people loving each other regardless of gender. I would make sure that it is an appropriate book club read before putting it on the list, though, as not everyone has the same views nor the respect for diversity.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Eve by Anna Carey

The Eve Series
Published: October 4 2011
Publisher: Harper Audio
Website: Author’s Website
Series: Eve
Format: Audiobook, Unabridged 
Narration by: Tavia Gilbert

Quick Review 

98% of the world’s population was killed 16 years ago by a plague. The King is trying to rebuild America, and by his command, female orphans are kept in highly secured schools to educate them and protect them from the chaos outside. Surrounded only by female teachers and guards, they are taught that all men are ruthless, untrustworthy rapists. They are taught that after graduation, they will be moved to another building to learn a trade and move to the City of Sand to start a new life. Eve, the smartest student, wants to be an artist, but the trouble-maker Arden tells Eve that everything is a lie. When Arden disappears, Eve goes to see where the graduated girls go and discovers the truth for herself. With the truth in hand, Eve flees from the school, trying to survive in the wilds while being hunted by the King.

Tavia Gilbert's voice was something I disliked at first, but as the time went by, I have come to like her voice. Perhaps not everyone will like it, though I think she fits the voice of Eve very well, and this story is told by Eve.  

World Building
            Eve recounts her final days with her mother, and for the most part, that’s all Eve knows about the world before the virus. Then, she only knows what the school has told her. When she is thrust into the world on her own, she has to figure it out on the fly. So no one is dumping every truth on her so the reader can know the details about how the new world functions. Some people “know” snippets, but even they might be wrong. It is apparent that surviving by yourself is not an easy task. Hopefully, the world will be explained more in the next two books.

            First off, Eve is not an unreliable narrator. An unreliable narrator is the result of when a narrator’s credibility has been compromised. Eve (and Arden) simply don’t know everything about the world as it actually is. The only information they have before they leave is what they were taught in school. If you wrote in a book report that she is an unreliable narrator, I hope your teacher corrects it with a lot of red pen.
            That said, Eve is terribly boring. She has no character traits other than the not-surprising “book smart”, and the not-a-character-trait of “girl”. I don’t mind her naiveté, because it makes sense. And yes, she is book smart (as in literature and math), so she doesn’t stand a chance of surviving in the wilds by herself (I wouldn’t either). What I hate about her is that she has no character arch. She makes terrible decisions that get people killed and she is only remorseful for a moment. In the next book, she ultimately blames the King for it. No, Eve, that was your fault, because you did something stupid without asking if it was ok first.

            Arden is awesome. She is sturdy and prickly like a cactus, and she has an actual character arch! The main character didn’t even get one, but she did.

            Who is the antagonist here? Possible antagonists include: the King, the wilds, the plague, Leif, and Eve (because she makes so many stupid decisions). If you had to write a book report, this could certainly be a point.  

            The first boy around her age she meets…she falls in love with. Of course, she argues and fights with him, and he saves her over and over again, and she knows him for such a short period of time but she loves him. Can YA stop this? You could argue that with her old education (all men are evil) she shouldn’t love him. But you can also argue that now she knows she has been fed lies for her entire education, she is naively open to going against that old education. Either way, I dislike the formulaic way the romance pans out.

Plot Holes
Spoilers! Read at your own risk!
            Why would the King decree that all girls be educated when they will just be strapped to a table and give birth to the future population until they die? This is not cost-effective. Why not indoctrinate them at a young age that this is how they will serve their country?
            Arden is labelled as a trouble-making liar. So what does Eve do when Arden tells her something that changes everything she has ever known to be true? She believes her. Why on earth would you believe her? If you have working brain cells, you wouldn’t. But the most intelligent girl in school does.

            The ending was awesome, because it stabs the Insta-love in the heart. I didn’t see it coming. Because I didn’t care about the love story, I was alright with it. I was walking through a wooded path when I listened to the end, and my jaw dropped and I subsequently laughed.

Final Verdict
            I recommend this for readers who like dystopias, though I think more girls than boys will definitely enjoy this. The beginning starts with a quote from Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and yes, there are parallels. If you had to write an essay, I’d say The Handmaid’s Tale, Wither, and Eve would be great to discuss repopulation and women’s rights (though Eve is a pale comparison). I will definitely listen to the next installment, Once, and the audio book experience has been enjoyable for me.