Trouble is an edgy, gossipy, twisting and turning young adult read. There a real beating heart here, especially in Pratt’s beautiful and frustrating female protagonist, Hannah. I enjoyed the novel’s play on the expectations we hold others to based on reputation and appearance, much of which can be so wrong. There’s also a unique element in this book exploring how teenagers and the elderly have things in common and can be good company for each other; I LOVED the characterization of old, crotchety Neville. While the drama in this novel is notched up to ten and the believability of the plot is probably pushing it, the emotion isn’t overdone. Rather, it feels awfully real. Set in England, the story has some British slang that’s confusing at first for an American reader, but it’s nothing too hard to figure out. Some parents may be uncomfortable with how explicit the text is for a young adult book–reader be warned–but I found its portrayal of the teenage being to be honest and compassionate.
Neal Stephenson’s early cyberpunk novel The Diamond Age is… so many things. Ultimately, I feel like it was a thing that I should have been able to appreciate, but couldn’t. It’s a long haul, and blends hard sci-fi, steampunk neo-Victorian culture, children’s literature, dystopian sci-fi, cults, and political upheaval all set in a futuristic China. That was a lot of constant, ultra-developed kitsch that, for me, got in the way of what could have been a more compelling story. One of Stephenson’s strengths is his ability to explain, in a fully realized way, the smallest details of his mind’s creation. However, in this novel I felt it put the book at a disadvantage. The explanations overwhelm the story itself, which is quite frenetic and convoluted in its own right. I admire Stephenson as an author, but this novel was ultimately just not the right match for me.