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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: Icons by Margaret Stohl

Publisher: Little, Brown Book for Young Readers
Published: May 7, 2013
Pages: 428
Source: For Review from Hachette Book Group Canada
Rating: 2 Stars

Your heart beats only with their permission.
Everything changed on The Day. The day the windows shattered. The day the power stopped. The day Dol's family dropped dead. The day Earth lost a war it didn't know it was fighting.
Since then, Dol has lived a simple life in the countryside -- safe from the shadow of the Icon and its terrifying power. Hiding from the one truth she can't avoid.
She's different. She survived. Why?
When Dol and her best friend, Ro, are captured and taken to the Embassy, off the coast of the sprawling metropolis once known as the City of Angels, they find only more questions. While Ro and fellow hostage Tima rage against their captors, Dol finds herself drawn to Lucas, the Ambassador's privileged son. But the four teens are more alike than they might think, and the timing of their meeting isn't a coincidence. It's a conspiracy.
Within the Icon's reach, Dol, Ro, Tima, and Lucas discover that their uncontrollable emotions -- which they've always thought to be their greatest weaknesses -- may actually be their greatest strengths.

In short: Unfortunately, Icons by Margaret Stohl failed to impress me with its standard and slow paced plot, its botched scientific explanation, and its flat characters.
I struggled with Icons, which was frustrating because I could see the potential in the concept. Aliens (or "Lords") invade Earth and teens with special powers (the "Icon children") help protect humanity. It was a premise that I should have found interesting and gripping, but instead I found that I just couldn't get into the story. I can't decide if it was just me and the mood I was in when I read Icons or if my issues with it are legitimate concerns. I kind of think it's a bit of both.

I made the false assumption that we were going to see aliens in this alien invasion novel. But we never see them and we are given such limited information about the Lords that the alien invasion aspect of Icons might as well not have been included at all. As such, without the inclusion of any sci fi interest, Icons was a pretty standard dystopian. Not a bad one certainly, but I've read so many of them at this point that Icons fails to leave an impression in the face of much better dystopian fiction, unfortunately.

Like I said, the Icons' concept has a lot of potential on the surface. There are four Icon children and each of them is the embodiment of one emotion - Sorrow, Rage, Love, and Fear - and they are thought to be the key to destroying the Icons that control humanity, as having these heightened emotions somehow gives them special powers. Now, I like a unique concept as much as anyone, but my problem with this one is that I needed a valid explanation for how it works and I never got one. Margaret Stohl only attempts a vague and nonsensical scientific explanation that did the concept no favours. I would have preferred she had called it what it was - just plain magic - instead of attempting a half-hearted and botched scientific explanation.

With the plot of Icons falling to pieces, one would hope that the characterization would make up for it, but unfortunately, I had just as big a problem with that as I did with the plot and concept. I'm not sure if it was because the Icon children were each the embodiment of one emotion only, but this led to some very flat and static characters. Dol, Icons' protagonist, is likeable enough, but her character was pretty unmemorable and bland, which thus made it hard to relate to her. There is also a love triangle here and it is both unnecessary and lacking in chemistry on both sides.

Overall, Icons failed to impress me with its standard and slow paced plot that couldn't keep my interest, its botched scientific explanation for the concept behind the novel, the flat and static characters, and its unnecessary love triangle. I am quite sad about this because I do quite like Margaret Stohl as a person and author and I love her humour. I still maintain the she has great ideas and is a talented writer as I did enjoy the idea and writing for Icons. But I just couldn't get into it. I do think that some of my issues with Icons were quite personal though, so I feel like lots of people will - and have - like it considerably more than I did.

Other Reviews:
Cozy Up With A Good Read
Maji Bookshelf
Realm of Fiction

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  1. Aww, sad to see that this one disappointed you! That's okay though, your reasons seemed quite... Reasonable. I feel quite bad for authors who're attempting to write post-apocalyptic/dystopian stories nowadays because they REALLY have to stand out, like a lot. It's a shame that Stohl wasn't able to do so! And yikes, flat, boring characters are the worst. I've actually been seeing more negative than positive reviews for this one, so I don't think I'll be picking this one up. Thanks for the honest review. Lovely review as always, Aylee!

  2. I hate it when books say they are Sci-Fi, without being a Sci-Fi. I need a scientific explanation and it's a shame that the aliens are hardly there. The Icons concept sounds great, so what a waste of a good promise!


  3. I'm sorry you don't get to see the aliens? But it's an alien invasion novel? That lets me down right there. I've really been enjoying the sort of mini trend of alien novels lately (sci fi junkie over here) but this doesn't sound at all like I expected

  4. I've been seeing really mixed reviews for this one, and I'm so disappointed! Having enjoyed Margaret's Beautiful Creatures books, I expected more from her, especially since Icons has such a great premise. Science fiction with vague and unscientific explanations does NOT make science fiction. I don't think I'd enjoy this one much either. Sorry this didn't work out for you, but thanks for such a helpful review!

  5. Honestly, Icons isn't something I'd normally pick up, but it's written by Margaret Stohl and I love the Caster Chronicles series, I thought I'd give it a try. But just 2 stars, Aylee? I will put this aside now! Really, like I said, not even something I'd enjoy.

    Anyways, onto your brilliant review! Slow plots always make me sort of drift off somewhere along the way and yes, moods do affect reading. The concept of the emotions trying to stop the controlling Icons sounds quite interesting, but then again, it has to be fast paced!

    Margaret is a great author with a good sense of humour, but well, you can't always love everything by everyone ,eh?

    Sarika @ The Readdicts

  6. The concept really calls to me, and I am so sorry it disappointed you.

  7. augh that is a pretty cool concept but I'm sorry it fell flat! I'm not a big fan of dystopians in the first place so I probably won't be reading it any time soon. Thanks for your honest review!

  8. Yikes. The concept sounds great, but I think I'd be bothered by the poor scientific explanations too.

    Thanks for your honesty!

  9. Argh it had such potential! I like the idea of the four emotions but killing scientific explanations just annoys me too much. Are you alright (you were saying about the mood you were in while reading it)? Anyway, great well-written review as always :)

    1. Yes, I'm alright! I just meant, maybe I might've been in a bit of a reading funk. Thanks for asking though :)

  10. I felt very similarly about this one! I too was disappointed that the Lords didn't have a larger role in the plot here. Things would have been far more interesting if we had actually seen the aliens. I imagine that will eventually happen in the next book, though I have no plans to stick around for it now, unfortunately. I'm sorry that this didn't impress you much more, but lovely review!

  11. Sorry you didn't like it. I disliked Beautiful Creatures so much that I've put pretty much everything by both authors on my Do Not Read list, but I'm still sad to hear this wasn't a good book. I'm also disappointed there weren't aliens. How do you have an alien invasion book without aliens?!

    I hear you on the scientific explanation/magic point. I would much rather an author shrug and leave things up to unexplained magic than try to give a flimsy scientific explanation. Scientific explanations are fantastic, but they really need to be solid.

    And, ugh, can publishing be done with love triangles already??

  12. OH NO! Two stars! :( Lately, I'm finding that there are so many books coming out with unique premises and such wonderful ideas but then they're a complete letdown! Which is such a shame, seeing as they have so much potential! I'm loving the whole four Icon children concept, but I will definitely not be reading Icons. You had me convinced with slow paced, almost no characterization, and LOVE TRIANGLE! There are like two books where I actually accepted the love triangle. And when it comes down to aliens and freaky abilities, the author has a lot of splainin to do. So sorry you didn't like this, Aylee! But thanks for such a wonderful review! :D Hope you're reading something much better right now.

  13. Sorry you didn't like this one. This is the first review I've seen it of actually, but I think I'd agree with you. I don't read a lot of dystopia novels so I can't really compare it to that--plus, the concept sounds intriguing enough. However, I love good characters and the lack of that is always something that turns me off, among other things.


  14. Does anyone like this one? I haven't read a good review yet. That's too bad because it sounds great.

  15. I don't think this is my kind of book in the first place, but I could have been convinced to read it had it been raved about liked The 5th Wave was. It's to bad this one fell so flat for you (considering the author and the idea behind the story). I am not a fan of stories that try to justify mythical elements with science. Just let it be magic- we'll take that. Maybe the rest of the series will get better.

    Thanks for the review.

  16. I wasn't intrigued by this premise at all really, so I'm not bummed that it didn't turn out to be a good read but I AM bummed for you since you were really looking forward to it and were misled by the premise a bit. Never fear, though, BECAUSE THERE ARE ALWAYS MORE BOOKS and better ones :D

  17. I have not heard anything very good about it at all which is a shame because it looked so good.
    Great and fair review though.


  18. "I made the false assumption that we were going to see aliens in this alien invasion novel." <---YES! This was my problem with this book. It didn't help that I read it right after The 5th Wave, which was just such an amazing alien invasion story. I agree with your issues with the plot and characters, and the romance was pretty lackluster on all sides. Pretty much disappointing all around. Thanks for your thoughtful, honest review, I couldn't agree with it more! :-)

  19. Ugh, I hate seeing so much wasted potential. And why would someone decide to bring in the aliens (clearly the idea is awesome), only to neglect them completely? The invasion could have been used much better. It kind of makes me sad. And I agree with Lauren, alien invasion has been done SO well in The 5th Wave, this probably looks even worse than it is in comparison.
    Thanks for saving me the trouble of finding out for myself.

  20. yup, fell in the same assumptions that you did.. this book was just so BORING.. and just FLAT. I was so disappointed and I think I gave it a similar rating to yours! I just noticed you linking to our review, thanks!! :) great review, I think you explained why you didn't like the book better than I did!

    - Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

  21. I was really excited for Icons. It sounded fantastic. But your review changed my mind. Great review and I hope the next book you read will be awesome!

  22. I'm not a big fan of dystopians anyway so I'll be staying far away from this one, Aylee, thanks to your review and several other bloggers'. It's just too bad it didn't live up to it's potential. I'd probably the most annoyed by the scientific explanation that made no sense.

  23. I've seen a lot of mixed reviews for this one. It's such a shame when you can see the potential but the books just doesn't live up to it. Sorry it failed to impress you. Thanks for the honest review!

  24. Hmmm, this makes me think - I'd been really excited about this one initially but the more I kept seeing it, my interest sort of dwindled. Might be a sign, no?! Your mentions of unimpressive world building and characterizations have me thinking this isn't the book for me; both of those things are pretty important to me too so the fact that both are lacking worries me. I'm sorry this one disappointed and I hope your next read makes up for it! As usual, you wrote an awesome review :) Thanks for sharing ♥