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May 28 2015

The Program by Suzanne Young

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The ProgramNovel: The Program by Suzanne Young | Goodreads
Release Date: April 30th 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Also Published On: Next Page Please!

In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.

I’d been meaning to read The Program for a while and wow, thank goodness I finally read it. It was mysterious, emotional, intoxicating, and just pure “book crack.” I liked how it was a different kind of dystopian. What I consider to be a “normal” dystopian is a book loaded with action and the protagonist is usually rebelling against the people who control their society (not like this is a standard in what a dystopian book should look like, this is just usually see in dystopias); The Program was definitely not an average dystopian. This book was more of an emotional read rather than a action packed read. That’s what I really like about this book: Young didn’t need guns or dead people to keep me reading, the plot and characters had already done that for her.

The Program takes place in a society where the slightest sign of depression can cause you to end up in The Program, a place to erase these depressive and suicidal feelings. It may seem like the best thing ever, but people who return from The Program come back as different people. They may not even remember people they knew before The Program. This causes teenagers to try to avoid ending up in The Program at all costs.

Our main character, Sloane, is someone who has known quite a few people who have had to attend The Program or have committed suicide. I really liked Sloane because of how strong she after dealing with so many events that would have caused her to be thrown into The Program. That really made more engaged to the book because each day, there is a chance the handlers can take her away if there was any sign of depression. Let’s face it, you have your days where you just want to lay in bed and cry, and I feel as though Sloane goes through many days where she wants to do that, yet she is able to play a facade. She knows that if she wants to stay out of the Program she needs to pull off this facade and act happy. She knows exactly how to get around the handlers, the people who bring people to The Program. Whether it’s faking a smile or lying on her daily questionnaires- which asks questions regarding suicidal thoughts and such- Sloane knows what The Program does and knows that it’s bad enough to the point where she should try to avoid it. She definitely goes through a great amount of change by the end of the book. There were so many emotional events that happened and the causes a huge change and shift in  her personality.

James, Sloane’s boyfriend, is Sloane’s outlet to what she believes is a messed up world. James, like Sloane, knows how to pretend and get around being thrown into The Program. I loved reading about James and Sloane’s love. It’s not everyday you can read about a dystopian couple that isn’t thrown out into an all out war the next day. Both Sloane and James come off to be very emotionally fragile people at times. Since they both have gone through so much together, they can rely on each other to cry with or cheer each other up. They are able to support each other when their lives get tough, and I just love that about them. Both of them are equally broken and scarred but can pick up each other’s pieces when needed.

What made this book so interesting that I finished it within a day? The plot; it was a glorious plot. It was so suspenseful and interesting to read about. Every event and small detail led straight up into the climax of this book and that made the plot even better. The Program was also a book that has “yet to be explored.” There are so many things I don’t know about the world and I had so many question like what it is like in The Program? Then there is the dying question of how our “perfect” word turned into the society The Program takes place in? What caused returners of the Program to seem like empty shells? These questions kept me reading and craving for more pages (Hence the fact this book is 400 pages). Some of my questions have been answered but some haven’t! That is now a worry, though I definitely expect them to be answered in the sequel. The one thing I can say about this book is that you definitely don’t expect a lot of what happens. There were so many plot twists and turns and a bucket load of feels: Sadness, happiness to the point where you wanted to cry, shock, and just utter “OMG.”

If you want a breathtaking dystopian novel what will give you so many feels, go with The Program. This book made me cry, laugh, and left me laying on the ground, trying to process the ending. It definitely was an emotional read so get your tissues ready. Its prequels and sequel is already out, so it’s easy to catch up without the wait! Young did a great job keeping me attached to the book, and the plot of The Program is just so damn interesting. (Also, I love the cover!!)

Kaitlin
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May 26 2015

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

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Novel: The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker | Goodreads
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut.

Your greatest enemy isn’t what you fight, but what you fear.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king’s best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she’s accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that’s been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth’s witch hunting past–if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she’s thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

Virginia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice in this unforgettable fantasy debut.

I rarely read fantasy. Not because I dislike the genre as a whole, but because I am meticulously picky about fantasy settings. Even if the story is a light fantasy set in our world, the author has to get the mood just right, with a magical feeling to keep me captivated. I prefer an emphasis on human-esque creatures—like witches or angels—as opposed to dragons. Above all else, I have to understand and believe every detail 100 percent; the author must elaborate and explain until the world becomes plausible and makes sense.

So maybe you should take my opinions of The Witch Hunter lightly. Maybe it impressed me because it is the most intense fantasy I have read since being forced to trudge through The Hobbit in seventh grade English, and my mind is secretly straining for more sword fighting. Or maybe, since my lack of experience comes from my pickiness about world-building, my praise should serve to showcase Virginia Boecker’s fiery talent.

First off, The Witch Hunter absolutely slays world-building. Set in an alternate 16th-century England, this setting has everything: magic on every turn; grand palaces; and, best of all, close-minded fear of witches characteristic of medieval times. The author features plenty of creative magic and blankets it all with an atmosphere of oppression that emphasizes the need to change the kingdom’s cruel anti-witchcraft laws. The story is a bit sparse when it comes to details about real historical England, but only because it devotes so much time to developing every aspect of the nation’s magical alternate version.

On top of the world-building dances a dynamite plot. The storyline features fewer gasp-out-loud plot twists than I expected, but instead Boecker builds suspense with constant danger and one plot-driving, high-stakes goal: destroying the curse laid on the kingdom’s most powerful wizard. Elizabeth had me cheering for her in every scene as she fought for her life, her friends’ lives, and the fate of her kingdom with only her wits and weaponry.

I also loved watching Elizabeth grapple with her story’s moral ambiguity. Before being accused of witchcraft, she was a dedicated witch hunter, one of her kingdom’s best, trained to believe magic was evil. But after powerful wizard Nicholas Perevil rescues her from her pre-burning-at-the-stake prison and convinces her to ally with him and other magical individuals, she begins to realize that magic is not inherently wrong. Boecker allows this transition to happen slowly and naturally and creates difficult situations in which Elizabeth must choose between her old values and her new ones. Elizabeth’s ability to accept ideas she previously would have passionately refuted rings so true in today’s society, where many people could stand to do the same. And as a result, this plotline gives The Witch Hunter the small anchor to reality that every fantasy novel needs.

Complete with a stellar ending—not tied up too neatly but not too pessimistic, leaving room for a sequel but able to stand on its own—The Witch Hunter is a knockout novel. Boecker may be a debut novelist, but her skills are as fine-tuned as a writer who has been creating fantasy worlds for years. I may be wary of fantastical settings, but this author has proven that I can trust hers to be elaborate, believable, and captivating, and I cannot wait to visit her next magical world.

Emily
1 COMMENTS
May 24 2015

The Weekly Blaze {90}: May 18-24

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weeklyblaze

Welcome to our 90th edition of The Weekly Blaze (we’re getting old here at Lit Up Review)! Here are all our posts from the previous week:

Tuesday, May 19: Serena’s review of Pivot Point by Kasie West: “Pivot Point is almost two years old, and I’m just reading it now?”

Wednesday, May 20: Emily’s Waiting on Wednesday selection of Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu: “I’ll be surprised if I don’t give Devoted a glowing review.”

Thursday, May 21: Ten Illuminations on historical fiction covers: “We’re back with historical fiction covers, the final part in our covers series.”

Saturday, May 23: Willa’s review of Solitaire by Alice Oseman: “You want realistic teen fiction? This is it.”

Emily
1 COMMENTS
May 23 2015

Solitaire by Alice Oseman

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20522640Novel: Solitaire by Alice Oseman | Goodreads
Release Date: March 30th, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher/Book People Teen Reviewing
Also Published On: Willa’s Ramblings

In case you’re wondering, this is not a love story.

My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year – before all that stuff with Charlie and before I had to face the harsh realities of A-Levels and university applications and the fact that one day I really will have to start talking to people – I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that’s all over now.

Now there’s Solitaire. And Michael Holden.

I don’t know what Solitaire are trying to do, and I don’t care about Michael Holden.

I really don’t.

This incredible debut novel by outstanding young author Alice Oseman is perfect for fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell and all unflinchingly honest writers.

I’m going to completely admit something: I picked up this book purely because on my copy it said “for fans of Melina Marchetta” so I just assumed I’d love it.

And holyohmygodithinkihavenoair this was good.

You want realistic teen fiction?

This is it.

Solitaire is the story of a girl. An incredibly normal girl. A girl who has a Tumblr that she spends entirely too much time on, who watches Netflix all the time, and doesn’t really know what the heck she wants to do with her life. She doesn’t have the kind of friends who really get her (besides her best friend, and even that’s kind of shaky) and she’s not on the best of terms with her parents. Tori was the best part of this entire book. The cynicism, sarcasm, and pessimism made her so much more real in my head. She has an incredibly distinct voice from the beginning of the book (it actually shook me up a bit) which made her Tori. Her voice matched her personality and made sense with the way she acted – I loved it.

Enter Michael Holden. The guy who even her brother is telling her to stay away from because he’s just a bit too odd. Michael, however, doesn’t seem to care that Tori isn’t giving him much attention, but rather makes an effort. He befriends her, and their friendship is utterly beautiful. They’re both aching for someone who gets them, and that’s what they provide for each other. Michael Holden is a character who really surprised me, and I ended up adoring him. He’s funny, kind, a bit odd but a really cool kind, and someone who I think I would like in real life. He keeps you on your toes, so to speak.

The actual plot of Solitaire is a bit out there. Essentially, there’s a series of pranks happening at Tori’s school (and in the surrounding area) that are targeted at her, but no one knows who exactly is behind them, other than that the organization is named Solitaire. Tori and Michael make it their own personal mission to figure out who the organizers of Solitaire are and stop them before things get too ugly (because the pranks are turning more and more dangerous) but this task ends up being a bit more difficult than they expected. The mystery/thriller element that the Solitaire pranks brought in made the book move faster and filled what would’ve been a boring middle section of the book with engaging scenes.

Solitaire deals heavily with depression and suicide. Multiple characters in the book are battling depression, and Oseman approaches these topics with kindness and care. Through Tori we see the ups and downs, the precipice of suicide, and walking away. This book was an incredibly emotional one, and I absolutely fell in love with it.

Alice Oseman’s debut novel is at the top of my list for favorite 2015 releases. Solitaire is an incredibly unique story of love, friendship, and finding yourself, and one that everyone can relate to.

Willa
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May 21 2015

Ten Illuminations {28}: Best Historical Fiction Covers

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illuminations-banner-historical-fiction-covers

Ten Illuminations is a bi-weekly feature hosted by Lit Up Review where we recommend our ten favorite books that fit under one topic. Inspired by The Broke and The Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday, Ten Illuminations gives you five people’s recommendations in one!

We’re back with historical fiction covers, the final part in our covers series.

Emily-sig

15828079Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley | Goodreads

This cover has so much going for it: the eye-catching contrast between the black-and-white background and the brightly colored accents, the yearbook-esque layout, and the old school feel. Best of all, displaying a predominantly white-student body emphasizes the struggles this book’s characters face as they become one Southern school’s first black students.

20708768Playing for the Commandant by Suzy Zail | Goodreads

I enjoyed this book (although it didn’t live up to the unfairly high expectations I’ve had for World War II books that I’ve had since reading Elizabeth Wein’s novels), but I truly love the cover. Between the asymmetrical piano keys and the barbed wire, the design looks intentionally rough and messy, which really catches my eye.

Willa-sig

 

10445307Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys | Goodreads

One of my all-time favorite historical fiction books, Between Shades of Gray tells the story of Lina, a Lithuanian girl put in a Soviet work camp during WWII. It’s one of the most moving and heart-wrenching books I’ve ever read, and I always recommend it to readers of all ages. This cover is my favorite, and was done by Penguin in 2011. I’ve never found it in stores, but I dream of finding it at some point.

24807186Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin | Goodreads

I adored Ryan Graudin’s book The Walled City (it was a Spotlight Book Club book!) and Wolf by Wolf is her next book. It is pitched as “Code Name Verity meets Inglourious Basterds” which makes me incredibly pumped for this book. ALSO THE COVER. It’s so incredible. I love the typeface and the image. It’s unique, eye-catching, and relates well to the book, three things I love in a book cover.

jessica-sig

Winterspell

Winterspell by Claire Legrand | Goodreads

This cover is so badass and so gorgeous! I love the expression on her face, as well as the blade that she’s holding on to. The red hair sticks out among the purple and really makes both colors pop. This cover is the perfect mix of mysterious/creepy, haunting, and beautiful. It fits the story (based on the blurb) so well. And the font used for the title is just right for the tone of the book and the rest of the cover. It’s not overwhelming, but it’s not too simple, and it gives the cover a fantasy-type feel.

A Mad, Wicked Folly

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller | Goodreads

Unlike Winterspell, I have read A Mad, Wicked Folly, and I love both the contents inside the book as well as the cover. The yellow dress perfectly compliments the blue and the other colors on the cover, but it also definitely pops out at you. I think it’s perfect for Vicky–it’s bold and it says, I don’t care what you think; I’ll do whatever I want. And with the backdrop of (I assume) Edwardian England and the contrasting blue sky, the cover just catches my eye. Like Winterspell, the font is unassuming but also not boring, and the swirly script used for Sharon Biggs Waller’s name fits the fact that Vicky is a girl from the upper class. I just love the combined look of the cover, particularly the yellow dress.

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