Allegiant soon!

Insurgent has taken a backseat to my honors-class-prep reading in the last month (booo) (except that I’ve now reread To Kill a Mockingbird and Ender’s Game, so only a small boo).

BUT…less than two weeks until Allegiant!

USA Today did a great interview with Veronica Roth back in September. Maybe it will help ease the end of your wait.

Divergent: Veronica Roth

Fun fact: Veronica Roth is only twenty-five. Twenty-five!

Published in: 2011Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 1.35.49 PM

Pages: 487 really fast-moving ones!

The protagonist: Sixteen-year-old Beatrice “Tris” Prior, a resident of future, pretty-well-destroyed dystopian Chicago. We meet Tris on the eve of her aptitude tests and the Choosing Ceremony, where she will (like so many protagonists of dystopias before) make a coming-of-age choice to determine the course of her life. Tris must decide to either stay in the “faction” where she was born or choose a new community with different rules, values, and contributions to the city.

The gist in 100 words or less: Rather than neatly fitting into one of the factions, each of whom promote a different value (Abnegaton, selflessness; Dauntless, bravery; Erudite, intelligence; Amity, peace; and Candor, honesty), Tris’s results show that she falls in between three of them. Thus she is Divergent, and must continue to the Ceremony without a specific direction and without revealing her test results. Sharing them will, as her examiner eerily warns, cost Tris her life. She does choose a faction, and most of the novel follows the rigorous training she endures to join the faction as an adult.

Great stuff: The plot is riveting (despite its 487 pages, I read it in three sittings during a very busy week), the characters are interesting and realistic, the writing is good and the story is not too predictable. Tris and Four’s romance is surprisingly un-cringeworthy and refreshingly restrained, and Four is dreamy and brooding without completely relinquishing his responsibilities, intelligence and better judgment. Caleb, Tris’s brother, is intriguing but scarce, and I look forward to what Roth will do with him in the next two books.

I also really liked the themes of personal values and the questions the novel constantly raises about which ones are important in building a productive society.

And yup, I want to read Insurgent pretty much immediately.

Meh: I had misled expectations for the plot, so the first half seemed to drag but I think I was expecting something to happen that doesn’t actually happen, at least in this first volume. So it may not actually drag as much as I thought it did.

Best quote: “They attacked me to make me feel weak. I can pretend they succeeded to protect myself, but I can’t let it become true.” (290)

Parent/teacher alert: There is a decent amount of violence, and although I didn’t find it gratuitous, it’s definitely prevalent in Tris’s training and in the overall culture.

Also, *some SPOILERS HERE*…

…large portions of Tris’s training take place in a virtual-reality simulation designed to make her (and others) confront their worst fears. These scenarios aren’t as violent as some of the real challenges Tris faces, but they are still disturbing, and I’m curious as to how the film will incorporate them without turning this into a mild horror flick…

Read it if you liked: The Hunger Games, Matched, Delirium, and/or The Giver.

Not good for: Those who dislike dystopias, who want romance front-and-center (although it’s pretty front-and-center by the end) or who are offended/bothered by moderate violence.

What my students think: They love love LOVE Divergent and they shake their heads at me when I admit I haven’t read it yet. It is definitely a must-have for a classroom library.

And now I’m off to watch the movie trailer for the 293847293847th time.

Lauren Oliver’s Pandemonium (Delirium #2)

Screen shot 2013-07-06 at 3.45.21 PMMe to students, March-ish: OooooOooooOOooOooooOoo, you got Pandemonium!

Students: Meh.

Me: HOW is it? Suspenseful? Mind-blowing? Edge-of-your-seat? I loooooooved Delirium!

Students: Um, it switches back and forth in time. So…

Me: OooooOOOoooOOOo.

Well.

 

Published in: 2012

Pages: 375

The protagonist: Delirium’s now-19-year-old Lena, still, although she *SPOILER* bounces between a couple of identities/last names over the course of the book.

The gist in 100 words or less: If you haven’t read Delirium, go do it and stop reading this. Here be *DELIRIUM SPOILERS.*               Lena has escaped Portland for the Wilds and struggles for survival with a community of Invalids who rescue her near Rochester, New Hampshire. The narrative switches between the “then” of her Wilds storyline and the “now” of her new life as a citizen of New York City working undercover against the DFA (Deliria-Free America)’s efforts to contain and destroy what is now a growing resistance movement.

Great stuff: Lauren Oliver does setting very well, from the settlements in the Wilds to the massive protest scenes to the eerie, I-can-feel-the-dampness dark of the underground tunnels. Also, the very end was excellent; very predictable but well done and delightfully cliffhanger-y.

Meh: The luuuurve. I never found it fully believable that Lena would be able to suspend her overwhelming fear and fall quite so hard in the situation that she’s in for most of the story. But maybe that’s just her deal. There was a looooot of action, too, and one too many hand-to-hand fight scenes that Lena just-barely escapes from.

Best quote:

    “And then I see that it wasn’t a shadow that startled me.

    It was a bird. A bird struggling through stickiness: a bird coated in paint, floundering in its nest, splashing color everywhere.

    Red. Red. Red.

    Dozens of them: black feathers coated thickly with crimson-colored paint, fluttering among the branches.

    Red means run.” (127)

Parent/teacher alert: Not much. There is some death and violence but it is not gratuitous. Some of the less action-y death scenes are very poignant and well done and therefore very sad.

Read it if you liked: Delirium, obviously–the overall story is definitely worth continuing with–Matched (this #2 was FAR, FAR better than Crossed), Divergent, Uglies.

Not good for: Those of you who are ready to puke from excessive Edward Cullen-esque descriptions of “chiseled” features, etc. Argh. Also those for whom *SPOILER* death-after-illness strikes a chord.

What my students think: “It was okay.” Many of them are less-than-enthused by the time-skipping, as I was, and thought the structure made the story move too slowly. They weren’t jumping up and down about it, but didn’t pan it, either. They told me I should read it, and after doing so I would repeat that advice.