Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Discussion Review: The Haven by Carol Lynch Williams

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I received this book for free from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Discussion Review: The Haven by Carol Lynch WilliamsThe Haven by Carol Lynch Williams
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on March 4th 2014
Genres: Dystopia, YA
Source: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
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For the teens at The Haven, the outside world, just beyond the towering stone wall that surrounds the premises, is a dangerous unknown. It has always been this way, ever since the hospital was established in the year 2020. But The Haven is more than just a hospital; it is their home. It is all they know. Everything is strictly monitored: education, exercise, food, and rest. The rules must be followed to keep the children healthy, to help control the Disease that has cast them as Terminals, the Disease that claims limbs and lungs—and memories.

But Shiloh is different; she remembers everything. Gideon is different, too. He dreams of a cure, of rebellion against the status quo. What if everything they’ve been told is a lie? What if The Haven is not the safe place it claims to be? And what will happen if Shiloh starts asking dangerous questions?

Jenni: Ok, Giselle, The Haven, what did you think?

Giselle: Well I’m going to admit that my 3 star rating surprised me because I almost DNFed this one during the first 30%. It was so full of typos and annoying capitalizations that I found SO ANNOYERZ. Like: “If they bother you, come to the Nurse’s Station for a change in your Tonic.” It kept jarring me out of the story. Did you notice that? Maybe I was nitpicking because nothing was keeping my mind from roaming.

Jenni: I did notice the capitalizations, but I found that it was always a place in the Haven or the name of a product inside the place that was capitalized so I kind of got into the groove of it and was able top get used to it pretty quickly.  I figured that was just how things were handled in this place, everything was branded.  What really bothered me was the missing words and misused punctuation.  Now, I know we are reading uncorrected proofs, but I don’t think I have ever come across one that was so jarring to me I almost couldn’t read it. Happy to report that in the second half that died down a lot or maybe I just got used to it.

I think my rating would boil down to about a 2. The reason for that is that I felt that there was really no plot for much of the novel.  They talked of escape but never even touched upon how they were planning on doing that.  At about 60% it was still just Shiloh finding stuff out about the world inside the Haven and outside, and nothing was actually HAPPENING. Did that bother you?

Giselle: Not as much, but I agree it was sluggish at first. I’m thinking it was meant to keep us on our toes, guessing what the Haven was really about and being cryptic and all. I was still expecting them to escape and the actual plot would start there, though. Although, once we find out the purpose of the Haven hospital, I got quite interested in the story. It was kind of freakishly fascinating.

Jenni: Yes! The purpose behind the place was one thing that I found very cool about the novel, it was unlike anything I have seen touched upon in books before, very horror-movie-ish. I also liked how the way Shiloh viewed the world changed throughout the story, the way she processed seeing things that were completely foreign to her was interesting and garnered a laugh from me here and there.

Giselle: Haha yes, especially when it came to touching and kissing etc. On that note, what did you think of the romance? I found the side characters kept blending into one another, so for a while I couldn’t keep straight who was the love interest. I kept mixing him up with the guy in the wheelchair. More characterization could have been used here, especially with the slow pacing.

Jenni: I didn’t mix them up, but I didn’t get any feeling that the crush was anything but superficial. Maybe it was because we were getting the details through Shiloh’s mind and she was pretty numb to it all, but even once she was opened up to romance it never felt like a real romance to me.  The characterizations were definitely lacking, I didn’t feel like we got a strong feel for any of the characters that ended up being pretty important at the end of the book.

I guess I kind of felt like Shiloh, I felt numb to this book, and like none of it came to matter to me because nothing happened and I didn’t get to really know anyone.

Giselle: Yes – superficial is the perfect description! Maybe that’s the point – that we were meant to feel the same detachment that Shiloh was conditioned to feel? Buuut this caused the whole story, especially the twists, to lack excitement – though I still found much of it interesting, if that makes sense. When we find out the twist, I was more like “Oh ok. Ouch.” instead of “OMG”, you know? I wasn’t emotionally invested in it the way the book/plot/ending was surely hoping to make me.

Jenni: I agree.. ha! Look at us agreeing, funny that in our very first discussion review we feel much the same about the book.  I think the idea behind this book was very cool and unique but it just missed the mark in so many areas that I can’t call it a success.  Makes me sad because I have LOVED the 3 other books I have read by Williams. Don’t let this deter you from her books, Giselle!

Giselle: It sounds like she’s better with contemporaries. I loved the grotesque nature of The Haven as well as its originality. Its weakness is that it tried to be an emotional character driven story, but with their closed-off personalities and lack of distinct voices, it didn’t quite make it.

Also, our next discussion review should be for a book we disagree on, we have to show our friends how vicious we get!

Jenni’s Rating:


Giselle’s Rating:


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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18 Responses to “Discussion Review: The Haven by Carol Lynch Williams”

  1. Michelle (Pink Polka Dot Book Blog)

    Oh I love this discussion review thing!! It’s so fun to read! I hope you guys plan on doing them often and can’t wait to see what happens when you disagree about the book :). I’ve seen you guys discuss stuff like that in twitter with each other so I know how passionate you get about your book opinions!

  2. Tina

    I believe I have read the book by this author that’s about being Amish or Mormon or something? And I really liked it! So what a bummer this book isn’t that good. The synopsis looks pretty cool but I would be highly annoyed by the same things as both of you.

  3. Faye @ The Social Potato

    This book doesn’t sound that engaging from the joint review you guys made! I remember seeing capitalizations on things that don’t really matter in some books and I remember it bugging the hell out of me! I don’t think I’d like to take a chance on this one… can’t wait to read more joint reviews from you two!

  4. Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain

    I love the discussion review! I think I may be skipping this one because the capitalization definitely would bother me as well, and also the fact that nothing happens. I mean, if you’re going to spend a big chunk of the book discussing and talking of escape, you should at least try to make it out or something instead of gloss over that bit. Glad that after a while it ended up being a pretty decent read, though! Fantastic review, Jenni and Giselle! <33

  5. Janina @ Synchronized Reading

    I love reading double/buddy reviews 🙂 I’ve not heard too much about this one, but it sounds like it would have pretty good. But I’m glad you manage to at least a little bit of good in the story. Hopefully the next book you read by the author is better! Great review 🙂

  6. Bethzaida (bookittyblog)

    I love this post guys! When I read the summary it kind of reminded me of this book I can’t remember the tittle of(the cover has the girl inside a bubble I think her dress is green or red). Dangit, this is going to drive me nuts until I find the tittle! Anyways it reminds me of that book. Great review!!

  7. kimbacaffeinate

    Great discussion Jenni and Giselle. I like dystopian novels and enjoyed getting the low down from you on Haven. I like that Giselle’s theory that maybe you were suppose to feel detached but overall I didn’t get any kind of read me tingle from this. Wonderful review peeps!

  8. Lauren

    Haha, “Oh ok. Ouch.” is definitely not the reaction I’d hope to have at a plot twist. It sounds like you two were pretty close in your feelings about this book, so I feel pretty confident this is one I won’t regret skipping. Thank you for your honest reviews – and I love this joint format, yay! 🙂

  9. Melliane

    I love reviews like that! Thank you girls! One day I should ask Vanessa to try one. But well regarding the book, I confess the cover is really sweet but I think I’ll pass. First of all, I’m not a native English speaker but when there is problem in a story I’m seeing it a lot more now and it’s disturbing…

  10. Rebecca

    I am using this book as my first book in our middle school’s book club class. It presents a multitude of open ended questions for discussion and is interesting enough for the students to follow along. I agree, it lacks on different levels of action, but gives the students something to criticize also. I would love your take on possible questions to give my students.