Divergent

Summary

DivergentDivergent is a young adult dystopian fiction novel that is being made into a movie that will be released in March 2014. It’s the first part of a trilogy by Veronica Roth.

Divergent is set in Chicago in the future, where the people there have divided into five factions, each dedicated to a particular virtue:

  • Abnegation (selflessness)
  • Amity (peace)
  • Candor (honesty)
  • Dauntless (courage)
  • Erudite (knowledge)

Each year, all 16-year-olds get to choose whether to spend their lives in the factions they grew up in or switch to a different faction. The book’s main character, Beatrice Prior, has to decide whether to be selfless and remain with her family in Abnegation or to make the more selfish choice to go elsewhere.

Review

I liked Divergent, but the premise is a bit unrealistic. To prevent evil in the world, their ancestors thought it would be best to segregate themselves and each embrace only one admirable quality. So unlike The Handmaid’s Tale, which was scary in its plausibility, I think Divergent was going more for entertainment value.

I also felt that the romance subplot cheapened it. What could have been a strong, female lead character was replaced by a semi-strong and occasionally oblivious girl who gets saved a lot by her romantic authority figure. Then again, Tris is a 16-year-old girl and this is a young adult book. *Shrugs*

That said, Divergent was an action-packed, quick, fun, and easy read. It’s almost 500 pages long, but I blew through it in just a few days. If you like the Hunger Games series, I’d recommend giving Divergent a read (though I liked Hunger Games better). I’m curious about what life is like outside of Chicago, so I’m hoping one or both of the other two books in the trilogy expand on that.

Movie Trailer

After seeing the trailer, there are two main things that bug me. First, Tris has an awful lot of makeup on for being Abnegation. She’s only allowed a brief look in the mirror every three months and I’m pretty sure the Abnegation would see makeup as self-indulgent. Second, Four looks way too old and a lot more tough and physically attractive than I imagined. In the books, Four was modest and vulnerable once you got past the “strict leader” front. I’m really having a hard time seeing the guy in the trailer as Four, but maybe the movie will change my mind. I’ll just have to wait and see.

The Giver Quartet

I first read The Giver in elementary school. It was probably my first taste of dystopian fiction and I loved it. When I saw The Giver on a Banned Books Week list last month and learned there were sequels, I decided to reread it, along with the other books in the series.

The Giver

The Giver

Summary: Eleven-year-old Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal community where people are content and free from pain and suffering. When Jonas is chosen to be the next Receiver of Memory, he begins to learn the truth about his community.

Review: The Giver explores, among other things, the idea of individuality vs. “sameness.” In Jonas’s community, everyone is content and provided for, but they do not get to make their own decisions, experience true emotions, or even see color. It’s a thought-provoking book that I loved as a kid and I really enjoyed reading again.

Gathering Blue

Gathering Blue

Summary: In a village that sends the weak and disabled out to a field to die, Kira (an orphan girl with a deformed leg) is ostracized by her neighbors. Kira has a special gift, though, that will save her life.

Review: Gathering Blue was my least favorite book in the series. I was disappointed that it had no ties to The Giver until a brief allusion at the end of the book. Kira’s village was not nearly as interesting as Jonas’s community and Kira was too passive a character. I also thought the story was predictable.

Messenger

Messenger

Summary: After living in Village for six years with a blind man named Seer, Matty is eager to earn his true name and become a full member of society. Village is changing, though, and Matty the message-bearer must make one last journey through the treacherous forest before it’s too late.

Review: Picking up where Gathering Blue left off, Messenger tied the two previous books together and I was glad to get some resolution on what happened to Jonas and Gabe. I liked the book, but I was disappointed in the “somebody sacrificing to rid the world of evil and now everything’s magically better again” cliché.

Son

Son

Summary: Claire, a teenage Birthmother from Jonas’s original community, washes ashore in a distant village, remembering nothing of her life before. After watching someone give birth, she regains her memory and becomes determined to find the son she gave birth to years ago.

Review: Son started out strong, but, unfortunately, it went downhill from there. The book really got bogged down with all the time spent on Claire training to climb the cliff out of the village. When Claire finally found her son, I found it unbelievable that she wouldn’t reveal herself to him after spending so many years and risking her life to find him. The ending was also unsatisfying, but at least it tied everything from the series together.

Final Thoughts

I really liked The Giver and would recommend it to anyone, especially since it’s such a quick, easy read. If you’re interested in seeing what happens to the characters, by all means read the rest of the series, but I don’t think it’s necessary to continue reading it.

While writing this review, I found out that a movie version of The Giver is in production, scheduled to be released in August 2014. I’m really curious about how they’re going to film it. If it starts in black and white, the audience will know something is wrong prematurely. If it starts in color, Jonas’s discovery of color won’t be as impactful. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle that. I also wonder how they are going to end the movie, since the book’s ending was ambiguous.

The Book Thief

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak is historical fiction about a young German girl living with foster parents during World War II. It is narrated by Death (a pretty interesting perspective), who begins the story with a small fact: you are going to die.

In spite of the macabre narrator and ultra depressing setting, The Book Thief is heart-warming and Liesel (the little German girl) provides hope and joy during such a dark time.

If you’re looking for a quick, light-hearted book with a happy ending, this is definitely not the right book for you, but I would otherwise recommend it to anyone. I loved the characters and this book really knew how to tug at your heartstrings.

Perhaps my favorite part is when Liesel finds herself in a library, which I quoted below. Book lovers will surely appreciate it.

“Jesus, Mary …”

She said it out loud, the words distributed into a room that was full of cold air and books. Books everywhere! Each wall was armed with overcrowded yet immaculate shelving. It was barely possible to see the paintwork. There were all different styles and sizes of lettering on the spines of the black, the red, the gray, the every-colored books. It was one of the most beautiful things Liesel Meminger had ever seen.

With wonder, she smiled.

That such a room existed!

Even when she tried to wipe the smile away with her forearm, she realized instantly that it was a pointless exercise. She could feel the eyes of the woman traveling her body, and when she looked at her, they had rested on her face.

There was more silence than she ever thought possible. It extended like an elastic, dying to break. The girl broke it.

“Can I?”

The two words stood among acres and acres of vacant, wood-floored land. The books were miles away.

The woman nodded.

Yes, you can.

By the way, the movie adaptation will be released on November 15 (the trailer is below). It looks like it will be a beautiful movie and, from what I can tell, stay pretty true to the book. Although it’s missing from the trailer, the movie will apparently be narrated by Death. I’m really looking forward to seeing it!

Hunger Games

Last month, The Google Play Store had a great deal on the Hunger Games trilogy – all 3 books for $5. We liked the Hunger Games movie and I had heard the books were great, so Nick and I each picked it up (it would be nice to be able to share books with your spouse, Google!).

Nick started to read the trilogy right away, but I was in the middle of The Great Gatsby and then Snow Crash, so I just added it to the long list of books I want to read. By the time Nick got to the second book, Catching Fire, he was completely engrossed and dying to talk to me about it. So, I dropped Snow Crash and started to read the Hunger Games trilogy.

The Hunger Games (Book #1)

Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games is a young adult science-fiction adventure novel that takes place in the future post-apocalyptic nation of Panem (formerly, North America). The districts of Panem are controlled by the Capitol, which is a wealthy, technologically-advanced metropolis where citizens are preoccupied with fashion and entertainment — while the people in the districts live in squalor.

The districts once rebelled against the Capitol, but failed. As a result, the Capitol created the Hunger Games, in which each of the 12 districts must send one young boy and one young girl to fight to the death each year in a televised battle.

If you’ve seen the movie, it actually follows the book pretty closely. Some details were left out of the movie (like Madge Undersee, Katniss’s hearing loss, Peeta’s lost leg, etc.) and parts of it felt a bit rushed, but I thought they did a great job. One interesting aspect that was omitted, though, was the avox subplot. An avox is someone who rebels against the Capitol and gets their tongue cut off as punishment. The avoxes then serve the Hunger Games tributes and Capitol citizens as domestic servants.

Catching Fire (Book #2)

Catching FireSince The Hunger Games wrapped up after the Hunger Games ended, I wasn’t sure where the story for Catching Fire was going to lead. Like its predecessor, though, it focuses on the Hunger Games… but this year is special because it’s the 75th Hunger Games. Every 25 years, there is a “Quarter Quell” edition of the Hunger Games that involves a twist to the game rules.

In the 25th Hunger Games, districts had to vote to choose their tributes (rather than being chosen in a lottery). In the 50th Hunger Games, the number of tributes from each district was doubled. I’m not going to spoil what the twist is in the 75th Hunger Games, though. 😉

Catching Fire was every bit as good as The Hunger Games and I can’t wait to see it in theater this November. A teaser trailer for the movie was just released yesterday (see below).

Mockingjay (Book #3)

MockingjayMockingjay was a bit different than the other two books in the series, largely because it wasn’t about the Hunger Games. Instead, it centers around the districts’ rebellion against the oppressive Capitol. The mockingjay has become a symbol for the rebellion and is used as a propaganda tool to unite the districts. I’m not going to say much more about the plot because I don’t want to spoil it. 😉

Apparently, Mockingjay is going to be split into two movies, which I’m not thrilled about… especially since Part 1 and Part 2 are going to be released a year apart. Bummer.

In sum, I loved the Hunger Games trilogy and highly recommend it. Even though I had already seen the first movie, I found myself glued to the story and I finished the trilogy in a week and a half. 😛