Up until about a week ago I hadn't even heard of this book. Then I saw that it had won both Best YA book and Best Book of 2011 on Goodreads as voted b...moreUp until about a week ago I hadn't even heard of this book. Then I saw that it had won both Best YA book and Best Book of 2011 on Goodreads as voted by the members. I was curious about this book that hadn't reached my radar yet and upon reading the reviews discovered that it was being hailed as the new Hunger Games (which is one of my all-time favourite books). A day or so later I happened to be in a bookshop (what are the chances? Okay, I jest, I am almost a permanent fixture in bookshops) and saw a copy of Divergent staring out at me from the shelves and I just had to have it.
This is a world sometime in the future and set in a city that I believe was once Chicago (as the now-abandoned Sears Tower is based there). Every person in this city belongs to one of five factions: Abnegation (selflessness), Erudite (learning), Amity (kindness), Candor (honesty) or Dauntless (bravery). Beatrice Prior (or Tris as she becomes known) is a member of Abnegation and the book starts with the day that she and every other 16 year old from all factions undergo a test to see which faction they will belong to from then on: if they chose a faction other than the one that they were born into it means betraying their families and potentially never seeing them again). However, Tris's test doesn't turn out quite as she had expected as her results mean that she could choose one of 3 factions. She is told in confidence that this is because she is a Divergent but she must not tell anyone, even her family, as this is an extremely dangerous thing to be. On the day of the choosing ceremony, Tris abandons her family to join the Dauntless faction and that is where the adventure starts.
I thought the idea of this was brilliant and I was excited to find out about the factions and how Tris's choice to join Dauntless would affect her. However, the more I read the more disillusioned I became: I never felt that I got a proper sense of the city or why it was like that or why the factions had come about and I would have liked to have learnt more. Also, as the book moved along I became more and more frustrated at why each person would only fit into one of the factions; afterall I don't know anyone who is honest but can't be kind or intelligent with it or brave but can't be honest etc. I would expect that the majority of people would fit into more than one category - I certainly would; in fact I think I could fit into all of them (except Dauntless ironically - particularly after reading what they had to go through).
As well as some other minor annoyances, I did have one huge dislike too and that was the violence that went on for chapters and chapters. Each faction had to train its new recruits to pass an initiations (and those who fail are kicked out and become known as factionless and have to live on the streets), and despite knowing that the Dauntless faction was all about bravery, I found most of their training completely over the top and unsavoury to read. Fighting each other until someone passes out, throwing knives at each other, almost killing someone to test their mettle: I accept that some of this may have been necessary to show us what they recruits had to go through but for it to go on for so long and to be so brutal left a really bad taste in my mouth.
I would really have liked to know more about the other factions and how the city came to be like this but we got little information about anything outside the Dauntless compound until the end. Is this just in one city? Are there other cities exactly the same with their own compounds and set of factions? None of that was even addressed, never mind answered. I know this is the first book in a trilogy so maybe some of this will be answered in the future books, but even a little teaser or snippets of info would have been good.
Despite my little rants, I sort of enjoyed this book. I understand that it is the debut novel written by a 23 year old and that has to be commended. I hope that the books become tighter and more polished as the series continues and I am curious enough to want to read them to see what happens.
Verdict: Some major disappointments and it certainly is no Hunger Games (not in my mind at least). Aside from my ramblings though, it is still a fast-paced adventure story that sucked me right in for large amounts of it and should certainly appeal to the masses.
I’m finding this book really difficult to review. The main reason for this is that it’s a few years now since I was a teenager (OK, a great many years...moreI’m finding this book really difficult to review. The main reason for this is that it’s a few years now since I was a teenager (OK, a great many years) and to do this review justice I am going to have to take myself back to those days; those days of of falling out with your best friend and it ruining your life for an afternoon, unrequited crushes, rumours and gossip that can make your life a misery for a whole day (which feels like a whole year when you’re that age). That’s where I need to place myself in order to get under Hannah’s skin as if I don’t this review will be completely different. In fact, let’s go there – let’s talk about what I thought reading it now and then talk about how I would have felt over 20 year ago.
I’ll start by saying that the premise is brilliant. A box of cassettes lands on your doorstep and when you play them, the voice coming through your speaker-phone is that of Hannah Baker. Only Hannah Baker killed herself two weeks ago. The young boy, Clay, is one of 13 people who will recieve these tapes in turn and each one of those 13 people contributed to why Hannah killed herself. An interview with the author at the end of the book says that he got the idea for the tapes when he was listening to an audio in a museum and he was fascinated with how spooky it was to listen to someones voice who wasn’t really there. That’s how it must have felt to Clay when he played the tapes – for not only was Hannah dead but Clay really liked her. How can he be one of the reasons for her wanting to kill herself? Clay takes the tapes and plays them on a walkman while he follows the map that Hannah also left to point out various places that mean something within her story like the park where she had her first kiss and the party that changed everything.
Adult Head OK, so now onto what I thought: while reading this I decided that I didn’t actually like Hannah very much and had little sympathy for her most of the time. The things she was accusing people of doing to her (most of it unintentional) seemed (to my adult self) pretty lame in most cases. Hannah accuses people of not seeing the real her yet she makes little effort to make any real friends or to open up to others. Kids from her shcool are named and shamed as being one of the catalysts for her suicide and really they didn’t do much other than be normal high school kids. Don’t get me wrong, I know anyone who has read this book will be yelling at the screen “but what about so-and-so?” and yes, there were some horrible people who deserved their cummupance; Hannah was the victim of an untrue rumour that started the snowball effect of her downfall. So why am I so down on Hannah? The truth is, I don’t know. It could be that I’m over all the he-said-she-said school stuff, it could be becasue I’m a northerner and we’re well known up here for not being soft and “brushing ourselves down and just getting on with things”, it could be because Hannah seems so angry and vengeful – fancy making people listen to your last few days on earth and accusing them of putting you in an early grave! Suicidal people, from my understanding, tend to be in a depressive state, not a state of anger like Hannah is. She is bitter and wants people to pay. In my book, that makes her as bad as the people she claims to be the victim of – they will have to live with those tapes for the rest of their lives.
Teenage Head Now onto my “teenage head”. If I had read this book in school I would have loved it, I know I would. At a time when every little thing is magnified to epic proportions, then I would have felt Hannah’s pain. I would have cried for her. She never really got the chance to fit in at her new school because a boy she liked over-egged the details of their first kiss and Hannah had to deal with the consequences for the next few years. As a teenager, I loved the dramatics and what Hannah did with the tapes would have had me punching the air for her – go Hannah! There are some very tender moments in this book too when you really begin to understand how one thing can snowball into another and before you know it you’re at rock bottom.
So, to conclude: I’m still as unsure about it as I was before. Good book? Yes, it’s a great book and quick read. But I still have my problem with Hannah. So my blunt northern self says “come on, pull yourself together, girl!”. (less)
What a quirky little book this is! I had great fun reading it. It even has its own website – yeah it’s aimed at teenagers but I still had a blast read...moreWhat a quirky little book this is! I had great fun reading it. It even has its own website – yeah it’s aimed at teenagers but I still had a blast reading it.
Invisible I is the first book in The Amanda Project series. It starts with three pupils – Callie, Hal and Nia who are all in the same grade but have nothing in common – being summoned to the Principals office and accused of knowing where Amanda Valentino has disappeared to. They all claim ignorance to even knowing Amanda but it turns out that they had all been picked as “guides” for Amanda when she joined the school and nobody else knew about their friendships with the quirky, independent Amanda.
Although Callie, Hal and Nia previously had nothing to do with each other, especially Callie who was a member of the I-Girls (think Mean Girls), they find themselves teaming up to find out what happened to their secret friend, Amanda Valentino. Who was she? The plot thickens as they discover that they had all been told different things by her (where she was from, where she lived etc). They all discover that Amanda had each given them an animal totem that represented who they are too.
This first book in the series is narrated by Callie Leary, who has major problems of her own and is also trying to cope with the disappearance of her own Mum as well as her friend. I believe that the second book is narrated by Hal (which leaves me to guess that there will be a third by Nia). In this first book Hal’s younger sister, Cornelia, sets up a website called The Amanda Project to help them find out where she is. This website actually exists and is great fun. I did the totem test and it turns out that my totem is a Raven (which means I am an intellec – oh yeah!!). Also, the book itself has the cutest illustrations in the pages: (less)