Dystopian Reading

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff.

The Roar by Emma Clayton.

These two books actually have quite a bit in common, although the tone in each is quite different from the other. Both books are set in a future dystopian England, war-ravaged and poverty-stricken. Both books emphasize the meaninglessness of war, with quite strong anti-war messages. And both books are about teens empowered to live their lives as they see fit, and to even change the world for the better, despite the idiocies and pure evil perpetrated by their elders.

How I Live Now was published back in 2004, and quite a few bloggers and others have reviewed it. It’s the story of an American girl who goes to England to visit her cousins and is trapped there by the outbreak of war. The narrator, Daisy, is annoying at first. She speaks, thinks, and writes in interminable, run-on sentences, and she’s obnoxious, sarcastic, and self-centered. However, her experiences in war time take care of her attitude, not to mention her borderline anorexia. (Daisy says toward the end of the book, “The idea of wanting to be thin in a world full of people dying from lack of food struck even me as stupid.”) Because I didn’t like Daisy and her paragraph-long sentences very much at the beginning of the book, I didn’t know if I’d like the book very much either, but I did. It ends in a satisfying, but solidly realistic, scene of True Love rewarded, and Daisy, surprisingly, has become an adult with the ability to give love by the time that final scene rolls around.

The ending to The Roar, I must warn readers, is not so satisfying. I’m wondering if we should stage a rebellion and tell the publishers that books that feature an obvious set-up for a sequel as pseudo-ending should also feature at the very least a warning label: “YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO FINISH THIS STORY FOR AT LEAST TWO YEARS. READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL.” THe Roar is a very good story but it doesn’t end so much as it stops, in mid-story.

The Roar is reminiscent of both Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Mika and his twin sister Ellie are children with special abilities who are being trained by a malevolent government official for some sort of mission, but Ellie has been kidnapped and is assumed dead. And Mika is involved in a virtual game/competition called Pod Fighters that becomes more and more dangerous as he wins out over other competitors to go to the final round of the game, a game that may reunite him with his beloved sister or may end in death for both of them. I’d recommend this one to Hunger Games readers who are looking for another read and to video game afficionados who want a story with games and lots of action. Just remember that it doesn’t end . . .

Book trailer for The Roar:

4 thoughts on “Dystopian Reading

  1. I hate those obviously-set-up-for-a-series books, mainly because I have a TERRIBLE memory and have often forgotten what the last book was about when the next one finally comes out. I’m better off waiting until they’re all published to even start reading them so I can have a continuous plot, etc.

  2. I cannot get through chapter one of The Roar and I’ve felt guilty about it and was about to force myself through. The page count itself made me wonder if it was too long. By its description I thought it sounded good but something oppressive and different was what I got from reading chapter one and realized I didn’t need to encourage my then 11 year old fantasy book lover to read it. Thanks for reviewing it.

    Are you aware of a movie that came out yesterday about a real life game based on a video game concept? Prisoners act in live battle with legal weapons as game pawns with non-criminal humans playing a game controlling their moves as if they were playing a video game, with people actualy dying. The Gamer is the name. It is rated R. In the promo seen during the Harry Potter movie of course my kids wanted to see it. The action and special effects looked great, thus tempting my boys to see it, even though they are 12 and 9 and this movie is rated R. Another parenting challenge… and a reminder that similar content in books read by tweens is sometimes taken over the top in movie form and can be inappropriate for those same kids.

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