Saturday, July 9, 2011

REVIEW: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent is one of many young adult dystopian novels to come out recently and has received a lot of hype in the book community. I’m always a bit reluctant to read books that have a ton of buzz, perhaps because I feel like they won’t live up to my high expectations, or perhaps I just get bored hearing about them and lose interest. In any case, I picked up Divergent from the library and I’m glad I did.

The story takes place in a world where society is separated into five different factions: Erudite (the brains), Abnegation (the selfless), Candor (the honest), Amity (the peaceful) and Dauntless (the brave). When a person turns sixteen, he or she must choose which faction to belong to, with the help of simulations and aptitude tests.  In this society, your faction is more important than your family, and you are expected to devote your life to the group you chose.

Divergent follows the story of sixteen-year-old Beatrice, or Tris, as she makes the difficult choice of which faction she wishes to belong to. After she chooses, she undergoes a rigorous trial period to determine whether or not the faction she chooses will accept her or not. During this time she has to face challenges and fears that have her questioning not only her decision but her society in general.

I enjoyed Divergent and I do think it offers something unique amongst the plethora of dystopian literature that exists at the moment.  I enjoyed the characters and appreciate that they are complex. Tris is not typically beautiful and has personality flaws that make her human and relatable. Four, who is one of Tris’s faction trainers, has an interesting back story and is definitely swoon worthy despite his flaws.  There is a lot of conflict and action in this novel, which is something I don’t usually go for, but the action isn’t over-the-top and doesn’t move at an obnoxious speed.  For me, the best parts of the book were those that focused less on the action and more on personal and family relationships.

While Divergent didn’t render me speechless or blow my mind, it was an interesting story with some great qualities. It (of course) ends in a way that demands reading the next book in the series, Insurgent, which is coming sometime in 2012.  Rating: B+

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

REVIEW: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall is a book about 17-year-old Samantha (Sam), who gets into a car accident with her three best friends while driving home from a party. Sam dies in the accident, but ends up “waking up” and reliving the day of the accident over and over again. She hopes by changing some of her actions and doing things differently she will have an effect on the outcome of the day. This goes on for seven days, until Sam’s story is finally resolved.

When I started reading this book my expectations weren’t especially high. I thought it was going to be another story about the typical popular girl who ends up having some great epiphany and turns her life around in time for a nice, happy ending. I quickly realized I was wrong. This book is amazing and kept me totally captivated. I finished it in just a few sittings because I could not stop reading it.

One of the reasons this book is so great is the characters. None of the characters in this story are perfect. They all have flaws and they seem, well, like real people who I went to high school with. Much of the dialogue and events that take place had me reminiscing about my own high school experiences, remembering things like trying not to get caught smoking at school and driving around with my girlfriends.  In fact, I think the reason I love this book so much is just how much it makes you think.  As Sam was thinking about her own actions and the effect they have on other people, I couldn’t help thinking about things in life I wish I had done differently, or things I wish I could do over.  It’s easy to forget how short life really is, and this book definitely reminds you.  Rating: A+

Monday, March 14, 2011

REVIEW: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

So I know I am reviewing this book a little late – it came out in 2009 – but I am trying to catch up with some of the more hyped YA novels from the past few years.  I also wanted to read the two first novels in this series (“The Wolves of Mercy Falls”) before the third book, Forever, is released in July.

Shiver is a fantasy novel about a teenager, Grace, who has a connection to the wolves that live in the woods by her house. There is one wolf in particular she has a special bond with, Sam, who spends the warmer months of the year in human form. Though Grace knows Sam’s secret, it doesn’t stop her from falling in love with him. The story follows Grace and Sam as they desperately try to stay together before the cold weather turns Sam back into a wolf. Complicating matters are the people of Mercy Falls who want the wolves - who have attacked a local boy - out of their community.

While the synopsis sounds pretty exciting, the book is only average for me.  In particular, the characters fall pretty flat. Although we are given some back story for Sam, I feel like he is fairly one-dimensional, and the attempts Stiefvater has made to make him unique – like the way he recites song and poem lyrics – just come across as awkward.  I feel similarly about Grace, who could have been such a more interesting character.  Most of the supporting characters were fairly unexciting as well, and much of the dialogue and word choice had me cringing (i.e. “parental units.”)

The other thing I didn’t love about this book was the way the narration was shared by Sam and Grace. I would rather have one narrator who I can really connect with and get to know than two whom I only sort of know. I also had to double check who was narrating at some points, because Sam and Grace’s personalities are so similar. 

That being said, I found Shiver reasonably enjoyable to read, and I have enough interest to check out the next book in the series, Linger. With any luck, Linger will show more character development and will have a stronger plotline.  Rating: C+


I have always loved books, but only recently stumbled into the wonderful world of YA fiction. Although I am 28 – old by some standards! – I have fallen in love with YA all the same. I don’t really remember there being the kind of interest in young adult fiction when I was a teenager as there is now. I used to be obsessed with The Babysitter’s Club in elementary school, followed by R.L. Stine’s Fear Street, and then I really just read the standard high school curriculum fare. There seems to be a lot more interest surrounding the book world now, and there seem to be more and more high quality YA fiction being produced.   Over the past year or so I started to discover the YA online community and read more and more YA myself.  So, inspired by some of the awesome book blogs and Youtube channels I have come across, I decided to start my own blog. Here I plan to review books that I have read (a mix of both YA and adult fiction), and show you what I am reading/buying/borrowing from the library.  I am definitely new at this, so please, bear with me!