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The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

06th February 2010

Dorrit is 50 years old, self employed, unmarried and childless.  Her society has labeled her as “dispensable.”  Dorrit and others like her are required to submit their bodies to physical and psychological experiments, drug tests and even organ donations.  When their usefulness as experimental subjects has passed, the final donation is scheduled and the dispensables are euthanized.

Dorrit is resigned to living out her remaining days in the luxurious facility which houses the dispensables.  Although she misses her independence, privacy, the outdoors, and her beloved dog, she begins to make new friends, works on her writing and tries not to think about the future.  Then she falls in love with Johannes, and everything changes.  Although society claims Dorrit and Johannes are dispensable, the couple now have everything to live for.

This book is haunting.  It describes a society that is horrifying both for its brutal definition of “usefulness” and for its similarity to our own.  Abortion on demand, mercy killing, rationed or unaffordable health care and slurs against persons with disabilities are ordinary occurrences.  How much longer before we take the next step and begin writing our own definition of “dispensable persons?”

A worthy sequel to The Hunger Games.  If you haven’t read this series, you need to.

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.

Book Overload

08th October 2009

The stack of books on my desk, waiting to be reviewed, is insurmountable.  I will never get to them all.  So for the sake of time, I need to do a combo post.  Here are the books I’ve been reading the past few weeks.  Most of them have been fantastic:

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf–Two young girls are missing in the woods.  Told through multiple perspectives, the families work to find their girls, and one of the girls, Callie, works to regain her voice.  I had a hard time putting this one down.

Day After Night by Anita Diamant–A fictional account of the October 1945 rescue of Jewish detainees from the Atlit internment camp in Israel.  A grim reminder that the plight of the Jews didn’t end with the surrender of Germany.

The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam–The autobiographical account of Somaly Mam, who was sold into prostitution in Cambodia as a young girl, was able to escape, and returned to help other girls.  An amazing and heartbreaking story that continues today.

While I’m Falling by Laura Moriarty–A college student and her mom try to figure life out.  I love the way Moriarty writes about mother-daughter relationships.

Blood on the River: James Town 1607 by Elisa Carbone–A fictional account of Samuel Collier, page to Captain John Smith and his journey to Jamestown.  I read this after having visited Jamestown Settlement.  The book brings the familiar story to life.

The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick–I can’t believe I didn’t discover this book earlier!  A love of reading and writing saves a dystopic civilization.  Great book.

Lost and Found by Andrew Clements–Twin brothers take turns going to school, and in the process, discover who they are as individuals.  Not my favorite by Clements, but well done nonetheless.

Shackleton’s Stowaway by Victoria McKernan–One of the most amazing adventure stories I’ve ever read, based on the real journey made by Ernest Shackleton and his crew as they attempted to cross the Antarctic continent in 1914.  Highly recommended.

Exodus by Julie Bertagna

18th August 2009

If you can breeze past a few sermons about global warming and polar icecaps melting, this was a great book.  Mara’s town is a tiny shrinking island in the Atlantic.  As far as the people in her town know, their island is the only dry land left on earth.  But as the waters keep rising, they must find a new home.  Mara convinces the islanders to set off in search of a rumored refuge–sky cities built high above the wet earth.

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