BOOK REVIEW

Nothing Happened by Molly Booth: A Review

by Katie Moran

(ARC provided by Disney-Hyperion)

Readers should expect to encounter periods of reflection and nostalgia about the wonderfully fleeting moments of adolescence and of summer, as they read Molly Booth’s wonderful second novel Nothing Happened. In this retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, we are transported back to summer camp. Camp Dogberry is full of the drama you’d find in Shakespeare’s original production as Booth has done an impressive job of preserving all of the components of the original story and its characters. As the novel unfolds, we are bewitched by the Leonato sisters, Bee and Hana, who are both dealing with figuring out who they love, and how to navigate their lives as sisters and as individuals.

Young adult literature has begun to really embrace and explore queer identities and themes. Most often in YA literature, we find delineations and character struggles between the hetero/queer identities. The majority of novels address ‘coming out’ and the obstacles that queer characters face. Nothing Happened goes so much further than this binary. Booth has constructed a cast of characters who serve as incredibly true and believable representations of the real inner struggle that takes place in those trying to learn who they are, where they feel comfortable existing, and how to accept themselves.

We are introduced to Hana early on whose endeavor to figure out whether she identifies more as pansexual or bisexual is brought to light over the course of the novel. The inclusion of such a character should be applauded and celebrated. There is no ‘coming out’ story here, at least not one that works in the way that we have come to recognize in literature. It is imperative that an enlightening can be reached, a threshold breached, broadening and aiding in the understanding that sexuality exceeds the verbal categorizations we’ve created, that it is truly so much more than the labels we give it. Alongside Hana, we are introduced to her love interest, Claudia, who is unapologetically queer. However, there is no fanfare or moment of ‘acceptance’. Claudia, and Hana as the novel progresses, are queer and that’s that. They both face an inner turmoil, but it comes more from accepting their love for each other, as individuals, than it comes from accepting their love for each other, as women.

Bee, Hana’s sister and a key player in the novel, tackles a few other big themes through her construction. Bee is adopted, originally born in Ethiopia though we are given no real background only that it was “a love at first sight kind of deal” for her sister and adoptive parents. The integration of adoption, as a social construction and also a matter of fact part of the Leonato family, is flawlessly done and fluidly adds another level to the diversity and uniqueness of the characters. Knowing Bee is from Ethiopia doesn’t overwhelm the story by any means but adds an integral piece of knowledge and supports the inclusiveness Booth has created in her novel.

Booth doesn’t stop there. She also tackles toxic masculinity, in the form of John whose unrequited love for Hana drives his storyline. He allows his rage and the ‘unfairness’ of her disinterest in him to lead his decisions. This ultimately results in John reflecting on his choices and on his understanding of the world around him. Hana also struggles with her mental health throughout the novel. Again, Booth manages to incorporate a ‘hot topic’ that many authors are addressing in a seamless and realistic way. There is, of course, a need for diversity and inclusion in literature, as well as a need to directly confront certain issues – queer identities, mental health, etc – however, Booth’s decision to just accept these aspects of her characters as ‘normal’ feels so very real to readers. It reminds us that none of these things necessarily make you different, they just make you human.

The novel tackles a first-person narration for a large number of characters. This type of writing is incredibly difficult and requires a specific skill to maintain an authority over each character. The novels form and writing should be commended as there were minimal moments, if any at all, where the story became jumbled or misunderstood. Booth’s technique is razor sharp and impeccably delivered even with the growing number of points of view that she juggles. Each character had their own distinguished voice that made the chapter and character shifts ultimately seamless.

The story plays out over 325 pages of adolescent drama and intrigue. The idyllic, goofy, and all-encompassing adventures and misadventures of summer camp are alive in these pages and Booth has presented us, the readers, with an open invitation into Camp Dogberry so that we may struggle, laugh, cheer and grow with the many characters of Nothing Happened.

BOOK REVIEW

Legendary by Stephanie Garber: A Review

by Katie Moran

(ARC provided by NetGalley)

“As fantastical as Caraval might feel.

The next five nights are very real.”

Caraval has ended, the game is over and the revelry has begun… but player beware, it is all to be short lived. Isla de los Suenos, “The Island of Dreams”, the once mystifying island, with its charmed competitions and changing landscape, is now dormant of magic. Those who were once actors in the game have shed their personas. As we discovered at the end of Stephanie Garber’s dizzyingly magical novel Caraval, Donatella Dragna is alive. Tella and her sister Scarlett, our protagonist in Caraval, have a brief moment of reprieve before the illusions and games of Caraval begin again. This time, things are far more sinister than either could have imagined, and the stakes of the game are more real than ever before. Caraval has always brimmed with mischief, magic, and mayhem. Caraval is a tournament of trickery and deceit, while also offering amnesty to those seeking an adventure of their own, or an escape from their lives. At least, that’s what it once stood for.

“Legend has chosen you to play a game that may change your destiny.”

Now, the game has taken a strange and deadly turn. Donatella has found herself swooped up in her very own game of suspense, riddles, and mysticism. The mysterious Legend, creator of Caraval, has some wicked vendettas to settle and if Tella isn’t careful, his feuds may just consume her.

In Caraval, Stephanie Garber twisted a tale for Scarlett, the eldest Dragna sister, made up of immense adventure, magic, and love. Garber’s first novel is the journey of two girls escaping the terrible grip of their deranged father. Garber’s writing depicted the incredible bond of a sisterhood built on the foundations of trust and love. Legendary, Garber’s much awaited sequel, focuses on Donatella, the younger Dragna sister. Tella’s story is a story of loyalty, affection and hope between mother and daughter. Tella’s journey is a cataclysmic chain of events that lead her through trial after trial in the pursuit of finding Paloma, her long missing mother. Tella often speaks of choices. These choices, though incredibly trying and often resulting in placing herself in otherworldly danger, are relished by Tella because they are something all her own. She is the decider of her own destiny and this is something that has always been lacking in her life. She herself embodies the very mischievous essence of Caraval;

“She loved the feeling of doing something bold enough to make her future hold its breath while she closed her eyes and reveled in the sensation that she’d made a choice with the power to alter the course of her life. It was the closest she ever came to holding real power.”

Like Tella, there are countless readers who feel their choices are hindered by circumstance, or perhaps that they have no choices at all. Tella represents an evolution of what happens when we begin to realize that our every choice acts as a catalyst. These choices, whether they are large or miniscule, alter the layout of our path. It is through our choices that we create real opportunity, triumph, and change.

Tella’s realization of the power she possesses when taking authority of her own actions, leads her to understand that, no matter what type of deceit or misfortune is battling to control her, the loyalty and affection that she holds for her mother is steadfast and true. It will not be affected by the adversity she faces. Tella has to make hard decisions, taking stock of what she is and isn’t willing to lose to rescue the one person in the world whose love she craves. Tella is not without flaws, and she often questions herself and her motives, but her inquiry also provides moments of reflection, spaces where she realizes that fate is nothing more than the cumulation of our decisions.

In Garber’s Legendary, we encounter a world that reads like a criticism of our modern consumerism.  Valenda, the capital of the Empire and the place where Legend will host his second set of games for the year, is a place built upon economic consumption and rather blatant greed. In Valenda, religion is used to justify extortion and the need to increase profit margins. It is through the pairing of economy and religion that the world of Valenda makes its profit, praying on those who wish for protection from a higher power while ultimately taking advantage of that need. The relation between the two, as constructed by Garber, is an undertone throughout the entire novel. These moments are subconsciously understood by the reader as it feels familiar to our world.

The coupling of greed and religion permeates the story in other ways as well. In particular, this can be seen in the presence of the Fates. Fates. These otherworldly entities, similar to the Fates from Greek mythology, set the pace of the story. The Fates are intertwined with playing cards, and each possess their own sinister and formidable powers. Tella’s almost instant connection with the beings gives us insight into their dynamic and hierarchy. Each are said to be vile, preying on humans as their source of entertainment. The Prince of Heart takes a particular liking to Tella. He spends much of the novel manipulating and goading her toward dangerous decisions. Like all other tribulations Tella will face during the game, the Fates are only a representation of the mountains she is ultimately capable of traversing. Though often certain she is underestimated by the people around her, Tella learns that she is the only one with the power to make such assumptions true.

Stephanie Garber’s lyrical writing, incredible imagination, and wonderfully layered characters combine to create a lavish, lustrous story sprinkled with enough humor and romance that it will satiate many reading preferences. The second installment in the Caraval trilogy is absolutely enchanting, written with such care that readers will find leaving Caraval even more heart wrenching than before. We here are looking forward to the third installment in this sensational trilogy.

BOOK REVIEW

Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody: A Review

by Katie Moran

“Avarice, pride and lust — these are all modest desires. What the City of Sin truly craves is destruction.” – The City of Sin: Where To Go and Where Not To

(ARC of Ash Princess provided by Storybook Cove in Hanover, MA)

Amanda Foody’s incredible world thrums with restless energy and calls to mind the grittiness of the late 19th century, combined with modern technology, and magic. New Reynes is a city alive and thriving with violence and secrecy. Twenty-five years before the beginning of the novel, a revolution rocked the city of New Reynes and saw the fall of the ruling monarchical family, the Mizers. Now, as we’re introduced to it, New Reynes is known as the City of Sin. The destitute North side has collected the nitty gritty of once polite society, rival gangs fight for control at all costs, and those occupying the South side turn a blind eye to the chaos that lives just across the way. Here is a place where magic is as real as the cards that you hold, and if you’re not careful, it could force your hand.

Enne, the novel’s protagonist, is right on the cusp of adulthood. She has spent much of her life at a boarding school amongst the elite children of her world. Enne is a talented dancer but, despite this, she has always felt like less, a few steps behind, lacking in some ways. She is hardly ever noticed by her peers or instructors. The only one that’s ever really looking out for her is Lourdes, her guardian and stand-in mom – and now, Lourdes is missing. “If I’m not home in two months, I’m dead”—it’s been much longer than two months. Enne finds herself in the City of Sin, an unfamiliar, dangerous place, in search of Lourdes. She meets Levi Glaisyser, a notorious card shark and the Lord of the Iron gang, and he soon becomes her only beacon of hope in this volatile city. Enne soon realizes though, that she is much more capable than she’s given herself credit for.

The city of New Reynes is sought out by citizens looking for an escape from their reality. But this isn’t a friendly city and, as Enne soon learns, many get trapped by its seductions and its seediness. Greed serves as an incredibly potent antagonist for the story. It functions as the catalyst which guides our understanding of New Reynes. Greed can turn into a treacherous attribute for any who succumb to it. As we learn in Ace of Shades, when those in power are plagued by greed, it can turn into a deadly game of gains at the expense of others. Young adult literature is experiencing a wave of capable, strong, complex heroines and Enne is a great representation of this trend. She is an empowering reminder of the strength needed to overcome societal expectations – something which is still very much a reality for many young women. Enne’s ability to break free of the restraints placed on her, by her upbringing and by society, is a powerful reminder that we – no matter who we are – have the potential to rise above our circumstances.

BOOK REVIEW

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian: A Review

by Katie Moran

“Today is done, the time has come
for little birds to fly.
Tomorrow is near, the time is here
for old crows to die.”

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian: A Review

(ARC of Ash Princess provided by Storybook Cove in Hanover, MA)

Laura Sebastian’s protagonist in her upcoming novel Ash Princess (set to release on 04/24/2018) is Princess Theodosia, also known as Thora or, to her readers, Theo. She has been living as a captive in her home country; everyone she’s known and loved has been killed or enslaved. A decade earlier, the Kalovaxian ships and their monstrous Kaiser arrived at the Astrean ports, slaughtering their way to the Astrean throne. The revered Astrean temples were burned to ash and the country’s citizens were forced into slavery, working in underground mines to unearth magical gems. Theo’s mother, the Queen of Fire and Fury and descendant of Houzzah the Fire God held her daughter’s hand as she was murdered, leaving Theodosia the only true heir to Astrea.

After ten years of enslavement and occupation, the Astreans are losing their sense of purpose and dignity though some, the few who have escaped captivity, work tirelessly againt the Kalovaxian Empire in small shows of defiance. Each show of resistance by the Astrean rebels not only results in executions and bloodbaths, but also proves cataclysmic for Theo. When we’re first introduced to her, she has stopped opposing the Kaiser. Instead she focuses on making herself as small as possible in an effort to avoid unwanted attention of any kind. Even her most persistent efforts prove futile for the Kaiser seeks to torment Theo as sport. Sparing her life when he murdered her mother was no act of kindness. The rightful heir of Astrea has been kept alive in order to keep her people in line; when they rebel, she is publicly brutalized, whipped and tortured. Each blow Theo endures solidifies the Kaiser’s absolute rule, slowly stripping away any remnants of Princess Theodosia. Theo is beaten and brutalized to the point of death in some instances, only to be healed enough to ensure her survival after. The Kaiser has gone so far as to rename her the Ash Princess, ensuring that none refer to her by her true title, not even Theo herself.

Abuse, in all of its forms, is at the center of this novel. Scenes of physical abuse are the most common and, perhaps, the hardest to deal with. However, Theo suffers much emotional and mental abuse as well, from enemies and friends alike. She is frequently the target of humiliation and degradation. At every event, she is forced to wear a crown molded of ash, a crumbling mockery of her lost heritage. The disintegrating crown represents the extinguishment of her lineage, of her mother’s rule, and of her own power.  The Kaiser, a true oppressor in every way, ensure that Theo’s ‘torture’ does not end at public abuse and humiliation. He assigns three solders, “Shadows”, to constantly be by her side; this means watching her in every moment of her life. They are there when she wakes, and they are there when she sleeps. She cannot even undress or bathe without them. They are instructed to never speak to her as is Theo’s lady in waiting. She lives in complete isolation, under the watchful, piercing gaze of the Kaiser.

With her first YA novel, Sebastian has ensured that we will remember her name. Ash Princess is, without a doubt, a meditation on colonization and subjugation. Here, readers are not offered a heroine who, despite years of hardship, is full of rage and rebellion. Instead, Theo’s spirit has been completely broken and she lives in a state of fear and abject resignation. Readers will find themselves empathizing and understanding how being subjugated in such a way can strip away every facet of someone’s identity. The novel is beautifully written and evokes the anxiousness and heartbreak our protagonist faces vividly. Sebastian has constructed an intricate, multi layered, female heroine and has given her no other option but to save herself. Though she has been so carefully conditioned by the Kalovaxians to be the quiet unassuming captive, she eventually finds strength enough in herself to fight back. Fear is a tricky thing, and one frequently wielded to gain and maintain the upper hand, especially in Theo’s case. It is an unwieldy emotion causing us to revert back to our most base instincts in many cases. Our own fear can serve as our most imposing mountain to traverse, but also the most necessary to overcome the mountain.

Ash Princess delivers a strong comment on an issue that has been at the center of our society for quite some time now: displacement. Through YA fantasy novels such as Ash Princess, readers are asked to face what is unimaginable for some and what is a horrific truth for others. Theo is displaced from her rightful position as Queen. Astreans who were once safe in their homes seek refuge in other countries, hoping to find peace and safety. Today, there are entire communities seeking refuge on shores that are not their own; hundreds of thousands of people who, because of the turmoil unfolding in their homes, have found themselves seeking safety in a new country. Ash Princess illustrates the importance of providing this safety to those in need. It reminds us that, though the destruction and oppression happening in other parts of the world may seem distant, ours is a global community and we must stand as a whole. Laura Sebastian’s novel also reminds us to fight, whether fueled by rage, like the rebels of Astrea, or fear, like that which drives Theo, when faced with oppression, subjugation, cruelty, and injustice.

 

BOOK REVIEW

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black: A Review

by Katie Moran

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black: A Review

Holly Black’s newest novel The Cruel Prince thrusts us swiftly and unapologetically into the gruesome world of Faerie. In The Cruel Prince, sisters Vivi, Taryn, and our main character, Jude are stolen away to a world as beautiful as it is dangerous, after witnessing the red cap named Madoc murder their parents for reasons they don’t understand. Faerie is a world where their captor has now become their stand in parent, protector and means of survival. Black’s novel then moves forward ten years and readers learn that the vibrant brutality of Faerie has contoured the shapes of each sister with severe precision.

Taryn, Jude’s identical twin and the youngest of the three sisters, has completely resigned to her fate as a mortal in Faerie. She shows little resistance in playing the submissive role of the outsider to the powerful fae that surround her. She seeks only to exist, amassing as little notice as possible, even if avoiding controversy carries the cost of betrayal. Vivi, the eldest of the girls and half fae herself, is miserable, or as miserable as someone can be in this intoxicating world. She seeks to be a thorn in Madoc’s side at every opportunity, as repayment for the life he stole from her. Vivi maintains one foot in the mortal realm at all times; her longing for the normalcy of her life before Madoc is palpable within the pages. She stays in Faerie only for her sisters’ benefit. Jude, our protagonist, is neither longing to leave nor begging to stay. She struggles with her place in Faerie as it is, but is most uncertain about how she would exist outside of it. On the cusp of adulthood, her inner turmoil and the fear ingrained in her very being pushes her on the most dangerous path of all. Jude seeks power in a world where she is all but powerless.

The struggle between the powerful and powerless is key in The Cruel Prince. Our protagonist Jude lacks the key weaponry that those of the Fae all possess, their magic. The fae’s magic is their greatest strength, a weapon used against Jude time and again, and one she struggles fiercely to avoid. Their ability of persuasion and knack for enchantments leaves any mortal helpless. It is within this power struggle that we are introduced to Cardan, a vicious prince of Faerie and one of Jude’s adversaries. He is by mortal standards wicked at his core lacking any empathy or goodness that Jude can see. He represents the essence of most of Faerie’s inhabitants; he is cruel, sneaky and arrogant. He loathes the mundane and carries a heavy hatred for Jude. The two work, within the novel, as jaded counter characters. If Jude is operating under the impression of fairness and safety, Cardan is wicked for amusement, secure in his position which leaves him mostly unafraid. As the story progresses, we see their battle of wills take place. Cardan maintains his power through force and trickery, while Jude maintains her own sort of power in how fiercely she opposes Cardan and what he stands for. She is the revolutionary to his tyrant.

This kind of skewed power dynamic is frequent in The Cruel Prince. Jude and Taryn are among the only humans in Faerie who aren’t being forcibly held there. They are treated as part of the Gentry class of fae, gaining access to an elevated social status as a result of Madoc’s title as the King’s General. Madoc, though a murderer, abides by his own morality and sense of retribution and has vowed to care for the girls. The other inhabitants of Faerie are not under the same self-inflicted obligation, and so we bear witness to the oppressors who wield the magic, and the oppressed who lack any. Jude is openly tormented for her unwavering stance against the cruelty she and her sister are so frequently subjected to. Taryn’s demure submissiveness means that she is eventually left alone, unless she is used as a pawn to pierce through Jude’s nerve. In The Cruel Prince, we are shown through the lucrative imagination of Holly Black the fate of the meek who do nothing, and the triumphs and hardships of those who step into open battle with their oppressors.

It is Jude’s sense of morality that perpetuates the idea of a heroine capable of behavior rivaling those she opposes under the banner of rightness. She, who rises up to contend with the corruption of the ruling class. Black has meticulously constructed Jude’s character allowing the savagery of her survival instincts to remain at the forefront, while maintaining the integrity of a relatable and flawed protagonist with a strong moral compass in this high-stake environment. Frequently Jude must decide what is right and wrong for herself and those she cares about. She stands up for those that she believes are unfairly wronged though this path sometimes leads to murder and leaving corpses in her wake. She operates on a moral plane that sets her opposite almost everyone else, pushing beyond her limits and sometimes her means to achieve something almost imperceptible – dignity and the right to life. On the edge of adulthood, Jude’s motives are to secure safety and equality for herself and others like her amongst the fae. She seeks a future that lacks the constant fear of her childhood. Jude strives for fairness and goodness. However, she has witnessed cruelty and has been molded by it That cruelty is what makes her capable of the wickedness that characterizes the fae, and it is that wickedness paired with her desire for equality that makes her fierce enough to become a formidable adversary.

Empathy along with forgiveness are imperative to the function of this story. Like our own reality, the absence and presence of both are crucial components of life. It is the capability and willingness of empathizing as a means of achieving forgiveness, and it is often the inability to achieve such a thing that manifests prolonged social and personal conflict. Empathy is an attribute many lack, and without the possibility of fostering a small capacity to do so, there can only be hardness. Jude is the vessel that Black weighs down with the task of showing us that the power of empathy can create understanding without demanding forgiveness. It is empathy that becomes the life force of Cardan and Jude’s evolving relationship, and also those she shares with Taryn, Vivi and Madoc. When Jude sneaks into Hollow Hall, the home of Cardan’s older brother, she is shown the cruelty he suffers every day, suggesting that perhaps his own sense of harshness was not innate, but something lashed into him over time. Later, Jude and Taryn, the previously inseparable twins, come to blows over their differing perspectives on how to live life in Faerie. Jude struggles to make sense of their changed relationship but is intimately familiar herself with the fear Taryn is trying so hard to eradicate from her life. Such revelations fortunately do not ignite torches of compassion or amends, but feed into Jude’s evolving understanding that, above all else, she needs to persevere. Holly Black, through Jude’s many layered relationships, perpetuates the idea that achieving empathy can help facilitate forgiveness and understanding.

Morality, empathy, forgiveness and the struggle for power are all on some level relatable concepts to many of us. There are and will often always be those who seek to oppress others through fear and cruelty. As a result, friend and foe alike can succumb to cowardice or complacency in the face of injustices. If one were to ascribe a moral to The Cruel Prince, it would most certainly be that submission and meekness is harmful in the fact of injustice and serves no greater good besides a selfish self-preservation, at most. As Jude and Cardan learn, before handing down judgement upon a person, no matter their offense, common ground and basic understanding should be attempted. Empathy will always be a pinnacle of triumph and even in the moments when we fear it may be impossible to understand another, we could do well to remember Jude, her strong moral compass and her desire to understand.

BOOK REVIEW

Warcross by Marie Lu: A Review

by Katie Moran

 

Warcross by Marie Lu: A Review

Marie Lu, author of the well-loved Legends and Young Elites series, has done it again. Her latest novel, Warcross, is an instant hit. Warcross leaves readers stunned with its cliffhanger ending and unbelievable plot twists but between its pages there is so much more at work. Set in a futuristic New York and Tokyo, Warcross is a virtual reality layered right on top of the entire world, invented by the slightly reclusive Hideo Tanaka, a young tech billionaire. Emika Chen, our rainbow-haired protagonist, is a freelance bounty hunter in New York City barely making ends meet until she gets caught hacking into the Warcross Game’s Opening Ceremonies and is summoned by Tanaka to Tokyo.

The Warcross Game is woven into the virtual Warcross world and, by extension, is the very basis of daily life. With their neurolink glasses, people can exist in a New York that doesn’t really exist; cleaner, desirable and more exciting. There are those who opt to spend their time consumed by the facade, always wearing their neurolinks to escape their own monotony and unsatisfying reality. This escapist type of reality resonates greatly with our world today. Marie Lu said that Warcross is “a love letter to all [her] favorite things”; she has combined these ‘favorite things’ with our daily realities to create this exciting world that does not seem too distant. This is the digital era after all and every day, the world of VR and technology grows exponentially. Technological communication has trumped in-person exchanges, much like the novel’s use of messaging via neurolinks. In the novel’s VR overlay of Tokyo, we see that people make changes to their virtual avatars, adding pet tigers or different body features. With social media platforms and online forums already allowing people to only portray what they want people to see, a world like the dystopian one in Warcross could be right on the horizon.

In Warcross, Marie Lu has amassed a group of diverse characters to portray the way in which the virtual world of Warcross helps to erase many of society’s constructed boundaries. The cast of characters in Warcross is comprised mainly of the differently-abled, LGBTQ characters, and POC. In today’s world, young and old alike continue to bear witness to the volatile presence of racism and discrimination. Lu’s novel, and its inclusivity, is imperative and refreshing.

The diversity of this novel is represented with more than a racially diverse cast of characters. Asher, one of the Warcross Game’s team captains is a paraplegic and therefore relies on a wheelchair in the ‘real world’. Lu’s incorporation of a character with physical impairments exceeds the boundaries of the majority of YA fiction, particularly of the best-selling kind. Her evocative writing of this character, in a novel where dual realities coincide, functions in a way that allows the reader to understand multiple aspects of the character’s development. The virtual reality of Warcross seems to nullify what inhibits him outside of the game allowing him to express himself in ways that he wouldn’t outside of the game. Asher, outside of the game, is a strategist and a coach. Inside the game, he is an incredible physical competitor. His disability does not stunt his growth in the virtual world, in fact it allows for more of the character to develop; this is part of Lu’s magic.

Marie Lu continues to dazzle us with the depth of diversity she’s offered in including characters of different sexual orientations. This representation of the LGBTQ+ community is interwoven naturally into the novel’s story and reminds readers once more that these fences we erect around our identities, to keep ourselves in and keep others out, lead us away from a greater understanding of the world. Finally, Marie Lu has given us a tech geek as our main protagonist, Emika. She is a fierce representation of the young girls currently re-shaping the STEM industry by demanding a place for women in all aspects of the field. Emika would probably scoff at us if she could read this, but this character is a great role model for the girl who wants to build a robot in her free time or dreams of being an astronaut when she grows up. Lu has created a fun, witty character in Emika Chen that illustrates the advantages of a woman interested in the STEM fields.

Not only has Marie Lu written another fast paced, heart stopping, tremendously satisfying adventure, she’s also addressed many issues that continue to plague our contemporary world. In times of trouble, when so many groups of people are still being denied the same respect and quality of life that others take for granted, authors ease that pressure through the worlds that they build for us and the power of their voices, reminding readers that nothing is more powerful than equality and inclusivity. Marie Lu’s Warcross delivers an exciting, colorful, and fascinating look at a world without limitations and we cannot wait to see where she, and Emika Chen, take us next.