Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Divergent by Veronica Roth (4)

I was told that this book was “The next Hunger Games!” which immediately made me skeptical. I do not want to read the “new” Hunger Games, I’ll just read THE Hunger Games eight more times thankyouverymuch. AND since I was told it was “the next Hunger Games,” obviously I had to compare it to The Hunger Games every moment I could.

The story starts with sixteen-year-old Beatrice (Tris) Prior who lives with her family in post-apocalyptic Chicago. Their city has been divided into five six factions: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), Erudite (the intelligent), and the Factionless (the outcasts). At sixteen, Beatrice gets to decide what faction to choose to live her life in. Once she has chosen, there is no going back, and if she chooses Not Abnegation, then she will leave her family forever (except for visiting days). So naturally there’s a test where the kid goes on an LSD-trip-spirit-journey to figure out where they are Meant To Be, but Beatrice is Different Than Everyone Else. And thus our story starts.  

Beatrice vs. Katniss: the film actresses
Similarities to The Hunger Games:
-dystopian world where people are sorted
-Book 1 (Divergent) will be consumed in a 24-72 hour period, depending on how much time you have on your hands.
-you must immediately begin Book 2 (Insurgent/Catching Fire) upon finishing Book 1 (Divergent/The Hunger Games) AND even more pressing is the need to read the third book (Allegiant/Mockingjay)
-The third book is the worst, but you realize that that is the only way to end the series. Mockingjay was a struggle because I read it in one sitting, and the end felt disjointed (you know why if you’ve read it), I had the same problem with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) because I wanted to know WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN as opposed to what the characters were thinking and feeling. In HP, I felt like they were stuck in that tent in the woods for ETERNITY. On the second read of both Mockingjay and HP7, everything made sense and felt Right. Allegiant took me two weeks to read. There was a lot of things I wanted to happen in Insurgent that then were fixed in Allegiant, but then…I got bored. And the end…

Differences from The Hunger Games:
-In Divergent, the city-state is divided into factions, as opposed to The Hunger Games, where the country of Panem was split into districts. Factions are divided by a personality trait, and jobs are given based on that trait, as opposed to The Hunger Games where the country was divided based on industry
-no love triangle (HOLD THE PHONES, WHAT?! A YA book with no love triangle????). Yes, really.
-By Book 3 Tris actually has a real relationship with a boyfriend where they talk and work through things instead of breaking up at every freakout like teenagers (which I appreciated)
-Tris actually cares about her relationship unlike Katniss who is a badass and is really confused why everyone’s worried about who her boyfriend is when she’s seventeen and the face of a rebellion, which is one of my favorite things about The Hunger Games series, because it’s a discussion with the reader. Why do you care about who your boyfriend is? Does it matter? You could be solving world hunger. I’m not saying its not ok to have a boyfriend, I have a boyfriend. I like my boyfriend. But I don’t like him because he’s my boyfriend, he’s my boyfriend because I like him. In high school (and after…), I feel like there can be pressure on girls to Have A Boyfriend, and that’s not really healthy. I’m totally getting on a tangent but to wrap it up, in the Divergent series Tris actually learns how to communicate within a relationship, and is still a badass, and that is awesome too. Things can be different and still awesome.
-In Divergent, once the rebellion starts, war is happening basically all the time, as opposed to the Boy Troubles/Normal Life à The Games/War conceit that is in a lot of YA (also see Harry Potter: Happy Magic School à oh it’s halfway through the book, time to fight Voldemort!)

I read these books in JANUARY and haven’t posted this because I had too many thoughts on the books, and my main problem with them is that they are NOT The Hunger Games, which isn’t REALLY a fair assessment. A friend of mine likes them better because it presents war in a more realistic light. I think the most fair thing to say about the books is that they are clearly a reaction to The Hunger Games, but I wouldn’t say that it talks about as many things as The Hunger Games does. Where Collins is discussing war, the media, and how women are viewed. (You can read a super smart interview with her here.) Roth seems to have a Strong Female Character dealing with war and rebellion. And while I think that Divergent is extremely entertaining, I’m not sure that I would get much more out of it on a second or third read. So I have to say that is DEFINITELY worth reading but NOT as good as The Hunger Games, but I love The Hunger Games too much to give anything but a biased verdict.

POSSIBLY one day I’ll read it again or see the movie and realize how brilliant it is.

If you didn’t like The Hunger Games, DON’T read it. If you loved Divergent, tell me about how wrong I am and what brilliance I’m missing. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Mad, Wicked Folly (3.5)

1909, an art class in France, a young, wealthy English finishing student named Vicky decides that to be a real artist, to be taken seriously by her peers, it is absolutely necessary for her to pose nude in front of her classmates. (You can skip the next paragraph if you just want to hear my opinions.)

So she gets kicked out of finishing school and sent home to parents that are way-less-than thrilled and give her two choices: marry a man of their choosing, or go live in a desolate countryside with her Aunt Spinster the Cat Lady. She decides it would be super fun to marry a rich man and then be able to do whatever she wants because she will no longer be under her parents thumb....but THEN she meets a super hot (but poor) cop after she gets kind of arrested while drawing some suffragettes. What follows is a story about love and a young woman learning how to be her own person.

I don't have much to say about this except that it's cute. If you have any passing knowledge about feminism or suffragettes, want to learn more, and are already a feminist this book certainly won't open your eyes to any new information. If you want a love story and a woman who is more feminist-friendly than Bella, you're probably good to go. If this book BLOWS YOUR FREAKING MIND that things used to be that way, you should go read/see A Doll's House IMMEDIATELY.

My shiny new rating system:
Entertainment value: 5
Love Story: 4
Value as Feminist Literature: 2
More Feminist than Cosmo? probably
Better than Twilight? yes
More aww-inspiring than the end of Pride and Prejudice? nope

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Line (4)

I loved this book. The only reason I didn't give it five stars is because it didn't change my life in some profound way, but it was a perfectly fun book. I binge read the second half of instead of sleeping last night. (I mean, I slept, but not for a proper 8-hour length of time.)

Twenty-year-old Mercy has been following in her twin sister, Maisie’s, footsteps ever since they were born. Pretty, smart, and powerful Maisie is sure to be the next matriarch of their family. Mercy, on the other hand, is a redheaded tomboy who received none of her family’s powers. When disaster strikes her family, the twins are separated, and Mercy has to learn to rely on her own brand of power.

On the surface, this book has everything every other paranormal YA book has: a young woman whose mother died giving birth to her and has never known her father, being raised by a family who despises her for being different. AND she’s dating her best friend from birth but is actually in love with her sister’s boyfriend, and is torn between him and her love for her twin. But author J.D. Horn takes all of those paranormal YA stereotypes and turns them on their head and breaks them. Right when I think it’s turned all sappy BAM! You thought that was the direction the book was going but NOPE, isn’t this more fun? (Yes, it is. No one needs another cut and dry Edward-Bella-Jacob(-Bella’s Daugther???) novel ever again.) Yes, there was some stuff I saw coming, but it was framed nicely. Every character and every situation was put into the novel for a specific purpose, and it all tied together nicely.

Renesmee?? This is definitely how I named one of my characters when I was 15.
Also, creepy. I almost want to watch this movie now to see how they made this work.
(If you don't know what I'm talking about you don't want to. ...but google "Jacob & Renesmee" and you'll figure it out)
I did feel like the end dragged on a bit. I kept expecting it to be over with a nice “to-be-continued” swoosh so you have to go read the next book to see what happens, but unlike most YA series, I felt that this could be a stand alone novel, kind of like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone. You come back to the next book for the pure enjoyment of reading and attachment to the character, not because you have to see if Bella and Edward get back together*. And I really appreciated that.

*I feel like I just ragged on Twilight a lot, which is silly because I totally binge read all four of those books and definitely enjoyed them. I get that the writing style felt like reading my 14-year-old journal but it was super entertaining and I was totally Team Edward. The end of the last book was RIDICULOUS. The movies were ridiculous. That being said, I found the whole story very satisfying. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My New Spirit Animal + May Kid's Books

Boyfriend: Are you reading a picture book?
Me: Yes
My inner monologue: Don't you read my blog? what kind of a boyfriend are you? the non-stalker kind?
Me: For teaching. I want to find good books to read to the kids. And I use them for acting class scripts sometimes.
Boyfriend: Oh!
His Inner Monologue: I thought the recent Game of Thrones had so psychologically damaged you you gave up reading books for grown ups.

See, he cares.

This Month's Picture Books

Super cute book for little ones that gets them involved in the action, with something for them to do before you turn each page. 

"Make loud noises to distract them!" -- my favorite thing to do in class, probably not my neighbors favorite thing for me to do in class...

Definitely saving this one for the little kid classes I'm teaching this summer!

I have a confession: I was never super into Maurice Sendak, as a child. I think Where the Wild Things Are scared me. (So did The Muppets and most of the rides at Disneyland, to be fair.) This book is like an acid trip eulogy, so also probably would have scared me as a child.

I mean, it is a eulogy. To his brother, his partner, his youth. So it's sad. But pretty.

Good thing I have like six months till I'm actually teaching because I'm pretty bad at finding kid's books I would actually read to children.

This Month's Middle Reader
(good enough for adults)

I LOVED this book. I would argue that this is good enough for adults to read -  like the Disney movie equivalent of a middle reader book.

 Thirteen-year-old Nate, with the help of his best friend Libby, decides to run away to New York City to audition for E.T. The Musical.

This is every (theatre) kid's fantasy, obviously: to run away from his hick town where no one likes him or understands him, and find a place where he feels home. Yet, author Tim Federle makes the tale feel fresh, peppering Nate's inner monologue with his own brand of swearing -- using sensationally terrible Broadway musical flops instead of your average swear words, such as: "Holy Sideshow! - A Broadway musical about circus freaks." This made it extra fun for me, since I have actually heard of most of these shows. I really believed Nate's experience in the audition room, and I think it's the kind of story every theatre kid should read, because it's filled with some Don'ts, but also some Do's, aand I think it really shows that the most important thing in the audition room is to Be Yourself and to remember that Broadway is are here because you love it more than anything. And sometimes, that's a fun reminder for adults as well.

It's everything NPH is singing about at 6:00
(PS I am 100% sure he deserved his Tony Award nom this year, even if he is super famous.)

Tim Federle used to dance on Broadway and now writes children's books and cocktail recipes, which I realized when I glanced at the cover of this book that I bought last week sitting on my desk:

SO BASICALLY Tim Federle is my new spirit animal and I'm going to go stalk him on twitter now.