Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Defy by Sara B. Larson -- OPTIONAL

Larson, Sara B. Defy, 336 pgs. Scholastic Press, 2014. $17.99.

Language -- PG (5 swears); Sexual Content -- R; Violence -- R.

When Alexa's parents are killed, she chops off her hair and joins the prince's royal guard as "Alex," a talented (male) fighter. It's that or be sent to the breeding houses, where girls are repeatedly raped by soldiers in order to produce yet more soldiers for the country's endless war. But when she; the prince; and a fellow guard are all captured by the enemy, Alexa learns secrets about her country and begins to rethink her loyalties.

With a kick-booty heroine who disguises herself as a boy, death-defying adventure, sorcery, a potential romance with a prince, and a love triangle, there are endless possibilities for entertainment and enjoyment in Defy. Alexa is a protagonist to cheer for most of the time, although her excessive -- and occasionally whiny -- ruminating about her love interests tends to stall the plot in a number of places. Unfortunately, it is the breeding houses that take this one from Advisable to Optional. They are described throughly enough to be truly horrifying, but their inclusion seems purposeless other than as motivation for Alexa to pretend to become a boy. Perhaps they will play a larger part in the sequel, but at this point it would have been better to either explore them enough so they did not seem gratuitous, or to leave them out altogether, making for a wider audience.

HS -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

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