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25 Apr

Author: Ally Condie

Published: 2010

Date Finished: April 21, 2011

My second dystopian Young Adult read of the year (hopefully my last for the year) deals again with the same issues of idealism and the rebudding sexual impulse. For anyone wondering why the young adult fiction industry is populated with so many books on dystopia, provided that utopia or even a morally rigid society is a non-issue to most as of this time — it’s purpose is to externalize the inner tug-of-war of the typical female adolescent who transcends from following the poker-straight parental superego to understanding or experiencing all of these weird feelings, not just sexual in nature, but of wanting to basically just do whatever you want. A re-releasing of any form of gratification, so to speak. They may or may not coincide with what mom or dad wants, but it is the first step as an individual towards a more solid identity. In the real world, rearrangement of hormone levels, early existentialism (who the f*** am I?) and house rules are literally components of the typical teen’s dystopia.

I read this because the premise was cute but after the match, everything in the novel just goes downhill. The world Condie painted was too bland and boring– perfectly allocated calories, zero crime, no history, “mandatory” recreation, curfew. It can never exist. Why? Because everyone would die of boredom.

I found one part utterly interesting though. When granddad died expectedly at exactly 80 years old, surrounded by loved ones and with all his wits intact. As a constant witness to the injustice and cruelty of any form of dementia to elderly patients, I found this part comforting and peaceful — like listening to the beautiful last notes of my favorite Chopin piano piece then silence. Crazy but I’ll probably agree to a slow, expected, painless death right before my neurological synapses give way to wear and tear if it would mean seeing the world one last time, with full awareness, wisdom and great appreciation. Chronic paranoia and loss of sense of self will always be scarier than death. Better still to enter the abyss as me.

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Across the Universe

15 Apr

Author: Beth Revis

Published: 2011

Date finished reading: April 14, 2011

For as long as I am partly defined by being a dreamer and a romantic, I’ll probably grow old still reading Young Adult Fiction. Yeah I know, as adults, we tend to think of them as too simplistic and cheesy. When I read Twilight? Meh… but I get why it has sold milions of copies, pushing a couple of teenagers into brief psychosis along the way.

Romance will always sell to teenagers. Why? Because adolescence is the time of the  reawakening of our sexual impulses (Freud’s Genital Stage, what else?) when we look at the opposite sex in a different light and feel…weird. The same way Elder sees Amy for the first time — red-orange koi fish-like hair, translucent skin, breasts. Physical love at first sight, if I may, which sadly, more or less exists only in the teenager’s world.

Growing up with a dominant tyrant for a parent instead of an affectionate, caring one…having always been different from everyone else on the get-go…being raised in a Utopian, emotionless society… we expect Elder to be more of a schizophrenic, manic-depressive, a narcissist, or at least a robotic schizoid. With a trained eye,  Elder’s character would be easily dismissed as too perfect. But alas, submitting to the adolescent’s cognition, we give way to an audience who are just crawling out of a rigid, structured, rule-driven parental system and a predominantly idealistic mentality. A hero will only be a hero if he is good with just enough charming imperfections to still be human.

The most interesting part for me was in the end when Eldest, the older Elder and Elder meet because gives us a sampler of Kohlberg’s stages of morality. Eldest and older Elder choose authority and social order (Stage 4) to maintain a functional society despite succumbing to manipulation, tyranny and murder. Amy was appalled by their actions because it is not normal compared to the society she lived in and because murder and lying are just WRONG (Stage 3). Of course, kudos to our perfect protagonist Elder, who unsurprisingly has the highest level of morality (higher than his peers in present Sol-Earth, a whopping Stage 6!) of choosing what is inherently good which, he trusts, will eventually bring forth the ultimate common good in the truest sense of the term.

Will I read this book again? Probably not but the unique concept that’s reminiscent, albeit thinly,  of the likes of The Hunger Games series is greatly appreciated.

 By the way, I’m scoring through the perspective of an adult who really shouldn’t be reading YA novels at her age, anyways.