Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cinder - Marissa Meyer

A couple of weeks ago, Kevin and I were gearing up for two subsequent weekend road trips to see the future-in-laws.  Over the course of eleven days, we spent over twenty hours in the car...yuck.  To ease some of the pain, I jumped onto our library's digital database and began the search for some audiobooks.  I selected a wide variety of options, not knowing what we would be in the mood for.  Together, we ended up listening to John Grisham's 2011 legal thriller The Litigators.  We're not quite finished with it, but you can look forward to a post on that soon.  Meanwhile, this book caught my eye.  I had seen it on several "if-you-love-The-Hunger-Games-read-this" type lists, but hadn't really been interested.  Yet, when it showed up yet again and was available for immediate download, I decided to give it a shot.  (Warning: Spoilers Ahead)

Marissa Meyer has not accomplished anything new with Cinder.  In fact, to write this book, she followed the same formula that authors, particularly those of the young adult genre, have been following for ages now.  She took a familiar childhood story and updated it to match the interests of a grown-up audience.  Linh Cinder is a mechanic living in New Beijing, decades after the end of WWIV.  She also happens to be a cyborg - part human, part machine.  After a serious hover accident in her youth, she was equipped with mechanical inner workings, including a foot.  She lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters.  The story opens with her meeting a disguised Prince Kai, the heir to the throne of the Commonwealth, in the market.  Any of this sound familiar?

The storyline stays true to its inspiration, though Meyer inserts quite a few plot points to ensure you don't forget the futuristic era.  The world is suffering from a deadly plague.  Queen Levana of Lunar (the moon) is using her "magic" to try and marry Kai and become Empress of the Commonwealth, opening the door for her to rule Earth.  Cinder, it turns out, is immune to the disease because she is (*gasp*) Lunar and (*bigger gasp*) the presumed-dead rightful ruler of Lunar.

This last reveal happens in the last few pages of the novel, but is so easy to see coming.  From the first mention of the missing Lunar princess, anyone who is paying attention will realize that Cinder is the missing girl.  If you weren't to pick up on that, the ending of the book would be a huge game changer for you, but, frankly, the plot seemed a little stale to me.  Sure, the setting and approach are fresh, but Meyer's plot and characters are predictable.  This is partially due to the fairy-tale basis, but not completely.  Even the science fiction elements felt recycled.  With the exception of Cinder, the characters are one-dimensional.  I was disappointed that Kai didn't overlook Cinder's faults at the end of the story.  While it is more realistic and sets us up for a sequel, I still felt that the prince should have had a moment of growth and accepted Cinder despite her wiring and ethnicity.  This is supposed to be a fairy-tale, after all.

I can see why this book is popular - Cinder is dealing with all of the same insecurities and fears that most teenage girls are, although she has legitimate cause to be feeling those things.  I will give Meyer credit for very accurately portraying the emotional plight of  her protagonist.  This book, to me, is what young adult literature should be: entertaining, bridging the gap between adulthood and youth, covertly tackling teen issues, clean, and not too complex.  Are there better options? Of course.  But this is not a bad one.

Pages: 400
Date Finished: May 30, 2012

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