Underwhelming. I knew what the plot was going in, so there was no major mystery or twist for me. I still enjoyed the storyline, but I really hated the...moreUnderwhelming. I knew what the plot was going in, so there was no major mystery or twist for me. I still enjoyed the storyline, but I really hated the narration style. Chatty Kathy is always going on tangents, then stopping midway through, and the constant "but that's a story I'll tell you about later" and "first I should explain about this" drove me crazy. I sometimes like a conversational tone in a novel, but it didn't work for me here.(less)
So as most of my friends know, I have a personal project where I’m reading as much science fiction by women authors as possible, and this new trend of...moreSo as most of my friends know, I have a personal project where I’m reading as much science fiction by women authors as possible, and this new trend of young adult dystopias works perfectly with my plans. I’m kind of picky about young adult lit, but I enjoy them when they’re done well.
Divergent, like what seems like 90% of YAs released in the past 3 years, is a fast-paced angst-filled adventure story that takes place in crumbling future America. In the world Veronica Roth has created, society has splintered into 5 “factions”: Dauntless, Candor, Amity, Erudite, and Abnegation. Five guesses as to what virtue each represents, but you can have the last one for free since I didn’t know what it meant either. Abnegation, which our lovely protagonist Beatrice Prior is born into, values selflessness above all else and eschews individuality. But Beatrice is like “Screw that” and transfers to Dauntless, shortens her name to Tris (cause a nickname changes everything) and of course the shit hits the fan.
The story was a pretty good page-turner, but the whole work felt extremely derivative. There were serious echoes of everything from Brave New World to Harry Potter to The Giver to Ender's Game and of course, The Hunger Games. Like the latter, Divergent is written in first-person present tense, but the narrative didn’t feel as clunky here, though I don’t know if that’s due to Roth’s skills. I may just be getting used to this writing style. Even with that aside, this book is a whole ball of clichés. The wise Erudite all wear glasses to make themselves look smarter, even if they don’t need them. The badass Dauntless are all covered in piercings and tattoos. It’s Stereotype City.
As far as the characters go, well… Tris is likeable enough, but it takes her ages to work out the most obvious things. Supposedly her Divergent tendencies made her eligible for Erudite, but I don’t think so. She’s kind of dumb. I really wish we could lose the brooding, mood-swingy love interest in Four, too. I’m just glad there wasn’t a love triangle – imagine, a strong female character has friends who are boys who she doesn’t fall in love with! Shocker!
I did enjoy this, though. It certainly wasn’t spectacular, but it was far from bad, and I’m interested to read more about this world, even if I think Veronica Roth’s vision of the future is patently ridiculous.(less)
Wow. What a fantastic, unique novel. There's a blurb on the back of my library copy that recommends Annabel to "fans of Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex"...moreWow. What a fantastic, unique novel. There's a blurb on the back of my library copy that recommends Annabel to "fans of Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex", and while the comparison is apt, this is a wholly different novel that stands on its own.
The story takes place in a small hunting town in Labrador, Newfoundland. It's a harsh society with rigid gender roles, where the men spend six months of the year living in isolated hunting cabins on the traplines and women give birth in their bathtubs at home and go right back to their duties the next day. In one of these bathtubs, an intersex child is born. The baby born to Treadway and Jacinta Blake is a "true hermaphrodite", possessing both male and female genitalia: one ovary, one testicle, a vagina, either a small penis or large clitoris, just the right size so as to be ambiguous. Faced with this unexpected dilemma, the family makes the difficult decision to raise the baby as a boy and arrange for a doctor to perform "normalizing" surgery. Baby Wayne gets his vagina sewn up and everyone hopes the whole affair is behind them. But it's pretty hard for a secret like that to stay hushed up, especially in such a small town. Puberty is hard enough for those whose bodies change according to typical biology, and it's something else entirely for those who don't conform to gender norms, as Kathleen Winter explores.
This was beautifully written and an absolute pleasure to read, which is surprising given the subject matter. There are definitely difficult, uncomfortable parts, and I cried more than once. I also had slight suspension of disbelief issues about one plot point: (view spoiler)[that whole auto-fertilization thing. Even with the anatomy Wayne is described as having in the book, it seems extremely far-fetched to me. (hide spoiler)] For that, I think I would need to revisit Anne Fausto-Sterling's fantastic nonfiction, Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality.
There's a strange innocence in this book, in the way it breaks your heart and then warms it again. The characters are real, flawed yet completely sympathetic. Even Treadway, steadfast in his role as the harsh father figure, punishing Wayne for things he does that may be seen as too "feminine"... you can tell he does this out of love and because he knows that the world will be even harsher to someone who doesn't fit into its view of normality. His growth as a character is amazing to watch and was one of my favorite elements of the story.
This was really a fascinating study of the fluidity of gender. From the research I've done, it seems that intersex conditions may occur in up to 1% of births, depending on what studies you cite and what definition of "intersex" you use, since there's quite a spectrum of anomalies falling under that umbrella. For what is obviously not such a rare condition, it's surprising to me that there aren't more books out there dealing with this subject. While Annabel does it well, it's also just a great coming of age story.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Sometimes I feel the obligation to read prizewinning or super-hyped books, but I'm often disappointed by them. This one was actually pretty awesome th...moreSometimes I feel the obligation to read prizewinning or super-hyped books, but I'm often disappointed by them. This one was actually pretty awesome though. It's kind of a contemporary Bildungsroman, centering around two characters, the washed-up record exec Bennie and his former kleptomaniac assistant, Sasha. Well, former assistant, probably forever kleptomaniac. Their stories are told in a series of loose vignettes featuring a cast of wacky characters, and the chapters jump around chronologically and vary in POV and style (including the much-talked-about Powerpoint chapter, which I really enjoyed).
No one in this novel is particularly likeable, but most of them are relatable. Crazy youth --> Middle age --> Wondering "What happened to me?" is a pretty common theme that I think a lot of people can identify with. Even though I'm only in my 20's, I still appreciated the thread of change and the passing of time throughout the narrative. I especially enjoyed the slightly speculative chapters set in the near-future.(less)
Oryx and Crake follows Snowman, formerly known as Jimmy, in the aftermath of a mysterious apocalyptic pandemic. He appears to be the only human left on earth, grudgingly watching over the naive and simpleminded Children of Crake. Through a series of flashbacks, Atwood explains, just a bite at a time, how Crake went from being Jimmy's best friend to the world's biggest asshole, how the two came to love a mysterious and irreparably damaged girl called Oryx, and what happened to destroy this near-future dystopia.
So, so good. There is no other writer like Margaret Atwood. I have no idea how she keeps coming up with new, more horrible ways to terrify her readers while writing so beautifully. Her characters are real and flawed, and while the story does require a certain suspension of disbelief (like most post-apocalyptic or dystopian novels), it contains enough truth and similarities to our world to be absolutely haunting.
I'm definitely looking forward to picking up The Year of the Flood to continue the saga. Anyone know when the third in the trilogy is supposed to be out?(less)
This is probably the best Young Adult book I've read as a full-adult. It's hilarious and touching all at once, and while the events in the book probab...moreThis is probably the best Young Adult book I've read as a full-adult. It's hilarious and touching all at once, and while the events in the book probably don't happen to the average eighteen year old, the characters and their emotions and relationships as they graduate high school are easy to identify with. These actually seem like real teenagers - flawed and angsty while still being good kids at heart. If you're in your in your twenties or older, this will also somehow make you nostalgic for high school - something I didn't think possible.(less)
I can't really pinpoint what I didn't like about this book. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't as good as it could have been, or wasn't what I expected compared to his other novels. It dragged a bit, and meandered all over the place - I would find myself spacing out, bored for pages on end, only to be grabbed back in by a particularly gripping paragraph or two, then bored out of my mind again for the next dozen pages. I also didn't really like the magical realism superhero elements - they didn't feel like a big enough part of the story to really be important, but then when I least expected it someone would put on that goddamn stupid ring and I found it jarring, and stupid to be perfectly honest.
Now for what I did like: I loved the references to the neighborhood and city as a whole, particularly in the beginning of the book. I was actually born in Gowanus, a decade or so after the time period in the book, but still prior to the massive gentrification, so I'm very familiar with the area. The feeling of the neighborhood in the book is very authentic and I appreciated the references to certain landmarks sprinkled throughout the text. I also liked the plot and storyline for the most part - the story of two kids, one black and one white, becoming best friends and subsequently growing apart; the racial tension in semi-ghetto Brooklyn in the late seventies; a coming-of-age story filled with comic books and science fiction and music and drugs. It just didn't all come together as I would have liked.
I did love that the two main characters are named Dylan and Mingus. Bob Dylan and Charles Mingus, two iconic musicians who are so different yet have so much in common when you really think about it - the parallels to Lethem's fictional characters are just so perfect. Just in those two names, Lethem speaks volumes. If only the rest of the book could be that clever.(less)