4 of 5 stars to ‘Numbers ignite’ by Rebecca Rode

Numbers ignite

Deeper into dystopia

Treena has left NORA in the hands of the boy she once loved and set out across the war ravaged desert in search of the man she wants to spend her life with. But NORA is hot on her heels and this time, they’re not taking any prisoners.

Vance gave up everything to see the girl he loves on the throne of NORA, including his freedom. Returned to his people, he must face the consequences of his actions for the past years. He’s prepared to pay the price for his deeds, but draws the line when he is wrongfully accused of another heinous crime.

Separated by time and no-man’s land, ripped apart by political agendas and family duties, can Treena and Vance find their way back to one another and unravel the mysteries that threaten the lands they call home?

This second installment of the Numbers Game series takes part outside the carefully constructed world of NORA. We get to see how the other half live beyond the walls, and taste a bit of the old America that was destroyed by war. The individual societies Rode has created are intricate in every detail. Each has their own rules and norms to ensure survival and yet each is plagued in its own way by prejudices and personal political agendas.

As far as characters go, I felt that Vance’s development was the most pronounced. His “whatever’ attitude conceals a depth of character and strength of leadership that can bring nations together. The peripheral characters were interesting, but not particularly deep, with some falling into cliched status.

This installment wasn’t as neatly tied up as the first. There are some loose threads I would like to see tied up and this made the ending a tad vague and not as convincing as it could have been. But I still loved the story!

Numbers game

Dystopia at its best

Treena is a model citizen of NORA. She’s spent her whole life following the rules to get the highest possible rating because in NORA, your entire future depends on the number assigned to you on rating day.

When the much anticipated rating day arrives though, Treena, and everyone who knows her, are shocked at the number she receives. She’s determined that her number is wrong and when the leader of the land offers her a way to redeem herself, Treena jumps at the chance, even though it means putting herself on the front lines. There, she meets Vance and together, they uncover a plot to kill Treena and a conspiracy that extends to the throne itself. Can Treena survive long enough to unravel the mystery? Will she earn the number she’s been fighting for her whole life? When all’s said and done, will she want the number anyway?

This is young adult dystopia at its best! The world Rode has created is vast, steeped in history, conspiracy, politics and war. Book one focuses much on life within the NORA boundaries, but you get the sense that there is much more to the story beyond the walls. The perfectly paced plot unfolds from the point of view of two central characters. Treena’s character is superficial at first, but she matures nicely as the story progresses. She has an inner strength and intelligence, as well as softness of heart that allows her to see beyond the numbers to the real people around her. Vance is fiercely independent, flippant at times, but with a hidden depth of character that peeks out when the welfare of those he cares about is at stake. The mix of POV allows for the telling of a deeper story, with more history than would have been possible if it were told from the heroine’s point of view alone. I also get the sense that the POVs are going to be even more central to the storyline in the next book.

If you liked the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, you will love this novel. I can’t wait to find out what adventures lie beyond the walls of NORA!

5 of 5 stars to “The Scorch Trials” by James Dashner

Scorch trials

WICKED is good?

The Maze trails were brutal. Now, safe in the care of their rescuers, Thomas and the Gladers can relax and begin to heal from the horrors of the past months.

But WICKED is not done yet.

They have more trials in store for Thomas and his friends. They’re ready to plunge the boys into dangers that will make the Maze trials seem like child’s-play. There will be peril, murder, betrayal, tough decisions and heart-break along the way. This time, there are no rules and only one objective: to survive.

Dashner has his foot on the accelerator and he’s not letting up in this second, thrilling installment of The Maze runner series. Once again, the fantasy world created by the author (and WICKED) is unique, filled with “variables” that terrify and have you sitting on the edge of your seat.

Some of the characters who I felt were a little “shallow” in The Maze Runner got a chance to shine in this novel. Teresa’s character played a bigger, although very ambiguous role, but we got to see a little more of what drives her. Minho gained strength throughout the journey. The main storyline revolved around Thomas though, and his reactions to the people and challenges thrown at him.

I was hoping for some more answers to questions raised in The Maze Runner, but I think I have even more than when I started. I am dying to find out what WICKED has in store for Thomas and I’m positive that Dashner will finally deliver the answers in an action-packed third installment!

5 of 5 stars to ‘The Maze Runner’ by James Dashner

The maze runner

Fast-paced dystopian wonder

When Thomas arrives in the Glade, he remembers nothing but his name. He knows nothing about how he got into this little community or his life preceding his arrival. And yet the little Glade where his fellow Gladers have been living for the past two years seems oddly familiar. Then things start changing and the self-sufficient community is plunged into terror, with Thomas at the centre. Now, more than ever, the Gladers know they must escape the treacherous maze or face death. But can they overcome their suspicions and hold onto hope long enough to find a way out?

It’s been a while since a dystopian novel had me on the edge of my seat the way ‘The Maze Runner’ did. James Dashner has clearly mastered the art of suspense and pace, revealing just enough to keep you wanting more and throwing in wondrous plot-twists and red herrings along the way.

Each character was expertly created with his own flair and quirks. I would have liked to get to know Teresa’s character more, but I sense this will come in later installments int he series. The dynamics between the characters was fascinating, most especially their reactions under extremely stressful conditions. The fantasy world created was detailed and yet mysterious, as befitting the story. The story line was unique, thrilling, scary, exciting and heart-warming.

The premise is probably one of the most gripping I’ve ever considered. It’s one any national geographic or dystopian lover must have thought about at some time and Dashner’s unique take opens many more trains of thought. His perspective on humanity, the lack thereof and reaction under pressure is eye-opening, to say the least. I cannot wait to read the next book!

5 of 5 stars to ‘Requiem’ by Lauren Oliver


Thought-provoking masterpiece

There’s only one way to survive in this world: build walls. Everyone is doing it. Inside the Delirium free cities, they build walls to keep the disease out. Outside the cities, they build walls to keep the hurt out. Stuck out in the wilds, torn between the two boys who have each stolen a piece of her heart, Lena learns this skill quickly. But is it all worth it? Is life really any better under the guise of ‘freedom’ and how far is she willing to go to fight for what she believes in, if it means tearing down the very walls that protect her?

I cannot fully explain how Lauren Oliver’s writing skills have awed me. Every word, every sentence, every paragraph has been painstakingly selected to provide maximum emotional impact. Her descriptions catapult you into the wilds, until you can actually feel the bite of the cold and see the rays of glittering sunshine piercing the trees.

Lena’s character development was heart-wrenching in this installment. The intensity of her emotional state was further heightened by Hana’s point of view. From the beginning, I loved the character of Hana, but her journey has been more of a ‘character change’ rather than ‘character development’, in keeping with the storyline. I loved the diverging and converging storylines of the two best friend’s and felt that the ending tied up things nicely between them. It was also a wonderful reminder, in the midst of the love triangle, that there are other types of ‘deliria’ than just the romantic kind.

The resolution of the love triangle was not what I expected. In many ways, the entire ending left many things up in the air. At first, I was in two minds about this, but when I considered the purpose of the storyline, I concluded that it just wouldn’t have been as effective with a more cut and dried approach. The entire series is about love and life and neither of those things is ever perfectly resolved or completed. I believe Ms Oliver wanted us to think about the issues she raised in her series long past the final page and in that mission, she has succeeded.

There were many times in this novel, when I began to question which side I was on, and whether the freedom to choose and to love really was something worth fighting for when it came at such a cost. This ability to make the reader feel and think is one of the rarest skills among good writers, especially when that writer makes you question the very premises she has established in the first series. I loved that we got to see things unfold from both sides of the wall. I also particularly enjoyed the parental themes, which included Raven’s wonderful character, and the effect she had on Lena.

Overall, this is one of the most thought provoking, well-written series I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Now to search for more Lauren Oliver masterpieces…

5 of 5 stars to ‘Pandemonium’ by Lauren Oliver


Poetic prose and concurrent time frames

The old Lena is dead. Buried beneath a tree in the wilds. The new Lena has been born into the resistance. She knows what it is to be hungry, to be afraid and sick and also to be free.

Under the guidance of Raven, Lena has learned to bury her past and the boy she once loved. Raven has taught her to be strong and to survive. Raven has become her sister, her mother, her friend.

Then Lena is kidnapped by a violent and radical resistance and held prisoner with the boy who is the face of the DFA youth. Can she save them both or is she destined to have her heart broken yet again?

Pandemonium picks up right after Delirium and details Lena’s flight to freedom in the wilds after the devastating ending of the first novel. Ms Oliver has used a very difficult technique in this novel by running two concurrent time frames throughout. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that mastered this as successfully as she has managed to do here. Each scene from ‘then’ is expertly matched and timed with the ‘now’, delivering insight and understanding as and when the story unfolds.

The suspense is superb. Like a roller coaster, Ms Oliver has written in the ebbs and flows, hi’s and lows to perch you on the edge of your seat. The character development takes the series to another level entirely. Lena’s sorrow can be felt bone-deep and her healing is something the reader is forced to journey through with every experience.

The introduction of Julian’s character was a wonderful twist in the series. To me, he is so much more three dimensional than Alex ever was. The whole theme of second chances is healing and endearing too.

But I think the thing that strikes me most about Pandemonium and will have me raving about it to all my friends, is Lauren Oliver’s writing. Her writing – oh wow! Such emotive, lyrical, descriptive, poetic prose. She is the kind of author you preorder books for, no matter the topic because you just know that she’ll transport you completely into another world with her words.

If you liked the Hunger games or any of Maggie Stiefvater’s books, you will simply love this series!