BY SHERRI L. SMITH
I usually don't include my Goodreads insta-mini-reviews in my blog posts, but I have always loved my gut first reaction for this title.
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Refreshingly real and gritty! No kissy facing or love triangles; just in your face life in a dystopian world. Fen is a strong and courageous heroine, who tugs at your heart and amazes you with her facility to be both warrior and gentle caregiver. I loved this book from beginning to end. There wasn't one page of boring filler fluff in it.
This was a pre-blogging read for me. It was a book my sister brought to me from the library, when she was being my "personal shopper", before I bought my first Kindle. She loved the cover and thought the blurb sounded like something I would be interested in, and she was so right! I think you all know it is my top YA of all time. This is why I wanted to review it with a giveaway for my third blogversary month celebration.
The catalyst for the dystopia is based on a real event. There is ZERO romance in it. There is a platonic male/female friendship with no sexual tension. It shows that a woman can be strong, both mentally and physically, and still be gentle and caring. The world building is phenominal. There is SCIENCE in it. It has a genuine realness to it that you don't get in a lot of Dystopians. And of course the diversity of the MC being of color combined with a POC author.
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Fen de la Guerre is an A+ on my list of heroines. I was 100% invested in her character. I loved her thought processes and intelligence. She had overcome a lot in her young life; yet stayed honest, loyal, and caring. I was left mourning the fact this book is a standalone.
This is where I question, refute, and defend my much loved books from the negative reviews I have seen on Goodreads.
There were the regular offenders who think there needs to be romance in every YA story, like it is a requirement for the genre, and subtracted stars for it. This always makes me so stomping angry. One review went so far as to say they couldn't get into Fen and Daniel's characters because there was no romance between them. There were, however, less of them than usual, so I feel this points to the strength of the storyline
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Then there was the reader who wrote that the story was "too dark" for a Dystopian, as she was used to them being more "light and fluffy".
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The most repeated dislike was Fen's dialect. They were saying it was too difficult to understand and read. I had no problem understanding it, in fact I hadn't given it a thought until I started reading the negative reviews. To me it was part of the realistic feel to the story.
"THERE BE SEAGULLS CATCHING THE BREEZE overhead. I sneeze and wipe my nose on the back of my bare brown arm. “That’s the batch of it, Miss de la Guerre. The two books, the formula, and the bottle, genuine glass.” The smuggler McCallan point his boot at the things spread out on my blanket over the broken ground. We be near the Market, where the old levee used to be, across from St. Louis Cathedral. What once been a green hill now be a beach dune made of debris..."
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"This still be a crescent city. It still curve with its arms wrapped around the river. I be walking west, where most of the people be. [...] We pass canals what used to be roads and swamp what used to be dirt. We skirt the swamps and it take time." - Orleans
One reviewer said that the last they knew people spoke "proper English" in New Orleans and 40 years of isolation would not make people speak that way. I was shaking my head because I knew some southern musicians who spoke that way. Another hinted the dialect was racist by saying it was making fun of the way "black" people talk. Well, not everyone in story was "black" and the author is of color, so that certainly isn't true. Anyway, the above excerpts will let you know if the reading would seem difficult or not. I hope you will give it a try.
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What are your thoughts about romance in YA?