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A Reader of Fictions: Review: Solstice

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: Solstice


Author: P. J. Hoover
Pages: 384
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: June 18, 2013
Read: June 17-19, 2013
Source: ARC from publisher for review

Description from Goodreads:
Piper's world is dying.

Each day brings hotter temperatures and heat bubbles that threaten to destroy the earth. Amid this global heating crisis, Piper lives under the oppressive rule of her mother, who suffocates her even more than the weather does. Everything changes on her eighteenth birthday, when her mother is called away on a mysterious errand and Piper seizes her first opportunity for freedom.

Piper discovers a universe she never knew existed—a sphere of gods and monsters—and realizes that her world is not the only one in crisis. While gods battle for control of the Underworld, Piper’s life spirals out of control as she struggles to find the answer to the secret that has been kept from her since birth.

An imaginative melding of mythology and dystopia, Solstice is the first YA novel by talented newcomer P. J. Hoover.

First Sentence: "Mom says, 'Watch the heat today.'"

There's a special kind of sadness reserved for a book that starts out well, that you think you're going to be best friends with, but which, instead, goes somewhere that your heart and mind can't embrace. For me, Solstice is one such book. For the first hundred pages, Solstice was heading for a 3.5-4 star rating, but then the twist and the romance happened. Though not for me, Solstice does have good qualities and will no doubt be pleasing to a slew of other readers.

The first hundred pages of Solstice are solid post-apocalyptic, though I wouldn't really call the book dystopian myself, though really what a dystopia is has really lost all meaning for me by this point. The world Hoover has created is an eerily possible future earth, one beset by global warming. In Piper's world, one hundred degrees Fahrenheit is a cool day in Austin, TX. Going outside requires sunscreen pills and cool misting sprays at all times. Water comes in two temperatures: warm and hot. Air conditioning is used to cool buildings down to the upper 80s or 90s - any more than that is illegal. Governments around the world try to fix the heat with science, but the attempts are not proving promising.

In these opening chapters, Piper is cool-headed, thoughtful, and obedient to her overbearing mother. Other students look to her for advice and instructions during crises. Because of her mother's restrictions, she does feel a bit lonely, and wishes she were allowed to date like the other kids, especially since she's legally an adult at 18. For this reason, I wasn't bothered by her intense immediate attraction to the hot new boy at school who just happened to sit next to her in class and want to talk to her OR to the hot boy who came by her house claiming to be the son of one of her mother's colleagues. The girl has been toeing her mother's line for so long she was bound to crack eventually; she's entered her rebellious phase, as evidenced by the tattoo she gets with her best friend. That was all fine.

At this point, if you're concerned about spoilers, you may want to step away. I can't review this one without spoiling the big twist, because I have things I need to talk about to explain why my opinion changed about Solstice. The twist is discussed in the blurb above, but I generally ignore those and didn't know myself, so up to you.

Right around the one hundred page mark, Solstice becomes an entirely different book, a fantasy about Greek mythology. Unfortunately, the transition is marked with excruciatingly instalove-ridden romance, rather than action or good mythology. Hoover does bring the mythological elements to an interesting conclusion, but there was too much unfortunate romance before that got going that kept me from liking this book.

The romance elements have the unfortunate gender dynamics present in other young adult Persephone adaptations, like Abandon and The Goddess Test. Reese (Ares) and Shayne (Hades) are fighting for Piper's love, though she cannot figure out why (even though she's OBVIOUSLY Persephone from when the Greek myth stuff first starts, she won't figure that out until page 290). She instaloves (one week, people!) with Shayne, who refers to her as the "spoils" of his position in the Underworld and refuses to tell her anything, though, to be fair, there does end up being a reason for that later (though my opinion was set by the time I learned that). Whenever Piper gets near Reese, though, his intoxicating scent fills her with memories of their time together, fictional ones, and she cannot help making out with him. Only at the very end does she actually make any sort of informed choice about romance, mostly being led about by the men. The logical, thoughtful heroine of the beginning of the book disappears never to be seen again. Neither love interest ever gets personified beyond on nice strong guy and evil strong guy respectively.

Much as I can't personally get past the romance, I can appreciate the way that Hoover resolved everything. She does put an interesting twist on the relationship dynamics of the myth. Piper's relationship with her mother echoes the original tale, but puts a different spin on Demeter's desire to keep Persephone with her.

I'm torn on the resolution to the whole global warming plot of the beginning. Hoover does come back to that and deftly ties it into the mythology by explaining that it's always summer when Persephone's with her mother. That's pretty awesome on one level, but also really annoys me on a couple of others. From a mythology standpoint, I just don't think that her mother being happy would equal an increasingly hot summer, because it's not like the world was an arid desert until Persephone started spending six months in the Underworld every year. Also, I find the idea that global warming has been turned into a side effect of the squabbles of the gods, rather than of humans completely fucking up the planet, distasteful. I know it's just been done for the fictional value, but I still can't get completely behind it.

If, like me, you're not a fan of poorly characterized instalove romances, you may want to give Solstice a pass. However, if you're curious and not as easily frustrated by such things, there are a lot of cool things in Solstice for you to appreciate. I really like what Hoover did in theory, and I do think that she shows a lot of promise as an author; her writing is good and the concept is fantastic. Though Solstice didn't work for me, I'll be open to reading more of Hoover's books in the future.

Rating: 2/5

Favorite Quote:
"'So you missed me?' He tilts his head and waits for my answer.
     I move my hand, scratching a different head. 'I missed your dog.'"

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Blogger Amy said...

Ugh! Instalove. It's too bad that this started out really good and then went downhill from there. It does sound like a book I would like, but I do really dislike instalove. The rest of it really intrigues me though. Fab review!

June 19, 2013 at 8:18 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

It's worth a try, Amy. I mean, the instalove does sort of make sense in the end, since they were in love before as Hades and Persephone, but you don't know that until after, and it doesn't really excuse the lack of chemistry imo. That was a contradictory comment. BUT I know all people are not as picky as I am.

June 19, 2013 at 9:35 AM  
Blogger Natalie @Natflix&Books said...

I wasn't particularly drawn to this cover. I'm kind of over "dystopian" (whether true dystopians or just those billed as) and/or post-apocalyptic books for now. When enough people rave about a particular book I may pick it up, but in general, this genre just isn't doing it for me. It's interesting that this turned into the Persephone myth. I never would have guessed. Great review!!

June 19, 2013 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger Kayla Beck said...

Gah! I stopped reading at the spoiler alert. I hope this is one that we're of differing opinions on because I've wanted it since Tor took it. I'm going to come back and revisit this when I get around to reading it. :-D

June 19, 2013 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I like the cover, but it definitely doesn't warn that the book is actually mythology, and not a dystopia. So yeah. Not sure about that from a marketing perspective.

June 19, 2013 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I hope you like it better! You often do!

June 19, 2013 at 10:49 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

I'm not sure how you can write the Hades/Persephone story in a way that's pleasing to modern ideas about gender roles IF you also want it to be a romance, you know? I mean, he kidnaps her so their entire relationship is gonna be based on Stockholm Syndrome. lol And while I enjoy the original myth (mostly because I felt like Persephone never really wanted to be in the Underworld), I haven't liked many YA adaptations. But I'm constantly trying to find YA mythology retellings that I enjoy, so even though I know I probably won't like this one, I know I'm going to read it. haha Let's hope I like it more than you did! *crosses fingers*

June 19, 2013 at 5:42 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oddly, she did manage to twist the myth so that the romance could totally have been acceptable to my sense of gender roles, only it still wasn't. Le sigh. Plus, she didn't characterize any of the male characters, so it's really hard to sell a romance with a piece of cardboard.

June 19, 2013 at 5:45 PM  
Blogger GillyB said...

"The logical, thoughtful heroine of the beginning of the book disappears never to be seen again."

Nooooo, I hate when this happens. I hate when the female MC loses all her rationality and awesomeness just because of love. This saddens me.

June 20, 2013 at 2:21 AM  
Blogger Jenni said...

Hmm not sure I would be a fan of this one. The book you were describing in the beginning with the sunscreen pills and extreme weather sounded really cool! Where did that book go? The insta love sounds completely overbearing in this one too. Boo too bad this one went down the crapper for you.

June 20, 2013 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Right? Ugh, it's the worst.

June 20, 2013 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

RIGHT? I love mythology, but, seriously, can we give the Persephone myth a rest, because it always ends up upsetting me. The instalove did have a reason, since they were in love in the past, but that is no excuse for not having any sort of connection. UGH.

June 20, 2013 at 10:11 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

What?! The twist literally made me do a double take. I mean...decide what kind of book your novel IS, Ms Author. And insta-love....MEH. I mean if it logically progresses past that I'm kiiiiiinda okay with it, but if it never matures, it just makes me mad!

I honestly had not even heard of this one before your review, Christina. I doubt I'll read it, but then again if I come across it at the library, eh, maybe.

June 20, 2013 at 3:35 PM  
Blogger Christina Reads YA said...

"The girl has been toeing her mother's line for so long she was bound to crack eventually; she's entered her rebellious phase, as evidenced by the tattoo she gets with her best friend. That was all fine." Lol. So true. And... agh. Insta-love. 1 week is not actually as bad as I've read in other places... but kind of strange that this became a mythology based insta-love. I don't think I would have ever associated that with the cover or the tile.

"Also, I find the idea that global warming has been turned into a side effect of the squabbles of the gods, rather than of humans completely fucking up the planet, distasteful." To be honest? Whenever fantasy/paranormal books pass human conditions that are explained by scientific query off as a result of the world they're in... I never believe in that and shrug off that element.

"I really like what Hoover did in theory, and I do think that she shows a lot of promise as an author; her writing is good and the concept is fantastic. Though Solstice didn't work for me, I'll be open to reading more of Hoover's books in the future."

That's nice. I suppose that's the mark of her talent, that even if this didn't work for you, you'll still check her work out in the future.

June 20, 2013 at 10:21 PM  
Blogger Faye M. said...

Ugh, instalove... for me they always ruin everything... I dunno, there's just something so infuriating about the "love at first sight" thing... I just recently read a book with it and it made me see red. The premise reads a lot like Breathe by Sarah Crossan, and for me that book seems to be better executed than this one... also... NO INSTALOVE WOOHOO :D haha. Thanks for the review, Christina :)

Faye @ The Social Potato Reviews

June 20, 2013 at 10:58 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Right. I'm so glad the blurb spoiled the twist, or I have no idea how I could have reviewed this. Of course, maybe I wouldn't have been so shocked by it if I'd READ the blurb beforehand, but uh whatever. It does make sense in the end, but it took too long and annoyed me too much in the interim for me to do more than recognize that.

June 21, 2013 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I mean, there's a reason for the instalove, but she didn't establish the connection between the two, so I couldn't forgive it.

June 21, 2013 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

There is justification for it since they were in love in the past, only she didn't remember, but you don't know that definitively for a while, and it doesn't excuse the lack of chemistry.

June 21, 2013 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger Alexia Boesen said...

Like I said yesterday on the blog insta-love is one of the things I hate most of all in the book world.However I adore mythology which of course makes me WANT to read this.

June 22, 2013 at 7:02 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Instalove just doesn't work for me. I'm pretty sure I bind that up with any romance that isn't full of spark. Sigh.

June 24, 2013 at 2:09 PM  
Blogger Tabitha (Pabkins) said...

Oh man I won this on the Tor.com website and had planned to review it soon. I still will since I like to try and fit in reviews of books I've won from the publisher. I haven't read your review yet but I saw your rating and had to come say - I will be back to read it when I'm done! hahah

July 1, 2013 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Wah wah. Maybe you'll like it better. Not too many of my GR friends had read it yet, and I think one of them really liked it, so who knows.

July 2, 2013 at 11:45 AM  

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