Recent Reads: Post-Apocalyptic Edition

Shortly after I wrote my last post, I got struck with the most wicked case of “Bride Brain” imaginable. Suddenly, a great deal of my somewhat limited brain capacity was devoted to ironing out those last crucial (not remotely) details of the projects that we need to get done in the last few weeks (holyshit!) before the wedding.

That said, I’ve read two kickass books, and am having a hell of a time writing a coherent post about them because they don’t contain tulle or hydrangeas. Or scrimshaw knots.

“The Dark and Hollow Places”~ Carrie Ryan  

This is the third book in the “Forest of Hands and Teeth” series, and once again we are introduced to a female protagonist who is more than meets the eye.

Annah has been living alone in the Dark City since Elias left her to join the Recruiters. It’s the first time we get to see the fabled “safe” city, and it’s bleaker than expected. It’s also about to get a great deal uglier as the zombie horde awakened by Gabry and Catcher descends on the city and throws everything into chaos.

For most of her life, Annah has been haunted by her decision to leave her forest Village and twin sister Abigail behind. After Elias leaves, she realizes that she’s tired of waiting for him to return to her and sets out to leave the city and return to see if anyone from her old life still remains in the Forest. Fate intervenes just as she’s crossing the bridge to the mainland, as her attention is brought to a man being detained by the Recruiters… and her twin walking across the other side of the bridge with her head held high.

Annah has no choice but to return to the Dark City and attempt to save her sister from the destruction that they both know is coming. Before her journey is over, she’ll find help in unexpected places and draw on strength she didn’t know she had.

This book is completely action-packed and full of frightening scenes. Just when I thought I was growing immune to the horrors of the world that Carrie Ryan had created, she throws in some new twists and turns and again keeps me up at night plotting how we’d zombie-proof the house in the event of a plague of undead.

Though the title of the book is “The Dark and Hollow Places,” I was unprepared for exactly how literally it was going to be taken. Carrie Ryan uses the theme of darkness multiple times throughout the book, both physical darkness and the emotional depths that Annah sinks to when she realizes that her best friend has left her and fallen in love with her sister. There’s also a great deal revealed about the darkness of the human soul, as the Recruiters realize that the human race is fighting a losing battle and turn to ever more brutal forms of “entertainment” to fill their last days.

The only complaint I have about this novel is a direct result of the author’s skill: Carrie Ryan writes so well in the first person perspective that you can’t help but feel each character’s emotions as your own. This was fine when dealing with Mary’s fear and Gabry’s uncertainty, but feeling Annah’s loneliness and betrayal was very difficult. You can’t help but look at the couple you were so rooting for in the last book with a bit of distaste. I’m sure that wasn’t her intention, but it cheapens the relationship between Gabry and Elias, and makes Gabry seem irritatingly naïve and sheltered.

I’m not sure if this is actually supposed to be the end of a trilogy, or if Ryan deliberately left it open to the possibility of more follow up novels. As bleak as the world has gotten, she can’t help but leave us with a last image of hope.

“Matched”- Ally Condie

The Yezel directed me to this book that was on a list of “under the radar reads.”

I LOVED it. I am literally counting down the time until the second book is released. I haven’t devoured a book so quickly since “The Hunger Games”, if that’s any indication of the world that Condie has created here.

In Cassia’s world, The Society controls everything. They decide what you wear, where you work, how much you eat, and when you die. They monitor what you eat, if you arrive on time and even what you dream. They do not make mistakes.

Until Cassia is old enough to be Matched, and then a system mistake turns her world upside down and makes her question everything about the world she lives in.

The story begins on the night of Cassia’s Match banquet, when she and her parents will see for the first time the face of the person that she is to marry. In the Society, marriages are arranged by officials who study genetic traits and statistical data to determine which individuals are best suited for each other. Cassia is thrilled when her Match is decided to be her best friend Xander. For the first time, she is open to the possibility of romance with someone she has known all her life.

When she returns home after the banquet and accesses her home computer to read the info card she was given about her future husband, a different face appears on the screen. It is the face of Ky, another boy she’s grown up with. Because the Society is aware of everything, an Official quickly shows up to reassure Cassia that Ky’s appearance in her data was a mistake. Ky is an Aberration, and ineligible for Matching because of his past.

A lot of comparisons are drawn between “Matched” and Lois Lowry’s “The Giver.” Both are set in dystopian societies where all of the individuals needs are met, and you become aware through the eyes of the main character that something isn’t quite right. I think that “Matched” is an admirable update to that theme, with a bit of romance thrown in. The detail in the Society is part of what kept me racing through the pages (ex- The Society has eliminated music, art and literature except for the designated “Hundreds”: One Hundred works that they feel are both important and non-threatening. More options than that are overwhelming to the human mind.) and the supporting characters are written with their own quirks and distinct personalities.

I’ll definitely be waiting for the next book to come out later this year. I’m anxious to see where Cassia and Ky’s story takes them next. I’m also curious to see how Condie is going to continue to carry through the themes of poetry/words and color that she introduced in the first book. This is a great read to grab before the end of the summer.

 

*images via Google images*

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