Fiction, Young Adult

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande

Your best friend hates you. The guy you liked hates you. Your entire group of friends hates you.

All because you did the right thing.

Welcome to life for Mena, whose year is starting off in the worst way possible. She’s been kicked out of her church group and no one will talk to her—not even her own parents. No one except for Casey, her supersmart lab partner in science class, who’s pretty funny for the most brilliant guy on earth.

And when Ms. Shepherd begins the unit on evolution, school becomes more dramatic than Mena could ever imagine . . . and her own life is about to evolve in some amazing and unexpected ways.

This is not the first time I’ve discussed having a book on your shelf for literally years (I would say a good five for this one), only to finally take it down, read it, and be completely blown away.

Blown. Away.

As usual with highly-charged issues, I don’t want this to devolve into a discussion or intelligent design vs. evolution vs. a combo of the two. I just want to talk about this book, which happens to handle that subject with a delicacy and aplomb rarely seen.

Mena was the perfect protagonist for this book. She feels as we all feel….sometimes you can’t just stop life from battering you on all sides. She feels like crumbling. Routinely. She doesn’t consider herself to be a strong person. And she’s not. But there is strength in her ability to get up and go to school every day, especially when her parents are freezing her out, too.

Then, Mena comes into contact with some amazing, passionate, devoted people, and her life changes. She evolves, for lack of a better word. Mena learns that she is more than she thinks she is and that she can be whatever she wants to be. More importantly, she learns that there are sides to everything. That sometimes middle ground isn’t an illusion created by people who want peace. Sometimes it’s a valid argument and an even more valid territory to occupy.

All of the characters were well-drawn and complex, even Mena’s ex-friends. People can be misguided and hurtful, but it doesn’t mean they’re evil. They just don’t see any alternative to believing what they believe. They don’t see grey areas or middle ground or any validity in another’s viewpoint. But it doesn’t make them evil.

265 pages that completely blew me away. Whatever your opinions on the subject matter, pick this book up for a fun, exhilarating, and well-crafted read.

Dystopian, Fiction

The Twelve

Read my review of The Passage

The Twelve by Justin Cronin

In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as “Last Stand in Denver,” has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned—and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.
One hundred years in the future, Amy and the others fight on for humankind’s salvation . . . unaware that the rules have changed. The enemy has evolved, and a dark new order has arisen with a vision of the future infinitely more horrifying than man’s extinction. If the Twelve are to fall, one of those united to vanquish them will have to pay the ultimate price.

I loved The Passage so much I was kind of afraid to read this one. What if it somehow tainted that perfect, perfect bit of storytelling? Even though I was excited to read this one, I let it linger on my shelf for a little bit, afraid it would fall short of my expectations.

It didn’t.

I’ll admit, though, the narrative structure is kind of odd in this one. You start in the “present” (year 97) then jump back to year zero, then jump further ahead into narrative time while remaining in the past (year 77) and then back to the present. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised though. In The Passage, Cronin spends roughly 1/3 of the book in year zero and then the rest in year 92. It all makes sense in the end, but the structure is just plain weird.

Regardless, though, I was just an enraptured with this novel as with the others. It still made me nervous, but at this point, I’m pretty used to the Virals, or as used to them as you could get. Fair warning though, this novel manages to somehow be even more violent and even more bloody than the others.

My favorite favorite part of this book was how he recapped what happened in the first book, in the form of biblical verses that are reminiscent to the opening verses of the Book of Revelations. Clever, Cronin, clever. If I hadn’t already had an inkling you could read this story as a biblical parable, that kind of cemented that.

As always, I find it difficult to talk about this novel without giving away much from the others, but as always, Amy was my favorite character, followed by Peter. I wish I could have gotten more of them, especially Amy. I could read about Amy forever.

Another difficult thing about this book, since I’d been waiting two years for this, I forgot what love triangles/relationships were brewing and thus found myself sort of lost in this one, which picks up four or five years after the end of The Passage. So maybe considering re-reading the first book, before you dive into this one. I’m sure it will help.

This series is supposed to be a trilogy. I see that it’s going that way. But I don’t want it to end. I want it go on and on and on forever.