Thursday, February 25, 2010

How Far Would You Go to be Pretty?

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I am a fan of post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels and often find myself searching for the next enthralling story. While searching through lists of PA books, I happened across the Uglies, a YA novel by Scott Westerfeld. I had seen this series before and was interested, but I had just never picked it up. Now that I knew it was about a dystopia, I was dying to read it!

Uglies starts in a city where a kid's 16th birthday is a big event- it is when a kid undergoes their surgery to become Pretty. Everyone wants to become Pretty so they can live in New Pretty Town, party all day, not worry about responsibilities and revel in their new Pretty selves. Well, maybe not everyone. Tally Youngblood misses her friend Peris who turned 16 and became Pretty months before she did. But now she has met a new friend, Shay, who teaches her to perfect her hoverboard riding, takes her to the Rusty Ruins (where they see our ancient cities as they deteriorate and mock our ravenous consumption of the world), and tells Tally of a place where kids go to escape the surgery- a place called the Smoke that is full of Uglies who fend for themselves and stay far away form the cities.

When Shay runs away, the Specials (Cruel Pretties) tell Tally she must find Shay and lead the Specials to the Smoke or she won't get her surgery. Desperate to become Pretty and join Peris, Tally goes to the Smoke, but she doesn't find what she expected. The Smoke is a place where everyone works for their fair share, people are free from the petty lives of Pretties, and the Specials aren't watching their every move. Tally must make up her mind: should she betray David and the Smoke or remain in the one place where she finally felt alive and free?

I have to say this novel was a little slow for me in the very beginning. All the descriptions of Tally and Pretty Town were interesting, but by no means gripping. The story didn't really pick up until half-way through when tally sets off for the Smoke. By this point, I was certainly hooked! The story does go quite quickly, and the premise is so interesting- a society where everyone is made to look the same in order to prevent racism and prejudice, but is really a ruse for the government to keep society "malleable". When the truth comes out, however, that the surgery changes their personality as much as their appearance, it is a fate worse than staying Ugly. I recommend this series for a kid who enjoyed Hunger Games. The language isn't overly mature or complex, the plot is very interesting, and it should grab a hold of any reader. Give it a chance and prepare to ask yourself which you'd rather be: a mindless Pretty or a Free-willed Ugly!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Percy Jackson is MY Hero!

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I am sure you have all seen the trailer for the movie of the first installment of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, by Rick Riordan. It looks exciting, action packed, and who can resist Greek Gods and Heroes?! But I have something to important to tell you... I haven't yet seen the movie of course, but I am SURE the books are BETTER. Not only better, mind you. Perhaps even Mind-Blowing! Earth-Shattering! These books are simply addictive.

The first book, The Lightning Thief, is about a young boy who bounces from school to school thanks to the trouble that always seems to follow him. It also doesn't help that he is dyslexic and has ADHD. Then, something mysterious happens while he is on a short vacation with his mother- monsters seem to be following him! A minotaur to be exact! Percy and his friend Grover survive the Minotaur attack by the skin of their teeth and find themselves at Camp Half-Blood. There, Percy finds out he is actually a demigod- the son of a Greek God. And once he is claimed by his father, Poseidon, he finds out he carries a great burden. Percy must stop a battle of the Gods by recovering Zeus' lightning bolt. In this hilarious, action-packed first installment you learn to love all the half-bloods and their mythical friends like the naiads, satyrs, and centaurs.
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In the second book, The Sea of Monsters, you find Percy and Annabeth off to save their satyr buddy, Grover, when he finds himself trapped with a scary Cyclops who wants to make Grover his wife. When they arrive at the Cyclops' lair, they realize he has the Golden Fleece- the only thing that can heal the Thalia Tree which protects the boundaries of Camp Half-Blood from monsters and mortals alike. Battling flesh-eating sheep, a half-blind cyclops with an attitude, and learning about his interesting new sibling, Percy's adventures continue to keep you hooked and laughing.
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The Titan's Curse continues the amazing tales of Percy, Grover, Tyson, and Annabeth. With another Half-Blood definitely stirring the ancient pot to get revenge on his wayward father, the group must find a way to slow down the raising of the Titan Kronos. This includes saving two new Half-Bloods, losing Annabeth (but to where they have no idea), and coming across the Goddess Artemis and her Hunters- beautiful, immortal pre-teen girls with a silvery glow and arrows that could nail a fly at 50 paces. Don't forget the creepy General and his forces at the Hoover Dam!
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The Battle of the Labyrinth really heats up the stories as Percy and his friends are forced to enter The Labyrinth- Daedalus' masterpiece that is full of monsters, tricks, prisons, and any number of ways to torture or imprison a demigod. Unfortunately, the demigod turned evil Titan-raiser, Luke, has been sending spies to navigate the Labyrinth. And now the demigods know why- there is an entrance to the Labyrinth right in the middle of Camp Half-Blood. If Luke's forces can find it, they won't have to worry about crossing the Camp's magical boundaries because they will pop out right in the middle of the camp. So Percy and the group set off to find Daedalus and seek his help, but they bite off more than they can chew with this excursion.
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And finally, The Last Olympian sails the series home with an amazing final chapter in Percy Jackson's story. The battle of Manhattan has come and Percy and the Half-Bloods are the only thing standing between the Titan army and Mount Olympus (which is conveniently perched atop the Empire State Building). With the Gods all fighting the Titan Typhon as he tears his way across the country headed straight for New York, the heroes are the only hope to saving the era of the Gods. But with the Ares cabin refusing to fight, the demigod's seriously depleting from defecting heroes going to the Titan's side, and a whole host of strange prophecies, visions, and dreams, this is going to be a battle no one will ever forget- unless of course the Mist does its job!

These books are quite simply amazing. Every review I have read or blog I have perused makes the same comparison to Harry Potter, but I think that cheapens the greatness of these novels. They are amazing, and by Gods! They can stand on their own! And how great is it that the books explain all the demigods' ADHD and dyslexia as being a side-effect of being a demigod who is always ready for action and heroism and can read Greek better than English?! I literally couldn't put these books down, and have taken it upon myself to get as many people to read them as possible- you won't be sorry! Well, you will be sad when you finish the fifth book of course, because you want more- but you won't be sorry you read them! Bring Percy, Grover, Tyson, Annabeth, and all the other Gods, creatures and characters into your life- the Gods are telling you to!