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Saturday, December 1, 2012

More Young Adult Fiction: Because It Is My Blood and Origin

We read some YA novels this week. As old as we get, we can't help but read stuff like this. It's fun.

Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin
This is the sequel to All These Things I've Done, which we thought was a little silly, but we enjoyed it anyway. These books are part of the Birthright trilogy about the daughter of a mobster. It's like a teenage version of The Godfather, only it's set in the future and it's chocolate, not drugs, that are trafficked. This book improves on things by turning the focus from the teen love story and high school. Instead of that stuff, this book deals largely with the mobster activity, Anya's choices for her future, and chocolate manufacturing.

We loved Anya's new friend in Mexico. This book had some good, believable action in it. It went quickly. We liked the ending, Anya's plans, her new alliances, and the ire it drew from one important character. One of the things keeping this series from being too dry and dour is its sense of humor. The heroine is also easy to like without being cliche or trying too hard. She's smart and tough, and her decisions and emotions make sense. This book is probably trying to provoke thought about why marijuana is illegal and whether it should be. We're fine with that. It's something to think about, especially for the next generation.

If you liked the first one, you'll like this one. We don't admire this trilogy, but we like it, care about it, and enjoy reading it. Most of the stuff we complained about in our review of the last book isn't present here. It feels less like candy and more like a real story as it moves forward. It still has an immature, slightly unrealistic feel that we can't put our fingers on, but that doesn't ruin our enjoyment of a fine female character and her discomfort at being caught between taking care of her family, being a good girl, having a solid future, contributing to her community, loving her boyfriend, and trying to figure out where she fits in her father's crime empire, if she fits there at all.
Book grade: B

Origin by Jessica Khoury
This book is about a scientifically engineered, "perfect" girl named Pia who will live forever, can run 12 miles in 30 minutes, and has really tough skin. She lives in a compound and thirsts for information about the outside world. One night, she gets out. And she meets a boy. A misogynistic jerk of a boy. This book is by-the-numbers and pretty slow. It was predictable, and the ending was too easy and clean. We didn't connect with the main character, who seemed to have no personality, and the love story left us unmoved. The prose/Pia's inner monologue was dull. It wasn't dark enough.

However, this book was written by a 22-year-old woman. That's young. It's rare that someone of that age can write something that really gets to us, deep in the gut. The writing wasn't bad, and there was nothing offensive or terrible about this book. It just wasn't remarkable. In fact, it was promising. We'd like to read what Mrs. Khoury writes in ten years. Older people just have so much more to draw from. Also, this was her first novel. We'll give her credit for trying and getting published, but we don't recommend this book.
Book grade: D+

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