I enjoy when Paul doesn't post often, because then I can try and kick his posts off of the front page. Except this is the last post I need to catch up on, so that probably won't happen anytime soon.
Here are the links for the other posts about this book, in case you missed them:Ashley's Pre-Reading
First of all, this book was definitely NOT "Hunger Games meets Harry Potter" as the cover suggests. I think that kind of quote on the front puts very high expectations on a book, and this one does not live up to that. Maybe "The children's version of Hunger Games meets Harry Potter." The only similarity to the Hunger Games is that the world is a dystopian society, and children "die." Except they actually do die in the Hunger Games and here, a Dumbledore-like character saves them and puts them in a magical world.
Secondly, although I went into this book with low expectations since it's a middle-grade novel, I was actually pleasantly surprised with the style of writing. Although it was very different from the other McMann novels that I read in September, I thought that this book flowed nicely and didn't have too many sections that dragged. If I had a 7 or 8 year old child, I think s/he would be able to read this book and not have too many problems with the sentence structure or the vocabulary. Although the novel did switch between Alex and Aaron a few times, I liked that most of the novel was from Alex's viewpoint. His world was, after all, more interesting than Aaron's.
The parallelism between Alex & Aaron and Justine & Marcus was a nice twist on an otherwise straightforward plot. Although I could definitely see that coming way before it was officially announced, I'm not sure that a young reader would have been able to figure it out. I think that it was hidden well enough for the intended audience to be pleasantly surprised, but not too hidden so that it's impossible to figure out on your own.
I do have to agree with Paul that the characters were underdeveloped. Although this was a middle-grade book, that doesn't mean the characters don't have to have depth. It's not a "My First Reader" book. The romance between Lani and Alex is only briefly mentioned, and I think that it could have been expanded on a little bit. Also, the relationships between both sets of twins, as well as Alex's relationships with his friends, were very shallow. Aaron is only portrayed as the "bad" twin, and although he has a minimal amount of creativity, he refuses to use it or admit it. He, and Justine for that matter, apparently have no good qualities. Although there are people like that in movies and novels, I feel like McMann could have developed them a little bit more and had them show at least a little more weakness.
Also, the cover artist needs to learn what a cheetah is. That thing looks like a panther/lioness with wings.
Overall, I probably wouldn't recommend this book to someone who likes YA novels. Instead, I'd give it to a 6-10 year old to read. If I had to rate it out of 5 though, I would probably give it about a 2.5/5. I thought that it was fairly well written for being a middle-grade book, but that it could definitely have used some improvement.