Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ataxia and the Ravine of Lost Dreams by Rachel Bernard

Ataxia and the Ravine of Lost Dreams
Author:  Rachel Bernard
Publisher:  Self-Published
Pages: 280
Release Date: March 25th, 2014
Source: Received from the author in exchange for
an honest review

As the U.S. government prepares to take over the world, MC infiltrates one of their elite academies that trains future leaders. MC must rise to the top in the Cube training grounds in order to be placed high up within the government so she can stop them in their takeover. It is not until her fourth and final year at the academy that her top-student status is threatened by the sudden arrival of Li, the new transfer student. MC is completely focused on her self-created mission until she gets sidetracked by Li, who might be bad news in more ways than which she bargained.

Ataxia is a book set in a dystopian future, at a school complete with it's own style of high-tech dodge-ball, as well as the usual school drama and romance. While stories like this usually appeal to me, sadly, this book didn't win me over. The writing style just wasn't my cup of tea, and at the end, I still wasn't entirely sure who was on whose side. Overall, it felt rushed, and made me wish I was beta reading instead of actually reviewing it. 

One of the biggest problems was the confusing story line. We really don't get an introduction into this world, and I honestly don't know who MC is or why I should care about her. We start out with her maintaining distance from other students, then time jumps forward and they're suddenly friends. While some of this gets explained a bit, I don't feel it was really addressed in a way that felt clear to the reader. 

The overall plot was just really rocky, especially with the government and Ataxia stuff. I felt like a bit more time could be spent actually shaping the world beyond the school. Yeah, there was some government overthrow and mention of dark ages, but it didn't feel fleshed out to me. As it was, lots of things felt like they even contradicted. It felt like the author was trying to plant an "aha!" moment, but it never really got that punch for me. I'm still not sure who is on the same side. For awhile it almost seemed like there were three of them, then there were two, and then I was just confused. 

Then there are the minor plot lines: MC wants to be the top of her class, and has to study for the fate of the world (or something dramatic like that). There are tons of scenes fighting in the Cube, their school arena area, and she is trying and failing not to fall in love with Li, the mysterious new student. I get that it's YA and it's may appeal more to a younger age range, but good YA to me still has heart. I couldn't feel anything for these characters, because I knew nothing about them. Where did they come from, how did they get there, why does being there mattered, what made them be friends. One of the main group, Arrow, is described the whole book as looking clueless and being a lovesick puppy. That just feels like a cop out to me, personally. The vibe I got from this book is MC thinks she's surrounded by idiots. Oh, they're the best of the best intellectually, but they're idiots as far as other things go. I wanted to like them, but MC's attitude sort of got in the way.

From the beginning, the writing style also felt really disjointed. Within the first few pages, it was difficult for me to read stylistically, with the rough transitions and the repetition of words. For example, within the same paragraph: "I ended up in the basement, a tacky dark-lit jumble of furniture [...] I did not know a basement that could have it's own basement. [...] The basement was a place I had not been before [...] Since I had not been to this basement." Context editing here would have really helped especially in areas like that. Other elements of the story just dragged after awhile. Personally, I didn't need to know what they were eating at every meal, and what color every outfit was in the cube, especially when I'm not sure I ever learned what some of the characters looked like. What are their hair colors? I honestly don't think I could tell you. 

There were some elements here that seemed promising. The cube itself was fun, and the fireball things were different; the future seemed different than ones I've heard of in other books, but a lot of it felt a little hand waved. Maybe a younger reader would enjoy this because they aren't going to question the plot as much. For me, it just fell short, and needs some refining to add up to the other books I've read in this genre.

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