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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

YA Book Club Chat: Taken by Erin Bowman

I guess I should start this whole shebang with a disclaimer: I am friends with Erin Bowman, author of Taken, the YA Book Club’s current pick. I’m almost sorry to have to tell you that because I know some of you will wonder whether my fondness for Erin has played a role in my review. And the answer is: No.

I hope you believe that because it’d be a shame for you to doubt me when I tell you that Taken is beautifully written. If you’ve ever read Erin’s blog, this will come as little surprise, but in Taken it becomes even clearer how skillful she is at creating vivid descriptions laced with so much emotion. As in:
The bird is a filthy thing: slick black feathers, a beak of oiled bones. I could wring its neck if I wanted, sneak up on it and crack its frail frame between my palms before it even heard me coming. It doesn’t matter, though. Crushing the life from the bird’s small body won’t save my brother. Blaine’s been damned since the day he was born.
And for all of you following todays reviews without having read the book, rest assured this passage is from page one. It’s difficult to talk about Taken without giving too much away, but I’m declaring this post a Spoiler-Free Zone.

So, yes, the prose is gorgeous and, if you haven’t heard about it yet, the premise is intriguing: Boys in a small village surrounded by a wall are “heisted” on the morning of their 18th birthdays. What I loved about Taken was that the major question—where do the boys go?—was a launching pad for a million more. Before it’s answered we’re presented with a  host of other mysteries, none of which I can repeat here because Erin has threatened to Heist my firstborn child should I spill too much.*

Surprisingly, the mystery of the Heist is revealed before the halfway mark, but by then we’re asking so many other questions it’s nearly impossible to put the book down. Right, so let’s skip over any plot comments I’d have lest I ruin the twists and turns for you. On to other matters!

Starting with Gray. He’s not your typical boy narrator, which more often than not tend to be cynical and funny in a snarky sort of way. Gray is serious, and for good reason. He’s also impulsive, which means he’s not a perfect guy. Something Gray does in the first chapter, for instance is inexcusable, but as readers we’re not expected to fully sympathize with him.

And yet I did, sympathize with Gray, that is. He’s sometimes reckless, but it makes him so human—so teen—and more of a three-dimensional character than a smart, self-sufficient guy who everyone loves and who volunteers with the disabled on the weekend.

Another thing I loved: the love triangle. Reading Taken, I realized I’ve never read a book where the boy is interested in two girls. Sure, there are plenty of indecisive** girls in YA literature, but the boys? Most of the time they have one crush. So it was interesting to see the love triangle idea flipped on its head.

Not only that, but Gray’s relationships with the two girls are so realistic that I can’t imagine there not being a love triangle—not because both are equally as awesome, but because Gray’s affections are swayed by others’ actions as much as raging teenage hormones. (As this is still a Spoiler-Free Zone, you’ll have to head to my Goodreads review, where I can hide spoilers, for a more detailed explanation.)

All in all, Taken is a fast-paced novel with tons of twists and turns that’ll appeal to fans of books like The Maze Runner.

Dont forget, tomorrow at 9 p.m. EST Erin Bowman (@Erin_Bowman) is taking to Twitter to chat about Taken. It’s open to anyone (you do not have to have participated in the YA Book Club), just use the hashtag #TakenChat. 

(And if you’re like me and get overwhelmed by viewing a chat in Twitter, I recommend participating via a site like TweetChat.)

*That’s a joke. She really only threatened to egg my house.
**Though I wouldn’t call Gray indecisive when it comes to relationships.

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