Hush by Dylan Farrow



Goodreads: Hush
Series: Hush #1
Source: Library
Published: 2020


They use magic to silence the world. Who will break the hush?

Seventeen-year-old Shae has led a seemingly quiet life, joking with her best friend Fiona, and chatting with Mads, the neighborhood boy who always knows how to make her smile. All while secretly keeping her fears at bay… Of the disease that took her brother’s life. Of how her dreams seem to bleed into reality around her. Of a group of justice seekers called the Bards who claim to use the magic of Telling to keep her community safe.

When her mother is murdered, she can no longer pretend.

Not knowing who to trust, Shae journeys to unlock the truth, instead finding a new enemy keen to destroy her, a brooding boy with dark secrets, and an untold power she never thought possible.

Star Divider


Hush by Dylan Farrow is a very standard YA fantasy where the protagonist learns that she has special powers and that she is living in a dystopian society where the people in power lie to stay that way. It also includes the usual love triangle with the boy next door and the aloof, mysterious magic worker. I feel like I’ve read this book a dozen times already, so I admit I was not very impressed.

Reviewing Hush proves rather difficult precisely because it is so unmemorable. Perhaps if Farrow had given readers a unique protagonist in Shae, the book would feel a little more original. However, as it is, Shae has little to no personality, functioning mainly as an empty vessel who can illustrate the point that sometimes people speak the truth and no one listens. Farrow is very open about the fact that this dystopian society is meant to reflect the experience of survivors of sexual abuse, whose stories are not believed. This is an admirable effort, though the messaging of the book sometimes threatens to overshadow the story.

The plot itself is equally bland, following the usual trajectory as Shae leaves her village to discover the truth about her world and finds herself embroiled in politics she is little equipped to handle. Along the way, she also learns that she possesses magic–magic stronger than what most other people possess–and she starts to fall for a mysterious Bard who insists he is not attracted to Shae, but whose actions seem to say differently. At this point, the novel almost seems to be following some sort of dystopian fantasy YA template.

Hush may be appreciated more by readers who missed the dystopian boom after The Hunger Games was published, and so may think that this book reads as more original than it is. For my part, however, Hush proves a lackluster read. I have no plans to read the sequel.

3 Stars

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (Spoiler Free Review)

Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes


Goodreads: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Series: Hunger Games #0
Source: Purchased
Published: May 2020


The house of Snow is falling. Eighteen-year-old Coriolanus needs to win a Prize to University, or he will not be able to attend at all– and then his family’s legacy will be over. His one chance to prove his worth is as a mentor in the 10th Hunger Games. But then he is assigned the girl from District 12. Lucy Gray Baird knows how to put on a show, but Coriolanus is not convinced she has the strength necessary to win the Games. For now, however, their fates are intertwined. If Snow hopes to restore glory to his family name, he needs Lucy to put on the best show of her life.

Star Divider


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a strong return to the world of the Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins takes readers to the Capitol, where teens like Coriolanus Snow and his classmates are still struggling with their memories of the late war, and what the war means to Panem. As the Hunger Games mark their 10th anniversary, the residents of the Capitol debate the legacy of the Games and their necessity. At the heart of the debate lie two different philosophies about the nature of humankind; Coriolanus is caught between these dueling perspectives. His choice will determine his future. Collins brings her signature insight to The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, a thrilling story that will also challenge readers to consider their own values.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is heavily indebted to the philosophies of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as Collins acknowledges in a Q&A in the readers’ guide. (I have the Barnes and Noble special edition; I am not sure if this interview is available in all copies.) Essentially, those in favor of the Games espouse a worldview closer to that of Hobbes, believing that humans are violent by nature and so must be controlled by government forces. Those who question the Games lean towards Locke’s philosophy, believing that people are good by nature, but corrupted by bad government. Rousseau’s influence is perhaps less well-defined in the novel, but Collins states that it can be seen in the Covey, who are also influenced by the Romantics. The interplay of each character’s beliefs is what drives the story.

To be clear, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is not an apology for Snow’s later role as a dictator, nor is it an attempt to excuse anything he does in the original trilogy. Rather, it is a nuanced look at how outside and inner forces combine to form Snow and his beliefs. Snow is, in this book, arguably somewhat likeable. Readers might identify with his insecurities in school and his worries about money and the future. They will see that he does have good qualities, ones his friend Sejanus and his tribute Lucy Gray strive to bring to the front. Still, Coriolanus also remains distant, calculating, vain, and arrogant. The question is: might his finer qualities have prevailed, had he not grown up in a society that prizes all his qualities that are bad?

Collins does not dump all the blame for Coriolanus’s rise to power on the Capitol, even though the Capitol clearly nurtures Snow’s desire for control at any cost, as well as his prejudice for anyone born in the Districts. Snow’s cousin Tigris, for example, is Capitol-born and raised, yet she still pities the tributes in the Hunger Games and she consistently chooses kindness over her own survival or security. In this way, she is different from both Snow and Lucy. And she demonstrates that one’s society or upbringing does not have to determine their values.

Snow and Lucy interestingly end up being sort of complementary images to each other, both of them experiencing strain between what they might like to do and what they need to do in order to come out on top. One might think that the book could draw an easy dichotomy between them: Capitol=bad and District=good. However, just like Katniss in the original trilogy, Lucy often has to choose to be ruthless in order to survive. She is, as Snow comes to realize, no innocent. Lucy believes that her inherent goodness has been taken from her by the Capitol. Snow’s response to that is the defining point of the novel. Are people really good? Or are they actually really bad? Does the Capitol need to control that badness to prevent anything like the late war from ever happening again?

The philosophical underpinnings of the Hunger Games books are arguably what make them so unique, as well as provocative–the reason people are still reading them over ten years after their first publication. However, readers just wanting to know more about the origins of the Hunger Games will find themselves satisfied by The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, as will those hoping for a riveting story full of drama. In short: fans of the Hunger Games will find themselves satisfied by this prequel.

4 stars

Unwind by Neal Shusterman


Goodreads: Unwind
Series: Unwind #1
Source: Library
Published: 2007


After the Second Civil War, the U.S. chose to protect life until a person reaches the age of 13.  Between the ages of 13-18, however, a teenager can legally be Unwound–killed for their body parts so that they can go on “living” by helping others.  Connor’s parents consider him a troublemaker, so when he learns that they plan to Unwind him, he goes on the run.  He just needs to stay hidden for a few more years.  Along with two other teens, Rita and Lev, he just might have a chance.

Star Divider


“You see, a conflict always begins with an issue – a difference of opinion, an argument. But by the time it turns into a war, the issue doesn’t matter anymore, because now it’s about one thing and one thing only: how much each side hates the other.”

I had heard that teens love Unwind because of the challenging questions it raises about life, death, and the agency of teenagers.  Since I loved Shusterman’s Scythe for its unusual depth, reading Unwind next seemed only natural.  Unfortunately, however, Unwind failed to impress me.  It reads as a pretty standard dystopian novel with unremarkable characters and a faulty premise.

Immersing myself fully in the world of Unwind immediately proved difficult because I could not accept the reasons given for the development of this dystopian world.  Shusterman explains that the Second Civil War was fought between the pro-life and pro-choice forces and ended in a compromise: life is safe except between the ages of 13 and 18, when an individually can legally be Unwound–dismembered for body parts.  Supposedly this satisfies the pro-life forces because unborn babies cannot be aborted and the teen goes on “living” in other ways.  Presumably this satisfies the pro-choice forces because parents can still rid themselves of unwanted children.

This is obviously ridiculous.  Pro-life advocates who want to protect life “from conception until natural death” are not likely to think that killing people for body parts is morally acceptable.  This is too utilitarian and does not respect the individual’s right to life, but assumes that one can kill an individual to benefit a greater number of people.  And this premise seems to overlook the concerns of pro-choice advocates.  Consider that many pro-choice advocates are worried about pregnancy being burdensome, raising children being too expensive or difficult, or children derailing the career or education of a woman.  Obviously, making people raise their children for 13  years does not in any way lower the costs or effects of childcare.

I am not sure if we are supposed to use this seeming disconnect with the pro-life/pro-choice debate as a jumping point for conversation.  Something like having a book group that asks, “Why is abortion okay but not getting rid of your two-year-old if he suddenly becomes burdensome financially or emotionally?”  Or “Would abortion be morally acceptable if we used the body parts to benefit others?”  However, I am not sure how I feel about a novel that seems more effective at generating discussion questions than in telling a convincing story.  If the book had simply started with the premise that we are entering a dystopian world where teenage life is not valued because teenagers annoy their parents and do not seem to benefit society or something, I would have been much more inclined to suspend my disbelief.

The rest of the book is not particularly memorable, but reminds me of any number of dystopian YA novels.  I did not feel particularly attached to or sympathetic with any of the three protagonists.  This made it difficult to care about what happened to them, to feel invested in the romance that developed seemingly out of nowhere, or to want to read the sequel.  There are three more books in the series, but I do not have plans to read them.

3 Stars

Starglass by Phoebe North

Starglass by Phoebe North


Goodreads: Starglass
Series: Starglass #1
Source: Library
Published: July 23, 2013

Official Summary

Terra has never known anything but life aboard the Asherah, a city-within-a-spaceship that left Earth five hundred years ago in search of refuge. At sixteen, working a boring job and living with a grieving father who only notices her enough to yell, Terra is sure that there has to be more to life than what she’s got.

But when she inadvertently witnesses the captain’s guard murdering an innocent man Terra is suddenly thrust into the dark world beneath the Asherah’s idyllic surface. As she’s drawn into a secret rebellion that aims to restore power to the people, Terra discovers that her choices may determine life or death for the people she cares about most. With mere months to go before landing on the long-promised planet, Terra has to make the choice of a lifetime—one that will shape the fate of her people.


Liberty on Earth. Liberty on Zehava.

Starglass combines space adventure with a dystopian narrative to bring readers the story of a girl who discovers she is unsatisfied with the government and the only life she has ever known aboard the spaceship Asherah. Terra is a unique protagonist, a bit “every teen” as she questions what she wants out of life and whether she’s pretty enough, but also bold and smart enough to earn admiration from readers. It is immensely interesting to follow her on her journey to questioning what her future should look like.

Normally I find space novels a bit claustrophobic, particularly when they take place entirely within the confines of a spaceship, as Starglass does. However, the summary is correct in calling the ship essentially a city, and Terra has room to roam, explore, and grown. It always feels as if there’s something new to discover in the setting, even as the characters look wistfully forward to reaching their new planet and having new spaces to explore. North does a great job imagining what a spaceship would have to look like, and have to provide, in order to sustain a five hundred year journey.

The plot vacillates between originality and common YA novel trends. I though the opening of the novel more unique than the second half, partially because so many dystopian stories have the plot arc. Apparently there are only so many ways to discover your government is corrupt and then plan to overthrow them. However, the latter half does have enough small twists and unique touches that I remained engaged.

Finally, the Asherah was chartered by a group of secular Jews who wished to keep their culture alive in the wake of Earth’s destruction, bringing a diversity aspect of the novel. The Jewish religion is not much practiced or mentioned (they did specify secular Jews, after all), but there is Yiddish scattered throughout the novel, as well as an emphasis on mitzvot, and some traces of the religion remain—such as one character’s insistence on putting electric lights on the table once a week for dinner. Terra herself, however, does not seem much interested in or attached to her own culture.

Starglass is a solid read for fans of science fiction and for those who are not yet tired of reading dystopian fare. I’m not sure I’m personally engaged enough to really care about reading the sequel, but I did enjoy this installment and think it’s worth recommending.

3 Stars Briana

The Dark Intercept by Julia Keller

The Dark Intercept


GoodreadsThe Dark Intercept
Series: The Dark Intercept #1
Source: City Book Review
Published: October 31, 2017


Violet Crowley is the daughter of the president of New Earth, a utopian society built in the skies of Old Earth. The peace is kept by the Intercept, a computer program that tracks everyone’s emotions and can weaponize them if necessary, stopping crime before it’s committed. As Rebels arise questioning the Intercept, however, Violet must determine whether she believes safety is worth the intrusion on her emotions.


I’ve been stumbling across various YA dystopian novels lately that are being quietly marketed as general science fiction than as specifically dystopians; The Dark Intercept is one of them. While I don’t think publishers need to stop releasing dystopians, I do think authors need to do a lot more to make their stories stand out in the wake of The Hunger Games fad, and The Dark Intercept simply fails to offer anything new.  The book is fine, particularly for younger readers who may have missed the original dystopian craze, but personally I was bored.

I don’t like “emotions dystopians” in the first place because it seems pretty far-fetched to me that the government would have a real interest in controlling things like love.  In The Dark Intercept, readers are faced with a world where the government has determined that they can control people through emotional memories.  Basically, if someone looks like they might commit a violent crime, you initiate a bad memory and Boom! they’re on the ground sobbing, incapacitated.  No crime is committed, and the police don’t need to deal with things like guns themselves.

This whole premise seems unlikely to me, but, okay, I guess.  My bigger issue is that, although I agree having the government track your emotions is invasive, the stakes seem so much lower here than in other dystopian novels.  You see, the government doesn’t actually do anything with your emotions unless you are actively committing a crime.  Legally, no one is allowed to look at your file, and it seems no one does.  Yes, I would still push back against this system because it has the potential to be abused by the government in the future, but in the heat of the moment of the book itself, things don’t seem “too” bad.

The characters that inhabit this world are well-developed, ranging from the president of New Earth to the Chief of Police to the rebels and various Intercept employees.  Violent, as a protagonist, is curious and smart, though honestly I thought a lot of the plot read as her being overly nosy and naïve.  Her love interest seems to have a fascinating life, but he doesn’t interact with Violet all that much in the book, so the romance isn’t really a selling point.

I did really appreciate that the book seems to have just about wrapped everything up because standalone dystopian novels in the YA market are rare.  However, this is apparently supposed to be a series anyway.  I have no idea where it will be going from here and, frankly, don’t personally care.  This book is fine but just not a stand out in any way.
3 Stars Briana

The List by Patricia Forde


Goodreads: The List
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: Aug. 2017


Years ago climate change caused the waters to rise and the earth to flood.  Only the believers escaped into the city of Ark, along with a few others who now live destitute outside the walls.  In Ark, Letta works as the apprentice wordsmith, collecting and keeping all the words until the people are ready for them.  For now, they are permitted to speak only 500 words.  Speaking others results in banishment.  But then one day Letta’s master dies and she is suddenly promoted.  Questions about his death lead to only more questions.  Is Ark really the utopia its founder says?


The marketing and reviews for this book suggested that The List is a thoughtful look at the power of words and the perils of censorship.  However, even though the citizens of Ark are only legally allowed to speak 500 words–the language of List–the book does not really focus on the implications of this system.  Rather, it turns into a pretty standard dystopian novel in which the protagonist attempts to thwart the experiments of a tyrant.

Notably, Letta does not really develop any deep understanding of the implications of List.  Her actions are primarily driven by the discovery that her friends ,and later the people of Ark, are facing violence at the hands of Ark’s leader.  Interestingly, Letta, like all the people of Ark, is aware of much of the violence and corruption.  She just doesn’t care until people she knows are left to be devoured by wild animals.  Or until, apparently, the violence becomes more violent than she thinks acceptable. It’s impossible not to wonder if Letta does not care about List because List does not affect her much, either.  As an apprentice wordsmith, she can speak the old language with her master.  She can also speak it with the leaders of Ark.  Letta, as a bit of snob, does not associate much with the “common” people.  Thus, her world is not really the world of List.

List, then, does not play as pivotal a role in the story as the summary might suggest.  Letta typically does not speak List and neither do the people she associates with.  It might have been interesting if the book itself had been written in List, really illustrating the implications of attempting to communicate meaning with only 500 words (and no tone or body language!).  However, it seems like the author was so well aware of the limitations of List, that she did not want to use it much either in the narrative or through her characters.  This means that Letta never really has to engage with List, never has to wonder what emotions or ideas people are lacking because they do not have the words.  Letta has the words.  And she’s not overly concerned with the people who do not.

The List ultimately disappointed me.  I was promised a book about censorship, but received a book about a girl joining (sort of) a secret organization that promotes paintings and music, and sometimes rises up if they perceive an immediate threat to their survival.  Any conclusions about the perils of List, however, must be drawn by readers thinking about the implications beyond those depicted in the story.

3 Stars

Last Star Burning by Caitlin Sangster (ARC Review)

Last Star Burning


Goodreads: Last Star Burning
Series: Last Star Burning #1
Source: City Book Review
Publication Date: October 10, 2017


Last Star Burning is the exciting story of Sev, a girl who only ever wanted one thing: to be a good citizen of her country and make a place for herself. So it is a terrible misfortune when her mother betrays the whole nation, and the whole family is branded criminals as a result.  It is an even great misfortune, years later, when the government frames Sev for a fatal bombing in the middle of the city.  Suddenly, all the work she has put into her “re-education,” into keeping her head down and trying to prove she fits in, is wasted.  The only choice she has left is the one she never wanted to make: she will need to leave her beloved nation and see what dangers lie outside the walls.


Last Star Burning is billed as a fantasy (and, indeed, it is), but because the official summary and marketing have focused on the fantasy aspects, as well as on Sev’s romance and personal development, I was not expecting the story to have as much in common with dystopian fiction as it does.  It’s clear once one starts reading the book and sees that there’s a rigid caste system, and government keeping secrets, and a conspiracy to frame Sev for a bombing she almost died in herself, and a wall that barely anyone crosses…that the novel is basically a dystopian that happens in an imagined world rather than in a future version of our own world. I’m perfectly okay with his, however, because Sangster deals with the elements well, making them seem fresh and exciting even to someone who has read her share of YA dystopians.

The plot is well-paced, and there are a lot of twists and turns that will keep readers engaged as Sev begins to piece together what is really going on in her world.  She quickly learns that much of what she learned was true, truths she held very dear, are not true at all–yet it’s unclear whether her new sources of information may also have their own agendas and biases. Throw in some camping and some fighting, and the story is a great mix of action, intrigue, and world building.

Sev herself is a fun character to tag along with.  Her devotion to her country comes across as admirable rather than unfortunate, and it’s great to see her take steps towards turning her nation into the good place she once believed it was.  Her personal relationships are also very interesting, as she navigates friendship,  romance, and family ties.  One of her most defining characteristics is loyalty, and I loved see her fighting even for people who never quite believed n her.

So, Last Star Burning is not quite what I expected, but is a very good read. I’ve been disappointed with some of the YA I’ve been reading recently, but I love how Sangster puts a fresh, riveting face on plot elements that could easily have seemed old.

4 stars Briana

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley


Goodreads: Brave New World
Series: None
Source: Purchased
Published: 1932

Official Summary

Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress…

Huxley’s ingenious fantasy of the future sheds a blazing light on the present and is considered to be his most enduring masterpiece.


Minor spoilers about the message of the book.

I first read Brave New World in high school, in conjunction with George Orwell’s 1984, at which time I concluded 1984 was much more horrifying and Brave New World was a bore. I hoped that this reread of Huxley’s classic dystopian novel would give me a fresh perspective on it, since I’m older and have some more literature studies under my belt. Unfortunately, while I can admit that the themes of Brave New World are thought-provoking and extremely relevant to today’s society (at least American society, with which I am most familiar personally), I still found the narrative itself flat.

1984 still scares me because I find the portrayal of the surveillance in the novel terrifying.  Rebellion against the established order is impossible because someone is always watching. There is no privacy; even in your own home you are not alone and cannot behave as you wish.  It’s appalling and stifling.  Brave New World doesn’t inspire that same  visceral horror in me , the feeling that makes me superficially declare 1984 a more moving book, because on the surface Huxley’s world is  much more innocuous.  In the end, that’s what should be really terrifying about the book--that it’s not scary, that some people would legitimate consider the world utopian rather than dystopian.

After all, the values of the Brave New World society are not so different from what we would consider left-wing viewpoints today (though of course I’m not saying every person who is left-wing agrees with all of these things or agrees with them to such extremes).  The society values recreational sex and promiscuity; sleeping with many people is good.  Parenthood or pregnancy is no longer an “inconvenience.” Abortion is on demand. So is euthanasia; when a person becomes too old to be useful to society, they’re put to sleep.  The government has legalized and subsidizes recreational drugs.  It also pays for birth control and sterilization.  Education and job training appear to be free, as well.

The major problem with all of this, of course, is that none of it is optional.  It’s not that you can have sex with everyone without judgment or get an abortion or spend your entire weekend high; it’s that you must. At least, I think that’s the problem many readers would initially see.  The problem, as the book presents it, is that many of these things this society values are not good at all.  The society, in the name of making everyone happy, has also made them complacent.  Life is flat.  There’s no purpose because there’s nothing to truly do, nothing to overcome.  Love, passion, sacrifice–none of these things exist, and life is emptier for it.  I can’t say I disagree with this.  Throughout history arguments have been made for the necessity of people experiencing at least some pain, at least some obstacles they can overcome.

However, the problem of writing about a world/life that is flat is that the story itself must also be somewhat flat, must also be bit about the pointlessness of it all.  None of the characters have ever been truly compelling to me, precisely because they don’t experience much opposition or shocks to their worldview and subsequently don’t experience much growth. There’s a message to that, too: the book takes the pessimistic view that no one really can grow.  They can feel they ought to, but too much of history and culture and freedom of choice has been destroyed for them to know how to.  That’s interesting philosophically, but it doesn’t necessarily make for an engaging plot or characterization.

So is Brave New World worth reading? Yes. It’s a staple in dystopian literature, and I think readers who want to know about the genre, or just be well-read in the classics, should add it to their list.  It’s referenced often enough in Western culture that having a working knowledge of it can be beneficial.  I think it’s also very eye-opening in terms of the things it posits as belonging in a dystopian world. But am I promising it will be the most exciting book you read this year? No, not really.

3 stars Briana

Classic Remarks: 1984 and the Orwellian State

Classic Remarks
Classic Remarks is a meme that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.  We look forward to seeing your responses!

This Week’s Question

George Orwell’s 1984 is often referenced when discussions of privacy and oversight arise.  Do you think an Orwellian state could happen or is that overstating the case?




I enjoy 1984 as a story–it’s tense and presents a world that’s truly horrifying in its attempt to stifle freedom of thought and free will.  However, to me, the book is appealing in the way a story about ghosts or aliens is; the thought of it happening  gives me delicious chills, but I know it’s highly unlikely it actually will happen.

I won’t say with 100% certainty that a society like that in 1984 can never exist; after all, anything is possible under the correct set of circumstances.  However, the problem with creating and maintaining the Orwellian state is that people really don’t want to consent to it.  You need force to create the society, and you need constant force to maintain it. And when you’re using force to maintain a society, people start getting the sense there’s something wrong and maybe they should rebel against you.

The characters in 1984, even though government officials try to keep them content and oblivious of the true nature of history and the current society, are all too aware that there’s something unpleasant going on.  A number of them are actually employed in tasks that contribute to the rewriting of history (see our main character).  When maintaining the fiction of the society requires a large number of workers, there’s a reasonable chance some of those workers will refuse to submit quietly to their given task.  Furthermore, the constant surveillance–even within people’s own homes–is too much of a tip that the government is trying very, very hard to control people.  The main takeaway seems to be that maintaining this type of society takes a lot of effort and a lot of manpower.  It’s difficult to establish in the first place and difficult to keep safe from rebellions.

This why, although I think 1984 is the better story, Brave New World is more prescient dystopian.  In Brave New World, people aren’t forced (too much) to conform to the new world order; they want to conform.  The society offers the people things that are appealing to many people: sexual freedom, recreational drugs, stable employment and a clear place in society, etc.  The people who rebel do so because they seem to have some inherent sense that the manufactured happiness is boring; they aren’t rebelling because the government is too obviously trying to force them to do things they don’t want to do.

So, no, I won’t be fearing the imminent coming of the Orwellian state. I understand we’re getting feasibly closer with the development of new technologies and a growing demand to have more cameras in society for the prevention of crime. However, we’re a long way from willingly giving up our freedom and letting cameras into our homes.  And even though it’s possible to collect a large amount of data about a large number of people, right now there’s no desire and no manpower.  Could the government tap everyone’s phones? Probably. If they wanted. But they don’t, and if they did, they don’t currently have enough employees to deal with all the gathered information.  Maybe in the future desires will change and new technologies will be able to handle the data.  Right now, though, I’m not worried.

What are your thoughts? Link us to your posts in the comments!


Red Rising by Pierce Brown


Goodreads: Red Rising
Series: Red Rising #1
Source: Purchased
Published: 2014

Official Summary

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.


“I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.”

Though the words “YA dystopian” now conjure up images of a washed-out fad, I believe that the strongest novels of the genre still have power to move and entertain even those readers who have read dozens of dystopians in the past several years.  Red Rising is one of those special books.  With compelling prose and an immersive plot that brings to mind elements of The Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, and An Ember in the Ashes, Red Rising brings readers on Darrow’s powerful journey to discover the truth and free his people from slavery.

Part of Red Rising’s enthrallment lies in its detailed world building.  The story begins in the mines of Mars, where Reds like Darrow are forced to dig for resources that can help terraform previously uninhabitable planets.  The descriptions of the mines are rich, and Brown emphasizes the Red focus on family and community, song and dance, even when times are tough. He creates culture in addition to scenery.  The book moves on, however, to places very foreign to the mines, unimaginable to the people Darrow knows, and here, too, the descriptions are detailed and enthralling.  Brown can describe glamour as well as grit.

In his quest to break the social hierarchy that forces Reds to the bottom, Darrow moves quickly through a new world to learn how to conquer it.  The plot rarely lags, and there’s a good mix of action and reflection.  I won’t say that some parts are not predictable, particularly the catalyst that starts Darrow on his journey.  However, much of the plot is truly surprising, and it is delightful to read the new turns the story takes (even when those turns are, in fact, quite gory or appalling).

Darrow himself can be a bit of a jerk, and the fact that the novel is in first person emphasizes this.  If Brown wants to inform the reader that Darrow is handsome or talented or has done something unprecedented, Darrow himself has to be the one to say it.  Nonetheless, Darrow never walks over the edge of his arrogance to become unlikable, and, frankly, his drive and his conceit are realistic.  It does take a special type of person to overcome the status quo, someone skilled and confident enough to wield that skill.  Darrow makes sense as the protagonist of this novel in a way a gentler or more modest character might not, and the novel itself tackles this problem, asking what kind of people are dreamers or martyrs or doers.  The doers here do not kid themselves that sometimes they have to make tough choices.  Whether the decisions they make or the means they use are the right ones is left up to the reader.

Red Rising is a beautifully complex work that tackles questions about human nature and civilization, even as it takes readers on a wild ride through the many layers of the hierarchical society.  The story is action-packed, but it also has its pools of thoughtfulness and stillness.  YA readers will love this, even if they think they’ve read enough YA dystopians to last a lifetime.

4 stars Briana