This book is a very simple story. A love story about two kids in high school. Pretty typical YA stuff.
Honestly, I couldn't see what the big fuss wasThis book is a very simple story. A love story about two kids in high school. Pretty typical YA stuff.
Honestly, I couldn't see what the big fuss was about.
Except that I read it in less than in less than 24 hours. I kept finding excuses to pick it back up. I couldn't put it down. I fed the baby a whole extra feeding just so I'd have a chance to sit and read this book.
The plot isn't what this book is about. It makes you remember what it felt like to fall in love. To be scared and vulnerable and completely unsure and totally blissful. It's fantastic.
It's a beautiful book with great characters, and it's pretty much un-put-down-able. ...more
Many people recommended Divergent to me as a book that I would enjoy.
It is exceedingly interesting (and telling) that after all those people had readMany people recommended Divergent to me as a book that I would enjoy.
It is exceedingly interesting (and telling) that after all those people had read Allegiant (but before I had) they came back and, in the most delicate, gentle way possible, rescinded their original recommendation. One told me she wished she'd never finished the books. One emailed:
"Have you ever been on a cross country trip and had an unexpected delay at, say, an airport of the large Midwestern hub variety? You were just waiting and waiting and nothing seemed to be happening? And when things did finally happen you were so rushed and felt so unpleasant that you longed for a return to the lengthy delay? That is literally how you might feel."
I feel for Roth. I feel like she thought she had this great idea for a novel and then realized that writing science fiction—especially the world-building bit—is way harder than she expected.
In a science fiction book, the science either has to make some sort of sense or at least have a compelling reason for us to suspend our disbelief. Roth never pulled that off. She told us a lot about genetics and divergence, but none of it actually made sense or showed up in the actions in a rational way.
Almost nothing in Allegiant makes sense. Much of what we learn contradicts everything we thought we learned in the first few books. (This has the potential, used once, to be original and enlightening, but loses effectiveness logarithmically the more it happens.) Roth didn't execute the dual narration well.
The events of the ending didn't upset me quite as much as it could have because I was so proud of Roth for making a brave plot decision. (As she points out repeatedly, though, there is a very fine line between brave and stupid, and just because it's brave doesn't mean it's not also stupid.)
I'm glad we didn't get the trite, facile ending I thought we were.
It would have been nice if there had been any sort of resolution, any sort of message or lesson. But there wasn't other than, "Wow, humans are screwed up." I didn't learn anything. I didn't think any new thoughts (unless vivid and upsetting nightmares count). I didn't enjoy spending time with any of the characters. I didn't like spending time in their world, which was not only grim but nonsensical.
I can't recommend this book and I shudder to think about the movie. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
That's it?? That's the big mystery, the rewarding pay-off that was supposed to make this book worth it? That solution was something I (and I bet a majThat's it?? That's the big mystery, the rewarding pay-off that was supposed to make this book worth it? That solution was something I (and I bet a majority of other readers) guessed early in the first book and then dismissed with a "Nah, that's way too obvious and boring."
I will go calm down and then try to write a review.
[Two weeks pass]
Apparently I'm not going to calm down all that much. I had complicated and conflicting feelings about Divergent. It was fun to read and I respected what Roth was doing with the characters even though much of the plot and pretty much all of the world-building made next to no sense.
However, I did feel impelled to pick up Insurgent right away to see what was going to happen next. What happened next was nothing, and a whole lot of it. There was a lot of angst, Tris has fairly serious PTSD, and very little happens. Even less happens just once. I wonder if this book was rushed to publication. Or if the first one, being Roth's first novel, benefited from a longer period of editing and then latency before reaching publication. Or perhaps Roth just had a good dose of first-book luck
Regardless, Insurgent is a morass of poorly planned plot, self-absorbed angst, and hollow emotional development.
It really wasn't going all that well.
And then I reached the ending, and I missed the merely mawkish mediocrity of the rest of the book.
The ending—the big reveal we were all waiting for, the development I hoped would redeem the books—went over with all the grace and ingenuity of a lead balloon. Not only was it obvious, it was so obvious, that I had discounted it as an explanation early in the second book. It would barely even be a spoiler to list it here. Just think of the most disappointing, simplistic explanation for the city's isolation and you've got it.
I'm sorry if this review feels like an attack on the book. Honestly, I wouldn't be so disappointed if I hadn't been so hopeful....more
If I were to write a report card for Divergent it would look like this:
Character development: A Plot/Pacing: A Dialog: A+ Writing: B+ Originality: B WorldIf I were to write a report card for Divergent it would look like this:
Character development: A Plot/Pacing: A Dialog: A+ Writing: B+ Originality: B World Building: F Overall Plausibility/Suspension of Disbelief: F
Which leaves me with a final rating of . . . what, exactly? Perhaps I should turn to the academic 12 point scale to help. If we assume equal weighting to each category (and let's, because otherwise we'll be here all day), that gives us a 7.3/12.0, which scales to a 2.8/4.0, a high C or a low B. That feels about right. Because I admire the author's pluck and dedication, let's round it up to a low B and call it fair.
This book takes a while to get into, mainly (for me) because the whole premise is just so wildly implausible. The idea is that all people hold one of five virtues—courage, humility, peace, knowledge, or truth—to be the singular most important characteristic, to the myopic exclusion of all other moral values. Once each adult turns 16, they're given an aptitude test to discern their natural inclinations. The decision they make the next day, the ideal they choose, determines the rest of their life. If someone chooses differently from their family, they are cast out and can expect to be shunned by everyone they knew before. I cannot imagine a society where this sort of artificial division of humanity would evolve, let alone be sustained.
The first twist of the plot is that our protagonist Beatrice tests as having inclinations to not just one but three of the virtues. This does not seem improbable. What seems improbable to me is that more people don't get this kind of test result. Everyone seemed shocked. But unless humanity has gone through a strong selection event (which may be what Roth is implying, or I could be giving her too much credit) people are much more complex than that. They might not all be shining beacons of morality, but most people I know value more than one ideal. The universe Roth creates is overly simplistic, unbelievable, and poorly conceived. It's also not original—it's basically Rowling's four wizarding houses taken to improbable extremes.
The world Roth built made it difficult to become emotionally invested, or even interested, in the characters she peopled it with. Mainly because my brain kept popping in to point out how absurd the premise is and that these people shouldn't even have to be dealing with these problems. Not just because they were awful, but because they were also unlikely and preposterous.
I should note that this may be a minority reaction, possibly limited to people used to reading about created science fiction or fantasy worlds, and who have an expectation that those worlds be rigorously thought out, internally consistent, plausible, and at least fuzzily sensible.
However IF (and this is a very big, 555-foot-tall IF) one could get past the nonsensicality of it all, the story was quite good. The characters were well-developed, the writing was clean and competent, the dialog was almost pitch-perfect, and the plot and pacing were excellent. If one is able to simply accept the world as Roth sets it forth, the book itself is quite good.
I'm waffling between three and four stars for this book. If it bumps up to four, it will be because of the breathtaking emotional honesty of the book, and the courage to come right out and say in print that sometimes humility and self-sacrifice trumps pride and bravado....more
Darn this was fun to read! Well-written, with well-developed characters, a not-too-stressful plot, and great dialog. I was more absorbed in this book Darn this was fun to read! Well-written, with well-developed characters, a not-too-stressful plot, and great dialog. I was more absorbed in this book than I have been in any non-dragon non-spaceship book for a long time.
It vividly recalled to me the raw, dramatic emotions that were associated with young adulthood. The squirm-inducing awkwardness, the gut-churning anxiety, and the bubbly, incandescent joy. ...more
I picked up this book because I fell in love with The Lover's Dictionary and wanted to read more. I also recalled this being a movie everyone was exciI picked up this book because I fell in love with The Lover's Dictionary and wanted to read more. I also recalled this being a movie everyone was excited about, so it seemed like a good place to start. About five pages into it I nearly stopped, exhausted by the uber-self-consciousness of the tone, the clear and awkward striving to seem hip, flip, and effortlessly awesome.
But then I thought about it a little harder. This is narrated by two teens, who are struggling with: deciding their futures; figuring out love, friendship, loyalty, romance, and sex; discovering their identities; and trying to maintain their determined place in the social sphere; all at the same time. If the tone is supposed to be like reading their diary (or being inside their head) then it did exactly what it was supposed to do.
That didn't always make it fun to read. But the two characters were interesting enough to make up for it. I read this quickly, so I'm not sure how well they would have sustained over a longer read, but I enjoyed the book. It was light, fluffy, entertaining and made me think about maturity, growing up, relationships, romance, and life in ways I wouldn't necessarily have come up with on my own. In that way, it did its job perfectly. ...more
These are such wonderful, fun romps of novels. I wish this one didn't have to be the last because I would love to spend more time in Deryn and Alex'sThese are such wonderful, fun romps of novels. I wish this one didn't have to be the last because I would love to spend more time in Deryn and Alex's world. The only bit I wasn't crazy in love with was the portrayal of poor Tesla. ...more
Before I started reading this book, I reminded myself not to expect too much. It is the middle book of a trilogy after all, usually I find the weakestBefore I started reading this book, I reminded myself not to expect too much. It is the middle book of a trilogy after all, usually I find the weakest of any given set of three. There may be some interminable setting up for the third book, and there's every possibility it will end on an intolerable cliff-hanger. I find this is just good practice for a second-of-three, especially after how much I enjoyed the first book in this trilogy, Leviathan.
Fortunately, this little pep talk was entirely unwarranted. Other than the cover (which isn't nearly as cool as the cover of Leviathan), it entirely lives up to its predecessor. I was entirely prepared for Alek to uncover Deryn's secret in the first third, and for them to spend a large chunk of the rest of the book not speaking to each other. I wasn't looking forward to it.
However, magnificently, Westerfeld spared me that fate. Instead, he delivered a satisfying, fast-paced adventure novel. He keeps up the pace and the expectations of the first book, and delivers solid further development, solves some puzzles and opens up some new ones. He introduces a delightful new character, and watching Alek, Deryn, and Lilit interact was a joy. The characters are well-done, the action is well-written and fits well into the framework of story. Actions are rational and have logical reactions. It's all just darn fun to read.
My few quibbles from the first book remain, though they bothered me less in this book. Alek is still a bit thick-headed, both he and Deryn still act a bit younger than their stated years, and I'm going to take a lot more convincing to believe that Victorian scientists could hatch a primate out of an egg, but the rest of it I'm completely prepared to swallow.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys straight-up swashbuckling, alternate histories, steampunk, or engaging young characters. I can't wait to read the third one.
I liked Leviathanmuch better than I liked Westerfield's Pretties/Uglies. Possibly because I liked (or could stand) the protagonists Alek and Deryn muI liked Leviathanmuch better than I liked Westerfield's Pretties/Uglies. Possibly because I liked (or could stand) the protagonists Alek and Deryn much more than I ever liked Tally. This book has good pacing, decent dialog, and a very good plot.
The part I struggled with is that I'm not sure he has a very good grounding in biology or physics. There are some authors who can blithely and believably write about technology they don't understand. However, Westerfeld is no Anthony Burgess, nor is he (sadly) a Neal Stephenson. He obviously tried, so I owe him credit for that. Possibly it's only because my background is in biology and I've had to endure rants and screeds about how anything so large as a dragon couldn't possibly fly. Or maybe the main problem is my lack of grounding in physics. Maybe you could inflate a whale body full enough of hydrogen that it floats. (Query: Why hydrogen and not helium? Has the Hindenburg not happened?) For the biology side of things, I'm very dubious that you could genetically engineer creatures like those in this book only knowing enough about DNA to call it "life strands" and not know about genes and base pairs. But perhaps I'm not giving the Steampunk Victorians enough credit. (Or maybe it did take years and years and years and that just wasn't emphasized. Though it can't have taken that long if Darwin's granddaughter is still a fairly young woman).
However, leaving the science aside, this was a very engaging steampunk novel. The divisions and differences between the Clankers and the Darwinists are interesting and engaging. The characters are fairly well drawn and believable. (I loved Deryn's pride in her satisfyingly clompy boots). Though both protagonists seemed younger than their supposed age. Deryn and Alek act (and seem to think) closer to 12 or 13 than 15 or 16. At times the book veered a little too close to Afterschool-Special-Zone (maybe the best solution is a mix of our two extreme views instead of one or the other being right!) But even that was over very quickly. Very fast-paced, interesting, and thought-provoking. I was particularly interested in the intimations that the Leviathan was sentient, as the main thing that bothered me about the Darwinist creations was the mixing of creatures with completely different life history strategies. It seems to me that in anything approaching a sentient creature, this would cause confusion.
I thoroughly enjoyed the illustrations, and very much appreciated Westerfeld taking time at the end to spell out where it differed from reality; I think that's a great way to get teens interested in history.
I'm looking forward to the next one. I can't wait to find out hatches out of the eggs. I'm hoping for dinosaurs....more
This was an amusing, quick read. Full of very dry, ironic British humor, which I love. It's written from the viewpoint of a teenage girl who occasionaThis was an amusing, quick read. Full of very dry, ironic British humor, which I love. It's written from the viewpoint of a teenage girl who occasionally doesn't see how funny she's being.
Appropriate for young teens. There is very little profanity, but some discussion of sex and sexuality and a few very mildly sexual situations. ...more
This was an excellent book that lived up to its intriguing title. I get a bit tired of books whose titles have very little to do with their subject maThis was an excellent book that lived up to its intriguing title. I get a bit tired of books whose titles have very little to do with their subject matter. However Hoot is, as promised, a book about owls. It's a very lucidly written and absorbing story, entertaining for both young adults and their mature counterparts. ...more