Ruin and Rising; Or Why I’m Taking a Break from YA Fiction

Oh goodness.

It took me over a month to finish this book. For me, that’s a long time. A reaaalllly long time. Like, I might have read War and Peace in that same amount of time. (Ok, not really, but you get my idea.)


Ruin and Rising is the third book in a young adult trilogy written by Leigh Bardugo. I read the first two in the series, Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm, last year and was on the fence about whether I liked or disliked the books. Now that I have read Ruin and Rising I can say, with certainty, that I do NOT like this series. At all.

Maybe that’s an over-generalization. There were certain aspects of this series that I liked, particularly the secondary characters. They were funny, smart, likable characters that you were actually interested in reading about. Another thing I liked was the general idea behind the story: certain people in a country/time very similar to Russia in the early 1900’s have the ability to use magic. It’s not magic like Harry Potter magic, but rather a heightened ability to use specific skills. Some of those skills are natural talents like healing, some are a bit more fantastic like controlling weather.

But overall? Gaaawwwwd. You can’t see it but I’m burying my face in my hands just thinking about it. By the middle of this book I hated the main character Alina. HATED her. She’s a paper thin character with no motivation behind her actions and no reasoning behind her decisions. Her mannerisms, thoughts and speech are completely modern but this is definitely not a modern setting. We’re told over and over again how much she’s changed but she doesn’t seem different to me at all. By the end of the book she’s still the whiny, indecisive, teenage girl that she was when the trilogy started. She’s totally unbelievable as a leader and her relationship with Mal ruins this book. They are a terrible couple. Yes, they grew up together and that somehow means that they are the only people capable of understanding each other or something but this was teenage love/angst at its worst. It’s a little pathetic when two characters that were written to be in love with each other have zero chemistry. What makes it even worse is that there was a love interest for Alina that could have redeemed her terribleness as a character. But that didn’t happen. 😦

You might be wondering why I titled this post the way I did. It’s because of Alina. Not Alina specifically but her character type in general. I have gotten so tired of this girl (and it always seem to be a girl). The “unattractive” girl who ends up being the super special one, but she has a such a hard time coming to terms with that fact because she’s always been the wallflower, the plain one, the one with no talents, or whatever. I understand this in general, the desire to see oneself in a character. Most of us (I speak for women here but I imagine it applies to men as well), see ourselves as plain and, frankly, not special. To an extent, this is true. We’re never going to have a grand destiny. We will live our lives in anonymity and die mourned only by our friends and family. There is nothing wrong with this. But it is why books and characters like Harry Potter are so popular. We want to find out that we ARE special, that we are the only ones who can save the world. By now though, it’s been done to death. And the character type has been watered down so much that we now have characters like Alina who thinks that she can’t possibly be the hope of a nation because she’s so plain and scrawny. What her physical appearance has to do with anything I don’t know. But she spends the next three books endlessly debating and second guessing every decision and relationship. A little of this is right and natural, but if you’re expecting me to believe in a character’s growth I’m going to need to see some confidence in their abilities, even if it’s just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

So I’m done with reading young adult fiction… at least until I find something that looks worthwhile. (Suggestions are always welcome!!)


6 thoughts on “Ruin and Rising; Or Why I’m Taking a Break from YA Fiction

  1. Alysha Kaye says:

    I echo your thoughts about female leads…it’s getting more than a little annoying. Great post.
    Here’s my non-YA suggestion: my debut novel, THE WAITING ROOM:) Always looking for an honest review!


  2. Loved your fresh, honest and perceptive comments here. Thanks for sharing 🙂


  3. jubilare says:

    Wangst… what a horrible thing it is.


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