The first of the series with the same title, the story begins with three queen sister (triplets) each facing the ceremony on their 16th birthday in which will not only validate their power, but will begin the time period where they should – and are expected to – kill the other sisters so she may be the true queen.
Each generation produces triplet sisters, all holding different magical abilities. Mirabella can control the elements, Kat (Katherine) is a poisoner and can ingest any poisons and survive, and Arsinoe is a naturalist who can control all things in nature. Each sister remembers a time before separated from her sisters, a time in which sister’s love was strong. Only now, each has advisers who not only prepare their queen for the fight ahead, but encourage murder for their queen’s survival.
As for the sisters, their ambition is only challenged with the memory of sisterhood. With suitors approaching all three girls as if the prize is marriage, they learn power is both isolating and, at times, unwanted. Each sister wants to be Queen, but the only way to become Queen is to eventually kill the other two sisters during the Ascension year. Each sister also has her strengths and weaknesses whether it is confidence, skill, or beauty. As suitors and servants provide allies and comfort (and many bears play a part), Mirabella, Kat, and Arsinoe also learn that they can be enemies too.
This story has lots of fantasy elements and some action, but at times I found it difficult to remember which sister was friends with other side characters and even how to balance the lives of the side characters when learning of their parentage. One great aspect is the growth they face by the end of this installment: one who was weak is strong, one who was confident is shaken, and one who felt powerless has a newfound power. Once I could follow who was supporting which sister, the night of the reunion was soon and the Quickening to begin the year of ‘try to kill your sisters so that you can be Queen’ was happening. So a bit confusing at first, but with some solid action at the end – and a cliffhanger of course!
Violet and Theodore meet on the roof of their high school’s bell tower as each contemplate suicide. As they sort of rescue each other and come down the stairs and back to the reality of high school, Theodore (aka: Finch) won’t let Violet go. In an effort to get to know her he befriends her secretly in a one-on-one Facebook relationship and publicly, as declaring her a partner for a school project.
Through the daily tasks of teenagers trying to please parents and trying to uphold school ideals, Violet and Finch each struggle with their own thoughts and the reasons why they were on the bell tower in the first place. For Violet, it’s a broken heart after surviving a car accident which killed her older sister. For Finch, it’s balancing his awake moment and his “asleep” moments. Violet tries to get past the victim status known for “extenuating circumstances” and even hit upon that in life you don’t always get answers, sometimes bad things happen, sometimes good things happen, and sometimes life just happens
As predicted these two from opposite social circles soon find things in common and once paired on a school project, they open up to one another. A similar guy-girl differences and conversational banter a ‘la The Geography of You and Me and The Fault in Our Stars, the teen YA romantic crowd will enjoy. As they discover significant locations around town they discover that life has little moments of “bright places” and they find small moments of happiness with one another. Even at the end, there’s a sort of farewell scavenger hunt for the last of the assignment. It provides a romantic closure similar as The Fault in Our Stars.
Similarly to real life, those that struggle with depression often lose the battle. This is the case for this story as well as one of our friends dies, but the book should not be avoided due to that plot. In fact, it should be read for the beautifully written friendship that emerges and as a reminder to find the bright places in each of our lives.
It also covers the anger, guilt, and selfishness felt by many left behind a suicide. How people get to the point of contemplating suicide and how people can help one another. These things and life can leave you forever changed.
Watch an interview with Jennifer Niven.
An author of FanFiction + Freshmen Year of College = Fangirl
Twins Cath and Wren are off to college, only Wren is leaping into the freedom of Freshmen year while Cath is retreating into her Fanfiction based on the international hit Simon Snow (aka: Harry Potter). As the girls adapt to life away from home, and away from sharing a room, Wren finds the party-crowd while Cath slowly finds a circle of literary friends and social roommate.
Chapters alternate between the girls’ time at college and Cath’s popular Fanfic which she publishes online. The story-within-the-story takes the characters of Simon Snow and creates a same-sex attraction between the rivals (Think Harry and Draco). While Cath has a following of thousands, one college professor warns Cath against FanFiction and Cath must decide which is more important: College or her devotion to Simon Snow Fanfic. That sounds juvenile, but with any coming of age story, one must make important decisions and face letting things go and moving on.
As Cath faces class, classmates, and characters, Ren faces more dangerous and self-harming behavior. Other points of FanGirl are the girls’ relationships with their Manic-Depressive dad and the abandonment of their mom. The girls face ups and downs with college classes, parents, and each other, but in the end both Cath’s fans and Cath get the conclusion they all deserve.
Other elements: drug and alcohol use, dating, and cheating.