random house

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Title: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline

Publisher: Random House

Date Published: August 16th 2011

Format: Paperback {own}

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I had been reluctant to read this book for so long. My husband and brother have been recommending this to me nonstop for the past year, and even though it sounded perfect for me, I was reluctant to take the plunge. Sometimes when people recommend things to you so much, you are afraid that you won’t like it or that you’ll somehow be disappointed. I’m beyond glad to say that this was not the case with Ready Player One. This book lives up to all it’s much deserved hype and it not only met my expectations, it exceeded them!

Wade Watts is a about to graduate from high school and his life isn’t going too great. It’s 2044 and the world is an ugly place. The only place that he, and most of the world, feel alive is inside the virtual world of OASIS. Everything for him happens inside his headset, including school and meeting friends. He hasn’t known much of a life outside of OASIS and has spent the majority of his childhood obsessed with finding clues to the secret the creator, James Halliday, left inside the game. In his will, Halliday promised that whoever solves the puzzles will inherit the company, which means control over OASIS and becoming a multi-billionaire. Halliday was an 80’s nut and completely obsessed with video games and geeky pop culture. The hunt for clues has stalled and everyone thinks that nothing will ever be found, but one day under-leveled Wade finds a clue. This turns everything on its head and the race ramps up. During the competition Wade finds out that there are big forces going after this prize and more than OASIS is at stake.

I’m a big 80’s nut and complete geek, anyone who knows me in real life can definitely attest to this. 😛 I’m the child of two 80’s obsessed parents, so my childhood consisted of a steady diet of John Hughes, action/scifi films, and 80’s songs. And while these references are entertaining and it’s amusing when you know exactly what obscure movie moment they’re referring to, it’s not what’s best about this book. Ready Player One manages to balance heart and brain better than most other scifi/dystopian titles. It’s very clever, but it doesn’t revel in its own intelligence. There are many different references that I didn’t understand at all (like specifics about old arcade games), but it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of those moments. Wade beating a game of Pac-Man is actually amusing to read about, which if you’ve ever watched anyone play it that’s pretty impressive. Even if we’ve never cared about beating Pac-Man that much, we can all relate to trying prove yourself better than the rest, whether it’s in a game or in real life.

The stakes always felt very high in this book. Many times with these types of stories you never really feel anxious for these players. Like, if they don’t make it, they’ll still be fine in the end. Cline does an excellent job of ramping up the consequences for the characters’ actions as the story goes on. It’s not a story about saving the world from Sauron or anyone who’s going to blow the planet to smithereens, but while you’re reading you do feel like if the protagonists don’t come out on top, many bad things would happen to them and to society.

Cover Critique: I really like this cover for the book and the original one. They both share the title in a huge font, spanning basically the entire cover. It makes for a striking and memorable image. The original is a little more graphic, since it is just yellow words on a red background. But that combination of colors has never been my favorite and makes the book look a little more dated, which considering the 80’s fest, is probably intentional. The cover I used on the post is the one I have, and I really like the illustration. It’s really well done and easily shows you just how bad the world outside this game is.

Quick Version: Ready Player One is an extremely entertaining book that you can easily read in a couple of days. It’s quick-paced and funny, and also makes you care so much for its cast of unique characters. While it does help to be a fan of 80’s pop culture and/or video games to get into it, the book does a good job of explaining these topics enough that you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy the novel.

Score: 5/5 stars 😎

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Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon 

 

18692431Title: Everything, Everything

Author: Nicola Yoon

Publisher: Delacorte Press [imprint of Penguin Random House]

Date Published: September 1, 2015

Format: ARC {Received in exchange of a fair review}

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When I started this book I really thought I would enjoy it. It is sweet, charming, and has a unique story to tell. But about halfway through the book, a series of twists and plot developments left me sorely disappointed. I’m not going to spoil what happens, but the story just becomes increasingly cliché and unrealistic—especially after the so-perfect, yet oh so forbidden, love interest is introduced.

Madeline is not allowed to leave her home—severe allergies that were discovered when she was an infant have kept her cooped up for most of her 17 years. She’s basically a “bubble boy” and fills her days reading books, taking online classes, and hanging out with her mom and nurse, who are the only two people she has regular contact with. One day she glances out the window and sees a family moving in next door. Last time the neighbors left, it really devastated her, so she promises herself she won’t get too attached. Then she sees Olly. He only wears black, because of course that’s what brooding boys do. They begin talking over email and IM, but eventually that is not enough for them. They want to meet in real life, but Madeline knows that’s a slippery slope.

Their romance is too syrupy sweet for me. Writing limericks and haikus to each other somewhat ironically and stuff like that. It was only as the novel progressed that it got to be too much for me. I really dislike where the plot went and I went from enjoying the book, to being completely disappointed in the span of a few pages. I feel like Madeline went from being a character with potential charm and personality, to one that was making all these outrageous decisions without much founding. Later in the novel, Yoon gives a reason for these, but I felt that this twist cheapened the plot and relationships in the novel. It seemed to be a plot device thrown in so she could get the ending she wanted, rather than what would make the most interesting story.

Cover Critique: The cover for Everything, Everything is gorgeous. I love the white with the colorful pencil drawings outlining the text. It looks like a special book and I can imagine it’ll inspire many readers to pick it up.

Quick Version: After a promising start, I was left disappointed by Everything, Everything. What was initially charming about the novel began to grate on me, especially after some plot choices I found pretty questionable. I do admit that I am not the audience for this book, stories about sick teens have never been my favorites, but I had high hopes for this one. Yoon is an excellent writer and even though I was not a fan of this one, I look forward to what she does in the future.

Score: 2/5 stars

The Here and Now, Ann Brashares

Title: The Here and Now

Author: Ann Brashares

Publisher: Delacorte Press, imprint of Random House

Date Published: April 8, 2014

Format: ARC—received in exchange for a fair review

 

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Prenna is a teenager from the future. Her world was ravaged by a mosquito-borne plague and an environmental disaster. She has come to the present, with a large group of people from her time,  to escape this world and find a way to change the bleak future. This group is not really all that great, though. They are more of a cult creating a set of rigid rules for all from this group to live by. One of these rules is that there cannot be any relationships with “time-natives” (people from the present)— and OF COURSE this rule is going to be a major issue.

I am a big fan of time-travel stories. It’s one of my favorite things to read or watch. I do like it when they make some sense scientifically, but mostly that doesn’t even matter. I just want it read a great story with well-developed and likable characters. Brashares’s The Here and Now did not do any of those things for me.

The science in this book is awful. They never even try to explain how they went back in time— or how some other random people not in the group managed to get back as well. We are also expected to believe that about 80 years from now the world has changed so completely that a Dengue-like disease has almost completely eradicated humanity. Let’s not think about how Dengue is a very curable disease even with little to no fancy medical treatment, *sigh.* Also, people’s pronunciation of American English managed to completely change in this time as well. So much that when they arrived in the present they had to learn how to make the “th” sound. :/ Really? If you go back 80 years from today I doubt that language would be all that different. When you watch films from then you are not struggling to understand what people are saying, so why would that be the case in the future?

Now to the actual story, and it doesn’t get any better here. It starts off strong and has an interesting premise, but once you get to the middle it just falls apart. There is no real conflict and we spend a lot of time with our protagonists playing cards, trying on bathing suits, and going to the beach. When we finally get to the climax of the novel, it doesn’t even matter to you. Prenna’s voice is so dull that she makes everything boring.

I had a major issue with the romance in this book. It is total insta-love between Prenna and Ethan. Their relationship has no depth. They just mope around, play cards, and talk about how much they love each other and how much it sucks that they can’t be together. Ethan just loves her from the moment he lays eyes on her and has some unexplained special abilities to be able to see when people are from the future. He is just so super perfect and does everything right. He is handsome, understanding, a physics genius, and also a master hacker. Prenna is supposed to be really smart, too, but you never see it. She is so inept and if it weren’t for Ethan, she would not accomplish a thing.

Cover Critique: The cover is eye-catching. The colors are very pretty and I like what they did with all the triangles (random fact about me: I really like triangles, for no reason in particular). The girl’s face takes away from this and makes it look too much like a corny, YA book— but seeing as it is one of those, I guess it’s appropriate.

Quick Version: A time-travel, YA book that starts off strong and falls to pieces. The plot is poorly constructed and the characters are weak and underdeveloped.

2/5 stars 😡