The Otissito Review

Category: Young Adult

Total 3 Posts

Book Review: “The Unhappening of Genesis Lee” by Shallee McArthur

The Unhappening of Genesis LeeThere are a lot of themes in young adult fiction, and a lot of them end up being rather repetitive when lined up next to each other. For some readers this is just fine, they don’t mind reading stories that follow similar tropes over and over. Other readers, like myself, enjoy it when something reaches out and surprises the reader in unexpected ways.

In The Unhappening of Genesis Lee the reader isn’t subject to some dreary dystopian wasteland, they aren’t exposed to a love triangle, and they aren’t bogged down by a massive amount of world-building that forces the story onto a complicated and massive scale. This book keeps things intimate and at a smaller scale so the reader can dive right in, understand their surroundings, and get on with enjoying the story.

Along with keeping things at a more manageable, smaller scale, the author adds a very intriguing plot device, asking the question, “What happens if someone can steal a portion of your memories, or even all of them, in the blink of an eye?” What happens then? What sort of life is a character forced to live if losing their memories is something they have to constantly fear?

Genesis Lee, usually referred to by the nickname, Gena, is a teenager in Havendale, a city founded for people like her that store their memories in objects such as bracelets or necklaces made up of Links. She is a Mementi, and if she loses possession of her Links then she’ll lose the memories stored inside of them. She cannot store her memories in her brain like the other, unaltered members of the city, known as the Populace. When Gena’s best friend Cora has two years of her memories stolen by a thief the police have yet to catch, Gena begins trying to track the thief down herself. Along the way she crosses paths with a charming young man named Kalan. Gena doesn’t remember Kalan, but he remembers her, and that’s when things begin to get very interesting for Gena as she realizes someone is not stealing her memories, but rather erasing only the portions that specifically deal with Kalan.

Soon enough, Gena and Kalan are scrambling to find answers about who is stealing Links, who is wiping Gena’s memories, and who is behind the rising tensions on the streets of Havendale. As they begin to uncover the mystery, they discover the answers hit much closer to home than they originally imagined.

What impressed me most about The Unhappening of Genesis Lee was the skill Shallee McArthur showed in weaving all of the different plot elements together to keep the story moving. There is the relationship tension between Gena and her best friend Cora, the budding romance between Gena and Kalan, the mystery of the Link thief, and what seems like a dozen other important details that really flesh Gena out as a character. The story is told from Gena’s point of view using a first person narrative, so there are a lot of fun observations, internal dialogue, and thought processes that McArthur uses to tell the story. Gena is quirky, a bit naive sometimes, and very determined. A recipe that seems more destined for disaster than heroics at first glance.

I did find the character of Cora to be a bit lightweight, and that took a little bit of adjusting expectations on my part. Cora is important to the plot because as Gena’s friend, losing two years of her memory creates a direct negative impact on Gena. However, Gena was so involved in so many other things that Cora did not receive as much screen time as I was expecting (or perhaps hoped for) following the opening scene. However, Kalan did a great job of filling in the void I felt with Cora’s character. Kalan was dynamic, fun, and maybe my favorite character in the book.

The pacing of The Unhappening of Genesis Lee is really solid most of the time. There were a few scenes that I would have enjoyed a little more time inside of, but overall it was refreshing not having to be bogged down waiting for the next big piece of action to begin. On the whole, today’s Young Adult fiction tends to suffer from a growing case of wordiness, and with this book, things happened, and they happened fast. Not every story can be told at the pace of The Unhappening of Genesis Lee, but I’d rather read something with the pace this book has, than some of the lumbering Young Adult offerings of the past few years.

The Unhappening of Genesis Lee is the debut effort for Shallee McArthur and I think it serves her well as an example of the work she can do in the genre. Maybe it needs a tiny bit of polish in a few places, but the world of Young Adult fiction needs some new ideas, and this book serves up new and fresh ideas with wild abandon. I’d love to see what Shallee McArthur has on tap for her next endeavor.

The Unhappening of Genesis Lee is 352 pages long, and was published November 18th, 2014 by Sky Pony Press. Further commentary on the book can be found at Goodreads.

Availability:   Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Audible

Book Review: "Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of)" by F.J.R. Titchenell

Confessions of the Very First Zombie SlayerI was provided a copy of Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) by the publisher in return for an honest review just before the book becomes available for purchase. According to Amazon the book becomes available on May 6th, but perhaps it will roll out a little earlier if readers are lucky.

With a lot of young adult zombie thrillers the author tries to do a little too much and sometimes things get a bit convoluted. With this book, F.J.R. Titchenell seems to dial back the extra plot lines and spends her time focusing on the characters. To be honest, at times she dials things back a little too far and I felt like I was reading just another zombie book that did not offer me anything unique, but just as I began to feel that way she would fix it and get back on track.

The book is written from a first-person viewpoint and in the style of a running memoir or journal. That is something you don’t see all the time, and it worked rather well. Cassie, the main character, has a lot of spunk and she has an edge to her that works well within the confines of the story. As the zombie outbreak gains steam and she and her friends are thrust into survival mode as they try to make it from California to New York to rescue a family member, Cassie has to make some tough decisions. She also has to deal with trying to keep the group rolling along with as little tension as possible. At the beginning of the story a character known as The Boy Scout takes charge of the group, using is rather obsessive Boy Scout training to try and keep them all safe. He knows what he is doing for the most part, but he still buckles under the pressure from time to time.

Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) moves fast as it is not a very long book, but it does not move so fast as to leave the reader feel like they are missing out on some important piece. It did move fast enough that even though it isn’t the absolute best zombie thriller I’ve read I had a hard time putting it down. The story is strong enough to hold up on it’s own, and the characters are developed well. I feel like it is a strong entry into the young adult zombie thriller genre and I’m interested to see if the author has more in store for these particular characters or not. If not, the book holds up well as a standalone piece anyways.

My only regret about the book was The Boy Scout. I don’t want to give away much in the way of important plot developments, but I found him to be one of my favorite characters. He had an edge about him that was not fully explained and I liked trying to figure out for myself what was really going on inside of his head. I wish he would have had a little more screen time when all was said and done.

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Goodreads

Top Ten Most Unique Books I’ve Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

When it comes to unique books I’m not sure I have read very many that really qualify as truly unique because most of what I read is rather mainstream. However, there are a few books despite that which I think are pretty unique for various reasons. I’m not sure if I can come up with a full list of ten books, but I’ll try my best.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
What makes Ancillary Justice so unique is how the author bends gender with everyone on the page being referred to with a feminine pronoun. It makes for an incredibly unique reading experience and to be honest, it makes things a little bit confusing for the first piece of the novel. You really have to force your brain to work a different way in order to make sense of the characters and their actions.

World War Z by Max Brooks
I loved this book because of its unique format. The choice to use imagined interviews with key players to create a chronicle of the events surrounding a zombie apocalypse was a fantastic storytelling device. I was glued to this book the entire time I was reading it because the interviews felt so real despite the fact that I knew they were fictional.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I’m sure there have been other books that tried the approach of featuring a player inside of a massive online game, but if I ever find another one worth reading I’ll hold it up in comparison to Ready Player One every time. Ernest Cline did a great job creating a virtual world for his characters to run around in and there was something exciting about having a fictional world inside of another fictional world be the main playground for the story to take place within.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
There is a lot of post-apocalyptic YA fiction out there in the world to consume, but very little of it is so unique that it really grabs your attention. So many of those stories follow a very limited number of tropes, but The Maze Runner does a lot of things very differently and I’m very excited to see how the general public accepts the movie version later this year because I think it’s exactly the unique YA infusion the genre needs.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Atwood
Most people might not thing Gone with the Wind is all that unique, but it was pretty unique for me to decide to read it. My wife loves the book and I’d never read it before so I took the plunge to see what it was all about. I had a very mistaken understanding of what the line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” was in reference to, so when I finished the book in the early morning hours one day I was very upset. I can usually accept just about anything in a book without getting angry, but this one got me.

Kraken by China Mieville
I’m not sure Kraken is unique in comparison to other books of its kind, but it was certainly unique to me when I read it. I had never read a book quite like Kraken before and it took a lot of brainpower for me to dive into that kind of writing style. I thought it was a great book and I’d like to read more of the author’s work someday.

The God Engines by John Scalzi
This is actually a novella, but I still think it’s one of the most unique things I’ve read in the past few years. There are some really interesting religious themes in The God Engines, and the end of the story is mind-blowing in not only its abruptness but in its intensity.

Legion by Brandon Sanderson
Legion is another novella, and I really liked how Sanderson took the main character and turned him into a cast of characters by having the supporting characters be manifestations of the main characters psyche. The interplay between characters is very unique as a result and it allows for some interesting plot developments. There is a sequel coming out later this year that I’m very excited to read.

Feed by Mira Grant
Zombie stories are a dime a dozen these days between comics, television, and books. The thing is, almost all of these stories deal with the actual outbreak of the zombies. What makes Feed so unique is that it deals with life after the outbreak when society has figured out how to survive and make a life in a world that has zombies roaming around. I think that’s pretty unique within the particular sub-genre.

The Daedalus Incident by Michael J. Martinez
It hasn’t been very long since I read The Daedalus Incident but I still love how it’s a wonderful mix of science fiction and fantasy all rolled into one. Most books only manage to focus on one of those two genres, but this one blends the two almost seamlessly to create something entirely new and exciting.

Look at that! I managed to find ten unique books after all!