Sooo...crazy month around here. Super crazy. Like, what-happened-to-the-last-four-weeks-of-my-life crazy.
First we bought a house. Then we prepped a house for move-in.
And then...we didn't get to move in due to the weather.
Then, we moved in, and promptly didn't have Internet for three weeks.
Somewhere in there we celebrated Jesus' birthday at least five times.
At last, we came home. Time to get back to real life!
Then we had a snow/ice/cold storm - the "polar vortex." Have you ever tried to write a blog when three house-bound children are on their 17TH DAY OF WINTER VACATION?!
Yeah...that wasn't going to work.
So then we all went back to school and work. Routine was coming back. All was well.
And then my mother landed herself in the ICU for a week with a walloping case of pneumonia.
See what I mean? CRAZY!
However, life around here has settled to a dull roar, and I am anxious to re-enter the world of reading and blogging. So fear not friends - for I am back!
I will be kicking of 2014 with the book I read while my mother was in the hospital. If you're going to be spending a week sitting around an ICU hospital room, it is imperative to have a new book to read. Something that can grab your attention and give you some needed distraction from the ventilator through which your mother is trying to breathe. These books are often best chosen either 1) in the hospital gift shop or 2) on a 10pm trip to Wal-Mart. (Target is also acceptable, but they closed at 10!) Today's review comes from one of those 10pm trips to Wally-World. Sometimes the best books are found that way.
So without further adieu, I bring you...Divergent.
Post-apocalyptic books are very in right now. Call it The Hunger Games effect or whatever. I'm not knocking The Hunger Games - they were pretty good books. I almost said excellent but...I downgraded it to pretty good. They are good, fun, fast reads that give you lots to think about and foster enjoyment of reading in young readers. That's a win-win-win.
A whole genre of what-if dystopian novels have sprung up since then, and like all genres, some of them are great, and some of them are not so great. I am happy to say that Divergent falls firmly into the great category. To be honest, I thought it was a better book than THG!
Divergent tells the story of Beatrice, a sixteen-year old girl living in what used to be the city of Chicago in a society that had decided to eliminate conflict by dividing everyone into five factions according to their natural aptitude and inclinations. Beatrice soon finds out that she is Divergent, meaning she doesn't fall into any specific category. She is warned several times to keep this a secret because her society views divergence as a dangerous anomaly that must be eliminated. She hides her true self and joins Dauntless, a faction devoted to being brave and, quite often, brazenly risky. From there Beatrice, or Tris as she becomes known, begins to learn what it means to be Divergent, and she discovers that behind her seemingly smooth-running society lies a myriad of secrets and plots that she and others like her must uncover and fight back if they are going to survive.
Like THG, the plot is written in present-tense, which gives the novel a breathless, up-to-the minute feel. These are not Beatrice's memoirs. You experience her life as she experiences, one death-defying moment at a time. It's well written and moves right along, and at some point comes that all-night stride when you stay up till 1am because you just HAVE TO FINISH THIS BOOK AND FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS RIGHT NOW.
I love those moments.
Beatrice is a great heroine. It is wonderful to read a novel with such a strong female lead. She is uncertain and vulnerable, and yet there is a steel and a hardness to her that tells the reader that she's not going to be beaten down. It's quite easy to root for Beatrice - as a woman, it's easy to identify with her, and she will appeal to young teenage girls who are also looking for their place in the world, even if it's not so starkly defined as in Beatrice's world.
The book also raises good thought-provoking questions. Would a world like this work? What are the pros and cons of each faction? What does it really mean to be brave? Is bravery the absence of fear or simply the overcoming of it? Can anyone be truly and completely selfless? And ultimately - don't we divide ourselves into similar groups today? We might not define it by law, but how do we treat people that are "divergent" from our own norms?
As a teacher, I can see a plethora of ways to use this book in a reading class to start open-ended discussions and trigger new ways of thinking in students. As a sci-fi fan, I enjoyed the story. As a reader, it's intriguing to stay in the story and find out what happens to the characters. As a woman, it's fun to cheer for Beatrice as she takes on the world. As a member of the human race, it's interesting to read and consider what could be, what might be, and what is.
And finally...there's a love interest. A really, really good love interest. None of this "team whoever" crap. Love triangles are annoying. Beatrice and her guy are not perfect...but they are a lovely addition to the storyline.
Overall, Divergent is a fun ride. Head to Wal-Mart for a 10pm trip and pick yourself up a copy - quick, before the movie comes out!
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
What I'm Reading Now:
1. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
2. Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples by Francis Chan
3. A Higher Call by Adam Makos and and Larry Alexander
4. Four Blood Moons by John Hagee
5. Insurgent by Veronica Roth...oh yeah, did I mention it's a trilogy?!