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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
Books: Divergent 
15th-May-2012 06:52 pm
Today to Read
Divergent, by Veronica Roth. YA Dystopia*, paperback, 487 pages of story, 72 pages of afterwards. First in the duology.

Divergent is one of the new generation of YA dystopias that are sweeping the market. While I like them better than the vampire books, they are typically depressing and violent (see Hunger Games, Birthmarked/Prized). In this story, the dystopic autocracy of fallen Chicago has a population that is divided into five factions, with those who are factionless left at the bottom in the dregs of society. The five factions are devoted to selflessness, truth, fearlessness, knowledge, and love. At the age of 16, all children are subject to aptitude tests and then told to choose their faction, to which they will pledge their adult allegiance. Our heroine, Tris, suffers from "inconclusive" results, makes her choice, and then runs headlong through the fallout.

The strength of this book was that the heroine did not get dragged through the story. She runs straight into it, choice by choice. The weakness of the book was the graphic Lord of the Flies initiation chapters that seem to be required by anyone looking to attract a Hunger Games audience.

I picked it up because it was voted GoodReads book of the year for 2011.
I would recommend it to people who like the new dystopia genre, who enjoy strong female characters and good male supporting cast members, and who aren't put off by a table knife to the eye.

* Yes, this is a new category. Since I didn't categorize stuff last year, I don't have to worry about digging through the stacks to find Birthmarked and Hunger Games and whatever-all-else.


Divergent, by Veronica Roth.
Recommended: Yes (but pretend it doesn't have a sequel)
Quote: I believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.

Divergent is one of the new generation of YA dystopias that are sweeping the market. While I like them better than the vampire books, they are typically dark, depressing, and violent (see Hunger Games, Birthmarked/Prized). In this story, the dystopic autocracy of fallen Chicago has a population that is divided into five factions, with those who are factionless left at the bottom in the dregs of society. The five factions are devoted to selflessness, truth, fearlessness, knowledge, and love. At the age of 16, all children are subject to aptitude tests and then told to choose their faction, to which they will pledge their adult allegiance. Our heroine, Tris, suffers from "inconclusive" results, makes her choice, and then runs headlong through the fallout.

The character of Tris takes a while to unpack, adding richness to the people as well as the plot. Her relationships with her parents and brother feel rather normal at first: she is just a regular teenage girl who goes about her days mostly oblivious to her big brother, admiring of her mother, and slightly confused about her father. Her self-questioning about goals, friends, and future are also quite normal for that age. When it comes time for her to choose a faction, the plot opens up straight off of the descriptions of her family and society.

The biggest strength of this book is that the heroine does not get dragged through the story. She runs straight into it, choice by choice. And as Tris grows and changes through the story, her choices make consistent sense to her character even when the omnipotent readers might disagree. The weakness of the book is the graphic Lord of the Flies initiation chapters that seem to be required by anyone looking to attract a Hunger Games audience. There is a lot of violence in the middle of the book where the kids break into miniature gangs and start rivaling each other in increasingly drastic ways. While it may have made for a more "gripping" story, I found the violence between the teenagers sucked away some of the shock factor when the plot blew open.

I picked up Divergent because it was voted GoodReads book of the year for 2011. I'm so glad that I wasn't disappointed. It was an excellent book, and far better than I expected after Hunger Games. I recommend it to people who like the new dystopia genre, who enjoy strong female characters and good male supporting cast members, and who aren't put off by a table knife to the eye.

New-to-me Books for 2012

January
House of the Star by Caitlin Brennan, YA fantasy. 282 pages; hardback; stand-alone. 3/5 stars on Goodreads (3 = "liked it"), 4/5 stars on Amazon (4 = "liked it"); straight into the giveawaybox (eta: gone)
Gwenhwyfar by Mercedes Lackey, Fantasy. 404 pages; hardback; stand-alone. 2/5 stars on Goodreads (2 = "it was OK"), 3/5 stars on Amazon (3 = "it was OK"); straight into the giveawaybox (eta: gone)
Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt, Urban fantasy. 336 pages; paperback; first in the series. 3/5 stars on Goodreads (3 = "liked it"), 4/5 stars on Amazon (4 = "liked it"); going to keep it around and loan it to friends
Hexed edited by uncredited, listed under the first author, Ilona Andrews. Urban Fantasy, 326 pages. Paperback; anthology of four novellas. 3/5 stars on Goodreads, 4/5 stars on Amazon; going to loan it to friends who like Kate Daniels, then likely give it away.
Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White. YA Fantasy, 335 pages. Hardback; first in the series. [3/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox. (eta: gone)
Stormwalker, by Allyson James. Urban Fantasy, 330 pages. Paperback; first in the series. [3/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox. (eta: gone)
The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson. YA Fantasy, 423 pages. Hardback, stand-alone. [3/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox. (eta: gone)
Shadow Ops: Control Point, by Myke Cole. Urban Fantasy... sort of... 382 pages. Paperback, first in the series. [4/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox.

February
Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, fantasy. 672 pages. Paperback; first in the series.[4/5 on Goodreads] Borrowed.
Westward Weird edited by Martin Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes. Hell-if-I-know, 302 pages. Paperback, anthology. [3/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox.
Discount Armageddon, by Seanan McGuire. Urban fantasy, 360 pages. Paperback; first in the series. Keeping it for now.

March
Fair Game, by Patricia Briggs, Urban fantasy. 293 pages; hardback; third in the series. Keeping it.
The Modern Fae's Guide to Surviving Humanity, edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray, Urban fantasy. 308 pages; paperback; anthology. Giveawaybox.
Tempting Danger, by Eileen Wilks. Paranormal romance, 301 pages. Paperback, first in the series. Giveawaybox.
Too Much Information, by Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes. Comic book, 127 pages. Paperback. 9th in the series. Keeping it.
Touch of Power, by Maria V. Snyder. Fantasy romance. 390 pages, paperback. First in the series. Giveawaybox.
Out Whom Shall We Gross?, by Brooke McEldowney. Comic book. 87 pages, paperback. First in the series. Keeping it.
Sonata for Piano and Armpit, by Brooke McEldowney. Comic book. 87 pages, paperback. Second in the series. Keeping it.
Sphinx's Princess, by Esther Friesner. YA Fantasy. 365 pages, paperback. First in the duology. It was a loan. 4/5 on GoodReads.
Sphinx's Queen, by Esther Friesner. YA Fantasy. 347 pages, paperback. Second in the duology. It was a loan. 4/5 on GoodReads.

April
Bone Shop, by T. A. Pratt. Urban Fantasy. Online. Prequel to the Marla Mason series.
Kitemaster and Other Stories, by Jim C. Hines. Fantasy. e-book anthology. 3/5 on GoodReads, 4/5 on Amazon.
How is that Underling Thing Working out for You?, by Scott Adams. 128 pages, paperback. Comic. Keeping it.
Teamwork Means You Can't Pick the Side That's Right by Scott Adams. 128 pages, paperback. Comic. Keeping it.
The Sentinel Mage, by Emily Gee. Fantasy. 509 pages, paperback. First in the trilogy. It was a loan. 4/5 on GoodReads; 4/5 on Amazon.

May
Dragon Ship, by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. e-ARC. Science Fiction. Fourth in the series; 14th in the Universe.
Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers, YA fantasy. 549 pages; hardback; stand-alone. 4/5 on GoodReads; 4/5 on Amazon.
Eon, by Allison Goodman. YA Fantasy. 531 pages, paperback. First in the duology.
Silence, by Michele Sagara. YA Fantasy. 289 pages, hardback. First in the series.
Divergent, by Veronica Roth. YA Dystopia, paperback, 487 pages of story, 72 pages of afterwards. First in the duology.



In case you want back references, here is the Books for 2011 round-up post
Comments 
17th-May-2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
I don't know if you're the type of person that likes signed books, but I saw this and thought I'd pass it on: http://www.sfwa.org/nebula-awards/nebula-weekend/events-program/book-signing/
17th-May-2012 06:10 pm (UTC)
Neat! Thanks for the link. I have made other plans for tomorrow, but it sounds like a lot of fun.
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