Veronica Roth’s “Divergent”

I finished this book on Sunday morning. I liked it well enough but, based upon its wild popularity, I admit I was hoping for more.

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Divergent is a novel centered in a Chicago of the future. Civilization – as it is known to us in the present day – has broken down (the reasons are not fully explained in this book) and a new civilization has replaced it. In this new civilization, the populace is divided into five groups or “factions,” and when children come of age they must choose which faction they want to identify with. Most choose to remain in the faction they were born into, but some choose to transfer during a kind of “sorting-hat ceremony” (no, there’s not really a Harry Potter-esque sorting hat, but that’s what I was reminded of) called the Choosing Ceremony, carried out after “aptitude tests” are administered.

Two siblings, Caleb and Beatrice (or “Tris” as she chooses to be called later), abandon their parents and their faction (“Abnegation”) and choose new factions. Caleb chooses “Erudite” while Tris, the main character in this book, chooses “Dauntless.” The other two factions are “Amity” and “Candor.” The factions got their names based upon the values each thought would have prevented the original civilization’s breakdown. Candor values honesty; Abnegation values selflessness; Amity, friendliness; Dauntless, bravery, and Erudite,knowledge. This novel, the first in a trilogy (“Insurgent” is already published and third installment is scheduled for October 2013) follows the adventures of Tris as she goes through her training as a Dauntless initiate and begins to discover all is not well in this five-factioned society.

I enjoyed the camaraderie and the rivalry amongst Tris and the other initiates, and also enjoyed seeing Tris grow into a more independent and confident young woman. I didn’t so much enjoy the typical YA romantic plot lines. I also have to say that I had a lot of trouble accepting or believing this post-apocalyptic? (not even sure it is) world. Too much is left out, as if this future world was hastily or incompletely constructed by the author. We don’t know the fate of the rest of the world, but we do hear that it is the job of the “Dauntless” to guard the fence around the city (from what?). Also noteworthy is that the trains still run, even though the infrastructure, for the most part, appears to have fallen apart. And somehow there is still power and moving parts enough in the John Hancock building for the Dauntless to use the elevators in order to participate in a harrowing zip-line ritual from time to time.

I loved the cover art of the book, and I have to admit it was a page turner which I completed in just a few days. I liked the Dauntless faction’s style, which included wearing black and multiple piercings and tattoos. I didn’t like that (*very minor spoiler alert*) the Erudite faction are the “bad guys.” Knowledge is evil! Haven’t we had enough of that these days? Will I read on in this series? Probably. A movie version is in development and may have started filming already. So, it might be “worth it” to keep up with this one. It’s no Hunger Games, which it somewhat reminded me of, but it should make an excellent and very popular film.

What about you? Have you read Divergent or both it and its follow-up, Insurgent? What did YOU think?

(below: author Veronica Roth – from Chicago herself, oddly enough 🙂 )

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May Reading – The Month Ahead

I’m always interested in hearing what my friends are reading (this is why Goodreads.com is favorited in my browser). Maybe you are the same way? Here’s what I think I’ll be working on in May:

First, a few ‘required’ reads, including a re-read of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slapstick, for the monthly meeting of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Book Club. The club has covered all of his novels already and this will be the first “repeat” since I began participating. I think this was only the third Vonnegut novel I had read at the time of my initial reading, and – now that I’ve learned so much more of this author and his works – I’m really looking forward to revisiting it.

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(above: the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library’s replica of Kurt Vonnegut’s study)

One of the reading groups at Bookmama’s Bookstore in Irvington is meeting on the 29th to discuss the second half of the Tolstoy Classic, Anna Karenina. I attended the first meeting, but have kind of left the daunting novel lie fallow for a few weeks. I need to pick it up again and see what happens to Anna, Vronsky, Constantin, & Kitty. When I finish this book, a serious gap (one of very many, I’m afraid) in my cultural literacy will finally be filled. I wouldn’t mind seeing the movie adaptation with Keira Knightley in the title role either…

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My Great Books Foundation discussion group is meeting on the 21st to discuss the famous Lawrence Sargent Hall story, “The Ledge.” It is also my turn to lead the discussion, so I plan to thoroughly read this one and be prepared.

(below: Lawrence Sargent Hall, author of “The Ledge”)

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I’ve also been reading Veronica Roth’s novel, Divergent, and may even wrap that one up this weekend. I’m liking it so far, but I admittedly have a thing for dystopic fiction. This one kind of feels like Harry Potter meets Hunger Games meets Brave New World. I know a few of my fellow bloggers were disappointed in the sequel, but enough of them also liked this one to cause me to take the plunge.  Oh, and it’s set in a post-apocalyptic(?) Chicago too (don’t you recognize Lake Michigan on the cover?), so as a midwesterner that’s a plus.

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What else? Oh, yeah, I hope to start reading The Shift Omnibus by Hugh Howey. It’s the anticipated prequel to the addictive “Wool” omnibus, which I tore through last month and have been recommending around to anyone who dares ask me. Someday I’ll post about “Wool” – if I can get my act together and write something decent.

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There are four Saturdays in May, so that means I’ll read four stories for my annual “Deal Me In” short story project. Which stories I read, however, will be determined by the luck of the draw, which is part of what makes this annual project so fun for me. That, and my line-up of fifty-two stories this year is perhaps my strongest yet. AND It’s not too early to starting thinking about coming up with YOUR OWN list of fifty-two stories for 2014 and join in the fun. Fellow blogger Dale at Mirror With Clouds is also doing the short story “Deal Me In” project with me this year.

Well, that’s about it for me (even though I will likely read a few random and unanticipated stuff too, as always). What about YOU, though? What will you be reading in May? I’d love to hear about your reading plans…