Cinder by Marissa Meyer
This book, which I experienced via audiobook, led me in several directions. For the first full disk (1 of 8) I didn’t like the writing style or the voice acting. I thought it was subpar, and I wasn’t sure if the book would be worth my time to finish. Somewhere in the second disk, I either stopped being so judgy, or the book hit its stride, or both. By disk 5 I was loving it, the writing and the voice acting. (Especially all the accents in a particular scene with people from different parts of the world.) Disk 8 ended too soon. I did not think of this book as having a “twist” ending (as some have said) because I thought the turns of the book were fairly predictable. I liked the new spin on the old tale, and the author did a good job breathing new innovation into a well-worn story. But the book only works as the first of a series (which it is) because the book as a stand-alone does not resolve any of the major story line issues, and I think that it should. I can’t even think of this as a cliff-hanger ending, because we have enough information, we just haven’t arrived to the scenes that (imho) should have been contained in this first book. So! I had really mixed feelings. At the beginning I didn’t know if I’d like it, by the end I liked it but didn’t feel like the author had given us enough to finish the book out. Which makes me unsure if I want to read the rest of the series, because I don’t want to be made to feel like I have to keep reading to learn anything new, especially when the big payoffs aren’t worth the wait.
One of the reasons I chose this book was because I’ve been seeing it everywhere, so I know it’s one of those YA novels that “everyone” is reading. The other reason I picked it is because the March Diversity mini reading challenge was to read a book by or about someone differently-abled. (My first thought was to pick up a memoir by Peter Dinklage, most recently known for his role as Tyrion Lannister, but alas, he hasn’t written anything.) In Meyer’s book, Cinder is a “cyborg,” a human whose life was rescued by surgeries and the use of synthetic metal parts in place of the organic ones that were too badly damaged to fix. Though she had no choice in the matter, and didn’t do anything wrong to deserve it, becoming a cyborg puts her in a lower class than regular humans. She is looked down on and treated poorly, and it was easy to imagine her as a regular teen in the real world with prosthetic limbs trying to make her way through physical and social difficulties. If I were a person with prosthetic limbs or had a child with issues similar to Cinder, I could see reading this book as encouraging, because they are certainly an under-represented group in contemporary fiction (or cannon literature at all) and Cinder is a strong character who’s will overcomes her physical disadvantages and situational predicaments. She also demonstrates that such a person can, of course, be attractive, intelligent, useful, resourceful, and so on. There’s a scene where Cinder doesn’t have her prosthetic foot and she has to walk all the way home on crutches. This scene is powerful because it shows how excruciating life can be, and yet how determination can rise to meet it. In these ways, Cinder is an admirable representation of a differently-abled protagonist.
One final note: when I was looking for art related to this book, I found this post from Maggie’s Towering Pile of Books. I really appreciated the Asian representation in this fan-made image. Meyer doesn’t go to great lengths to mention if her characters have Asiatic features or not (if she says so, I missed it), only saying that they live in that part of the world (New Beijing) in a far-future where I imagined the crowds as all mixed up as far as heritage goes. If this book becomes a movie made in good ole Hollywood, it’d be really cool to see some Asian-American actors and actresses in the main roles. (And now I’m also wondering how the lunars would be portrayed?)
Here are the reading challenge updates:
Thanks for reading.