Reached

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t read Ally Condie’s Matched and Crossed, do that before continuing with this post. As a matter of fact, even if you have read Matched and Crossed, you might want to reread them before proceeding with this post and, most especially, with Reached, book three in this series. I didn’t realize how much I forgot until I was well into reading this third book. You’ve been warned!

About a week ago, I started reading Reached, the third book in Ally Condie’s Matched series. I loved the first book (which just won the 12-13 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award), I thought the second was a pretty typical second book in a trilogy, and I had fairly high hopes for this third and final book. When I started reading Reached, though, I thought my hopes were sure to be dashed. It was really hard for me to get into this book, and I kept having to go back to Crossed to refresh my memory on what happened in the previous book (and how it related to what happened in this one). Things didn’t pick up for me until about halfway through the book. After that, my reading positively flew. To put this in perspective, it took me five days to get through the first half of the book and only one to read the second half. I guess, for me at least, the first part of the book had a lot of build-up to the events of the second half, and I felt that it could have been condensed a bit. I did enjoy the book, especially the second half. Was it my favorite of the trilogy? No. That honor goes to Matched. Did it answer some of my questions? Yes. Did it tie up everything in a neat little bow? Not exactly.

Cassia, Ky, and Xander are all part of the Rising, the group trying to overthrow the Society that has controlled their lives for so long, but they all have different roles to play in this struggle. Ky is a pilot for the Rising, and it’s his job to transport supplies, medicine, and anything else needed to further the Rising’s agenda. Cassia is continuing to sort for the Society while following the mysterious instructions from the Rising. She’s also working with the Archivists, making trades on behalf of others, and gathering artists, poets, writers, and musicians together to share their gifts that the Society has long repressed. Xander, once an Official for the Society, is now a valued medical professional who is treating those infected with a Plague that has infected much of the populace. Each of them is critical to the Rising, but they’re all about to learn just how important their work really is…

When the Plague begins to mutate, everything the Rising has worked for is in jeopardy. It is of paramount importance that a cure be found. The Plague has already reached pandemic proportions, and, if something doesn’t happen soon, this disease could wipe out most of the population. The leader of the Rising, the Pilot, gathers Ky, Xander, and Cassia together to work on finding a cure. Cassia’s sorting abilities (and attention to detail) could help to find the common factor that those immune to the Plague share. Xander’s medical and pharmacological knowledge could help to actually create a cure. And Ky…well, Ky is to serve as a test subject. (I don’t think I need to spell out what this means.)

As Cassia, Xander, and even Ky learn more about the Plague that is devastating all they’ve known, they are also learning more about the Rising, the Society, and their own stories. These three young people, whose lives are so interconnected, are discovering the truth about the Plague’s origins, the Rising’s true agenda, and what it really means to have the freedom to choose one’s own path in life. The answers they find will not be comfortable, and their quest for a cure will lead them to some disturbing truths. Will they be able to handle what they find? And how will their relationships be impacted by all of this? Is the cure a possibility, and what will a cure (or lack thereof) mean for the Rising, the Society, and any other groups of people (including those who are immune)? Can everyone reach for the freedom that they’ve been denied for so long, or will the Plague keep everything from their grasp? Read Reached, the conclusion to Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy, to discover the truth for yourself.

I haven’t even come close to covering all of the events that occurred in this book. There are some minor characters (Indie, Lei, the Pilot) who have a huge impact in what happens in this book, but I’ll leave that for you to discover. Like Requiem, the final book in Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series–which I prefer to this one, by the way–Reached doesn’t really resolve everything in a nice, tidy little package. There is a clear conclusion, but there’s also room to speculate what happens to the characters after the last page.

I’ve seen both Matched and Crossed in my school’s Scholastic Book Fairs, and I think some mature fifth graders might be able to handle it. The entire series is great for middle grade, high school, and even adult readers. Reached, in particular, could generate some interesting discussions about diseases, how diseases mutate over time, and how governments or other groups could use diseases–or fear of them–to control a population.

If you’d like more information about Reached, the whole Matched series, or author Ally Condie, visit her website at http://www.allysoncondie.com/. You may also want to check out the Reached book trailer below. (Don’t worry about spoilers here. It tells almost nothing about this book…or the others that preceded it.)

Having finished this entire trilogy now, I can finally reflect on where it fits into my list of favorite YA dystopian (and/or post-apocalyptic) series. As you can probably imagine, The Hunger Games is at the top of that list. Veronica Roth’s Divergent series is a close second. Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy and James Dashner’s Maze Runner series are also pretty high up on the list. I’ve started a few series (Kimberly Derting’s The Pledge, Kiera Cass’ The Selection, Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, Ann Aguirre’s Razorland series, Caragh O’Brien’s Birthmarked trilogy, Marie Lu’s Legend series, Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series, and a couple of others) that will probably end up somewhere on the list as well. The Matched series, though, is probably closer to the bottom of this list. Yes, I did like the series (or most of it), but it is not my favorite, especially when you consider just how many awesome YA dystopian series are out there. Feel free to disagree with me. I’m just giving you my opinion as a long-time reader of dystopian literature. (I think it started with Fahrenheit 451 when I was in the 8th grade.  Thank you, Mrs. Galloway!)

Masque of the Red Death

A couple of days ago, I finished reading Bethany Griffin’s Masque of the Red Death. This novel is loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s work of the same name. When I started reading this book, I was really excited about it and anticipated it only taking me a short while to read. That was almost a month ago.

Those who know me can probably guess why it took me a little longer to read this book, but, for you casual followers of Knight Reader, I’ll clue you in. As the title suggests, this book is very dark and deals with a lot of death. I just couldn’t handle that due to recent events. Nothing about this book is light or even remotely hopeful, and I needed something that could lift my spirits more than Masque of the Red Death could ever pretend to. During the past couple of days, though, I decided that I needed to go ahead and finish this book so that I could move on to something else. I will tell you that I probably would have loved this book had I read it at any other time in my life. Unfortunately, I didn’t, and I just couldn’t find it in me to enjoy a book that featured such a seemingly hopeless situation. I may revisit the book later, but, at least for right now, Masque of the Red Death just didn’t do it for me.

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In this very loose post-Apocalyptic adaptation of the Poe work, Araby Worth is the privileged daughter of the world’s most valued scientist. The world has been ravaged by a horrible plague, and only the wealthy can afford the life-saving masks that are the only defense. Araby lost her brother to the plague years ago, and she spends her days and nights numbing herself to the pain of existence without her beloved twin.

Things are changing in the city, though. Forces are at work that will challenge the dictatorial Prince Prospero’s rule. Some of those forces are aiming for a society where every citizen, regardless of wealth, has access to the much-needed (and way-too-expensive) life-saving masks. One faction, though, seems to be convinced that only war–and more death–can put an end to the plague that is decimating the population.

But what will happen when another plague, a more deadly disease known as the Red Death, begins sweeping across the city? Is there any way to save the people of the city? And how does Araby fit into all of this? What more will she have to sacrifice for the good of those around her? Find out what happens when the masks are stripped away when you read Bethany Griffin’s Masque of the Red Death.

While this book wasn’t really my cup of tea, it will definitely appeal to fans of gothic fiction. Definitely market this one to fans of Edgar Allan Poe. It’s not a happy book, but it does provide an escape from everyday life. It also raises some interesting questions about access to resources, bioethics, and what society would/could look like if a biological weapon or pandemic disease were to be released. Something to think about.

If you want to keep reading Araby’s story, Masque of the Red Death is only the first book in this series. The second book, Dance of the Red Death, is due to be released this July, and there’s also an eBook novella, Glitter & Doom, which I think is already out. As for me, I’m going to give myself some time to digest this book a bit more. Maybe I’ll feel differently about it by July, and I’ll be able to give the sequel a try. Only time will tell.

For those who do want to learn more about this series, consider visiting the author’s website.

Legend

It’s my 300th post here on Knight Reader!!!  Let’s all pause to do the dance of joy before I get to my latest read…

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of our systems, we can move on to the real reason for this post.  I just finished a truly outstanding book that will appeal to fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Ally Condie’s Matched series, and other notable dystopian literature.  The book is Legend by Marie Lu.  I finally picked this up a few days ago after several librarians and bloggers recommended it, and I was hooked from the first page. 

Legend takes place in what I can only assume is the not-too-distant future, in an America that is divided and engaged in a civil war.  Two young people are being drawn together by death, secrets, and lies…and neither of them knows who to trust.

Day is the most wanted person in the Republic of America (formerly known as the west coast of the United States). He’s considered a traitor and a threat to the government…and he’s fifteen. Day knows that the Republic is keeping secrets from the people, and he’s doing his best to thwart their efforts. He’s also trying to keep his family safe from the plagues that kill more and more people every year.

June is a fifteen-year-old on the brink of becoming one of the youngest military officers in history.  She is a prodigy committed to her country, her duty, and her brother, Metias.  She has a few issues with following rules, but she is secure in what her future holds…until one night changes everything.

When June’s brother is murdered and the blame falls on Day, the lives of these two young people become entangled.  June goes on the hunt for her brother’s killer, and Day is still searching for a way to protect his family.  Eventually, their paths cross.  Neither is prepared for the immediate chemistry between them.  And neither is prepared for the fallout when their true identities come to light.

June thought she knew everything about Day, her brother’s death, and the Republic, but her time with Day, things she witnesses, and cryptic messages from her brother are causing her to question everything she knows.  What is the Republic’s true agenda, and can she and Day figure things out before one (or both) of them meet the same fate as Metias?  Read Legend by Marie Lu to discover how far a corrupt government will go to make sure its secrets stay secret.

I cannot say enough about Legend.  I am shocked that this is Marie Lu’s first novel.  It is truly amazing, and it definitely gives paranoid people like me something to worry think about.  In my opinion, this would be a great read for anyone interested in government and how much power one should be allowed to have over its people.  (When I was reading, I kept seeing images of Hitler’s rise to power.  It’s not that much of a stretch to think that it could happen again.)

This wonderful story has already been optioned for a movie (like so many great young adult books) by CBS Films, and director Jonathan Levine is already attached to the project.  If done right, Legend will be amazing on the big screen.  Marie Lu’s writing makes Legend a “movie in my mind,” so I look forward to seeing if Hollywood’s version lives up to the one in my imagination.  (This rarely happens, but a girl can dream.)

Legend is gripping, fast-paced, and full of suspense and intrigue.  It is fairly violent (as is most dystopian literature), so keep that in mind when recommending it to young readers.  This is a book, like The Hunger Games, that will appeal to male and female readers, and it will not limit itself to young adult fans. 

If you’d like more information on this amazing first book in the Legend series (the second is due out sometime this year) and author Marie Lu, visit http://marielu.org/index.html and http://www.legendtheseries.com/.  I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!