Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: YA fantasy

"Whatever you've heard of Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world."

"Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything."

"They didn't travel here for truth, they came for an adventure."

I'm so excited to be giving this book a positive review! When you hear such great things about a book, you hope that it measures up to the hype, and I do love when debut authors have a killer awesome start to their published book careers. And I'm pleased to say that Stephanie Garber's has gone off with a bang.

This book was so engaging, so riveting, that I debated giving it 5 stars. If you follow my reviews, you'll see that I'm really stingy with 5 stars, so the fact that I was contemplating awarding 5 stars to Caraval is saying a lot. In the end, I decided it was somewhere between 4 and 4.5.

This book has a riveting plot, and once I was halfway, there was no putting it down until I was finished. I read the majority of the book in two days, it was that good. It has plot twists and surprising moments that kept me flipping the pages as fast as my fingers could turn them. There was so much suspense and questions I had to have the answers to that were more important than sleep. I had to solve the puzzle.

The premise of Caraval reminds me of other high-stakes games in YA books like Hunger Games, Panic (Lauren Oliver), and Nerve, but the similarities end there. This book feels fresh, original. I love that! If you can imagine characters being trapped in a Murder Mystery Dinner Theater with carnival and Alice in Wonderland vibes, that's close to Caraval in a nutshell.

Other things I loved: the writing style, the characters, the relationships.

YA lit can sometimes be written very simply with little description or freshly written passages. But Stephanie Garber does an amazing job of appealing to the senses in surprising ways. Scarlett, for instance, sees emotions as colors: "She could see the sting of her rejection in shades of stormy blue, ghosting over his heart like sad morning mist," and "She felt ochre shades of uneasy." And another example of her well-crafted descriptions: "Then she stopped in front of a dress shop . . . the color of late-night laughter, early-morning sunshine, and waves crashing around ankles."

The characters were all well-developed and dynamic. They go through a process of self-discovery and growth. I particularly liked Scarlett because I can relate to her. She's logical and cautious, whereas her sister is impulsive and reckless. Over time, Scarlett has to learn to risk, and I can connect to her personal struggle. Julian is such a fascinating mystery, and I can't say much about him without there being spoilers, so I'll just say read the book and you won't be disappointed with his character!

Lastly, the relationships: yes, this book has romance, but that's not the key element of the book. It's about sisterly love, and what lengths a girl will go to in order to protect her sister. And the romance aspect of the book is handled very well. So many YA lit books ruin the attraction and tension between the characters by writing sex scenes (I also don't think sex scenes should be in YA lit anyways). But I'm pleased to say that there is none of that but still a riveting and scintillating romance. Imagine that? It is possible, folks.

Go read this book. It's a wild ride of amazing imagery, great characters, and surprising plot twists. Just don't forget: "It's only a game."

I can't wait to read the sequel she's writing!

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