I have dedicated the month of August to marking progress on any and all relevant reading challenges. I read Station Eleven for a post apocalyptic book last year and wow. I loved it and I know that I am not alone. I loved people keeping art alive to enlighten those left, I loved the story of the comic writer who was married to a famous actor for a time.
This year both Popsugar and BookRiot wanted dystopian novels and I want to say I read two different ones to really take these challenges to another ;level, but really, I liked the pretty dresses on the covers of the series I read. I boasted a few weeks ago on an article I shared regarding the purpose behind Elena Ferrante’s abysmal book covers that I don’t read books with high heels or martini glasses or purses or shopping bags on the cover, but I don’t seem to be so immune to ball gowns. And I would rather drink martinis and go shopping than be a princess, so this makes even less sense.
For the first dystopian choice:
The Iron Heel, Jack London
I have read 1984 and Brave New World already, and I wanted to read the first modern dystopia. But you know, it was about a communist revolution if it had happened in America around WWI-1920’s more than I would consider it a dystopia like one of those or like Hunger Games or Red Queen. The dystopia is how I imagine America really was at that point in history, despite the fact that it was not intentionally created to be a few living rich on the backs of many oppressed. Our government was formed originally with the intent of having as little government as possible, and capitalism just is that way, although in theory it offers everyone the same opportunity to ascend whereas the other dystopian novels I have read suggest that people do not have a way to move up in the world. I mean, I say in theory anyone can ascend in capitalism, as I am aware of all the other forces at play to keep some with particular immutable disadvantages from really rising. Anyway, I was surprised this was considered that when it seems more of a treatise on communism. I don’t think it is a spoiler to share with you that the actual Iron Heel in the book is capitalism. It was okay, it was a good read to have as the basis for others. If I have to read another non YA dystopia I am thinking of reading We by Yevgeny Zamyatin as that is another one that shows up in the little Amazon spend more money cluster that they put on the book webpages.
So, if The Iron Heel was my dose of history, my dystopian guilty pleasure quickly followed on the heels of The Iron Heel (haha):
The Selection Series, Kiera Cass
This is more what I expected out of a dystopia. It is like Red Queen and Hunger Games in that people are born into castes where they are supposed to stay and then the girls break out. In the previous two books, the girls find a way up by being awesome, and in this one, they find a way up by being selected as a possible bride for the prince. Not as kick ass feminism and hard core revolution as the other two. The plot is slower, the conflicts are less intense, there is theoretically a lot at stake (ruling a country!) but the main character is not sure how much she really wants to be a princess or if she is up to it through most of the first three. I only read the first three of the five because the other two are about the next princess and I don’t care about her right now. I was only going to read the first of this trilogy but then I got invested. Even though I was pretty sure I knew how it would turn out. And it was good for my burnt brain even though even my burnt brain wanted a big chunk of action to be spread out longer than the last twenty percent of the last book. I could have done with a little more girl on girl drama, although I know that the author probably didn’t want a lot of mean girl unhealthy stuff going on in a YA book. Young girls often don’t want to read about that or they don’t need it as a model, and finding oneself is a healthier theme for girls reading princess books rather than conquering bitches. Probably also because once you find yourself bitches lose their power over you.
This was not a bad book, it just depends on what you want when you are reading. Do you want the love story and the emotional journeys of the characters as the foreground, or do you want the revolution and bad assery and intense plotting and people dying in the foreground? If you want the emotional stuff more then this would be fitting. In all three series I am talking about here young girls are finding themselves, and reconciling how to manage real leadership positions. I am glad these kinds of books are selling to young girls. Lure you in with royalty and ball gowns and then read about girls finding and using their many assets for the good of many.
As a note about dystopias, I read them more than I intend to. I think I don’t want them and then I do because now I am really feeling a hole about not having read Ally Condie’s Matched series. I think that it is similar to the Selection series. That I just kind of bashed. I don’t make any sense.
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More reading challenge posts on their way for the month of August.