Review: Once Every Never

Once Every Never
Lesley Livingston
Penguin Canada
2011
978-0143177951

Clarinet Reid’s boring trip to visit her aunt Maggie in London turns out to be anything but when a close encounter with an ancient artifact sends her spiraling back in time. As Clare, her super-smart best friend Al, and hot nerd/genius Milo try to figure out how this happened, Clare becomes increasingly entangled in events of centuries past. Now, she must right a wrong and keep a priceless artifact out of the hands of a thief.

I was looking forward to reading this book after reading the Wondrous Strange trilogy. I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much, but that might be in part because of the subject matter. I prefer Shakespeare to Druids, what can I say? Still, I appreciated the sharp and funny dialogue and I enjoyed learning about the warrior queen Boudicca. The book was fairly fast-paced, with lots of action to keep things moving between Clare’s exciting time travels. Highly recommended for fans of paranormal YA who want something different from the standard vampires and werewolves.

Review: Wither

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wither
Lauren De Stefano 

2009
Simon & Schuster
978-1442409057

Rhine Ellery knows she’ll die young. That’s because a failed attempt at creating a perfect human race has instead created a virus that prevents new generations of children from ever growing old. Men live until age 25, and women until 20. Young girls are captured and forced to become brides in polygamous marriages in an effort to breed more children. While scientists are working on an antidote, there is no cure in sight. When Rhine is kidnapped and forced to wed wealthy Linden Ashby, all she can think about is running away and reuniting with her twin brother, Rowan. Rhine quickly befriends Gabriel, one of the servants, and begins to plan her escape to freedom. But her father-in-law, Vaughn, a scientist supposedly working on a cure, has other ideas. Can Rhine break away and find her way back home?

I wasn’t sure if I was ready for yet another dystopian novel, but I thought the concept sounded interesting. What I liked about this novel was the relationship Rhine develops with her other two sister-wives. All three of them have different feelings about being captured and forced into marriage, but Rhine is able to find strength in the bond she develops with them. I also liked that Linden is not an evil character but rather a naive young man who’s been manipulated by his father. This made him more likeable, and in some ways I felt sorry for him for having his father control his life. Apparently this book is the first in a trilogy. I’m not sure how it will stretch over two more books but the second book, Fever, will be out in February. I look forward to reading it.

 

 

 

 

YA Characters…Ten Years Later

                  

This year seems to be the year to revisit YA series of the past and find out what our favourite characters are up to ten years later. I recently read Sweet Valley Confidential and just finished Sisterhood Everlasting, and I have to say I did not enjoy them equally. The following reviews contain major spoilers, so if you haven’t read either of these books, you may want to stop reading this post now.

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As much as finding out what happened to our favourite YA characters as adults may seem like a cool idea, sometimes, it’s better not to know. That’s certainly how I felt after reading Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley Confidential. Twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield are living on opposite sides of the country, Liz in New York struggling to find a writing gig and Jessica in Sweet Valley working at a design firm (I think). The two sisters are no longer speaking. What could have torn apart their sisterly bond, you ask? Well apparently, Elizabeth found out her fiancé Todd Wilkins cheated on her…with her twin! Oi. Jess and Todd are now living together in Sweet Valley and planning their wedding. Jessica tries to reconcile with her twin, but Liz is too hurt and angry to speak to her.

The story of how things all went wrong is told in flashbacks and accounts for much of the book, which turns out to be a rather boring way of telling the story. There wasn’t nearly as much drama as I was expecting. The ending is a huge disservice to fans, too. Yes, Liz and Jess make up, but the romantic story lines are completely unsatisfying, not to mention implausible. I just can’t buy Todd and Jessica as a couple. There is nothing in the book to convince me they truly love each other and belong together. The relationship seems manufactured for the sake of creating a plot for this completely unnecessary novel. To add insult to injury, Elizabeth ends up falling for unlikely BFF Bruce Patman, who’s been crushing on her for years. Again, the characters’ motivations are utterly unconvincing. It’s true that people change over time and it’s certainly possible Bruce grew up in the past ten years, but we only get a brief glimpse into his character and the events that caused him to change his ways. The secondary characters don’t fare much better. Lila Fowler and Ken Matthews are on the brink of divorce, while Steven Wakefield is suddenly having a homosexual affair with Aaron Dallas. He gets outed to long-suffering wife Cara by trouble-making Jessica. Poor Winston Egbert has it the worst though – he’s turned into an arrogant jerk no one really likes, and when he dies after falling off his balcony he gets little sympathy. The writing is even more  cringe-worthy than I remember it being in the Sweet Valley High books, especially the Jessica bits. Jessica at 27 sounds like vapid teenager, and her dialogue and inner voice get really grating after a while. If I could go back in time and not read this book, I would. That’s how bad it was.

On a lighter note, I had a much more positive experience with Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares. I was a bit older when I read the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books, so they don’t feel as much like part of my childhood as Sweet Valley High does. At first, I didn’t care for this book, either. The girls are now 29 and living separate lives, Carmen an actress in New York, Lena and art instructor in Providence, Bridget temping in San Francisco, and Tibby off in Australia doing who knows what with boyfriend Brain, who is launching a software company. Since Tibby moved across the world, she’s been mysteriously out of touch, until she sends the other girls plane tickets to Greece for a surprise reunion. Sadly, the girls never see Tibby alive. She drowns before they arrive. At first, her death seems accidental, but it turns out she has left letters behind for each girl, as if she was planning her death. The girls fear the worst – that Tibby meant to die, and that they all failed her by not being there for her. They also feel abandoned and confused and begin to question whether the sisterhood they shared ever meant anything.

At first I was just as confused as Carmen, Lena, and Bridget. I was upset over Tibby’s death, especially since we don’t get to see her point of view at all. I couldn’t imagine Tibby taking her own life and was hoping her drowning really was an accident and there was something else going on, like she was terminally ill with cancer. It turns out I was partly right. Tibby was dying of Huntington’s disease and had brought her friends to Greece to say goodbye. As upsetting as it was  to say goodbye to a beloved character, I found Tibby’s letters helped the three remaining sisters find their way back to each other and figure out what is important in life. For Carmen, it was dumping her jerk of a fiancé and remembering to be proud of her Puerto Rican heritage. For Lena, it was learning how to take risks, and finally finding love with Kostos. For Bridget, it meant figuring out what to do with her life rather than spend it ambling restlessly from one place to the next. Although I found the pacing rather slow in parts, overall I was satisfied with the ending. I thought Sisterhood Everlasting remained true to the spirit of the original Traveling Pants books and I admit to fighting tears a few times. I also liked the resolution to the Lena/Kostos romantic plot, which was a long time coming.  Overall, a touching and enjoyable read.