Books

A Book Review of Matched

WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.

Matched by Ally Condie

Type: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Romance

Basic Plot: In the future, Cassia lives in a world where the Society controls all things and makes the regulations of the world she lives in. She has been happy and content, especially when she is “matched” to marry her best friend Xander, but after finding a mistake in the program, she wonders if the Society truly knows best.

Quality

Plot: 3/5 Average: The plot had a good speed and development. The characters changed and developed relationships at a pace that was natural and not too fast or slow. The plot ended with there being no plot holes, but there being an ending that leaved room for more books.

The only negative feature of the story was that it was lacking originality in some ways. It did not seem to have a goal to make a new or unique statement, other than to show what other books have, that totalitarian societies are bad and true love can conquer anything. This was a good way to show this idea, but the idea itself is not very unique.

Writing Style and Setup: 4/5 Well Done: Ms. Ally Condie’s style was focused on symbolism, emotion, and thought and many of her characters were also revolved around these things. She does not focus on describing the surroundings or actions as much as she does the ideas Cassia has and her feelings. This does not mean that the former are done poorly, just that they were not the focus. I did enjoy the personal and original style she used.

The beginning of the book was not as well written as the rest of it. It started a bit slowly and was not as natural. Somewhere between chapters five and ten it started becoming more interesting to read and more natural sounding. This does not mean it had a bad start, just a slightly slow one.

Moral: 3/5 A Mostly Good Moral: The moral of books that deal with topics such as freedom and dictatorship. God says in Romans 13:1, Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” We are to obey authority and be submissive, but at the same time how can one worship and serve God to the fullest extent when they are under a socialist and communist country? I believe the book was able to show how bad a society that is totalitarian can be – even at its best – , without having a rebellious spirit with it. Cassia does disobey in her heart and even a little on the outside to the Society, but her entire attitude is not rebellious.

Overall 3½/5: I recommend it to teenagers of all ages as they would probably be most interested in it. I also believe younger college students may like it if they are looking for clean books about dystopian fantasies, though it may not be as interesting for them.

Moral Content

Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 1/5 Non-Sexual Physical Contact and Slight Suggestiveness: There is hand holding, hugging, and kissing. One of the rules mentioned in for dating is that you may use physical contact to express affection. Cassia thinks several times about wanting nonsexual physical contact. It is mentioned that the teenagers have played kissing games. One of the things a person may be suspected of if they run too much for exercise is masochism. Handholding and tension when a person accidentally touches another are described, but not in an inappropriate manner. Though kissing happens it is hardly described outside of the fact of it happening and some afterthoughts about it.

Violence: 1½/5 Mentions of Violence and War: It mentions a little boy was once murdered and a man was attacked. A boy gets a sprain. Cassia falls when she is running and gets scraped up. A movie shows people dieing. There is mention that there is a war and people are forced to join the army. It is mentioned that all of the people in a particular place are dead. A woman believes her son will die when he is drafted. There is mention of a man using a weapon against a person as well as that weapons were once used by people in charge of the Society. Cassia reflects on how the people in charge of where she is do not physically punish them to get them to work or obey.

Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: ½/5 Suggestive: It mentions that people swear, but never says what those swear words are.

Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 1½/5 Some Emotional and Slightly Disturbing Content: People are only allowed to live until they turn eighty, then they formally die and are preserved. Cassia experiences this with her grandfather. This is done by slowly poisoning them. Some people do not die by poisoning. Cassia dreams that her friend dies. Blood is in a film they watch, is mentioned in descriptions, and is drawn in pictures alongside bullets. There are rumors that a certain tablet will kill you.

Religious Issues: ½/5 Slight Mention: Cassia thinks about “playing God” as the society always does so and is treated like the people’s “Gods.”

Magic: 0/5 None

Others: None

Overall: I do not recommend this book as much in quality as I do morally. Morally this book is excellent and highly recommended. Many books that try to teach about broken and controlling societies also show how depraved and perverse these societies are, but Matched was written by a Mormon, and therefore is very clean.

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Books

A Book Review of Mockingbird

WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Type: Contemporary, Special Needs

Basic Plot: Caitlin, a girl with Aspergers, is suffering from her brother’s death in a school shooting, and tries to understand her life without his help.

Quality

Plot: 4/5 Well Done: The plot revolved around a school shooting that happened at Caitlin’s brother’s school and how people were affected by it emotionally, especially Caitlin. The second main focus was on Caitlin learning how gets along socially in life. Both of these subjects were interesting to read about. It is already interesting to be reading about a person who may have a disability, but it was made more so by showing how people with this type of problem may deal with it. The plot was creative and done well for a children’s book.

Writing Style and Setup: 3 ½/5 Above Average: The style is a first person perspective from the eyes of Caitlin. This was a very good perspective to use. Because you are reading from a first person perspective, the things Caitlin does that would normally be weird make sense and seem almost reasonable. Because it was from this perspective though, the descriptions of the way people looked or what Caitlin’s surroundings are not as detailed and were described differently. Though I liked the way things were described, the lack of description that came with it was a bit disappointing.

The pace and setup of the book were good. It started and ended at appropriate times. The only thing that may have been lacking was you do not always know when things are happening. You may not know how much time has always passed between chapters, though it is clear it hasn’t been a lot of time. It is not a big issue, but it is there.

Moral: 2½/5 A Mostly Good Moral: The author said that the moral of the book was to promote understanding of other people. She believed that understanding others was a key to stopping violence. This is only partially true. The root of violence is sin. Selfishness and a refusal to listen to others are part of the sin issue that man has, so the moral is only partially correct.

Another moral a reader may see is to try new things that are hard. Caitlin learns to put effort into socially getting along with other people. This may encourage the reader to try things that are hard or make them uncomfortable that will better their life.

The third thing a reader may keep in mind with this book has to do with death. As Christians we have God’s promise of Heaven to comfort us, while the unsaved do not. Caitlin looks for closure, but never goes to God for it. She does get comfort, but as Christians we know true peace with death can only come through Jesus Christ.

Overall: 3½/5 Above Average: This book is recommended to children eleven to twelve and older of either gender. Aspergers, as far as I know, is portrayed accurately in the book. The best thing about this book was the emotion it caused the reader to have, and the worst was probably the occasional vagueness in description. Overall it is recommendable.

Moral Content

Sexual and Inappropriate Content: ½/5 Slightly Suggestive: Some girls tell a teacher they have to leave because of a “girl thing” that really isn’t happening.

Violence: 1½/5 Mentioned Violence and Some Light Violence:  Caitlin accidentally hits her head. Children bully each other by shoving, sometimes to the ground. It mentions two school shootings, though they are not seen happening in the book. When Caitlin scrapes a tree with a quarter she gets cuts on her hands, strongly implying a counselor to thought she was cutting herself. A girl falls off a bike and scrapes up her face. Caitlin attacks a boy. There is mention of Caitlin biting her brother’s finger until he tears up.

Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: ½/5 Suggestive: It mentions once that a man swears, but does not say what he said. “Gosh” is said twice.

Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 3½/5 Quite Emotional: There is a lot of emotional content in this book. Caitlin’s brother has been murdered, and the book revolves around her and her father’s emotional recovery. Other people are mentioned having died by shooting as well. Two shooting s actually are mentioned happening though are not shown as well as a girl believing one was happening. There is crying from several characters and Caitlin does have one or two emotional breakdowns. There are also several scenes that are emotional. It talks about a dog being shot. When Caitlin hears the metaphor “crash and burn” she thinks it is referring to that kind of situation. Children bully each other, sometimes intentionally and sometimes more so of being inconsiderate. Caitlin thinks about death in movies. Blood is mentioned at least once.

Religious Issues: 0/5 None

Magic: 0/5 None

Others: 0/5 None

Overall: This book is clean in content, but because of the emotional content it is probably not good for young children. I recommend this book to children ten to twelve and older.

Books

A Book Review of A Bride for Donnigan

WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the stories ranging from unimportant to plot turners.

A Bride for Donnigan by Janette Oke

Type: Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance

Basic Plot: Kathleen O’ Hara decides that her stepfamily no longer wants or needs her, and decides to try a new life by selling herself as a mail order bride. Donnigan Harrison is a farmer that is successful, but lonely, and decides to order a bride from overseas. Now they must both learn to get along with and take of a complete stranger that has just become their spouse.

Quality

Plot: 3/5 Average: A Bride for Donnigan’s plot had a mixture of good and bad qualities for its plot. The story that the book covers is interesting and realistic, but does not seem to have definite direction about halfway through. From the beginning until a few months after the marriage there seemed to be a clear direction in the story, after a certain point though, it is written more as if the author is just describing events rather than telling a story. You can see the author is trying to bring us to a Christian moral, but the events that happen seem more like they were added so that the moral could happen, not because she was trying to tell a story. This makes the book less interesting in some ways.

Writing Style and Setup: 3½/5 Above Average: Like most of Janette Oke’s books, this one is written realistically enough so that you could see the events actually happening, though usually not in a way that is boring. The style is also plain, having good descriptions, but not the flowery, deep ones seen in some literature.

The setup was used by covering before Donnigan and Kathleen are married to an event that happens several years after. Time passes through the book usually by covering main events and then sometimes skipping years at a time. This pace is a sometimes odd to read at, though it is not completely impossible.

Moral: 4/5 A Good Moral: There are about two good morals one can get from this book. The first one is not give up on marriage even when it is hard. Both Kathleen and Donnigan go through hard times in their marriage at first because of lack of communication. They overcome this though, and are determined to try to fix their problems. By staying strong and dealing with their problem they are able to have a happy marriage.

The second has to do with salvation. Kathleen and Donnigan want to please God and be forgiven of their sins, but are not sure how this is to be done. They battle with knowing they are not good enough, but still trying to find a way to please God. They eventually realize though that salvation is not about reciting certain prayers or doing good works. They realize it is about having faith in Jesus to save them.

Overall: 3½/5 Above Average: The book is not extraordinary, but is a decent Christian fiction book. It is recommended for girls ten to twelve and older.

Moral Content

Sexual and Inappropriate Content: ½/5 Slightly Suggestive: Women hide things in their stockings or dress bodices. A man asks Kathleen to dinner and a hotel in a slightly suggestive manner. She refuses his offer. Kathleen worries that Donnigan has ordered only one hotel room to stay in before they are married. He didn’t. There is kissing and physical contact, but all done appropriately and within marriage. Donnigan and his son talk about reproduction in a non-sexual manner. There is mention of breastfeeding.

Violence: 1/5 Non-Shown Violence: It is mentioned that two women get in a fight. Kathleen throws a parcel at Donnigan when she is angry. She later throws things at him in a playful manner. A child hurts his foot with an ax. A boy tells his brother to throw a rock at a chicken. A boy talks about how God kills people in the Bible and his father explains why. There is mention of spanking children or wanting to. One of the things Kathleen’s friend says the women may wonder the men are like is if they are violent. Kathleen is afraid to say anything bad against God because she believes he will smite her. Donnigan is cautious in fear he may get kicked by his horse.

Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: ½/5 Mention of Swearing:  It is mentioned that a men swear, but never say what those words are. There are a few of exclamations that could be looked at as taking the Lord’s name in vain, though as it is a Christian book they were probably not meant to be disrespectful on purpose. “Wench” is used twice.

Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 1/5 Emotional Scenes: There are two miscarriages. In both of them the women go through deep emotional grief. There is blood about once or twice in the book. A boy’s falls and his hands end up in a fire.

Religious Issues: 0/5 None

Magic: ½/5 Slightly Mentioned: A little boy describes God by saying He is “magic.”

Others: There is mention of chewing tobacco and cigars. Wine is mentioned once and on a ship a whole group of girls shows signs of being drunk. Kathleen is offered a drink she does not like that is probably wine. It mentions a man meeting his wife at a pub him drinking there. One of the things Kathleen’s friend says the women may wonder the men are like is if they are drinkers.

Overall: 1/5 All Ages Appropriate: The book is recommendable morally. There is nothing really bad in the book that would probably cause a Christian to not read it.