What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem. From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.
It took me well over a year to start and finish this book because I kept having to put it down. Though the synopsis paints it as some kind of political romance/thriller, I couldn't help but notice how incredibly slow the plot actually is. For most of the story there is no real villain and the reader is left to wonder what the point of the whole thing is. If it was to be some kind of show down between two teenage prodigys than it failed miserably. A lot of reviewers have said before and I wholeheartedly agree, if you take away the chapter headings and made the fonts the same, it would be almost impossible to distinguish between Day and June's voices. The world building could have been elaborated on a lot more as many of the aspects of the world were unexplained. On the writing front, Lu is a talented writer and I liked that she used a mix of long and short sentences to break up the flow of the story telling. It made the writing more interesting. Had it not been for the writing and the lack of love triangle, I don't think I would have been able to finish this one.
One of the main reasons I bought this book was because it was written by an Asian author and claimed to have Asian inspired characters. This aspect of the book is by far the most disappointing for me. If I sound annoyed it's because I am. I can forgive outrageous hair and other characteristics in fantasy/paranormal novels but not in dystopia. Not when you're trying to make me believe your world could really happen. For a while now I've been wondering whether some writers or their editors EVER do any genetic research before they give their characters certain physical attributes. Let me give you a quick lesson now. You CANNOT classify a person as having dominant Mongolian attributes (I'm looking at you Day) and then describe them as being blond with blue eyes. In my books dominant means more than 50%. If you're 50% Asian, you will have dark hair and dark eyes. End of story. This is basic biology. If one of your parents is full Asian and the other is blond Caucasian, you will have dark hair and dark eyes. By the time you get to a point where two dark haired people produce a child with white blond hair and bright blue eyes they are no longer dominant anything. Above all else, and I don't think Lu would have meant it to come across this way, I am insulted by the way Day looks. It makes me feel like an effort was made to write an Asian character but somewhere along the publishing line a decision was made to "whitewash" the character to make them more palatable.
June - Present me with a rich, spoiled, seemingly perfect child prodigy and I will immediately get my hackles up. Make her stupid on top of that and I'm checking out. In my opinion June was very difficult to warm to. Besides being utterly clueless for someone who is meant to be so smart, she has a self entitled air of importance simply because she scored well on a test. She experiences loss which is sad, but the way she handles it doesn't inspire any empathy. I was hoping for a strong female lead and though June is very handy in a fight, I think her attitude leaves a lot to be desired.
Day - I have a hard time believing in Day's characterisation. No one survives living on the streets in a Dystopian novel without getting their hands dirty. And if they do, they're not a well rounded character. I expected Day to be edgy. To be rough and snarky. He was none of those things. We get told very often that Day has done some incredible things such as breaking into a bank in 10 seconds but we never see any of this in action. Despite being the Republics most wanted criminal, he sure starts trusting people very quickly.
It was there. I did not like it. This novel really just wasn't for me.
This book has been on my TBR forEVER. And I guess it'll have to stay there a while longer, because I'm pretty sure the things that annoyed you would annoy me too. Sad that this one didn't live up to its potential.ReplyDelete
Seriously, it took me over a year to read after starting it. I just can't believe all the hype.Delete
I recently read this book too, and I had the exact same thoughts as you. I was really disappointed with this one, and I was looking foward to it for a long time.ReplyDelete
It's really disappointing when a book is hyped up and you want to read it so much and then when you do it's not as good as you hoped.Delete
I didn't like this book as much as I thought I would too. I really wanted to. I waited for a full year! But it ended up being ASDFGHJKL; :X Part of the reason was due to the over hyping but mostly, I just hated JUNE. Day was okay but he didn't seem real to me. Both of them didn't. They felt like Mary Sues and Gary Stus.ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts, Lan :D
I couldn't warm to June at all. Too many times she stood by and let terrible things happen. Maybe the author was trying to make the book more realistic but I thought it was a poor way to portray a character who is meant to be a genius.Delete
I haven't read it, but I have heard about it. I have heard mixed things about it. From what you have said, I doubt it would be on my list. Have you tried to read anything from Malinda Lo? She is one of my fav YA authors and I think you would really like her work.ReplyDelete
I keep meaning to read Ash by Melinda Lo. I'm sure it will be one I enjoy. At the moment, I'm just looking for a book that doesn't have a weak main character and insta-love/love triangles.Delete
What a refreshing, open, and honest book review. Thank you. I hate buying a book, because of a 'whitewashed' review and then being disappointed.ReplyDelete
Thanks :) I'm glad you see it as open and honest and not just a crazy rant! Sometimes I get a bit carried away...Delete
I've heard of this, and so far read mixed reviews. I'm not a fan of instalove either. Happens so often in YA, though.ReplyDelete
I hate hate hate insta-love. Especially from two people who are meant to be sworn enemies. Makes no sense!Delete
I almost got this one at the library awhile a go. I'm glad I didn't. In fact, maybe I'll take it off my TBR list.ReplyDelete
It's pretty aggravating. Not so much the story itself as not much really happened but the characters just weren't realistic at all.Delete
It just finished up my guest for you on multiculturalism in YA, and I actually cited this book for something called "passing" -- a minority character "passing" as part of the majority white population, which is what I felt was happening here. I'll have to shoot to essay over to you. I have cousins who are 25% Chinese with blond hair and blue eyes, but as you say, their "dominant" ancestry is not Asian.ReplyDelete
I actually did enjoy this book for the most part, although I did not find June's character very likeable because of how she treated Day. I did really like Day, despite his being a Mongol in disguise. And I enjoyed the high stakes of the plot.
I'm looking forward to reading your guest post Camille. I'm sure it will be super cool. I've seen whitewashing happen so often and even I'm a little guilty of it myself. So I guess the problem is really ingrained. I just think, either write the character you want or leave it out altogether. Don't do a strange half job that will annoy people.Delete
I've gotta say I was disappointed with how unexciting this one was. I didn't feel any tension throughout the whole book.
LOL, I love this review. I haven't read the book, but I also don't like white-washing non-white characters, especially if it's done in a non-realistic way. Authors need to get clued into how genetics works, as it is really important when you have to create your own people in a realistic way.ReplyDelete
I have seen a half-Chinese half-Caucasian American swimmer (Nathan Adrian) who looks white, but he does have dark brown hair and brown eyes. Still, I didn't think he was Asian at all until he mentioned his mother was Chinese. He has very slight almond-shaped eyes, but I didn't even notice them. He has realistic coloring, but hardly has any Asian features. Odd, but I guess genetics can work that way, just not with the recessive color genes winning out over the dominant color genes.
I don't understand why no one throughout the whole process commented about the lack of realistic genetics. It makes my mind boggle.Delete
I can imagine a fair looking half-Chinese half-Caucasian American person. I just can't believe someone can be exactly half or "dominant" and have blond hair and blue eyes.
It's cause of recessive genes. Rare, but possible. But there ARE Mongolians out there with light hair/light eyes due to recessive genes and the location of where they are located. They clearly look Asian, but their hair/eyes are light. Just google "Blonde Mongolians." This is due to the fact they share a border with Russia and so there might intermixing on both side somewhere down the line.Delete
Oh man. Oh man. June sounds like a character I might dislike and the insta-love? WHY? Why do these otherwise talented women who are smart and good authors INSIST on writing in such a lazy plot device? :( I've considered buying this several times but ultimately I think it's going to have to be a library book. I'm especially discouraged by the fact that the characters aren't unique!ReplyDelete
Once Upon a Prologue
I was so put off by the portrayal of love in this one. They kiss after 1 day. Even when June suspects Day to be Day. After that I couldn't take this book seriously anymore. June is "smart" in all the ways that don't really count. She spends an inordinate amount of time memorizing non essential minor details but doesn't figure out her government is corrupt until someone spells it out for her...not someone to admire.Delete
You got further than me on this book. I read a couple pages and couldn't get through it. Like you, I felt the plot was extremely slow. If a book doesn't grab my attention in the first couple pages, I tend to give up. Hope you have better luck with the next book you read.ReplyDelete
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I refused to let myself put this one down because I've been doing that so often and I'm burning a hole through my book budget. I remember putting it down after the first couple of pages as well. I think it was June putting me off.Delete
I haven't really read any reviews for this, and it's something that I've been wanting to read, but, I don't think I will be. Because...ReplyDelete
1) Insta-love = automatic turn off for me now. There is absolutely NO reason to include this in a book. It is a lazy way for two characters to fall in love.
2) Whitewashing of characters. I LOVE diversity in books published in the USofA (unfortunately they are too few and far between, and the more I learn about cultures aside from my own, the more I realize how much racism is still very much alive today). It makes me angry when characters are whitewashed on covers (the white girl on the cover so popular in YA is starting to make my eyes go cross-eyed). It makes me even more angry that characters should be whitewashed IN the story itself.
3) If there are going to be two different voices, they need to be distinct. I've read SO many books like where this did not happen. And I get it. It's hard, especially for a first novel. I honestly don't think that I could do it at this point in time. In that case though, do not use two voices and maybe switch to a different tense.
Once again, thank you for a very honest and straight forward review Lan. :) Sorry for my somewhat ranty comment. ;)
No apologies necessary. You're helping me back to a place of zen after my annoyance. Insta-love is passable only at the best of times in books but this one just didn't convince me at all. I ended up skipping a bit of Day's commentary because it just wasn't necessary. It may as well have just been from June's POV.Delete
I'm so glad I'm going indie because I think a lot of authors are scared to write characters of ethnicity. I keep trying to add as much of them into my books as I can and if that makes me unpopular well them too bad!
Oh, I think I have to pass this book for now! I can forgive insta-love sometimes, only if it's incredibly cute. But insta-love in threatening situation when you have to do anything to survive? Well... sorry, but romance wouldn't be the first thing in my mind. :P I heard some reviewers complaining about June's character too, and how selfish she is. Doesn't sound like my kind of heroine.ReplyDelete
Thank you for the honest, amazing review, Lan! <3
I can forgive insta-love, or insta-like if the book itself if really engaging. Unfortunately this one wasn't for me. I can't believe how selfish and cold June is. I thought the characters I wrote were cold but she is on another level!Delete
haha.I remember on my review of this book where you said we just dont seem to always agree on how we feel about books, and here is a perfect example. I didnt think it was as bad as you did initially, but after thinking on it, I can see where you're coming from. It seems as I read books, I give books the benefit of the doubt and just let small things go for the sake of the book as a whole, like the whitewashing (which is always an issue it seems in all american books. the characters are always white AND something else. Why cant they just be something else?) I'm so used to it I dont even seem to comment on it anymore.ReplyDelete
BALLS! (Lol, I'm feeling vulgar tonight). I have this on my Kindle, but I have not heard the greatest of things about it. Ah well! I'll still read it because, you know, I already bought it, ha!ReplyDelete
Great review, as always! Oh, insta-love, please die an insta-death.
Ah, man I'm sorry you didn't like it! I actually thought it was good. Like you, I had difficulty seperating the character voices; they were very similar. But something about it--mostly Day, for me--resonated. I wanted to see what happened to poor Eden. And Day's other brother...oh, I felt so bad for him. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I think I just kinda overlooked the not-so-good parts. Hopefully you'll find some good reads next up in your TBR to overshadow this one!!ReplyDelete
I think recessive genes are just coming into play with Day's character. Marie Lu explains it on her website. She specifically says his mother is Russian. Mongolia and Russia share a border so it's very possible somewhere in his ancestry there's a blue eye/blonde hair gene. Its very rare, but it's possible (I read a while ago there was a black couple who had a child who ended up being white (not albino, but the child looked Caucasian.) There are Mongolians who have naturally light hair/eyes because of the intermixing due to their location and their pictures is what inspired the character for her. Stuff's Google-ableReplyDelete
I don't dispute that there are blond haired and blue eyed mongolians. my issue is with Day being classified as "dominant" Mongolian. when you're talking genetics dominant is very important. I'm sure there are plenty of African American couples who could have Caucasian looking children because they carry recessive Caucasian genes. But if someone is dominant Asian there is no way they will have blond hair and blue eyes. I'm just getting stuck on the word dominant which is where Lu's explanation doesnt hold up. either way my feelings about whitewashing characters still stands. Regardless, I just couldnt suspend belief. I'm sure there are plenty of others who could. Each to their own.Delete