Archive

Posts Tagged ‘attempted rape’

Book Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman (Series, #1) (Audiobook narrated by Luke Daniels)

September 29, 2015 8 comments

Book Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman (Audiobook narrated by Luke Daniels)Summary:
In the near future, the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life debate explodes into a war called the Heartland War.  The only way the war could reach a peace was to come to an agreement.  There would be no abortion but when children are between the ages of 13 and 17 their parents can sign an order to have them unwound.  New scientific technology allows doctors to transplant all of a person’s body parts.  They will then “live on” in a “divided state.”  Teens whose parents choose to sign an unwind order for them are rounded up by juvie cops and brought to Harvest Camps to await their fate.  Some families, particularly from fundamentalist branches of all faiths, believe in tithing 10% of their children, and will have a child simply to raise them to be a tithe.  Additionally, many children end up unwanted and living in State Homes, where they are all given the last name of Ward–for ward of the state.

Connor is a light-hearted bad boy who just accidentally found his own unwind orders in his parents’ desk and immediately goes on the run.  Lev is a tithe who is on his way to Harvest Camp.  Risa is a ward of the state, and she is on a bus to be unwound, because she isn’t deemed exceptional enough to justify her upkeep.  A series of events throws them into each other’s lives and leaves whether or not they will be unwound in question.

Review:
This was recommended to me years ago, but when I first read the description I was skeptical that the book was anything but Pro-Life propaganda.  Years later I decided to check it out again, and most reviews mentioned how neutral the book was.  Additionally, I read some interviews with the author where he stated he genuinely was trying to present a neutral story that analyzes some tough questions, so I thought I would give it a shot.  Ultimately, the author has succeeded at creating a future world that is fascinating to visit and that also analyzes medical ethics in a creative way.  I would honestly say the book is much more about medical ethics, particularly in regards to transplants, than it really is about abortion rights.

The basic plot is that three very different teenagers are supposed to be unwound but then find themselves on the run instead of actually at Harvest Camp.  The book is in the third person but from the limited perspective of one character, and that one character switches around.  It is predominantly Connor, Risa, or Lev, but it is also sometimes someone like a juvie cop or a parent.  Sometimes this narrative structure works really well, providing many different perspectives on the same event or issue.  Other times it feels too contrived.  The perspective switches at just the right moment to keep the reader in the dark, or to reveal something we wouldn’t otherwise know.  Sometimes this structure builds suspense and other times it kind of ruins it.  Overall, though, I enjoyed the structure and found that the multiple perspectives really added to the world and the story.

This narrative structure is enhanced by clippings from real, modern-day newspaper articles and blogs, as well as fake advertisements and news from the future the book is set in.  Partially due to the Audible narrator, who did a fantastic job at the ads, I really enjoyed these snippets of media from the future.  They are very tongue-in-cheek and adult, but will still appeal to teens reading the book for their over-the-topness.  I found the modern day news articles to be less interesting, and mostly felt a bit like scare mongering.  They read as a bit heavy-handed in pushing the “this could really happen!” angle.

I did find it a bit frustrating that all three of the main characters are white and straight.  While it is acknowledged that a few people (primarily adults) could be GLBTQ, the assumed norm is straight and cis, no matter what social organization is in control.  Whether it’s mainstream society, rebels, or anyone in-between. The norm is always straight cis.  Similarly, while the author does include non-white people to a much greater degree than non-straight/non-cis people  (there are a wide variety of ethnicities and religions represented in the society), they are all secondary characters.  One thing that really stuck out to me was that at one point in the book we meet a Chinese-American girl who is being unwound because her parents wanted a son, and they just kept trying until they got one and then picked a daughter to unwind, because they couldn’t afford all the kids.  She’s also got an interesting punk aesthetic to her.  What an interesting main character she would have been!  Can you imagine her in the role of Connor? They are both running away from being unwound, and she could easily have taken that main character role.  It just bothers me when a book has three main characters who are all in a similar situation due to society-wide problems, and yet they are so non-diverse, with just a nod at gender by having one female character.

With regards to the female character, Risa, I must say I was very disappointed to have one plot point be an attempted rape of her, and her then being saved by a male character.  First, we only get one female main character and then she naturally is almost raped.  Then naturally she must be saved by someone else.  The whole scene sickened me, especially when I thought about teen girls reading it.  It was just a completely unnecessary plot point.  I once read an article that talked about how often rape scenes (or attempted rape scenes) are a sign of lack of creativity. I don’t think all of them are, but this one certainly came across that way.  Unnecessary and a convenient plot point without thought to how it would affect the readers.

In spite of these characterization and style complaints though, the plot is very good, and the world is fascinating.  Characters in a natural manner talk about and explore the ethics of life, when life begins, and who has the right to life, as well as who has the right to end it.  The plot is fast-paced, and I read as quickly as I could to find out what happened.  There are also a couple of twists at the end that rocked my socks off and left me immediately downloading the next book in the series.

All of that said, I have a few questions about the world that were never addressed.  First, if everyone who is unwound is between the ages of 13 and 17, how does that work out with transplantation?  People have not yet finished growing at 17, especially their minds.  Does this mean a 67 year old woman would have a 15 year old’s arm if she needed a transplant?  If so, that sounds very grotesque to me, and I wonder how society has learned to deal with something so mis-matched.  This isn’t particularly addressed, except to say that sometimes it’s weird to look at someone with two eyes that don’t match.  Similarly, the world at large isn’t really talked about at all.  The kids who are trying to escape being unwound don’t even consider running into another country but they never explain why.  How has the world at large reacted to the United States’ new law? Is there any country that would be a safe-haven for unwinds?  Are there other countries following suit?  The international impact is woefully underaddressed.

In spite of these various shortcomings, the plot and the world still sucked me in.  It was a quick read that left me wanting more.

Overall, fans of dystopian ya looking for another series to whet their appetite will definitely enjoy this one.  It’s a completely different dystopia from most of the ones that are already big, and I am sure YA readers who are currently teens themselves will find the idea of their parents being able to sign an unwind order on them chilling.  Dystopian YA fans should definitely give this one a go.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

Buy It

Book Review: Tracking the Tempest by Nicole Peeler (Series, #2) (Audiobook narrated by Kate Reinders)

August 8, 2013 1 comment

Cartoon drawing of a white woman with black hair surrounded by water in twisting columns with a background of fire. The title Tracking the Tempest and the author's name Nicole Peeler are on the image.Summary:
Things have gotten interesting since Mainiac Jane True found out she’s half selkie.  She discovered the whole world of supernatural beings, started training and honing her own powers with the help of a local goblin, and of course met and started dating the sexy vampire Ryu.  After being caught up in the mystery that was a supernatural person killing halflings, Jane really just wants to focus in on power honing and Ryu.  Particularly with Valentine’s Day approaching.  But when she goes down to Boston for her first visit to his home, she ends up getting caught up in his current investigation. Going after a dangerous halfling who just escaped from an illegal lab.

Review:
I enjoyed the first entry in this series as a surprisingly humorous paranormal romance set in the unusual (for pnr) setting of Maine.  So when I needed a new audiobook for a roadtrip and saw this lounging on audible, I snatched it up.  I kind of regret that choice because not only did I enjoy this entry in the series less but I also apparently misremembered how well I liked the first book in the series.  I only rated it as 3.5 stars but remembered enjoying it at at least 4.  Hindsight is not always 20/20.  Essentially, everything that kinda sorta rubbed me the wrong way in the first book got worse instead of better, and the things I liked became worse as well.

The humor takes a nosedive.  Whereas the first book deftly handled a dry New England sense of humor, here things turn mean and inappropriate.  Jane laughs at things she shouldn’t laugh at and invites the reader to as well, and it becomes deeply awkward.  Like hanging out with a friend who thinks they’re funny but is in fact offensive.

I was excited to see what Peeler did with Boston, and I admit some things she handled well.  She nailed the neighborhood of Allston, for instance, but she also put Ryu’s home in Bay Village.  Ryu is supposed to be a wealthy vampire, but instead of putting him in Beacon Hill or a wealthy suburb like Cambridge or Newton, she puts him in a neighborhood that is actually a lower to middle class neighborhood that is slowly being gentrified.  That’s not where a home like Ryu’s supposedly is would be located.  This is a neighborhood that border the Massachusetts Turnpike (noisy big road, for non-Americans).  It’s not the mecca of wealth that Peeler seems to think it is.  A big mistake like that is rather jarring when she got details like how the exit of the T in Harvard Square is called the Pit, a bit of knowledge even some locals don’t have.  On the other hand, she seems to think that the Boston Public Garden closes at night and has a big scene where Ryu takes Jane there on a romantic late-night date. Um. No. The Garden doesn’t close at night.  It is, however, full of people trying to sell you drugs. Yes, yes, ideal for a romantic date.  This unevenness in knowledge of Boston and its surrounding areas made reading the setting uncomfortable and awkward.

The issue of Ryu being an obvious jerk continues.  It’s clear from the beginning of the book that a break-up is coming and Jane is being set up with another character.  It’s kind of annoying for the book to be this predictable, but it is paranormal romance, and Jane does ultimately stand up for herself, so I was ultimately ok with this.  In fact, the way Jane stands up for herself is handled so well that it saved the book from getting 2 stars instead of 3.

The last, and most important, thing that made the book deeply upsetting for me was the fact that Jane is not once but twice put into a situation where she is about to be raped.  Rape comes up a lot in paranormal romance and frankly it bothers me.  These are worlds in which women are powerful, talented, and often gifted with great gifts.  So why must their confrontations so frequently devolve into threatened or real rape?  I get it that rape is a very real thing in the real world, and I am completely fine with it existing as a plot point in horror, dystopian or post-apocalyptic scifi, and mysteries.  Horror is supposed to push the boundaries of comfort. Dystopian and postapocalyptic scifi is frequently presenting humanity at its worst, and rape is one of the worst.  Mystery needs a victim, and frequently murder victims are also raped.  But in a battle between supernatural creatures in a book that is supposed to be a romance suddenly tossing in rape as a weapon doesn’t read right.  It removes so much agency from the main female characters.  Like, what, she’s always easily defeated because you can just threaten to shove your dick into her against her will and suddenly she will acquiesce to your viewpoint?  It’s paranormal romance. Why can’t the paranormal world have fights where rape threats and attempted rapes aren’t a thing?

What really bothered me about the second scene this happened in with Jane is the level of victim blaming that happens as well.  Jane has just successfully escaped from the first rape attempt. She saves herself. This is great, and she does it with a mixture of trickery and violence that is commendable.  But then a man shows up and immediately takes over. He says he needs to protect her; he’s going to walk her out of this situation. Jane insists she needs to pee. She goes to pee, against his protests, and when she comes back out, he’s gone because another group of villains have him, and Jane starts to be attacked by a known violent rapist.  She later blames herself for having to go pee, and no one argues with her that she has every right to pee when she needs to. So we have a powerful halfling who can’t go pee by herself because she might get attacked and raped? That is so incredibly victim blaming and putting all the responsibility for safety on the woman that I can’t even properly articulate how angry it makes me.

Kate Reinders, the narrator, mostly does a good job.  She lands the complex voice of Jane quite well.  The only negative I can say is that she mispronounces some New England words and city names.  But her narration did make the book more enjoyable for me.

Combine these issues (aside from the audiobook narration which was fine) together with the fact that the plot is basically the previous book’s plot flipped in reverse (violent halfling killing supernatural people instead of supernatural person killing halfling), and I can safely say I won’t be continuing on in the series.  The only thing that saves the book from a lower rating is the fact that Jane ultimately does stand up for herself. But for me it was too little too late.  Not recommended.  Unless you enjoy bad humor, awkward settings, and rape threats and victim blaming of the heroine.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
Tempest Rising, review