Tuesday, October 25, 2016

ARC Review: Timekeeper

Title: Timekeeper
Author: Tara Sim
Publication Date: November 8, 2016
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Format: eARC*

“In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time--and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It's a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny's new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower's clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield's time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he's fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he'll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.”

I could barely contain my excitement when I was approved for an eARC of Timekeeper. This book is one of my most anticipated releases for the second half of 2016, and it did not disappoint. A story about the physical existence of time, with a swoon-worthy romance? Please, sign me up. Timekeeper was everything I wanted it to be, and I’m genuinely excited to see where this series goes and what these characters will face in the next installments. 

The world building takes a minute to understand, but once everything clicks you can appreciate just how clever this world that Sim created is. A slightly advanced industrial revolution means that not only do our characters have automobiles, phones, and other more steampunk additions, but they experience the societal changes of the movement as well. In Timekeeper’s England, homosexuality is no longer illegal, and women make up an increasing percentage of the work force. On top of that, time is a real, physical thing in this book. Tied into an original mythology, there are people who literally feel the strands of time and work on them via clocks. These mechanics, including Danny, are charged with maintaining time and avoiding catastrophes, such as a town being Stopped in time.

As you can imagine, the premise and world building are pretty phenomenal. While I usually don’t enjoy steampunk novels, Timekeeper had just enough of those elements to keep things interesting without overwhelming the main focus of the story. I really loved the mythology around time that Sim created, and the entire idea of these clock towers and their spirits. This book feels so incredibly magical at times, and there is a sense of wonder embedded within the cogs and mechanical parts. The relationship between Danny and Colton was one of the sweetest romances that I’ve come across this year, and it does not fall into any cliché traps like instalove.

If this book does fall short, it’s perhaps in the character development. Everyone felt a bit one-dimensional, and played into clearly defined roles. I’d like to see these character arcs further developed and expanded in the rest of the series. That being said, this was an incredibly enjoyable read.

Sometimes you read exactly the right book at the right time, and that perfect alignment definitely happened when I picked up Timekeeper. I love that this is a story about time, but not time travel. There have been so many YA time travel novels published over the past couple years, and none of them worked for me. Timekeeper is such a fresh, unique story, and I highly recommend it. I can’t wait to see what Tara Sim has in store for us next.

Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️  stars

*I received an eARC of this from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

ARC Review: Wrecked

Title: Wrecked
Author: Maria Padian
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Format: ARC*

“Everyone on campus has a different version of what happened that night.

Haley saw Jenny return from the party, shell-shocked.

Richard heard Jordan brag about the cute freshman he hooked up with.

When Jenny accuses Jordan of rape, Haley and Richard are pushed to opposite sides of the school’s investigation. Now conflicting versions of the story may make bringing the truth to light nearly impossible--especially when reputations, relationships, and whole futures are riding on the verdict.

Wrecked offers a kaleidoscopic account of a sexual assault on a college campus. It will leave you thinking about how memory, identity, and who sits in judgment shape what we all decide to believe about the truth.”

Let me begin by saying that Wrecked is probably one of the most important books I’ve read this year. It covers an unfortunately timely topic – rape on college campuses. Both my undergraduate and graduate universities have difficult histories with sexual assault, and often in Oxford’s case, those events have been brought into the glaring light of the public eye. The rape that takes place at fictional MacCallum College doesn’t end up in a very public trial with media coverage, but that’s part of what makes it is important.

Wrecked does a brutally honest job of portraying what occurs when a student accuses another of rape at most American universities. Unless the accuser goes to the police, the allegations are handled by the university as a potential violation of student conduct or some similar policy. There is no arrest, no real protection for either party, and the accuser and accused remain at the same (sometimes very small) campus for the duration of the investigation. It is no secret that these investigations, just like our current legal system, are often cruelly unfair to the accuser, and very rarely actually end with a guilty verdict. Often, the accused can simply decide to withdraw from the university and then go on to live his or her life with few to no repercussions. This is the system that Maria Padian exposes in Wrecked.

Wrecked is unique for many reasons, including the fact that it’s told from the dual narratives of Haley, Jenny’s roommate, and Richard, Jordan’s friend. Haley and Richard are one step removed from the situation, and provide two very different perspectives. This allows the reader to see the situation from the outside, and provides a better appreciation for how difficult it is to punish rapists, and how easily doubt and the self-interest of others undermine investigations. Classmates are worried about getting in trouble for underage drinking, memories are unclear from getting wasted, and more often than not, an appropriate resolution is never reached.

I enjoyed that Padian also confronts rape culture in smaller ways, having characters frankly discuss consent and fight back against victim blaming. Hayley and Richard have an intense argument over his flippant use of the word rape, and Richard is continually forced to check his own privilege and internalized sexism throughout the book.

And yet, I can’t say that I honestly enjoyed this book. Is it important? Yes, incredibly so. But did I enjoy reading Wrecked; did I come to care for these characters? No, not really. I can’t explain the disparity between my appreciation for this book and my simultaneous lack of enjoyment. All of the individual pieces were perfect, yet the entire package fell a bit flat.

That being said, Wrecked is one of the most realistic portrayals of sexual assault in college that I’ve ever come across. These characters were in my classes, I went to that frat party, and Richard one of my male friends who had to be called out on their sexism. I knew too many Jordans and Exleys, but I didn’t know any Jennys. Why? Because they knew that all-too often at small liberal arts schools like ours, like MacCallum, it’s really the victim who’s put on trial. So they kept quiet.

Please, read this book. Get angry and demand change. Demand that universities protect their victims, not their rapists. Stop asking how much a girl had to drink and what a boy’s athletic record is. My own alma maters are finally instituting sexual assault policies and procedures that are actually intended to protect the victim and provide some semblance of justice. We are still so far from where we need to be, but Wrecked helps us take a step in that direction.

Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️  stars

*I received this ARC from the publisher at BEA in exchange for a free & honest review.