May Discussion: A Darker Shade of Magic

young-adulters-book-club-a-darker-shade-of-magicOh, guys. Guys, guys, guys. I have failed as your leader again. I could not finish this book. I promised myself a long time ago that I would not waste my time with books I wasn’t enjoying, but I tried. I tried so hard. I just…didn’t care. Couldn’t care. In the slightest. I’d read five pages and just stare at it, thinking, But why is nothing happening? 

Some of my thoughts:

  • I was deeply disappointed by my inability to get into this book because the premise is so good. Four Londons, all stacked on top of each other, all with a vastly different relationship with magic that plays out in myriad, unpredictable ways? Fascinating! A pair of magical individuals, night and day of each other, but with the same abilities and the same goal? Compelling! But in execution, it just left so much to be desired. By page 170, which is nearly halfway through the book, nothing had happened. NOTHING.
  • I wish I could have connected with Lila as a character. Intrepid, brazen, convention-breaking female? Everything I love. But she just felt so flat to me. Like, she wanted to get out. But that was it. What else did she want? I couldn’t get a read on her, I didn’t feel that blazing, burning, wanting from her. All of the characters felt like cardboard cutouts to me, actually. Except for, funny enough. Rhy, who was barely in the book (at least the part that I read) at all. He seemed real to me. Genuine. Like I could reach out and touch him. But he was the only one.
  • There wasn’t enough information about Black London for me to feel interested in their journey there. There was a vague sense of foreboding, but that was about it. Oh, boy, there’s a stone and we have to take it back. ….Oh…kay?
  • It got a little bit more interesting once Lila and Kell had gone from Grey London to Red London. Particularly the bits where Lila was lost and alone, trying to find her way in this strange new place, with no idea at all of the ways and customs of the place that she had stumbled into. Still. It wasn’t enough to hold my attention.

I am, however, looking forward to hearing your thoughts! Perhaps there will be something in them to convince me to continue and finish the book. Is anyone going to go ahead and read the second one? Let the discussion begin in the comments below!

Also, make sure you vote for June’s book selection here.

May Discussion: A Darker Shade of Magic

April Discussion: These Shallow Graves

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That was something a little different! I really relished the murder mystery and the experience of Jo breaking out of the confines of her restrictive society. The juxtaposition of the high society life she had and the life she began to lead with Eddie was startling and really underlined how few options women had in those days. I know I’m way more grateful for the freedoms that I have now!

  • I totally thought it was Theakston who murdered her father. I mean, isn’t it always the butler?
  • The romance between Jo and Eddie was very realistically rendered. And Jo was such a typical teenage girl! “I saw him with another girl, instead of asking him about it, I’m going to get engaged to another man in a fit of pique. Whoops, that girl was his sister and now I feel like a fool.”
  • I loved all the gritty details of New York life in the late 19th century. Donnelly’s descriptions were so vivid, I felt like I was there.
  • The Tailor, though not a huge character, was certainly a convincingly drawn villain. The scenes with him made me quite anxious!
  • As Jo was telling her uncle about everything that she had discovered, I was quite concerned that she was going to end up in Darkbriar herself. And, lo and behold, I was right. There was no way that her uncle was going to just BELIEVE her (especially because WHOA he was the murderer). Donnelly did such a great job, too, of making me question everything up until that point: had Jo just made it up in the middle of a nervous breakdown? Why would Eddie and Oscar have said they never met her? Just to protect her, right? But maybe not! 
  • I love that Jo did her damndest to save herself. And that, when it came time, it wasn’t Eddie or Oscar or Bram or another man who saved her when her wits and wiles proved to be not quite enough. It was Fay. And then it was Jo herself who made the decision to come forward with the truth, to tear down her entire life, and start over. Freedom. It is the best thing.

What did you guys think? Did you guys enjoy this book as much as I did? It is my favorite that we have read so far, for sure. By far!

What should we read next month? 

April Discussion: These Shallow Graves

March Discussion: Across the Universe

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Well! That turned out to be a pleasant surprise. For the first, oh, three quarters of the book, I was banging my head against a wall, wondering why I was wasting my time. But then, around page 300, things started to pick up, and I raced through the last 100 pages quite happily.

There are so many things to talk about with this one! Let’s get started. Obviously, here by spoilers, so if you haven’t finished the book and you care about that sort of thing, maybe come back later.

  • I felt so bad for Amy when she realized that she was not going to see her parents again. On top of knowing that she would never see earth again. That is just cruel! Talk about leaving your entire life behind.
  • What do you think about the ethics of what Eldest did? The ethics of treating a whole population as though they were animals, keeping them as domesticated and docile as possible, even controlling their reproduction. The whole idea was so skeevy to me. (Also, I’m no prude, but the whole Season made me vastly uncomfortable.) And that they were called Feeders?! That is some next level creepy stuff. But do you think that there was some merit to Eldest’s methods? Elder seems to think so, and I am not sure that I entirely disagree. Their situation is a strange and precarious one: a population stuck on a ship, nowhere to go, no ending in sight. That’s tough. But I also wonder what would have happened if they didn’t know about Sol-Earth OR Centauri-Earth. If they just knew that this was their lives and that was that. Would that have been better?
  • Not to brag or anything, but I totally called that Orion was the previous Elder (just ask my mama!). I did think the cloning aspect was a bit much, but it does bring up some interesting questions about cloning and whether or not it is possible for a situation like that to arise, where three people with the exact same DNA turn out to be so different. I don’t know enough about DNA to even begin to make a hypothesis about it, but I am interested.
  • Harley. Broke my heart. That is all.
  • I actually think I might read the rest of the series! The me of even yesterday would be shocked, but there you have it. Across the Universe actually turned out to be as good as I was expecting, despite a really lackluster beginning.

AND NOW! Over to you guys. What are your thoughts?

(Also, vote for next month’s book selection here. Remember, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain about what we read!)

March Discussion: Across the Universe

February Discussion: Code Name Verity

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Truth time, guys. I haven’t read the book yet this month. None of it. I don’t know what happened. I got it out from the library at the end of January, and it has been sitting by my bed for weeks, but every time I look at it, I just…pick a different book to read. I have read it before, but it was three years ago, and so I am fuzzy on the details of the plot and characters. I do remember that I loved that the book centered around a strong, complicated female friendship. I do remember that. But other than that, my brain is a big ol’ blank, so I took to the internet to provide me with some discussion questions for you.

  • Do you think having two narrators detracts from the story or strengthens it?
  • Is Julie a reliable narrator? How much of her story do you think is true?
  • What did you think of Anna Engel? Sympathetic? Reprehensible?
  • Our modern world is rife with conflicts and wars. How is Code Name Verity relevant to these present day struggles?

I hope that you enjoyed this book! And if you didn’t, I can’t wait to hear why not. As usual, discussion in the comments, and vote for next month’s book here.

February Discussion: Code Name Verity

December Discussion: My Heart and Other Black Holes

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Happy December 21! I hope everyone is having a great holiday season. Pull up a chair, wrap your mitts around a warm beverage, and let’s chat about our book. Also, make sure you click the link at the bottom of the post to vote for next month’s book club selection!

Third time’s the charm, I guess, because I really, really liked this book, you guys. I wish that all young adult books – scratch that, all books – dealt with depression and suicide in such a real way.

My thoughts to get the discussion going, but I seriously cannot wait to hear what you guys have to say:

  • Like I mentioned above, I appreciated the realness of Aysel’s depression. I recognized gigantic chunks of myself and my own depressive behavior in her thoughts and actions, and the ways in which her mental illness affected all of those around her. We may think that we don’t matter and that nobody cares about what we are going through and no one would understand, but we are wrong. When her sister, Georgia, says, “I just wish you weren’t so sad all the time,” I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. It is like Aysel says when Roman comes to her house: “Sometimes it takes watching someone else observe how you live to realize how you live.” Real talk, y’all. Real talk.
  • That being said, I was also frustrated by the fact that both Aysel and Roman had these huge, traumatic events that happened to them that were the impetus for their depression. While traumatic events such as a sibling dying or a parent being incarcerated can, of course, be precipitating factors in the development of mental illness, they don’t have to be, and I wish that Jasmine Warga had chosen to give a huge event like that to only one of them, so that we could also see that depression affects “normal” people, too, whose father never murdered anyone and who didn’t leave their sister to die in a bathtub, which is, honestly, much more often the case. But I did like the fact that Roman was popular and handsome and, from all appearances, not someone that Aysel expected to want to die. Depression doesn’t give a shit how many friends you have or if you are great at basketball.
  • I was, to be honest, a bit disappointed that their relationship took a romantic turn. I can’t say I didn’t see it coming, and I absolutely agree that love and acceptance are the best antidotes to the cruelty and isolation of the depressed mind, but it would have been so nice to see a friendship do the saving, instead of a romantic relationship.
  • It was interesting to see, as Aysel rediscovered her will to live, how she had to watch everything she said and did in order to keep it from Roman because she didn’t want to disappoint him, and she knew that he would be upset if he found out. He proved that on several occasions, with his emotional reactions to any tiny indication that she might be turning into “a flake.” He wanted to keep her depressed so that he wasn’t alone; he wanted to keep her depressed so that he still had someone who understood him. And Aysel wanted that, too, she just couldn’t stay that way. When he says to her, during their camping trip, “I can’t make you happy. We can’t let each other make each other happy,” he is really saying, ‘We need to cling to our sadness and shun any possibility of hope. Our sadness is what makes us who we are.’ Seeing his shift in perspective at the end was a little bit too much of an about-face for me, but I also felt like it didn’t really stretch credibility. Having found someone who loves him and accepts him for every dark piece of him, I truly believe that he may have had second thoughts about wanting to die. And his proclamation that living is going to be hard as hell? Bang on.
  • The use of physics as a through-line was really cool. I liked that Aysel was a science nerd, and physics was the perfect companion for all the death and depression going on. Alternate universes, string theory, the theory of relativity… Thematically appropriate, yes?

Now. NOW! To the comments, my pretties, so I can hear what you thought!

(Psst. Click here for the January book selection poll.)

December Discussion: My Heart and Other Black Holes

October Discussion: Delirium

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So.

Delirium.

What did you guys think?

I’ll admit, it took me a while to get into it. I don’t know if it was the pressure of knowing that you guys were waiting for me to be done, or that it took me so long to even start (because I forgot it at home when we went to Europe), or if I just didn’t like the book, but I really struggled! (Confession: I’m still not quuuuuuite done. But almost! I wanted to get this up for you guys sooner rather than later. Forgive me?)

  • One of the key things in dystopic fiction is believable world-building. Especially when something like alternative science is involved. I think Lauren Oliver did a relatively good job with this aspect of the book; the procedure made me think of a lobotomy, and I wonder if she drew inspiration from that at all. The hard part with a concept like hers, though, is that you must then account for every way that the thing you have removed touches society. For example, the whole point of music is to make us feel something. If there is outlawed music, it is because that music is designed to touch something inside of people. Why wouldn’t they simply ban music altogether then? Wouldn’t other music, even “sanitized” and approved music, be kind of like a gateway drug? For the same reason, why would they even encourage or allow friendships?
  • Along the same lines, it seems crazy to me that society would still be centered around a nuclear family. If, as was outright stated, people didn’t even feel love towards their children, wouldn’t it have made as much sense, or more, even, to have people procreate and then have the state raise all the children in some sort of segregated institution, where they could have everyone under surveillance and government control at all times?
  • Why do so many authors feel the need to assert that their main character is average? “Oh I’m so totally normal and average and nothing special and everyone is prettier than me.” Is it to make them more relatable? Because I don’t find that relatable, I mostly find it annoying. I recognize that many people feel that way (I know I have), but having it constantly shoved in my face, against much evidence to the contrary, is more frustrating than relatable.
  • I really liked the way she drew the beginnings of Lena’s relationship with Alex. It was like every time I’ve ever fallen in love, too, and seemed so real. It rarely if ever made me roll my eyes.
  • Hana was a nice foil for Lena, originally flirting with sympathizing and rebellion, but ultimately (presumably) settling for the life that was prescribed for her while Lena, who was always the one determined to follow all the rules, who was actively looking forward to being cured, ends up falling off the deep end. Nicely done.

I can’t wait to hear what you guys have to say about the book! You can participate in the discussion in the comments here, or over in the Young Adulters forum on the blog (you’ll have to sign up if you haven’t already). 🙂 Do you think you will go on to read the rest of the trilogy?

See you here in two days for the announcement of our November book selection! Have you voted yet?

October Discussion: Delirium