Divergent by Veronica Roth – Book Review

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Published by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins

Beatrice Prior – who will soon reinvent herself as Tris – has never really fit in with her faction. She is just not Abnegation material. Luckily, in just a couple of days she and all the other sixteen-year-olds in this dystopian future Chicago will have the opportunity to choose whether to stay in their factions or choose a new one from among the five in the city: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. Leaving Abnegation would mean that Beatrice would have to leave her family behind forever, but staying would mean not being true to herself. Unfortunately, Beatrice isn’t any more sure about where it is that she does belong. Not Erudite, not after the lies they have spread about the people of Abnegation, and probably not Candor – only ever telling the truth isn’t particularly appealing – but where? Sixteen-year-olds are given a test to help them choose their placement, but Beatrice’s test is strangely inconclusive, a fact that she is warned to keep to herself.

Divergent is a much-raved about YA dystopian novel. I found it enjoyable, but perhaps not as fabulous as everyone else seems to think it is. Roth is an incredibly engaging writer, and Tris is a great character, surrounded by other great characters. My only real problem was with the premise. The factions seem to have no idea what is happening in the world around them, for all intents and purposes the universe is no bigger than the greater Chicago area. Less believable, though, is the idea of the factions in the first place.

Dystopian societies often have odd and somewhat unlikely governments and structures. The best novels, though give their odd structures a believable background. Either there needs to be a reasonable explanation for how they came to be, or they need to follow somewhat from the current state of the world. The factions of Divergent didn’t really do either. They provide a very interesting set-up to the story, yes, and they allow for great commentary on human nature, but I simply could not see where they came from.

All this being said, Divergent is highly engaging, enough so that I do plan on reading the sequel, Insurgent, which is out later this year, in order to see if the world building is further developed.

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Source: Library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson – Book Review

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Published by Putnam Juvenile, an imprint of Penguin

Rory Deveaux is used to her life in Louisiana, but she’s still excited about the prospect a year at a British boarding school. Her parents will be teaching in England for the year, so going with them seems like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, Rory’s arrival in London coincides with the anniversary of the first Jack the Ripper murder, and what appears to be a spate of copycat murders. When Rory sees a man who seems to be the number one suspect, she suddenly finds herself in very real danger.

The Name of the Star is an incredibly entertaining book. Rory is an interesting and complex character, in a fascinating – if somewhat unconventional situation. Johnson has a very engaging writing style, and she can draw the reader into even a Jack the Ripper ghost story.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Name of the Star, although I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it being a series. I think it was a great success as a standalone, but Rory’s continued adventures with the cast of characters she met in The Name of the Star don’t terribly excite me, although I’ll be more than willing to read the next book and see where Johnson takes the story.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Crossed by Ally Condie – Audiobook Review

Crossed by Ally Condie, narrated by Kate Simses and Jack Riccobono
Published in audio by Penguin Audio, published in print by Dutton Juvenile, imprints of Penguin

I previously reviewed the first audiobook in this series, Matched.

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky – taken by the Society to his certain death – only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.

Cassia’s quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander – who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia’s heart – change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.

Thoughts on the story:

So, the reason I used the publisher’s description here is that nothing much really happens during Crossed. Yes, Cassia searches out Ky in the border provinces, but even as they are both living much more difficult lives than they ever did in the heart of the Society, and yet it seems that nothing occurs. Basically the entire thing is a set up for the third book in the trilogy. What Crossed does have going for it, though, is that we learn a great deal about Ky’s history, and about just how deep the uprising against the Society really goes. This set up is promising for Condie’s next book, however.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Kate Simses is still a great casting call for Cassia. She is young-sounding enough to be convincing as a teenager, and conveys the teenage drama well without making it overly angsty. I was somewhat less impressed by Jack Riccobono. He is ever so slightly old-sounding for Ky and is a bit ridiculous when trying to give voice to Cassia during Ky’s sections. Simses does a much better job doing voices for the boys surrounding Cassia.

The sound effects in Crossed are not used as judiciously as they are in Matched. They are nearly absent in Crossed until a point near the end where music is used for no apparent reason. It is quite odd, really.

Overall:

I have to hope that the last book in this trilogy will be told exclusively from Cassia’s point of view, so that Kate Simses can narrate the entire audiobook. Other than this, Crossed was very much the transitional book for this series and, although it was not nearly as strong as Matched, it is setting up what will hopefully be a very interesting conclusion. If you liked Matched, you probably need to read this before the third book is released.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

Iā€™m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Among Others by Jo Walton – Book Review

Among Others by Jo Walton
Published by Tor Books, an imprint of MacMillan

Once upon a time, Morwenna – known as Mori – did magic. She and her twin sister Mor played with fairies and closed down factories by simply each throwing a flower into a pond. Now Mori alone is in England with her all-but-unknown father and his three spinster sisters who, unsure of what to do with her, send her to a local boarding school. Here she doesn’t know anyone, and the fairies barely speak to her, it is not like Wales at all. Her loneliness is more than just being in a place without friends, though, it is also the memory of what she left behind, and what she will never quite be able to recover.

Among Others is an incredibly engaging book. What is perhaps most interesting, is the confluence of science fiction and fantasy. With Mori’s belief in her ability to do magic and her discussions with fairies, the story itself is absolutely fantasy – or, also plausibly, Mori’s disturbed childhood has caused her to live in a fantasy world, and she is an unreliable narrator of the things happening around her – but much of what informs her daily life is her love of science fiction novels.

Fans of classic science fiction – Among Others is set in the 1970s – will particularly enjoy Mori’s thoughts about what she is reading, and the scenes set in her science fiction book club at the library. The truly magical thing about Among Others, though, is the fact that Walton manages to so thoroughly infuse her book with science fiction without alienating those readers who don’t have much familiarity with the genre (and I would know, considering my experience with classic science fiction is limited to a single Heinlein novel read in high school).

Among Others is a lovely, complex coming of age novel, and one that I highly recommend.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Populazzi by Elise Allen ā€“ Book Review

Populazzi by Elise Allen
Published by Harcourt Children’s Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Ever since Cara peed her pants in kindergarten, she has never stood a chance of being one of the cool kids, the Populazzi. Now, in her junior year of high school, she might have the chance to change all that. Cara is moving to a new school, and her best friend, Claudia has the perfect plan for how Cara can move up the Populazzi ladder. Things start out well: meet a guy, date him, leap from his social group to the next one up. Soon, though, feelings get involved and things become complicated.

Okay, I loved Populazzi so, so, so much. It might have been easy not to, the picture of high school was totally cliche and I could spot the ending a mile away, but honestly, none of that mattered. Allen’s writing is engaging to the point of being infectious, and she has a gift of creating characters that you can’t help but love, even when they are doing incredibly stupid and even hurtful things. Also, I love Archer, the first guy Cara meets, so incredibly much it wasn’t even funny. He is just adorable beyond words.

Beyond her fun writing and lovable characters, Allen is not afraid to discuss issues of teen sex, lying, drug use, and eating disorders. She walks a perfect line between neither glamorizing nor overly moralizing these realities of teenage life, which is incredibly refreshing.

All in all, Populazzi was an incredibly addictive book that I simply could not put down. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source:Publisher, via Netgalley.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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