Teens’ Top Ten: More Nominee Highlights

Posted August 16, 2011 by 1 Comment

We’re back with the next five titles on the Teens’ Top Ten Nominee list. How many have you read?

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare  

“Oh, what a fantastic ride!”

That was my first thought upon finishing Clockwork Angel, Cassandra Clare’s latest work in her world of Shadowhunters. Set in Victorian England, it serves as the first of three prequels to her best-selling The Mortal Instruments series.

Those unfamiliar with The Mortal Instruments will have no problems if this is the first book of Clare’s they read, but avid fans will get much more out of it, recognizing the beginnings of certain elements — explanations of things, and characters, to come.

In Clockwork Angel, Clare easily blends the fantasy/sci-fi of The Mortal Instruments with steampunk, mostly in the form of a creepy-as-hell robot army bent on wreaking havoc on the London Institute and capturing our new heroine, Tessa Gray. Her special ability is the catalyst for all the dramatic action in Clockwork Angel, and believe me, there is so much that readers may find themselves panting.

They may also find their patience exhausted by Will, who is so similar to Jace, it’s easy to forget they are separate characters, except that Will — if this is possible — is even more cruel and cold than Jace. He has some hidden reason for being a jerk (like Jace) but readers only get hints at what it is. The third point in the the book’s potential love triangle is James, or Jem, who is Will’s foil in every way. He’s mature, perceptive and kind, if a bit on the effeminate side. Both boys clearly have feelings for Tessa, but we’ll have to wait for the remaining books in the series to see how it all plays out. (For now, I’m not taking sides.)

As a The Mortal Instruments fan, the highlight of the book was stepping back a hundred years to see the genesis of certain elements. Clare does a fantastic job incorporating details from the previous series into Clockwork Angel. For example, Henry’s constant tinkering eventually leads to the development of the sensor. The alliance with Magnus Bane is strong even in Victorian England. We discover the roots of the Pandemonium Club. And Church the cat … meeeow. (That’s cat for “I’m not going to tell you.”)

The plot, in true steampunk/gaslight fashion, works like clockwork — it’s a well-oiled machine that keeps the reader flipping pages like the second-hand on a pocketwatch. Driving the mechanism is a series of questions, working and fitting together like the teeth on a cog. Some of the questions come to a satisfying conclusion, but most build suspense for the next two books. (What is Tessa? Why was she “created?” What happens to Jem? Why is Will the way he is? What role does Magnus Bane play in this? Do Charlotte and Henry lose control of the London Institute?)

On the whole, Clockwork Angel is a wild ride with plot twists and enough action to render readers breathless. If I really wanted to be nitpicky, I could say the characters are a little too familiar, but considering their last names, there is a good reason for this. Fans will be richly rewarded and Cassandra Clare novices will soon be converted into devotees.

Hang on to your hats, boys and girls: Clockwork Angel is a “whir-click” tick-tock trip. – Stephanie Lawton, Novel Novice

Check out more great Novel Novice posts on Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel below:

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

This review is 100% SPOILER-FREE!

Mockingjay is perfect.

Completely, utterly and 100% perfect. I could not, in a million years, have predicted how Suzanne Collins could have ended her epic dystopian trilogy so perfectly.

Like many fans, I cracked open the spine of Mockingjay with equal parts enthusiasm and trepidation. I couldn’t wait to find out how everything would end, yet I feared the possibilities. I knew there was a very good chance things would not end well – but despite my general preference for happily ever afters, I also knew that a saccharine ending wouldn’t be satisfying, either. Not this time. There had to be more, and Collins delivers.

With Mockingjay, Collins stays true to her characters and the world she’s created since page one of The Hunger Games – while still giving them room to grow and flourish. Katniss has depth we’ve only glimpsed until now – and she continues her role as an imperfect, unlikely and reluctant heroine. There is much still to learn about both Gale and Peeta, as well — and what role they will play in Katniss’s life. And then there are the supporting characters, who each rise to a new level in Mockingjay: Haymitch, Prim, Finnick, Johanna, and several new faces. And let’s not forget the face of the enemy – President Snow.

The book also further explores themes from the first two books. There’s the subject of the enemy, who can be trusted, and the corruptible nature of power. The overarching idea of televised entertainment and the power of the media continues to serve as a backbone to the story. In a way, both the Capitol and the rebel forces use the media as a form of warfare more potently than guns and weapons. And without seeming preachy, the concept really makes one sit back and consider the world around us today. What we see on TV. How information is disseminated. (It’s an especially poignant concept for me, considering I work in TV news. It was an odd feeling to find myself relating to certain characters who were always angling for the best possible camera shot to make a story look good on TV.) And then there’s the sense that Katniss and her companions are still deeply entrenched in the Hunger Games themselves, even though they’ve long since left the arena.

Mockingjay is haunting and emotionally draining, but in the best possible way. I’m not prone to crying over fiction, but I found myself closing the book with tears in my eyes simply as a way to unleash some of the compounded emotions. (And please bear in mind that people cry for many, many reasons – so don’t take my tears as an excuse to jump to any conclusions). I finished Mockingjay with a sense of completion, exhaustion and exhilaration. I wasn’t just satisfied by the ending; I was consumed by it. It was, as I’ve said, perfect. It ended exactly how it needed to end. And while I closed the book with tears in my eyes, there was also a huge smile on my face. There still is.

So all I’m left to say is this: Thank you, Suzanne Collins.

Sara Gundell, Novel Novice

More Mockingjay highlights:

Love, Inc. by Yvonne Collins

Zahra Ahmed-MacDuff is being pulled in many directions lately. Her parents are separated, and with her grandparents moving in with her mother, she is in the middle of a serious tug of war between her Scottish and Pakistani roots and her current life as an American. Thrown into therapy as a way to cope with all the turmoil, she meets Syd and Kali, whose parents have also split up and who share something else in common: all three are dating the same boy! Eric, aka Ric, aka Rico, has been three-timing them. The way the girls deal with his shenanigans puts them in a small spotlight, and they find themselves approached by other lovelorn individuals asking for help. Thus, Love, Inc. is born. But can the girls juggle school, therapy, Love, Inc., and family obligations all at once? Their adventures ramble all over Austin, Texas, and force them to take a deeper look at what is happening around them and within their own hearts. This is a breezy read with strong appeal for those looking for something ‘clean’ to enjoy. -Spring Lea Henry.  Voice of Youth Advocates  April 01, 2011

Matched by Ally Condie

In a post-Hunger Games world, it seems dystopian fiction is all the rage. And as more dystopian titles are released, it means authors will have to work even harder to stand out from the crowd. Ally Condie does just that with her new book Matched, in stores today. The first in a new trilogy, Matched has earned all of the buzz its been receiving.

Matched is set in a saccharine and disturbing dystopian future that, in some ways, is more terrifying than the world of Panem from The Hunger Games. Whereas Panem is blatantly oppressive — and its citizens know they are being wronged by their government — the world of The Society is deceptive. The ruling body — “The Officials” — act as though they are serving the people’s best interests, and sugar-coat their control in such a way that most citizens believe in what’s being asked of them.

As the synopsis says, “In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.” But for our heroine, Cassia, this has always seemed like a small price to pay for the perfect life. And she’s spent her youth looking forward to the day when she turns 17 and will be Matched with her perfect mate.

And at first, all goes well. The face that appears before her is her best friend Xander. They’ve grown up together, and their Matching seems ideal. Except for a brief moment when another boy’s face, Ky, appears on the screen. What begins as a moment of doubt leads to Cassia questioning her entire existence, her entire world and her purpose in it.

The book is slow-paced at times, but it works — with the tension building moment by moment. Like when Cassia and Ky sneak hand-holds. Or read illegal poetry in the woods. Destroy a scrap of paper. Throughout the book, seemingly innocuous scenes buzz with an eerie and disturbing quality. On the surface, things seem fine — but Condie writes the scenes so that you sense a lurking danger.

This hum of unease builds upon itself until the book’s climax, which peaks with a cunning, cinematic quality that readers will devour. The book ends with the perfect set-up for its sequel, which will hopefully hit stores next year. (Matched is the first in a new trilogy — so you’ve got lots to look forward to!) – Sara Gundell, Novel Novice

More on Matched:

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

And here’s our video reviewer, Sandy, to share her thoughts with you on Nightshade:

 

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