Monday, July 9, 2012


By Veronica Roth

Four Things I Liked About Divergent:
1. Tough as nails heroine
2. Dystopian Chicago
3. Four
4. Daredevil feats

Yet another strong series starter. I’ve been hearing great things about this book all year online, but because I didn’t want to make the commitment of actually buying it and because my campus library has a distinct shortage of recent YA releases, I didn’t get around to seeing what all the fuss was about it until now.

Beatrice – or Tris, as she soon becomes – grew up in Chicago, but not the Chicago we all know and love. This Chicago exists some unspecified number of years in the future and, aside from a couple key landmarks like the Sears tower, is unrecognizable. The city is divided into five factions (Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, and Amity), which are like a mixture of vocation and cult. You declare your faction at age 16, and after that your faction becomes your world. If you transferred factions from the one you grew up in (often seen as betrayal), you will no longer live with your family and will only visit them on rare occasions. In a last second decision that surprises everyone except the reader, Beatrice transfers from her family’s faction of Abnegation to the tough and fearless Dauntless. A ruthless and competitive initiation period follows before the initiates can be fully accepted into the faction. As Tris fights for a position in her chosen faction in a competition that blurs the line between even close friend and rival, she struggles with a secret about her identity that may threaten not only her chances at initiation but her life – and the fraying threads that hold her fractioned society together.

Divergent is everything that a good series debut should be: compelling, exciting, inventive. I read the majority of it in about 12 hours. And while I am a fast reader, to put aside all other forms of entertainment to read something that quickly is somewhat rare. But it’s not without its flaws. I felt like book spent too much time focused on the initiation trials which, while interesting, meant that not a ton of ground had been laid for the climaxing of the dystopian subplot, the part where all hell breaks loose. I didn’t feel like I had a very good grasp on the society in Roth’s dystopia – how it worked, why it was formed, what its problems were. Tris’s experiences in Dauntless were very exciting to read, but they didn’t feel very connected to the events unfolding in the society as a whole. Which would have been fine if that’s all the book was, but because the events in society at large became so important in the last chapters of the book, it certainly felt like a weakness that I, the reader, wasn’t better prepared for those events. Feeding the reader more information about the society would also have made the motive behind Roth’s dystopia more clear. Often when a writer creates a dystopia, they are critiquing some system or characteristic of our own society. But what exactly that might have been in Divergent was not clear.

Overall, though, Divergent proves to be a promising beginning to an exciting trilogy. I have the sequel on hold at the library.

Books Read This Year: 54
Top 100 Progress: 48/100

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Million Suns

By Beth Revis

Five Things I Liked About A Million Suns:
1. Truly surprising plot twists
2. Conspiracy theories
3. World-building
4. Beautiful description
5. Suspense

It’s shaping up to be a summer of series for me, between Across the Universe, Game of Thrones (currently reading book two), and Divergent (review to come). Having read and enjoyed Across the Universe a week or two ago, its already released sequel immediately went into my hold queue at the library. A Million Suns resumes three months after the events of Across the Universe. Eldest is dead; so is Orion. Elder leads Godspeed now, and peopled with free thinkers for the first time generations, the ship stirs with the seeds of unrest. Released from the mind-numbing effects of phydus, the population of Godspeed awakens to the harsh realities of centuries-old Godspeed’s disintegration, and they're not happy with what they see. Meanwhile Amy and Elder delve into the potentially dangerous secrets of the ship’s command and mission – and must take responsibility for whatever they find. As the ship deteriorates into greater and greater disorder, Amy and Elder wrestle with the implications of their newfound knowledge. One thing alone is certain: life on Godspeed is about to change.

A Million Suns achieves a rare feat for a sequel: it manages to improve upon its predecessor. Everything I loved about Across the Universe was present in A Millions Suns, but even better. The plot development was more surprising, more suspenseful, more satisfying. The characters became even more detailed and their relationships richer and more complex. The writing – especially her descriptions of the world outside Godspeed – was even more lovely and luminous. It almost makes me nervous, going into anticipating the third and final book in the trilogy. Will she be able to continue this trend? Will the third book be able to improve on the second as much as the second did on the first? And yet I have no reason to doubt her; so far, Revis has more than shown she can deliver – and then some. I will be eagerly anticipating its release come January!

Books Read This Year: 53
Top 100 Progress: 48/100