Divergent, a Conversation/Review

September 29, 2012

-posted by Ruth & Meghan

Front CoverWe usually have very similar tastes in books (except that we can’t agree on magical realism…), and typically very similar opinions about the ones we like and dislike.  But Divergent was a book that well, we had divergent opinions of (wah, wah).  So we thought we’d have a dialogue here about it and give you a peek at one of our book chats, to perhaps jumpstart one of your own…

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Ruth:  Teen heroes in a harsh dystopia.  A smart, sassy, brave 16-year-old girl who is forced to make heroic choices.  Simmering romance.  Hmmmm. Remind you of anything?  When I first started hearing about this from young friends–notably Alysa, my  favorite 14-year-old book informant, I resisted mightily, thinking it was a quick Hunger Games knock-off.    But once I started, I was pretty much sucked in.  Even though I couldn’t identify at ALL with her choice of joining the Dauntless, I was intrigued by the plot and the characters.  What was your initial reaction, Meghan?

Meghan:  Fatigue.  I was thinking that if I had read this before Hunger Games, Legend, Matched, The Selection, Cinder, The Uglies, Delirium and about 20 others I can’t think of off the top of my head, I would have thought this was more original and interesting.  But now, my former favorite description “a YA book set in a dystopic future” makes my eyes cross – it’s become an entire genre, and they all kind of feel the same – and the cynic in me reads them all and can actually smell the desire of the author to have the movie rights snatched up emanating from the pages.  And that kind of puts me off.  That said, I actually really was intrigued by the central idea: that the world has been divided into groups based on what you think is the cause of problems in the world, to try and eliminate racism and nationalism and religious infighting, etc.  So if you think the root of the worlds problems is how selfish people are, you might join Abnegation, where everyone strives to be as selfless as possible.  And I have had a few conversations with people that have read it about what faction we’d be in.  So Mum, you said you can’t understand Tris (the main character) wanting to join Dauntless (the brave)… which faction would you join (and to go all readers guide on you, why)?

Ruth:  Well, I think that’s one of the problems–with different factions, like in the book, or different “intelligences” or “learning styles”:  we are all a mix of those elements and trying to fit into one of those boxes won’t really work.  We’re all really “divergent” like Tris.  I was trying to think which I would choose if I had to–and I first thought the Erudites, since they research and like to learn things–but there was a cold calculation to that faction.  I liked the selflessness and caring of Abnegation, but it was sort of well,  pious and quite extreme. (No mirrors?)  But the Dauntless daredevil stuff was off the charts for me.  No way I could be in that group.  Now Jim, that would be his group for sure.  The consensus groups of Amity would drive me crazy–as you remember from our Food Co-op days. . .

What about you, Meg?

Meghan: Like you, I agree that people are all Divergent, but if it’s one of those situations where you had to pick something… I think I’d be a lot like Tris, actually, and pick Dauntless.  Not saying I am brave, mind you (I’m probably a higher % Erudite), but that ruthless streak they seem to have would make me crazy, and I admire bravery and want to be around and cultivate that, so if I didn’t just test right in, I think I’d pick that.  Which is scary to me, once I type it, and honestly, not what I expected myself to say!  Ok, onto the other “must have” element to these books: a doomed romance.  What did you think of Four, and of their relationship, and the reveal of who he is?

Ruth:  I think Tris’ relationship with Four is one of the strengths of the book. I appreciate the author’s decision not to go formulaic and have two competing love interests for our heroine.  The friendship and attraction that grows into a romance helped show the characters’ depth and loyalty.  The slowly revealed secrets about Four’s past ( and other name) came as surprises. (Don’t worry. . .no spoiler here.)

Oh, and I’ve been thinking about the number of adolescent dystopia’s in a more positive light.  There certainly are a lot of adult dystopian books–and they are in as different genres as realistic fiction, sci-fi, and even fantasy:  Classics like 1984, Fahrenheit 451, The Time Machine, and Brave New World to more contemporary books like The Handmaid’s Tale, V for Vendetta, Woman on the Edge of Time, and The Road.  So why not provide more rich variations on the theme for our younger adults, too?

Meghan: Because the adult books didn’t all come out in the same year, angling for movie deals! (I mean it’s just like vampires were everywhere post-Twilight!) But that’s my cynicism talking…

Now you’ve heard our opinions, what are yours?  Have you read this book?  What faction would you belong to?  Which is your favorite dystopic future YA?  And speaking of favorite (mine is clearly Hunger Games!), have you seen the pictures floating around the internet of Jena Malone as Joanna and Sam Caflin as Fennick in Catching Fire?  Are they as you pictured them?  Meet us in the comments to discuss…


CARVE THE MARK by Veronica Roth: New Series for Teens (and Lovers of YA)

February 18, 2017

carveCarve the Mark by Veronica Roth

A new science fiction/fantasy novel that begins a new series. . .just what we need in this bleak mid-winter weather.  As she did in the Divergent series, Veronica Roth creates a believable and complex world, with characters that are both intriguing and nuanced in their histories and motives.  There are similarities as well–the people who populate this planet (and universe) have special talents–currentgifts in the book’s language.  Some of these gifts give the holder great power over others ( like the ability to steal memories and replace them with your own); others make the recipient vulnerable to others’ control.  The narrative focuses on the two main characters as the story unfolds.  Akos is a native Thuvhe, the more peace-loving nation on the planet.  His loyalty is unending, especially to his family.  Cyra is a Shoetet, the brutal family that rules the other part of the planet.  And not just any Shotet; her brother is a brutal tyrant, shaped to rule by fear and intimidation.  What happens when Akos must fulfill the destiny his mother (an oracle) predicts and becomes a salve to the Shotet rulers?  Friendship,, love, new loyalties, not to mention adventure, suspense, and intriguing landscapes and possibilities.  I read it practically in one witting and look forward to the next installment.  Let us know what you think!

 


Spunky YA Feminists

July 11, 2014

It’s a banner year for feisty females in YA movies based on books.   If you’ve been a fan of John Greene’s work, you’ve been delighting in the praise for Hazel (The Fault in Our Stars).  Or maybe you’ve been following Tris’ appearance on the big screen (Divergent)?  No need to wait for follow-up movies this summer: meet some new heroines from different genres, times, and places.  And best of all, these spunky feminists are all in series, so you can binge read on their adventures  these summer days!

MilaMila 2-0 by Debra Driza

We are initially drawn into the story of 16-year-old Mila and her mother who have recently moved to Minnesota to start a new life after the tragic death by fire of Mila’s father.  It’s soon clear that something is off, though.  Mila can remember so little of her former life–is it really just the trauma of the accident?  When she suffers an accident of her own, Mila is shocked to discover that under her skin is not bone and blood, but wires and tubes.  What is she?  And who is chasing her?  Though there is a key love interest–handsome and kind Hunter–the story is less a romance than a thriller sci-fi mystery.  Gripping, fast-paced writing.  Mila comes to rely on herself and her many strengths, while coping with coming to terms with her identity.  Loved it!  And also loved the sequel, Mila 2-0 RenegadeCan’t wait for the third installment in this planned trilogy.

*

StarstruckStarstruck by Rachel Shukert

Welcome to LA, circa 1938.  Glamorous Hollywood in the studio heyday.  Margo is chasing her dreams to become a star, right alongside her new friend and former vaudevillian Gabby Preston.  The two become friends as minor starlets on the Olympian Studio set.  Along the way, they meet other Hollywood hopefuls with surprising back stories. . .and dirty secrets.  Lots of backdoor intrigue, with strong teen-aged girls fighting their way through a male-dominated system. The story continues in Love Me, just out, with new surprises about each of our favorite characters.

 *

ThroneThrone of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Known as Adarlin’s Assassin, she is the most feared killer in this magical kingdom.  Captured and sent to prison, she is given a chance for freedom if she agrees to be a fighter for the Prince.  When he pulls her out of prison to come to court, he is amazed to discover that she is an eighteen-year-old girl. Celaena is an awesome heroine–strong feisty, witty.  Maas’ kingdom is compelling, with political intrigue, dangerous assassins, and yes–an actual castle made out of glass. There is ancient magic, romance, great characters, and action–everything a summer read should offer!  And when you finish, you can jump right into Crown of Midnight, where Celaena’s adventures continue.

~~~

 


New Books Make Great Holiday Gifts: YA Series Edition

December 7, 2013

Perfect timing for the holidays, when busy tweens and teens ( and their parents and teachers! ) will have more time to read. More than a few of us have been waiting not-so patiently for the next books in these addictive series.  We can vouch for each of these next installments from fine authors.  Check out their authors’ pages by clicking on the photos below.

RickHeroes of Olympus Series:

House-of-Hades The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

Another action-packed adventure for our modern-day Greek and Roman hero demi-gods.  Not just for young adults, this saga has most adults I know (readers, that is!) hooked.  Thanksgiving found us discussing the nuances of the Titans’ relationships with the Gods and heroes, the plight of Nico and the new secrets he reveals,  and the closeknit community of friends on the Argus II.  Hints of romance and adventure and stunning creations and ingenuity propel the story forward,  I think it may be Riordan’s best yet!  Can’t wait for Number 5 (though it is rumored to be the final book in the Percy and his friends saga.)

*

The Raven Boys Cycle:

Dream-ThievesMaggieThe Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys continue their quest for Owen Glendower, the sleeping Welsh king.  In fact, the focus this second book in the series is on the prep school boys rather than the compelling character Blue, who magnifies the psychic powers of those around her.  Though she figures into the book, she is a minor character in this new installment.  Instead, the mystery deepens with the addition of the mysterious  Grey Man, and the secrets that allow some of the characters to steal objects from their dreams.  Moody and subtly chilling, this book is riveting.  Unlike some books in series, this book really doesn’t  stand alone.  It needs the background plotting of the first book to understand the complex relationships and intriguing plot development.  Stay tuned for the third installment. . .

*

VeronicaDivergent Series:

AllegiantAllegiant by Veronica Roth

This series gets better and better.  Many truths are revealed about the origins of this Dystopian society.  They are original and explosive–the adventures just keep coming.  Themes of love, loyalty, family relationships are all clear threads that beg discussion.  I really loved the switching perspectives, so we alternate between Tris and Four as narrators–seeing Tris from Four’s perspective and vice versa.  The messy, passionate, and quite realistic love story between these two is a compelling part of the plot.  Lots of surprises–and a satisfying conclusion.  If you haven’t gotten holed on this series, reach for Divergent and dig in!

~~~


And the Series Continues. . .Terrific New YA Fiction

January 19, 2013

Winter break found us grabbing any free moments we could to curl up by the fire and read the addictive next books in a couple of our favorite series.  There’s something compelling about living through more than one book with a character, and having the chance not only to see their adventure unfold, but the characters grow and change.

ReachedRuth whipped through Reached  by Ally Condie (Matched Trilogy Book Three) in record time and thought it was the best of a great series:

Cassia returns in the conclusion to the Matched series. Her two love interests, Ky and Xander, return as well, all fighting The Society they grew up in, longing for the power to choose.  I’ve enjoyed the first two books in the series (Matched and Crossed), but not found them as satisfying as some of the other dystopian novels that are so popular right now.  That is, until Reached.  This final novel ties everything together in unexpected and layered ways.  The characters become more complex; the relationships believable.   The narrator shifts perspective from Cassia to Ky to Xander, rounding out the different points of view.  In terms of dystopian futures, this one is not as violent or bloody as say, The Hunger Games, or even Divergent. What has happened in the Matched society isn’t on its face horrible and oppressive. Many of the citizens of the society live very happy lives. But there is no creativity and no expression.  This final novel celebrates the power of the arts–the written word, visual expression, and the role of choice in our artistic lives.  It’s not really possible to discuss the plot without including spoilers. . .my recommendation is to trust Ally Condie and dig into this final incredible adventure.  It made me want to reread the entire series.

Days-of-BloodMeghan couldn’t put down Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor, and her one complaint was that now we have to wait a year to find out what happens to Karou and Akiva…

I found this book even better than the first.  I loved finding out more about the past of Akiva.  I adored the humanity (literally, as pretty much the only humans in the book) as well as the humor and gutsiness that Zusana and Mik brought.  I love that everyone is wrong, no one is right or without fault, and that this went beyond a mere Romeo and Juliet forbidden love for a reason no one could understand or recall, to examine inter-racial/ethnicity/special love and hate.  I was fascinated by how evil yet cunning the two main bad guys (Jael and the White Wolf) are.  I was frustrated yet sympathetic to Karou’s treatment of Akiva, totally pulled in by Akiva’s brother and sister as their characters were fleshed out, and gobsmacked (yet thrilled) by the twist at the end.  In short, I highly recommend that you get this and read it asap.  And if you haven’t read the first book (Daughter of Smoke and Bone), you should clear your calendar for the next week and just read them both back to back!


Young Adults

June 8, 2007

From 13 to 18 years old; grades 8-12

We find young adult literature to be some of the best-written books by the most accomplished authors.  If this is a new area for you, and the teenager in your life, you are all in for a treat!  A wealth of books are written with the young adult reader in mind.  These texts confront issues about school life, relationships with parents, brothers and sisters, and friends.  Self-esteem, coming of age, and fitting in are themes that can prove to be powerful learning tools for what readers are experiencing.  We also recommend many books that are adult-themed that grab the interest and attention of the young adults we know and work with.  Quirky books, short story collections, and on-line essays are all possibilities to expand the reading horizons of teens on the verge of adulthood.  It’s a terrific time to share books as a family, with mother-daughter reads, for example, or investigations of places you might ultimately visit together.

Book Lists

RESISTANCE! Part II:  Learning from Our Moral Ancestors, Recommended for Teens and Tweens

A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE and Other Sherlock Holmes Spin-Offs for Tweens and Teens

New Series for Tweens and Teens

Tweens and Teens Series Updates

New Books Make Great Holiday Gifts:  YA Series Edition

New this Spring:  Fantasy YA Heroines

YA Books for Sports-Loving Young Men

Graphic Novels for Teens and Young Adults

And the Series Continues. . .Terrific New YA Fiction

Young Adult Books for Feminist Readers

Spanish/English Novels for Tweens and Teens

Historical Fiction

Classics for Young Adults

Tellings and Retellings

Diaries, Journals, and Notebooks:  Novels for Young Adults

Contemporary Multicultural Novels & Memoirs for Young Adults

Beyond Nancy Drew

Middle East YA Recommendations

Middle East Books for Tweens and Teens

Picture Books:  Understanding the Middle East

More booklists for this age group are coming soon- please bear with us as we are adding content to the website daily!

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Early Adolescents

June 8, 2007

From 10 to 14 years old; grades 5-9

The middle school years are a great age for readers.  Many young teens are at a point where they are thinking more critically, but still have a bright-eyed outlook on the world.  People who work with this age group are often inspired  by their creativity and inquisitiveness. These kids often appreciate chapter books that speak to the awkwardness of early adolescence—seeing themselves and their friends in these books and experiencing their trials and successes from a safe distance can be gratifying.   But it is also important to recommend reads that have intriguing plots, interesting writing styles, and don’t necessarily use the themes of growing pains and social awkwardness.  No need to give up the family read alouds, either.  We have recommendations by author, theme, general interest, and of course, those wonderful books to continue to enjoy as read-alouds with family members or friends.

Book Lists

RESISTANCE! Part II:  Learning from Our Moral Ancestors, Recommended for Teens and Tweens

Resistance! Part I:  Learning From Our Moral Ancestors:  Recommended Picture Books for Young Readers

A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE and Other Sherlock Holmes Spin-Offs for Tweens and Teens

New Series for Tweens and Teens

Tweens and Teens Series Updates

Classic Books for Early Adolescents

Read-alouds for Early Adolescents

Books for Middle-School Feminist Readers

Spanish-English Novels for Tween and Teens

Young Adult Books for Feminist Readers

Picture Books:  Understanding the Middle East

Exploring the World Through Historical Fiction

Adventure Series, Starring Girls

Tellings and Retellings

Diaries, Journals, and Notebooks

Beyond Nancy Drew

Living a Writing Life

Mystery Series

Books with Siblings

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