Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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A little while after I read The Fault in Our Stars and saw the movie, I found out that another heart wrenching novel would be made into a movie. This time, the novel-to-movie adaptation would be Gayle Forman’s If I Stay. A quick search online told me that this book would be sad and hopeful and beautiful and amazing, so I rushed out and bought a copy of it.

This is my review of If I Stay.

Pretty much, this is the story of Mia, a girl who tragically loses her family in a car accident. She also nearly loses her life, which is the focus of the novel. She wakes up after the accident outside of her body, and she watched her remaining family and friends grieve for Mia, her brother, and her parents, all while remembering other events of her life. She spends the entire novel wondering if she should stay alive on Earth, or let herself die to be with her family.

Honestly, I wasn’t too impressed. Maybe it’s because I’m not that big a fan of out-of-body-experience novels, but I don’t know. I read it all at once, but that wasn’t intentional. I had actually planned on reading the book in thirds or maybe even two halves, but nope. I misjudged the actual length of the book. My copy of it had a lot of filler at the end, (interviews, previews of Forman’s other novels, and discussion questions) so the novel itself ended about 100 pages shy of the actual number of pages in the book!!! I remember lying on the couch, confused when I read the (not so spectacular) end.

The characters weren’t too memorable, mainly just Mia, her boyfriend Adam, and a couple of odd friends and family members. Although we only really get to see her family alive for a chapter before the accident, they’re fleshed out through Mia’s flashbacks, which makes her parents seem like the cool parents you’ve always wanted (you know, without the being dead part.) Adam, the boyfriend, is in a band and seems like the complete opposite of Cello-playing Mia (I’m smelling the good-girl/bad-guy trope here…) but he’s completely devoted to her and even tries to sneak in to see her. In the end, he’s with her when she wakes up. 🙂

I was expecting to cry. I was expecting tears like in TFIOS, which had me literally sobbing with a full box of tissues at 2 am. With this book, I finished it around 1 pm on a gloomy day, with completely dry eyes, thinking, “That’s it?”

Yes, that was it.

I personally haven’t seen the movie, but after reading the book, I don’t think I will. I wasn’t impressed at all. I’d give it 2 stars, just because it wasn’t the absolute worst book I’ve ever read. It had a unique plot idea, but it just didn’t resonate well with me.

Review: The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher

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Back in 2010, when I was a mere 12 years old, I somehow stumbled across a book online that was soon to be released. It was called: The Water Wars, and upon reading the synopsis and seeing the amazing cover, I simply knew I had to have it. I remember asking my parents for it, and upon my 13th birthday, I woke up to find that they had indeed gotten me a hardcover copy of it.

I remember flying through the pages of it, seeing if it would meet my expectations. And for the most part, it did. I recently looked back at the book, which has prompted me to write a review of the book I had anticipated so much.

This is a review of the Water Wars, where a girl and her brother must leave home and go on a journey across the barren nation in order to save their friend.

Synopsis: *SPOILERS AHEAD*

Vera, a 15 year old girl, lives with her older brother, her father, and her mother who suffers from a mysterious illness. One day, while waiting at the bus stop, she meets a boy named Kai. He is a diviner, a person who can find water in the most unapparent of places. Her life is turned upside down as they become friends and he is able to supply the family with clean drinking water as opposed to the filtered salt water that is rationed out to them, which helps Vera’s mother a little. All is well until Kai goes missing one day, his house ransacked. It is then that Kai and Vera decide to leave home to look for him, and thus begins the vast journey of The Water Wars.

Along the way on their search for their friend, the teens meet pirates, environmentalists, and government agents, almost all of them acting as antagonists (except the pirate Ulysses, who comes to become an ally.) A variety of locations are explored, and all sorts of crazy incidents happen (a revolt at Niagara Falls, an explosion at a dam, and a

Soon enough, with all that excitement going on, Vera, Will, and their pirate friend Ulysses are captured by the very people who have captured Kai, which is technically a good thing, as it brings them closer to him. Vera and Will manage to escape, where they meet a new friend, a woman who can *conveniently* pilot almost any vehicle and is armed with a harpoon. They go back to rescue Ulysses, who was injured, and there they devise a plan to find and rescue Kai. I don’t want to give away the details of the escape, because it’s something you should read for yourself, but they do ultimately rescue Kai and his dad, and everyone goes back home to live happily ever after (after one more conflict resolution, of course.)

The novel ends with Vera and Will returning to their father with fresh water for their mother to drink. 🙂

Review: 

As I said in my review of of Matched by Ally Condie, I’m not going to let my love of the genre, or my intense desire for this book (Hey, I was only in 7th grade!) cloud my judgement of it. I’ve reread the book a couple of times, once recently before this review. While I’ll always love this book for the sentimental value behind it, there are some issues behind it.

Let’s get started!

The Water Wars: 2.99999/5

For some reason, giving this book a 3 just doesn’t feel right, especially after giving Matched a 3.5 in my last review. There are a few key issues that I had that are keeping me from bumping it up there. However, I don’t feel like it deserves a 2 or 2.5. It’s just floating in the space between those two ratings.

One of the main issues I had with The Water Wars was just how many characters and settings there were. I get that it was an adventurous dystopian novel, but we go almost everywhere, from Vera’s home in Illinowa all to Niagra Falls in Canada, which has pretty much dried up. Along the way, we also meet a variety of characters, such as Will, Vera, and boyfriend Kai, along with pirates, members of environmental organizations, and plenty more underdeveloped characters, none of whom are entirely memorable. The many settings and characters make it kind of hard to remember who’s who, or why that person is doing a certain thing. It’s also kind of hard to get attached to certain characters. I can’t even remember the name of the woman Vera and Kai meet in the water after their escape near the end of the book, even though she’s a major part in Kai’s rescue. All I could tell you is that Vera remarked that her violet eyes were trustworthy. Yippee.

Anyway, the book was quite fast paced. There were few dull moments, with tones of action. Of course, that also leads to the lack of enough character development. With so many new people introduced so often, you can barely get a grasp on them before the plot moves on and leaves them behind. I think of everyone we meet along aside from Vera, Will, and Kai, we learn the most about Ulysses, with some background info given about his beliefs and family. Other than that, not much depth is given to some characters.

This book did have it’s good points, though. It’s a very interesting concept, with the lack of water and wars being fought over water. It really makes you think about how trivial some of the modern wars can be at times. The war going on in this novel is over one of the most basic survival needs: water. Of everything to fight over, fighting over water can actually be validated. Of course, I don’t want to start a military debate, so I’ll leave it at that. The scene with Niagara falls is powerful, as you see all of the poor children who have been forced to try to find precious water in the almost completely dried up area. Also, to imagine Niagara Falls without the beautiful waterfall is almost terrifying. What would the world have come to by the time that happens?

All-in-all, I feel like The Water Wars is worth a read if you like the idea of a water-deprived world and don’t mind a lot of different settings, characters, and motivations to keep track of. I think that if you just sit down and read the book in one or two sittings, it wouldn’t be as confusing. Flaws aside, it’s a good adventure dystopia that leaves you wanting to read more about what happens next. I don’t know if there will be a sequel, but I’m hoping for one.

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

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As a teen, I often struggle with making important decisions. What college will I go to? What will I major in? Should I finish this essay, or should I hang out with friends? These are just some everyday examples of decisions that we have to make.

This is a review of Matched by Ally Condie, a novel where the choices one can make are limited, but powerful.

Synopsis: *SPOILERS AHEAD*

In Matched, almost everything is decided for you. Where you work, who you love, and even when you’ll die.

At the start of the book, Cassia, our protagonist, is 17 and is just about to go to her Match Banquet, where she’ll learn who she’s been matched with. Whoever it is, that will be the man she’ll eventually come to love and marry.  However, when she stands up to watch the screen and see her match for the first time, the screen stays dark, which means that her match is actually at the same banquet as her, not in another city. Her match is actually her lifelong friend Xander, and she’s completely content with that. However, the conflict begins when Cassia checks the micro-card that is supposed to hold information on Xander, another face flashes on the screen, a boy named Ky, who is labeled as an Aberration, which is a person without privileges who has either committed an Infraction, or has parents who have.

Suddenly, Cassia is thrust into a world of choices. Should she obey the decisions of the Officials and stick with Xander, or should she follow her heart and pursue Ky? And what should she do with the illegal poems her grandfather left her? For the first time in her young life, Cassia has to make choices that will impact her life forever.


Review:

Let me start out by saying that I’m a big fan of dystopian novels. Sure, the genre might be a bit to “mainstream” at the moment, with everyone jumping on the dystopian bandwagon after successes such as The Hunger Games and Divergent, but for me, it simply means more books to read. That being said, my love of dystopian novels isn’t completely clouding my judgement on this book. It has its strong points, but it has weak points as well.

Here we go!

Matched: 3.5/5

Matched pretty much falls in line with other Dystopian novels when it comes to the idea of the government (in this case, the Society and it’s powerful officials) controlling the citizens. It kind of follows some tropes commonly seen in dystopian fiction, with the fact that Cassia is shown a new way of life by an outsider with Ky helping her with memorizing the poems, teaching her how to write, and encouraging her to make her own choices, and of course, Cassia is one of the few people who dares to make her own choices, such as when she is forced to Ky at work, or her decision to choose Ky over Xander… which brings us to another trope, the ever popular love triangle!

Tropes aside, Matched is still a good read. There are some pretty interesting rules in the Society, such as the Anomalies and Aberrations, and the characters were pretty realistic. You can really see Cassia start to change throughout the story, going from the girl who obeys all the rules, to the girl who takes charge of her own life and makes her own decisions. I feel bad for Xander, though! At the end of the novel, he’s still dedicated to helping Cassia, and still wants to be with her, but she’s got her heart set on Ky. I guess that’s that just the fate of a love triangle, though.

One thing I loved in this book was the inclusion of poems, most notably the Dylan Thomas poem, Do Not Go Gentle, which is actually one of my favorite poems. (Like Cassia, I have it memorized!) In a society where poetry, art, and music are limited to the point of their only being 100 of each, the inclusion of a black market for such things was a great addition by the author, as it shows that Cassia, Ky, and Cassia’s Grandfather aren’t the only ones disobeying Society and the Officials by reading and selling these illegal poems, and that there’s dissent through all of the cities and provinces.

All in all, I’d recommend this book. While this one might be your standard, choice-based dystopian novel, the sequels are where things begin to change. Crossed is split up into the point of views of Cassia and Ky, and Reached is split up between Cassia, Ky, and Xander. While some people don’t like the split POVs, I feel that they all worked to create a multidimensional story, and to further characterize the story. Also, there are really big plot twists in each, as you learn more and more about the characters, Society, and the rebellion against it. Maybe I’ll do a review of those books soon.

I’d give it a 3.5/5 for being a bit stereotypically dystopian, but with solid characters and a good set up for the books to come.