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Spring Reads

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By Kaleigh Steigman

Spring is a wonderful time to read guilty-pleasure pageturners: books that are best taken with a blank mind and a lack of desire for a life-changing story, but for a fun and twisty ride. These are books that you will surely not remember in ten years, or maybe even five, but will be enjoyable while you devour them, preferably on a plane ride to paradise.  

 

A Thousand Pieces of You, Claudia Gray

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This novel follows seventeen year-old Marguerite who is exactly the image of a teenager someone in their fifties who never had children would imagine: self-centered, amazingly good at figuring out how to use random technology, sure that every boy she meets is in love with her, positive that she also loves one or two of these boys, and fond of doing stupid things without considering the thoughts of her parents first. Marguerite is the second daughter of two world famous physicists who are on the edge of a huge discovery: a necklace that allows its wearer to travel through dimensions. After her father was murdered and the the final version of the invention was hijacked by one of her parents’ assistance, she and the other assistant use a prototype of the dimension hopping tool to chase him down. What follows is a seemingly predictable yet surprisingly complex adventure complete with a pointless love triangle that consists of two undeveloped romances. A Thousand Pieces of You would be enjoyable for those who find both historical and science fiction interesting and can overlook glaring plot-holes and many cringe-worthy moments. While  there were many aspects of this novel that would benefit from reworking, the surprising turns of the plot, and the multi-dimensional world it was rooted in made it worthwhile. The best part of this novel by far was the idea of the dimensional traveling, which transported the main characters into variations of their world that included the smallest changes, such as a world in which John Lennon was never a part of the Beatles, to a dimension where the Russian Revolution never happened and the Romanov family was still in power. There is a sequel to this novel, as it is part of a trilogy, but the ending of the book does not leave the reader unfulfilled.

 

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black

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The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, while it has the the worst title, is definitely the most well written novel on this list. It follows Tana, a high school aged girl who lives in a world that is completely normal except for its large vampyric population, comprised of blood-crazed monsters that can pass on their illness with a simple bite. In theory, all infected person spend their lives in Coldtowns, cities that are blocked off from the healthy population and once entered cannot be exited, but many escape, or never enter. This issue becomes evident in the beginning of the novel, when Tana wakes up the morning after a night-long party to discover a house full of murdered people, her ex-boyfriend, Aidan, with a bite mark on his arm, and a mysterious stranger with red eyes who seems to also be an enemy of the vampires. After making the decision to grab Aidan, the mysterious boy, and hightail it out of the house, Tana embarks on a mission to take the infected Aidan to a Coldtown and attempt to keep herself safe along the way. During this adventure,Tana explores an equally disturbing and intriguing post-apocalyptic world that is haunting for its realism. In this world, people are strangely fascinated with the vampires, and the life goals of many is to become one; a feat that is typically accomplished by entering a Coldtown and offering one’s body to be used as a blood bag. In a nightmarish double plot line, Holly Black follows Tana’s little sister as she clings to her computer from which she watches the Eternal Party- a seemingly endless celebration that occurs in the heart of the largest Coldtown and is led by the most famous Vampires in the world- and follows her sister’s path into stardom, which, in this world, is anything but a joyous ride. This book would be a good choice for those who like the idea of horror but can’t quite stomach it, and the reader who can be patient enough to take frequent breaks in the main plot line for character development which is worth it in the long run. WARNING: At the end of this novel, you will be desperate for a sequel. There is NOT one, and Holly Black has no plans of writing anything else in this world.

 

The Lunar Chronicles, Marissa Meyer

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The Lunar Chronicles, a fantasy fairytale spin-off series that spans five books, would be an amazing choice to fill in several hours of monotonous transport. It is a gripping series, and gets better as it progresses. The first novel, Cinder, is a sci-fi variation of Cinderella, in which the dainty Disney princess is swapped out for a teenage cyborg, a byproduct of a breed of humans given mechanically enhanced bodies. Cinder, who was given a wired body after a freak accident in her youth that she can’t remember, ironically has an affliction for mechanics, and is world-renowned for her skill.The whole series  takes place in a futuristic Earth that has been internally at peace for many years, but is at the edge of war with the Lunar empire- comprised of  the Moon civilization whose occupants have evolved to have mind controlling abilities, and are under the control of the ultra-powerful and supremely evil Empress Levana. Also, an epidemic has cursed Earth with a disease that even the incredibly advanced technology and medication of the future cannot cure. In this seemingly doomed world, Cinder’s plot begins when Prince Kai, the soon to be emperor of the futuristic China, comes to seek her mechanical expertise in fixing a royal robot that contains classified information. As Cinder becomes closer to Kai and the secrets that he keeps, she begins to question her true origins and develops an even rockier relationship with her step-family. In each additional novel, a new main character is introduced, but the perspective of the characters from all previous novels are still included. The fact that this complex format was even executed moderately well in the final novel, Winter, with over eight revolving perspectives speaks to the skill of Marissa Meyer as an author. WARNING: You will want to continue the series immediately after you finish Cinder! Have at least the next book on standby before starting

Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon

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Everything, Everything  explores the life of Madeline Walker, who has a disease that she describes as being “allergic to the world.” She can’t leave her house, and anyone who enters must stand in a disinfecting room for several minutes just to be in her vicinity. Having never had contact with the outdoors, or humans outside of her mother, nurse, and the odd tutor, she is understandably naive.This particular characteristic of hers forces itself to the front of the reader’s mind as she falls in love with the emo boy who just moved next door through long gazes via parallel windows and late night IM-ing. Like others on this list, in order to enjoy this story a reader must be good at glancing over scenes of immense immaturity to focus on the bigger picture. While parts of this book are rushed, such as the romance and the resolution, the whole is an intriguing story that makes the reader question the worth of living an unfulfilled life. Maddy is a likeable enough character, and when she acts in ways that might seem irrational or stupid- such as a spontaneous run outside that could risk her life, all for an undefined reason- the reader can at least see where she is coming from. She shows how  indescribably horrible  it would be to be locked inside of your house for your whole life, especially when everything you touch- from books to food to other people- have to be one-hundred percent sanitized. Another interesting aspect of this book is its artsy format, which includes Maddy’s sketches, emails, and doctor’s reports between chunks of text. They add an interesting perspective to her disease and life, and fill in plot holes that Maddy herself could not. This is a short story, and with the added graphics and rapidly escalating plot, is a very quick read. Also, a movie is coming out later in May, so it would be a great read to squeeze in during the next few months.

 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sánez

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Aristotle and Dante is one of those books that will find the reader searching for a purpose throughout the majority of its pages only to surprise them in the final paragraphs with a startling revelation. The beginning is interesting enough- Aristotle, or Ari, is introduced to the reader and his quirks and obvious yet seemingly rootless depression keep his story interesting. Shortly, he meets Dante, who is his complete opposite with an ever-present smile and love of feelings and words. Against logical expectation, the two quickly become friends. The novel follows the struggles they both have, partly due to finding connection to their Mexican-American culture in a world that severs them from it, partly due to their constant battles with sexual identity, but mainly due to the fact that they are teenage boys attempting to find a purpose in life; a difficult process, especially when the typical mold doesn’t seem to please either of them.

 

This book sets itself apart from the typical ‘find-yourself book’ in several ways that make it worth reading. Primarily, it takes place in the early to mid 1980s, an interesting background that highlights the true extent of past prejudices held by people against those that were different, and leads the reader to wonder if things have really changed in the past decades. Also, both Ari and Dante have strong relationships with their parents, who make constant appearances and truly shape the story. This was really a heartwarming change from the typical YA novel that leads the main characters away from their parents in order to find themselves- such as every other novel on this list- and instead demonstrates the difference parents can make in the lives of their children when they are present to support them. The last uniqueness of Aristotle and Dante was perhaps both a pro and con of this book: the unreliability of Ari’s narration. So much of Aristotle’s character was developed through the absence of traditional first-person perspective characteristics. When a typical narrator would offer an explanation of his thoughts or action, Ari simply provided clues to his rage, such as a description of a book-throwing tantrum or a really intense workout, with complete detachment. While this was an innovative reading experience that certainly offered an interesting angle, it sometimes felt as though the reader didn’t really know Ari’s character, which often made certain plot developments seem unsupported.  Overall, this book was well worth reading. It contained some unnecessary detail about the difficulties of teenage life, but Ari himself tended to be just as uncomfortable in certain situations as the reader. This novel would be a great break for the reader who tends to spend their time with deeply thought provoking novels regarding mental illness and the meaning of happiness, but wants something a little lighter than normal.

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