Tuesday Reads: Coda by Emma Trevayne

I really love YA dystopias. Like, a lot. Luckily for me, thanks to their rise in popularity, there are a lot of really awesome dystopias out there. Less luckily for me, there are as many not-so-awesome ones as there are good ones. You know what I mean – the ones that are just grasping for something to make illegal in their future world and make their protagonist like Really Super Special and Immune, the only person Truly Thinking in a world of sheeple. They throw in a love triangle, make it a trilogy, and call it done.

Coda by Emma Trevayne is something different. Coda is one of the good ones.

I have to make them see that this is its own high: playing, being here, seeing the music instead of just being another bite for the insatiable appetite of the drug. I know I don’t have them, not yet, but through blurred eyes I see bodies find Mage’s beat. Sweet-sour adrenaline floods over my tongue and my hands strum faster I barely notice tearing off a thumbnail.

Layout 1In Coda, the populace is controlled through music, which the government uses to essentially drug everyone. This futuristic, altered music can make people happy, can take pain away, can cause someone to OD – can even kill them instantly. And everyone is addicted. They’re introduced to music as children and from that moment on, its a ticking clock to death. The music wears at them the way most drugs do. Thirty in this world is old, especially for the poor. The wealthy are a little better off. Their music is weaker – really good marijuana to the lower half’s meth.

Anthem, our protagonist, is no exception. He’s just as addicted as everyone else. He hates it just as much as everyone else. What makes him different is his secret acts of rebellion – the biggest one being that he’s in a band. In the world of Coda, normal people don’t play instruments. They don’t sing or even hum. Music is highly regulated by the government. To have a secret underground band? That’s inviting arrest. That’s could invite death.

Anthem is incredibly careful, of course, not just for himself but because he has two younger siblings that rely on him. But when their leader is killed, Anthem and the band decide it’s time to take matters into their own hands. It’s time to rebel a little less quietly.

Anthem is special not because of some immunity to the music. He’s special because he is just as addicted as everyone else and he makes the decision to fight back.

Coda is filled with gorgeous prose and vibrant characters that don’t fit into the predictable YA dystopia roles. If you’re into dystopias, you definitely have to read this. If you’re not sure, read it anyway.

Medium: Paperback
Stars: 5/5

Tuesday Reads: The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

What is this power the dead have over the ones they leave behind? It’s strange and beautiful and frightening, this deathless love that human beings continue to feel for the ones they’ve lost.

If you could have a double of a loved one made, someone that would come to you if your loved one died and take their place, would you? They’d be an exact physical replica. They’d spent their whole lives learning to be the person you lost. But would that be enough?

lost girlThat’s the premise of The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna. For a price, people called Weavers make perfect little clones called echoes that can be used to replace a person once they’ve died. As the technology stands now, they have to be taught to be that person, but the hope is that one day they’ll actually be able to transfer the thoughts and soul of someone into a body double that’s just standing by.

Eva is an echo. She spends most of her life in a house with her caretakers, studying her other, Amarra. But Eva isn’t exactly like Amarra. She can’t be. She has her own thoughts, her own wants and needs, people she loves. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have much of a choice – when Amarra dies, Eva gets packed off to India to become her. She’s implanted with a tracker so she can’t run away and she can’t tell anyone what she is, both because echoes are illegal in India and because most people see them as abominations. Eva wants to make Amarra’s family happy, but she also badly wants to be herself and live her own life, so what is she supposed to do?

Once I started in on The Lost Girl, I couldn’t stop. I quickly became invested in Eva and wanted her to be happy. I knew that Amarra had to die and Eva had to go live that life – what story would there be if Eva just got to stay home in England? – but in the chapters leading up to it, I still hoped that nothing would happen to Amarra. When we see Amarra die in Eva’s dream, I felt my stomach drop. When Eva leaves for India, I was even more afraid that she wouldn’t do a good job being Amarra. If she wasn’t convincing enough, Amarra’s family might get rid of her, and that would mean her death.

I really loved every character, to be honest, even those who betrayed Eva. I understood all of them and their motivations. It’s pretty awesome writing that does that.

Also, Eva ships Harry/Hermione, and that’s the coolest. Basically all of my friends have some ships (that is, fictional relationships that they support, canon or not) but you never see that acknowledged in books. In The Lost Girl, it’s just a quick, casual moment. It doesn’t make a big deal out of itself, but it was a big deal to me. It grounded the book for me and made me love Eva even more.

My only real problems with the book were that I want to know more about how echoes are made. We know that every echo has only one Weaver working on it, but we don’t know how they do it. I became a little uncertain if it was science or magic or both. There’s also not a defined time period. I’m pretty sure it’s set in an alternate version of our present, but I would have loved some confirmation.

This is not your usual future technology YA (which, let’s be honest, are usually dystopias). This is something different, and it’s easily one of my favorite books I’ve read this year.

Medium: Kindle
Stars: 5/5

Tuesday Reads Double Feature: Gay in YA

If you haven’t noticed, I’m really passionate about diversity in YA. I’ve talked about the need for other body types and why sex negativity is a big problem. There’s so much more to talk about – we need protagonists of color, disabled protagonists, characters all across the spectrums of sex, gender, sexual preference, and level of sexual activity (wouldn’t some asexuals be awesome?).

Today, for a very special episode of Tuesday Reads, I’m doing a double feature of YA books with lesbian protagonists. They’re both the kind of stories about gay characters that I’d love to see more of. These stories are not entirely about the protagonist being gay. It’s a big part of them, sure, but it’s not the central story. I think these books do a great job of normalizing gay characters.

starting from hereLet’s kick things off with Starting From Here by Lisa Jenn Bigelow. It’s about Colby, a high school girl that basically everyone knows is a lesbian and while she’s had some bullying, it hasn’t been bad. The thing is, she’s never told her dad, and that can be kind of stressful. Oh, and her not-quite-girlfriend dumped her…for a guy. And now there’s a really cute girl flirting with her, and basically Colby is just freaking out.

The last thing I needed was for my heart to get broken again by another girl who’d dump me the second the right guy made his move. I’d rather stick to my lonely-girl-and-her-dog existence.

What I truly love about this book in terms of YA diversity is that it’s not about her sexuality. It’s not about her questioning that she’s into girls. When we meet her, she already knows this about herself. She hasn’t fully come out, but she’s not really ashamed of it or anything, just scared. The story isn’t about a lesbian. It’s a story with a lesbian main character. It’s about her being herself and discovering her own strengths and working out her problems in ways largely unrelated to the coming-out aspect of the book, and that’s awesome.

Starting From Here is funny and painfully real, and will make you feel that high school angst in the way good YA often does – whether or not your high school experience involved coming out of the closet.

Rating: 4/5

I enjoyed the second book in today’s triple threat for a similar reason. Next up: Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin.

And even though that other girl was the girl I’d been for years, being her now was like acting a part in a play.

Actually, I thought, it was always like acting a part in a play. I just didn’t realize it.

Silhouette-of-a-SparrowGarnet is sent off to spend the summer of 1926 with relatives and is expected to return and make a good marriage and be a good girl. As like most female protagonists in similar books, Garnet’s not entirely excited about her prospects – so she’s going to make the most of her summer. She gets a job as a shop girl and starts an illicit friendship with a flapper from the local dance hall named Isabella.  In fact, she never identifies as such. We only know that she loves Isabella and that’s enough. The story is far more coming-of-age than it is coming out. It’s about Garnet and Isabella having a relationship and having young love – not about them being lesbians.

I admit that I initially bought Silhouette of a Sparrow for its intriguing title and lovely cover. I was won over entirely by the depth of the characters and the beauty of the prose.

Rating: 5/5

I should clarify: I love books that are about the trials and tribulations of coming out as LGBT. It’s something that can be, at best, stressful, and at worst…well, life-threatening. We need books that tell these stories. Right now I’m just really on the look out for books that go the next step and normalize the sexualities. Books with LGBT characters, not about their LGBT…ness.

For more books that have something other than the usual white cisgender straight characters, check out Diversity in YA. Seriously. It’s a great source for dialogue about diversity and for books to add to your “to-read” list.