Some Boys by Patty Blount

some boysPaperback, 352 pages
Expected publication: August 5th 2014

It’s been over a month since Grace was raped by her former boyfriend Zac. When Grace tries to charge him with rape, she’s not only told that she doesn’t have a case, due to their previous relationship, but the entire school turns their backs on her. Sadly, this isn’t too hard to believe when you find out that Zac is the practically the King of their school. Not only the top sports star around, but he’s a model student. The teachers love him and the girls can’t get enough of him. Unfortunately for Grace, since there is no proof, is her story vs his and everyone wants to believe him.

Not only was she raped and left bleeding and unconscious after a wood party, but she’s mercilessly bullied the moment she walks through the halls of her school. Slut and whore is constantly flung at her and guys try to grab at her breast and butt as well. Her former friends also bully her and try to make her life a living hell. Teachers also try to downplay what happened, because they can’t pick sides, but still allow students to bully her while chastising Grace when she retaliates.

To top things off, she’s also have problems with her family. Needless to say, things are not going all that great in Grace’s life. Things do start to change when she’s punished with cleaning duty during spring break, after threatens one of her former friends/tormentors.

She’s not alone in this punishment though. Her crush, Ian, is also doing this fun task after he swears at his coach about not being able to play. Ian, who is the best friend of Zac, also has a crush on Grace. Can you tell where this will go? If you said romance! You’d be right.

The book is told in Grace’s and Ian’s point of view, with each chapter changing voices. For the most part, I felt like both had their own distinctive voice and you definitely knew which POV you were reading from, even if you didn’t see the title of the chapter. Not too hard to do seeing as how Grace talked about her rape, while Ian talked about being conflicted about it. Even still, I felt like they had their own personality, which I appreciated.

I do like that the issue of rape was discussed and that Grace does tries to stand up for herself, even though she’s still suffering from panic attacks and is afraid of being alone with men. I also really liked how she was written.

When Ian mentions how she would look better without her costume on, i.e. the girl in the cover of this novel, but with more lots of black eye shadow, she ends up saying this:

“I won’t give up and I won’t run away. And I won’t change how I look even if you do think I look better this way, because I’m not the problem here! Everyone says it’s my fault because I got drunk, and you know what? That doesn’t count! Everyone was drinking that night. There’s only one thing that counts, but nobody wants to hear it.” (This is from the uncorrected arc version, which I normally try not to use for review, but I really loved this quote.)

This was scene was great, because how many times in books do we have the main hero tell the girl, “You’d look better without all of that makeup.” Or, he’ll mention how a piece of clothing that she wears doesn’t suit her and then she changes for him, instead of herself.

When her former friends come at her, she fights back. When guys try to grab her, she kicks them wear it hurts. Grace won’t allow herself to be objectified or to be a victim again and I loved this!

Some Boys also stresses that what you wear doesn’t justify guys or girls to call you disgusting words like slut or whore. This is a great message to send to young girls, so I did appreciate this as well.

However, yes there is a however, at some point in this novel things become preachy. Instead of sounding awesome, like the quote above, it started to sound more like an afternoon school special and less like real life.

This preachiness also starts to get a bit uncomfortable, when Grace decides to protest by donning a niqab. In her defense, she does think it’s a burqa……

Being a Muslim and reading this just made me shake my head and sigh heavily. Why does it seem like whenever someone wants to show that clothing shouldn’t matter, they decide to put on a religious clothing symbol and act like wearing this is demeaning to women? I don’t wear the niqab, I wear the hijab and cover my body with loose clothing, but I do have friends who wear it and love it. Sadly, a couple of them stopped wearing their it because of negative reaction and attention they got from people.

Thankfully, one of the Muslim characters in the novel does set Grace straight by saying that what she’s wearing isn’t a burqa, but a niqab. But then she also says, “The burqa is a symbol of oppression the Taliban forced on women.” Even this I have an issue with, because while some are forced to wear it, I’m sure there are also many who choose to wear it because it brings them closer to God. Some may even wear it because that’s what all the cool chicks are doing in their neighbourhood.

Despite how it may seem to others, wearing the hijab, niqab, and even the burqa isn’t meant to be a form of oppression or to help men control themselves. It’s a means to spiritually get closer to God. Men don’t really play a role here. Even in the Quran God tells guys to lower their gazes before anything is mentioned about women covering up.

Sorry, I’m getting religious here, but I do feel like I need to mention this because it does get annoying to read a book that had good points about not judging women on what they wear, to judging what women wear. Grace only stopped because a the Muslim student was around to witness this and cried. If said student wasn’t there, would Grace have stopped wearing the niqab and telling men that they’re all rapist who can’t control themselves due to her clothing? I don’t think so and I think this is what troubles me the most in this scene.

Enough about Grace though, the book is also about Ian, who reminded me of Clay from “Thirteen Reasons Why.” I liked how Ian was conflicted about being a true bro to his best friend Zac, who said that Grace didn’t say no, and wanting to be with and protect Grace, who said that Zac raped her.

He isn’t sure what to believe and this did provide for a nice narrative. He did seem like Clay though, when he started agreeing with Grace on everything she said, minus the rape, and basically became her cheerleader.

The thing is, Ian isn’t a knight in shining armour despite how much the book tells us he is. He was the one who discovered Grace, half naked, bleeding, and unconscious on the floor, and never said anything about it. He also hurts Graces and does join in with the bullying in one scene.

He also has this epiphany that girls are weird, when his sees his friends triple team a girl. The horror that he feels isn’t about how his friends are going at it with the same girl, but that she allowed them to do so. The horror! His sister explains that some girls are desperate for attention, while others are desperate for friends. The girl only allowed for the guys to have their way with her, not because she wanted to, but because she was the wing woman to her friend who wanted to get laid with the main guy.

*sigh*

Other than this and him driving under the influence, he’s a pretty decent guy. But I don’t like how he’s meant to be the beacon of what a great guy is after everything he did. If I were Grace, I’d accept his friendship but I’d never want anything to be romantic between us. Then again, I’m not a teen so maybe I’m seeing things a bit differently? I’d like to think I’d feel the same way though.

The ending, unfortunately, also doesn’t quite work for me. It was a typical happy ending where all of the loose ends are tied up in a nice pink bow. And even though I’m glad Grace found happiness, it didn’t ring true to me. This is a school that clearly idolized Zac, who is their star lacrosse player. The team was undefeated and heading into the playoffs. To lose that opportunity and have some of the other players benched due to their behaviour, would get some people angry. Grace would definitely have people coming to her once the truth is revealed and finally be on her side, but she’d also have a group that hates her because, according to them, she ruined the school’s chances at a perfect win.

To me, it doesn’t seem realistic for everyone to seek her forgiveness and be okay with the outcome, as sad as that may sound.

Also, [ spoilers : highlight the text to read them ] Zac keeping a video of the rape seemed pretty convenient. I mean, he doesn’t even have a password on his phone so anyone couldn’t have seen this piece of incriminating evidence. I just don’t understand why he would retain this video, knowing that it could ruin his life and chance to go to a top tier school.

When Ian finally realizes the truth, he starts to stop seeing Zac as a friend and instead as a symbol for female oppression. All of the hook ups, the look at girls like conquests, and how he treated his mom. For example, Zac’s mom offers to bring some food down, she starts talking to Ian only for Zac to say, “Mom, the food?” Then when she brought down the food and he didn’t say thank you to her.

….

Not saying this is right or not, but this seemed like typical teen behaviour and not a snapshot of female oppression. [/ spoilers ]

Overall: Some Boys has a great message for young girls and for the most part, Grace is a great MC. She’s tough, she’s smart, and she won’t back down when people come after her. I do kind of wish that the entire story was told from her point of view, but I guess Ian did have some good points in his chapters too.

Despite this, the book does go into preachy territory and the double standard about clothing didn’t sit well with me. The ending also felt a bit forced and unrealistic. The writing is great though and I did stay up to finish this, so there’s a balance of good and bad here.

 
Novel was provided by netgalley

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The Death Cure by James Dashner

the death cureHardcover, 325 pages
Published October 11th 2011

Usually when I read series that I’m on the fence with I tend to find that the final book is the best one. That happened in Matched and it happened in Divergent, so I was kind of hoping it would happen here. Unfortunately, I think the Maze Runner series started off bad (the beginning of Maze Runner), got somewhat interesting (middle/end of Maze Runner and beginning of Scorch Trials), then took a nose dive (middle/end of Scorch Trials) and I don’t think it ever recovered from that. In the end, the series just died.

Welcome to the The Death Cure.

I don’t think Dashner had a clear plot for this series. I mentioned before that with the Maze Runner, there was a clear plot and flow with what everything happened. Not only did it have a clear story, but you could feel like something wasn’t right with this world. Even if you didn’t like the story, you still wanted to know more about the world that the Gladers came from. Unfortunately, once we finally got to see the world, the less I wanted to see it. It just made no sense. Nothing made sense. Still, I stuck with this because I hoped that some of my questions would be answered.

Only none of them were. Not even one.

The Death Cure starts off with the two groups, the Gladers and Group B, being given the choice of regaining their memories or to remain ignorant of their past. The majority agree to the terms except Minho, Newt, and our lovely main character Thomas. Their reasons for not getting their memories back do make sense. Why trust an organization that has been trying to kill you for the past two years? Or in Thomas’ case, a couple of weeks. From a character standpoint, yes it does make sense, from a reader’s standpoint it doesn’t. The simple reason for that if Thomas remains ignorant about WICKED, the reader also remains ignorant about WICKED.

Why would an organization that was formed by all of the world leaders, entrust their entire project to a boy that’s 13 or 15 years old? Why did everyone trust Thomas so much to make him the leader of WICKED and if they knew he was the perfect candidate from the get go, why did they bother doing all this to begin with? Why did they waste money on making mazes when infrastructure would have saved more people? The tests have failed before and a lot of kids died, why did Thomas want to continue? Where did they even find the kids?

These questions of mine, never answered.

If Thomas regained his memories, we would have gotten some back story on his relationship with Teresa. They started out as friends in the Maze Runner, but that all dissolved in the next book. We never really get any insight on why Teresa did what she did. Sure, she believes that WICKED is good, but why are they good? Also, Aris and Rachel…(was that her name?) were also there with them, so what is their relationship with Thomas? Are they friends as well? And why did WICKED give them the power to talk via their minds? If WICKED can make a telepathy machine why are they having a hard time with the Flare?

Sadly, these questions are also not answered.

But back to Teresa, I feel like she got the short end of the stick with this novel. After what went down, you’d think she’d spend as much time trying to redeem herself to Thomas. Maybe even explain some things about WICKED, since she got her memory back, but it’s almost like Dashner didn’t like her and wanted Brenda to take the lead role.

Which brings me to another point, Brenda is pretty much Teresa except she likes to kiss Thomas on the cheek while Teresa just smiles at him. Both are depicted as kick ass women, but they’re still pretty much the same. I know this sounds unpopular, but it’s true. Both girls didn’t really have any personality and were simply tools to provide Thomas some emotional conflict. If he wanted to feel annoyed or angry, he’d think of Teresa. If he wanted to feel hopeful or look at the bright side of things, he’d think of Brenda. They were polar opposites in the feelings that they evoked out of Thomas, but in terms of their characterizations, they were mirror images of each other.

An when it came to Thomas, I find it incredibly hard to believe that he was able to run WICKED and that he’s depicted as some super genius, because he’s an idiot. How do I know this? It’s simple, when you’re in a coffee shop and someone comes with a gun, you run. You don’t stay and watch the guy with the gun as he beats up someone with a fatal life threatening disease. You just don’t. And even if you do, you don’t say, “My name is Thomas and I’m immune to the virus,” when you know that people are getting killed and kidnapped because they’re immune. You also don’t leave the safety of a van to run into a hostile situation, just because your friend is out there.

If said friend was healthy, this is actually pretty heroic. But if your friend already has the virus there’s no reason to do that, especially when there are many more infected people out there who wants to kill you.

That’s not smart, that’s reckless.

I’ve already spoken at how I didn’t like that Thomas didn’t get his memories back, but when Brenda started to tell Thomas who she really worked for and her story Thomas stopped her and said, “I don’t want to think about that anymore.” Someone who is smart and thinks of all of the possibilities doesn’t say things like that. He may be overwhelmed by what is happening, but that shouldn’t negate his need to figure things out in a smart and intelligent manner. The thing that annoyed me the most was how in the end, he questions why Brenda knows what to do, even though it’s obvious why she knows. She tried to tell you earlier in the book….you told her not to say anything, remember?

I can keep going on about the characters and their lack of development, especially Minho who seemed lifeless and one-note, but I think what I was most disappointed about was the world that Dahner created. The Maze Runner made it seem like it was insane. I mean, Alby did go on a suicide mission so he wouldn’t have to suffer through that again, but I don’t understanding why? Right now, the world is suffering from the deadly attacks from Solar Flares. Due to these flares, the climate changed, places became a wasteland, the heat from the sun is enough to burn someone, and there’s crazy lightning as well. I’m fine with this, really I am, and in fact I find it super interesting! But it seemed like these flares were inconsistent. In Mexico, the characters had to cover themselves from the harsh rays from the sun, but in Denver no one really cares about doing that.

Mexico is closer to the equator, so it would be hotter there, but if the sun is enough to burn you down there then it should still have some harmful side effects in Denver as well.

On top of that, there was a virus called the Flare which made people go crazy. Why or how is never really explained. Some characters mentioned that after being in an infect area for awhile, it made them more susceptible in catching the virus, but does that make the Flare an airborne virus? And if so, why are there still people, who are not immune and not infected, still around? And if it is airborne, then what exactly is the government doing? Torturing kids may be fun, but it isn’t going to save the human race. If it isn’t airborne, then why were characters saying that they may catch it? Is it from drinking water or something? How is there even water around when the sun is hot enough to burn you alive?

Again, more questions that are not answered.

In the end of the novel, it’s said that WICKED released the virus to curb the population, but why would you do this when the Solar Flares already did a great job in doing that? How is going through a bunch of life threatening trials a means to finding a cure to this disease? They developed variables and patterns, but they didn’t really explain this in depth. If solar flares were continuously happening then it would have messed up their system, so their variables and patterns would be lost. Everything seemed machine based so…….

No answers here either.

Overall: I think the Maze Runner had a lot of potential to be a good series, but this book was really a disaster. The plot kept jumping around and there wasn’t a clear thread that tied everything together. It’s almost like things happened for the sake of filling up pages. Pages that could have been used to develop the characters more. In all honestly, most of these characters are interchangeable and the ones that might have had a bit of interest surrounding them, were regulated to a few pages.

I’m glad that characters died and that Dashner wasn’t afraid of doing that, but the deaths that happened here were lackluster. I didn’t feel an emotional connection to anyone, because they were just names on the paper. Their buildup and their history essentially were thrown out the window for reasons unknown. And in the grand scheme of things if their deaths didn’t really affect Thomas, why should I care about them? Sure he may have shown some guilt and sadness, at first, but after a few paragraphs or pages he quickly forgot about them.

The worst part is that none of my questions were ever answered. I’m still confused about WICKED, the solar flares, and the Flare. Seeing as this is the last novel in this series, I don’t think I’ll be getting my questions answered anytime soon, which is a shame, because that’s usually what the last book in a series is meant to do.

 

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The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Scorch Trials
Hardcover, 1st Edition, 360 pages
Published October 12th 2010

 

Book Two, Woo!

I had some mixed feelings about The Maze Runner. I thought it started off horribly, but by the end I was intrigued. It still wasn’t a great book though and I was surprised by all the love that it got. With the Scorch Trials, I was hoping for two things to happen.

1. That it would be a lot better than the Maze Runner.

Like Divergent, I didn’t really like the first book. In fact, I thought it was stupid. Sorry Divergent fans. But I did think that as the series progressed it did get a bit better. I still didn’t really care for the second book, but I did like the last one, even with the shocking, but not really, twist, that was foreshadowed from the second book.

Still, I did think it got a bit better. I was hoping that this series would get better too. If it didn’t, then the next best thing would be for it to follow the Matched series which was pretty meh throughout.

2. Some of my answers, not all because this is a trilogy, would be answered.

Sometimes the second book in a series seems like filler and while it may make sense for some instances – actually no, filler books never make sense and just fill readers with rage – I still want some of my questions to be answered. Since we’re out of the Maze and into the real world, I expect to see some crazy stuff and then finding out why there is some crazy stuff.

I didn’t go into this expecting much, but expecting everything, so how was it?

The beginning is really good and starts off with a BANG! It’s almost like Dashner realized that a slow beginning wouldn’t work here and instead went all out. I was pumped reading this. The kids find out that the facility they were brought to was actually the start of another test, don’t you hate when that happens? Unlike the last test that was confined in a closed area, this one deals with the outside world. The world that was so messed up that that Alby (spoiler alert) goes on a suicide mission just to avoid seeing it.

And at first, it’s amazing. The world is completely messed up and the sun burns skin, so you have to keep yourself covered, and there’s this virus, called the Flare, that going around that makes people crazy. Kind of like zombies, only somewhat smarter and more organized in the way they kill people. The teens have to make their way to a check point across this terrain that’s filled with crazy people, in order to get a cure. Because WICKED, the organization behind these tests, kind of gave everyone the Flare while they were sleeping.

It’s a race against time, because if they don’t make it they might start killing each other and stuff and then the entire experiment would have been a giant waste of resources and tax dollars.

People start dying and we find out that there is actually another Maze group filled with teen girls that is also trying to get the cure as well.

I’m not sure what happened, but things started in awesomesauceland and then it got stupid. The more I started to think of the Flare, the more I started to question what was the entire point of all this. We know that Thomas and Teresa were at the head of WICKED and helped make sure that this Maze thing would happen. And we also know that WICKED be shady, but why was Thomas at the head of this major organization? Why was the Maze the best thing to do, when you know, building infrastructure to keep the sun’s rays at bay would be more important? Maybe figuring out a way to use the sun’s massive energy to power up these dome like homes, where they can plant, eat, and live merrily. Saving a few kids to better help mankind is a noble cause, but what land would they help if everyone is dead or infect by the virus?

It just doesn’t make sense.

And then I started to think about the teens here and the amount of times they sleep. Sleeping is great, I mean, I love it. Yay sleeping! But when you have an organization that likes injecting its subjects with a horrible virus while they sleep, I would think that these smart saviours of the human races would realize sleeping in shifts would be the best course of action. Sadly, they never figure this out and stuff still happens to them while they sleep.

I also didn’t like how Teresa was completely mishandled. Teresa is almost like the complete opposite of Thomas. He’s willing to go with the status quo, while she always looks at the big picture. Due to some events, Thomas ends up hating her and isn’t able to forgive her for what she did. The thing is this change seemed off. The book does try to make sense of it, by mentioning variable this and test that, but it still didn’t make much sense to me. It’s almost liked Dashner liked the new girl and decided to get Teresa out of the way so that there wouldn’t be an annoying love triangle. While I do appreciate the lack of triangleness, I don’t like how it ruined a good character just to prop the other one up, especially when that character seems to be lying to him too and hiding things as well.

Overall: Unlike the Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials started off with a great start, but the more the world revealed itself the less it made sense. While I could forgive the Maze Runner for some of these nonsensical ideas, I don’t think I can do it here. Plus, it seemed like in the last book there was a clear plot in place, boy enters a strange world, meets people, has to escape. Here, we don’t really have the same luxuries. In The Scorch Trials the plot is, boy enters strange world, goes on test, things happen, some other things happen, people meet him, things happen, other things happen, the end. I’m exaggerating a bit here, but it did feel like there were a bit too many plots and ideas that never really came into fruition. I almost wish it did, because I did like the beginning of the novel.

 

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The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze RunnerHardcover, First Edition, 374 pages
Published October 6th 2009

 

I realize that I’m late to the party, which is weird considering that the Maze Runner was a series that I’ve been meaning to read, but never had the chance to.

Till now!

It all started when I found out the movie came out. After discussing the trailer with a friend of mine, I decided to read it. She said the trailer looked amazing and had tons of action, so as someone who loves action and amazing stuff I decided to take a closer look at the Maze Runner.

Reading this was a struggle. A really big struggle. If I didn’t agree to read it and have my friend check up on my reading status, I would have dropped this book. Why? It’s because of the first half of the novel.

The beginning is so excruciatingly boring, so painful to read that I’m surprised I made it out okay. Thomas, the main character of this story, details the mundane life of a bunch of boys trapped inside a Maze. They don’t know why they are there, but only that this is where they live now. This should have been interested, especially since outside of their home there are creatures that try to kill them and that the maze moves every day, but instead of having an air of mystery it was boring.

Thankfully, things do pick up and it does get really interesting, but that first part….I dunno man, the new lingo, the fact that nothing happens, and that it takes so long for the story to pick up made me wonder why I was reading this and why it was so popular. When things do start to get pick up, they move quickly and pack a punch.

I was thankful for that.

I was especially glad to see a group of guys take the lead in a YA novel and that they worked as a team. No Lord of the Flies rock killing happening here. People do die though, which is great considering the world that Dashner set up. If everyone lived, I think I would have thrown my ereader to the ground.

I do think that the special gift that Thomas has is a bit pointless. Yea, pointless is a good word for it. Considering how gruesome the world is, his little quirk seemed out of place. I still don’t really understand the world, but I’m sure all of that will be revealed in the following books.

Overall: This is a hard book to get into. Really hard, in fact. The pacing is slow, in the beginning, and you never really get a good grasp at Thomas as a character. However, once things pick up, they really do pick up and I found myself glued to the pages to see what would happen next.

If you can get over the first hurdle, you might find yourself enjoying this novel. I do wonder how the movie will deal with the slow beginning though.

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Unwept by Tracy Hickman & Laura Hickman

unweptHardcover, 272 pages
Published July 1st 201

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I think I was pulled by another pretty cover, but who can blame me right? It’s gorgeous and has a touch of mystery surrounding it too. When you add on the synopsis, which promises a creepy small town mystery, I knew that I had to read the Unwept.

The book starts off strong in the prologue. A girl is in a coffin and the entire experience both creepy and disturbing. After the prologue, the book is pretty good. We’re introduced to Ellis who is coming down to Gamin, Maine via train. She’s with a nurse, who she doesn’t remember, and a baby. Only the nurse keeps telling her to ignore the sleeping child and acts like they don’t exist. When Ellis leaves the train, she realizes that no one else got on the train even though there are many people at the train station. Almost like no one ever leaves this place.

Ellis then meets the other members of the small town. Just like the nurse on the train, everyone remembers Ellis even though she doesn’t know any of them. The only one she has some inkling of remembrance for is her cousin Jenny.

The town, in itself, seems almost sinister despite the smiles and happiness of its citizens. No kids are here and people keep mysteriously dying. Ellis also has dreams of a man who turns into a moth.

All this sounds great, right? Perfect for an eerie mystery where you’re not sure of what’s what and who is who. Only…only I found the Unwept to be kind of boring. The mystery is very slow moving and by the time everything is reveal, you stop caring. It’s not shocking, it’s just there.

Even though this is a small book and should be a short read, I found myself struggling to get through it. I liked Gamin and I did like the beginning of the novel, but everything else failed to live up to its potential. The other characters were one note and when two of them decided to escape, it almost didn’t make sense because you didn’t understand their motivations.

Overall: Maybe the next book in the series will be better, especially since some of the secrets have now been brought to light, but unfortunately, the Unwept was slow moving, lacked proper character development, and was boring.

Novel was provided by netgalley

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