Book Review: Crossed, by Ally Condie

November 9, 2011 at 11:56 am (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Cassia gave up everything familiar to try to find Ky and save him from certain death in the Outer Provinces, but murmuring beyond her need to find him is the need to find something even more, something bigger that could rock the Society from its moorings. Ky hasn’t given up hope that Cassia might do the impossible and find him, but he knows far more of what- and who- is out beyond the fringes of Society than he can stand to tell. And Xander? Xander hasn’t given up Cassia.Somewhere between them, and beyond them, the lines are being drawn.
And crossed.

I loved Matched. I loved it the first time when I tore through it, devouring the pages because I couldn’t fathom putting it down. I loved it the second time, when I read through slowly and dissected the words and the ways they were put together. I was ridiculously excited for Crossed to release, even as I kept reminding myself that the more I get myself hyped up, the more I’m inevitably disappointed. That’s just the difference between expectation and reality.

And here’s the thing: I enjoyed Crossed. I did. But I very much felt like I was in a middle book.

Cassia’s determination to find Ky has taken her away from all the comforts she grew up with and out into a wider world, one with hard work and exhaustion and fiercer restrictions. She’s very single-minded about it. Whatever the risks, whatever the struggles, whatever the cost to those left behind, she is going to find Ky. Except- she still hasn’t made a decision about Xander. Xander is her Match- her official one, anyway- and though her love for him is different than what she holds for Ky, she does still love him, and not just as her best friend. She keeps pushing the decision out of her mind, until Xander does little things to make it nudge into her focus again, but that decision is going to have to come, and I would have loved to have seen her mull over that a little more. Focus is a good thing when you have a nearly impossible task, but I wanted to feel the pull from both sides.

One of the biggest changes from the previous book is that here we also get Ky’s voice. He and Cassia alternate chapters, and his voice, his perspective, changes A LOT. And I loved it. For all that she learned in the first book, Cassia is still very innocent, and shockingly naive. Ky isn’t. As we get to find out, perhaps he never actually was. And yet. He has this small, carefully nurtured hope that Cassia will find him. It isn’t reasonable, it isn’t practical, but he still has that hope, despite everything. Seeing things from his eyes, we get a much move pragmatic view of the world. People die, people get killed, saving yourself is what’s important. And yet. When it comes down to it, his impulse is more generous. Dangerous, but generous, and no matter how much he reminds himself that it isn’t practical, he still does it. What this all draws is a young man who is essentially good but battered by experience, and seeing the balance between those two extremes in impulse is amazing. We also, slowly, learn more about his history, the stories he hinted at to Cassia, except we learn them in more detail and, perhaps, more truth.

Xander is a physical presence for barely an hour of Cassia’s time near the beginning of the book, but he still manages to dominate a lot of what you come away from the book thinking about. A large part of that comes from a degree of ambiguity. We don’t get anything through Xander’s eyes. We see him through Cassia, for whom he’s a rock and a hero and a selfless friend, and we see him through Ky, for whom he’s rather more complicated. Friend could be one of the words used, though I think they’d both render it with caution, but Ky knows Xander better than Cassia in some respects.

And that’s where we get to one of the two things that really, truly bothered me about this book. Ky and Xander both have secrets. Big secrets. Dangerous secrets. We always suspect that Ky has them. Cassia always knew that Ky had secrets, even though she couldn’t begin to imagine what some of them were. She doesn’t ever suspect Xander, though, even when she starts to have cause. The boys both move into this murky state of existence where motives are questionable, where there’s genuine intrigue and double-guessing and this constant state of scrutinizing others for a wide range of reasons, some personal, some practical. Cassia doesn’t. Through everything, she maintains that naivete, that shocking innocence that leaves her behind as the boys are maturing into complicated, complex characters. After the strength she showed at the end of Matched, she somehow becomes passive in this. Not passive as in not having an opinion, but passive in that things are happening around her and she’s clueless, she isn’t aware of the titanic struggle that should be going on within such an intelligent person. Because she is intelligent- she has a sorter’s mind and a good memory, and her talents are based on being able to recognize patterns.

Which leads into the second thing, that I can’t talk about because it’s a major spoiler, but to dance around it just a little, it very much disappointed me that Cassia didn’t recognize the patterns that are so obvious to the reader. It’s unclear at this point if Ky recognized them and made a choice for Cassia’s sake, or if he didn’t recognize them either, but when I got to that, I was genuinely shocked. Not quite to the point of putting the book in the freezer, but it took me a few minutes to finish the last pages because of that.

Adding Ky’s perspective, adding his voice, was brilliant, and I loved what that did. Despite her innocence, Cassia’ voice is as lovely and poetic as it ever was. Ky’s companions are gorgeously, heart-breakingly rendered, and also effective. What I would have wished for is that vague, hard to define and therefore supremely unhelpful something more. All the beautiful complexity of the first one is shared between Ky and Xander here, leaving Cassia a bit like an indulged child rather than a strong young woman making hard choices. More than anything, I hope the third book reverses that and lets her grow into her potential from the frist book.

This is a beautifully written book. The language, the impulse and need to create, the nature of the choices we make, they make for a compelling story. It is very much a middle book, but what builds off of Ky and Xander should make for some pretty spectacular sparks, and that I am very much looking forward to.

Until next time~

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A Bit About Jargon: Pre-Orders

September 18, 2011 at 8:38 pm (Industry, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

You know you want it.

It’s that book you’ve been waiting a whole year for- maybe even two or three years. More if you’re a Jordan or Martin fan. It’s that book you scour the internet for, squealing over a cover reveal, searching for teasers and any words the author might release about it. You look for the contests so you can get it early. You have it marked and circled in really bright colors on your calendar. You’ve requested the release day off of work so you can run out, buy it, and just start reading it then and there.

So have you pre-ordered it yet?

You’d be stunned at how many people would answer no.

The thing is, if you really want the book, you should pre-order it, and here’s why:

You have nothing to lose by putting your name down for one. Now, if you’re looking at e-books or if you’re doing it online, that’s different. Obviously there’s money down for that one, and if you get the first few pages and it sucks, e-books aren’t returnable. But if you’re doing it in a store, there’s no money down. There is absolutely no obligation to buy, so you’re risking nothing by having one set aside for you. What that does is guarantees that there’ll be a copy for you if you want it.

For small- to mid-release titles, not all bookstores are going to receive copies in quantity, or even at all. There’s a finite amount of shelf space at a bookstore, so not every title gets to be represented. Sad, but true. If you don’t have us bring it in, we may not be getting it.

For most new releases, publishers send us between three and eight copies, depending on whether or not it’s got extra displays or promotions. Think about that, though: if there are three to eight people in your area who want that book as badly as you do but don’t have to worry about class or work and can get either get to the bookstore right away or send someone else for them, then you don’t get your copy. *sad face* Then you have to order it anyway, but you don’t get it when you were actually wanting it.

For larger releases, we generally get a certain number of books above our pre-orders. There’s a whole equation for it tucked away somewhere but the warehouse considers pre-orders to be an accurate indiation of how many people in our area want the book.

Now me? I live in an area where, for some reason or another, people refuse to pre-order. I don’t know what it is, but everyone just assumes that the book will be there if they want it, regardless of what the title is. They want the books, but they won’t pre-order it.

That results in little things like the Breaking Dawn fiasco.

We were required to have a midnight release party for it, and we were told fairly early on that the number of books we received would be strictly dependant upon the number of pre-orders we got. We busted our butts trying to get those pre-orders, but most people didn’t want to put their name down. They said they’d just come and get it that day, despite our warnings that we wouldn’t be getting that many books above our pre-orders. Despite multiple warnings, even. By the night of the release, we had 45 pre-orders. I think the buyer pitied us because he sent us 130 books.

Then we had 97 people show up for the party.

We were completely sold out of the book by four o’clock that afternoon, as was EVERY OTHER PLACE IN TOWN, because we all got quantity based off our pre-orders. We had to struggle to get more books in, but people STILL wouldn’t put their names down, so as soon as we got them in they sold to other people. This went on for WEEKS (to be fair, it was complicated by the fact that this was a buyer-managed title so we had to beg to get quantities above what their equations told us we should get).

October 4th, we’re going to have a crush of parents in to pick up Rick Riordan’s Son of Neptune, and the kids whose parents have to work during the day will come crowding in at night. We’ve got less than 20 pre-orders and one of those is mine. The buyer knows this is a huge title, they’re going to send us quite a bit, but what about two days from now, when Scott Westerfeld’s Goliath comes out?

If we’re slated to get a certain amount (like in the case of Goliath, about 8) and our pre-order numbers don’t break past a certain percentage, they don’t send us any extra, meaning the pre-orders actually come out of those numbers. If we’ve got three pre-orders, there are five left out in the wild.

Really reduces your chances of getting that copy when you want it.

Pre-ordering through a store costs nothing. You do not pay to reserve the title. We take your name and phone number, and when it comes it we set one aside with your name on it. Release day, we give you a call or email as a courtesy reminder that the book is in. Then, you can come get it or not. Found it somewhere else? That’s fine. Got it as a gift? That’s fine too. Come in and read the first chapter and realize the book is going to dash all your hopes and dreams, and you will actually shrivel and die a little inside if you read the rest of it? You don’t have to buy it.

I like to try new authors, and because I read YA, there are a TON of debut authors. It’s a gamble, trying a new author. You don’t know if you’re going to like the style or the characters, and with debuts, a bookstore may or may not be stocking them without a publisher push. It sucks, but there it is; buyers have to manage a finite amount of display space, so they do their best to tailor to what’s known to sell in each store. So I put in a pre-order. When it comes in, I flip through the first chapter or two and see if I’m caught. Do I like the writing? Do the characters interet me? Does the story intrigue me? If the answers are yes, I buy the book. If the answers are no, I simply have the hold cancelled and it goes out on the shelf.

No money changes hands unless I actually decide to buy it.

Don’t miss out on your chance to get a book when you want it because of a pre-order. It costs nothing, and it takes less than a minute to give us your information to hold it for you. You can even pre-order multiple titles at a time, and we’ll let you know as each comes in (I do my orders a month at a time and just flip through them as they arrive, and I can buy or not buy as I choose).

On November 1st, when Ally Condie’s Crossed comes out, or on December 6th when Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Prince comes out, do you really want to be one of those people without a book because you didn’t put your name down?

Please, please, as a bookseller I am BEGGING you: if you want a book, take the two seconds to put in a pre-order. You literally have nothing to lose.

But you have a lot to gain- specifically, a guarantee of the book on release day or whenever you want to go pick it up.

Just to satisfy a curiosity, what books are you looking forward to in the next few months? (And are you going to pre-order them?)

Until next time~

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