Sunday, 8 February 2015

Burning for Revenge


Book Title: Burning for Revenge
Author: John Marsden
Series: The Tomorrow Series #5
Date Started: February 5th 2015
Date Completed: February 8th 2015
Genres: Action, Thriller, Romance, Dystopian
Quality Rating: Five stars
Enjoyment Rating: Four stars
Rating: Four stars

It's been quite a while since I read some of the Tomorrow series, and so I really forgot just how good they were. Burning for Revenge was a solid four stars for me, not because there were aspects that disappointed me, but just because I know this is all building up to something massive, and I'm saving those five stars for then.

The surprising thing about these books is there's a lot of personal narrative, where the group are just staying in the same place, lying low. But it's not boring. I don't know how he does it, or even how he stops Ellie from becoming annoying, but these anecdotes about her life before the war, or her musings about her friends, or her daydreaming about the future, never bring me to the point where I want to put the book down. Marsden has just built up such a genuine and good person, despite all the things she's done, that I really do believe every word she says - or rather I believe it like she was real, maybe not her opinions, but you get what I mean.
Actually, not that much happens, but when it does it's written so confidently that it's just brilliant to read. There's real work within the structure of the writing, and the words themselves that tell you Marsden has really put effort into his atmosphere and it ends up being so vivid that you really do feel for the characters.

It's quite funny, because there's a group of kids introduced for a small part of this book and it just showed how mature and realistic this series is compared to most Young Adult dystopians I've read. I'm still trying to work out if it was deliberate that they sounded and acted like they had literally walked out of those books, or if it was just naturally written that way, because it just stood out to me as such a huge contrast that I hadn't really thought about before. Honestly, I could probably argue that this series doesn't fit in YA.
I love the twists the story takes: you can't really predict it in the long run, which makes you feel like you're in the same precarious, uncertain situation as the group. Admittedly, it does depend a little too much on coincidence for my tastes - but I suppose realistically it is all down to chance.
What really caught my attention in this novel in the series particularly, was the first severe portrayal of the mental consequences. Up to now all the characters have been affecting by their experiences, of course, but this was the first time someone literally stopped functioning, lay down and couldn't do anything anymore. And, of course, this hindering the group in huge ways that really threatened their lives - sure, it made me uncomfortable because of course you don't want to hear about someone in that situation, but wow did it make things real. Again, it just stood out to me as something I don't read about all that much in this genre, when it should be a really big feature.
Finally, I really liked the romance, because this is how it really works in wars. It isn't a big issue, but you push it to the front to try and get your mind off the serious things; you don't think it's important but then someone mucks something up because of it and you're all threatened as a consequence; it's there, but survival is first.

Having the same group of characters throughout the whole story is really effective: if I think about it all the series' I've adored have had the same group of characters in throughout the whole thing. And it works because you get attached to them and you don't get distracted from everything else by learning about new characters, but you still build up on what you know about these ones. They're the kind of characters I don't want to let go, but I know I'll have to at some point.
Ellie is one of my favourite protagonists of all time. Like I've said before, she's just such a genuine person that even after all the bad things she's done, I still think she's trying to be a good person, and I still love her. She's real in both the good things she does and the bad; in the horrible ways she treats her friends, and the ways she tries to make up for it; when her instincts make her do stupid things, and when they save her life. We need more protagonists like Ellie.
My love for Homer has definitely grown, and I think he's now contending with Ellie for my favourite. Fi is still wonderful, and even though I've never felt an affinity to Kevin, I felt for him this time, and I wanted him to be okay. As for Lee, I think it was really clever how suddenly we couldn't help but look negatively at him - and that's because of Ellie's narrative, and because she's always shown him as good person.

I really liked the way this book was paced: Marsden has always been a skilled writer, and all his books prove it. This series is definitely action packed, but there's a lot of downtime too, and the balance between them is perfected so that we really do learn about these characters, and we really do feel the danger when they're threatened.

I think the Tomorrow series is one of the best 'dystopian' survival series' out there. Don't get me wrong, there are some good things to come out of the YA dystopia genre, but this is the real thing. If you want to get sidetracked with some romance or the occasional drama or some full-on direct attack of the government, stay with the popular ones. But if you want the gritty truth, with a real sense of realism in the relationships and consequences, then I couldn't recommend this series more.

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