Monthly Archives: May 2012

Insurgent by Veronica Roth Book #2 of the Divergent Trilogy

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I love the premise to this series. People are put into different factions based on their interests and skills. While they are told which faction they are best suited for, ultimately they choose their own. If they choose one that they are not suited for and fail initiation, they are exiled from the community and live with the factionless. This is all explained in book 1, Divergent.

This story is very difficult to explain in a few words. There are many characters, it’s a complex world they live in, and things are definitely not what you think they are. Basically, it’s about people trying to take control, the people fighting against them, and those caught in between. If you haven’t read Divergent recently I suggest you going back and re-read it before opening Insurgent. The characters are often referring to situations that happened in the first story. If you haven’t read Divergent, you shouldn’t read Insurgent, or even this review

At the end of Divergent and throughout this book, Tris and Four and their allies have to worry about the simulation, a machine that can control people from a remote location.  The idea of mind control is frightening. Tris is trying to figure out how to fight against people who are innocent–and sometimes her friends–when they are trying to kill her.  She knows they have no control over their actions but she has to protect herself and those around her. She also has to come to terms with killing her friend Will while he was under the simulation. And other characters from have to live with knowing they killed a lot of innocent people while they themselves where under the simulation.

I did not love Insurgent as much as I loved Divergent, but I was still a good book. I found at times I had to re read sections of the book because I felt I missed something.  Then when I went back through, I realized details were left out. I was getting annoyed with Tris and her constant mood swings. I understand she just went through a traumatic experience, but one moment she’s all bad ass and the next she’s huddling in a corner. She’s so distressed she can’t hold a gun, but she can stab a guy in the neck with a knife. Maybe it’s just me, but she was getting a little irritating. I don’t know, maybe that makes her more realistic. I still loved the book. I don’t have to love all the characters all the time. The ending was a cliffhanger, left me frustrated and yelling “ARG” just the way a cliffhanger should. The next book, which Roth is jokingly (I hope) referring to as Detergent, is scheduled to come out August 2013.

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If I Stay

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

I heard about this book awhile back and finally got my hands on it on Saturday, and finished it Monday. Pardon the cliché, but I could not put it down. I was mesmerized by it. The story is told from the perspective of Mia, a seventeen year old girl, who is stuck between living and dying. She is watching herself and those around her from outside her body almost like a ghost. Mia watches herself while the doctors and nurses try to keep her alive and her friends and family come to visit her, we get flashes of her life. She has a life most teenagers would love; cool, funky parents, a wonderful rocker boyfriend, a best friend to confide in, and a younger brother that she feels is practically her own.

Mia realizes that whether she lives or dies is up to her. Now, all alone, she has to make what is probably the hardest decision imaginable. How can she go on without her family? How can she leave when so many people love her?

At first I didn’t think I was going to like it. It started off a little gruesome. It begins with a horrific car accident where both of Mia’s parents die instantly. There is a short but vivid description of both of them. Then I was captivated by the narration. The author does a wonderful job capturing the pain of the characters in the book. Foreman organizes the story like someone who is thinking of memories. Not necessarily in chronological order, just what comes to mind when things happen. It is easy for the reader to get confused with a structure like this, trying to remember what happened before this scene, or which events came first in time. But the author lays out Mia’s life so well, I never allowing the reader to loose track of the story line.

I was brought to tears many times while reading this book. I tried not to think about myself in Mia’s shoes because it would be too painful to imagine. I have no idea what choice I would make either as my 17 year old self loosing my parents, or my 30 year old self with my husband, and … Nope, not going to think about it! The ending was perfect. I loved it so much that I immediately went and got the second book. And when I say immediately, I mean I closed the book, stood up and went to get Where She Went (which was also amazing).

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The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I do not know how I am going to do this book justice.

This book is much deeper than books that I have read recently. There is no love triangle. The book is not salacious or full of teenage angst. This is not a book to devour; it is a book to savor. It is just a beautiful story written about a horrible time in world history. It focuses on the experiences of a young girl and Death.

The story of Liesel Meminger is told from the eyes of Death as he* goes through World War II collecting souls. Death does not enjoy his job and tries to focus on the beauty in the world while coming for the dead. He first meets the young heroine when he comes for her six year old brother, Werner, who dies on the train. They are on their way to their new foster home. This is also when Liesel steals her first book, The Gravedigger’s Handbook. She sees it while leaving her brother’s funeral. At this point Liesel is twelve and cannot read, but books call to her and she is fascinated by the words.

*Death is not given a gender in this book. “He” is not a person. He just exists as a conscious. I am calling it a he for the sake of grammar.

Next Liesel is taken to her new foster home and we meet Rosa and Hans Huberman. Hans Huberman has been added to my list of the best literary fathers along with Atticus Finch and Mr. Bennett.

This man is the moral compass for the book. He does what he can for his family and others. He is gentle and loving in a quiet, standoffish way. He does not push Liesel to love him, he simply is there for her when she wakes up from nightmares in the middle of the night and stays by her bed.

“*** A definition not found in the dictionary*** Not leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children.”

He discovers her obsession with books and her inability to read. He begins teaching her to read and write in the middle of the night, their secret 2 am classes.

Liesel and the Hubermans live in a poor area. Hans refuses to join the Nazi party at first and his ability to get work suffers because of this. However when his neighbors need his help, he paints their windows even when all they can offer him as payment is half a cigarette.

As the book comes to a close, there is a sense of impending doom. You know it’s coming, but you continue to read on. In a small way, it parallels the feelings of the characters; you march along with them towards tragedy.

While this book is not like the other books I have been reading, it does still have that dystopian feel. It’s about a small village in Germany during World War II. These people have to be careful what they say, who they talk to, what they read. They can’t speak ill of the Fuehrer. It’s about people who take small but important punches at the totalitarian government they live in. They do what they can to stay alive, but they don’t let the evils of their leader take away their humanity and empathy. And this book is about the importance of the written word. It provides comfort and support it dire times.

There is so much sadness in this book I am reluctant to tell people they should read it. The book made me cry and for a little while I was a little angry at the author and the woman who told me to read it. However, if you liked A Thousand Splendid Suns or Kite Runner, you would probably like this book. It doesn’t have a happy ending, but there is a sense of hope for the future. This is not a book that I will read again and again, but it will stay with me. I hope this book becomes part of the canon; I would love to teach it.

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