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Matched by Ally Condie

19th March 2011

A great dystopian young adult book.  Definitely one of my favorites.

I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel.

Homeland is told entirely through letters.  Susanna, a Southerner, and Cora, an islander from Maine, meet briefly in Tennessee before the start of the Civil War.  They strike up a correspondence that spans the duration of the war.

It took me a 20 pages or so to get into the book and get some characters sorted out.  But once I got going, I couldn’t put the book down.  It’s one of those books that just keeps getting better and better as you go on, and then the ending is so perfect, you wouldn’t change a thing.

Through Susanna and Cora’s letters, Hambly dives into some huge issues: the effects of the war on women; the competing loyalties that people felt as they were torn between love of homeland, their state, the Union, family and their family’s land and livelihood; the choices, or lack of choices, that women had to support themselves and their families; the power of books to teach and comfort; the power of writing to bring clarification and healing during times of pain; the power of friendship to sustain through the darkest times.

These books are the first two in the Chaos Walking series.  Todd lives in Prentisstown, a town that is full of noisy men, men who can hear each other’s every thought.  But even though each thought is public, secrets are still being kept.  Todd discovers a mysterious girl and suddenly must run for his life, away from everything he thought was true.

Some things I loved about these books: The combination of sci-fi (they take place on another planet) with the dystopic society; the growth that Todd shows from a boy to a man; the hard questions the characters face about the use of violence; the complex, lying “bad guy” (who reminds me of Ben from Lost); the relationship between Todd and his arch-enemy Davy; and the fine lines the characters walk between good and evil.  Even though this is a young adult series, the questions the characters must wrestle with are difficult ones that people of all ages will have to answer.

These aren’t happy books.  They are quite violent and there’s a lot of death.  If you’re looking for a happy read, or a story that wraps up at the end of the book, these aren’t for you.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

02nd October 2009

A horrible accident forces Mia to make the most difficult choice of her entire life.  The tension in this book begins with the opening sentence, “Everyone thinks it was because of the snow.  And in a way, I suppose that’s true.”  Immediately I was drawn in, waiting, wondering what was going to happen and hooked until the final page.

I would absolutely love to see this book on film.  The alternating between Mia in present day, and the flashbacks that provide the back-story keep the tension high, and would be fantastic on the big screen.