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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Divergent and Insurgent -- good stuff that will keep your voracious readers busy

Roth, Veronica  (2011) Divergent  New York:  HarperCollins

It took me a long time to pry this one away from my high school daughter.  She had to loan it to her friends, and in some cases, her friend's parents.  So by the time I finally read it, I wondered what all the fuss was about.

What Divergent  does really well is it crates a world and fills it with interesting people.  We have had enough dystopian fiction lately that my bar for quality in this subgenre is kind of high.  I really thought Divergent  was worth it.  I am not saying the world of Divergent is likely, or even plausible, but it is somehow believable, and in the midst of the non-stop action, there are times to think a bit about what this book has to say about our society -- as it gets drawn into tighter and tighter subgroups who do not communicate or event understand each other.

But you want to know what it is about.  Fair enough. 

Tris was born, like everyone in her world, into a Faction.  After the world collapsed (the books are set near and in the ruined city of Chicago), each faction blamed some aspect of the society before and focused on overcoming that aspect.  So Abnegation is a society built on selflessness; Dauntless, on bravery; Erudite on intelligence and scientific understanding; Amity on peaceful reconciliation and neutrality; and Candor on honesty.  Tris's family belongs to Abnegation, but when she is tested, she qualifies for more than one faction (thus she is Divergent) and on the day of her choosing ceremony, she leaves her family and joins Dauntless. 

And at that point, stuff takes off.  Tris must prove her worth in both sanctioned and unsanctioned combat, make friends, and in the midst of all this, she begins to suspect that things in her world are not as neat and stable as they seem.  when she and the guy she kind of likes discover a plot by one of the factions to take over, the book kicks into really high gear.

There is some vulgar language and some vaguely sexual situations, but they are not excessive.  High school students will not be phased much by it.  This would be good to loan to high schools students (male and female).  It would work really well for a motivated book club of high school kids too.  I have to say that I can't see using it in class. Thematically it is strong enough and there is plenty of interesting stuff to discuss, but at 487 pages for the first book, it might be a bit much.

Roth, Victoria  (2012) Insurgent  New York:  HarperCollins.

I am afraid I didn't like the second book in the series quite as much -- but that is okay.  I read it eagerly and enjoyed it a great deal. 
     I guess part of it is that we already know the world we are in -- but maybe it is also that this book suffers a bit from second-book-in-a-series syndrome.  It starts in he middle and ends in the middle.    Still, there is plenty going on here.  Tris and Four try to figure out what to do after the crisis at the end of the last book and at the same time struggle with their relationship and divided loyalties.  There is more fighting, excitement, intrigue, and surprises.  
     So really, my review doesn't matter.  Give Divergent to a student.  If they like it, give them Insurgent..  I haven't read the third one yet (and apparently there is something in it that makes my daughter and her friends very angry), but I would hand that one off to the student too.  Any books that weave such an interesting world are worth reading.

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