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“Insurgent” by Veronica Roth: a reaction to the novel

This is not a traditional review. It’s a reaction. And I’m doing this because I don’t feel like writing today, plus this is a second novel in a series by Veronica Roth, and I don’t want to waste your time if you’re not interested in the series. If you are curious though, please read my first blog review about the first novel HERE to decide if it’s worth your time.

The truth is, with every author writing a trilogy or worse, it’s hard to get genuinely excited for a series anymore. A lot of these author in Young Adult take a premise that could be a book or two at best and make them between three and seven obnoxious, money grabbing books. If you read my blogs from the past few months, you’ll know I complain about this regularly.

That said: I can honestly say the “Divergent” series is deserving of the buzz and should be THE NEXT BIG THING. A movie will come, and when the third book is out, this will hit the roof, just like Mockingjay did for Collins’ and her less than impressive “Hunger Games” Series.

Divergent is better. I’m sticking to it.

Which brings me to the reaction to “Insurgent” which came out in MAY 2012:

This was the best sequel to a “book one” I’ve ever read in Y.A.

It had the impact of Harry Potter while being Sci-Fi. It carries weight and angst and romance and violence. Veronica Roth continued to write a fast-paced story here, and, yes, it’s not perfect writing and can sometimes go on a bit, but nowhere near the extent of other Y.A. authors. You read Veronica Roth’s work because it’s so visual and has a lot of energy. It’s the series I would equate most to “reading a movie.” This is not poetic or artsy writing, in fact it is very utilitarian in its use, but you can’t turn the pages fast enough.

You read because the plot and story rules. She works with her strengths well. She does what she does damned good.

So I give it a 4/5, just like the first installment. These are not really sepearate books, but a three part, very long story. “Insurgent” picked up exactly where “Divergent” left off, which will be jumbling to someone who hasn’t read the first book in ten months, but it’s nothing a brief wiki visit can’t fix. Overall, this continued the adventure at the same calibur as the first one, which isn’t always the case for sequel movies and books. God knows there’s a lot of shit out there. But if you liked Divergent or if my PREVIOUS REVIEW entices you, go NOW to your library.

And the Ending, the last chapter, no, the last page, is a Holy Crap Moment. Enjoy that.

I’m sad there’s only one book left.

The stakes are raised, people die, and this plot runs deeper than affecting just five factions.

I’ve said too much already. Go. Go!



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“The Maze Runner” by James Dashner: a book review

So, another Young Adult Book. What can I say: It’s officially an obsession. And, no surprise, this one has ALSO been optioned for a film in the next two years just like two out of every three YA books I’ve been reading this year. Guess that’s where the money is. But now, on to the review:

If you want the one sentence version, here it is: It’s a great premise but weakly written, and while it’s not bad, it barely keeps the pages turning and you should just wait for the movie.

The big issues with its quality lie in the characters and the klunky writing. Some sentences are just not smooth, and it’s not a personal taste thing: it’s a literary, storytelling pillar. A staple of cohesive art. Consistant construction. The second act dragged. Certain diction and wording should have been changed.

Now, maybe it’s just one of those things that male authors do differently from women. The lyrical nature of some female writers is nonexistent here, and the dialogue can be overwhelming — not in the sense that there is slang used in their world, but in the sense that in a story that should be mostly action and mystery, there is too much yap-yap-yapping and every little, specific word of a conversation does not need to be shown. Show us the characters talking about the plot, throw in minor slice-of-life “asides”, and move on. The conversations could go on and on. Think Lord of the Flies with 50 more pages of Counsel meetings.

The characters, including the protagonist, came off as a bunch of pricks. Like, asses. Really: In each other’s face, unlikable, and not very empathetic. When the sad parts came, not a tear came from my eyeballs. It’s okay to have some ruffian characters like this in this type of hellish book: they’re living in terrible conditions and kids die violently. But some of the characters need to be likeable or have different levels of aggression. The only character I liked was the thirteen-year old Chuck, and he was chatty and obnoxious; charmingly bearable and an overachiever. And, yeah, that was the best one. Eek.

So, the good. The beginning and the end. While the rest of the book was being beaten in different ways by early 90s era Mike Tyson, what kept this book from having its ear bitten off was early chapters that make you salivate for details and rules of the maze. Throughout the middle, you just want to find out the ending. You don’t keep reading it because it’s good. In fact, it’s 50 pages too long. You get to the last 50 pages and are rewarded with a unique dystopian twist that will have people talking in the movie theaters. How this book ends, what the fictitious world is like, and what may come next for our gang of survivors will get people buzzing who haven’t read the book.

All in all, a 3/5 is about right. I liked it, sure. But I can’t fully recommend it to everyone. The movie could rule or could be lackluster. It’s all about the director. The trilogy could take us to great places, but it’s not at the top of the list of “Sequels I Must read in the Next Three Months.”

Often, a book’s ending doesn’t make me happy when the middle was so weak. It takes a lot to flush out a sour taste. This one did and with great intrigue. Recommended for teens 13-17 without a second thought. Everyone else, wait for the movie. You’re not missing out.

If you want dystopia, read “Legend” by Marie Lu and “Divergent” by Veronica Roth first. Then do this bad boy.



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“Divergent” by Veronica Roth: a book review

So, where faction are you? The Honest, Selfless, Brave, Intelligent, or Peaceful?

Though not all the world’s virtues are represented here, these are the factions that a futuristic Chicago is divided into, making the society in DIVERGENT”  ripe for discussion: which faction is more important? Or is it more important to find a balance of them all within ourselves? And do people fit into just one or a few? Can we be made to conform? Should we?

Choices, choices, choices.

However you feel about that set up, rest assured the book is great, which is better than “good” but not “excellent.” People will either like this or love it, I wager. Is it better writing than the Hunger Games Trilogy? Yes. Is the overall story better and more addicting? That’s arguable; and honestly remains to be seen. With the sequel, Insurgent, coming out in just weeks, May 2012, the jury is still out.

It might be unfair to compare every book I’ve been doing lately to Hunger Games, but it is: (a) the book everybody knows about right now; and (b) is a dystopian-adventure, coming-of-age told in first-person present tense. This is the hot genre right now, and luckily for me, I like it. Full of parallels between the fictional world and our world, young adults from 14-21 can learn about oligarchies, dystopias, checks-and-balances, social issues, sympathy, empathy, bravery, and more. Plus, these kinds of high-energy books have really connected with tens of thousands of teenage readers over the past few years — we’ll say since about 2006.

Expect a lot of these to be made into films between 2013 and 2020, including “Matched” and “Blood Red Road”, maybe even “The Forest of Hand and Teeth.”

A lot of first time and second time authors are getting some big breaks into the industry by being at the right place at the right time, and I can honestly say that they are not just riding on coattails completely. (Of course, a bit.) But they are all bringing something slightly different to the table (if you ignore the usual romance sub-plots and the unconfident female protagonists who blossom into confidence). Some things are just “staples” of the genre. Tried and true.

But rest assured, Divergent, the first novel by Veronica Roth, has as much or more death, groping, kissing, and definitely brings more socio-political ethical questions than the Hunger Games. Less survival, more brain. Equal in violence, but somehow more raw.

The writer and editor here are clearly a better team than Collins and her editor, and I’m optimistic that Roth’s trilogy will do what the Collins’ trilogy could not: deliver on big ideas about family, love, and virtues, show some real love and not be so virginal/chaste/asexual, and more deeply consider the politics of society. Plus, Roth’s work flows better and delivers more fluent action paragraphs. Honestly, I give Collins’ trilogy a 7/10. Divergent is on course to be an 8.

Criticism for Divergent: the book could have been fifty pages thinner, chopping every other sentence out of the middle 100 pages. But beyond that, it’s believable; except for a choppy, sudden stumble into the third act, because, well, it’s time to get to that part of the story…. I guess…. Right? But the last 50 pages makes up for any minor grief. Great, deafening, realistic, heart-breaking, hopeful ending.

Lose some, gain, some, move on. This is just the beginning of something HUGE.

Unlike the one-dimensional hierarchal vagaries shabbily explored in the Hunger Games, the Divergent Series is likely to touch on something more than just being weary about those in power, but how we should be living our lives — period. Through a war of virtues and finding where we belong and what is the best way for a government to represent the whole, Divergent could almost stand as a precursor to the Hunger Games series, showing what happened during the war 75 years ago when the “factions/districts” rebelled.

If any of this interests you, this is a book worth reading. It might very well be the next big series. Also, look out for The Maze Runner and Legend – two other dystopian Young Adult novels by first time authors that are supposed to kick major ass if you like fast-paced, me-against-the-world, danger books.

At 480 pages, I killed Divergent in three days. It’s a good book to talk to friends about, especially if you think this kind of government could ever work. Why or why not? Read with a friend!!!

Rating: 4/5


p.s. an interesting reviewer youtube v-log “the readables” is silghtly more critical here, but well supported — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWa0KPgMgEQ&feature=relmfu


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