Friday, May 20, 2016

Contemporary Fiction: The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah

I came across Petina Gappah's The Book of Memory while on a search for some contemporary books by African-American writers.The premise interested me almost immediately as it is always an adventure when a book is narrated by an unreliable narrator, especially one whose memory of what happened may be what saves their life.

The Situation: Memory is a young African albino woman currently serving a prison sentence in Zimbabwe for the murder of a white man. Memory was actually given the death penalty, but because of upcoming elections, and the fact that there currently is not an executioner available who could carry out the act of hanging a prisoner, Memory continues to live in Chikurubi Prison with other female inmates. Because a journalist has become interested in her story, and her lawyer also believes it will help, Memory is writing down not only what really happened to the man she has been accused of killing, but also her entire life story and how she would end up in such a situation in the first place.

The Problem: Memory being accused of a murder she assures the reader she did not commit is only the most recent development in what has not been an easy life. Born with white skin to a black family in Zimbabwe, Memory stood out wherever she went, and as a child was made fun of and teased by her classmates. Her home life did not offer much reprieve as her mother could barely stand to look at her, or touch her, while often being overcome by fits of anger and rage that seemed to come out of nowhere and were often directed at her children. And then there were the tragedies that claimed the lives of Memory's older brother, and later her younger sister. It would be shortly after the second death that Memory would be handed over to Lloyd - the white man she would later be accused of killing - while he gives her mother a wad a cash in return. It is this memory that will not allow her to return to her parent's house, even when she is old enough to do so on her own.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a fiction novel set in modern-day Zimbabwe, but covers the recent history of the country, including its fight for independence and the present political climate. The prison Memory is sentenced to is a real place, but Gappah states in the Acknowledgments that she was never able to visit the real thing, so the one in the book is of her own imagination. Because of Memory's unusual skin color, the book not only deals with racism and prejudice against the other, but also long held beliefs by many in Zimbabwe regarding witchcraft, curses, and angry spirits. Many, including her mother, believe that the family is being punished, and that is why Memory looks the way she does, as well as the reason she is often ill. And the deaths of the older brother and youngest daughter do not help persuade anyone to believe otherwise. Even after she comes to live with Lloyd, Memory is plagued by nightmares as she cannot forget that her parents sold her without so much as a backwards glance. And of course, with the title being The Book of Memory, there is much discussion about how we remember things and how those memories can shape our lives, even if they are wrong.

My Verdict: This book is very slow at the beginning, but about a third of the way through it starts to pick up steam, especially as little hints are dropped and some secrets are revealed, eventually pointing to larger revelations that tell the whole story. At first it can feel like all of the hinting is just that: hints that tease the reader but do not actually lead anywhere. But eventually they do and the wait is pretty worth it. The payout for sticking with the book is substantial, and while not every question gets an answer, I still felt satisfied with the ending, and even a little hopeful.

Favorite Moment: When Memory is allowed to tutor one of the guard's daughters, allowing her some free time outside of her usual area, away from the other prisoners, and a chance to enjoy common luxuries she had not enjoyed in years, such as a hot shower and television.

Favorite Character: This is difficult only because so many of the characters are hard to like. There are the prisoners, and then there are the guards; Memory's parents are not painted in the best light as they handed her over to a strange man in exchange for money; and Memory has very few close friends, mostly because of her condition. Lloyd seems like the obvious choice, but there is so much about him that the reader just does not know. And even with what Memory eventually realizes, there still is not that much insight into who Lloyd really is.

Recommended Reading: While The Book of Memory is about a black girl with white skin, I Am Radar by Reif Larsen is about a white boy born with black as midnight skin. It is a different kind of book, and also much longer, but Larsen also plays with the idea of skin color and the results are pretty interesting.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Nonfiction: A Thousand Naked Strangers by Kevin Hazzard

The full title of today's selection by Kevin Hazzard is A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic's Wild Ride to the Edge and Back. Reading the first part of the title without the second part creates a lot of curiosity. Reading the whole title together adds clarity, but the curiosity does not go away necessarily: it is still there, it just shifts slightly.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a nonfiction book about the life of a paramedic in a big city. Kevin Hazzard worked as a paramedic in Atlanta for ten years. From 2004 to 2013, Hazzard ran the calls that no one ever wants to make. A Thousand Naked Strangers begins with the story of the first person Hazzard saw die in front of him while on the job, and then continues to tell the story from the absolute beginning: his first day in class at EMT school. From here, the book chronicles his journey from EMT school, to his first job, to his second job; through the myriad of partners he will end up having in the back of the ambulance with him; to becoming a paramedic; to working at the legendary Grady Hospital in Atlanta; and finally to his ultimate decision of giving up the job for good. Quite naturally, since this is a book that details the author's time as an EMT, there are plenty of bloody and often gory bits as Hazzard describes some of his more gruesome calls, the kind that stay with you even after having done the job for ten years. But there is also plenty of  reflection on what causes someone to stick with being an EMT for so long, as well as becoming one on the first place, knowing what we know and what we have seen on TV. There are the odd hours; the even crazier shifts; the partner you may or may not like but have been forced to work with; dealing with the police; dealing with fire fighters; and then of course, the patients and the bystanders. Some people call 911 with a legitimate emergency, others do not. And even of the ones who do need emergency care, they may not want to accept it, and decide to fight the process the entire way. Hazzard has had to dodge knives, be ready to dodge bullets, and maneuver his way through unruly and agitated crowds. The job - and at certain points the book - is not for the faint of heart. 

My Verdict: Knowing that this book is about the life of a paramedic, it is understood that some of the stories are going to be gruesome and hard to digest. But even knowing that going in did not prepare me for some of the stories that would be presented, and that may be part of the point Hazzard is making. Because after all of his training, what he learned in school, and even after getting a few years under his belt, there were still situations he was not ready for, but had to go in and deal with anyway. It is a hard to digest book that gives the details where they are necessary, instead of shoving them down the reader's throat in an intentional effort to make you cringe and wince. People get hurt, some even die, and others are just in incredibly embarrassing situations. The "wild ride to the edge and back" may not be wild enough for some readers, but for me it was just enough.

Favorite Moment: When the city decides to run a drill involving multiple emergency services around town, but neglects to inform the ER staff of the closest hospital, the one that will receive the fake patients, that it is only a drill.

Recommended Reading: I actually recommend Dancing With the Devil in the City of God by Juliana Barbassa. It is another nonfiction book, but this time the author has decided to pick up and move to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And some of what she finds there is almost as shocking and explicit as some of what Hazzard saw as a paramedic.  

Friday, May 6, 2016

Young Adult Fiction: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Jennifer Niven's All the Bright Places took home the award for Best Young Adult Fiction in the 2015 Goodreads Choice Awards.The book beat out Rainbow Rowell, a well-loved favorite among Goodreads users, so naturally I found the need to check it out.

The Situation: Theodore Finch is awake again and hopes to stay that way. But he has once again found himself at the top of the school bell tower, looking out at the scene below. At most schools, a lone teenager at the top of the bell tower would be cause for alarm, but at Finch's school, everyone sees this as Finch being Finch, again. What they do not expect, is to see Violet Markey up there with him. The story will read that Violet saved the unpredictable and erratic Finch from jumping, but they both know it was the other way around. What they do not know is that this will lead to one of the most important friendships - relationships - of their lives.

The Problem: Violet more or less has everything going for her: loving and attentive parents, popular friends, a fresh and pretty face, and up until recently, one of the hottest guys in school as her boyfriend. But the one thing that would bring Violet to the top of the school bell tower is the same reason she broke up with star athlete Ryan Cross. Violet's older sister, Eleanor, was tragically killed in a car accident a little less than a year before, and Violet still suffers from survivor's guilt. Meanwhile, Finch has a family that barely pays attention to him, is the direct opposite of popular, and while he does not receive any complaints because of his looks, people are not exactly clamoring to be around him. If anything, they do whatever necessary to pretend he is not there. But Finch has very little concern about how others feel about him, and is more concerned about staying awake. He does not want the darkness swallowing him again, which would most likely mean losing another few weeks of his life that he will never get back. And he believes he has found in Violet Markey the best reason for staying awake. He saved her life, but can she save his?

Genre, Themes, History: This is a young adult novel set in present day Indiana. Throughout the novel, Violet and Finch are working together on a project for US Geography in which they must visit places around the area. For Finch, it is not enough to look into the obvious tourist attractions, so he makes it a mission to look for sites most people would not think of, and he insists on visiting more than is required for the assignment. So the reader is taken on a tour of various offbeat places around Indiana, as well as a few obvious ones. As the book is written from the point of view of both Finch and Violet, switching between the two perspectives throughout the story - a device that has been used quite a bit in novels I have read recently (All the Birds in the Sky, Salt to the Sea, The Turner House, The Nightingale) - the reader will get the story from Violet's sorrow and grief-filled lense for one chapter, and then the next chapter will be from the often erratic and manic voice of Finch. Neither voice is difficult to follow for the reader, but it is interesting how the two can miscommunicate, sometimes intentionally, and what people will say despite what they are actually thinking. At first, both characters remain closed off and guarded, but as they slowly get to know each other and trust each other, they are able to share more of themselves, more than they have with anyone else in a long time. The book explores grief, mental illness, the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide, bullying, adventures in and around your own hometown, and there is even a healthy dose of literature quotes that are tossed around among the characters.

My Verdict: In the beginning, it is hard to like either Finch or Violet. Finch can come off as somewhat arrogant, especially with the way he talks to teachers and other students. It is true that he is often bullied and treated unfairly, but his attitude does not do much to endear him to the reader. And while Violet may be in mourning, how she handles it, especially at school, can make her seem manipulative and like she is taking advantage of the situation. But as the book continues, it is clear that these are two people who are hurting and are trying their best, which can sometimes look like the worst. Thankfully, neither Violet nor Finch remains unlikeable for long, and somehow the pair is able to pull the best out of each other, leading to some sort of progress. Had I read this book before the voting began for the Goodreads Choice Awards, I most certainly would have voted for it. It is smart, funny, emotional, affecting, and just a really good book for anyone of any age.

Favorite Moment: There is a page with nothing but a drawing of a flower on it, and yet that picture says more than the whole rest of the book.

Favorite Character: I finally decided that Finch is my favorite, though Violet comes to be a close second.

Recommended Reading: I would recommend Jasmine Warga's My Heart and Other Black Holes, another book that deals will teens, depression, grief, and suicide.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Young Adult Fiction: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Thank you Goodreads for knowing me well enough to recommend the latest work by young adult author Ruta Sepetys, Salt to the Sea. Granted, it certainly helps that I gave glowing reviews to both Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy.

The Situation: It is the winter of 1945 and World War II is still raging in Europe, though it feels like defeat is near for Germany, but not near enough. Four teenagers from four different countries are doing what they can to survive the event that has already claimed so many, and relocated others away from their home. Joana, a Lithuanian girl, travels with a small group, hoping to eventually gain passage on one of the ships that will carry evacuees away from the war-torn area. She uses her skills as a nurse to help and treat whoever she can along the way, even taking in a small child who seems to have separated from his family. Florian, a young Prussian boy with experience in art preservation, also heads in the same direction, but alone, and he prefer it stay that way. Unfortunately for him, he comes upon the young and pretty Emilia and ends up saving her from the unwanted advances of a Russian soldier. Now he has a travel companion in the young Polish girl, who is also on the run from her former life. And then there is Alfred, a German soldier with illusions of grandeur who is unflinchingly supportive of what Hitler has tried to do.

The Problem: The four teenagers may have come from different countries, but their lives end up intersecting as they all have one real goal: survival. But things are easily complicated due to language barriers, cultural differences, and the secrets that they each carry. Joana uses her nursing skills and her innate desire to be helpful to mask the real guilt she feels. Florian wishes to travel alone because it would be easier to keep a low profile and not be found out. If a German soldier were to find Emilia and find out she was Polish, she would most likely be killed on the spot, even if she is pregnant. And Alfred may be German, but it is clear that even his fellow soldiers and countrymen do not respect him. He shirks work, has an inflated view of himself, and despises anyone who has the nerve to notice just how inadequate he is. Add to all of this the background of WWII Germany and it makes for an intense journey. And Sepetys makes it clear from the book jacket that the ship they all end up boarding, the Wilhelm Gustloff, will end up being a maritime disaster with very few survivors.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a young adult novel that is also historical fiction, much like another book by Sepetys, Between Shades of Gray. Both books take place during WWII and chronicle the hardships that are endured by those victimized by either Hitler or Stalin. The four teenagers in this book each come from a different country, from different circumstances, and must act accordingly if they hope to survive to the end of the war. The one at most risk is Emilia as she is not only Polish, a race despised by Hitler, but also incredibly pregnant. Knowing only Polish and broken German, it is ultimately good fortune that she runs into Florian. He may not want her around, but by joining up with him, she becomes connected to Joana, who wants nothing more but to help and heal. The book is a look at what war brings out in people, and what it makes them do just to survive another day. And then of course there is the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship they will all board but will ultimately end up sinking after being torpedoed by the Russians. It is an event few people know about, even though the number of people killed is even higher than that of the Titanic

My Verdict: Is there a such thing as heavy handed but in a good way? Because that is how I would describe this book. Or maybe heavy handed, but on the right side of handy handed. Something that felt slightly off were the secrets that each character was carrying. I am not sure if it was the revelation of what the secrets were, or if it was just that there were secrets in the first place, but it seemed like the WWII setting would be enough to put these characters in desperate situations, but Sepetys managed to take it a step further. It is war after all: people find themselves doing unspeakable things even if just in the name of survival. While Joana, Florian, and Emilia are victims of the actions of Hitler and Stalin, Alfred is a willing advocate and participant, although not a good one. So the reader gets to be in the mind of those desperate to survive, and one who has bought Hitler's message and wishes to do his part. It is not an easy book to read, but it does shed light on a little known event in history, which took place during arguably the biggest conflict that world has ever seen.

Favorite Moment: After composing one of his ridiculous letters to Hannelore, the love of his life back home, Alfred quickly shifts back to reality where he is not only seasick, but also currently vomiting on his own shoes.

Favorite Character: Joana wants nothing more than to be helpful. Part of it may be an attempt to mask her own shame and guilt, but she still manages to help a lot of people.

Recommended Reading: While Out of the Easy is a good book, I would recommend Between Shades of Gray as it also deals with WWII. But instead of telling the story of those attempting to evacuate, it follows Lithuanians who were forced by Stalin's regime to leave their home and travel north to Siberia.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Historical Fiction: The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

Like many readers, I was first introduced to the writing of Yann Martel through his international best-seller Life of Pi, though he had written and published a few things before that. And despite the disappointment that was Beatrice and Virgil, I decided to pick up his latest work, The High Mountains of Portugal.

The Situation: In the first section, titled "Homeless," Tomas heads out to the High Mountains of Portugal on a personal quest to find an artifact created by Father Ulisses in the year of 1904. Using Father Ulisses' diary as a guide, Tomas heads out on the adventure with his rich uncle's car, although automobiles have not yet achieved mainstream use. In the second section, titled "Homeward," it is 1939 and Dr. Lozora is once again up late in his office. After a day of autopsies and a visit from his wife, the doctor receives a late night visit from a woman who wants an immediate autopsy on her husband, whose body she has packed in the suitcase she is carrying with her. The procedure will turn out to be one of the strangest autopsies he has ever done. And in the early 1980s, in the section titled "Home," Peter Tovy will leave everything behind and move to the High Mountains of Portugal with his newly purchased ape, Odo. His new life will bring all three stories to full circle and connect all three men in a strange and somber way.

The Problem: While the car Tomas drives is a marvel not only to himself, but also to everyone who sees him along the way, his lack of experience in driving and maintaining it only adds stress to his trip. And while reaching a town can allow him to buy supplies and food, it also means being bothered by curious onlookers. Meanwhile, his trip takes longer than he thought, and what he finds may not be what he was hoping for. In 1939, not only is the late-night autopsy the strangest Dr. Lozora has ever done, but it reveals some issues going on in his personal life. And for Peter Tovy, living in a foreign country, where he does not really know the language, and with an ape that was a former science experiment, is not as complicated as it would seem. He is able to sell his car; get rid of most of his belongings; get himself and Odo to the High Mountains of Portugal; secure a home, a maid, and weekly supply deliveries; and even relieve the fears that the townspeople may have of the large ape. But every once in awhile, a sudden fear will grip him, usually while reviewing his situation honestly, and the fact that he now lives with a very dangerous animal that could decide to turn on him at any moment.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a fiction novel that I chose to place under historical fiction, although it eventually moves forward as far as the early 1980s. The High Mountains of Portugal is told through three different stories and focuses on three different men, each of which has lost the woman they love, and two of which have lost their only child. Eventually all three stories are revealed to be connected, but not all of them take place in the High Mountains of Portugal. Both Tomas and Peter end up traveling there, but Dr. Lozora only meets the woman from there who wants the autopsy of her husband. There is some discussion of religion, Portuguese people and culture, travel, apes, and even Agatha Christie novels. Much like Martel's other novels, there seems to be an importance placed on the overall journey, and not just the destination. While all three men would love to simply have the trip go as quickly as possible, they are almost forced to take a longer journey, or go through a sort of process, before arriving at their destination and ultimately learning about themselves, their families, and the community around them. Nothing comes easily in this book, and certainly not without a little tragedy and despair.

My Verdict: I am glad to say that I enjoyed this book more than I did Beatrice and Virgil, but it still does not come close to Life of Pi. During the beginning of Tomas' story, I was worried that all three stories would be cluttered with details that ultimately the reader would not care much about. Tomas' uncle described the automobile he was lending his nephew in great detail, giving him extensive instructions. While I understand that this would be necessary since Tomas had never driven before, and cars were a new thing at the time, the length of the instructions were incredibly tiring and, well, boring. Thankfully, the story picks up once Tomas is on his way, and gets better as he becomes more familiar with car. Also, both Dr. Lozora and Peter's story are considerably free of such intricate detail and description, giving the reader just enough to imagine the world Martel is describing and eventually get lost in it. And the way all three stories end up coming together in the end is extremely well done and does not feel cheap in any sense.

Favorite Moment: When Odo insists on helping with the groceries, but the way he walks causes the bags to split open, allowing everything to fall out.

Favorite Character: I choose Peter because he seems less hapless than Tomas, and better able to deal with his grief than Dr. Lozora. And while his decision to pick up and move to Portugal is not exactly the most logical, he approaches it practically and takes the least dramatic approach to achieving his goal.

Recommended Reading: Naturally, I recommend Life of Pi if you have not already read it. If you have, then I recommend The Day of Atonement by David Liss, which is also set in Portugal. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Nonfiction: The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

I first saw Ruth Wariner's The Sound of Gravel while meeting with a friend at my favorite coffee shop. As a fellow introvert, the book was her choice of reading material while waiting for me to arrive. At first I did not think much of the book or even take any real notice of it. And then it was mentioned in an email from Goodreads, and after reading the synopsis, I knew this was a book people would soon be talking about, if they were not already, and I wanted to be in on the conversations.

Genre, Themes, History: The Sound of Gravel is a nonfiction book or memoir that tells the story of Wariner's life from a little girl of five years-old, to a teenager of 15, but with enough worries and life experience for two or even three life times. Wariner would be her mother's fourth child, but her father's thirty-ninth, and this is not even the father she would grow up to know. Until she would leave as a teenager, Ruth and her family live as part of a community of Mormons living in rural Mexico. And because this particular community continued to believe in and practice polygamy, Wariner's real father had many wives, and her step-father would as well. Despite the stress and jealousies that comes with being one of many wives, Wariner's mother continued to believe and espouse the value of polygamy, while Wariner herself would continue to wrestle with the idea, knowing that the expectation would be for her to grow up and become one of many wives as well, having child after child as part of God's will. But polygamy would not be the only thing Wariner would wrestle with. The entire family would be moved around between Mexico, California, and even Texas over the course of her entire childhood. And when the sexual abuse begins, and continues, at the hands of her stepfather, Wariner finds herself not only questioning the values of the community she has grown up in, but also her mother's loyalty to an awful man that barely supports her and her family - a loyalty that often makes it seem her mother chooses him over her own children.

My Verdict: I knew this one would be hard to read, and it was, but it was also worth it. Without being too detailed, but while also not shying away from the awful reality, Wariner honestly and bravely tells her story of how she grew up. At first glance, after realizing that Wariner grew up Mormon, it may be easy to expect that polygamy will take center stage in this story. And while polygamy is most certainly an issue, so is sexual abuse, poverty, gender roles, disability, education, mental illness, and what it means to be a family and want what is best for those closest to you. Something else I did not expect was for this book to be a page-turner. I do not think I have finished a nonfiction book this quickly in a long time, but I had to know how this chapter of Wariner's story ended, even though I got a general idea from both the 'about the author' section and the prologue. It is a story of a journey that was neither easy nor pretty, although few are. But Wariner talks about it with unflinching honesty and courage, and that is really all a reader can ask for.

Favorite Moment: When Wariner's oldest brother Matt stands his ground and tells his mother that he is leaving to work in San Diego. Despite her protests, she realizes she cannot keep him from going and helps him prepare for the trip.

Recommended Reading: Years ago I read Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres. While Scheeres did not grow up Mormon, she did grow up with fanatically religious parents who ended up doing much more harm than good, but continued as they believed themselves to be right.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Science Fiction: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Thanks to the listing feature on Goodreads I was able to find All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders in the list for 2016 Most Anticipated Science Fiction books. The premise of an epic war between science and magic seemed promising, and it did not seem like the type of science fiction that would hurt my head, being the novice with the genre that I am.

The Situation: Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead both attended Canterbury Academy on the east coast, and had naturally assumed they would never see each other again after they had parted ways in more than unusual circumstances. Neither of them were popular, and they both were subjected to a good amount of bullying. Laurence was a science nerd who paid Patricia to help him fool his parents into believing that he actually went outside once in awhile. And Patricia was known as the weird emo girl. Aside from their mutual lack of popularity, both Laurence and Patricia were also blessed with parents that never understood them, and much preferred to either lock them away in a room or send them off to military school than to actually deal with them. Add a psychopathic school counselor who is trying to convince the two to kill each other, and the whole scene makes for a horrific childhood.

The Problem: Patricia and Laurence have run into each other again now that they are no longer children, and instead are adults living their own lives in San Francisco. Patricia is a promising and powerful witch whose main hobby is healing the sick and exacting revenge on murders and rapists. And Laurence has gone on to a career in science that is far more advanced than the two-second time machine he managed to build when he was kid. Their lives would be pretty great if the world was not crumbling around them. With major natural disasters happening all over the planet, mass genocides, and terrible famines, the scientists Laurence works for have come up with a last ditch effort that may save humanity...or tear apart the very earth that is already on its way to destroying itself. Those on the side of magic, which include Patricia, find this unacceptable, even though they have their own plan B. The battle between science and magic has finally come to a head, with nature in the middle as both the prize and the victim.

Genre, Themes, History: This is both a science fiction and a fantasy novel, though I chose the science fiction heading for the purpose of this blog. Laurence represents team science, while Patricia is definitely on the side of magic. Early on in the book, Patricia learns that to be a witch, or at least a good one anyway, Patricia must learn to serve nature as opposed to control it. It would be easy to draw the conclusion that the scientists in Laurence's camp wish to control nature, therefore making them the bad guys, but that would be making things too simple. As the book goes on, it is clear that both sides are guilty of what the witches keep calling Aggrandizement, or basically making it all about yourself, even though they cannot stop lecturing Patricia on the dangers of such a thing. Both sides have a plan for humanity and nature, both equally destructive, but they each believe that their own course of action is the correct one. Of course Laurence and Patricia are each loyal to their chosen camps, but they struggle to also remain loyal to each other.

My Verdict: I wish there were more books that would let me say this: this book is incredibly well-written and put together. The characters are great and three-dimensional and feel real. The plot is incredibly creative and intriguing. And the settings are easily pictured without the author forcing it. Also, the tension is real, not only between the two main characters, but just in the world that Anders created. But then the ending happens, and my world was a little less bright, and a little more deflated. I literally turned the very last page expecting there to be more, just one last chapter, and there was nothing. The fate of the world just got on a massive upswing, with hope in every one's sights, and then the book ends with no clue as to whether or not that hope wins out. Sure, you can make an educated guess, but things could easily go the other way too. Of course, the kicker is, we will never know. But aside from that, the other 312 pages are pure gold.

Favorite Moment: When Patricia manages to escape her awful parents and her evil sister, Roberta.

Favorite Character: Peregrine. He is just a lonely computer looking for love. Makes absolutely no sense but it was still incredibly touching.

Recommended Reading:  Parts of this story reminded me of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, particularly Patricia's experiences at the school for witches. Ishiguro's novel is also set in a sort of future dystopia, but the end is not so imminent, and it is science that is saving humanity, with no input from magic.