Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Divergent Trilogy (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant) by Veronica Roth

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“A brave man acknowledges the strength of others.”
-Four, Divergent

Many years in the future, the city of Chicago has been split into five factions: Abnegation, the selfless; Amity, the peaceful; Candor, the honest; Dauntless, the brave; and Erudite, the intelligent. Each faction has specific jobs and requirements that must be made in order to join. At the age of sixteen, a choice must be made: whether to leave the faction of your parents that you’ve grown up in, or to transfer to another faction. After a simulation that is supposed to show her what her strongest aptitude is, Beatrice Prior learns that she is Divergent, or has equal aptitude for three different factions. This revelation causes her to rethink her previous idea about the factions, and her decision will transform her into a completely different person.

I tried to write that summary without any spoilers, so I apologize if it seems a little vague and uninteresting, because it’s truly anything but. The Divergent trilogy is reminiscent of trilogies like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, due to the dystopian future and survival themes, and this trilogy is just as action-packed and compelling. If it weren’t for the trouble I had finding the second and third books, I would’ve had this entire series read within a few days.

Not only do I love the action and suspense in these books, but the numerous themes are also a big deal to me. It’s like Veronica Roth just decided to write about absolutely everything she could think of to try to fit the books into every category possible. And I don’t just mean that this is an action/romance/sci-fi/suspense novel, but the fact that she decided to take nearly every problem a person could be faced with and let the characters struggle with them. The ability to do all of that and still make it work, I think, is what makes this series even more incredible than it would have been.

This trilogy also has a growing fandom, and that fact is an even better reason to try out these books. Although Allegiant, the final book in the trilogy, was released only two months ago, Veronica Roth has already announced a series of short stories from Four’s point of view will be published as an anthology in February. Additionally (and yes, I realize I’ve been ending a lot of my reviews with this sort of statement, but that just means they’re good books, right?), the film adaption for Divergent will be out in March, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort (who will also be playing Augustus and Hazel in the The Fault in Our Stars film adaption) as Beatrice and her brother Caleb.

I’m going to use the end of this post to do a little promotion for the Divergent Fandom WordPress blog, in case you’ve already read the series and want to check it out. It’s a great site that you should definitely check into if you’ve read and enjoyed the series. Thanks for reading, and happy New Year!

-J

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Stand Your Ground by Joel Penton

Stand Your Ground

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you should know that this is definitely not the type of book that I usually read. But after the author, Joel Penton, spoke at my school, I decided to buy this book just because. The story itself is mostly a memoir of Joel Penton’s experience playing football at Ohio State, but there are also some other stories from his high school life thrown in. The rest of the book is about commitments: how to make them, how to keep them, etc.

I’ll try any kind of book once, and although I already had an idea that I wasn’t going to like this book, I had to try. To me, it was just disappointing. I wasn’t expecting over half of the book to be about good decision-making and commitments; I thought most of it would be his story, the one he told us at my school, which seemed like something I would want to read about. So, no, I didn’t like it. But I’m not going to say that it sucked, or anything like that, because it didn’t. It’s just not my thing.

I’m not sure how much longer I can make this review without it being super boring, so I’ll just end it here. I’ll have my next review of the full Divergent series up sometime soon, hopefully before Christmas, but if not, sometime before New Years. So, in case I don’t get to write before then, have a great Christmas!

-J

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The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon

The Burn Journals

“The only problem with seeing people you know is that they know you.”
-Brent

This is my second attempt at reviewing this book, so hopefully it doesn’t get deleted like the last one. The Burn Journals is a true memoir of Brent Runyon, who doused himself in gasoline and lit a match when he was only fourteen. He spent almost a year in treatment for his injuries and depression, and over this time learns to accept himself.

The thing I really love about this book is that you can tell he wrote it straight out of his fourteen-year-old mind. The language he uses, his sentence structure, everything is an indicator that he is not at all an adult yet. It isn’t told in the “this happened to me” way; it’s told in the present tense, to emphasize his youth. Even his thoughts and actions point toward childhood, and I think it’s brilliant. Also, the things Brent Runyon included in the story that he could have easily removed to save himself embarrassment are the greatest parts of the book, since it shows you how real everything was.

The Burn Journals is definitely a painful and depressing story, and its subject matter of attempted suicide and recovery is very strong. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, even those who are considering suicide. Actually, I think it’s the perfect book for someone who struggles with depression or suicidal behavior, because it shows the repercussions suicide has on everyone around you, and that everyone can get better with proper treatment and time.

Sorry it took me a while to get this review up, but I should have another one either today or tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

-J

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Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin (with bonus songs)

Memoirs

“You forget all of it anyway. First, you forget everything you learned– the dates of the Hay-Herran Treaty and the Pythagorean theorem. You especially forget everything you didn’t really learn, but just memorized the night before. You forget the names of all but one or two of your teachers, and eventually you’ll forget those, too. You forget your junior year class schedule and where you used to sit and your best friend’s home phone number and the lyrics to that song you must have played a million times. For me, it was something by Simon & Garfunkel. Who knows what it’ll be for you? And eventually, but slowly, oh so slowly, you forget your humiliations– even the ones that seemed indelible just fade away. You forget who was cool and who was not, who was pretty, smart, athletic, and not. Who went to a good college. Who threw the best parties. Who could get you pot. You forget all of them. Even the ones you said you loved, and even the ones you actually did. They’re the last to go. And then once you’ve forgotten enough, you love someone else.”
-Grant Porter

Depending on how long you’ve been following my reviews, you may or may not remember my previous attempt to review this book. Sadly, as I had just finished writing and was about to post, the entire thing erased itself, save for the “bonus playlist” I added at the end. So here I am, ready to review this book over again.

After losing a coin toss and having to go back to school to retrieve a camera, Naomi fell down the stairs in front of her school and hit her head. She awoke in an ambulance, confused and scared. By the time she got to the hospital, she discovered that all of her memory from the past four years was gone. Now, Naomi struggles to fit in and figure out everything she’s forgotten– including her best friend, boyfriend, her parents’ divorce, and the birth of her younger sister.

My review probably didn’t do this book justice, but trust me, it was a great book. It’s clear that Gabrielle Zevin did her research, because everything seemed very believable and accurate. Her character development was great, and the slow memory regaining made me not want to stop reading. I think the best thing about the entire book, though, is the tension between Naomi and the three guys she has to pick from– her boyfriend Ace, her best friend Will, and James, the boy she just met who saved her during her accident.

Since I can’t add the playlist (it’s still posted here), I’ll add my favorite song of the entire playlist in the back, which somehow didn’t make it onto the first list. It’s called “A Certain Romance” by the Arctic Monkeys, one of my favorite bands of the moment. And, just for a little something extra, I’ll add a link to the song I haven’t been able to stop listening to for about a week now: “Evolution of Get Lucky” by PV Nova on YouTube. Basically, he took the song “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams, and he did one of those “how music changes over the decades” things with it. It’s hard to explain, so it would probably be best if you just listened to it. I promise, it’s incredible.

Thanks for reading, guys, and I’ll see you soon!

-J

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

“You don’t pass or fail at being a person, dear.”
– Mrs. Hempstock

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is an unusual story told by an unnamed narrator about the childhood he has just remembered after sitting by the “ocean,” the lake in his old friend Lettie Hempstock’s yard.That’s really all I can say about the book without spoiling anything, so this will be a pretty short review for a pretty short book.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this book. While I was reading, I didn’t want to stop. It was suspenseful, it was strange, and it was like I had been transported into Neil Gaiman’s little fantasy world. Sure, all of his books are unusual in a way, but this one was a little more so than the others I’ve read. And although I did really like it while I was reading, I’d become a little disappointed by the time it was over. Like I needed more, like it couldn’t be over so soon. Not as if it needs a sequel– I just feel he left too much unexplained and he should’ve  had an extra chapter or something. The ending was the only thing I really didn’t like about the book, but looking back on how odd the entire thing was, I’m surprised I even liked it at all.

And once again, like I’ve been ending a lot of my reviews lately, I hear about a possible film adaption produced by Tom Hanks. I don’t know if I can picture the book actually becoming a movie, but I’m excited nonetheless.

To conclude this review, I’d like to ask your opinion of whether I should post a review of the movie adaption of Catching Fire, which I recently went to see. Hopefully this will work out, since this is the first time I’ve ever linked a poll into a post. Vote on it below, and I’ll see you next time!

-J

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