Meet the Apocalypsies #3: Leah Bobet

Today I’m joined by debut author and member of the Apocalypsies, Leah Bobet.  Leah is the author of Above, an amazing new Young Adult urban fantasy novel.  Leah drinks tea, wears feathers in her hair, and plants gardens in back alleys. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.   Here’s the blurb for Above:

Matthew has loved Ariel from the moment he found her in the tunnels, her bee’s wings falling away. They live in Safe, an underground refuge for those fleeing the city Above–like Whisper, who speaks to ghosts, and Jack Flash, who can shoot lightning from his fingers.

But one terrifying night, an old enemy invades Safe with an army of shadows, and only Matthew, Ariel, and a few friends escape Above. As Matthew unravels the mystery of Safe’s history and the shadows’ attack, he realizes he must find a way to remake his home–not just for himself, but for Ariel, who needs him more than ever before.

Now it’s over to Leah to tell us about her writing and Above.  Thanks Leah for your wonderful post.

My writerbrain’s a bit like a game of Katamari Damacy; I read and putter and roll the little ball around, picking up things, and eventually it gets big enough that I become a star have something to write. Here are a few of the things it picked up:

The first was a detail, actually, from an essay I was reading for a third-year philosophy course: where the author described having to stand in his underwear in an examination room under bright lights because his doctors were using the diagnosis of his disability to teach student doctors. I can actually viscerally remember leaning back on my (crappy student) couch when I read it: all this emotion, shame and display and anger, bleeds right through the page. It hit me right between the eyes, and I knew I had to use it for something, somewhere.

The second thing was, well, picking a fight. I used to watch the Ron Perlman Beauty and the Beast TV show back when I was a kid, and I used to watch Futurama, and I have this pickily annoying practical streak that used to do things like correct people when they had song lyrics wrong. So part of my head, for a long time, has been going but it wouldn’t be like that! You get this whole Secret Society of Mutants Living Underground thing, suspicious and insular and ready to set you on fire and hiding in life-and-death ways, but nobody ever talks about how they got that way or the long-term emotional consequences of being locked up down there with the same five people all the time. They live underground in sewers or the like, but they’re always these suspiciously comfortable, all-the-amenities, Hollywood kinds of sewers, not what you’d actually get if a half-dozen people with various mental and physical issues went down into the actual sewer and tried to rough out something to live in. In real life, it’d probably be cold. You’d spend all your time figuring out how to get enough water, power, and canned food to just survive. So, says I, picking a fight with a whole bunch of books and movies, all happy with how smart I was. I’ll show them what it’s really like.

The third thing? A question I’ve been picking at for years, and still haven’t found a great answer to: When someone you care about is in trouble, when do you work like hell to save them, to try to pull them out of the hole they’re falling into – and when do you realize they’re just going to pull you in after them, and let go, and walk away?

I still have no idea about that: Where the line is between being right and safe, and wrong and cruel, or the other way around, lies. But I had enough to say about it, trying to find that line, that a whole book came out: about a boy who grew up underground and a girl who can turn into a bee.

ABOVE (Arthur A. Levine Books, April 2012)

Slide Book Trailer

Slide by Jill Hathaway is about a girl who can ‘slide’ into other peoples bodies for a brief time.  She has narcolepsy and when she passes out she slides into other people’s heads and ends up seeing through their eyes.  Then, one day she finds herself in the head of a killer, who is standing over the body of one of the girls from her school.  I’m only 50 pages in and the story’s already gripped me.

A Million Suns by Beth Revis

Beth Revis’ debut book, Across the Universe was one of my favourite books of 2011, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting the sequel, A Million Suns.  Being the impatient reader that I am, I couldn’t wait 2 whole months for it to be released in New Zealand so I bought a signed copy from Beth’s local bookstore, Fireside Books and Gifts.  It was definitely worth the wait to find out what happened next on board Godspeed.

I’m not going to say much about the story as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.  At the end of Across the Universe we were left reeling from Elder’s shocking confession and A Million Suns gets straight back into the story.  If you already thought Godspeed was filled with mysteries and lies, then you better think again because everything in Across the Universe was only the tip of the iceberg.  Elder has to take up the leadership of his people and it’s not long before he discovers a terrible truth about the ship.  Amy also uncovers a mystery that Orion left behind for her, a mystery that will give them the answers they need.  If this wasn’t enough to deal with, some of the passengers on the ship start causing trouble and chaos erupts.

I enjoyed A Million Suns even more than Across the Universe.  Beth Revis builds on the world she created in the first book, amps up the action, and deepens the mystery even more.  I really liked the ways that Amy and Elder’s characters developed in this book.  Elder has to deal with the pressure of being the leader of the ship as well as coming to terms with his feelings for Amy, and Amy seems more gutsy.  Elder is determined not to turn into Orion or Eldest, but has to work out how to lead the ship on his terms.  In some ways this series reminds me of Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking Trilogy, particularly in the personalities of Elder and Amy and the development of their characters.  I keep wondering if this is what Viola’s life might have been like before she crashed on New Earth.

There’s plenty of action and mystery in A Million Suns to keep you reading furiously and find out how it ends.  I loved the end of this book and REALLY can’t wait to find out what happens in the final book, Shades of Earth, coming in January 2013.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

There’s been a bit of a trend in recent years of retelling fairy tales with a modern twist.  Plenty of authors have tried, but few get it right (in my opinion).  So when I read that debut author Marissa Meyer had written a retelling of Cinderella I was a bit skeptical.  However, the more I read about this version of the story, called Cinder, the more I wanted to read it.  In Cinder, Marissa Meyer has taken Cinderella’s story and set it far in the future, years after World War IV, in a world with hover cars, droids, cyborgs, and a devastating plague that is wiping out civilisation.

Cinder is a gifted mechanic in New Beijing.  While she looks like a normal girl, she’s actually a cyborg – part girl, part machine.  She doesn’t remember anything from before her surgery, when she woke up as an eleven year old cyborg.  The only family she knows is the man who adopted her (who died not long afterwards), her cruel step-mother Adri, her step-sisters Peony and Pearl, and her her droid, Iko.  After her ‘father’ died she was left to her step-mother who blames Cinder for his death.  Cinder works all day at her mechanic’s booth in the market, only to pass on anything she makes to her step-mother. It is while she is busy working at her booth one day that the handsome Prince Kai comes to get his droid repaired. Just after the prince leaves, a case of the plague is discovered at the market.  These events lead Cinder’s life to be entwined with Prince Kai’s.

When Cinder’s step-sister, Peony catches the plague and is taken to quarantine, Adri blames Cinder.  She sends her away, against her will, to become part of the cyborg tests to find a cure for the plague.  It is here that she meets Dr Erland, who helps Cinder unlock her past and discover who she really is.  However, the truth is dangerous.  The mysterious Queen Levana of the Lunar People is coming to Earth to meet with Prince Kai, and Dr Erland warns Cinder that Queen Levana must never see her.  But Prince Kai’s droid has revealed secrets to Cinder that she must tell the prince before it is too late.

Marissa Meyer has woven a story that has elements of the original Cinderella fairy tale, while also being unique and breath-taking.  Marissa has introduced us to this plague-stricken world that has risen out of a devastating war.  It is a world filled with androids that are everything from nurses to escorts, humans that have been patched up with mechanical parts to create cyborgs, hover cars that have replaced automobiles, and a race of people that live on the moon and can manipulate humans.

The Lunars were one of the most interesting parts of the story and it seems that they will be central to the other books in the series (Scarlett, Cress, and Winter).  The mystery surrounding them and their bio-electrical powers really hooked me and I want to read the next books in the series to find out more about them.

Both Cinder and Kai are great characters and you really feel for them and the situations that they are forced into.  I thought Kai was very different from the arrogant, Prince Charming character that we’re used to from other fairy tale books.  He is put under a lot of pressure but doesn’t cave under it.  He’s not afraid of Queen Levana and not afraid to stand up for what he believes in.

There’s something for everyone in Cinder – mystery, suspense, science, robots and romance.  I can’t wait for Scarlett in 2013. Thanks Marissa for a great start to 2012!

5 out of 5 stars