Insurgent- Veronica Roth

Ok, so I’m going to start this review with a disclaimer.  It gets kind of ranty from here on out.  I was totally stressed out and exhausted when I read this book.  So maybe my general crankiness with life had something to do with my crankiness towards this book.  I also had pretty high expectations given the amount of hype Insurgent got and given how much I loved Divergent.  So maybe I was just asking to be disappointed.  I don’t know.  Whatever the case, this book just didn’t do it for me.  It was merely ok.

Insurgent starts right where Divergent left off.  And I mean exactly where it left off.  You get not transition easing you into the book (and call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think you should have to read an author’s blog as a refresher before a sequel) and no reminder of who the heck we’re dealing with.  All I needed was the addition of “my brother” in the first sentence about Caleb and a quick reminder of what just went down.  Seriously, not too much to ask, I don’t think.

Picking up right where Divergent left off is not only problematic for those of us with sieve-like memories, but it also left a wide gaping hole in explaining Tris’s sudden personality change.  We leave her as a kickass rebel and come back to her as a depressed zombie (think Katniss in Mockingjay).  I know she lost her parents, I know she killed her best friend’s boyfriend, I know that there’s a freaking war going on, but everything I loved about Tris in Divergent seemed to disappear in this book.  She became foolish, rash, and selfish and stopped being courageous, logical, and selfless.  She has a death wish.  She starts sabotaging her relationship with Tobias/Four with all her depressed/suicidal nonsense.  I kept wondering if I’d been completely duped by thinking Tris was a kickass female hero.  She’s not that way in this book.  She doesn’t take her pain and channel it in to positive action.  She spends the whole book making stupid decisions and putting herself in harm’s way out of some misplaced sense of grief/duty/nobility.  If male characters can suffer grief and remain kickass, why can’t the girls?

And Tobias sort of turns into Gale from Mockingjay in this one, too.  He gets caught up in the rebel factionless politics and starts playing into the war games, instead of being the character I’d like to see.  You know, the one who stands up for what is right, not what is popular, not what has the backing of his mom, not a plan that will surely end with a different tyrant, but tyranny all the same.  And I really couldn’t grasp why he and Tris kept making out at such weird times.  Like… if she’s as depressed as she’s acting, is she really all that interested in his muscular tattooed body?

The best part about the book was getting to take a peek into the other factions.  You get to travel to Amity and Candor and the factionless zones and get to see just how messed up all the other factions are.  The ideals these factions once embodied are gone, enforced by happy-pill bread and truth serum.  I get the feeling we’re moving towards the sort of society embodied by Four’s tattoos… one that embraces the strengths of all five factions.  However, there is quite a bit of foreshadowing about life beyond the walls of Chicago, so clearly that’s going to play a part in this whole thing, too.  I guess I am curious to see where this will end up, but I don’t know if in a year or two I will remember/care enough to be able to delve into the third book.

Ok, so I know most of you will read this and most of you will probably actually enjoy it.  In fact, I encourage you to read the series because the first book was great!  Just… don’t let the hype get your expectations too high and don’t take this series too seriously, I guess.

Divergent- Veronica Roth

Divergent was a great read.  I have been big into the dystopian thing lately, so was really excited to find this book.  In Roth’s dystopian Chicago, there are 5 factions– Amity, Candor, Erudite, Dauntless, and Abnegation.  Each person chooses one faction when they are sixteen years old.  One’s faction determines their career, their family and friends, and their personality.  Supposedly keeping people in factions based on their best traits will eliminate the evil traits in human beings and end war and misery.  The faction-choosing reminded me a bit of the career-assignment in The Giver.  Except that in Roth’s book the kids had at least the appearance of free choice in picking their faction.

Our main character is Beatrice AKA Tris, a born-and-raised Abnegation.  She takes the faction assessment given to kids before they get to the choosing ceremony and finds out that she doesn’t fit into any faction– she is Divergent.  Divergence is dangerous and Tris is told to hide her results from everyone, even her parents.  She makes the difficult decision of going Dauntless and this book covers her training and initiation into the Dauntless faction and the dangers of Divergence.

There were several things I really liked about this book.  The first is Tris.  While she is way more of a daredevil than I’ll ever be, I felt myself relating to her in some ways.  She is skilled in more than one way- she is a bit Dauntless, a bit Abnegation, and a bit Erudite- and while being well-rounded sounds like a great thing, it makes it really difficult for her to choose one path or to fit in easily in any one faction.  (Side note: I always felt that way when I was choosing a major in college… so I ended up choosing a liberal arts degree with multiple concentrations- history, literature, philosophy, foreign languages, and then rounded out my electives with math, science, and social sciences.  Same thing in grad school, where I ended up specializing in the history of medicine with a focus on women and gender.  I can’t pick just one thing, apparently.)  She is also incredibly smart and cares deeply about her family…

…which brings me to the second thing I really liked about this book.  I loved how important Tris’s family was to her and how much her parents were willing to sacrifice for her.  I sometimes feel like YA characters exist in this weird universe where teenagers are free of parents and siblings.  (I love John Green, but his characters are frequently only children.  Which drives me bonkers.)  And if they actually have families, there is often not much love involved.  (I know, I know, characters are so much more FUN without the tethers of families.)  So, thank you Veronica Roth, for giving me a teenager who loves her family members, misses them when she leaves them, and recognizes that her family members are multidimensional people who have their own personal struggles.

And the third thing I liked about this book was the romance between Tris and her Dauntless instructor, Four.  Four sort of reminded me of Mr. Rochester as he was all brooding and moody and jerky, but you can still tell he totally digs Tris.  In the end, though, my Mr. Rochester comparison falls apart because Mr. Rochester was actually a pompous jerk and Four seems to be playacting that role to hide his feelings/keep Tris safe.  But anyways, Four was cool because he was okay with being weaker than Tris and was very open and vulnerable around her.  I really love the cool-exterior-but-soft-interior man trope, as horrible as that may be.

Anyways, I enjoyed this book and I think it has a little bit of something for everyone- dystopia, romance, action.  I am eagerly awaiting book numero dos, Insurgent, which comes out in May!

TGIF: Books for the Ride

I am headed out to Arizona (my former home) for the weekend to enjoy a little whole lotta sunshine and visit with some of my most favorite people on the planet.  This will probably involve great food, too much wine, lots of laughter, and some time in the out-of-doors (I miss the mountains and the desert!).  Hopefully I can squeeze in some reading time when I am on the airplane.  That is, if I don’t fall asleep from the Dramamine.

So here is what I am taking with me:


Divergent by Veronica Roth

I started this a couple of days ago and so far I am falling hard for this book.  Oh dystopias I love you so.

Also I learned after I checked it out that it’s on the Lone Star List.  I am beginning to think I need to challenge myself to read all of those books.  What do you think?  Have you read others on the list and loved them?  Would anyone want to do a group challenge on this?  Texan or not, if you are a YA fan, it might be fun!

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

I know this is probably the least loved of Green’s books, but it was actually on the shelves at my library and that is sort of hard to come by when it comes to John Green books.  I live in the youth-filled burbs where all the popular and new YA has a long hold list.

It’s not a particularly long flight (and I fear that I really will crash out due to the Dramamine) so I think these two books will more than suffice.  What will you be reading this weekend?