Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Back to Soaring Eagles

It's December! This month is a great time to find a new novel to read, or to find a book that will make a nice gift for someone you care about.  Considering that, let's get back to reviewing some of this year's list of Soaring Eagle book award nominees:

If that person for whom you are selecting a gift happens to be a girl, one of the following three nominees might be appropriate.  All feature female characters in oppressive situations; all the heroines manage to find ways to assert their independence and free will despite the dangers.  If you've been reading my blog, you'll also notice that all three of these novels are dystopias. (See the November 14 entry for more on this genre.)

Matched by Ally Condie: In Cassia's world, society makes all the decisions: who your spouse will be; where and how you will live; what work you will do; and even when you will die. All persons are equal, except when society decides otherwise. All listen to the same 100 songs; recite the same 100 poems; and read the same 100 books. 

When Cassia turns 17, she attends her "match" banquet, to discover who her future spouse will be.  When his picture appears on the large overhead screen, she is surprised and pleased to discover that it is Xander, the boy down the street whom she's known all her life. It is a rare thing to already know your match, let alone to be best friends with that person. Since Cassia knows Xander so well, she almost does not look at the microchip of his personal information that is given to all match candidates at their banquet. When she finally decides to load the microship on her home port and take a look, she is shocked to see another boy's picture and information -- Ky, also a boy she knows. The authorities tell her that there was a mistake in her microchip: after all, Ky is an Aberration, a lesser member of society who will not be allowed to marry. Cassia, however, becomes less sure of her match with Xander, and faces difficult decisions in the following months:  Who will she love? Who will she hurt? And will society even allow her to choose?

Matched is the first in a trilogy by Condie: the sequels, already released, are Crossed and Reached.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano: In this future world, the pursuit of a perfect human race has resulted in one generation of people who live to be over 100. However, their genetic modification has now caused a virus that shortens life spans for all future generations.  Young men only live to be 25, and young women die at age 20.  The fear of the eventual demise of the human race causes people to behave in horrific ways.  Geneticists experiment on human beings in order to find a cure; orphans roam the street as their parents die of the virus; and polygamy abounds. Young women are kidnapped and sold as "wives" to rich men in order to propagate their family line.

Rhine has been living with her brother since their parents died, and despite their desperate conditions and struggle to survive, the two of them are happy to have each other. That is, until Rhine is kidnapped. She is transported to a mansion far away from the squalid apartment she shares with her brother, and is married to a stranger named Luther. Trapped in the mansion, Rhine is desperate for a means to escape from Luther, his sinister father, and her two "sister wives" who she cannot trust. She wants to flee -- but will have to find a way past her captors. 

The sequel to Wither  is Fever, which is already out. DeStefano will finish her Chemical Garden trilogy in February with the last installment, Sever.

Divergent by Veronica Roth: In this world, set in post-apocalyptic Chicago, society has divided itself into five factions: Amity, Candor, Erudite, Dauntless, and Abnegation. Each faction values a different human quality above others. As teenagers come of age, they are subjected to aptitude tests to determine where they best fit. Their results are secret, however, so that on Choosing Day they can select to remain with the faction in which they've been raised, or they can choose a new faction based on their test. If they do leave their faction of origin, they generally do not see their families again; one of this society's most basic rules is "faction before family." For Beatrice, who has been rasied in Abnegation, the prospect of leaving her family for a faction that would perhaps be a better fit for her induces extreme guilt . . .and extreme excitement. Can she leave her family forever? Is she willing to take the risk and pay the price? And which faction will best allow Beatrice to hide her secret?

The second book in the Divergent trilogy is Insurgent, already released.  An as-yet untitled third book, the end of the trilogy, is expected in September of 2013.

Three trilogies, three strong characters.  Visit the library for some great reading choices for December!

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