Owlcrate Review: Make it Out Alive!

Written by Guest Contributor Marissa Brantley

Owlcrate is monthly subscription box for Young Adult book lovers. Each OwlCrate box theme centers around a chosen book. Each book is a newly released Young Adult novel, and according to the creators, they will be releasing exclusive covers for the rest of the year. You also get a signed bookplate and a letter from the author with each book received. I’ve received Owlcrate boxes since, August 2016 and, I’ll be honest, I don’t always like the book. In fact, there’s maybe four so far I would have chosen for myself, but that’s the risk you take with subscription boxes. However, even if I don’t like the book, there’s usually something in the box that I do like. They also give peeks throughout the month on their Instagram of what will be in the next box so you can decide if you want it that month.

This month’s theme was MAKE IT OUT ALIVE, or as I like to call it, celebrating women who most definitely don’t need a man to survive. This box is a little different from other OwlCrates, as it contained two books, one that was released in the United States in January 2016 called New World Rising by Jennifer Wilson, and another that was released this month by Harperteen called The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson. Both books feature seventeen-year-old protagonists who are trying to survive in a world that seems hell-bent on killing them. Although there are two books, you only receive the exclusive cover, book plate, and letter, from The Sandcastle Empire.

Up first, A Court of Thorns and Roses inspired bookmark. If you haven’t read this Sarah J. Maas series, what are you doing with yourself; GO READ IT. The bookmark features two of the best quotes from the third installment of the series that was released May 2nd of this year. Feyre is one of the best female protagonists I have ever read and her characters is very appropriate for this box.

My most anticipated item in this box, the Divergent inspired bath bomb from the Fizzy Fairy Apothecary (that’s the best name for anything), did not disappoint. I get unnecessarily excited about bath bombs in general, and OwlCrate is usually good about providing them when possible. It’s one of my favorite items to receive next to Funko pops and candles. This bath bomb smelled fantastic as it was both sweet and fresh, which made it surprisingly summery given the white, green, and black coloring.

Next, a zombie eyes sleep mask from Archie McPhee, for when you don’t want zombie eyes. I’ll admit, I’m a fan of zombies, but I’m not a fan of this. I’ll probably give it to my nephew who will love it. However, it is thick, and it’s great at blocking out light, so it gets to job done.

We also have some stickers inspired by The Sandcastle Empire. I found it fun to realize what each sticker represented in the story as I read. They’re a great addition to your laptop, suitcase, notebook, or whatever else people put stickers on.

Lastly, we have a patch inspired by The Giver by Lois Lowry. The patched was created by Owlcrate and Laserbrain Patch Co. It looks great to sew onto a pair of jeans or a jean jacket (as they suggested). It’s a cute patch with a lot of symbolic allusions to the story of The Giver. I think any fan of the book would recognize their significance. I love things you can wear that showcase your interests. I’ve had a lot of wonderful conversations with fellow geeks that began because of a button, patch, t-shirt, etc. This is a great way to find fellow YA fans in the wild.

 

Owlcrate Book Review

New World Rising, published by Oftomes Publishing, introduces us to a brutal, unforgiving world run by vicious tribes and a corrupt government. I’m confused by this cover as the story centers around a seventeen-year-old girl, yet it looks like there’s a twelve-year-old boy on the cover. There’s not even a twelve-year-old boy in the story. Our main girl, Phoenix, has been living on the streets by herself for years in a world that’s been ravaged by war and environmental catastrophes. She lives on the outskirts of a brutal community and manages to survive by using her resourcefulness and intelligence. Even though she knows the rule of the streets is “everyone for themselves,” she hasn’t completely lost her humanity. She’s a bit dry in the beginning, but eventually, her character really begins to take hold. I didn’t get into this book until over halfway through when the stakes are raised. The romantic interest is actually a kind person who treats her with respect and encourages her to be the badass she is. Frankly, we need more YA books that showcase healthy relationships. This is how you should be treated, ladies! Even though it was a slow start, by the time I finished, I was salivating for the next one. Luckily, New World Rising is the first book in a series, the second in the series has already been released, with the third installment set to be published this winter.

I want you to ignore the fact that the cover of The Sandcastle Empire looks like the creators of Miami Heat wrote a novel, because I really enjoyed this book. The review on the back by Beth Revis described this novel as, “The Maze Runner meets Lost,” so I knew it was right up my alley. I was attached to the protagonist, Eden, early on. She comes from a wealthy background but has lost everything and is a prisoner on an isolated island that she works to escape from in hopes of finding sanctuary on another island. However, once she escapes with a group of girls, she realizes that this new island is not what it seems. What follows is a fun but nerve-wracking adventure that seems to uncover more questions, but few answers. A lot of the backstory to this apocalyptic world was fascinating and somewhat plausible under our current political climate. The world has been destroyed by a combination of environmental disasters and class warfare. Sandcastle has a clear message that follows through to the end. Eden is the strong and protective mom friend, but the description of her fears keeps her relatable. She isn’t one to dive head first into danger until she absolutely has to, which is fine because Eden’s my girl and I need her safe! The characters are part of what makes this story so great. The gentle, cinnamon roll character, is also strong and hard-headed. The prickly character can be very loyal and protective. The romantic interest in this book isn’t warm and snuggly like in New World Rising but he is still respectful, encouraging, and he never underestimates her. I found myself in love with all of these characters for one reason or another, and I was truly rooting for them. Currently, this is a standalone novel, but I’m hoping that will change.  

While these books feature dynamic female characters, diversity and representation are few and far between. There is no diversity in sexual orientation and very few people of color. However, a woman of color plays a large part in The Sandcastle Empire and is one of the more interesting characters. Both books contain people of color who are vital in turning points of the plot, but they still have rather small supporting roles. Perhaps later in the New World Rising series will see more people of color and LGBT+ characters. Fingers crossed!

Next month’s theme is “Wanderlust” and, according to the sneak peeks, will feature items from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Darkest Shades of Magic, and The Lord of the Rings series plus a historical fiction novel with diverse characters. I’m very excited about this next box!

 

Marissa is a grad school student, writer, and feminist who’s surviving Arkansas in our current political climate. She gets through it with her two fluffy cats and her Hufflepuff tendencies. 

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