Banded by Logan Byrne

In dystopian Manhattan, society is divided into six zones, with each one representing a citizen’s benefit to society: Stalwart (strength), Astute (intelligence), Collusive (greed), Radiant (beauty), Quixotic (no life direction), and the Altruistic (willingness to help others).  On a citizen’s sixteenth birthday, a computer suggests a new zone for them based on their inherent benefit to society.  When Kalenna Slater is sorted out of her home zone Quixotic and into Altruistic, she thinks things can’t get worse.  Life looks dismal until she meets Gavin, a boy also just sorted into Altruistic who becomes the light needed on her cloudy days. 

During sorting she receives a device known as ‘The Band’.  It’s a large watch-like device that never comes off, and it measures a citizen’s karma on a scale from one to one hundred.  If a citizen does good, they gain points.  If a citizen does bad, including breaking laws, they lose points.  When your number reaches zero, the band acts as judge, jury, and executioner, and you are injected with toxins that kill you within minutes. 

After sorting, recruits are taken to a three month long mandatory school named HQ.  It’s at HQ she meets new friends from different zones, and finally begins to feel at ease.  Everything goes well until a rare trip home makes her discover that her father, who has been missing for a decade, may have taken part in a terrible program that stands to shake the fabric of society.

“Computer,” the Warden said.
“Yes, Warden?”
“Will you please deduct four points from Ms. Slater here,” he said.
“Certainly, sir,” the computer said.
My band buzzed on my wrist, and I looked down to see four points leaving from my score one by one. I was now left with ninety-five  points, the lowest of my class, and I was scared.

Banded was a quick and easy light read but wasn’t very satisfying. It felt like it was way too short and there wasn’t try anything going on besides the Warden harassing Kaleena and her falling for it every time. As a main character Kaleena was flat in my opinion. There was never a point where I really felt anything for her but annoyance at her non ability to keep her mouth shut. The storyline was very rushed and I didnt understand why Kaleena was coming up with the conclusions she had most of time. She went from just trying to get through HQ training to conspiracy theories and wanting to change the government in like a week. The were also elements from different books like Divergent incorporated in the story. There was even a bit of Harry Potter thrown in with the way the kids get sorted being a high tech version of the Sorting Hat. I felt like it was too much of a play of other things with just a few original concepts thrown in and the story just wasn’t all that great. I won’t be reading the following stories in this series and give it a 1/5 rating. If you don’t mind books with obvious elements of other stories and looking for a time killer this is for you.

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Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

In a perfect world mothers would all want their babies, and strangers would open up their homes to the unloved. In a perfect world everything would be either black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference. But this isn’t a perfect world. The problem is people who think it is.”

Unwind was a read like nothing I’ve come across so far. It will stay with you and have you thinking long after the last page has been read. Before reading this book I didn’t think I would like it. I felt like the concept of unwinding was just so out there that there was no way the author would be able to make this believable.  What I thought was really amazing was that the author was able to build tension in the story without all the action scenes and plot twist after plot twist. The whole idea of unwinding and the fact that the reader doesn’t find out what the actual process consist of is enough tension by itself. The world building was so spot on that after I started reading I didn’t question whether or not it was possible because I was in too engrossed in the story. I really thought Shusterman was brilliant in raising questions on pro life and pro choice without taking a side or forcing the reader to pick a side. Instead he raised important questions like when does an unborn child have a soul? At conception or when it’s first loved by the parent? When giving up a child does the parent feel guilt or relief afterwards? The book wasn’t so much about death as it was the human consciousness. It also tackles issues such as religion, terrorism, politics, and ageism. The switching point of view between the characters made it hard to connect with them in the beginning but the collision course they end up on is so shocking and sets off a series of events that can possibly change their world. This book also contains one of the most disturbing scenes I have read in a YA even for one in the dystopian genre. I recommend this book as well as the sequel UnWholly which can both be found at Amazon.com. I give this a 5/5 rating.

Archetype by M.D. Waters

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Available at Amazon.com

Emma wakes in a hospital, with no memory of what came before. Her husband, Declan, a powerful, seductive man, provides her with new memories, but her dreams contradict his stories, showing her a past life she can’t believe possible: memories of war, of a camp where girls are trained to be wives, of love for another man. Something inside her tells her not to speak of this, but she does not know why. She only knows she is at war with herself.

Suppressing those dreams during daylight hours, Emma lets Declan mold her into a happily married woman and begins to fall in love with him. But the day Noah stands before her, the line between her reality and dreams shatters.

In a future where women are a rare commodity, Emma fights for freedom but is held captive by the love of two men—one her husband, the other her worst enemy. If only she could remember which is which. . . .

“No,” I moan, and my chest shudders with another sob. ” This is not happening.” Foster glances between the other two. “What’s going on?” I shake my head sharply from side to side, trying to stabilize my thoughts. “You tried to kill me here,” I whisper hoarsely to Noah. I point straight ahead. ” the tank used to be there. You turned off the life support and Sonya stopped you.” Foster glares at Noah. “Is that true?” He jerks his head up to Sonya for confirmation. “Is it?” “Yes,” Sonya says. Noah drops hard to the floor. He stares at me with wide eyes. “They were only nightmares at first,” I say to no one in particular. “Not once did I think they were real. Over time I believed them to be a bad memory.” Another sob breaks through. ” I still have these dreams almost every night.” I stand and then to face Her. I came here for answers, only to come away with more questions. I have been seeing this place through Her eyes.

Archetype was an OK read for me. I wanted to really love this book but just couldn’t connect with the story. I thought the plot was amazing and original but the delivery fell short for me. The main issue I had was that Emma didn’t know herself or anything for such a long time it became a chore to read through it. I think the problem in this sense was the excellent writing. The author was so amazing at setting the tone and the voice of Emma that it didn’t come across well with me. It also bothered me that she never used contractions. It made sense in the beginning of the book when she was learning everything but as time went on she could’ve spoken like everyone else. Especially when she regains her memory. I was also disappointed with the love interest in the story. I didn’t like either one of the guys all that much. However, between the two choices she had I felt she picked the wrong one. As far as the science goes I felt like by the end of the story the author was reaching. It wasn’t that it’s a bad book it just wasn’t for me personally.

Contributor by Nicole Ciacchella

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Available at Amazon.com

When the Great Famine threatened the existence of mankind, the Creators saved humanity. Humanity has been their loyal subject ever since.

This history has been ingrained in seventeen-year-old Dara Morrow since her first day of Creator-sponsored school. Grateful for the life-giving necessities her Creator provides, Dara is thrilled to be one of three students chosen for an elite, year-long apprenticeship program. Now is her chance to prove herself a devoted Contributor.

But Dara’s competition is ruthless and will stop at nothing to win the competition. Worse yet, her exacting master has little patience for her.

Then Dara’s mother is seriously injured, and Dara realizes the price of being a Contributor: once you’ve outlived your usefulness, you’re discarded. Can Dara learn to manipulate the system to save not only herself, but everyone she loves?

“Are you still stewing?” Jonathan’s voice broke into her thoughts. “Seriously, Dara, you have nothing to worry about. You’re the best there is, and you know it.”
“I’m not sure that enough anymore, Jon. Things are so, so different from how they were in school,” She said slowly.
“You have to have faith in the system,” he told her firmly. “Remember, the system provides for those that provide for the system.”
“Right,” she said her voice faint. A chill ran down her spine and she shivered, hoping he wouldn’t notice.

Contributor is a solid and engaging YA/Dystopian novel.  Right from the start you pick up where Dara is entering into an apprenticeship program. What I really enjoyed about this story was that the plot is conceivable. People are dedicated completely to the Creators because they are taught to from the start, disposed of if they don’t, and kept from free thinking. The social and psychological aspects of living in a world such as this was clearly thought out by the author and pulled off brilliantly. It was so refreshing to read a YA/Dystopian that didn’t focus on a sappy love story. While Dara does have a boyfriend and their relationship is tested it’s in no way the main focal point of the plot. Instead it’s used as way to show the reader just how ingrained the teachings of the Creators are and how Dara could’ve turned out totally different if it wasn’t for situations that happened to her. I also enjoyed how the author didn’t need to use blood and gore to create an exciting world. As far as characters go they were all likable to me because I was able to understand why they were the way they were and did the things they did. The low point of this book for me was that you are thrown into the plot from the first page. There is no character development in the beginning or world building. I was also hoping for more of explanation to the events that lead up to the world being the way it was. I would definitely recommend this to all those Dystopian lovers AND haters out there. Overall I would give this a 4/5 rating.