Wednesday, November 2, 2016

ARC Review: The Sun Is Also a Star

Title: The Sun Is Also a Star
Author: Nicola Yoon
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House)
Format: ARC*

“Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?”

Nicola Yoon is easily one of my favorite YA contemporary authors now. I enjoyed her debut Everything, Everything, but The Sun Is Also a Star (TSIAAS from here on) really sealed the deal for me. TSIAAS, told in alternating perspectives with vignettes scattered throughout, follows our two main characters over the course of one day as they meet and fall in love. Or something like that.

Natasha doesn’t believe in love at first sight or fate – she believes in formulas and facts. Her family is being deported that evening, and she’s spending her last day in New York doing everything she can to prevent it. Daniel would much rather write poetry than go to Yale and become a doctor like his Korean parents expect. It shouldn’t work between them, but all they have is this one day.

It’s undeniable that this book is cute AF, and Nicola Yoon writes swoony worthy YA romance like none other. Her characters felt so real (more so than in Everything, Everything, just saying), and I loved them. What makes this book even more wonderful is how Yoon writes about the expectations and experiences of immigrant children. Yoon does not candy-coat the harsh realities of immigrating to America, and living in this country illegally. There is so much to unpack in this novel, but I especially loved how she portrays the tensions within each family, and how that has shaped Natasha and Daniel.

Natasha and Daniel, for that matter, are so unbelievably wonderful together. Definitely an opposites attract situation, but seeing their connection progress over the course of just a single day had me desperately hoping for an impossible ending. I was worried that this book would be an unrepentant tale of instalove, but I should have had more faith in Yoon. Natasha and Daniel have less than 24 hours together, but it felt like the most natural start to a relationship imaginable. I wouldn’t call this instalove, but rather instant connection. An instant promise of more.
I did run into a similar problem with TSIAAS that I had with Everything, Everything – there’s just something missing. I can’t even really explain it, but this wasn’t a perfect 5 star read for me. I know, I’ve been raving about this book and now what’s my problem? But I genuinely can’t describe it, there’s just been this disconnect with both of her novels for me.

That being said, TSIAAS is easily one of my favorite YA contemporaries of the year. It’s books like this that prevent me from entirely giving up on YA contemporary, because Yoon’s ability to craft a story is truly remarkable. Highly, highly recommend.

Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️  stars

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

ARC Review: The Diabolic

Title: The Diabolic
Author: S.J. Kincaid
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: ARC*

“A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.”

The Diabolic starts off with an explosive first chapter. A young Nemesis brutally murders three men, and then has a procedure done on her brain that makes her love her charge Sidonia. I mean, talk about off to a strong start. That first chapter was, in a word, INTENSE, and made me so excited to read this scifi standalone.

And then things went rapidly downhill from there.

I can’t quite come to terms with how I feel about The Diabolic. I did honestly enjoy the story and the characters, but it felt like the author was just ticking boxes on a list of every dystopian trope known to man. Set in a galaxy far, far away? Check. A cutthroat assassin who’s conveniently also the chosen one? Check. A male love interest who’s not what he seems? Check. A villain who’s evil for no reason but must be stopped at all costs? Check. See what I mean? I could anticipate every single plot twist and big reveal, simply because I’ve read literally any YA dystopian before this.

What was perhaps even more frustrating is that the world building made ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. Society has supposedly turned its back on learning and the sciences, yet they still engineer humanoid servants? They can change their appearance at will to look like citizens of the Capitol in the Hunger Games, but they don’t see the value in being able to repair their own technology. These people LIVE IN SPACE. This clearly drove me nuts, I mean seriously.

Nemesis was hands-down my favorite part of this book. She’s amazing, and I loved reading about an assassin main character who has actually got the body count to match that title. She’s written exceptionally, and the ruthless violence of this book is honestly what drew me in and kept me engaged. I did really enjoy the idea of Nemesis being a Diabolic, and even though she’s our main character, I wish the book actually focused more on Diabolics. Learning about Nemesis and others like her would have been exponentially more interesting than the inane political “intrigue” and commonly occurring rape that S.J. Kincaid chooses to include instead. Yep, that’s right, there’s a couple of characters that drug and rape almost every new member of court and all of two people find this not cool. HASHTAG PROBLEMATIC, YOU GUYS. I can’t believe that so much effort and so many words were wasted over that instead of, you know, actual world building or making this book more than recycled tropes.

Clearly I have some very strong feelings about this book. Which is what makes reviewing it so hard, because I did enjoy it. But not enough to excuse all the things that really bothered me. This book is a great example of why it feels like there’s nothing new in YA anymore. Why are genuinely unique, original stories so few and far between?

If you’re really intrigued by this concept, I’d still recommend giving it a try. May the odds be ever in your favor. Oh wait, wrong dystopia. Easy mistake.

Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ .75 stars

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