Book Review: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Friday 26 September 2014

The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend
Kody Keplinger
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Published: April 5th 2012
Pages: 343
Rating: 4 stars

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "the Duff," she throws her Coke in his face. 

But things aren't so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him. 

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone. And eventually, through this realization, Bianca begins to see how harmful her unhealthy way of dealing with her problems has been, and finds a way to confront them head on.

From even the early chapters of this book I could identify with Bianca, being a bit of a DUFF that doesn't enjoy parties myself. As a character, she was real, relatable, and well developed and I enjoyed reading about her. I think if she'd been any different I wouldn't have liked this so much.

I'll admit: the whole idea of the 'DUFF' did anger me when it was first introduced. But when I stepped back and thought about it, I realised that's good. It's an all too real concept that people follow in real like and people - especially impressionable teenage girls - should not accept it lying down. I immediately liked and respected Bianca for standing up for herself when she was first labelled as the DUFF of her friendship group. And while her behaviour and reactions to said label afterwards did make me feel sad, they also made me feel. Far too many people - myself included - feel bad about themselves thanks to comments from others, and I commend Keplinger for including and capturing that in her writing. It's very powerful.

While I'm not really a fan of romance or contemporary, I did like the relationships in this books. Both the friendly and the more romantic. I found them to be realistic, if a little frustrating at times. The characters all came across as well-rounded to me - Bianca and Casey especially. As well as that, the writing gripped me and kept me interested and I had no idea where the story was going to go, so this was a pleasantly surprising read. There were parts that made me laugh, bits that made me roll my eyes, and even a scene that I thought I was going to cry at. (Unheard of, I know; I never cry at books.)

Overall though, this was a really good contemporary. It hasn't converted me to loving the genre, but it has given me hope that there are other little gems like this out there.

Book Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

Friday 19 September 2014

Lauren Oliver
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Published: March 6th 2014
Pages: 416
Rating: 3 stars

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a poor town of twelve thousand people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She'd never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game; he's sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he's not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them-and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

Panic made me do exactly that as I was reading it. The fast paced, action packed story had me on the edge of my seat, heart pounding as I worried for the characters as they took part in the game. 

The idea behind the story was interesting, and I could see something similar happening in real life, however I feel that the execution could have been better. 

While I did worry for the characters during the stupid tasks, I found that I didn't really care for them outside of that situation. I didn't really connect with any of them, either, which I think had to do with the writing. 

Lauren Oliver wastes no time in jumping straight into the meat of the story, choosing to treat the reader as if they have a basic knowledge of things and then explain along the way. This approach would have worked had her writing not been so simple. An it was it just didn't feel right to me. 

I also would have preferred for more focus to have been put on Panic itself. That was the reason for me picking this book up, and I was a little disappointed that it wasn't the entire focus of the story. Or at least that's how it came across to me. I could have done without all the half developed sob story backgrounds and attempts at character development. 

That being said, I don't regret reading this. The idea behind it was good and it was a quick read. 

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Friday 12 September 2014

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Ransom Riggs
Genre(s): Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
Published: June 4th 2013
Pages: 352
Rating: 3 stars

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is, at first glance, a story with a unique twist to it. That being that it has an an almost dual narrative, made up of text and photographs.

I have read both graphic novels and books with illustrations, but never a book that has taken inspiration from photographs and grown from there. I was wary, unsure of how things would unfold. Would the photos bear the weight of the story and tell it like a graphic novel? Or would it be a somewhat childish attempt to support the story through visual means?

The answer to that: neither.

While they were a nice touch, I found that the photographs didn't add much to the writing or the story as a whole. I didn't find them particularly creepy either - instead I was left frowning over how obviously staged some of them looked.

I honestly don't know what I was expecting from this book, but I was definitely surprised when I started reading. Not necessarily in a bad way, because I did enjoy it, but it did feel a bit... lacking.

That being said, I will be continuing on with the books that follow, as this definitely has potential and I'd like to see how the story grows.

Book Review: Slated by Teri Terry

Friday 5 September 2014

Teri Terry
Genre(s): Dystopia, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Published: May 3rd 2012
Pages: 448
Rating: 5 stars

Kyla’s memory has been erased,

her personality wiped blank,
her memories lost for ever.

She’s been Slated.

The government claims she was a terrorist and that they are giving her a second chance - as long as she plays by their rules. But echoes of the past whisper in Kyla’s mind. Someone is lying to her, and nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust in her search for the truth?

I'd been putting off reading Slated for almost a year before I decided to pick it up. Why? I don't know, because I really enjoyed it.

I knew straight away from the prologue that this was going to be a book that kept me wondering, and maybe even a little confused at times. I instantly started questioning things and wanting to find out more. Why was Kyla running? Who spoke to her?

My questioning continued throughout the story, where I found new thoughts and ideas were not explained as they were brought up, but instead touched upon again later in the story. On one hand I like this, as it added to the mystery for me as a reader, and I found it believable as Kyla, as a Slated and the narrator, wouldn't know or understand everything straight away and therefore be able to explain things. On the other hand, however, it annoyed me, as I like things to be laid out clearly at the start of the story. It took a while for things like the Levo to be explained and this did frustrate me, but again, it's believable, as Kyla would already know all about them an wouldn't do that annoying 'this is my Levo. It does this, this, and this' explanation that is sadly all too common in first person fiction.

I was intrigued by the world building, as well. More so in a good way than a 'huh?' way. I really enjoyed how it read as if it was set in the present, even though it was set a couple of decades in the future. It wasn't glaringly obvious that it was a futuristic/sci-fi/dystopian story from the setting, which pleased me as I'm iffy with those genres, and the characters seemed 'normal' enough to be part of our present day world.

The characters also kept me guessing. I liked how they all had different personalities and characteristics, no one felt like they were just a copy of someone else, and I kept trying to figure out their motives and reasoning for things. I really enjoyed the development as well; everyone started off as quite one dimensional but I found that that soon changed, whether that was because of Kyla's own development and narration, I don't know. 

While I did find the writing to be quite simplistic, as well as choppy and jarring at times, I did - for the most part - like it. I felt that it represented Kyla's thoughts well, as she would be very confused by things and no doubt think in a choppy and jarring way.

Despite me minor complaints, I did really, really enjoy Slated. It's probably the best dystopian I've read. I can't wait to complete the trilogy.
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