Monday, 5 May 2014

Review: Coda by Emma Trevayne

Coda by Emma Trevayne (#1 in the Coda series)
Format: Paperback
Published by Running Press Kids on 7th May 2013
Pages: 320
Genre: YA, Sci-fi
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Ever since he was a young boy, music has coursed through the veins of eighteen-year-old Anthem—the Corp has certainly seen to that. By encoding music with addictive and mind-altering elements, the Corp holds control over all citizens, particularly conduits like Anthem, whose life energy feeds the main power in the Grid.

Anthem finds hope and comfort in the twin siblings he cares for, even as he watches the life drain slowly and painfully from his father. Escape is found in his underground rock band, where music sounds free, clear, and unencoded deep in an abandoned basement. But when a band member dies suspiciously from a tracking overdose, Anthem knows that his time has suddenly become limited. Revolution all but sings in the air, and Anthem cannot help but answer the call with the chords of choice and free will. But will the girl he loves help or hinder him?
Coda is stunning.

It has a tremendous cast of characters, a breathtaking plot, and most of all, it's a love song to music itself. It's about the freedom that creative expression brings us. It's about addiction, set in a world where the government uses music as a drug to control its citizens. It's about love and family and sacrifice.

Trevayne's writing style is so lyrical and subtle and absorbing. Everything she describes is so palpable. I was almost moved to tears several times.

Anthem is a great MC. He's passionate about music and he cares about his little twin siblings (who are adorable!) more than anything else, and he is driven by his love for them. He shares a wonderful friendship with Scope, who is his ex-boyfriend, and who knocks some common sense into him. (For anyone curious about the LGBTQ element in this story, Coda appears to be set in a world where no one much cares about anyone's sexual orientation. Anthem is into guys and girls, and Scope seems to date guys only.)

But oh, HAVEN. Haven is the girl that Anthem is in love with. I can't say much about Haven without spoiling the story, but. Haven is my favourite character. She's fierce, resilient, and amazingly competent at what she does: writing code and hacking. She comes from a much higher class of citizens in comparison to Anthem; it's hinted from the beginning that her father is a powerful figure and has some influence within the Corp. Her relationship with Anthem is searingly beautiful; I just loved how completely smitten Anthem was with her, how he writes songs about her. There's so much heat and wonder in their relationship. It's one of the most gorgeously understated romances I've ever come across in YA, so well-written and full of heartbreaking moments.

Anthem uses music to fight back against an oppressive regime. The Corp doesn't allow any unauthorised music; but he plays bravely on. The plot gets quite interesting and complicated, and there are a fair few twists, and sometimes, terrible and awful things happen. Coda was quite unflinchingly realistic.

It doesn't quite manage to get five stars from me because the story felt a little slow at times, especially to begin with, and there were some confusing bits. I found that the writing style didn't quite work when it came to scenes where there was a lot of action actually happening.

That said, the ending was just perfect. Soaring and achingly lovely, and Trevayne's writing really shone there. Its bittersweet note lingers, and I'm sure it'll keep playing through my mind for days to come.


  1. "a love song to music itself" THIS. And while those "sacrifices" were too much for me (poor Haven!), I really liked the writing too :) I don't know if I'll continue with this series, but I kinda want to get the second book for the cover (and maybe things get better there...)

  2. I know. HAVEN. My heart broke for her, but the way she bounced back from that was just awesome. She's an amazing girl, and I'm glad I read Coda if just for her. I don't know if I'll continue either, since the reviews I've read of Chorus aren't really that great so far, and I wasn't really drawn into the world of Coda itself as much as I just really liked Anthem and Haven's relationship, so... But we'll see! I might change my mind.

  3. I'm going to use this review as an opportunity to gush about Haven, BECAUSE YES YES YES SHE IS SO AMAZING! With the dystopian genre, I find that characters are often kick butt in a rather... obvious way, is the best way I can describe it. But Haven was kick butt in a more realistic way, I think, and was really refreshing because of that :D And really, she is just awesome.

    Oh, yes, and I agree with you about Haven and Anthem's relationship. It wasn't a relationship that I always thought about awhile reading, but when I finished the book and reflected later on, I just couldn't help but marvel at the beauty of it.

    "Terrible and awful things happen..." What struck me the hardest (well, one of the things) was what happened to Haven towards the end. My heart broke because of her already once before That Something, so I couldn't really keep the tears in. But besides the feelings of sadness, I felt very proud of her--she just kept moving forward!

    I just looked at the comments below... I'm a bit worried about the sequel to Coda, too. I haven't seen many full reviews, but little snippets of comments only described an average book, rather than the great one that was Coda (although, I also get the impression that it depends on whether one likes the new main characters...) and one phrase in the synopsis is making me feel anxious: "With Anthem's health declining..."

    Wonderful review, Cynthia, as always :)

  4. Anthem is so in love with Haven oh my god, it's so sweet! She's so beautiful through his eyes. I love all the details of the touches that pass between them, and Anthem singing for Haven was just so incredibly beautiful.

    I know. What happened to Haven was so terribly heartbreaking, and that was definitely what I had in mind when I wrote "terrible and awful things happen" (that and the character death at the end). I just loved how strong she was and how her fierce personality still shone through so brightly after her tragedy. Haven is my forever girl.

    Yeah, I'll see what happens when Chorus does come out and there are more reviews. I'm interested in seeing what Alpha's like as a teenager though.

    Thanks! Your long and thoughtful comments are always appreciated. (:

  5. Love this review! I absolutely loved Coda! It's been a while since I read it last, so some parts are hazy, but what isn't is how blown away by it! Such a fantastic and beautiful story! OH THE BETRAYAL! ON VARIOUS LEVELS! I dislike the colour yellow quite a bit. But such a unique idea! Loved it so much! Sorry, will stop with the exclaimation marks now. Really, really looking forward to reading Chorus, the sequel. Oooh, just found out it came out on Tuesday, must get ahold of it soon! Thanks for the great review, Cynthia!

  6. :D Yeah, Coda was wonderful! I really liked how different in tone it felt to a lot of other dystopias I'd read. Sigh, I feel so sorry for Scope in this entire story. ):

    I'd love to hear what you make of Chorus! I haven't made up my mind about whether to read it or not yet.

  7. It is so different! There seem to be a few that are high on action and fighting now, like The Hunger Games. I loved how this one was different. A quiet rebellion, that becomes more.

    I have no idea what I'm going to get with Chorus. It's only from reading the comments on this review that I even know that Anthem isn't the protag (Noooo! :(). I'm just going to read it because I loved Coda so much. REALLY hope I love it!

    Also, Emma Trevayne wrote an awesome guest post for the LGBTQ YA Month I held last year, if you're interested. That alone has me wanting to pick up her books :)


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