Book reviews: Superpowered Teenagers edition

Today we have another “themed” reading round-up.  Superpowered teens are close my heart as I have, in the deep dark recesses of my mind, a trilogy of stories about a group of teens with elemental superpowers.  They’ve lived in there since I was in high school, and maybe someday they’ll see the light of day.  In the meantime, here’s some other books to help you get your fix.

 Just as a reminder:

5/5–I would buy this
4/5–I will re-read this
3/5–I might read this again
2/5–I have no interest in reading this again
1/5–I couldn’t finish this

youngelites The Young Elites (Marie Lu)

 3.5/5 stars

A new series from the author of Legend, and it begins with an origin story…of a kind.  Adelina Amouteru, marked as a survivor of the blood fever, runs away from home and ends up joining a group of other survivors who have also developed special powers; they are called the Young Elites, and they mean to use their powers to change society.

There are a lot of grey characters here, which I loved, but the world-building was not as good/developed as Legend.  The book ends in a way I did not expect, and I felt it like a gut punch.  Looking forward to seeing what comes next in the series.

 

dangerous

Dangerous (Shannon Hale)

4/5 stars

A foray into sci-fi from one of my favorite fairy tale authors.  A group of teenagers led by Maisie “Danger” Brown is gifted with powers by alien technology and must use those powers to stop an alien threat.  It actually reminded me a bit of the Lorien Legacies series (see below), if LL had been better written and all shoved into one book.

I found the characters to be well-developed and quite diverse (the protagonist herself is missing an arm, but uses technology to compensate).  My only downsides were the invading aliens were a little lame, and I could have done with a little less of the teenage romantic drama.  The story does have distinct parts to it, but I’m undecided as to whether it would have been better served by a series instead.  Honestly, it’s kind of a relief to have a stand-alone YA novel!

 

Therevengeofseven

The Revenge of Seven (Pittacus Lore)

3/5 stars

This installment of the Lorien Legacies series raises the stakes for the Garde as their enemy Setrákus Ra reveals himself on Earth.  I have been a little critical of these books, but they are enjoyable in a summer blockbuster/popcorn flick kind of way, and I think they are improving as the plot gets more complex and characters get better development.  I think this was the best so far.

 

the-blood-of-olympus

The Blood of Olympus (Rick Riordan)

3/5 stars

The final book of the Heroes of Olympus series was a nice finale in some ways, but fell short in others.  I did enjoy getting to know Reyna better, but it seems a little late in the game to start the backstory of a “new” character, and as a result “older” characters like Percy and Annabeth felt a bit crowded out.  I very much enjoyed the end (or maybe the beginning?) of Nico and Leo’s stories, though Leo’s was a bit vague.  And I was disappointed in the final 2 battles, which went by much too quickly and without much surprise, unlike the real climax of the battle of New York from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I enjoyed the series, but I will be glad to see Riordan move on to something new with Norse mythology.

4 Recent YA SciFi/Fantasy Books

After A Dance with Dragons I wanted something lighter to read, so I’ve been catching up with some great YA novels that came out (fairly) recently.  No spoilers here, just brief reviews.  A general guide to ratings:

5/5–I would buy this
4/5–I will re-read this
3/5–I might read this again
2/5–I have no interest in reading this again
1/5–I couldn’t finish this

House of Hades (Rick Riordan) 5/5—  The 4th book in the Heroes of Olympus series featuring the wildly popular Percy Jackson and friends.  This was a great read, though maybe not my favorite book of the series.  Percy and Annabeth’s journey through Tartarus was pretty bleak and uninspiring; it had a lot of descriptions of them being tired and dirty and in pain, but able to carry on because the other is there.  It sounds sweet at first, but gets a little old after the fifth repetition.  However, the character development for Leo, Frank, and in particular Nico is really incredible.  The book does re-introduce a lot of characters from previous books that I didn’t remember all that well.  Just another reason for me to buy the series, so I can read the all again!

.

Hero (Alethea Kontis) 4/5— The 2nd book about the Woodcutter family, following Enchanted.  I actually liked this slightly better than the first one–less complex and more focused.  It stars Saturday “Works-hard-for-a-living” Woodcutter, with only minor appearances from Monday and Thursday among the sisters; the streamlined cast is much less confusing.  It’s a fun adventure with some gender-bending motifs along the way.  The ending opens up an overarching plot to lead into the next forthcoming book.

.

Fall of Five (Pittacus Lore) 3/5–The 4th book in the Lorien Legacies series.  After their defeat by Setrákus Ra at the end of The Rise of Nine, the Garde survivors have regrouped in Chicago, and are heartened by contact with their last member, Number Five.  But do the Garde know who they can trust?  They discover they may have allies on the other side, as well as traitors in their midst.  As with the previous books, it’s fairly light on characterization and heavy on action; it switches between 3 narrators, who can be difficult to distinguish.  There are some good plot twists, and although you’ll see some coming, it’s generally a good ride (however I preferred Rise of Nine).  There’s also a whole mass of short stories that go with this series which could be fun to read.

.

Divergent (Veronica Roth) 3/5–I wanted to read this before the movie comes out later this month.  There are some issues with the premise of this dystopian society, but if you can get past that, the book has some really nice ideas about human nature, the nature of fear, and the intersection of attributes such as honesty, selflessness, and courage.  The prose is average and the characters were not super compelling for me: Tris is a nice narrator, but so unlike me I couldn’t really relate, and Four is definitely not my type.  Where the book really shines is the emotional core; if this book doesn’t make you feel something, I think you might be dead inside.  Bonus: no love triangle!!

YA fantasy reviews–one new, one classic

Two more brief book reviews from this past week.

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan is the latest in the “Heroes of Olympus” series, which continues to follow Percy Jackson and his friends in their many quests that generally involve saving the world.  The seven demigods of the prophecy have finally come together to battle Gaea and her minions.  The book is narrated by four of them: Percy, Annabeth, Leo, and Piper.  Riordan does really well covering all of the seven main characters (he has pretty much only done trios so far), so no one is left out, but it does make for a fairly long book with many subplots.  I loved the development of relationships in the group: how Percy and Jason work together, Leo and Hazel’s “backstory,” Piper and Jason continuing to figure things out, and some sweet moments with Percy and Annabeth.  As always, the book is action-packed from the beginning, and the (literal) cliffhanger ending sets up beautifully for the next installment.  Too bad we have to wait another year!

I cannot say enough about how fun Riordan is to read.  He writes contemporary teenage slang beautifully, with pop culture references thrown in here and there for some unexpected laughs.  The bases of his mythological references are solid, which most nerds can appreciate, but he then adds modern twists on top of that.  This book is no exception–Narcissus’s YouTube videos of himself, Diet Pepsi tributes to Bacchus, Gregory Peck on a Vespa, and a cornucopia that spits out various groceries all figure prominently.  His books can really appeal to a wide demographic, from high school boys to Classics scholars. 4.5/5 stars

Beast by Donna Jo Napoli is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, from the Beast’s perspective.  Oddly, I thought I had certainly read this book already, for a seminar in college about children’s fantasy lit.  Turns out, I definitely did not!  I love fairly tale retellings, but while I liked this book, it was not so “fun” to read, and it is not my favorite BatB retelling.  For the Beast’s POV, I prefer Beastly by Alex Flinn (which is nicely modernized, too).

The Beast starts out as a prince in Muslim Persia, but is then transformed in a lion, for a reason I did not find particularly convincing.  But I guess fairies don’t need to be fair.  As a lion, he struggles to retain his human mind and morals as he gives in to his animal urges and instincts. While the dichotomy is interesting, there are also stark descriptions of lion bodily functions, including arousal and defecation,  which I found a little off-putting (note: this is not for young children), but I suppose that was the point.  Napoli tends to go to the darker side of fairy tales, which I enjoyed in Zel and others.

The lion prince ends up in France, because I guess that’s where Belle has to live.  I liked Belle’s character a lot–she is good-hearted and brave, but also scared and a little stubborn.  We know the story from here, but it’s still a nice journey.  The ending is fairly sudden, with basically no falling action.  I loved all the cultural references in Persia, India, and France, but sometimes it felt like half of the text on a page was italicized, and I ending up skipping over a lot of the descriptions/definitions. 3/5 stars