Book Review

Atlantia by Ally Condie

Publisher: Dutton Books, 2014
Genre: Dystopian YA novel
Pages: 320
Format: Hardback
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My Rating: 4.5/5 stars


Feeling trapped as a hidden siren in the underwater world of Atlantia and forever recognized as the daughter of the beloved deceased leader Oceana, Rio Conwy is desperate to go Above. But her twin sister Bay unexpectedly chooses to go Above instead, without leaving an explanation. Heartbroken and alone, Rio is forced to find answers from the only family she has left—her mother’s sister Maire, the dangerous siren.

As Rio attempts to find out why her sister left and to get Above herself, she discovers secrets and truths about her family and herself, and the Divide system now separating her from Bay. Rio learns to recognize the strength in her own voice through unexpected ways as she unearths the past and determines her future.


Admittedly, Ally Condie is one of my favorite YA authors, so I was a little biased in favor of Atlantia when I chose it off the shelf. However, even for those unfamiliar with Condie’s other award-winning work, Matched, this stand-alone bestseller is sure to be a satisfying read. Though Rio’s story presents serious themes that are handled justly, the narrative retains a feeling of enjoyable entertainment throughout. In particular, the races in the deepmarket have a pleasantly exciting rhythm. The style of the narration flows and fits well with the subject matter, and the ending is appropriate without being unrealistic.

The romantic relationships in this book were paced well, although some of their dialogue and scenes came off somewhat stilted. The romance was the weakest narrative aspect for me personally. The dynamics between family members or friends felt more natural and engaging. In particular, I felt that the difficult decisions at the end for Rio and Bay were well structured, showing the progress and strength in their connection from the beginning when Rio’s world was ripped apart by Bay not explaining beforehand why she had to go Above.

I would recommend this book to any YA reader who enjoys page-turning dystopian fantasies with beautiful world-building and expert character development.

Book Review

Family of Origin by CJ Hauser

Publisher: Doubleday Books, 2019
Genre: Fiction novel
Pages: 283
Format: Paperback
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My Rating: 4/5 stars


On hearing that their biologist father Dr. Ian Grey has died, estranged half-siblings Nolan and Elsa Grey reunite. They travel to his island research station and become acquainted with his team, the Reversalists, who study a duck species in an attempt to prove their theory of reverse evolution.

While learning about and searching for the “Paradise Duck” for which their father had been preoccupied, they also learn about their own “family of origin,” uncovering various layers of family secrets and complications. With flashbacks and foreshadowing, Hauser illustrates the complication that comes with determining how much of the past should affect the future.


To be honest, the first time I attempted to read this book, I failed to get through it. I think this is perhaps because I was not in the right frame of mind to make sense of Hauser’s web of themes and stylistic choices. The flashbacks and foreshadowing tell compelling backstories, but are also more complicated to read than a traditionally chronological narrative. I also particularly struggled with her decision to not separate dialogue with quotation marks. This made the conversational flow difficult for me personally to follow.

That being said, I felt like what redeemed this book was its layering of familial secrets, histories, and relationships. This made the characters feel real and the narrative more engaging. As a reader, I wanted the estranged siblings to find out more about their past which would help them to connect in the present. It was interesting to consider family dynamics in relation to the evolutionary theories posited in the novel.

I would recommend this book to adult readers who like learning about backstories, histories, and scientific theories—and who do not mind the absence of dialogue quotes.

Thanks to the author and publisher for providing an ARC in
exchange for this honest and unbiased review.

Book Review

The Accomplice by Joseph Kanon

Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Historical Fiction 
Pages: 324
Format: Hardcover
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
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My Rating: 4/5 stars


It’s 17 years after the end of World War II in Germany, and the hunt for Nazis is nowhere near finished—at least, not for Auschwitz survivor Max Weill. But on the brink of his biggest catch—Otto Schramm, a doctor at Auschwitz believed to be dead—Max passes away, leaving the rest of the hunt to his nephew, Aaron Wiley. As Aaron reluctantly takes over the reigns of his uncle’s lifetime work, he finds himself thrust into a jungle as dangerous as it is alluring. Finding Otto Schramm is one thing, but capturing him is another. Chasing Schramm to Argentina, Aaron uncovers a helpful accomplice: Schramm’s beautiful daughter, Hannah. However, as the hunt becomes more complicated and Hannah remains unaware of Aaron’s true intentions, it becomes clear to him that Hannah may be the perfect accomplice—but to whom?


In my opinion, books dealing with the Holocaust and its aftermath are very risky. It is so easy to make these texts two-dimensional with characters that fall flat into one of two categories: the monster or the victim. However, I think Kanon toed the line between these two brilliantly, capturing the human condition in a surprising way.

The readers meet Otto, the Nazi doctor, nearly two decades after the war ends. However, Kanon does not let us forget the atrocities he committed and the behavior he was complicit in. I found this to be very important, because the horrendous tragedies of World War II must never be forgotten. I believe it is this two-decade time gap that allows Kanon to bring another interesting layer into the story.

I found Schramm to be a very complex villain because we are able to see him 17 years later, as an old man, and, moreover, because we learn so much about him through the eyes of his daughter. This tactic allows for a glimmer of humanity to weave in and out of the tapestry of Schramm’s character, adding depth to his being without erasing the monstrosities of his past.

My only qualm with the book was merely technical and purely personal: a lack of dialogue tags. While there are some, I found it difficult to follow some very fast-paced scenes in the story without a substantial amount of dialogue tags.

Overall, Kanon brought the perfect combination of action, mystery, and humanity to the pages of The Accomplice. I would definitely suggest this book for high school level readers or above as there are some delicate subjects and scenes within the book.

Thank you to the publisher and Changing Hands for my ARC in 
exchange for an honest and unbiased review.