Book Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Delirium (Delirium, #1)Delirium by Lauren Oliver

My Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Source: e-ARC via NetGalley, by request

The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it, and when you don’t.

Ninety-five days. That’s how long it will be before Lena turns 18 and has “the procedure”, a sort of brain surgery to prevent Amor deliria nervosa, the disease of love. After that, she will complete her education, be married to a suitable young man, and have however many children the evaluators deem appropriate. In the first few chapters, the reader gets acquainted with Lena and learns that she has plenty of reasons to fear ever falling in love. As in any good dystopian scenario, though, all is not well in this new loveless America, and Lena begins to uncover the truth behind the many lies she has been told.

The idea of love as an eradicable disease, and that its elimination would create a perfectly content society, is an interesting one, but it never really becomes clear how the destruction of the “sickness” became the U.S. government’s number-one priority. The book lacks the solid world-building really needed to support the reader’s suspension of disbelief, but sympathetic characters, suspenseful action scenes, the promise of secrets revealed, and the specter of doomed romance all combine to keep the reader turning pages to the end.

There is a little echo of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale in the way the government has taken control of so many facets of people’s lives, especially their relationships, and there is a big echo of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the way a metaphor becomes literal. In Lena’s world, love really does make you crazy. It really might kill you. And it really can save you in the end.

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Book Review: Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Bird in a BoxBird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Source: e-ARC via NetGalley, by request

The only thing folks are talking about is that this will be the fight to end all fights. And nobody seems to care about the tough times we’re in, either. People are putting down their last little bit of money, betting on Joe Louis.

In this moving historical novel, Pinkney introduces three young African-Americans in Depression-era Elmira, New York. Hibernia is a 12-year-old preacher’s daughter with dreams of becoming a famous jazz singer. Otis is trying to keep his memories of his father and mother alive by retelling the riddles his father loved to tell. Willie had dreams of becoming a champion boxer, until his abusive father put an end to them.

The novel opens as Louis is about to take on Braddock in a much-hyped fight for the Heavyweight World Champion title, then jumps back a year to recount how the three main characters’ lives have intertwined. Pinkney presents a coherent, flowing narrative while rotating perspective between three distinct voices. She seamlessly blends real historical figures and events with her fictional characters to create vibrantly realistic scenes. An author’s note provides biographical information about Joe Louis and the members of the author’s own family that she used as models for some characters.

With lively, engaging characters and a skillful evocation of time and place, this is an excellent choice for young readers, even those who might not normally be drawn to historical fiction. Consider introducing de la Peña and Nelson’s A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis to readers interesting in learning more about Louis himself.

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Book Review: Shine

ShineShine by Lauren Myracle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Source: e-ARC from publisher via, by request

Maybe God was a giant eyeball in the hazy June sky, only there was a burn mark on His pupil in the exact spot of Black Creek, North Carolina, and that was why He didn’t see me.

For the last three years, 16-year-old Cat has been keeping to herself. Something bad happened, and after it did, she stopped talking to just about anyone, even her best friend, Patrick. But when Patrick is found unconscious outside the gas station, left for dead, the victim of an apparent homophobic hate crime, she takes it upon herself to uncover his attacker.

The book opens with a newspaper account of the attack on Patrick and a description of the hard times the town of Black Creek, NC, had recently faced, complete with quotes from townspeople that make certain prejudices clear from the start. The rest of the novel is told from Cat’s first-person point-of-view. She questions everyone from her own brother to the local meth distributor, forcing buried secrets out into the open once and for all. Poverty and addiction have taken their toll on quite a few residents of Black Creek, and Cat’s suspicion that the local law enforcement won’t work too hard on solving the case is easy to believe.

Myracle weaves a gripping story, creating strong characters and providing just enough misdirection to keep the mystery intriguing. Squeamish readers be warned: there is strong language and some violence in this book, but none of it feels gratuitous. Drugs and guns are plentiful in Black Creek, and some ugly slurs come all-too-easily from characters’ mouths. Cat’s struggle to deal with her own past and her determination to find Patrick’s attacker build up to a satisfying conclusion. I was up until 1 in the morning finishing the last few chapters; I just couldn’t put it down.

Shine is scheduled for publication in May of 2011.

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