Tag Archives: disability

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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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 Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars

“That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.”
-Augustus Waters

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Once again, I’ve used the easy way out in copying the description from the book sleeve, but it’s just to be on the safe side. This is truly an amazing book, and I wouldn’t want to spoil anything in it.

I know I’ve said this before, but John Green is one of my favorite authors. Even before, when all I had read by him was Looking for Alaska, he was still good enough to be one of my favorites automatically. Now, reading The Fault in Our Stars has just intensified my adoration for his books and writing style.

There aren’t many books that can actually make me laugh out loud. Not saying I don’t laugh at anything, it’s just that most humor in books fails in making me laugh. So far, I’ve only found two exceptions: the Harry Potter books and John Green’s books. The wittiness of Isaac and Augustus, and some of the weird metaphorical conversations between Hazel and Augustus are just great.

And, once again, I’m excited to say that the film adaption comes out sometime next year. I don’t totally agree with the cast that has been chosen, but I refuse any more judgment until I actually see the film, which I’m sure will be nearly as incredible as the novel.

Until next time, my dears.

-J

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The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver

“They were satisfied with their lives which had none of the vibrance his own was taking on. And he was angry at himself, that he could not change that for them.”

The Giver tells the story of Jonas, an eleven-year-old boy living in a utopian society. Each year at the Ceremony of Twelve, all Elevens receive their career paths, but Jonas has an important task– he is to train with the Receiver of Memory, the most respected Elder in the community who has the job of storing all memories of the past. But as Jonas gets further into his training, he discovers all of the secrets his society is hiding, and how nearly all of the community is living in a black-and-white world (literally).

I hope that was an adequate summary– this is one of those books that is really hard to describe without excessive spoilers. I really enjoyed the book: the symbolism, the foreshadowing, everything. My only problem with the entire book was the “big twist” that I “definitely wouldn’t see coming,” which I suspected from the very beginning.

The thing that came as a big surprise to me– and probably what made me love the book so much– wasn’t a turn-of-events or anything like that; it was the thing about color that I alluded to in the description above. You really have to pay attention to detail to pick up on the fact that everyone in the society is completely color-blind. The way the author uses words like “dull” and “colorless”– they aren’t just plain adjectives, they’re literal. The way the author talks about sometimes Jonas sees things change— he’s seeing small glimpses of color. It’s crazy, and it’s subtle, but it becomes a major plot point later on in the story.

Also, like many other books I’ve been reviewing lately, I’ve just found out a film adaption is being made. (You’d think with a book from 1993 that’s so popular, there would already have been a movie.) It stars Jeff Bridges as the Giver, which I’m extremely excited about, and as soon as I see the movie (which won’t be until sometime in 2014… sigh), you guys will hear about it. See you soon!

-J

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The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner (The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure)

maze-runner-trilogy

“If you ain’t scared… You ain’t human.”
-Alby, The Maze Runner

First thing’s first, I apologize for not posting in nearly a month. The review for The Book Thief was supposed to be up next, but it somehow disappeared right before I posted it, and I wasn’t about to spend another hour rewriting. So, no review for that one for now. Within the next year I’ll probably end up re-reading it, so you’ll see one eventually (and one for the movie 😉 ). Also, a quick note before I get to the review: when I got these three books from the library, I also got The Kill Order, which is the prequel to this trilogy, but I’ve decided not to post it right away for a few reasons. And now to the review.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every thirty days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

(Summary courtesy of Goodreads.com.)

I believe that is the same summary found on the inside cover of the book. I knew I couldn’t do a summary of the first without giving away any spoilers, so it’s probably best to let someone else do it for me. I won’t give summaries of the second and third books because of spoilers, so I’ll just go right into the review.

These books reminded me of something that The Hunger Games fans would like. It’s definitely a survival story, and that becomes even more evident in The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure. Thomas does remind me a lot of Katniss, in his attitude and independence despite what others tell him to do. And a lot of the other characters between the books compare to each other, like Chuck and Prim, and Janson and President Snow. You’ll even find tons of results after looking up “similarities between The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games.” But in my opinion, the first book in each series are the only ones with real similarities.

If I had to describe this trilogy with a few words: action-packed, scary, vengeful, and sad. It’s like a survival thriller mixed with sci-fi, with zombies thrown in. (Well, they’re not exactly zombies, but they’re pretty close.)

One thing I love about this series is the variety of characters. You’ve got the good guys and the bad guys, the people you aren’t sure about, the people you think are bad guys and end up being good guys, and vice versa. There are big debates about love/hate relationships with certain characters, the love triangle that starts in The Scorch Trials, and more. All I can say is, in order to spark so many interesting debates on these topics, James Dashner must really know what he’s doing.

And finally, the movie. Whoever casted for this movie did an awesome job, in my opinion. I’m not totally happy with who they picked to play Frypan, but other than that, everything is perfect. And the photos that are already up on the IMDB page– wow. It looks like it’s going to be an incredible film adaption, and I can’t wait to see it when it comes out.

Well, folks, that’s all for today. I’ll be back with another full-series review soon, and possibly a Halloween-themed post before that. Until then!

-J

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It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

It's Kind of a Funny Story

“It’s so hard to talk when you want to kill yourself. That’s above and beyond everything else, and it’s not a mental complaint– it’s a physical thing, like it’s physically hard to open your mouth and make the words come out. They don’t come out smooth and in conjunction with your brain the way normal people’s words do; they come out in chunks as if from a crushed-ice dispenser; you stumble on them as they gather behind your lower lip. So you just keep quiet.”
-Craig

After nearly committing suicide one night, depressed teenager Craig Gilner decides to check himself into the hospital. He is given a few days to stay in the adult psychiatric ward, where he meets a schizophrenic, some drug addicts, and a girl who scarred her face with scissors. (I don’t want to say too much else for fear of spoiling anything, so I’ll just awkwardly stop this summary here.)

Once again, I’ve forgotten to write a review. It’s been a few days since I’ve finished this incredible book, but I can still recall it rather well. No matter how messed up he is, Craig is relatable to everyone in some way. His thoughts and opinions generally make sense, even if they’re a little far-fetched. He’s a really good guy, despite the bad decisions he may make, and I think we can all relate to that somehow.

It’s rare that I truly find a book funny. Sure, I have a sense of humor, but finding an actual laugh-out-loud-funny is an unusual thing for me. This book was one of the few exceptions so far. Similar to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, It’s Kind of a Funny Story pokes fun at the mentality of the people in the ward without being offensive or rude, and I admire Ned Vizzini and Ken Kesey for being able to do that.

Now, just today I found out that this book has a film adaption. How I didn’t know beats me, especially because the cast includes people like Zach Galifinakis, Jim Gaffigan, and Emma Roberts. As of now, all I know is I need to see this movie.

And since I took so long for this review, the next review will most likely be up tomorrow. One more book to go and I’ll be book-hunting again, so please leave me some recommendations! 🙂

-J

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Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Before I Go to Sleep

“I cannot imagine how I will cope when I discover that my life is behind me, has already happened, and I have nothing to show for it. No treasure house of collection, no wealth of experience, no accumulated wisdom to pass on. What are we, if not an accumulation of our memories?”
-Christine

One morning, Christine Lucas wakes up having no idea where the past twenty years of her life have gone. A man who claimed to be her husband has left for work after explaining she has amnesia, and another man claiming to be her doctor has given her a journal she’s supposedly been keeping over the last few weeks. Confused and scared, she reads, unraveling everything she’s found out about her past and present and discovering what’s really been going on for all of this time.

I’m going to start off by saying this is one of my all-time favorite books, and I’m recommending it to anyone 13 or older. The reason I say that is it has a little bit of adult content, and having read this for the first time at the end of my eighth grade year, I remember feeling awkward reading those parts (and still do, being a sophomore now). Either way, the graphic content of the book is slim, and I’m sure it would be fine for most ages. The book is split into three parts: the beginning, where Christine awakens and can’t remember anything until she reads the journal; the actual journal entries that fill in the past few weeks; and what happens after she finishes reading. The entire book is filled with suspense, twists, and revelations, complete with an ending you’ll never forget.

And, if you still need a little persuading before you decide to read, check this out:

Before I Go to Sleep is the first novel by S. J. Watson published in Spring 2011. It became both a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller and has been translated into over 30 languages, and has become a bestseller in France, Canada, Bulgaria and the Netherlands.It reached number 7 on the US bestseller list, the highest position for a debut novel by a British author since J. K. Rowling. The New York Times described the author as an “out-of-nowhere literary sensation”.

That’s from the beginning of the Wikipedia article, which also mentions that the film adaption will be coming out in 2014, with Nicole Kidman cast as Christine. This is big, guys. And I’m using this film adaption to convince more and more people to read it– I know I’m not one to see a movie based on a book without reading the book first, unless it’s purely by accident– in which case, I have to read the book immediately afterward.

So there you have it. Go read this book as soon as you possibly can, and let me know what you think (without spoilers, of course, for anyone who hasn’t read it). Thanks for reading, and hope to see you again soon!

-J

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Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Hate List

“We all got to be winners sometimes. But what he didn’t understand was that we all had to be losers, too. Because you can’t have one without the other.”
-Valerie

Valerie and her boyfriend Nick, two outsiders who are picked on by virtually everyone in their high school, compose an ever-growing list of people and things they hate as a method of venting frustration. But one day, Nick brings a gun to school and starts to shoot many of the students on the list. After months of interrogation and recovery, Valerie is ready to go back to school for her senior year– but will her fellow classmates hold her actions against her?

The idea of whether Valerie is guilty of anything is for you to decide, but regardless of your decision, her story is a remarkable one. Valerie goes through so much throughout the span of the novel, from watching her fellow classmates and boyfriend die to being interviewed by persistent police officers to trying to lead a normal life once again. Her story is inspiring and hopeful, with an ending that is absolutely beautiful.

I was going to tell you guys about my theory that Bea is an angel, but I’ll skip over it and instead talk about the author’s note, specifically how Jennifer Brown named her characters symbolically. The examples she used were as follows (direct quotes, not my words):

Valerie’s last name is Leftman because she was “left” to take the rap for Nick’s actions. Nick’s last name is Levil, which is almost “evil,” and may even look like “evil” at first glance, but if you go back and look again… it’s not quite “evil.” Principal Angerson was an angry kind of dude. Angela Dash was a crummy reporter, just “dashing” off stories without double-checking her facts. Bea had no last name. She was just Bea (or Just Be). Detective Panzella was named after an Italian bread salad (panzanella), because he was about as plain as a bowl full of day-old bread. And, of course, Dr. Hieler, pronounced “healer,” is pretty self-explanatory.

So there you have it. Everything makes much more sense if you know the characters, of course, but you see where I’m coming from. The idea of imagery or symbollism hidden in names is really cool, in my opinion, and it gave me a great idea for my writings. (Yes, I’m thinking about writing a book or two. Go on and laugh; I don’t blame you.)

Sorry it took so long for me to post this review. I sat down to write it at about eight, then got distracted and watched the new movie Side Effects (which was incredible, by the way). Then, after the movie was over, I began writing again, explaining my entire theory on Bea. I deleted it shortly after finishing it, realizing how awkward it sounded, and was once again distracted by all of the fan theory articles I’d found across the web. Oh well; hopefully the review was fine, regardless of my constant distractions and revisions. Have a great night, everyone, and I’ll see you in a few days. 🙂

-J

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The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders

“Sixteen years on the streets and you can learn a lot. But all the wrong things, not the things you want to learn. Sixteen years on the streets and you see a lot. But all the wrong sights, not the sights you want to see.”
-Ponyboy Curtis

No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he’s got things figured out. He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends– true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. And when it comes to the Socs– a vicious gang of rich kids who enjoy beating up on “greasers” like him and his friends– he knows that he can count on them for trouble. But one night someone takes things too far, and Ponyboy’s world is turned upside down…

I copied that summary from the cover of the book because, let’s face it, my summary wouldn’t have done this incredible book any justice. Being a classic, you’ve probably heard of this book before– or at least the movie, or at the very least, the famous quote, “Stay gold,” from this book. Usually I wouldn’t be interested in “classic literature” at all, but this is one of my favorite books of all time.

While this may seem weird to some of you, I’m sure the avid readers out there will understand when I say I have a crush on a fictional character from this book, and odd as it may be, that character happens to be Two-Bit. It didn’t help when I saw the movie for the first time and twenty-one-year old Emilio Estevez was cast as Two-Bit in his first movie role. (He was amazing in that movie, by the way, and portrayed the character perfectly. Actually, all of the actors in that movie did.)

I’d better stop before I start gushing. I’ll end it on this note: go read this book as soon as you can. Go watch the movie right afterwards. And even if you don’t want to read this book, go watch the movie anyway. It’s perfection, and it’s full of gorgeous actors from the 80s (Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, etc), which just makes it that much better.

-J

*I just today noticed that this review didn’t post on Thursday when I wrote it. Sorry!

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