Book Review

Joey Graceffa: Our New Big Brother

Children of EdenChildren of Eden by Joey Graceffa

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Warning: this review is going to be very nerdy. Read at your own risk.

I am the shameful second child who never should have come into this world at all. —Rowan

It’s an undeniable truth that dystopian novels have lost their popularity nowadays. The Age of The Hunger Games has been over for quite a while now. I myself have been consuming a lot of fantasy and contemporary books, which tend to be more refreshing than their dystopian peers. With that in mind, Children of Eden might just rekindle the world’s need for dystopian literature.

The moment I saw this book on Tasha Polis’s BookTube, I wanted to check it out immediately. I honestly did not know anything about Joey Graceffa, but I was intrigued by the idea/reality of a YouTube celebrity writing a legit, dystopian novel. Of course, like most booknerds, I was also beguiled by the gorgeous cover. Still, my expectations were neither high nor low; I merely hoped that my 19 dollars would not go to waste.

Now, I am happy to say that I did enjoy Children of Eden. Although it featured a typical, post-apocalyptic dystopia (which hid under the guise of a utopia), I loved Joey Graceffa’s application of Post-Structuralism, which is a body of knowledge that analyzes the delineation of surveillance in literature. In more nerdy terms, I was impressed by the author’s exploration of the Panopticon, a hypothetical, circular prison wherein an all-knowing and omnipresent entity strips people of their privacy. If we still aren’t on the same page, just think about the Big Brother reality show.

In Children of Eden, society is governed by an animated form of technology called the EcoPanopticon (EcoPan). This centralized, technological entity is described to be maternal, in that it supposedly provides for the needs of every citizen. Rowan, the protagonist, becomes uncomfortable when she realizes that she can never escape the withering gaze of the EcoPan. This lack of everyday privacy logically prevents her from being herself throughout the novel. It was very easy for me to sympathize with her plight. After all, I myself already find it very difficult to read in libraries which are frustratingly equipped with CCTV cameras.

Besides the EcoPan, Rowan also suffers under the surveillance of countless Greenshirts or policemen. Furthermore, since her existence as a second child is forbidden, she is constrained to stay at home, constantly monitored by her paranoid parents. Overall, Rowan is virtually a prisoner in the aforementioned Panopticon, doomed to a life where she can never embrace her own identity. I’m not sure if Joey Graceffa intended his work to be critiqued in such an erudite manner. Nevertheless, I hope that by utilizing literary theories, I have unveiled its beauty.

The second thing I loved about this book was its subtle similarity to Red Rising, which is one of my favorite books of all time. Children of Eden also had a major plot twist that boggled my mind to bits. That bomb of a cliff hanger made me want to jump in both ecstasy and disdain. I would not be surprised if Joey Graceffa and Pierce Brown were best friends.

I initially intended to give Children of Eden 4 stars because of its academic value, but I suddenly remembered my occasional moments of boredom and drowsiness. Seriously, half of the book is dedicated to world building. Eden is a very complex society, so its history and mechanics are extensively explained to the point that the story becomes uneventful. It’s pretty ironic how it took me almost a month to finish such a short novel.

All things considered, I applaud Joey Graceffa for doing a job well done. It’s not every day that we get to see YouTube stars publish novels that are actually worth our time and money. If you’re a helpless nerd like me, you will definitely enjoy this book. Just try your best not to be annoyed by the slow pacing.

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Book Review

The Open Door of Instalove

Stealing Snow (Stealing Snow, #1)Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I came from a long line of liars and monsters. —Snow

Unfortunately, now I understand why Stealing Snow has a general average of 3.14. I’m not a fan of Dorothy Must Die, so I can’t say I was expecting much from this book. I only picked it up because it is somehow similar to Frozen, which is one of my favorite movies of all time.

Stealing Snow is about a girl named Snow (like..duh), who is confined in a mental hospital after she supposedly attempted to walk through a mirror as a child. Everyone thinks she’s crazy, but she is soon revealed to be the lost princess of Algid, a fantastical realm of eternal winter. Snow then struggles to embrace her powers and destiny as the typical chosen one, as she is fated to either join or kill the the tyrannical King Lazar. Finally, to spice up her journey, Snow “inadvertently” forms a complicated love square/quartet with three, mysterious boys. She has such a wonderful life, doesn’t she? XD

My feelings for Stealing Snow can be encapsulated in a single word: Meh. I honestly liked the story, but it failed to stand out among the other books I’ve read this year. Snow was generally an interesting protagonist because of her Elsa-like magic, but any positive feeling I had for her was eclipsed by the fickleness of her love. She went to Algid for the sole purpose of rescuing her boyfriend named Bale, but she ended up falling for two other “handsome” dudes. Halfway through the book, I feared that their love square would expand into a love pentagon, hexagon, or heptagon. Seriously. Snow needed to be taught a lesson on loyalty. If you dislike or hate characters with instalove problems, then you should probably avoid this book like the plague.

I do not intend to discredit the totality of Stealing Snow. I must say that its pacing was beautifully quick, and it featured an abundance of plot twists that made me laugh in delight. After reading the last chapter, I felt so sorry for Snow because her life turned out to be a complete, heartbreaking lie. Solving this mystery might carry potential readers through all the annoying aspects of the plot. If you’re wondering which boy I ship with Snow, I’m sorry because it’s frustratingly difficult to choose only one. Hmm…but I guess I didn’t like Bale from the start. 😉

All things considered, I liked the book enough to be somehow excited for a sequel. However, in light of the 3.14 rating, I’m not sure if there’s ever going to be one. With fingers crossed, we shall see…

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Book Review

Just Keep Swimming

It Ends with UsIt Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not growing up in a household with a great example of how a man should treat someone he loves, so I’ve always held on to an unhealthy amount of distrust when it comes to relationships and other people. —Lily

Whew. I very nearly cried back there. My chest is heavy with a plethora of emotions, but I will do my best to be as rational as possible. Oh, before anything else, I’d like to warn you that this review will inevitably contain spoilers. Hence, I send everyone my preemptive apologies.

Okay. I’m ready. Let’s start. Can somebody give me a hug right now? I’d ask my brothers to do so, but they ain’t clingy like me. Hahaha. This was my first encounter with Colleen Hoover, and I never expected this book to affect me this way. I’m seriously perusing through all of my beliefs on marriage and relationships right now.

Being raised in a tight-knit, Christian home, I humbly admit that before I read this book, I felt detached towards the issue of abusive relationships. My parents do have their fair share of misunderstandings, but neither of them resort to violence when their sparks of anger become actual flames of emotional turmoil. Now that they’ve been married for 30 years, it’s still obvious that they’re passionately in love with each other. Yeah, I’m being corny. But the point is that my upbringing made it hard for me to fathom or comprehend the reality of domestic violence. For the longest time, I was aware of its relevance in society, but I didn’t really bother to reflect upon its various causes and effects. (Please don’t misunderstand me. I am glad that my parents love each other so unconditionally.)

After enjoying Lily’s happy ending with Atlas, I cannot help but scrutinize her previous relationship with Ryle. What went wrong? Who is at fault? Is Lily completely innocent? Is Ryle really a hopeless case? These are only some of the questions waltzing in my brain right now.

Some of you might wonder whose side am I on: Lily (the abused), or Ryle (the abuser)? As Colleen Hoover said in her afterword, everything isn’t simply black or white in regards to domestic violence. The first time Ryle hit Lily, I was furious with him, and I wanted Lily to empower herself and turn him over to the police. But when he told Lily about his traumatic experience, I started to feel sorry for him. After all, since his outbursts were not “intentional,” it was possible that he would be “healed” someday. The sincerity and regret he showed Lily also moved my heart. I did not tolerate his actions, but there was a part of me that hoped for his redemption.

Lily is the victim here, indeed. No woman deserves to be a man’s punching bag, or sex toy, for that matter. Still, there were times that I backed up her moments of self-loathing. After witnessing her parents’ abusive relationship, one would think that she would/could have avoided one herself. Furthermore, I seriously did not get why she pursued a relationship with Ryle in the first place. She described him as compassionate, smart, and driven, but were those qualities really enough to warrant a lifelong commitment? When I come to think of it, it’s possible that what was between Lily and Ryle wasn’t love. It was lust. I ardently believe that there is a fine line between the two. With that in mind, despite my personal beliefs, I wasn’t so bothered when they got divorced. After all, their relationship was not a marriage, in the truest sense of the word.

After considering the standpoints of both Lily and Ryle, I can say that neither of them is blameless. I hate Ryle for hurting Lily. I believe that women are fountains of color and life, and men have no right to assert their “supremacy” over them through acts of violence. If anything, men who do such things are pathetic cowards. Nevertheless, I am not exactly fond of Lily, who was attracted to such a foul-mouthed and lecherous man. She could have avoided a lot of pain if she only ignored her libido and heeded the warnings in her own mind.

Overall, It Ends with Us is a very thought-provoking novel. I really enjoyed it because it gave me hours of delightful introspection. It made me reflect upon the importance of genuine and meaningful relationships. It enlightened me to the consequences of rushing into commitments that we aren’t sure we can keep. Most importantly, it made me realize that domestic violence doesn’t only affect its victims, but also those who witness it. Thank you, Lily, for ending the cycle.

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Book Review

There Is No Problem with Forever

The Problem with ForeverThe Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think that all of us, at the end of the day, just want to be real and want to be loved. —Jennifer L. Armentrout

Before I begin, I would like to let you know that this essay is going to be less than a holistic review and more like a subjective character analysis. Why? Because honestly, The Problem with Forever doesn’t have that much of a plot to evaluate or reminisce about. Still, despite its generally uneventful content, I think that everyone with a beating heart should read this book.

The Problem with Forever mainly revolved around Mallory Dodge (aka Mouse) and Rider Stark, two teenagers with a seriously horrible past. To simply put it, they were raised for more than a decade by a pair of abusive criminals. Eventually, they were saved from their hellish environment, but they were separated and taken in by different families. Four years later, they were miraculously reunited, and one would expect them to be okay and have a completely happy story.

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, because Mallory and Rider were anything but “okay.” As a result of their traumatic upbringing, Mallory became as silent as a mouse (hence the nickname), unable to stand up for herself nor have a “normal” social life. As for Rider, he appeared to be relatively unscathed. However, as we all know, things are not always as they seem.

Since I’ve always been interested in psychology, I liked that The Problem with Forever featured a character-driven story. This book contained almost 500 pages, and each chapter was dedicated to helping readers get to know Mallory and Rider on a nearly personal level. With that in mind, it was great how JLA made her characters so palpable. Each of their thoughts and emotions was precious to me, because they were the keys to unlocking their depth and worth as literary figures.

Because the book was written in the first person POV, I logically learned more about Mallory than Rider. For the most part, it was nice to be in her mind. She was a good daughter, a loyal friend, and a passionate girlfriend. She also had this way of being optimistic and pessimistic at the same time, which I found to be weird, if not very interesting. Furthermore, her journey towards “recovery”/”normalcy” was very inspiring. I was so proud of her when she finally embraced her past and came out of her shell of perpetual silence. There were also many times she made me laugh. Despite her lack of romantic experience, her thoughts about Rider weren’t totally innocent. Overall, Mallory had more character development than Rider.

Although my perception of Rider was quite limited, I loved him as much as I loved Mallory. Like most YA dudes, he was heartbreakingly handsome. (Like…DUH). Thankfully, he was more than just a pretty face. If Rider were a character in Divergent, he would definitely be in Abnegation. He was selfless to a fault, to the point that Mallory criticized him for having no sense of self-preservation. He had protected Mallory during their childhood, so it was only natural for him to be her fairy-tale-ish knight now that they were teenagers. When I come to think of it, his loyalty to Mallory was downright unearthly. I’m not sure if such a guy exists in real life. Haha. Nevertheless, his devotion to Mallory was something worthy of emulation.

Besides the aforementioned protagonists, The Problem with Forever featured a diverse cast of supporting characters. JLA did not create them as mere plot devices, and I applaud her for that. Mallory and Rider were indeed the stars of the show, but I would really love to read a novella about Ainsley, Paige, or Jayden. Fan-fic, ayone? Hahaha.

As I’ve implied before, the only thing I did not like about The Problem with Forever was its uneventful content. JLA’s writing style was engaging and easy to comprehend, but it took me more than a month to finish this novel because I kept on putting it down. Some chapters were really slow-paced, I often felt sleepy while reading them.

In the end, I enjoyed reading The Problem with Forever because of its priceless and inspiring characters. I will always be fond of Mallory and Rider, who taught me the following truths:

1. It never pays to keep secrets from those you love.
2. You cannot escape your past, but you should not let it define or control your future.
3. You must first learn to love yourself before you can expect others to love you.
4. There is a difference between living and existing.
5. Moments of weakness don’t equate to an eternity of them (Armentrout 2016).

*The featured image was contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)

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Book Review

Overhyped, Overhyped

Everything, EverythingEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There’s more to life than being alive —Madeline

The blurb at the back of Everything, Everything said, “Read the book that everyone, everyone is falling in love with.” I was quite dubious about the latter when I first picked up this book, inevitably thinking that this might be just another case of overhyping. However, things temporarily changed after I got to page 42, which marked the beginning of Madeline and Olly’s online relationship.

The conversations of these two characters were downright hilarious. Madeline’s sarcasm and Olly’s wit combined to form highly entertaining dialogues that made me laugh out loud. I generally have a serious demeanor, which often makes me unappreciative of things that most people may find funny. With that in mind, Everything, Everything took me by surprise because it somehow managed to tickle my hidden funny bone.

The plot itself was also intriguing. After all, I never knew it was possible for someone to be allergic to the world. Even now, such a disease seems like a hyperbole to me. I simply cannot fathom how or why it could happen. Oh well, I guess I just have to consult dear Google and do my own research soon.

I actually started to love Everything, Everything because of its endearingly humorous content. I thought that my positive feelings would carry on through the entire novel, but I encountered a few problems that made me think twice: instalove and character flaws.

There are some books that execute instalove more tolerably or logically, if that makes sense, but Everything, Everything is not one of them. I acknowledge that there were sparks between Madeline and Olly; they were obviously very compatible. Regardless, their relationship progressed so quickly that I could barely comprehend it. I believe that in a way, YA contemporary novels are supposed to portray reality. Thus, I did not fully support #Mally because it was a nearly fantastical and contrived ship (pairing).

The remnants of my positive feelings were further reduced by Madeline’s flaws. Her resentful, impulsive, and unforgiving attitude really bothered me. I do not intend to judge her in light of her unfortunate circumstances. Still, I expected that her struggles in life would make her more understanding, especially towards her family.

All things considered, I am not a part of everyone, everyone who loves Everything, Everything. There were parts that I deeply enjoyed, but there were also parts that made me scowl. Looking at the glass half full, I agree that Nicola Yoon is a talented writer. I already have a copy of her new book, The Sun Is Also a Star, so I shall stay optimistic and hope that it will give me a better reading experience.

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Book Review

Deceptively Predictable

These Broken Stars (Starbound, #1)These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I became interested in this book (series) primarily because of the hype it received in the BookTube community. And to be honest, like most readers, I was inevitably intrigued by the pretty book cover.

While reading it, I initially couldn’t help but think that the love-hate relationship between Lilac and Tarver was kinda overrated. However, since this book was written in the first person POV, I found myself smiling and chuckling at their respective mental narratives, aka inner monologues. It was really fun to read their conflicted thoughts and feelings about each other. I especially appreciated Lilac’s character development. Her evolution from annoying to inspiring was meticulously crafted.

Another strength of the novel was its plot and world building, which I believe were deceptively predictable. Lilac and Tarver were shipwrecked on an “unknown” and “isolated” planet, and after reading the Across the Universe trilogy by Beth Revis, I immediately made predictions about the planet’s name and purpose. To my delight, nearly all of my jaded expectations were thwarted in the last 70 pages. I don’t know if I just haven’t read enough science fiction, but I was really intrigued by that particular moment in the finale. (I don’t want to spoil anyone, so I’m gonna keep it hush, hush.)

In the end, if you like literary concoctions of sci-fi, romance, and a little bit of socio-economic issues, then I suggest you pick up this novel.

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Book Review

The Beauty of Golden Betrayal

Golden SonGolden Son by Pierce Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pierce Brown is an expert in driving his readers to mild insanity. This sequel to Red Rising was intricately woven with so many plot twists, to the point that I sometimes found it hard to keep up with all the things that were happening.

Strangely, one of the best things I liked about this book was that it was practically a literary crash course in betrayal. While reading, I stopped myself from becoming too attached to Darrow’s “friends,” in fear that anyone of them would end up stabbing him in the back. The distinction between friend and foe was just so blurry and dynamic, and I experienced a dark sort of pleasure assuming the worst about the characters.

In the end, my suspicious and judgmental approach to the novel was justified. Although that killer of a last chapter lacerated both my mind and heart, I found myself grinning like a lunatic. Thank you Pierce Brown for this unforgettable ride of a novel.

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