Category Archives: Young Adult

Book Review: CITY OF BONES by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I’m giving this book the same rating I gave to HUNGER by Jackie Kessler, I’m giving it four stars for very different reasons. I’ve read some of the back-and-forth on this book/series on the web and have to agree with some of the more common criticisms. It is, at points, shallow, contrived, poorly developed, poorly written, lacking in intellectual rigor, lacking in originality, etc. etc.

All of that being said, it’s fun to read, and sometimes that’s all a book needs to be. Each of the entries in this series is 300+ pages, and I managed to plow through two of them in less than ten days without spending more than a couple hours a day reading. The world Clare has created is interesting, the characters likable (if shallow and/or predictable at times) and the storyline, though weak at moments, interesting enough to keep things moving forward. The books move quickly, have entertaining action sequences, and just enough character development to keep things from getting stale. Clare also touches, however lightly, on some social taboos like homosexuality and incest without making the reader overly uncomfortable, which is an admirable feat in an otherwise fairly pedestrian series.

So, if you’re looking for great YA literature or truly thoughtful commentary on modern teen life through a fantasy lens, look elsewhere. If you have fond memories of ANGEL and BUFFY and are prepared to deal with a little teen angst and some moral ambiguity, these books are fun, fast reads to enjoy on a hot summer’s afternoon.

I would highly recommend this series to adult fantasy fans who are old enough to remember the TV shows I just mentioned, and teens age 15 and up. There is some language in these books that parents and librarians/educators should be aware of, but nothing overly explicit. The books read quickly and will lend a great sense of accomplishment to more reluctant readers who may feel some real pride at packing away a 350 page book in less than a week.

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Book Review: HUNGER by Jackie Kessler

Hunger (Horsemen of the Apocalypse, #1)Hunger by Jackie Kessler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kessler’s first entry in her new Horsemen of the Apocalypse series is an engaging, quick reading, emotional punch in the guts. Or at least it was for me. The story stars 17 year old Lisabeth, an anorexic slowly staving herself to death. On the verge of suicide, she is named by the Pale Rider Death as Famine, the Black Rider, and loosed upon the world.

In just 180 pages, Kessler is able to build a story of incredible depth and personal struggle, mixed with an intriguing element of fantasy. Her interpretation of the Four Horsemen is unique to say the least, especially her Kurt Cobain-channeling Death. For anyone who has ever struggled with their inner daemons, especially as a teenager, this book will ring painfully true. Her depiction of Lisabeth’s fight with the “Thin Voice” is both enlightening and gut wrenching. I had to walk away from this book three times before I could get myself to finish it. I would argue that’s a case for how effective the writing is, not a knock.

Many of the secondary characters (and truly everyone is secondary other than our heroine Lisabeth) read as two-dimensional and static. That said, the struggle within Lisabeth and her attempts to understand and control her powers as Famine are compelling enough to make up for the lack of depth in the other characters. Kessler gives Lisabeth an ironic sense of humor which is both dark and laugh-out-loud funny, and the other horsemen, though seen only briefly, are each fascinating in their own right.

I would recommend this book to any young adult age 13 and up with a taste for fantasy, though I would caution parents and educators to be ready for some complicated emotional reactions. I would also recommend this book to adults, especially those who work with teens, as a good reminder of what it’s like being a teenager and how alien the world can feel when you’re 17 years old.

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