Review: “The Similars” by Rebecca Hanover

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Title: The Similars
Series: The Similars #1
Author: Rebecca Hanover
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire/Sourcebooks
Publication Date: January 1, 2019
Rating: ⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

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ARC provided by publisher through Edelweiss.

 

 

Boarding school mystery with a sci-fi twist. Rebecca Hanover’s debut and series opener delves into a future world, one where clones and cloning exist.

When six clones join Emmaline’s prestigious boarding school, she must confront the heartbreak of seeing her dead best friend’s face each day in class.

The Similars are all anyone can talk about at the elite Darkwood Academy. Who are these six clones? What are the odds that all of them would be Darkwood students? Who is the madman who broke the law to create them? Emma couldn’t care less. Her best friend, Oliver, died over the summer and all she can think about is how to get through her junior year without him. Then she comes face-to-heartbreaking-face with Levi—Oliver’s exact DNA replica and one of the Similars.

Emma wants nothing to do with the Similars, but she keeps getting pulled deeper and deeper into their clique, uncovering dark truths about the clones and her prestigious school along the way. But no one can be trusted…not even the boy she is falling for who has Oliver’s face.

I don’t remember exactly when I requested for this book, but I do remember reading the summary and being instantly hooked. Clones? You got me! Ethically, the issue of cloning is a dubious one, but it was fascinating, the thought of a world where clones existed.

Sadly, an interesting premise doesn’t always mean a good story.

With the hook of its contemporaries and none of the bite, The Similars fails to make good on what could have been a complex and intriguing plot. It wasn’t really the writing that threw me off because that aspect of this book was okay. The execution, however, was a different story.

There were just too many things happening all at the same time: there’s Emmaline, the main character, still reeling from grief after her best friend Oliver died from an apparent suicide, then the arrival of the six clones, The Similars as they were collective called, at Emma’s school Darkwood Academy, then there’s also The Ten, the anti-clone movement, dubious school administrators with hidden agendas, a mysterious benefactor, a message from beyond the grave. It was just one subplot after another subplot after another subplot. Of course, it’s possible to tackle all of these in a single book, but it just wasn’t handled well in this one. The storytelling felt disjointed and repetitive, and suspending my disbelief felt harder the deeper I delve into this book.

The big cast of characters also didn’t help The Similars‘ case. An over-the-top, one-track villain, an underdeveloped love pairing, the characters were shallowly drawn and poorly utilized. The characters themselves were, for lack of a better word, forgettable. I didn’t get to know much of the many characters who ran around the pages of this book and because of that, without forming any attachment to anyone, I just didn’t care about what happened to any of them.

Overall, though The Similars did have some parts that I enjoyed, this one just didn’t work for me. The fast-paced narrative may draw in readers into this book, and I definitely could see some even sticking through with this series because of that  cliffhanger of an ending, which is great, but, just being honest, this is it for me for this series. There are other books, other trilogies and series that worthy of my time.

About the Author:

050318_0047_edited-1-223x300REBECCA HANOVER is a young adult author and television writer. She earned a bachelor of arts from Stanford University in English and drama and won an Emmy in 2008 as a staff writer on the CBS daytime drama Guiding Light. Her debut novel The Similars is a BookExpo 2018 Editor’s Buzz Pick.

Rebecca lives in San Francisco with her husband and two son, where she enjoys matcha lattes, hoodies, and complete lack of seasons. She aspires to attend an actual hot Pilates class one day.

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Book Review: Libba Bray’s “The Diviners”

The Diviners - Libba Bray

Confession time. For someone trained to see blood and gore, I am one big yellow chicken. And so it goes, I try to avoid watching and/or reading about anything scary and creepy as much as I can. I’m still sane enough to want to sleep, thank you very much.

But a book about the occult written by Libba Bray just sounds too good to pass up. I had to give in.

The Diviners, the first book in a planned series, revolves around a series of mysterious murders to put it simply. It’s set in a bright and bustling 1926 New York City with all its speakeasies, theaters and movie palaces. Evie O’Neill is our main protagonist. After a party stunt that went awry, she gets booted out from her Ohio hometown and shipped to NYC to live with her bachelor uncle Will who’s obsessed with the occult. Evie quickly settles into her new life; everything’s  fun and exciting, and she’s enjoying it, that is before the body of a girl is found with a strange symbol branded upon her and Will is called to help with the investigation. As grisly murder follow one after the other, Evie realizes that her gift can help catch the serial killer but what she discovers when she throws herself deep into the investigation is so much more darker and powerful.

In true twenties fashion, I ab-so-tute-ly enjoyed reading this book. It is rich and vivid. Libba Bray’s engaging writing is the strongest asset of this new novel. She just has this way with words, she draws you in and puts you right there with her characters. This is a long book and with its almost 600 pages. It could look daunting but with the way the author wrote her prose, you nearly won’t realize you’re almost through with the story.

Another thing to love about The Diviners is its diverse set of characters. There’s many of them, and what a variety – immigrants, people of color, LGBT characters –  but Bray managed to give readers a chance to get to know each character by dishing out interesting backstories, and expertly going in and out of their lives throughout the story.

I love Evie. I love her audacity and boldness. She is flawed – self-centered, irrational, tackless, a mess-up – but deep inside she means well and truly cares for her family and friends. There’s so much room for her to grow in the next books.

Every so often, in every book there’s one or two side characters that simply draw you in. For this book, its Theta and Henry. They both present cool facades but their backstories are tragic. Also, I’m not quite sure what Henry’s special gift is, so that’s something I would love to find out in the next installment.

As for the creepy factor, it’s well up there. Not Stephen King scary but frightening enough to make you not want to read it at night for fear of dreaming about it especially if you are the highly-imaginative kind.

Perhaps the only thing I don’t like about The Diviners is its excessive historical background. Don’t get me wrong. I completely understand that Libba Bray‘s setting the mood for the whole series and I appreciate that she took time to thoroughly research about the twenties – she nailed it from the dresses to the language to the sights and scenes of the time period – but I think she could have shortened it to a few pages then got on with her narrative. The characters’ use of twenties slang was also excessive to the point of irritation. But it’s not really that big of a deal. The Diviners is a great read enough for people to get over the minor flaws. I will definitely grab the next book as soon as it’s out.

Rating: 4/5

Book Review: Marie Lu’s “Prodigy”

Prodigy by Marie Lu

Following the events of Legend, Prodigy starts off with June and Day making a run for Vegas in the hopes of allying with the rebel Patriot group when the unexpected happens – the Primo Elector dies and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic on shaky grounds, the Patriots want to seize the opportunity to strike back and ignite a rebellion. They take in June and Day and bargain with the two – Eden’s, Day’s younger brother, rescue and assistance with their escape to the nearby Colonies in exchange for the new elector’s assassination. June and Day, for lack of options, accept the rebel group’s conditions but as they set the plan in motion they uncover information, things that may just derail their plans.

Prodigy is just as fast-paced and thrilling as Legend. Marie Lu writes action scenes very well. Her version of the near-future world – the strict Republic and the commercially-fueled Colonies – is believable. I can actually imagine a country being divided that way, but let’s rather hope it doesn’t happen.

It still follows the original plot set up in Legend so readers won’t get lost or, at the very least, not too much. I actually put off reading Prodigy for a few months because I’ve been told that it ends with a killer cliffhanger and I already have Insurgent’s own cliffhanger of an ending to haunt me. I didn’t wish to add more to that but as always when it comes to books, I caved in. And here I am, not as much of a mess as when I finished Divergent’s sequel but still a mess nonetheless.

I am happy that we got a glimpse of the Colonies in this installment. It serves as a great point of comparison against the Republic. We are given two different worlds that are both good and evil at the same time.

Marie Lu’s characters grew and became more mature in Prodigy and for me it was the best thing in this book. June and Day both learned to look at their situation from different perspectives and not just through their own biased ones.

It was Tess, however, who made the biggest jump in this story. She’s no longer the little, vulnerable girl we were introduced to in Legend. Tess became self-sufficient and confident, even confident enough to make tough decisions of her own.

The author also gave her readers more insight on some of the other characters like Thomas, Kaede, Metias and most especially Anden. He was only mentioned once in the first book during that celebratory ball for June’s capture of Day but he took on a bigger role in this second book. I guess it is safe to say that Anden will still play an important role in the next book Champion, which is due out this November 5th.

Probably the only thing that I didn’t like much in Prodigy are the love complications. Somehow I felt like throwing Anden with June and Tess with Day was only done to rock the main’s already established connection. But that’s just me. I’m not that big on love triangles, let alone a square.

Overall, Prodigy satisfies. It is a good follow-up to Legend. I definitely recommend it especially if you’ve already read Legend. I can’t wait to get my hands on Champion and see what happens to this trilogy.

Rating: 3.5/5