Happy Book Birthday to these books, who are all being birthed today!
Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth
Series: The Chosen Ones #1
Published by John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on April 7, 2020
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss, Gift
The first novel written for an adult audience by the mega-selling author of the Divergent franchise: five twenty-something heroes famous for saving the world when they were teenagers must face even greater demons—and reconsider what it means to be a hero . . . by destiny or by choice.
A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.
Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended.
Can you imagine what kind of adult you’d become if, as a teen, you’d saved the world? It’s such an interesting question to posit, and one that we open The Chosen Ones with. Sloane and her cohorts have been in the spotlight for a decade- as you’d imagine any global savior would be. When we meet the group, they’re trying to find their own normals in a very abnormal situation. Sloane, whose story we’re following, is kind of a mess. She doesn’t love the spotlight, and frankly, doesn’t know what she wants, just what she assumes she’s supposed to want. And because I don’t read synopses, this is mainly where I assumed the story would keep going.
And it does, but it’s more than that too. The whole story is about Sloane and the others finding their purposes, figuring out who they are. But a new question comes into play halfway through the story: What happens if you didn’t quite save the world as much as you’d thought you had? I’ll not go into more detail for the obvious, spoilery reasons, but suffice it to say you’d be even more clueless as to who you were.
I enjoyed reading about Sloane’s journey. She’s not always the most likable character, but she was relatable, and her choices made sense for her. I liked how much we got to know her during the course of the book, too. There was a lot of growth, and a lot of things made more sense the more we get to know the characters. As for the plot, yeah, I am keeping it purposely vague. I was pretty shocked by what happened during the book, and I think you’d enjoy being shocked by it too.
I will say, there was a point around the middle of the book that the pacing seemed a little off, and even after the twist, it was a bit of a slog. But the beginning starts off great, and then it picks up a ton, so it was really not that much of a lull. And the ending was really good, so the lull bothered me even less as a result. I am definitely going to be picking up book 2 to see how Sloane’s journey continues!
Bottom Line: In a book where saving the world isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be, we see the real-life implications of being a hero- and what happens when maybe you weren’t the hero. Yet.
Nate Jae-Woo Kim wants to be rich. When one of his classmates offers Nate a ridiculous amount of money to commit grade fraud, he knows that taking the windfall would help support his prideful Korean family, but is compromising his integrity worth it?
Luck comes in the form of Kate Anderson, Nate’s colleague at the zombie-themed escape room where he works. She approaches Nate with a plan: a local tech company is hosting a weekend-long survivalist competition with a huge cash prize. It could solve all of Nate’s problems, and Kate needs the money too.
If the two of them team up, Nate has a true shot at winning the grand prize. But the real challenge? Making through the weekend with his heart intact…
PRAISE FOR THE PERFECT ESCAPE
"Pure fun! A hilarious rom-com that head-fakes you into tumbling headlong into a techno-zombie survival thriller propelled by banter and plenty of heart."―DAVID YOON, New York Times bestselling author of Frankly in Love
"The Perfect Escape is just that―perfect. Filled with humor and heart, it won't let you go until you're smiling."―Danielle Paige, New York Times bestselling author of the Dorothy Must Die series and Stealing Snow"Effortlessly hilarious and super lovable. I hope this is the YA romcom of 2020."―Helen Hoang, USA Today bestselling author of The Bride Test and The Kiss Quotient
"An adorable, laugh-out-loud YA romcom with a lovable hero and an action-packed zombie-themed escape room―what more could you want?"―Jenn Bennett, author of Alex, Approximately
"Debut author Park’s well-written title slyly infuses what seems like a typical teen romantic comedy with thoughtful treatment of diversity, microaggressions, classism and class struggles, immigration, and privilege while capturing the sweetness of two nerds falling for each other... a charming, thoughtful portrayal of complex teen relationships." ―KIRKUS REVIEWS
Okay, if this isn’t the cutest, quirkiest premise for a rom-com ever, then I don’t know what is. Nate and Kate (yep, gets even cuter) meet in an escape room they both work at, and then decide to enter a contest for a zombie survival weekend, both of them desperately needing the money for their own personal reasons. But also, they clearly like each other. So let’s break down what I enjoyed and what I didn’t!
The Stuff I Liked:
- Such a fun and fresh premise! I mean, come on. Zombie survival weekend!? Yes please! I know that some readers didn’t love the survival part of it, but I did. Because I am a sucker for that sort of thing.
- Huge focus on family dynamics. Okay, Kate’s family dynamics were not positive, but I didn’t say positive. Because look, some families are toxic, and Kate’s dad is toxic, full stop. But there’s at least very solid commentary about that! And Nate’s family was far more loving and functional. I loved all the Korean cultural bits too. I especially liked how money is so not a factor in happiness in this book, as Kate’s family has tons, and Nate’s doesn’t, but it’s very clear whose is healthier.
- Both main characters had strong friendships outside of their relationship with each other. While we don’t get to know the friends well, we do at least know that both characters had great support from their friends. Frankly, I want to see more of that. Lots more.
- The relationship was definitely adorable! Granted, I’d probably have liked to see a bit more of it, but what we did get was very sweet, and I enjoyed them together. They just worked well.
The Stuff I Didn’t:
- Lack of Communication trope. Ugh, I just don’t like this one! Like had they just been honest with each other, huge chunks of trouble could have been avoided. This, however, is a “me” thing.
- A few bits toward the end were a bit… absurd. Had to suspend some disbelief at a few parts during the Zombie Survival thing (and no, I am not talking about the zombies, hah) and I am kind of crap at suspension of disbelief. But I mean, it wasn’t a dealbreaker, it just was kind of farfetched.
- I wanted more from the ending. Apparently, this is going to be a series? I am not sure if the subsequent book will be a direct sequel or a companion, but I really wish that I new a bit more about the end. I assume we will know more about how the story shakes out regardless, but at the time I read it, I didn’t know this and was a bit bummed.
Bottom Line: Super cute and full of zombie adventure, I could have used with a little more info and believability , but it was certainly worth reading.
How do you put yourself back together when it seems like you've lost it all?
May is a survivor. But she doesn't feel like one. She feels angry. And lost. And alone. Eleven months after the school shooting that killed her twin brother, May still doesn't know why she was the only one to walk out of the band room that day. No one gets what she went through--no one saw and heard what she did. No one can possibly understand how it feels to be her.
Zach lost his old life when his mother decided to defend the shooter. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends bailed, and now he spends his time hanging out with his little sister...and the one faithful friend who stuck around. His best friend is needy and demanding, but he won't let Zach disappear into himself. Which is how Zach ends up at band practice that night. The same night May goes with her best friend to audition for a new band.
Which is how May meets Zach. And how Zach meets May. And how both might figure out that surviving could be an option after all.
The Lucky Ones is a book that is so heartbreaking, yet so hopeful. And look, if you’re going to pick this one up, you should know by the synopsis that it isn’t going to be a lighthearted sort. Sure, there are moments! But it’s definitely a book that is going to pull at your heartstrings, in many ways, and it succeeds at doing so. Which is great, because that is what I signed up for.
May is a disaster of a person. A shell of her former self, and that’s saying a lot because she had lost her way even before the shooting that took her brother. She’s rightfully angry, she’s achingly sad, and so very alone. Because not only did May lose her brother, but her parents have also become hollowed out versions of themselves since their son’s death. Which makes sense. That’s the great thing about how the author handles May and her family: they’re portrayed as people who have gone through this unthinkable tragedy, and who are struggling to come out the other side. Another great thing is that May has some really quality friends who are willing to stand by her no matter how much she tries to push them away. I’ll let those stories unravel for you, but trust that they’re worth it.
Zach, on the other hand, has been downright vilified by many of his classmates. Why? Because his mother is defending the shooter. Hell, May herself vandalized their home (not knowing- or frankly, caring- that his mother had a family). And wow did I feel for Zach. Because look- he is not his mother’s choices, first of all. Second, and I know that this is a real moral gray area that you’ll probably have to answer for yourself as the book goes on, but… doesn’t everyone deserve a fair trial? And by being a criminal attorney, it’s par for the course? Anyway, that’s another element of the book that I loved- how thought provoking it was.
May and Zach find each other, but first they need to find themselves. Figure out who they are, what they want, how to heal. And I like that they do so, not within the confines of a relationship, but with all of their supports- including each other- and ultimately, for themselves. It’s rocky and messy and not always forward progress. But it’s also incredibly honest, and makes for a lovely, lovely story.
Bottom Line: If you like a grittier sort of contemporary, one that will break your heart and then help heal it again, this is undoubtedly the book for you.