Apr 262011

I picked this one up because of all the hype about Amanda Hocking, and how she’s blazing the trail for self-publishing. I figured it was worth seeing what all the hoopla was about. At first, I was afraid I was going to be disappointed. “Switched” starts out a bit slow. It is a YA, teen angst-y story about a girl who, on top of having to deal with her very confused feelings about herself and the mysterious “bad boy” kid at school, discovers that her psychotic mother who tried to kill her when she was six, wasn’t all that psychotic at all (well, except for the minor issue of trying to kill her). Dear old Mom had claimed for years that Wendy wasn’t really her daughter, and that her “real” baby had been a boy. Well, it turns out Mom was right.

Wendy finds out that she is a Trylle – not even human, and things go downhill from there.

As I said before, the story starts pretty slow. In fact, it isn’t until almost halfway through the book that the character begins to grow into more than a cardboard cutout of a stereotypical teenage girl, wrapped up in her feelings to the exclusion of common sense. Additionally, there are some pretty blatant typos that pulled me out of the story and had me shaking my head. However, once the story does pick up, it does so quite well, and by the time I reached the end, I was immediately ready to pick up the next in the series (and have already done so, in fact).

While I give this one three stars, I view this book as an introduction to the world that Hocking has created, and have every hope that the next book will launch itself directly into the meat of the story that she so obviously has it in her to tell. I fully anticipate that the next book will keep me engaged as the last third of the first one did, and find myself quite eager to tear into “Torn”, the next book in the series.

Apr 102011

It’s taken a little longer to post this review than I expected it would.  That’s mainly because I wasn’t able to stop after reading Suzanne Collins’ first novel in this series.  “The Hunger Games” is the first in the trilogy that carries over into “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay”.  It’s the story of Katniss Everdeen, a seventeen year old girl who becomes a tribute in the Hunger Games, a twisted gladiatorial competition in which two tributes from each of Panem’s twelve districts are forced to participate.  It is an annually televised “reality show” wherein the twenty-four tributes are forced to battle each other to the death in an acres-wide arena filled with deadly terrain, genetically engineered flora and fauna, and mobile traps designed to move the action along for the viewers when things get too boring.

The setting is a dystopian future in which global warming and wars have decimated much of the world, and a corrupt government has taken its lessons from ancient Rome – distract the populace with enough blood to entertain them, and remind them of who’s in charge.  At the same time, keep them impoverished and oppressed, convinced that they’re lucky to receive the dregs left behind by the Capital.

By the end of the first book, Katniss realizes that she’s become a pawn in a plot that is much larger than the Games.  She learns to play for the cameras, and the hearts of the viewers, and through them, perhaps change the very fabric of her society.  I won’t give spoilers here, but I will say that even though the story is written as a young adult novel, it is darker than most YA fiction I’ve read, and entertaining enough to keep this fifty year old kid engaged.  It alternates between multilayered plotlines that are in places rather simplistic, and in others quite thought-provoking.

Since this review is specifically for the first book, “The Hunger Games”, I won’t go into the other two books in the trilogy.  I couldn’t do so anyway without spoiling some of the plotlines of the first book.  All I will say is that Suzanne Collins is an author I will be supporting by buying more of her work.  I highly recommend this entire series.  I would give it four out of five stars.