Backlist Bonus: The Dark and Hollow Places

8535273by Carrie Ryan
YA Dystopian
2 of 5 stars

This is much better than the previous book but Gabry’s sister Annah still has a bit of an issue taking charge of her own life. The twins were separated in the Forest of Hands and Teeth and now that the Dark City has largely fallen to the Horde, Annah is alone waiting for Elias to come back for her.

Annah considers herself the ugly twin because of the barbed wire scars across her face, and much of her story is spent lamenting her appearance and how it will prevent anyone from having feelings for her. A bit much to worry about in a world of the undead where it’s difficult to survive, but priorities. But before Elias returns, Annah meets someone new: Catcher, tied to everyone and everything she wants to forget about the past but who sees more than her scars or “Gabry’s sister” when he looks at her.

This is much darker and bleaker than the previous books and really draws you into the depression humanity feels, knowing it’s on the brink of obliteration. We see more of the shattered infrastructure of America, and the group feels more and more desperation to escape—despite the fact that a safe place to escape to might not exist. Aside from a haphazard scheme at the end (which completely departs from reality) this one is better paced and written than its predecessor. Just wasn’t exactly fun to read.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Dark and Hollow Places is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion – The only zombie book I enjoyed, probably because there’s more wry humor than dark introspection about Earth’s fate. “R” lost most of his memories when he became undead, but Julie stirs something in him he thought was lost forever.
  • Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis – Not exactly zombies, but Maren’s ability to consume anyone who loves her—bones and all—has all the gore and chills you’d expect. When her mother abandons her, Maren seeks out her estranged father, trying to find out why she is a monster. See my review here.
  • Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan – A departure from dystopian but a story of revenge by the same author that had me turning the pages until the end. Francis survived a cruise ship disaster that took her best friend’s life, but she has a plan to dispense justice for those responsible. See my review here.
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Backlist Bonus: Mockingjay

mockingjayby Suzanne Collins
YA Dystopian
2 of 5 stars

This is an interesting case where my star rating isn’t for flaws in the book itself. This was not an enjoyable book to read, but only because it was so good. The final chapter in this trilogy is so realistically bleak there is no way to enjoy reading it. It’s dark, depressing, and gray. While I think it’s admirable to show what all these drastic, revolution/post-apocalypse/political-manipulation-machine stories would actually be like, it was like reading 1984. It’s good to have it checked off your list but you never need to read it again. My current rating scale would give this 3 stars, but I feel weird changing my Goodreads rating after the fact. I know, I’m weird.

We’ve spent hundreds of pages reading about Katniss. Her goals, her struggle to survive, her place in a world that is clearly more complex than she first thought. I cared about Katniss–I did not want to see her utterly destroyed as a person. “The girl on fire” who was burnt to ashes. Unfortunately, she’s the Mockingjay, not a phoenix. The capable, clever, determined girl from the first two books is reduced to a shivering, irrational creature suffering from intense PTSD and essentially paralyzed. These are all reactions I’d expect in a person coming off of two rounds of the Hunger Games–but it doesn’t fit the tone of the previous books and it’s a sucker-punch to the reader. It’s as if you were watching a Disney movie and suddenly the princess is actually reacting to being locked up/asleep for years instead of smiling and riding off with the prince.

Political and physical battles span the length of the book, but unlike the film we don’t get much perspective on Panem since Katniss isn’t very involved. Lots of death, lots of trauma, lots of moralizing on how each government regime eventually becomes what it fought against. True, but unpleasant. So although it’s definitely interesting to read the trilogy and experience Katniss’ complete journey, in my opinion this doesn’t have the re-readability of the first two books.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Mockingjay is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Allegiant by Veronica Roth – Another depressing end to a dystopian trilogy, but that series was my favorite after this one. In my opinion, another instance of the first two books being better, but book three is polarizing.
  • The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan – This trilogy about the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse started strong, had a rough middle, and then ended on a slightly weird/uplifting note. Again, I felt this was the most realistic of the three (in terms of perspective) and your level of enjoyment will depend on whether that suits you.

Backlist Bonus: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

15749186by Jenny Han
YA Contemporary
2 of 5 stars
Book 1 of a duology

This is a cute premise, and certain parts felt very Boy Meets World to me, but overall it’s probably not worth the time if you have a long to-read list. The characters are flat and the plot barely involves the letters, or much of anything else, unfortunately. It has a middle grade voice trying to convince you Lara Jean is 16 and not 11. It’s obvious from page 30 who sent the letters, but Lara Jean literally never wonders how they got out there, and is nonchalant about how it screwed with her life once she does find out at the very end. Actually, she never sticks up for herself, come to think of it.

There’s so much to work with here, and I feel like the author barely scratched the surface of it. Lara Jean is half-Korean in a white school. She could have had actual relationships with her older and younger sister. She could have a real friendship with her only female “friend” Chris (who is portrayed as a “slut,” so I’m not sure how they stayed friends for long since they have little in common, but that’s a separate issue).

If you pretend Lara Jean is younger, this could be a good summer read for a day or two. Since there is one sequel planned I will probably check it out this summer just to see if Lara Jean or any of the other characters experience a significant character arc. I have a feeling I’ll be less disappointed now that I know what to expect (i.e. a middle-grade novel, not YA). I happen to love the cover art for both books, for whatever that’s worth.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith – Hadley Sullivan meets Oliver (a Brit) on her flight to England for her father’s second wedding to a woman she’s never met. The story follows twenty-four hours in Hadley’s life that might change her future.
  • Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan – Told through dual narration, Nick and Norah meet at a chance concert and spend a crazy twenty-four hours together in New York City trying to find their favorite band’s secret show, and falling in love along the way.

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