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One highly opinionated feminist YA nerd's twisted, snarky and informative journey through the genre's perils, pitfalls and sparkles.

After the Games: The Orwell Project.

The Summer I began the Sparkle Project, my YA review venture into the world of Twilight inspired paranormal romance and its reoccurring problematic elements, saw the release date for the 3rd and final book in the wildly popular Hunger Games series, Mockingjay. I must admit that it took me far too long – until this February, just before the movie was released – to read The Hunger Games, and that was for a number of reasons. One, I have become pretty averse to hype in young adult literature due to having been immersed in it for almost two years now. Two, I was extremely annoyed by publishers heavily promoting a YA series once again through a Team [insert man here] strategy, dumbing down any complexities the series and its heroine may have into one rehashed love triangle. And three, I’m a huge dystopian fiction fan. The Handmaid’s Tale proudly sits on the list of my all-time favourite books. When a writer of particular skill or imagination tackles the topic of a twisted society, the results can be extraordinary, eliciting genuine fear and understanding from the reader, and reminding us a little too much of the possibilities that could spring from our own world. I know I’m not the only one who viewed the recent contraception debate in America and thought about Offred. The jargon of these novels have entered everyday language, from Newspeak to Big Brother and beyond. It’s not hard to see why the genre is so alluring to readers of all ages.

So why has it become so popular in YA? In my opinion, part of that has to do with the excitement element. There’s just a whole lot more happening in dystopian YA novels than most of the romance centred paranormal reads that have dominated the bookshelves and continue to do so. The possibilities are endless. Whereas the paranormal romances present a somewhat fetishized image of love conquering all, dystopian fiction offers something else; tough decisions, although the same heightened emotions are there. These novels also have strong connections to contemporary socio-political commentary, acting as mirrors to the world they inhabit. Of course, there’s also romance. While PNR presents forbidden love surviving the boundaries of mythology, dystopian pushes romance head first into societies that forbid it. The role of romance still plays a heavy part in the marketing of these novels in a similar manner to the Team Boy publicity that I oh so despise, because it’s still profitable. Whether it appeals to me or not, there’s something appealing to the demographics about forbidden love in all its forms, and this is a new outlet for it. Given the rumblings that Suzanne Collins was asked to add more of the pointless love triangle element into her series by the publishers, I can’t help but feel as if we’re stuck in a rut, even if we have moved on from sparkles. I have found myself disappointed with the dystopian YAs I have read so far (Delirium, Wither, Enclave and The Pledge), but this fad still has some steam left, so I am announcing my new blog venture:

After the Games: The Orwell Project.

(Thanks to Paige for the name suggestion).

I have picked 10 dystopian YA novels that have received varying levels of publicity, acclaim and commercial success. Some of you may notice that a few notable novels are missing, which is explained in the rules below. I have reviewed each of these novels and will include mention of them throughout the various discussions. I also wish to note that this project will not take on the same form as the Sparkle Project. I’m afraid my days of snarky recaps are over. I am extremely grateful for every view and comment these reviews received, and if it wasn’t for them I would not still be blogging today. However, I’ve grown as a reviewer since then and feel the more straightforward analytical approach would work best here. Besides, I wouldn’t want to subject you all to the pain that is my attempts to be funny! If you wish to read along with me, that would be great!


·         Each book must have been published post-Mockingjay.

·         The book must either be a stand-alone or the first in a series.

·         It must have been advertised, hyped or otherwise described in terms of being the next Hunger Games, or a twist on the novel, or any sort of emphasis on its dystopian elements.

·         It must be something I have not read before.

The list of books I shall be reading, in no particular order, are as follows:

·         Divergent (Veronica Roth)
·         Matched (Ally Condie)
·         Glow (Amy Kathleen Ryan)
·         The Selection (Kiera Cass)
·         Shatter Me (Tahereh Mafi)
·         Legend (Marie Lu)
·         Possession (Elana Johnson)
·         XVI (Julia Karr)
·         Eve (Anna Carey)
·         Blood Red Road (Moira Young)

I have not yet compiled my dystopian bingo card to accompany each review, but I will provide one as soon as possible. Each review will be posted simultaneously on my blog and my LiveJournal page, then will be added to GoodReads at a later date. Stay tuned for my first review – Divergent by Veronica Roth – next week! 

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Review: "Bad Hair Day" by Carrie Harris.

“Bad Hair Day”

Author: Carrie Harris

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Pages: 240

Summary (taken from GoodReads): Senior year is positively hair-raising.

Kate Grable is geeked out to shadow the county medical examiner as part of her school’s pre-med program. Except when he’s arrested for murder, she’s left with the bodies. And when Kate’s brother Jonah stumbles upon a dead gamer girl, she realizes that the zombie epidemic she cured last fall was only the beginning of the weirdness taking over her town. Someone’s murdering kids—something really hairy. And strong. Possibly with claws.

Is it werewolf awesomeness like Jonah and his dorktastic friends think? Kate’s supposed to be a butt-kicking zombie killing genius...but if she can’t figure out who’s behind the freakish attacks, the victims—or what’s left of them—are going to keep piling up.

It’s scary. It’s twisted. It’s sick. It’s high school.

Cover impressions: I had the first book in the series, “Bad Taste in Boys” on my radar thanks to its gleefully kitsch 50s sci-fi B-movie synopsis yet never got around to reading it, mainly because I could never find it in UK and I’m too cheap to pay for shipping. I began reading the 2nd in the series with the typical hesitations of a reader coming into a series without the full story, but luckily it was easy enough to pick up in this short, if tiresome read. Once again, this is a paranormal YA that promises big and doesn’t deliver.

I really should have written this review straight after finishing the book, but university work got in the way, because it was entirely forgettable and I’m having trouble remembering simple elements such as character names. This isn’t a good sign. Unfortunately, “Bad Hair Day” is generic in every sense of the word. The heroine is the geek who doesn’t know she’s pretty, the handsome but bland love interest, the shoe-horned in romantic conflict, the quirky but mostly absent parents and sibling, the casual disparaging comments towards girls who present a threat – they’re all here. At times it feels like join-the-dots storytelling, especially since the pacing for this short book is completely erratic, veering between fumbled exposition and drawn out and entirely unnecessary romance subplot and shorts bursts of action that do nothing to liven up what should be a short, silly read. Despite the attempts at humour – and I did snigger once or twice – the book never fully decides whether it wants to be a camp take on kitschy horror and sci-fi or a conventional paranormal tale. I’m personally quite disappointed that it didn’t take the latter route since the genre desperately needs less po-faced seriousness.

The book reads younger than YA, with the immaturity of the supposed genius teenage heroine seeming more suited to a middle-grade character. There is potential present in the spin on the zombie and werewolf mythos, grounding it in science rather than legend, but it falls flat due to painful exposition and a lack of focus. There’s nothing in this book to outright hate, it’s just too bland and inoffensive for that.


My ARC was received from "Bad Hair Day" will be released in USA on 13th November 2012.

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