The Selection & The Elite: A Book Review

The Selection Collage**SPOILERS AHEAD!**

It’s not often that I read two books in a series that I consider to be insipid and uninspired, yet find myself actively awaiting the third installation of the trilogy. Kiera Cass’ The Selection and The Elite are rare examples of this sort of book. The Selection is like candy: bad for you and useless, but still addictive. It’s The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games. The characters are bland as unsweetened oatmeal, but you still want the female lead to end up with the right man. It’s a formulaic teen dystopian fiction, but it still keeps your interest somehow.

The first book sees our heroine, who has the most ridiculous name in fiction since Obi-Wan Kenobi. America Singer is a girl living in Illea, a monarchy that rose from the ashes of America (and Panem, I presume). The government has a royal family and eight castes, which linearly decrease in wealth and can be determined through birth, marriage, or career. America is a member of the Fives, a lower-middle class caste that seems to be made of of artists, performers, and minstrels. She has a forbidden relationship with Aspen, a Six (blue-collar workers). And yes, the names just get dumber and dumber. Aspen dumps America just before she is selected to be sent to the royal palace as a potential bride for Prince Maxon. She competes in a Bachelor-style contest and quickly becomes a favorite. She also finds herself falling for Maxon, who seems to favor her above the other girls. She makes friends and enemies, etc. Meanwhile, a rebellion is happening, and America, as the possible future princess, is at risk of being lynched by the rebels. In the midst of all of this, Aspen is sent to the palace as her bodyguard, and re-declares his love for her, forcing her to make a choice: new love or old?

The second book, The Elite, sees America making the final six. At this stage, she’s tutored in the ways of politics to prepare for her future role. The rebellion gets worse, and she falls deeper in love with Maxon, who may or may not be under the thumb of his tyrannical father. She makes an enemy of the King while calling for change and abolishing of the caste system. She once again is nearly killed by rebels, and the book ends with her vow to fight the King for Maxon.

America Singer as a character is sort of an amalgamation of Bella Swan and Katniss Everdeen, in that she has the poor background, good intentions, and longing for equality that Katniss has, but she’s also a passive lover and a blank slate as far as personality, a la Bella. This makes for a rather uninteresting narrator that isn’t too difficult to root for, but also not very easy to relate to. She fits in to her caste well as a violin player and starts off not particularly fond of the system, but also not wholly against it. In one word: she’s dull.

Interestingly, the most well-rounded character in the dramatis personae is Prince Maxon. Through America’s words, Maxon comes off as a decent fellow who is fighting an internal battle due to this daunting task of giving 35 girls and equal chance to win his heart and the crown, as well as the hard job of weeding out who is genuine and who is just in it for the fame and riches. Maxon is not without his flaws, but he’s also rational and realistic.

Overall, the formulaic plot, characters, and setups of the books are meant to numb the brain in a harmless way. It is a harmless series except for one factor: there is something about it that makes you want to keep reading. Like I said, I am eagerly await the third installment: The One, due out in 2014. But I probably will not be reading the books again and again. Once is enough. If you’re looking for intelligent and strategic writing, this series is not for you. But if you read purely for the entertainment, then I would give this a look.

My Top Five Favorite Books of All Time

Seeing as this is, in fact, a book blog, I think I’ll just get my top five favorite books of all time out of the way so commentors don’t start bugging me about them (foresight, everyone!).

I love books. I love reading. I just love literature and everything about it. I walk into a book store with the excitement that a child would walking into a toy store. I’m a pure, bona fide dork. And I’m proud of it. Choosing a favorite book would be like choosing a favorite star in the sky. So, instead of choosing my all-time top favorite books, I’m choosing my top five favorite genres,  choosing my favorite book from each of those genres. This post may be short, but it took me a LONG time to ponder. And you can be sure that I did a LOT of editing and changing things in the meantime.

So, with that said, here we go!

51BbEyzSXKLMy Favorite Classic- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I first read Jane Eyre in high school to boost my SAT vocabulary, and I ended up just really falling in love with the book. Jane gets a lot of shit thrown at her during the book, and yet she allows her creativity and passion drive her in spite of it all. She is intelligent and brave in her own right. In 1800′s England, she is not a woman, she is a person who takes care of her own destiny. I also love Rochester, and how he is the love interest of Jane, our narrator, and yet he’s still clearly described as imperfect and flawed. It makes him even more handsome and more realistic in my mind. He’s not Edward Cullen, who’s shit doesn’t stink according to his lover. The plot never drags, the side characters are pretty well-rounded, and you just can’t help but wonder how Bronte could get away with some of the elements she suggested in the book, such as the affair Rochester had with Little Adele’s ballerina mother. It’s a large book, but it’s a pretty quick read as opposed to some other classics of the day. It’s also easy to follow, with a singular, first-person narrator as opposed to the 3rd-person narrator that Jane Austen favored.

My Favorite Child’s Book- Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

When you’re a redheaded spitfire like myself, Anne Shirley was your heroine. She had spunk, imagination, intelligence, and a handsome suitor to boot. You could easily sympathize with her struggle to fit in to a strange new place and her fight to relate to her strict (but kind) guardian, Marilla. And who couldn’t resist the fact that Anne always blurted out what the reader was thinking ahead of time, such as when she called Rachel Lynde a fat old gossip? It’s a sweet, innocent, but nonetheless meaningful tale, and the next two books in the series are the same (beyond that I actually never got around to).

dustMy Favorite Futuristic Book- Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence 

Not many people have heard of this story, because it’s a British preteen book from 1985, right at the tail-end of the threat of the Cold War going nuclear. It’s about three different people with odd connections to one another over time: Sarah, Ophelia, and Simon. The first third chronicles Sarah surviving a nuclear war with her stepmother and siblings, and slowly coming to terms with the fact that they are all dying of radiation poisoning (except her littlest sister Catherine, who never fell ill). The second section follows Ophelia, born and raised just after the war in a military bunker set up to preserve humanity as it was before the bombs fell, and how she discovers that some humans did survive on the outside. Simon, the third character, comes across a newly-evolved sub-species of human, who developed special abilities such as telepathy and intensely accurate eyesight due to surviving the radiation.

The reason this book is my favorite post-apocalyptic book is because it is a simple book with a simple message: maybe things do happen for a reason, and maybe fighting the natural evolution of humanity is only going to hurt it. The nuclear war is a plot setup as opposed to the entire story. Only the first sixty pages or so curtails the immediate after-events of the war itself. The rest focuses on the themes of survivalism and a desperate group of people who want to preserve their way of life, even though it was rendered impractical due to the changing circumstances surrounding them. The theme is so heavy that the fact that that characters are sort of flat (aside from Simon and Catherine, who do have some character growth over the course of the book)  is easily looked over. You don’t read books like this for the characters. You read it for the message. It’s also a very quick read…I got through it in a day.

My Favorite Biography- Marie Antoinette, The Journey, by Antonia Fraiser 

Unbiased, straight forward, and detailed, The Journey is everything a biography fan could ask for. It’s also very timeless in nature: it covers so many facts in a way that one can interpret it in any way they choose. Obviously, it’s subject matter is of great personal interest to me, and I’ve always been in the camp that argues that Marie Antoinette gets more flack from historians than she should. I do feel like she was an airhead, but she was a pawn at court used and abused more than anything. The book is very academic as far as it’s approach goes, which, in a biography, is always appreciated.

anne-frank-diary-of-a-young-girlMy Favorite Non-Fiction Book- The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank

I have read this book about twenty times, and I promise you that I will read them about twenty more times before I’m forty. You have got to know about this book. The only word I can use for it is inspiring. I relate to Anne in more ways than a lot of people do, for reasons I won;t get in to. But the bluntness and the creativity about Anne Frank is what strikes me the most. How can a girl so young speak with the tone and wisdom of an older adult like that? And how many more young people like her would still be alive today were it not for the cruelty of the Nazis? I only wish I could be half as optimistic and genuinely awesome as Anne Frank was. If I were living in her time and knew her, I can picture us being best friends easily.

As a side-note, I also love her ‘Secret Tales’ book, which not as many people know about. It’s a collection of short stories, memories, and an unfinished novel she wrote while in her hiding place.

SLIMED!: A Mini Review

slimedI grew up during the Golden Age of Nickelodeon. It was practically the only channel I’d watch as a child. Screw Cartoon Network. Screw Disney Channel (my parents wouldn’t fork over the extra cash for that channel anyway). Nickelodeon was my station. I watched them all: Salute Your Shorts, Pete & Pete, and of course, All That.

So when I saw this book, an insider’s look into what it was really like in those days, I flipped a shit. Nostalgia Time! The book promised an ‘Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age,’ so I knew all of the stuff in the book was going to be exactly from the mouths of the people who were there. While some really interesting factoids came out of it (who knew Christine Taylor got her start on Nick in the early 90′s on that less-interesting show about the dude ranch?), I have to admit the book does leave a few things to be desired.

The format itself is a little hard to deal with for the first few chapters. The book reads like a transcript of an interview done directly with past Nick cast and crew members. They got a LOT of people to do this. Alas, I didn’t know who 3/4ths of these people were until I flipped ahead to the index page, where they have brief bios of everyone who participated in the interviews. Those bios would have been so much better off before all of the interviews began. It’s hard to follow otherwise.

Also, the book allows everyone who participated to comment in every chapter, which leads to a lot of missteps when reading, especially in determining who says what. Was the book done in one huge interview done panel-style? Because it may have been to the book’s advantage to do each chapter’s subject as a separate interview done only with those with direct experience with that topic. For example, did the cast of Clarissa Explains to All really need to provide feedback on the chapter about sound editing and music? Not that their insight wasn’t fascinating, and not that I don’t appreciate how they actually got Melissa Joan Hart to sit for this thing (considering she’s so busy making unfunny sitcoms on ABC Family), but everything becomes a little blurry as the book goes on.

Also, while the chapters being separated by technical aspect (such as sound, art style, and cast experiences), I would’ve much preferred if the chapter-dividing was done by show. That also could have helped narrow down how many people are involved in each interview, and it would help a reader keep better track of what the subject was. It just would have improved the overall organization of the subject matter.

There are some funny anecdotes and interesting facts in the book, and you have to admire that it does read not as a college dissertation, but as an genuine interview. You can tell that there’s no slant to the attitude the book takes on certain matters. It just tells it like it is, which is how Nick got the way it was back then. It makes me miss the chaotic nonsense we got as kids on this channel, instead of the pretentiousness the channel throws at viewers today. Nick has shied away from the Rocko’s Modern Life and Salute Your Shorts formulas that were so popular, and instead decided to ride the coattails of Disney’s success with Hannah Montana (notice how most of the shows today aren’t even animated?) and make most of their content about upper-middle class white preteens played by eighteen year-olds.

The book Slimed! is still a good read for anyone as addicted to Nostalgia as I am.

What Is It With Dystopian Fiction, Anyway?

Divergent-series-by-Veronica-Roth

The Hunger Games. Divergent. Matched. Uglies. 

What is it with post-apocalyptic/dystopian YA lately? There hasn’t been a genre explosion of this magnitude since…well…okay, the paranormal romance genre that was cool until about fifteen minutes ago. But you get my point.

The difference between the paranormal romances and the dystopian fictions is that I can understand why paranormal romance is popular these days: it’s about fantasy-indulging smut. It’s about riding off into the sunset on the back of your hot werewolf boyfriend and counting stars in the arms of your ghostly Sir Gallant. Dystopian fiction, on the other hand, is about exploiting the bleak potential humans have at fucking shit up beyond repair. How bad can it get? Well, here’s where it gets even shittier! Sure, a lot of these books have the overarching theme of fighting the system, especially as a youngster. However, that same idea can easily be portrayed in a contemporary or even historical context. So what gives?

The genre itself first emerged in the forties and fifties in books such as Alas Babylon, I Am Legend, and A Canticle for Leibowitz, but these books weren’t necessarily targeted towards youth to begin with. Many of these books and films were reflective of the times: people were afraid that the A-bomb was going to fall on them, or aliens were going to land on our lawns. The ‘final frontier’ was just beginning to be explored, and no one knew if what was out there was benign or malignant. So it was probably really easy to exploit these feelings of fear and uncertainty into literature.

Time moved forward, and we discovered that our fears were, for the most part, unfounded. In the 80s and 90s, most of the dystopian fiction we saw was more or less translated into sci-fi, which made it lose its punch. That is, until…

battleroyale

Yes, I credit Battle Royale with single-handedly resurrecting and revamping the dystopian lit genre. The book was a huge pulp hit around the world, because it took the dark concept of totalitarianism to a new level, and right into the heart of ‘What If?’ In the book, young teens are forced to fight to the death until a lone winner is allowed to go home. In Battle Royale, the reason for this is because the military fears a youth uprising, and the concept of a teenage death match will keep everyone in line, lest they be next. The book has over forty-five separate characters, and each one gets at least a little back story and character development. The antagonists (there are three) are all three-dimensional, and some even have some very tragic history. The book’s message to youth was to not be so quick to trust the government, and the message to adults was not to underestimate young people. The book had depth, shock value, and an exciting plot.

Ever since, the dystopian lit genre has had a pretty broad focus on the kids. The Hunger Games outright ripped off the cage match idea and mixed in a little mythology for good measure. Uglies ripped off The Twilight Zone. Divergent, while a little more original in concept, still deals with the core message of youth in an oppressive, segregationist society that needs to be overthrown. And I, personally, think that this trend goes a little beyond ripping off Koshun Takami, or grabbing the interest of kids by providing them with characters their own age.

What young person doesn’t, at one point, dream of escaping the mundane and becoming the hero to which everyone looks up to? Hell, regardless of age, who doesn’t like to daydream about that every once in awhile? But I think where my mind is conflicted on the subject of dystopian lit, is that in our daydreams, we know for a fact that we will win, because the universe in our head is ours to control. In a real dystopian society, NOTHING is on our control. We are specs of dust on the wind. In a real life dystopian dictatorship like the one in Battle Royale, our futures would be at the mercy of a lottery. The odds would NOT be on our favor if we were brought to that island to duel with our peers.

My theory is, it’s a way to explore the ‘what ifs’ in a safe way, where, if things get too intense, we can close the book and set it aside. We can peek into the macabre without actually having to participate in it. Many of these worlds in these books are fascinating, and some are actually (sadly) possible futures for us if we don’t do something now to prevent it. Hell, there are some places in the world today where youth are always living the horrors described in these books. In places like North Korea, where just being related to someone who committed a crime gets you sent away for life, the youth don’t have the opportunity to dog-ear the page and return to a safe, democratic reality.

While it is a pretty awful thing to admit, humans have a natural curiosity about morbidity and bleak situations. I know I did as a youth (I would always skip ahead in my Chicken Soup books to the ‘Tough Stuff’ and the ‘Death & Dying’ chapters before reading the rest). Dystopian lit is a way we can sort of bungee into these strange new worlds and still have the rubber bands on our backs ready to snap us back into the here and now.

I’ve read Battle Royale twice, The Hunger Games series thrice, and Divergent once, and let me admit now, I will probably read through them a few more times in my life, for that very reason.

The Declaration: A Review

declarationToday for you all,  I’m reviewing one of the lesser-known additions to the genre, the first in a trilogy (OF COURSE!) by British author Gemma Malley: The Declaration. The series was released in 2007, and, in  spite of a promising premise, seems to have gone under the radar of the public eye. There are a few good reasons for this, which I will get in to later, but in a world where Hollywood is just dying for the next big teen series to convert into film starring Shaliene Woodley or Kristen Stewart, why did this one get a pass? There isn’t even a mention of a studio buying the rights! To the untrained eye, The Declaration has everything a Hollywood director would cream himself for: a ‘strong’ female lead, romance, adventure, a ‘fight the system’ theme, and two sequels to triple the profits and turn into a stream of Hot Topic t-shirts.

The Declaration takes place in thew year 2140, where a drug called Longevity is used by adults to keep themselves biologically immortal. As more and more people take the drug, the world’s population skyrockets, as death has basically been eradicated. To conserve precious resources, the governments of the world have come together to pass ‘The Declaration,’ which states that any person who signs up for Longevity must vow to never have children. Those who do will have their child confiscated and either ‘put down’ or stowed away in public asylums, where they can’t suck up the few resources that ‘Legal’ people need. These children are called ‘Surpluses’ and they can only be released from these asylums as indentured servants to Legals.

The story follows Surplus Anna, who was brought to Grange Hall as a toddler, after being stowed away in an attic. She is brought up to the age of sixteen by Mrs. Pincent, and heavily indoctrinated to the point that she is given some authority over the other Surplus girls in the Hall. Anna accepts her lowly place in life until Peter is brought to Grange Hall. Peter is Anna’s age, and he seems impossible to break. He takes a special interest in Anna, and seems to know her long-lost last name, as well as her parents. Anna’s eyes are opened, and she and Peter plot their escape from Grange Hall. Their only hope for survival on the outside is with an underground resistance, who’s goal it is to ban Longevity and return the balance of nature to it’s cyclical order.

As far as post-apocalyptic plots go, this one has one of the more philosophically-rich ones. The theme of the series is clearly about messing up the order of nature and the consequences it could wreak. Just because immortality could be possible in the future doesn’t necessarily mean that people should exploit it, and there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with death, as it’s purpose lies within it’s ability to make room for new life. That’s a pretty deep theme for a Young Adult novel, especially one that was written and released the same year as The Twilight Saga’s third book, Eclipse.

However, Malley’s method of putting this overarching theme to work is, to say the least, underwhelming. The plot itself is well-paced, the mood and ambiance are fabulously bleak, and the villains of the first book are intriguing. But Malley relies too much on these elements that she forgets that she doesn’t have a whole book without one more essential piece of the puzzle: good characters. Without characters that a reader can get emotionally invested in, everything else falls to shit. And The Declaration leaves a big, gaping hole where the character development should be.

Anna starts off promising. It’s not easy to make a three-dimensional character out of a brainwashed lemming, and a good writer can blow the socks off of a reader if they approach a brainwashed lead in the right way. However, quickly we see that Malley takes the easy way out with Anna’s enlightenment. Her entire transformation literally occurs within the confines of a single chapter. An for her personality, while it isn’t as bluntly insulting and annoying as Bella Swan’s, the two do share a common thread of being shells of human skin, inside of which nothing interesting resides.

The same goes for Peter. Peter serves as the catalyst for Anna’s evolution from lemming to rebel, but he literally enters Grange Hall for the first time all but enamored of Anna, which is pretty impossible. He also is a shell of a character, only with a stronger will. Neither Anna nor Peter leave an impression on the reader, and therefore, the exciting world of Grange Hall and What Lies Beyond It is lost.

The Declaration has two sequels: The Resistance and The Legacy, neither of which I intend to read solely because I just don’t care. I would call this one a waste of my time, except that it did give me the world of Grange Hall, which WAS interesting to read about. Malley’s writing ability isn’t Stephanie Meyer-grade awful, but it’s nothing that stands out either. If you’re a fan of the genre and have a larger attention span, I’d say give it a try. If you’re looking for The Hunger Games in terms of quality and action, then you’ll be disappointed by this one.

**3/4 out of *****

RATED PG-13 for some mature elements and suggested infanticide. 

The Dressmaker: A Book Review

12384157On a normal day, I find historical romance novels to be boring and formulaic. There’s no denying that the only genre out there with more room for cliches is fanfiction. But when I kept seeing The Dressmaker, but Kate Alcott, absolutely everywhere, I must admit, my curiosity was aroused. The cover was gorgeous, and the Titanic is one of those historical topics I fell in love with as a youth (and NOT because of the movie!). As far as mindless reading goes, it admittedly is not the worst book. It does have some elegant flow, it’s moderately engaging, and the first third of the book was even…good. However, it drops off when the cliches take over, and the book quickly becomes forgettable.

In summary, the book follows Tess Collins, a British maid who aspires to be a seamstress/fashion designer. She is hired last-minute (in the most unbelievable plot-hole in the book) to be maid/entourage to Lady Duff Gordon, the fashion mogul, as she embarks on the Titanic. On board, she meets a wealthy enigmatic businessman, and a down-to-earth sailor, both of whom take an interest in her. The ship sinks, and for the sake of plot convenience, all named characters survive. Back on dry land, Tess’ employer is accused of bribery during the Titanic investigation, and her reputation is in shambles. Tess must decide between believing her employer’s less-than-stellar defense and keeping her job, or following her gut and making her own way.

It’s a good book for entertainment’s sake, but don’t expect to learn many new facts about the Titanic, or to be introduced to characters with staying power (other than maybe Pinky, a female suffragette/reporter assigned to cover the Duff Gordon scandal). Tess, the main character, had some promise until after the ship sank. She quickly lost what ‘pluck’ she had and became a bit too tossed about by circumstance to be acceptable. I’m not sure how Lady Duff Gordon’s descendants would feel about her portrayal here, but the author makes her a one-dimensional, ‘Devil Wears Prada’-like archetype. The two men are about as deep as one would expect men in a romance novel written by a woman to be.

Another thing that bothered me about the book were the plot conveniences. At the beginning, Tess is literally hired an hour before the Titanic sails, after confessing her admiration for Lady Duff Gordon out of nowhere. Duff Gordon shows some hesitation, seeing as she doesn’t KNOW Tess, and rightfully so. But some mild convincing from her overly passionate sister, and two pages later, Tess is hired. Probably the most unrealistic thing I’ve read in the last FEW books I’ve leafed through.  Later, and even though history backed up the Duff Gordons’ and their maid’s survival, the fact that both of Tess’ men, and all of the Duff Gordons’ named acquaintances who bear plot importance later, survive, bugs me a bit. It takes the tragedy out of one of the biggest maritime tragedies in history. Within four chapters, Tess witnesses the Titanic sinking, and is over it. Obviously, the problem there is as much pace as it is plot.

The only subplot (and I have to give the book credit for not including, like, eight subplots) is the ‘which man will she choose?’ plot. Rich or poor? Love or money? Head or heart? Been there, done that. Yawn.

On the positive side, Kate Alcott’s writing style fits the time period of the book to a T, so at least getting a mood and image in your head isn’t hard to do. She is clearly trying her best to be both imaginative and historically accurate. And Tess, while boring, isn’t a wholly unlikable character.I also appreciate that this novel does what other Titanic-based romances never dared to go: looks at the aftermath of the sinking, instead of the sinking itself. We’ve heard enough times about the noble band playing and the sailors giving their lifeboat seats to women and children. The intrigue of the investigation afterwards is well-researched and interesting enough.

If you like the genre enough to get past the formulaic writing and character who are, at best, average, then this book might be for you. Though I’d recommend you either buy it from a used bookstore, or rent it from the library. The price for the paperback is pretty steep for something so light on content.

**1/2 out of *****
RATING: PG-13 for some mature plot points.

Ready, Player One: A Book Review

Ground_Kontrol_RPO_flyer-1 It’s not often you find a book that’s both a ‘quick read’ as well as ‘engaging.’ Normally, in my experience, quick reads are just that, quick, and I find that I don’;t have enough time to get involved in anything deeper than the plot floating on the surface. But  Ready, Player One, kept me engaged in the plot, characters, and universe from beginning to end, yet I finished it in less than a week.

SUMMARY: Wade Watts, like millions of other Americans in 2044, practically lives on the OASIS, a multi-player virtual reality universe where one can live as they choose, visit other worlds, go to school, or even have jobs. When the creator of the OASIS dies, he leaves a video will that explains that his massive fortune will be bequeathed to whoever in the OASIS can be the first to locate three keys, clear three gates, and find an Easter egg using only cryptic clues about 80s pop culture and vintage video games. Wade, though ordinary, poor, and living out of the back of a discarded van, is the first to find the first key after years of hunting and studying. As his avatar, ‘Parzival’ gets closer to the prize, he has to deal with IOI, a greedy corporation bent on finding the egg and using the fortune to turn the free OASIS into an exclusive club, as well as  sly fellow egg hunters, like the elusive celebrity blogger ‘Art3mis,’ and his online best friend, ‘Aech.’

The first thing that stands out to me about this book is the universe in which it takes place. It’s both based in reality and as fantastic as JK Rowling’s Hogwarts. How? Well, the OASIS is an impossibly large universe, where you can relive favorite movies as your favorite character, visit whole planets dedicated to classic TV shows, and immerse yourselves in games and battles as if you’re there live and in person. But it’s all still a virtual reality realm. The real world is still out there, and it’s grim, poor, and dog-eat-dog. One of the themes of the book is discerning reality from fantasy, and drawing the line between losing yourself in the fantasy and enduring the hard realities of the real world. It’s a theme that is extremely relevant in today;s social media-ridden world, where the OASIS’s hold on everyone’s lives doesn’t feel like such a parody.

Another thing about this book that I wholly appreciated about the book is that fact that the characters are…normal. Very average. The lead, Wade, is highly intelligent, but that’s about it. He’s not special. He’s not a prodigy. He’s not even attractive by normal standards, described as ‘overweight’ and ‘acne-ridden.’ In a typical teen novel, he would be a side character or a nobody, but here, he takes center stage, and doesn’t earn his place as hero through magic or might…he earns it through plain hard work. The same can be said of Art3mis, the love interest and main female character. Also very average in appearance (‘Rubenesque’, brown-haired, and with a port-wine birthmark covering half her face’). She’s not a sexual character. he doesn’t get her way through betrayal or feminine wiles. She also relies on logic, hard work, and simply beating the odds. All of these factors make them very easy to cheer for. They are normal without being Mary Sue ‘normal.’

Another shout out in praise to the ‘Aech’s true identity’ subplot. I won’t spoil it, but Aech is not who he seems, and his reveal uncovers another issue at large in today’s society where anyone can mask their true identity to their advantage.readyplayerone-dq

On the other side, no book is perfect, and I have to admit, the bad guys in the book are a little cookie-cutter. The ‘evil corporation’ cliche was used to the max here, to the point where they are willing to kidnap and murder to grab the winnings. It’s been said and done before, and I always find it hard to believe ANY business, no matter how influential, getting away with murder for the sake of money. The novel would’ve benefited from a bit of a deeper story to the head of the evil group, Sorrento, at least. Why is he the head? Why does he want to switch the OASIS into this imperialist and exclusive society?

Another problem about the book is the referenced to 80s popular media ans vintage video games. Some of the nods are a bit obscure, and if you don’t understand the references, then you don’t understand at all what the situation is at the moment, and it’s very easy to get confused. In places, the book tries to explain so the reader can follow along, but for as many times as it works, it doesn’t work just as often. As an 80s media fan, I understood most of those silly in-jokes, but I was at a loss for most of the video game references, and some of them were major parts of the book.

However, in this book, the positives far outweigh the negatives. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who considers themselves a ‘nerd.’ You nerdiness will be severely tested, and by book’s end, you will be satisfied, I promise.

**** out of ***** stars
RATING: PG-13 for language and violence