What Annie Read: All Fall Down Book Review

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All Fall Down by Ally Carter
Published July 20th, 2015
Scholastic Press

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Goodreads Synopsis: 

A new series of global proportions — from master of intrigue, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter.

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her — so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace — no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

This review, like all my reviews, is spoiler-free.

When I received this book in the mail and so how tiny it was, I made a bet with my mom on whether or not I could finish it in one day.  Let’s just say she’s out a few dollars.

As aforementioned, the size was what struck me first and maybe this was for the worse.  I set my mind to devouring this book in a matter of hours (three hours to be exact), so I think I missed some of the witty charm that makes an Ally Carter book something special.

With that said, the book left something to be desired in all accounts.  It wasn’t poorly executed or poorly planned, but the quality of the book was about eighty-five percent of what I expected.  I imagined hard-hitting political drama (or as hard-hitting as young adult political drama can be) and characters with snark and sass and years of global education under their belts.  This book may not have exceeded my expectations, but it did get pretty close.

The characters felt a bit recycled from what Carter has written in the past.  I’ve read both her Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series multiple times (they’re my go-to’s when I’m in a slump) and I found tenants of her past characters in almost every major All Fall Down character.  I saw Gabrielle in protagonist Grace, Cammie Morgan in Meghan, Josh in Noah, Zach Goode in Alexei, Liz in Rosie, and many more cross-character similarities that made for a pretty confusing reading experience.

Grace was a well-developed character… with a few flaws.  Her reputation as the crazy daughter of Caroline Blakely, daughter of the American ambassador to the fictional Adria, was supposed to proceed her, but it didn’t.  For the girl who was supposed to be alone and lonely, she had a surprising amount of trusting friends.  It seemed too good to be true, as I’m sure it is.  I’m totally expecting her life to hit the fan in the second book.  Nothing is that perfect, even in book world.

My final bone to pick with this book is about the pacing, and I promise I’ll be brief: I felt that every plot point ended two pages too short.  I was left wanting more, but not in the edge-of-my-seat way.  Rather, I wanted more because the chapter felt unfinished.

Okay, let’s talk about what I liked after all that negativity.  The book was, overall, enjoyable and terribly entertaining.  Reading this was like walking down my proverbial middle school memory lane when I couldn’t be caught dead without an Ally Carter book in my hand.  (Who am I kidding–I still couldn’t be caught dead without an Ally Carter book in my hand).  Everything I love about her books was present.  The dialogue was sharp and witty, the characters had some spunk to them that was reminiscent of real life, and the plot was unique and intriguing.  Like with all her books before, Carter made me want to throw away my life and become the granddaughter of an international ambassador in some beautiful made-up European country.  Is that too much for a girl to ask?

Have you read All Fall Down?  What did you think of this book?

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Finally, I’ve a Q&A post coming up, so give me some questions in the comments or on my Twitter and I’ll give you some answers!

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What Annie Read: Eleanor and Park Book Review

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Goodreads Synopsis:


Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park… He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

I rated Eleanor and Park 5/5 stars.

For a reason that I cannot quite explain, I was skeptical about this book.  I had absolutely no reason to be, but I was nonetheless.  Maybe the hype was a little too much for me and my cynical side made me think that the book wasn't worth the hype.  I really don't know.

Regardless, this book blew my expectations out of the water.  For this first time in a long time, I was uncomfortable.  Every word, every sentence was pure poetry so it wasn't an unpleasant reading experience, but this book pushed my boundaries and forced me to fall in love with an awkward teenage romance that was doomed from the start.  I had to imagine the main characters for who they were: an awkward, self-proclaimed "fat girl" with red hair and a random sense of style, and a skinny, short Asian-American boy who likes to wear eyeliner.  I had to embrace them for their quirks in the same way that they embraced each other and not dreamcast them to be "prettier" than they were.

The strengths in this book lie in the characters themselves.  Eleanor and Park, our leading gal and guy, were phenomenal.  (When I was writing this, I actually had to pause and think about a word I could use that would capture the explosiveness of their character development.  That's how phenomenal they were.)   They were so well-defined while also so ambiguous that they might honestly be some of my favorite characters.  Ever.  Do you know how many books I've read?  Saying that they're some of my favorites really means something.

What I also loved about Eleanor & Park was the reality in their intertwined stories.  There was no sugar-coating here: the story was raw and real and painful and beautiful and a million different adjectives at a million different times.  When Rowell wanted us to root for them, she crafted the story so we would root for them.  When Rowell wanted us to scream with frustration, she crafted the story so we would scream with frustration.  Every word was purposeful and carried a palpable intention.

As aforementioned, the plot made me uncomfortable in the best way possible.  I love me a contemporary novel, but I prefer to stick to books that I know will have a happy ending, or at least a comfortable resolution.  I had no such luck with this book and that was okay with me.  I felt that the plot had an ease about it that just made sense.  With this natural flow, we sometimes entered treacherous waters filled with bitter realities, but I didn't mind.  The plot was a reflection of, get this, life.  In this reflection, I found so much beauty and fulfillment that I wouldn't have experienced had the plot been filled with fluff.

Overall, this book was a knockout.  If you have a pulse and want to read a fabulous book, this one is for you.  Eleanor & Park is a book of the highest caliber and I'm sure I'll be ranting about its fabulousness for a long, long time.

Have you read Eleanor & Park?  What did you think of it?

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What Annie Read: Me Before You Book Review

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Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Published December 31st 2012
Pamela Dorman Books/Viking

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Louisa Clark is an ordinary young woman living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A love story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Review:

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is part of the pop culture vernacular: everyone knows the blockbuster movie that brought entire theaters to tears.  This book and its movie are probably best known for the ending that feels like a knife in the gut, but there is so much in between the bouts of heartwrenching sadness.

In this book, quirky, awkwardly confident Louisa Clark is fired from her job and takes a post caring for Will Traynor, a wildly successful businessman and daredevil turned quadriplegic.  Will is set on ending his life via assisted suicide and Louisa, the ever-cheerful and annoyingly optimistic, is his parents’ last attempt at changing his mind.

For such a heavy premise, the book was surprisingly light and airy.  From the first page, the banter and wit of Moyes’s cast of characters was enough to plaster a stupid smile to my face.  The relationships are rich and realistic and mirror life in a family just trying to scrape together enough pennies to pay rent and fill the fridge.

In the same frame of mind, the dynamic between Will and Louisa was entirely believable.  In books I’ve read where Little Miss Sunshine is sent to brighten up the grumbly grump’s life, I thought that the change in the grumbly grump’s personality was quite unrealistic.  I mean, really, can one person change that much?  Me Before You answers the question with confidence: yes, they can, and Louisa Clark can make it happen.  Will’s development as a character was perfectly timed and so well done.

What I loved most about this book was Louisa’s narrative voice.  She’s twenty-six (I think), unemployed at the beginning of the book, and sees no respite in sight because she didn’t go to college and is unqualified for several of the well-paying positions.  Despite her lack of higher education, Louisa is so smart.  She looks at life with an intelligence that is engrained, not adopted.  She may not have a college degree on her resume, but her wit and sense of benevolence place her way above the curve.

Overall, this book was a long, resounding yes.  Moyes handled the sad parts with grace and the happy parts with joy and everything was just yes.  I would recommend this book to anyone.  If you are reading this post, then you should read this book.  It was that stellar.

Have you read Me Before You?  How do my thoughts compare to yours?

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What Annie Read: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Book Review

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Published April 15th 2014
Simon & Schuster

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Goodreads Synopsis:

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?
Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved–five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

My Review:

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han is the story of Lara Jean, the middle sister of the Covey family.  Lara Jean has written a letter to every boy she’s ever loved (five in total) and stores them in a hatbox, which was given to her by her late mother.  One day, for reasons unknown, the letters are sent, sending Lara Jean into a tailspin.  However, Lara Jean maximizes on this unlikely opportunity: she makes a pact with Peter Kavinsky, one of the boys who received a letter, to fake-date in order to Peter’s ex Genevieve and Lara Jean’s crush Josh madly jealous.

When I picked up the book, I wasn’t entirely sure what it was going to be about.  Everything I’d read about it seemed cloudy: the blurb, the synopsis, the reviews.  They didn’t seem to give any indication about the book’s subject matter other than Lara Jean and her tendency to write letters.  Going into this book with no premonition was annoying and, at the same time, refreshing.  I got to see this book for what it was.

With that said, I felt that the beginning was rather slow.  Maybe my fresh perspective compounded this phenomenon in that I kept waiting for something major to happen before realizing that To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before wasn’t terribly structured in the first place.  It took me a while to get interested because the plot seemed to wander without purpose, waiting to stumble upon something that would stick.  Something stuck eventually, but it took about forty pages too long.

The rest of the book was fairly well-paced, but retained some of that aimless feeling.  We ended up where we needed to be, but the way we got there was willy-nilly and the proverbial scaffolding, the reasons why we took this path, were flimsy at best.  It didn’t seem logical that quirky-cute Lara Jean would throw herself into the arms of the school’s grade-A jerk only to make Josh, who had also dated Lara Jean’s older sister Margot, jealous.

However, I did enjoy reading about the characters.  There was ample variation between the characters and they each had their defining idiosyncrasies, making them feel like real people instead of cardboard cutouts or paper dolls.  I liked Lara Jean’s narrative voice in particular, especially when she described life with two sisters.  I have a sister myself and I can personally attest that life with a sister is as random and weird and wonderful as it sounds.

The dialogue was somewhere in between stellar and awful; it covered the whole spectrum.  Some conversations were charming and reflective of how high schoolers communicate, but others were forced and unrealistic.  Some dialogue made me want to cringe while some dialogue was the highlight of its respective scene.

Overall, I enjoyed this book for its unique plot, dynamic characters and relatively accurate portrayal of life as a high school girl who accidentally confessed her love to a bunch of teenage boys.  Despite its few shortcomings, I would recommend this book as an easy, heartwarming read to anyone who loves contemporary, romance, young adult, or any combination of the three.

Have you read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before?  What did you think of it?

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What Annie Read: Glass Sword Book Review

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Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard, the second book in the Red Queen series, tells the story of Mare Barrow: a girl who straddles the divide that is tearing her country apart.  She bears the strange ability to conjure and control lightning, an ability akin to the Silver-blooded nobility, but her blood is red like the common people beside whom she was raised.  After a betrayal from someone she trusted most (I won’t say who because spoilers suck), Mare is on the run with the Scarlet Guard, who seek to start a rebellion and close the divide between Silver and Red.  Charged with seeking out and saving those like her, red-blooded with Silver abilities, Mare scours the nation with her merry band of thieves, cast-down captains, and a dethroned prince.

What I loved about this book was that it improved upon the first book in the series (you can read my review of Red Queen here).  While I thoroughly enjoyed Red Queen, I knew it would be difficult to surpass.  However uncharacteristic to such a trilogy, Glass Sword did the almost impossible: it matched, if not excelled beyond, the first book in the series.

What made this book so remarkable for me was that Aveyard showed how the characters suffered from acts of rebellion and bloodshed, especially the protagonist Mare.  She has her moments of strength, of weakness, of certainty and doubt.  She questions herself, asks if the end is worth the means.  She is scared of how she has changed and how she will continue to change.  There was not a static character in sight and Mare was a prime example.

Another aspect I thoroughly enjoyed was Aveyard’s writing itself.  Her descriptions are unique and accurate, dripping with phrases that sound more like poetry than prose.  She plays with words in Glass Sword, exploiting double meanings and foreshadowing like the best of them.  Her diction is purposeful.  No letter goes to waste; every word packs a punch.

The plot flowed and was interesting, but the pacing was a little funky.  I felt like we were constantly seesawing in between slow motion and fast forward: thirty minutes would last for chapters and an entire month would be covered in little more than a paragraph.  Maybe this was a function of Mare’s perceptions: the moments that stuck with her were going to stick with us, the readers, and Aveyard made sure of that.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  While it was not my favorite novel in the world, it was far from my least favorite and I would certainly recommend it to other readers.  I gave Glass Sword 4/5 stars on Goodreads and cannot wait to pick up King’s Cage, the next book in the series.

Have you read Glass Sword?  What did you think?  Let me know in the comments and check out Annie Likes Words on Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Wattpad

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What Annie Read: Rosemarked Book Review

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To start off, I want to give a birthday shoutout to my good old friend THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA for turning 241 today (full disclosure: I had to Google “how old is America” in order to write that sentence but nonetheless let’s party)!  *runs around waving a flag and shouting The Star-Spangled Banner*  Let’s celebrate with a book review, shall we?

Before we get started, I wanted to ask for your help: I’m planning a little Q&A to celebrate 250 followers (yay!) so leave some questions in the comments, on my Twitter, or send me a message using the form on my Get in Touch page and I’ll tell y’all what you want to know!

When I joined NetGalley about a month ago, this was one of the first books that I requested and I was so excited to see that I’d received an ARC for review.  I thought the cover was gorgeous, the synopsis was enticing, and the reviews were stellar.  I have to give an unpaid thank you to Disney Book Group for letting me get a sneak peek at this fabulous read!

Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne is a story told by two narrators: Zivah, a healer who’s contracted the lethal rose plague, and Dineas, a rebel fighter looking to take down the empire that threatens to overtake his homeland.  Zivah and Dineas are tasked by their respective leaders to work together in gathering intel about the Amparan Empire.

What stood out to me first was Blackburne’s method of world-building.  Throughout the book in its entirety, our two narrators developed the world in a way that was seamless and natural.  Based on Blackburne’s word choices and use of dialogue, I felt like I was seeing this fantasy(ish) world through its inhabitants’s eyes and I enjoyed it.  There was not a data dump in sight: I as a reader was given pieces of the world as Zivah and Dineas observed it in a way that was normal to them.

When I looked up this book on Goodreads, almost every review raved about the slow-burning romance between Zivah and Dineas.  I have to jump on the bandwagon here because I think the romance was done right in the context of the book.  I’d hate to spoil it for you, so I’ll just leave it at this: Blackburne did well in my humble opinion.

While there were a few clichés sprinkled throughout, I didn’t think that they were prominent enough to detract from the book’s summative originality.  The atypical romance subplot, stellar world-building, unique main plot, and dynamic character relationships made up for the fact that Zivah was a little one-sided.  Dineas showed a clear character progression, but Zivah was somewhere in between static and dynamic.

My only other criticism is the naming.  Personally, I prefer to know how to pronounce my character’s names, but I understand the need for originality.  Other than that, I was pretty pleased with the book as a whole and consider it a worthwhile read.

So that’s it!  You can preorder a copy of Rosemarked here or snatch one off the shelves when it’s released on November 7, 2017.  And don’t forget to check out my Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Wattpad, and Spotify to spread the social media love ❤

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What Annie Read: The Handmaid’s Tale Book Review

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is… well, if you’ve come out from under your respective rocks anytime in the past few months, then you know what this book is about.  The television show on Hulu is all the rage and has received only the highest praise while the book has become mainstream in a short amount of time.  In the fascist Republic of Gilead, Offred is a handmaid to the Commander and his barren wife and she is responsible for bearing them a child.  As you can imagine, forcing a woman into surrogacy because her ovaries are viable isn’t exactly the life Offred pictured.

I hate to be this kind of person, but I had my eye on The Handmaid’s Tale long before it trended on Twitter.  I’ve read a lot of young-adult, teeny-bopper dystopian fiction and the idea of reading a big girl version enticed me.

After reading the book, I can say without a doubt that The Handmaid’s Tale is the mother of dystopia as we know it.  Everything about it is crisp and unique, even in a time when you can’t take two steps without tripping over a book set in the future.

What made this book so fresh was that it was entirely plausible.  As we can learn from our history textbooks, misery parties form on the outskirts of society and gain strength until they can come into the limelight and take back what is not-so-rightfully theirs.  Either through intention or happenstance, people are divided into haves, have-nots, and have-nothings and have false beliefs pounded into them.  These are the stories of our forefathers and their forefathers.  These are the stories of our history.

Atwood was wise to exploit this ugly side to our existence because it weaves a tale that is too close for comfort.  I’ve read on several platforms that the release of the Hulu show, which has drummed up interest for the book, is “timely” because of America’s current political climate.

I beg to differ.  This book foreshadows a grim future based on my country’s place in history.  The Handmaid’s Tale has always been timely because it is a tale of belittlement and unfair classification based on the state of a woman’s ovaries.  The Handmaid’s Tale is not a cautionary tale about giving the wrong people the right power at the right time.

Rather, this book is about doing the most good for the most people.  This book is about the morals of making things better.  Better should mean better for as many people as it can.  Better should mean action without the intension to self-preserve.  Better should mean recognizing problems and fixing them: nothing more, nothing less.

Have you read or watched The Handmaid’s Tale?  Let me know your thoughts and let’s chat.  And don’t forget to head over to my Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Wattpad to show some social media love ❤

XO, Annie

What Annie Read: Everything, Everything Book Review

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Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything is a book that I’ve been looking forward to reading for a  long, long time.  I’ve heard a lot of hype about how absolutely wonderful Nicola Yoon‘s first novel is in addition to obsessively watching the movie trailer once or twice (more like seven times).  So when I picked up this book a few days ago and began my most recent read, I was expecting the literary equivalent of a firework show.

What I got was soft and slow at first.  Madeline Whittier, eighteen-year-old girl diagnosed with a horrible disease known as SCID: in short, Madeline is allergic to an immense amount of stimuli, so much so that she appears to be allergic to everything.  She met her first trigger when she was a baby in an episode that almost ended her short life and since then, she has not left her house per her mother’s orders.

Madeline is content with her condition and her life… until a handsome problem dressed in black moves into the house next door.  Even though they have never spoken due to Maddy’s unconditional house arrest, Olly Bright quickly takes an interest in Maddy, reaching out to her over IM and forming a friendship that quickly evolves into something that is friendlier than friendship (if you know what I mean).  Maddy and Olly’s conversations over IM and their first face-to-face interactions are sweet enough to give you cavities.  Given the circumstances, everything between our two young lovebirds seems to be going swimmingly.

But as we all know when it comes to love, we all want a mile even when we are given only an inch.  Fleeting glances and swift kisses are not enough for Maddy and Olly, so she throws caution to the wind and decides to pursue what fuels her happiness with unabashed determination.  Maddy leaves her hospital-grade filters and air-locked doors in the dust.  She books two tickets to Hawaii, rescues her prince from his abusive father, and flies off into the sunset.  Is it stupid?  Probably.  Is it romantic? Definitely.

If a girl is allergic to literally everything and has not been outside since she was an infant, you can probably imagine what happens next.  After their blissful yet short-lived escape ends in catastrophe, Madeline is zipped up into her airtight container and Olly’s family moves away.  The red curtain appears to close as violins play a sad song… but then something changes.

I won’t disclose the nature of this change because spoilers are mean, but I would recommend wearing a seatbelt when reading this INSANE plot twist.  It gets pretty gnarly.  There may have been tears shed.

Despite the seriously intense (and possibly cruel) twist of fate at the end, something magical happened as I read this book.  There’s something about the juxtaposition of the characters and the unwavering passion of young love that reminded me that some things are worth being stupid for.  Some things are beautiful and otherworldly and misunderstood and boxed in by the menial declarations that we make in regards to what is right and what is wrong.

Every once in a while, something so magnificent comes along that it can’t be comprehended in full from our current perspective.  Every once in a while, we have to break out of our own walls and capture beauty for beauty’s sake.  Every once in a while, we stumble upon a situation in which we must think with our hearts in lieu of our brains.  We all have one chance to see what our world looks like, so why not take the risk and see everything, everything?

XO, Annie

What Annie Read: Red Queen Book Review

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Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but I think that breaking this unwritten reading rule is certainly acceptable when it comes to Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.  As depicted above, the cover is relatively plain: a simple silver crown overturned, dripping with what appears to be blood.

The simplicity of the cover speaks to the nature of the book: Mare Barrow, protagonist, pickpocket, and peasant because of the red color of her blood.  Mare Barrow, living in a world divided between the Silver elite, named because their blood is colored silver, and the Red lower class.  Mare Barrow, whose life is capsized when she discovers a secret ability that is only found in those who have Silver blood even though hers is red.  You can imagine that this presents a few problems.

It’s a basic idea: teenage girl who has a semi-illegal job discovers that she is extraordinary in some way, shape, or form.  However, I’ve read a lot of peasant-turned-princess fiction lately and I think that this one brings something new to the table.  There is of course the supernatural abilities that everyone wants and no one has as well as the inevitable love triangle, but none of these aspects feel dated or overused.  Aveyard keeps the reader’s attention sharper than a razor by twisting the plot in directions that were unforeseeable and often unforgivable, but then she presents an entire new set of details that neutralize the pH and balance out the situation just long enough to make the reader comfortable… and then she throws something else at you.  The only constant is change.

I think that this ideal sums up the book as a whole.  Mare is ripped from her world because of her abilities, forced to leave behind the family that she loved and the impoverished town that she grew to appreciate.  She is taken from a world where any movement is groundbreaking to a palace where you can either hunt or be hunted and “cutthroat” is everyone’s favorite word.

Mare’s reaction to change is what drives the plot.  When Aveyard skillfully adds a new facet to the situation, Mare copes or flees or sometimes does a little bit of both.  She is representative of what we would do in these situations, what we would do for the people back home watching on their televisions and wishing us luck.  She represents the ties that we always have to the places from where we came, the places and the people that forced us to grow roots out of necessity or out of desire.  Mare teaches us that we are no more than an accumulation of our experiences and, no matter what the world tries to turn us into, we simply are who we are.

XO, Annie