Carrier of the Mark: Leigh Fallon

What would happen if Captain Planet and Twilight had a baby?  You’d get Carrier of the Mark.

General Summary: Megan has never been popular.  But things change in when she and her dad move to a small town in Ireland.  She finds herself having friends and attracted to a strange boy.  And he amazingly likes her back.  But can she and Adam be together?  Or will forces pull them apart.

Review:  I bought this book in good faith.  I honestly planned on loving it.  But when I read it, something just felt off.  Being the sassy detective I am, I went to Good Reads and found out that I was not crazy.  The book is like Twilight Éirinn go Brách Edition.  I’m not going to go into the particulars because I feel that Stephanie’s review does this part justice.  What I’m going to focus on is the actual book itself.  I feel like there was a lot of potential here.   Yet the book itself felt so stilted.  First there was Megan herself.  She seems nice enough, but there’s nothing really special about her.  Oh, yes we’re told repeatedly that she’s able to do great things that she’s some sort of Wonder Woman in disguise (she’s no Diana Prince though).  But really other than the fact that she’s a girl who is apparently a carrier of the mark, there’s nothing really that we know about her.  So, she likes to eat cereal.  Other than that, all she ever does throughout the novel is obsess over Adam, even before she has a conversation with him.  This bothers me on a lot of levels.  I understand that this is a fiction, but what makes good fiction is an element of realism (hence, creative writing lesson 101: write what you know).  And most people don’t start obsessing over someone without at least talking to them.  Or for that matter fall in love within the span of five minutes.  Seriously, both characters fall in love with each other after one kiss.  And yeah, there is such a thing as love at first sight.  But it’s only supposed to happen in works like Romeo and Juliet or Twilight.

Besides character development the world building, the dialogue felt fake.  World building was mostly done through dialogue.  I think this was done so that Fallon would be “showing” rather than “telling” only this little technique backfired on her.  While it is true that you can show through dialogue, the dialogue has to not obvious be a place for info dumping and needs to feel nature.  Besides that, there could’ve been some variance in using narrative or descriptive passes in between dialogue that informed us about Megan’s destiny.  Once again, the one positive thing, besides the beautiful setting that I can say about this book is that it had an interesting concept.  I love stuff that deals with the elements and for that matter Celtic mythology.  Though I do have to say there were parts that reminded me a little too much of Captain Planet especially if…..

 

 

Best Feature:  Ireland.  I love Ireland.  I studied there abroad last summer and I was hoping for some nostalgia with this book.  Unfortunately, the beautiful lush setting of Ireland was often fluffed over.  Although, I generally don’t like over descriptive passages, I think this would be the time to do them.  Megan’s an American girl in Ireland, you sort of become obsessed with the foreign country that you’re forced to live in.  For your viewing pleasure here’s some of the places that were mentioned in the book:

 

Cork City.  Which only made an appearance for five pages and which beautiful, rich culture was  overly underplayed (Team Cork, ya’ll).
Trinity College where Megan wants to go to school.  What is it with YA characters always wanting to go to a Ivy League or Ivy League like school? And for that matter getting in even if they’re dumb as rocks.  Why not go to a state school like most people?  State schools aren’t bad.  The education they provide is just as good and it’s sooo much cheaper.

 

 

Worse Feature: Stiffness in the writing: I get this is Fallon’s freshman debut, but the writing really felt stiff (which I mentioned in the main review).  I feel like a lot of this is probably the editor’s/publisher’s fault more than anything else for rushing this thing out.  I really think there was a great concept here, it just didn’t work out and it’s really sad.

Blockbuster Worthy: This book would actually be interesting to see on screen, if for the Ireland bits and cool elemental powers.  Here’s my cast.

Megan: India Eisley: I see Megan looking like her.  So why not?

Adam: Damian McGinty: Yep, another Glee alum that I’m casting.  He is Irish after all.

Possible Spawn between Megan and Adam: Captain Planet of course.  Though he has yet to make an appearance in the series.

Overall Rating: For the content of the book alone, I’m giving a three.  Yes, it received a higher grade than Modelland only because it was comprehensible and I finished it.

Bad Kitty Series: Michele Jaffe

There’s one trend that I think has been long neglected in the world of YA books and that’s a good old fashioned mystery.  Or maybe I should be happy that a bandwagon for mysteries hasn’t been started yet.  Be that as it may, I have had the pleasure of reading some pretty kick ass YA mystery books. Starting with Michele Jaffe’s Bad Kitty series.

I
General Summary: Jas has a penchant for getting herself into trouble despite her father’s objections.  She always finds herself in some sort of mystery in some exotic or semi-exotic location.   And with her best friends help Jas usually ends up solving the case.  After some major mishap and bad hair days of course.
Review:  This book is complete whacky fun.  The mysteries are well thought out and the characters are enjoyable as well.  It’s a shame that Jaffe hasn’t been contracted to write anymore because I definitely am wondering what happened to Jas and her friends.  There are a few problems with the book.  Nothing too major, but I do feel that there were times the book came off a bit silly.  Also, the footnotes that were used throughout the books became a little annoying at times.  I still think though if you like light hearted mystery novels this book takes the cake.
Best Feature: Jas and her pals: I really loved Jaffe’s characters.  All of them had their own little quirks which made them hilarious.  Jas was a great narrator, though I’d tell her to lay off the coffee time to time. But I always find that whenever I read a Bad Kitty novel I can’t help but smile.  And that’s a really awesome thing, ya know?
Worst Feature: Too zany: At times the humor was just a bit too slapstick.  Take the use of footnotes.  There’s only so much of a running gag that a person can take.  I know that when my sister read these books, she got so annoyed with the footnotes that she stopped reading the book.  Which was really a shame because they’re such great books.  The bad thing about the footnotes and for that matter the other runnings gags, is that they actually sort of play an important role to the books.  So, you have to read them.  There’s no way of escaping them.  So if they bother you, my recommendation is to read the book in small increments.
Blockbuster Worthy: Um, yep.  This would actually be maybe a better TV series than movie though.  I could definitely see Jas and her friends Veronica Mars-ing it up.  Here’s my cast:
Jas:  An unknown.  I have looked everywhere for a biracial kooky looking girl who can play a sassy detective.  Unfortunately I have not found the look I’m going for when I picture Jas.
Polly:Kristen Alderson: She’s short and blonde and I’d like to see her play a germaphobe.
Tom: Taylor Lautner: Yes, I chose Jacob Black to play Tom.  This would be a huge step up for him in my opinion.  And while it’s true Tom is a lot more charismatic than Jacob and it would be a challenge to play him, I think Taylor could handle the task.
Roxy: Selena Gomez:  Although, most of the roles she have played have been relatively straight man type of characters,  I think she could very easily play the quirky twin sister of Tom.  And she already likes weirdos.  I mean, look who she’s dating.
Jack: Chord Overstreet.  Because he’s blonde and can sing (sort of).

Bad Kitty Rating: Nine out of ten Scooby Snacks

Kitty Kitty Rating: Seven out of ten Scooby Snacks

Overall Series Rating: Eight out of ten Scooby Snacks

Trend Spotlights: Into the Land of Dystopia Part III-Modelland by Tyra Banks

The cover is ominous that should have been a warning.  Yet, I’m not one to listen so I read it anyway.

So, after giving some hopefully not too boring history into the world of dystopia.  I am going to start looking at some current YA dystopias.  And the first up is a real gem let me tell you.

Yeah, I decided to read Tyra Banks Modelland  or tried to read it since I stopped reading about half way through.  Note, I have a policy of trying to read everything I review or at least reading a good chunk of it.  But there are some books, like this one that I have to give up  for my own mental sanity.  I just had to stop.  I was already having compulsion to put down Modelland after its prologue (there’s only so much second person and dahlings a person can take).  But it finally crossed the line after this quote:

“Tookie shut her eyes, wincing again with another pain. ‘Piper, my back and tummy are killing me!’ she whispered.

 

 

Piper shrugged.  ‘Join the club, Tookie.  Every new Bella started menstruating at the exact same time this morning.’

‘Wait.  What?’

‘You’ve never heard of menstrual synchrony, or the dormitory effect’ Piper asked.  ‘ Menstrual synchrony is  a theory that suggest that the menstruation cycles of women who cohabitate–think army barracks, female penitentiaries, covents, and university dormitories–synchronize over time.  It usually takes months for the alignment to occur, but here in Modelland, it seems to have happened in twenty-four hours.’ ” (Banks  219).

Seriously?  Has Tyra been watching too much Big Bang Theory?

 

This quote might have you shaking your heads and already going what the…. and you’re probably wondering why I decided to use Modelland as the first YA dystopia that I’ll be reviewing.  After all, the book is just puerile garbage and there are so many great dystopian novels out there.   However, I feel like Tyra’s book is the perfect book to use to analyze modern dystopia literature because it clearly was produced to sell.
Background Info about Modelland/ Review
General Summary: Tookie De La Creme, I kid you not that is her name, is a forgetta girl.  Tookie lives in this society where beauty is worshiped to extremes.  And when it is every girl’s goal to be discovered and being welcomed to Modelland where one becomes an Intoxibella.  Of course, Tookie is chosen much to everyone’s surprise.  But will she survive?
Review: How do I put this lightly? This book, this book had to be the most interesting piece of shit I’ve ever read.  I know the language sounds harsh.  But that’s what this book is.  Shit.  I couldn’t make sense of anything that was going on here.  What’s the backstory behind this world?  How did Intoxibellas come and rule it?  The characters were also pretty one dimensional.  Although, Banks tries to make Tookie a Forgetta Girl, it’s obvious that she’s really a Mary Sue in disguise (FYI, I think she’s based on a teen version of Tyra.  It’s mentioned repeatedly that Tookie has a big forehead just like Tyra) and so is Ci-L (who I think is supposed to represent the adult version of Tyra).  The supporting characters aren’t much better, all of them are just caricatures more than characters.  And don’t get me started on the names of said characters either.  The main character’s name, Tookie, is bad enough .  The sad thing is, I think that Tyra actually tried  on this novel, but it just falls flat.
Best Feature: Tyra Wrote this Herself: I will give Tyra props for writing this herself and for the fact she seems really passionate her book.  But passion will only get you so far…….
Worst Feature: Tyra Wrote this Herself: The prose is grotesque.  There were parts of the book that could’ve been  condensed and yet at the same I felt like I got no sense of the twisted world that Tyra was trying to write. She could really do with some creative writing lessons.  I’m sure they have some sort of program at Harvard which she could’ve audited or what not.
Blockbuster Worthy: Hell no.  But it wouldn’t surprise me if Tyra produced a movie version of this monstrosity herself.  She already did do an over budget trailer during last season’s ANTM which was one of the most ridiculous seasons ever  with Allison losing yet again and that whole POT LEDOM trash.  .
Dystopia Analysis:
Because I am looking at this book by analyzing the dystopia trend.  I will comment how and/how not did Modelland meet my four  theories of why we love dystopian novels.
A) Teens/Anyone Else who Reads YA are Just Dissatisfied with Society: I would definitely be dissatisfied if I live in Tookie’s society.  But it seems here that the society itself is celebrated.  At times it feels like it should be a parody.  No one argues or thinks of arguing against this distorted society.  Everyone, including Tookie, is just a pod.  Plus, we have no background-at least as far as I read- in why the Modelland world is so screwed up.
B) They Make a Good Story: This book had potential to be something fairly interesting.  A society that is run by super models could actually be fairly interesting.  Especially considering that we live in such a material world.  However, this was not the case here.  Instead, the whole book seemed like another one of Tyra’s lamed themed makeover episodes on ANTM.
C) They’re Popular because They’re Being Over Marketed: This is probably the most likely case for this book.  As seen above Tyra devoted an entire episode of ANTM to her book.   She even has a song for this book too.
D) Dystopia Boys are Just Plain Hot: Not so much here.  Though Tookie has a crush on a boy named,  Thaddeus  Theophilius Lovelaces.  According to  Modelland, boys are only supposed to be accessories.  And from what I’ve seen Theophilius is little more than that.  And God, who would be in love with a guy name Theophilius.
Overall Thoughts: I think this book is what not  to do when writing a dystopia themed novel.  While many of you might argue that I should have chosen a well written dystopia to review first.  I disagree.  I think books like Banks’ provide more insight into the sub-genre than properly written books because they show us what people expect a dystopia novel to have.  Sure, Tyra’s novel fell flat off the runway, but it had the bare bone elements of a dystopian novel.  Distorted world, odd characters names, and a sense of disarray.
Overall Book Rating: Two Intoxibellas.  I feel slightly bad about this because Tyra is so enthusiastic about the genre (which is why she garnered an extra point) and hasn’t openly dissed YA lit like some authors.  But still, I have to be objective.  This book reeked.

Work Cited:

Banks, Tyra.  Moddelland.  New York: Delacorte Press, 2011.

Classic Week-Epic Fail: Claire LaZebnik

Not another Pride and Prejudice retelling.  Unfortunately, yes.  I actually read this back to back with Prom and Prejudice.  And no, it wasn’t just pure coincidence.   Although, the plot of this book might be a little redundant after the past entry, I thought it might be helpful reading the two back to back to compare them.

General Summary:  By this time it’s sort of getting redundant.  If you haven’t been reading the last few entries and want to know the general summary of Pride and Prejudice click here.  LaZebnik like Eulberg, has decided to take this classic story and give it a modern spin.  And how does she do this by throwing Hollywood into the mix.  Yes, Hollywood.  It actually works better than it sounds.

Review: I liked  LaZebnik’s version of this classic story.  I really liked the Hollywood spin, it’s a great way to show the tensions in society which my college English professor would applaud.  Another thing I will give props to LaZebnik is her version of Bingley.  Chase is the only Bingley that I’ve ever really liked.  Why, because he has a backbone?   He’s actually tricked into dumping Jane  and rather than acting like a pansy about it he takes action.   There were a few problems with this book, conflict was glossed over.  And at times I thought the Darcy and Elizabeth was a bit rushed.  And where the hell was Mr. Collins, Charlotte Lucas, and Mary?


Best Feature: Hollywood:  I loved the Hollywood spin this book had.  A school of celebrity brats how can you not love that? And I think doing the whole Hollywood thing allowed LaZebnik some leeway when it came to handling the whole Wickham thing.

Yep, Elizabeth and Darcy are in La La Land.

Worst Feature: Too Happy?  I really liked this book.  But I just feel like a lot of the conflict was quickly fluffed over.  Yes, it existed, but it was resolved within the matter of pages.  Take the Bingley and Jane conflict for instance.  In the original it’s only towards the end that the two of them get back together.  In here it’s a matter of twenty or so pages.  Which is nice, but sometimes I like a little angst.

This book is like cotton candy, but is there ever too much of a good thing? You be the judge.

Blockbuster Worthy: Of course.  As I said, Austen retellings are in.  Even Stephenie Meyer knows that.  So here’s who I’d cast.  Yep, the same cast as last time.  Why?  Because I read them back to back and have the same people stuck in my head, lol.

Overall Rating: Eight out of ten Darcy’s (same grade I gave Eulberg’s retelling).  I think both books did a nice job with reinterpreting Jane Austen’s work.  They both had their strengths and weaknesses, but I don’t have a preference

Classic Week: Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

Last week I decided to randomly pick a selection from my huge TBR pile and chose Prom and Prejudice.  As it’s name would suggest it’s essentially a modern retelling of the Jane Austen classic, Pride and Prejudice which I’ve already stated is one of my favorite books.  Before I start this review, I want to note that I find it particularly interesting that there is such a strong subgenere of Austen inspired work/retellings is out there.  While Austen is a particular favorite author of mine, I have to wonder why her work is often retold while other authors work is often left untouched.  A mystery for another day, perhaps?

General Summary: Essentially it’s the same story as Pride and Prejudice.  Girl meets boy.  Girl hates boy.  Girl later finds out that she thought wrong about boy and falls in love with him.  Of course with this being a modern adaption certain changes had to be made.  For instance, the whole Collins’ subplot was changed as well as the Georgiana storyline .  One of the biggest changes in Eulberg’s novel was to have Elizabeth not be related to any of the other Bennets.  Rather,  she was Jane’s roommate at a rich well to do prep school.

Review: I’ve read several Pride and Prejudice retellings throughout the years.  Most of them have been adult books this was the first YA adaption of the novel I read.  And I was pleasantly surprised.  I liked Eulberg’s versions of Elizabeth and Darcy.  I particularly liked the fact that Elizabeth had a life outside her love life.  Meaning, I loved the fact that she was some sort of piano prodigy.  It’s refreshing to see in any YA book that the main character has goals that aren’t concentrated and/or obsessed with  finding Edward Cullen.  I also to give kudos to Eulberg for how she handled the Lydia plot.  I personally thought Darcy kicked ass in those scenes.

Best Features: Well Rounded Lady: Once again I’m really impressed that Elizabeth had interests outside of her love life.  And I think it’s especially important to note that Eulberg did this in a Pride and Prejudice adaption of all things when the main point of the novel is it’s love story- so arguably critics argue the novel is a tongue and cheek take on society- but whatever.   You know you so read Pride and Prejudice to enjoy the witty banter between Darcy and Elizabeth.

Worst Feature: Predictability: This was honestly sort of a given since this novel is a retelling.  But I wish there would’ve been a few more unexpected twists here and there.  Nothing really change the overall story, but something that made this book a little more different.

Blockbuster Worthy: Of course.  Hollywood loves Pride and Prejudice and why wouldn’t they want to make a modern adaption starring teeny boppers:

Elizabeth: Lea Michele:  Though Lizzie is a piano piano not powerhouse singer in Eulberg’s version, I can see Michele very easily stepping into Lizzie’s shoes.

 

Darcy: Ethan Peck of course.  If there’s a classic hero that needs to be portrayed in a YA adaption it’s him (though honestly, I wish we could deage Colin Firth and have him play Darcy).

Jane: Kristen Alderson: I think Kristen has the looks to pull off a modern Jane.

Bingley: Chace Crawford: Prep school boy looks, check.  Might be getting a way bit old side now to play the role, but that’s why we typecast.

Overall Rating: Eight out of ten Mr. Darcy’s.

What Would the Characters from Bard Academy Wear?

Earlier this week I read and reviewed A Tale of Two Proms by Cara Lockwood. Although, the book takes place at a boarding school and the characters are mainly in uniform I still couldn’t help but get a sense of style from them which is why I decided to feature them in this addition of What Would _____ Wear?

First up is Miranda. Miranda is the herorine of the Bard Academy series. A descendent of fictional Catherine, Miranda garners the attention of Wuthering Heights bad boy, Heathcliff. Although, Miranda is mainly stuck wearing a school uniform throughout the series-like the rest of the cast. I think we get a good indication of what her style is. For instance, I see Miranda wearing a lot of casual wear in her down time-hence, the hoodie and yoga pants. That doesn’t mean that Miranda is not stylish. I see even her casual wear looking cute. When she’s dressed for an everyday occasion I see Miranda sticking to simple silhouettes like this red polka dotted dress. And of course, I see Miranda on the occasion trying to dress more old fashion and ladylike to garner Heathcliff’s attention, hence the white ball gown. For accessories, Miranda always is seen with the locket that Heathcliff gave her and while I  think she’d be comfortable in a nice pair of boots, I can see her glitzing it up on  the  occasion with a killer pair of heels.

It’s a little imposing doing a set of clothes for one of literature’s most romantic figures. But I’m going to try (grant it, things were a little difficult considering Polyvore doesn’t have 19th century britches in their database). For the most part I tried to keep things pretty simple. It’s mentioned several times that Heathcliff pretty much wore a Bard academy uniform after he got out of his Wuthering Heights clothes. For his literary clothes I tried to think simple. Plain white shirt, khakis, and riding boots. Of course, the ones I chose are hardly 19th century clothing. But they’re the best I could find and I think that Heathcliff would wear something similar to this in the modern age. I also threw in a plain black t-shirt, to show that if Heathcliff was to dress for modern times it would be as simple.

Hana is one of Miranda’s best friends. I see Hana having a sense of chic geek style. For the most part I see her being the separates type of gal because A) they’re comfortable, B) separates are cute, and C) you can easily mix and match them. Though not everything I chose for Hana are separates case in point the cute little blue dress that’s in the set. I can see Hana wearing something like this to a formal even-say maybe prom-mainly because it’s not grossly over the top yet at the same same time it’s elegant. For shoes, I tried to keep things simple flats and a pair of kitten heels for Miranda’s bestie to wear.

Samir is another one of Miranda’s friends. I sort of see him having a slightly off beat sense of style. I see him wearing lots of dress shirts with crazy ties, maybe a sportscoat and jeans. And I can see him having a few novelty t-shirts, I chose a Batman one for him because it’s slightly ironic (Samir is the furthest  character in the cast from being Batman, but don’t tell him that).

Blade is another one of Miranda’s friends and former roommate. Although, Blade is usually in uniform, her Goth style is frequently referred to throughout the series. I tried to make her wardrobe for the most part reflect her favorite colors-black and purple. However, you might notice that there’s one dress- a bright yellow one- that sticks out. This is Blade’s prom dress while she might not wearing bright colors her boyfriend, Samir, would probably find her gorgeous in it.

Finally last but not least, is Parker. Parker is the official “Mean Girl” at Bard Academy. Though she’s usually in uniform, we get a sense that when she’s not she’s probably one of those girls who dresses garishly in style. What I mean by this is while the pieces that Parker might wear are trendy and fashionable a lot of the time she dresses borderline tacky, case in point the feathered miniskirt in the set. Of course, that doesn’t mean Parker doesn’t look put together or for that matter classy on occasion, I just think that she has the tendency look over the top. You might notice that there is one dresses that particularly stands out: a nineteenth century inspired pink ball gown. I chose this dress particularly to represent the dress Parker wore during her swan song.

Secrets of My Hollywood Life: Jen Calonita

 

 

Everyone wants to be famous except for  Kaitlyn Burke in Jen Calonita’s Secrets of My Hollywood Life.  She  wants to know how it would feel not to be famous.  The series itself (now complete) consists of six books.  I’ve only read the first few and this review will only be focusing out of the first book.

General Summary: Kaitlyn Burke is hot stuff.  She has a number one TV show and is an up and coming star.  The only thing is movie stars really don’t have many friends.  Well, real friends and they get to miss out on that fun experience in life called high school–poor them:not.  So Kaitlyn has this harebrained scheme to pretend to be “normal” and attend her lone friend’s school.  Of course this is easier said than done.

Review: I have to say I really liked this book.  True, it was predictable.  But the characters were likeable enough and Calonita has a great voice.  There were sometimes that I just wanted to whack Kaitlyn for being so silly.  I know she’s never been normal.  But God, girl has it made.  Additionally, some of the supporting characters can be a little grating .  Though, Kaitlyn’s crush, Austin, definitely made up for it.  I feel with this book it’s either going to be a love/hate relationship.  Love if you want a cute escape that’s not that memorable.  Hate if you’re the type who’s looking for unexpected dark novel with gripping twists.

Best Feature: Hollywood Good Girl: I like that Kaitlyn is a bit of a goodie goodie.  Although, I like reading more than my fair share of Hollywood bad girl stories, but it’s refreshing to see a Hollywood tale about a young star that’s so normal.  Though the whole part about Kaitlyn wanting to go to spend her days as an average high school student wasn’t that normal to me.  Then again, what do I know?   I’m not  a celebrity, I’m just someone who was forced to endure four years of bad meatloaf and algebra (a.k.a. high school).

Worst Feature: Too cutsey.  I love how cute this book is.  But you know that feeling when you eat a lot of sugar all at once and at first feel great before feeling insanely gross, this book sort of goes over the top in the fluff at time.  I love it, but a somewhat serious subplot might’ve helped it from being great to being spectacular.

Blockbuster Worthy: Of course it is.  This has classic TV movie written all over it.  And I know the perfect people to star in it (okay, starred in it about five years ago).

Kaitlyn:  Hillary Duff.  Hillary is always who I have pictured in my head when I think Kaitlyn.  I think it’s because in comparison to a lot of other former teen stars she has kept herself relatively normal-meaning, she hasn’t decided to randomly shave her head and/or got multiple DWIs. Plus, she “wrote” a YA novel that isn’t actually half bad.

 

Sadly, I don’t think Hillary will be playing Kaitlyn anytime soon as she is having a baby and has moved on to older roles.  So, my second choice in the role would be Ashley Benson.

 

 

Austin: Chad Michael Murray: Sadly, I can only think of one actor to play Austin.  And he is passed playing teens.
 

Overall Rating: Eight out of ten stars

Trend Spotlights: Into the Land of Dystopia Part II

As stated in my previous Trend Spotlights post, I’ll be looking at dystopia oriented books for the next month or so periodically and  will be trying to understand why we’re so gosh darn crazy about them.  As part of my gripping analysis on the subject, I’ll be looking at the origins of utopian/dystopian literature.  Yes, I said origins which probably has a lot of you shaking and saying that this blog is turning into an English  lecture.  Never fear, I wouldn’t do that to you dear readers.  I had enough of lectures like this to last a life time:

Be that as it may, understanding some literary history behind utopia/dystopia literature is important in uncovering why the trend is popular today.  Which is why I have essentially lifted  parts of my  essays on utopian/dystopian societies from  some of my courses and have reworked them into hopefully a slightly more entertaining blog entry.

Utopia Origins or Dystopia all the Time: Sir Thomas More


Obviously, utopia is the opposite of dystopia.  While a dystopia novel or story has to deal with a distorted view of the world.  A utopian society deals with an ideal world.  The most notable piece of literature that has to deal with utopian society is Sir Thomas’s More’s work simply titled Utopia.

More’s Utopia offered an interesting perspective on social class.   Even though More’s work preached a perfect classless society, there were fundamental parts of this organization that caused Utopian society to be hypocritical. For example, the Utopians relied heavily on slaves in order to maintain their society. At one point in the text More wrote, “Generally, the gravest crimes are punished by slavery, for they think this deters offenders just as much as instant capital punishment, and is beneficial to the commonwealth.” [1].   Utopians used slavery as a form of punishment and  that slaves were treated differently from the rest of society; thus, there was a separation of class in Utopia. While it was true that slaves were not considered Utopian citizens, they still lived under Utopian law and played a prominent role in society.  Could one make the presumption that More’s work on a Utopian society was really a work on dystopia in disguise.  Maybe?

After all, there are several elements that were seen in Utopia that seem more dystopian than utopian. Arguably, it could be said that this novel about a perfect society wasn’t about an ideal world at all.

Straight Up Dystopia: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley 

I remember when I had to first read this book.  It caused me more nightmares than 1984 and Texas Chainsaw Massacre ever did.

Unlike More’s Utopia, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World doesn’t even try to disguise itself as a utopia.  Sure, the never takes place in this “perfect” society, but it’s obvious from the get go that it’s whacked.  I honestly sometimes wonder how I got away with reading this book in high school considering how conservative my school was.  Case in point, they put John Grisham novels in the restricted section.  The stuff that goes on in Brave New World is a lot more graphic and bizzaro than anything you’d see from some legal thriller that gets turned into a movie starring Matthew McConaughley.  Grant it,  Brave New World is considered a classic and Grisham novels aren’t.

Huxley wrote Brave New World in the interim years between World War I and World War II, many of the concepts that are dealt with in the novel are in regards to industrialization.  And unlike More’s world where you get an idyllic world that only seems to be bat shit insane for a few citizens, Huxley’s world is entirely bat shit insane.  I kid you not. 

Here is just a partial list of some of the craziness that goes on in Brave New World:  Henry Ford is considered a god (the worship the T instead of the cross),  people are divided into classes at birth, drug addiction is encouraged and supported by the government, and for that matter so is sexual promiscuity.  

After considering all the aspects of Brave New World,  I really,don’t know how this book and for that matter anything else by John Grisham got put on the restricted list.  Because when it comes to horrible crimes/Samuel L. Jackson with a machine gun vs. test tube happy drug addicted/ orgy loving babies, I think it’s a little obvious which novel is more deranged.

Once you get over all the crazy stuff that happens in Brave New World, you realize just how scary the novel is.  How Huxley essentially just barely twisted society to make this freaked out world.  And once again, like More he was affected by society. Which brings us today….

Modern Society: Dystopia

Today dystopia themed novels are present more than ever.  Particularly in the YA genre.  As previously stated in part one of this discussion, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is being turned into a movie and the press is making it out like it’s the next Twilight or Harry Potter.

Like it’s predecessors these novels deal reflect on society.  But why are they popular now?  I had a hard time suffering through Brave New World in high school-though now, I find it sort of interesting to read only because how crazy it is.  And More’s Utopia is hardly interesting unless you teach early British literature and want to torture (err…enrich your students’ minds) by forcing them to read Utopia.  Perhaps, I will come to more conclusions in coming weeks.  Though here are my guesses now.  In the coming weeks, I’ll be exploring each of these so called theories a bit.

A) Teens/anyone else who reads YA are just dissatisfied with society

B) They make a good story

C) It’s popular because it’s being overly marketed 

or

C) Dystopian boys are just hot

Anyways, feel free to comment on your thoughts.  I hope this blog entry wasn’t too boring/school like and gave you some insight on the origins of this sub-genre.

[1] More, Thomas. Utopia. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume B The Sixteenth Century/The Early Seventeenth Century. Eds. Stephen Greenblatt and M.H. Abrams. 8th ed. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006) 571.

A Tale of Two Proms: Cara Lockwood

I am a big fan of the Bard Academy series and was so happy when Cara wrote a fourth book.  I was a little concerned though when I found out it was only going to be in e-book  since I’m sort of opposed to e-books that is (I just like the feel of a real book beneath my hand, it just feels more permanent  and it doesn’t strain my eyes) and I don’t have an official e-reader.  However,  I was able to download it to my iPod touch and had only one headache throughout the entire time reading.  Anyway, was the fourth book a proper conclusion to this amazing series.  Read on to find out.

General Summary:  If you haven’t read the Bard books before, what you need to understand is that Bard is a boarding school for little rich juvenile delinquents that is ran by the ghosts of famous writers.  No joke.  The principal is Charlotte Bronte and the basketball coach is Ernest Hemingway.  Needless to say, this causes lots of conflict especially since it’s very easy to make fictional characters appear into real life.  Miranda Tate, the protagonist of the series, even finds herself falling for one of these characters: Heathcliff from Emily Bronte’s  Wuthering Heights to be precise.  Of course their relationship is destined to fail or is it?  Well, A Tale of Two Proms answers this question as well as many others.

Review:  I really liked this book.  I thought it was a great way to the end the series.  All my questions were answered and there was a definite ending.   As usual, Cara Lockwood pulled me into the story pretty effortlessly.  Be that as it may, there were a few things that bothered me about the book.  Nothing really major.  I just thought a couple of the plot lines were just wrapped up a little too conveniently.  Since I’m a sucker for perfect endings though, this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book.  The one thing that is probably my biggest issue with the series is the personalities of  the authors/teachers at the school.  Their personalities seemed a bit diluted in comparison to their real life counterparts.  For instance, I think Headmaster B and Ms. A would not get along, due to Headmaster B’s harsh words about Ms. A’s work.  I honestly kind of wanted that to be alluded to more.   But then again, I am a lit geek.

Best Feature: Literature: I love all the allusions to literary classics in this series and the best thing it doesn’t come out cheesy or hokey like this.

The sad thing is I think they were trying to get kids to read with this movie.   

Worst Feature: E-book.  This has nothing to do with the book itself.  But I really, really wish there would’ve been a paper copy out there.  I get that times are tough and for that matter I should be grateful that there is a fourth book.  I just wish that publishers wouldn’t keep trying to shove e-books down people’s throats because they’re cheaper to produce.  While they’re great for riding in airplanes, I still prefer an old fashion hardback/paperback.  Because what happens when your reading device dies? You lose all your books.  And that just sucks.  Besides, with good old fashion books you don’t take up excess memory of your device and can download more Angry Birds.

Blockbuster Worthy: Oh, God yes.  This series sort of has a Lost in Austen vibe to it.  And I loved that miniseries, so why wouldn’t this be turned to a movie/TV show?

Of course, Lockwood’s story involves Heathcliff not Mr. Darcy, but I wouldn’t say that there aren’t cameo appearances by Pride and Prejudice characters.

Anyway, here’s who I’d cast:

Miranda/Catherine: Sarah Hyland:  Can’t you see her as Miranda?  Well, I can.  

Heathcliff:  Ethan Peck:  Because who else could play young Heathcliff in today’s world?

Overall Rating: Nine out of ten stars.

Trends Spotlights: Into the Land of Dystopia Part I

Trends in YA lit are almost as they are in the fashion world.  Wizards, vampires, fallen angels, retellings of famous myths and tales, the list just goes on and on.  One of the most recent trends has been dystopia themed novels.  Most notably made famous a little book series by Suzanne Collins called the Hunger Games has caused dystopian themed books to surge in numbers.

It’s not just the Hunger Games though that makes up the dystopian literature within YA lit.  There are several other novels as well.  Examples include some of the following: Matched by Ally Codie, Bumped by Megan McCafferty, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and Cinder by Melissa Meyer.
What is it that makes this theme so popular?
It’s really an interesting question if you think about it.  And I’m hoping to explore it in the next few weeks  by doing a series on entires on this trend.  Opinions for dystopia or for that matter suggestions on dystopia themed books I should review are greatly appreciated.