These books could not have been more different from one another but you know I like some variety in my book diet.
First up, Jelly by Clare Rees has the most ridiculous premise imaginable and I loved it for that. I picked the book exactly because of the conceit too: in a post-apocalyptic world, a bunch of survivors find themselves living on the top of a giant killer jellyfish. Yeah, you heard that right. Details are kept deliberately vague. Nobody quite remembers when or how they go there but Martha (the narrator) tells us that the group (which includes other teens like her) have a routine that includes English and Math lessons, playing sports to keep fit, they even have a Big House (built out of plastic garbage that floats up to the jellyfish) where they hold councils, where they sleep. Sometimes they try to swim away but the jellyfish always grabs them back. They think it’s keeping them as pets. Or possibly food.
They just carry on like this, after all what else is there to do? The whole world has gone to shit anyway. But then one day the survivors see other humans on the shore. Humans who know how to fight and KILL the giant killer crabs (yeah, we have those too) that sometimes appear on the beach. That gives them hope and hope makes them try harder to get away.
I loved Martha’s voice: she is so used to living where she lives that nothing really fazes her much and yet…. Hope and change and everything else propels her and her teen friends to survive. The stakes are high, the tension is just right, my bewilderment just so.
Read it because it is silly: but silly awesome.
Rating: 7 – Very Good
The Black Coats by Colleen Oakes is about a group of super-secret vigilantes who have been exacting revenge on men for hurting girls and women. Operating since the 70s, the Black Coats co-opt and train teen girls to go on missions called the Balancings. Each girl invited to join has her own story, has her own personal revenge to enact. Our main character is Thea, a young girl whose beloved cousin has been recently murdered by a man who is still out there. Grieving and lost, Thea finds herself invited to join this secret society with the promise that they will eventually allow her to avenge her cousin’s death.
Ultimately, and I know this is going to sound weird, I had a much harder time buying into the conceit of this novel and suspending my disbelief than I had with GIANT KILLER JELLYFISH. The Black Coats’ biggest mistake is that it takes itself too seriously and because of that it opens itself up for questions about how exactly things work. Why teen girls and not college-age students? There is the fact that the relationships between Thea and her girl-team are not that well-developed – it was supposed to be an essential aspect of the novel, considering how much importance it is given to their bond, a bond we never really get to see or experience that much. Their training is glossed over and then come the missions. They are given names to exact vengeance upon –but their mission organising and plan-making are also not really there.
The book opens with a gruesome opening that depicts the horrible rape of a girl who ends up becoming the creator of the Black Coats alongside her best friend and it ends with said friend becoming a crazed villain. In a story about women seeking revenge (and justice!) this is perhaps the hardest pill to swallow.
Rating: 5 – Meh