Insurgent

I just finished Insurgent, Veronica Roth’s sequel to Divergent. It picks up right where the first book left off, told in Tris’ own voice.

The simulation and battle are over, but the war is just beginning. Dauntless has dispersed, many of them seeking refuge among other factions. Many of them are traitors, and have sided with Erudite. Tris keenly feels the new pain of the loss of both of her parents as well as her own horror at shooting her friend, Will. But the war continues to rage, with unlikely alliances and unclear motivation.

Much of Abnegation has been killed off. Amity and Candor do not want to become involved in the dispute, which mainly leaves Dauntless, Erudite, and the factionless, which are higher in number, and much more organized, than Tris suspected.

Tris is Divergent, which means that she has much keener perception and insight than many. It also means she has values of multiple factions. So while she is brave, like the Dauntless, she can also be selfless like Abnegation, nearly to a fault. While the Erudite are working on new simulation serum, they are able to take control of some of the Dauntless and deliver a message to the Divergent. Tris feels that to protect those she loves, she must turn herself in. When she does, she discovers that there is information that is considered so dangerous, information that could change everything, that the Erudite leader will do anything to protect.

Forming unlikely alliances, and one that could cost Tris the love of Tobias, she plays her role in discovering the truth. At the end of the book, I was very happy to learn that Tobias could trust Tris, and that he was able to be a big enough person not to throw away what they had. It did end on a cliffhanger, though, and I’m very eager to see what comes next in Tris’ story.

Definitely one of the best young adult series I’ve read. And the author is so young! It’s quite impressive. I can’t wait for the next installment.

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Fever

Fever, the second novel in Lauren DeStefano’s The Chemical Garden Trilogy, picks up right where Wither left off.

Rhine and Gabriel have managed to escape from the mansion, and from Housemaster Vaughn. When they are free, in the actual world, it becomes clear that Rhine has somewhat romanticized her memories. The world is either dead or dying, much like its young occupants. There is no order. Fate delivers Rhine and Gabriel to a carnival. Really, it’s just a façade of a carnival, a front for prostitution. An older, first-generation woman runs things, and she has a special place for Rhine in her act.

Eventually, Rhine and Gabriel escape, just as Housemaster Vaughn arrives on the scene, taking with them Maddie, a malformed child of one of the girls. Still looking for her twin brother Rowan, they make their way to Manhattan, only to find that home is not as she remembered it and Rowan is nowhere to be found. Out of other options, they seek out a name and address that has been inscribed in an old children’s book that Maddie has saved from her previous life at the carnival. This leads them to an orphanage run by Maddie’s grandmother.

All the while, Rhine becomes sicker and sicker. She feels as if she is succumbing to the terminal virus, but something seems off about it, much as the death of her sister-wife Jenna seemed to be. As at the carnival, Vaughn finds her, stealing her during the middle of the night, threatening to burn the orphanage down and all its occupants with it, if she won’t come with him. Leaving Gabriel and Maddie, she returns to the mansion.

She does get a few answers from Vaughn, but she is shut away in the basement, being used as a lab rat. Only when things get too extreme does her husband, Linden, intervene. He takes her to a hospital, and it is while she is here that she finds a clue as to how to find her brother. But she is sick, and the clock to her 20th birthday and imminent death is continuing to tick.

I did enjoy this book, but I found it lacking a bit in emotional depth. I just didn’t feel like I cared about the characters as much as I wanted to. Maybe this is because the last books I read just went so far above this, that it’s hard for anything to compete. However, I still liked the story, and I will read the third and final book in the series whenever it comes out. I do care about Rhine and Gabriel enough to find out what actually happens to them.

Crossed

After I finished Matched, by Ally Condie, I immediately read Crossed, the sequel. I wanted to know more of Cassia’s story, and that of her choices.

With a bit of help from her parents, Cassia is sent to work in a labor camp, under the pretense that it’s a punishment for being rebellious, in the Outer Provinces. She takes an opportunity and is taken to a place where she knows that she will be closer to Ky. She discovers a bit of information and takes her chances escaping with her friend, Indie, into the Carving, which is basically a canyon.

After wandering around for a few days, Cassia and Indie find Ky and Eli, a boy that Ky took with him because he reminded Ky of Cassia’s younger brother. They make contact with the last of the farmers, a group of people who lived independently in the canyon, away from Society and the rebellious Rising. Ky wants to live independently, but Cassia has decided that the Rising is what she wants, so after much of an internal struggle, Ky decides to go with her.

They discover some secrets about the Society and more about each other. Cassia also finds out that Xander has a secret, and that Ky and somehow Indie, know what it is. When the three of them make contact with the Rising, their future is decided in much the same way as it might be in Society. After all, the Rising is just another system. It is decided that Cassia can best serve them from within Society and immediately sends her to Central, the Society’s capitol. This is also where Xander has been currently posted. Ky and Indie will not go back to Society.

And so the young lovers have again been separated, and Cassia has been sent back to Xander. And of course, Ky can’t help but wonder if Xander’s secret will be enough to make Cassia chose him instead.

Words and poetry play a large role in this book and the story. Condie’s writing style is also reminiscent of poetry, with some passages being absolutely beautiful to read. While I do love the story and the world that Condie has created, I couldn’t help but be disappointed with this book. At times, I felt like some passages were a bit confusing in that they were so ambiguous. What exactly did a character mean by that? What was that in response to? And what does this poem mean in this part of the book? Did something happen that the reader is supposed to infer from the poem and its placement? I just wanted more. More story, more action, and above all, more depth and emotion from the characters. I mean, I really like Cassia and Ky, but I want a story that brings tears to my eyes. I want to feel their pain and misery. I truly want to be sad if one of them dies or they get separated.

I believe the third and final book in the trilogy is coming out later this year. I can say that I’ll definitely read it, just because I want to know what happens. And the covers of these books are gorgeous too.

Matched

I recently read Matched, by Ally Condie. This is the first book of a new young adult dystopian trilogy. While I haven’t read too many dystopian novels, I had read quite a bit about this series and had high expectations going on.

Cassia has just turned 17, which means she is eligible to be Matched by Society. At her Matching Banquet, other 17 year olds are shown their matches on a screen, as everyone is matched to someone they have never met, who lives in another province. The Society choses matched couples mainly for breeding purposes, in order to achieve “optimal results.” However, the system has worked, so Cassia sees no reason to question it, especially not when she discovers that she has been matched to her best friend, Xander.

After the banquet, she examined the microcard given to her with information about Xander. But when she views it, Xander’s face disappears and is replaced by someone else’s. She knows this person too. Ky lives down her street. Of course, this causes Cassia to question everything, and peaks her interest in Ky. As the two get to know each other, she of course falls in love with Ky, while she still loves her best friend, Xander, creating the typical young adult love triangle. I was a bit disappointed here. Not so original.

Cassia discovers that Ky is an Aberration, due to the fact that his father committed an Infraction, which means he is not eligible to be matched or to have a decent job. At the end of the book, the Society relocates Ky to the Outer Provinces, where the war on the Enemy is apparently not going well. Cassia decides that she must try whatever it takes to find him again.

I did like the world the author created. The Society tries to control everyone and everything, including the timing of death (on a person’s 80th birthday), the matching of couples, interests, jobs, etc. All citizens are even required to carry tablet containers at all times, which hold a tablet used to erase memories of the past few hours, a tablet for calming purposes, and a tablet to sustain life for a couple of days if an emergency arises. The Officials are always watching, and sometimes even a kiss is considered a crime.

While I was slightly disappointed in this book, I will continue to read the series. I definitely enjoyed the book and the characters, but I admit that I was left wanting more. More depth, more feelings, more originality. But I’ll reserve my opinion until the series is completed.

 

Wither

As I was saying in a recent book post about the YA genre, I was ready for something a bit more original. And I found it!

Wither, by Lauren DeStefano, takes place in the future USA, and something has gone terribly wrong. Aside from the “first generation,” females only live to be 20-years-old, and males to 25-years-old thanks to some sort of genetic virus. Orphans are abundant, and there is a race to prevent extinction by mating early to produce offspring. The Gatherers kidnap young women as potential brides in polygamous marriages. Rhine Ellery, a 16-year-old, is captured and separated from her twin brother Rowan.

She and two other chosen girls are taken to a mansion far from her home in New York and are married to House Governor Linden, a 21-year-old man. Rhine tries to earn his trust by playing nice and she eventually gets the title of “first wife.” Although she has not consummated the marriage, her 13-year-old sister wife is already pregnant. And Rhine is beginning to have conflicting emotions regarding her husband captor. Linden’s father, a first generation man, is a doctor and scientist and claims to be constantly working on an antidote for the virus, but he only has four years left to save his son.

Rhine finds an ally in a servant boy, Gabriel, and begins to have feelings for him. She shares her plans of escape and insists that he come with her. But if they are caught, it could very well cost them their lives…or worse.

I’m definitely eager to discover what happens next in this story, and if Rhine will have a happy rest of her life, or if there will somehow be an antidote that will allow her to live beyond the ripe old age of twenty. Maybe it’s because I just haven’t discovered any other YA books with this premise yet, but I found the concept and plot to be like a breath of fresh air, especially considering the other books I’ve read lately that all seem like basically repeats of one another. I’m looking forward to Fever, the second book in The Chemical Garden series, which is scheduled to be released in February 2012.

 

Short Story

A few weeks ago, I found out about a local writer’s group in my town. They meet once a month for a couple of hours, on the third Saturday of the month. I didn’t have anything to lose, so I decided to go to the September meeting. The current assignment, or challenge, was to write a short story around 4,000 to 6,000 words. So I began tossing a few ideas around, and over the past couple of weeks I wrote my first short story, weighing in right at the upper limit of 6,000 words.

And so I took it with me to the meeting today. Like last month, it was a small group, but after reading it, one person did compliment me, saying that I wrote really well. The assignment for the November meeting is to research possible publishers and bring information about 3-6 publishing companies or magazines that are possibilities. Again, I don’t have anything to lose, and there’s the (small) chance that my story might actually be accepted and published! Then I could truly call myself a published author!!

The title of my short story is “Elmsgate.”

In the town of Elmsgate, all sixteen-year-olds must undergo testing, and possibly treatment, in order to be considered an adult and join society. There is no place for creativity or diversity. Any differences are deemed abnormal and are considered illnesses that must be cured. Sam dreams of being an artist, creating his pieces with smuggled paints. His girlfriend, Lily, writes music, both melodies and lyrics. Sam tries to convince Lily to escape, but she can’t bear to leave her little sister, and Sam can’t bear to leave without her. The only option is to get through the testing and probable treatment so they can be together. But treatment can change people, or even be fatal.

There’s still a bit of polishing left to do on my story, but it’s got a great start. And it really didn’t take me that long to write it–just a couple of weeks. The hardest part was coming up with an idea that I deemed “good enough.” That seems to be the problem I’m having right now preparing for NaNoWriMo, but that’s another topic for another day.

Divergent

I’ve just discovered an amazing new author. Veronica Roth’s debut novel, Divergent, is the first in an amazing new dystopian series. A trilogy, I think. I first learned about this book through a comment on Facebook, which basically stated that those who enjoyed The Hunger Games, would probably enjoy this as well. And that holds true!

Beatrice “Tris” Prior lives in a dystopian Chicago, complete with crumbling ancient brick buildings, a dried up lake that is now considered a marsh, and roads that have long ago fallen into disrepair. She has reached her sixteenth birthday, an age that signifies the beginning of the rest of her life. She is forced to choose between her family and what she might want for her future.

There are five factions, each of which value a specific virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. Tris chooses to leave her Abnegation family and embarks on an adventure to be a brave and courageous Dauntless. But she is not really Dauntless or Abnegation, or any of the other factions. She is different. She is Divergent.

She has been warned that if anyone finds out about her flaw, it would mean her death. There are those seeking to control and lusting for power. Those with the ability to think for themselves and in unique ways pose a danger, a threat that those aspiring leaders will do anything to eliminate.

And then there is Four, a Dauntless who is in charge of training of the faction-transfers. Of course there is a love story here. And it was paced realistically. No immediate kissing or declaring of feelings. Much confusion and discovery. Definitely believable.

The next installment comes out in May 2012. Until then, I’ll have to find other great books to keep me busy.

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