Books like… The Selection by Kiera Cass

books-like-the-selection

Welcome to a new series! So many times, after reading a book I love, I’ll go on to furiously search online for similar books which I’ll (hopefully!) also love, so in this ‘Books like…’ series, I’ll be taking a popular book and giving you some suggestions on books you might also enjoy. First up in the series: The Selection by Kiera Cass.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty Queens is a sort of dystopic satire – it’s set in an exaggerated version of our world, ruled by the corporation, who encourage endless shopping! It’s a fantastic, hilarious book that’s great in its own right, but I’d really recommend it if you enjoyed The Selection. Beauty Queens follows a group of girls who are all set to compete in a pageant together, but while they’re flying to their destination, the plane crashes and they end up stranded on a desert island.

For the first little while, most of the girls assume they’re going to get rescued and taken straight to the pageant, so they take the time to practice their talents, go over interview questions, and work on their tans. As time goes on, they realise that treating each other as competitors isn’t going to work out so well if they want to survive.

This book has a great ‘girls in competition‘ theme that The Selection has, which is so fun to read about. It also has a great, diverse range of characters, which is something I loved about The Selection. In that book, all the girls come from very different backgrounds, whether that’s their caste, their family, or their nationality/ethnicity, and this book is the same. You really get to know each girl, which is something I really enjoyed in The Selection. The other great thing this book shares with The Selection is the great female friendships that develop! Oh, Marlee…

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

This book was released recently and was often compared to The Selection, and suggested for people that loved that series. I think the comparisons between the stories aren’t as strong as they were made out to be over the release, but it definitely has some Selectioney vibes! The main similarity is the fact that all of these girls are living together in a grand house, and are taught things like upper class etiquette and style, which we get a lot of the in Selection. The reason I’d say the similarities were overplayed is that this isn’t the whole book, it’s just a part of it. Don’t let that stop you from reading it, I just was prepared for that to be the whole book so was surprised when there was so much more to it than that!

This has similar upper class/royalty vibes, with plenty of descriptions of outfits and dresses which sounds superficial but who cares I love it. It also has similar themes of female friendship and rivalry. The main friendships continue to develop throughout the book which I like, but the rivalry isn’t expanded upon too much and I hope we learn more about that character in the rest of the series! There are some really great scenes between the main character and her rival though – lines that make me want to shout ‘you go girl!’ and other things which I am far too white and British to be saying.

The setting has similar vibes too, as it’s set in a semi-fantasy world in that it’s a nonspecific historical time in terms of their technology and it has parallels to our own world. There’s also a fair amount of politics about different religions and ties with different countries, so if you like that political aspect of The Selection you’ll enjoy that!

The Winner’s Curse – Marie Rutkoski

Now, the plot of The Winner’s Curse is pretty different to the plot of The Selection, I’ll say that straight away. But the reason this is on my list is, again, because the setting gives me similar vibes. It’s set again in a nonspecific historical time that feels sort of medieval. Now I know The Selection had TVs, but there weren’t things like phones and the internet, and the whole royalty thing really gave it a historical feel, so I get the same kind of vibes from The Winner’s Curse. (Note to self: look up synonym for ‘vibes’ – or just think of a better way to express yourself.)

This series also has an upper class/royalty things going on, as our main character is the daughter of a general and lives on a large estate with plenty of servants. Well, slaves, actually, as the book is set ten years after the main character’s people have taken over Herran and enslaved its people. So this book also has plenty of politics if you enjoyed that part of The Selection, as there are obviously huge strains between the countries, and there’s plenty of strategy and tactical thinking in this one too if you’re ready for the next step up!

The Siren – Kiera Cass

If none of these are jumping out at you and you just want more of Kiera Cass’ writing – she does have another book! I’d preface this with a little note to bear in mind, which is that The Siren was originally self published, and was written before The Selection, and I do feel the writing is just not as good. It’s still an enjoyable story, but I don’t think it’s quite at the same level as The Selection series.

This is a pretty different story – it follows a girl who is chosen by the sea to become a siren, essentially working for the sea. She lives her life with the few other sirens, and that’s where I feel this book is similar to The Selection, as it has great female relationships and writes women really well. Each of the girls have their own strong, unique personalities, but they all accept each other and get along. They go through ups and downs together, each coping with their odd and difficult life in their own ways, and I really feel that the female characters are the strongest part of the book. Well worth checking out if you enjoyed that aspect of The Selection.

So – do you think you’ll be checking out any of these books? Do you have any of your own to recommend? Please let me know!

Save

Save

Continue Reading

Out of the Easy – Ruta Sepetys | Book Review

 

out-of-the-easy-ruta-sepetys

Title: Out of the Easy

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Genre: Historical, young adult

Publisher: Philomel Books (Penguin Random House)

Pushlishing Date: 2013

My rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

Well, she’s done it again. And by that, I mean, she’s done it before. Because she wrote this before she wrote Salt to the Sea. But I read that before I read this book.

Shall we start again?

This book is set in 1950s New Orleans, and follows the daughter of a prostitute. Yep, that’s all I need to pick up a book! The main character, Josie, lives above the bookshop she works in, and spends her mornings cleaning up the local brother where her mother works, reporting any found items to the madam, Willie. Josie longs to get away from this town where everyone knows her as the daughter of a prostitute, and make something of herself. She is inspired to apply for college in another state after a chat with a gentleman in her bookshop – who, the next morning, is found dead.

The story really kicks off from there, as Josie has a renewed determination to get out, while trying to find out what happened to this man, meeting interesting new people, and juggling her two jobs, her college application, and a trying relationship with her awful mother.

The first thing to say about this book is that it has such amazing characters. There are so many, but they’re easy to keep track of, and they all have such vivid, distinct personalities. Willie has got to be my favourite, she’s one of the best characters I’ve read all year. Ruta Sepetys manages to create so many believable and fully developed characters that are all so fun to read about. Her mother is a great character too – such a piece of work. She’s one you’ll love to hate. Josie herself was a great female lead – independent, intelligent, super hardworking, determined, and so likable.

The setting of 1950s New Orleans was set so well, the book gave a real sense of what it was like to live there. Everyone knows everyone else’s business, and it seems like Josie can’t turn a corner without bumping into someone or other. The ties between people give it a real small-town feel, but the description of the bustling streets show that it’s growing fast.

So, characters? Yep. Setting? Yep. Plot? Loved it! What made this plot so great for me was that it was so unpredictable. There were times where I thought I knew what was going to happen next, but I never managed to get it right. Most of the time I had no clue where it was going, and I loved that. There’s a really nice edge of mystery to this story as she tries to figure out how this man ended up dead, but it by no means takes over the story. The story is more like a lot of different sub-plots, all of which Josie manages to be involved in. It’s never confusing, but there’s always something going on which meant I devoured this book.

Through the entire book, I had literally one negative thing to say about it- and it’s really nit picky. There’s a prologue, involving seven year old Josie, which ends with ‘that was ten years ago.’ I felt it was a little sloppy, as the next chapter could easily have just said ‘ten years later.’ Having a fist person narrator say ‘that was ten years ago’ makes it sound as if they are directly addressing the reader and telling them a story, which is not the overall narrative style of the book. But you know what? It bugged me for a couple of pages, and then I completely got over it and fell in love with the book.

Amazing, five stars.

Did I mention that she LIVES AND WORKS IN a bookshop?

Save

Continue Reading

Trope-Busting YA Novels

 

Trope-busting-YA-novels

Young Adult books get a bad rep. Some of that might be for good reason (I can think of plenty of crappy YA books off the top of my head) but those books somehow seem to represent the whole of YA as a genre (if it even is a genre) and that sucks. There are plenty of great YA books out there, and those should be the ones that represent YA. After all, those great books are the reason I keep reading YA!

One of the biggest things people cite when bashing YA is the use of tropes. The whole, ‘I’m a clumsy white brunette who’s not like other girls, and I’m the ONLY ONE who can save the day in this dystopia I’m living in, and along the way I meet this bad boy who I instantly love and can’t live without, but uh-oh what about this typical nice guy who I’ve been friends with for years – I wonder what my black/asian/gay best friend has to say about all this? Also it’ll take three books to tell you about all this, except the second book will be super boring because this story doesn’t really need to be told over three books.’

So I thought I’d share some of my favourite YA books that either do a trope well, put a great spin on it, or just defy them completely. Of course there are plenty more than just these, but I don’t have all day here, so please leave your recommendations in the comments – I’d love to read them!

Trope #1: ‘I’m not like other girls’

This is a horrible trope. Not only is it just something that’s annoying to read, it really gives a bad message to readers, particularly to any younger girls that are reading. This has the message that it’s bad to be like other girls, and that boys only like girls who are ‘different.’ Putting down other girls does not make the main character better, it makes her worse.

The trope-buster: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Now, the main character here, Kestrel, isn’t perfect. But she definitely goes against this trope. She also goes against the trope of a main girl who has little to no personality, no hobbies, no interests, she’s just kind of nothing-y. Kestrel knows that she wants, and isn’t afraid to go for it. In the world of The Winner’s Curse, anyone (male or female, which I love) has two choices when they reach 20: join the military, or have children. Kestrel has spend her life being trained up, as she’s the daughter of a general, but she knows that it just isn’t for her. She’s good at strategy, she likes to use her mind – she doesn’t like fighting and she isn’t great at it. She also loves playing the piano, even though it’s frowned upon as it’s something only the slaves should do, but she does it anyway. Kestrel manages to have a rounded out character of her own, without having to compare herself to others to validate it.

Trope #2: The tokenistic diverse character

This is a bit of a tough one to discuss, because the line between a good diverse character and a tokenistic one is a little blurred. And, generally, as a white, cis female, I find it difficult to put in my opinions on this. However, it’s hard to get wrong when it’s seen a lot. For example, a trope that seems to go around a lot of having a diverse best friend, while the main character is cis, white, and straight (like the Indian best friend in the Vivian versus series, or the gay, black friend in Mara Dyer). I suppose the way to bust this trope is to have a diverse main character, or, if the main character is cis and white, to have more than just one diverse secondary character, and to develop them.

The trope-buster: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

This one is busting tropes all over the place. The basic premise of this story is that a group of girls competing a beauty pageant crash on a desert island. This has characters of different ethnicities, sexualities, religions, even that struggle differently with gender. The way the narrative goes in this story, each of the girls get a perspective at some point, which means each character is developed really well. The backstories and effects of being a minority in a mostly white/cis/straight society are addressed and dealt with really well, so this one definitely doesn’t use tokenistic diversity.

Trope #3: The Love Triangle

Does this one even need an explanation? It’s gotta be one of the biggest tropes out there. A girl is in love with two guys and readers get strung along while she agonises over which one of these eternally devoted boys to pick – neither of whom seem to mind that she has feelings for them and for someone else. This always bugs me and as soon as a second love interest is introduced in a book it always lowers my opinion of it – couldn’t the author think of anything else to do?

The trope-buster: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

This book is great for some many reasons, but it has a really nice version of a love triangle. First of all, the main character’s love life is, if anything, a sub plot. Or even a sub sub plot. There are so many bigger things going on in this book and she always makes those things a priority over any feelings for guys she might be having. Second is that it’s a really weak love triangle. There’s no huge struggle between two guys, and for most of the book it isn’t really an issue. It just seems like a realistic way to do it, because she’s a normal teenage girl who’s never had a boyfriend, who knows two very different guys and likes them both for different reasons – as friends. People around her start to talk and gossip and wonder about which guy she likes, and that’s really what makes her start to think of them as possibly being more than friends. Usually love triangles are so annoying because they’re so over the top and unrealistic, but this seems like something that a lot of girls might struggle with, as they’re getting into their first relationship and wondering what they like and don’t like in other people.

Trope #4: Second book syndrome

I don’t know if this is a trope exactly, but it comes up a lot in YA trilogies. Second book syndrome is basically where the first and third books are good, but the second one is crappy. Usually it’s because the second book feels like it’s building up to something, and that something is book three. It might have a slow plot, it might all feel like filler before you can get to the third book – a trope often associated with a second book is where two characters from the first book are now separated for some reason. I have read plenty of these. I suspect it’s because publishers love a trilogy because they make more money, so books that may only need two or even just one book to tell the story are made into trilogies.

The trope-buster: Shift by Hugh Howey

Shift is the second book in the Wool trilogy – and it’s the best one in the entire trilogy. Take that, second book syndrome. I feel like this is even more impressive because this trilogy was originally self-published, before publishers discovered the brilliance that is Hugh Howey and jumped on the series. This second book is actually a prequel to the first book, which already makes it stand out from most trilogies. However, just because it’s a prequel doesn’t mean it’s going to be great. It could be full of dull backstory that an author wrote to fill up another book. THIS IS NOT THAT. This second book has so many twists and turns, it makes you think completely differently about the first book, and leaves you gagging for the third book now you have all of the twisty knowledge. The number of times my jaw dropped reading this. All three books in this series are great, that’s why it’s my favourite series ever, but the second one is the best. And you can’t say that about many sequels.

Trope #5: Instalove

Instalove. Isn’t that word an oxymoron? Surely it’s impossible to fall in actual real genuine love in an instant. Sure, they might think they’re in love. I met my current boyfriend when we were 13 and I was convinced I loved him straight away. We’ve now been together eight years and let me tell you, 13 year old me knew nothing about love. Just because we stayed together doesn’t mean that I felt real love. It meant I felt normal teenage feelings that grew into love. (Aww.) I feel like having instalove in a book is a sign of a not great author. I use the term ‘not great’ because they may be great in most other ways, but including instalove always bring them down a peg for me. Instalove is not realistic, it’s not authentic, even in magical fantasy worlds, it is just silly. Why an author would write something so far from the real world I don’t understand.

The trope-buster: The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

I’m gonna be vague here, because this book is a mystery. I mean it’s in the mystery genre. I think? A bunch of kids that went missing years ago come back with no memories, and they try and figure out what’s going on. I love this book, excuse my crappy synopsis there. So right from the beginning of the book, two of these kids feel drawn to each other. They feel like they have a connection, they think they must have been in a relationship before they lost their memories, and they feel this pull towards each other. Now, when I was reading this, my eyes were rolling up the skies. I just thought the author had used the amnesia thing as a way to excuse the instalove and sloppy character/relationship development. But I spoke to soon. The characters start to feel obligated to be together, but they’re not really feeling it. I really love this spin on the instalove trope because it’s basically in reverse – the love is there already and they kind of back away from it. And then other stuff happens. No spoilers here!

I’m looking at the word count for this blog post and I figure now’s a good time to stop. As a side note, I highly recommend every single one of these books, they are all fantastic and some of my favourites! Let me know if you can think of any other trope-busting books – or leave your most hated tropes in the comments and I’ll try and find books that bust them!

Save

Save

Save

Continue Reading