Half Lives by Sara Grant Review

Monday, June 17, 2013

Title: Half Lives
Author: Sara Grant (Twitter)
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Publish Date: July 9, 2013
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher

Seventeen-year-old Icie's parents have given her $10,000 in cash, a map of a top-secret bunker, and instructions to get there by any means necessary. They have news of an imminent viral attack and know that the bunker is Icie's only hope for survival. Along with three other teens, she lives locked away for months, not knowing what's happening in the outside world or who has survived. And are they safe in the bunker after all?

Generations in the future, a mysterious cult worships the very mountain where Icie's secret bunker was built. They never leave the mountain, they're ruled by a teenager...and they have surprising ties to Icie.
Icie lives in a world that's confined to the hidden, underground shelter of a bunker, simply to stay alive. Icie and her unlikely group of friends struggle to survive in this shelter that's devoid of news of the outside world, and, hundreds of years in the future, Beckett's life races through a series of unfathomable events as he tries to understand the mysteries of the very mountain in which Icie and her friends hid so many years ago. These two teens live generations apart, but there is an inexplicable link that will eventually, ultimately be realized.

Half Lives presents a unique opportunity for readers, as well as a bit of a challenge, which is often lacking in the YA genre. Sara Grant has created an intriguing premise for two decidedly different storylines unravel and unfold, all the while winding back into a single connection, which brings the story full-circle. With clever and articulate details, a heroine with whom readers can relate and a surprising new twist on the dystopian genre, Half Lives promises readers two very different and exciting journeys.

There was a lot going on in Half Lives, and I'll be completely honest and say that not all of it worked for me. I'll start, however, with what really did succeed. Icie's storyline was brilliant. Written in first-person perspective, I was offered a unique twist into accessing a teen protagonist's mind. I was worried that viewing the world and events from Icie's eyes would limit my investment in her storyline, or would keep me from understand the secondary characters Chaske, Marissa and Tate, but I was surprised to find that I had more investment in their arcs because of this viewpoint. On the other hand though, Beckett's side of the story was written in third-person perspective, which usually really succeeds for me, but I felt as though his own storyline felt shallow and difficult to follow. Perhaps it was the vernacular, or the chants and prayers, but I felt like I couldn't really get into his side of the novel. I will say that it was a clever and appropriate differentiation between Icie and Beckett's journeys, but I almost feel like Half Lives could have succeeded far better if the first book was written from Icie's POV, while the second followed Beckett's journey. That said, there were aspects of Beckett's future generation that I did enjoy. I think it was really unique and fun that the place in which they lived was called "Forreal." I enjoyed some of the tense revelations, which often led me down the wrong path and surprised me. Unfortunately though, a lot of the depth I wanted from Beckett's end was lost, and secondary characters became mere stereotypes, while the gripping drama of Icie's storyline slowly slipped away and got lost.

In the end, I'm honestly not sure how I feel about Half Lives. I give the author a ton of credit for tackling a lot with this novel and really challenging her creative bounds. I'm just not sure how well some of the story will resonate with readers, as it left me wanting a bit more at times. I give it a 3 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy dystopian and split perspectives.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

31 comments:

  1. I don't know if this is for me. What strikes me most is the characters names, actually. What is Icie short for? Anything? I love the name Beckett. Chaske is an interesting name. Mostly makes me think of Chaska, a town close to where I used to live.

    How come you went back to Blogger?

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    1. It's a cool concept for a story, for sure, but the execution just didn't live up for me, which sucks.

      I went back to Blogger comments because there was a glitch in which it looked like I was the only one always commenting on my blog, and they didn't help.

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  2. I can just sit here all day and admire the cover. Dark ones seem to be the ones that lure me these days. I like the sound of this, I'll probably check out more reivews.

    Fantastic review, Melissa! <33

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    1. I think you should definitely form your own opinion on it, Melanie! You might just love it more than me!

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  3. I really do like the unique take on this book, but I think I would have a tough time getting my head around the first and third perspective writing. It's a shame that you weren't able to enjoy this more Melissa, as it does sound like it has the potential to deliver a solid read. Thanks for the insightful review!

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    1. You're quite welcome, Jasprit! I admire the author for taking such a gamble with the perspectives...it's definitely unique!

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  4. I love the premise of this but might skip it. Multiple perspectives rarely ever work for me and when one seems shallow I'm probably better off skipping it. Great review, Melissa!(:

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    1. Thanks, Keertana! I think you might like it in the end, but you know...not all books work for everyone!

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  5. The plot and subject matter got me so interested in the book at first, but my copy is still untouched. I think that I still have this hesitation about reading it -because- of the interesting subject matter.

    - Ellie at The Selkie Reads Stories

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    1. The subject matter is kind of cool...the POV switch though...that's the tricky part, unfortunately.

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  6. Sometimes first person does limit the enjoyment but when it's done well, it can be fantastic. Not sure about this one. Maybe a library read, if at all. I'm getting a little overdosed with dystopians, to be honest, though I do still have a bunch of them on my TBR.

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    1. Dystopians are totally overplayed, Mary. There's no getting around that...however...some still manage to knock my socks off. This just wasn't one of them lol

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  7. This sounds like an interesting premise. I tend to prefer stories told from one perspective, though. I'm reading a book now told from five different perspectives and while it's not confusing because of the topic of the story, it feels disjointed and is really repetitive. What happened in one chapter is basically repeated word for word in the next, with a flashback thrown in to add some weight.

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    1. I, too, prefer one perspective. Otherwise, I'm consistently pulled out of that mindframe, and it's really hard to get invested, you know?

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  8. Ooh...sounds ominous! First time hearing about this one and to some degree it reminds me (in a remote way) of another series I've read...HEIR TO POWER I believe was the title. Thanks for the share...happy reading!

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    1. Thanks, Gina! I haven't heard of HEIR TO POWER, but I'll have to look into it! :)

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  9. Changing from one character in 1st person POV to another character in 3rd kind of messes with my brain, so I don't think I'd enjoy this book. Glad that there's a 3rd person POV though, not enough YA novels have that POV.

    Thanks for your honest thoughts! :)

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    1. So true, Lea. It can work if it's done flawlessly, but this had a few hiccups along the way, so I struggled.

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  10. I haven't heard of this one before, but it really does sound intriguing! I haven't read too many split perspective books, but I've enjoyed the ones I've read. The fact that the storylines start out separate and then intertwine is so neat. And I'm loving how this book is a bit unpredictable. However Beckett's story does sound a bit dull, and I can definitely see how that would detract from Icie's far more developed story.

    Wonderful review, Melissa! This book is definitely on my radar now. <3

    -Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life

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    1. Thanks, Anneqah! It's totally a unique twist on YA, so I hope more people give it a go and explain what I missed! :)

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  11. Even though I loved the premises, I don't think it's for me. I don't like when one side of the story is more interesting than the other, that happened with me in The 5th Wave and I didn't like it. Plus, multiple pov's are a hit or miss for me. I think it's better if I skip it. Thanks for the review, Melissa :)

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    1. You bet, Aman! Hey, not every book will work, you know?

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  12. Oh, I love these types of books that have two storylines separated by years, but connected in a different way. I'm with you, the author deserves props for coming up with a truly intriguing storyline! It's too bad it wasn't executed as well as it could've been though. I'm inclined to put this one on my "maybe" list now. Thanks for the review, Melissa! Really nice job.

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    1. I'd definitely be interested to read your take on it, Aylee. It had a TON of promise...it just didn't go as smoothly as I'd hoped.

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  13. The story sounds promising! I love books about survival. Thanks for the lovely review :D

    -Dannielle

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  14. Well I'm intrigued by Icie's story and how her life somehow connects to Beckett's. From what you say, it sounds like Icie could be some sort of an ancestor to him, and the idea of a society growing out of her experience of hiding is pretty fascinating. Though I don't know if that is actually what is going on here? I actually struggle sometimes with the first vs. third person narrative. Why authors choose to write one voice one way and the other completely differently. They should be easily distinguishable regardless? I think you listed your likes and dislikes of this one really well, and I will definitely keep my eye out for this book.

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    1. Thanks, Lauren! It's definitely an intriguing way to write a book, and I appreciate that the author took a risk...I'm just not so sure it worked.

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  15. Hmmmm. I'm not sure about this one Melissa! I really like the sound of so much of Icie's story, but I'm not sold on Beckett. It always takes a little getting used to for me when I have to flip back and forth between first and third person because I so often just want to stay with the first person POV. Seems like that might be the case here, but I do like that you were led in the total wrong direction and were surprised by some of the revelations. That's always fun:)

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    1. It was a tough one, Jenny, so I don't blame you! I think it definitely had some redeeming qualities, but it won't be for everyone.

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  16. I really do like the fact that it sounds like it's written in a unique one. I'm not certain whether I'd enjoy it, if I'm being honest, but perhaps, if I come across it, I'll give it a try.

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