The Embassy Row series seemed to be popping out at me from everywhere, and I was intrigued. So when Book 1 showed up at my library, I grabbed it.
‘All Fall Down’ by Ally Carter was an unexpected surprise for me. I had very little idea what the series was about, and what I did know had me thinking it was going to be something a bit Selection-y (perhaps because of the cover of Book 3). It’s not.
It’s got more grit and less glamour, with an ace setting and many twists and turns that will have you wishing you’d trailed string behind you in those dark underground tunnels so you could crawl out to safety.
And check out the cover. I love the fractured font above the soft image.
It is a bridging YA text, you could be confident giving it to middle-grade readers who are looking for something more, as well as more seasoned YA readers. The book combines adventure and mystery with the gaining, and losing, of friendships. As well as some harder issues around mental illness and grief.
So, what worked?
- The inspired setting
- The plot twists
- The supporting cast
I was jigging-foot excited to read ‘Gemina‘ by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Nervous too. Because, seriously, ‘Illuminae‘ was so damn mindblowing I wasn’t sure anything could ever come up to standard.
Thankfully, ‘Gemina’ came through for me. There was something about picking it up and leaping back into the unconventional, characteristic setup that had my blood singing so much those lamina would have sensed me from half a universe away.
- Characters of zing
- World-building of awesome
- Plot of intricate amaze-balls
Hooray, ‘Gemina’ happily thumbed its nose at the Seriously Sucky Sequel Syndrome. Want to know more? Brace yourselves and read on…
Seriously. If Unputdownable and Awesome met and had a book baby, it would be ‘Illuminae‘ by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. If you’re wondering whether to read it, just take this as a fist-pumpingly enthusiastic, big-brass-band in the background YES!
And go away now and read.
However if, like me, you now want to dissect the story structure and see what made it mind-blowing, then read on my friend.
I think the key areas where ‘Illuminae’ shines are:
- Story structure cranking the tension.
- Plotty plot plot + plot + more plot
- Challenging narrative structure
- Characters you bleed for.
And that’s not even mentioning how often it made me laugh out loud.
I cried too. My emotional control is about equal to that of a caterpillar, so this isn’t all that unusual, but there is understated beauty in the way ‘Illuminae’ is written.
‘Waer‘, SCBWI West member Meg Caddy’s debut, has been on my TBR list since its release a few months ago. I was keen to see what caught the eye of Text and led to its shortlisting in the Text Prize (and a contract!).
Getting a contract as a previously unpublished author seems about as easy as brushing your hair with a glue stick. So I LOVE reading debuts. Half of me enjoys hearing a new voice and celebrating their success. I firmly believe that the more great books published, the more kids will want to read.
One writer’s success is a win for all writers.
The other half of me hopes I will pick up that final, vital hint about how to write a novel publishers will latch on to.
So, what did I discover in Waer?
- Seamless and brave world-building
- Two vivid POVs
- A decidedly unexpected twist.
And beware (be waer?) (sorry) the odd, tiny little spoiler ahead.