I wish someone could bottle you up, so that each person in the world could have a little bit of you. (Okay, m...moreOh, Augustus Waters.
I wish you were real.
I wish someone could bottle you up, so that each person in the world could have a little bit of you. (Okay, maybe not bottling you up, per se, but your essence, maybe...but only because bottling you up would not only be cruel but gross. And you're not real, so it would be impossible.)
But if you were real, then you would be pretty close to perfect.
You are absolutely yummy (your words), infinitely interesting, grotesquely irreverent (which makes you even yummier despite your 1.4 legs), and just so darned multidimensional that if it were possible, I'd want to travel the multiverses just to get a chance to meet you. And maybe hang out for a day...or an afternoon. Heck, even an hour, even if it were in the Literal Heart of Jesus.
Is it wrong that I like you so much?
Is it? Because it doesn't feel wrong.
I have no idea how Hazel held out for as long as she did, but thank goodness that girl came to her senses. Because you are, quite intolerably, just plain wonderful.
Because you did more in your short (fictional) life than most (real) people ever do...or try.
Because you look at life, at the universe, and you thumb your nose at it, with a smirk. I wish I could do that, instead of getting bogged down by...everything.
Because you put into words your fear of oblivion, so succinctly, so simply, that I teared up when you first uttered those words. That most everyone has that fear is a given. But very few could even string together the right words to voice that fear, much less share it with the world at large and make it mean something. So bravo to you, Augustus Waters (and by default, you, John Green, as well). Bravo.
Oh, how I wish you were real, because...
Well, because we'd all be just a smidgeon better for having known you. For having had the chance to catch a twinkle or two of your starlight.
I'm a sucker for the kinds of stories that are, on the surface, idyllic, but with a little bit more digging, are really disturbing and/or heartbreakin...moreI'm a sucker for the kinds of stories that are, on the surface, idyllic, but with a little bit more digging, are really disturbing and/or heartbreaking. Especially when kids and/or animals are involved. Stories like those in Radio Flyer, Shiloh or Bastard Out of Carolina, among many others.
I don't read/watch these kinds of books/movies often, usually because it makes me uncomfortable, and mostly because I just don't like going there. I'm not a fan of seeing kids and animals hurt. In spite of this discomfort however, I'm drawn to them. In the cases of the movies I mentioned above, I was always aware of them. I would see the ads, read the reviews, watch the previews or listen to other people talking about them. I knew I desperately wanted to see them but I almost always waited months (or even years) after they came out. But once I rented the video, that was it. I was committed to it wholeheartedly, allowing myself to be drawn into the early "happy", Arcadian phase, knowing full well that at any moment, something violent, something earth-shattering was going to happen that would turn that bucolic world into a nightmare. That at some point, that kid or puppy who'd tugged at my heartstrings would undergo some horrible experience that would set my mind and pulse racing, and I would sit there, aghast, just waiting for it to end, waiting for the inevitable escape or the death to happen, all the while wondering how adults could be so blind and so...powerless.
Sure, I've read (and enjoyed) stories that are all about brutality to and by kids. I've read and enjoyed The Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies and Ender's Game, but these books didn't hide the abuse, didn't hide the cruelty. If anything, the darkness---the abuse of and by children---is integral and central to the narrative. In these cases, the novels' notoriety was specifically borne out of that darkness.
I guess this was what I was expecting with Jeanette Walls' The Silver Star. I'm not sure why I thought it would be closer to Bastard Out of Carolina, but it wasn't. Don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed this book -- the narrator, Bean, is funny, smart, engaging, ballsy and adorable. And she's strong as anything. Her idolization of Liz, her older sister, is palpable and apparent from the very first line: "My sister saved my life when I was a baby." Liz was her sister, but because they had an unstable, irresponsible, flighty mother, Liz filled that maternal role as well, and one of her main responsibilities was taking care of Bean.
So from the outset, Walls establishes that whatever misery, whatever heartbreak was going to happen would be happening to Liz. Liz was Bean's hero, her guardian, her champion. Bean was a spectator, the younger sister, unable to do much. And that would have been an awesome tale to tell: how, in the face of adversity, two sisters would go through all these trials together, and the younger, weaker one would turn out to be the stronger, would turn the tables and protect the older.
Well, that happened. Sorta.
I guess this is what frustrated me with the book. Walls built such an idyllic world in the beginning---I loved Bean's and Liz's world, the language they shared, their distinct worldview, their survival skills. I loved that they took care of each other, that they knew how to take care of each other after their mother left them. And I loved their Uncle Tinsley---but when she tried to break that world down and introduce the Big Bad, she washed out.
Largely because the Big Bad...well, the Big Bad just wasn't bad enough.
I can't believe I'm complaining about this, but I suppose I expected something worse to happen. I wanted something consequential, something more substantial to happen to Liz. In my mind, Liz's breakdown was understandable, but it felt forced, it felt contrived. It just didn't fit what happened to her especially after she got out of what could've been a horrible situation relatively unscathed. For a character who, earlier in the story, dealt with an unstable absentee mother, who took on more mature problems while caring for her baby sister, what happened to Liz later in Byler seemed fairly inconsequential to make her spiral downwards so quickly and so completely. It made her seem weak, so much weaker than how she'd initially been drawn. It was so incongruous, so out of whack, with how Walls had initially developed her that honestly, Liz's breakdown was such a let-down.
Still, I enjoyed the novel. I breezed through the book, largely because I loved Bean and her newly discovered family: Tinsley and all the Wyatts. I enjoyed watching Bean come into her own. I laughed and cheered her on as she found a place where, while not quite belonging, she was able to carve out a niche for herself. And I was right up there with her when she told her mom to vamoose. These were the parts of the story I enjoyed. Had the Liz part been meatier, been more realistic, I would have easily given this 4-stars. (less)
Okay, so towards the end of Insurgent, I sat there for a few moments and thought, "Gee...more
What. In. The. World. Was That?!?!
What just happened?
Okay, so towards the end of Insurgent, I sat there for a few moments and thought, "Gee, did Veronica Roth just write herself into a corner? That was probably one of the craziest endings, and not in a good way. Now how is she going to write herself out of it?"
Did she write her way out of her conundrum? Did she come up with a creative solution to the ending of Insurgent? Did she turn the tables on us? Make us sit up? Stand up? Raise our fists? Cheer?
Ummm, I'm pretty sure I didn't do any of the above. There were inklings, sure, scattered here and there. But did any of it truly get me excited, as excited as I was after Divergent? No, not really, which left me sad. Annoyed. And frustrated.
I had looked forward to this book, darn it! I looked forward to seeing what Four and Tris would do, where the story took them. What creative way Roth would come up with during this third act.
In reality, there were so many plot holes and head-scratching moments during Allegiant that I had to put it down multiple times and walk away. Sure, I liked parts of it: getting Tobias' POV, how Tris and Four finally understood what being in a relationship meant, Tris and Caleb playing Candor, the expansion of Cara's, Christina's and Uriah's characters, the transformation of O'Hare into a bureaucratic facility. There were some things that were worthwhile and made me want to continue reading.
But the parts that left me going "Huh?!?" were more numerous: - The GD vs. GP war (really, we're going to go there?) - How gullible everyone was, buying into genetic purity (made me think of Khan and his eugenics war) - How self-righteous and smug Tris could be - How Tobias could end up so wrong, so unsure of himself, so unlike the Four from the previous books - How one-dimensional Tobias' parents were - How stupid Tris' plan was...and how crazy it was that everyone went along with her - How biological warfare has been in existence for so long, especially in our time, that it boggles the mind that this novel, set centuries in the future, still hasn't gotten it right
I'm also not convinced that Tris' fate was really all that necessary. (view spoiler)[I've read two books this year where the main character sacrificed his or her life to save their loved ones/humanity: Mark Lawrence's uber-fantastic-still-gives-me-chills-and-brings-a-tear-to-my-eye-each-time-I-think-about-it Emperor of Thorns and this one. Jorg's death left me crying out "Nooooo!" It left me dumbfounded and for a long while, I sat there, stunned, knowing there was no other possible way he could have ended it. And that made it worthwhile.
I didn't feel that at all. If anything, I saw it a mile away, and it left me with some pretty tired eyes from all the eye rolling.
I felt that Tris' death was another way to get an extra fifty pages out of the novel. It was a way to extend a story that had gone on too long. And worse, it was a way to add drama where it wasn't needed. There was already so much going on, that when it came, it seemed so pointless. I'm not sure that her death actually pushed the story forward. Roth could have accomplished the same ending without killing Tris off. (hide spoiler)]
I thought what Roth did was self-indulgent. Could she have accomplished a similar ending without making Tris go through all that? Yes, absolutely, especially since Tobias still had to maneuver around what was happening in Chicago.
Was Roth trying to make a point about Tris' intrinsic selflessness, her comprehension of what it meant to be Abnegation? To be the person she felt her parents would approve of? Sure.
Was Roth trying to show how people's spirits hurt, grieve, move on, heal over time? That each person you love becomes a part of you, and can never be torn from you (except if you take memory serum)? Yes. The characters mirrored Chicago: broken, hurting, on their last legs. But is rebirth possible? Yes, to a degree.
I get all that.
But again, what she did didn't leave this reader convinced that what happened to Tris was the only rational way to end the story. That it was the only true course left to her, that there was no other possible way around it. And because I wasn't convinced of these things, I felt that it was a cheap ending.
A cheap ending that went on too long.
It wasn't a bad book, but it certainly wasn't what I was hoping it would be. Nevertheless, I don't regret reading it. I enjoyed the first two, and while this one left me wanting, maybe that's okay. Maybe it's enough. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
A few things you need to know before reading Divergent:
1. While comparisons have been made between The Hunger Games trilogy and the Divergent trilogy,...moreA few things you need to know before reading Divergent:
1. While comparisons have been made between The Hunger Games trilogy and the Divergent trilogy, the only things they have common are that they take place in a dystopian/post-apocalyptic America (in this case, Chicago) and that the heroine is a similarly aged teenage girl. Beyond that, they really don’t have much in common.
2. Like other YA dystopian novels out there, you need to be aware of the following things:
a. Whatever disaster occurred to make this world the place that it is will not be addressed, only alluded to. Roth drops hints here and there (i.e., Lake Michigan and the Chicago River are marshes; only the south side of Chicago is inhabited; technology exists, but is used sparingly and is controlled by one faction). She does not provide explanations for why this is the case. Don’t hold your breath. You won’t get any.
b. This happens in the near future, but how far in the future is unclear. It can’t be too far off, as many things that are common to us are familiar to the characters in the novel. For example, people still wear jeans and t-shirts. They know what banjos and paintball are. Cars and computers are still used, though sparingly. Public transportation exists.
c. This society is a fairly restricted one, meant to be completely self-sustaining. And like in Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy, there is the suggestion that other people live outside of the gates of this society, but as of this book, no mention is made whether any other states or countries exist.
d. And if you do wonder if other societies exist (because you just can’t let it go…like me), and wonder if they follow the same structure of having five different factions, you will be sorely disappointed as this is not touched upon at all.
Having done with the warnings and disclaimers, I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. More than I wanted to. Certainly, more than I expected to. When I was about halfway through, I couldn’t believe I was actually leaning towards giving it a solid four stars. I do that sparingly. That this book made me feel that way that early on was a testament to how compelling the narrative was (for me), and how much I was drawn into Tris’ story. I had started off, ready to get my full-on cynical “Oh, this is another one of those books” snappishness in place, but…I was pleasantly surprised. That doesn’t happen often.
First thing I liked: right off the bat, this novel has introduced our young adult readers to at least six, count ’em six SAT words: abnegation, erudite, amity, candor, dauntless and divergent. And in a thoroughly creative way, too, so that the meanings of the words are retained long after the average teen has put down this book and forgotten where they placed it. (Sigh…I was hoping my cynicism wouldn’t pop up in this review…blame it on my now-current aversion to the word “glowering” and all its forms, because of Stephenie Meyer’s conspicuously high usage of the word in the Twilight series. Seriously, every other sentence had someone glowering. *shudders*)
But in all seriousness, I liked it for a variety of reasons. Most important to me was that Tris was not a Katniss clone. So much had been written about how these two series were similar, how the heroines were similar---even the movie has critics wondering if Divergent will be the new Hunger Games---that I was glad they weren’t. Everything I liked about Katniss---how independent she was, how she knew exactly who she was, how she was wise beyond her years and had equal amounts of selflessness and self-preservation---these were all lacking in Tris. And I was okay with that.
Divergent, at it’s heart, is really a story of a young sheltered girl discovering who she is and what she believes in. It’s a story of recognizing one’s limits, of accepting the good and the bad in yourself, and being okay with that. It’s about coming to accept a different lifestyle than the one you grew up with and knowing that your growth isn’t limited to what you were taught, or what you know, but on how you adapt to the constant shifts that occur in life.
Throughout the story, she discovers that strength isn’t all about the physical, that bravery isn’t about pushing ones’ self so much as being selfless, and that not fitting into any one category is actually okay. That you don’t need to be pigeonholed even though everyone else around you is.
And yes, there is a love story. These days, I don’t think you can get away with this kind of YA story and not have a love story. That’s part of the whole YA package, the experience. But Tris’ love interest was actually believable and sympathetic (ummm…how can you not fall for a guy who says “Fine. You’re not pretty. So?...I like how you look. You’re deadly smart. You’re brave.”). There weren’t as many eye-rolling moments in this romance. And unlike other stories where there are love triangles (and where, invariably, I will fall for the guy the heroine rarely ever ends up with), this one did not. Thank goodness.
Yes, she got annoying at times. Oh, she waffled and was immature, and she got oh-so-whiny more than once. But you know what? She’s a sixteen year old girl who’s only ever known one thing: abnegation. When one is taught, from childhood on, to eschew everything in favor of what is for the betterment of society, that really takes a toll on a kid, psychologically. Not many kids will be able to hold to that belief or will be able to follow it. For children---and teens, especially---are inherently selfish and self-absorbed. At least until they go out into the world and learn what it means to become a responsible adult. And even then, most people don’t choose true and absolute altruism as a way of life. Living a benevolent, munificent life isn’t easy. It’s easier to take care of one’s self, of one’s family first, and then give to others later, but only if you can.
Well, there goes my cynical streak. I was hoping it wouldn’t rear it’s ugly head again.
But I guess that is why for me, Tris’ journey was genuine. Everything is a new experience for her, even something as simple as eating hamburgers is new. And with all the new experiences will come experimentation, failure, a lot of self-recrimination, a lot of trying to convince herself of…stuff. Her immaturity was believable, as was seeing her grow from an insecure, hesitant young girl bent on proving herself to someone of conviction and resolve. Seeing her realize that sometimes, choosing to be selfish isn’t bad, especially when you learn what it means to be altruistic and selfless in the process. It was a great ride.
I highly recommend Divergent. And I’m really looking forward to the second book…I just hope it doesn’t disappoint, as most middle books in trilogies go. (Go away, cynic.) (less)