Mini Reviews: Whale Rider, Here and Now and Cinder

Monday, May 26, 2014

Whale Rider
by Witi Ihimaera

I was interested in this one because I’ve been wanting to read more books set in New Zealand and Australia before I travel there later this year. This fictional story introduces us to Kahu, the 8-year-old granddaughter of the Maori chief Koro. She is a disappointment to Koro because only sons can carry on the honored tradition of being a Maori whale rider. Despite Kahu’s clear connection with the whales, her grandfather never sees her for who she is.
BOTTOM LINE: The short novel doesn’t give readers long to get to know the characters and perhaps that was why I didn’t love it. I definitely liked learning more about the Maori culture and reading more about the myths in their culture. It’s also a great story for young girls to read. It encourages them to embrace who they are, even if society tells them they aren’t worthy of their male counterparts. I would highly recommend the film version as well, it’s wonderful!
The Here and Now
by Ann Brashares
The latest in a string of YA dystopian books comes from the author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Prenna is part of a time traveling group that’s returned to the past to help save their future. The story is one part “When You Reach Me” and one part “Twelve Monkeys.”
Ethan is a “time native” who meets Prenna after she has traveled to the past. The two have an undeniable connection even though she does everything she can to keep her distance and obey the rules of her group.
The book definitely has a message it’s trying to get across and it’s not very subtle about it. To the point where it felt more like a PSA then a novel at times it felt like a PSA. We’re all ruining the planet and soon the mosquitos will kill us all. Lest you think I’m exaggerating:
“We also wrecked the planets her own habitation and the mosquito will win. And less we succeed in changing of course, it will win.”
BOTTOM LINE: Outside of an overarching environmental message the book felt very forgettable. Only days after finishing it I’m having trouble remembering characters’ names and plot points. Another is a long line of YA books that don’t leave a deep mark.
“Sometimes I only hear what we don’t say. I only think the things I shouldn’t think and I remember what I should forget. I hear the ghosts in this room, all the people we lost in our old life who are crying out to be remembered.”
"No matter how our hearts break, we bend toward life, don't we. We bend toward hope."
by Marissa Meyer
This is the first books in the Lunar Chronicles, an incredibly successful series. Cinder is a cyborg in this retelling of Cinderella. Some of the classic elements remain the same, there’s an evil stepmother and a handsome prince, but many things have changed. Cinder is a talented mechanic with a strong personality and dreams of her own. I loved all of those aspects of the book.
My problem was that I knew most of the major plot points in the first 10% of the book (read it on my kindle.) I remember reading one line and thinking, well obviously this is what's going to happen and then in the final few pages that was the big “twist.” It wouldn’t have bothered me so much if they hadn’t made that a huge reveal at the end. I felt like I didn’t even need to read the remaining 90% of the book at that point.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s a quick read and an interesting one. The predictability let me down, but I definitely give it points for being an original version of a well-known story. I haven’t decided if I’ll read the next book yet.


Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

Ann Brashares writes YA? With an environmental message?! I've been away too long! I'm curious to know how you move from Ya-Yas to that.

I enjoyed Whale Rider more than you did. Lots of people tell me the movie is better, as sometimes happens with short books with an interesting story that didn't have the time to develop.

Andi said...

Whale Rider has always sounded interesting to me, so it's a shame the shortness of it impedes the ability to really sink in and get to know the characters. Thanks for some great minis!

Sandy Nawrot said...

My sentiments pretty much echo yours with Cinder. Very predictable (and silly I thought) but clever at the same time. I actually enjoyed Scarlet a little bit more, just because the plot thickens, there are more characters, and there was less eye-rolling.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Alex - I think Brashares wrote the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, not the Ya-Ya series, but it's still a big switch to a dystopian novel!

Andi - I'd highly recommend the movie. It was really good!

Sandy - Hmm, maybe I'll have to give Scarlet a shot. I did love the concept.

Anonymous said...

SO COOL that you've read The Whale Rider!!!! me, too. After LOVING the film. SEE THE FILM. Book was only OK. I should go check that box in goodreads for "Movie better than book". But still a good story. :)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

bkclubcare - I loved the movie more too and that's so rare!