Divergent and Insurgent

For fans of teenage adventure and bravery, twenty-two year old author, Veronica Roth renews the fervor of The Hunger Games with her Divergent trilogy – a fantasy young adult thriller based in the not too distant future. With Insurgent, the second book now on the New York Times best seller list, Divergent – the first book – is already in paperback. Those predictable cliffhangers are torture, so I bought the paperback, placed it on my shelf, and waited patiently for my number to come up on the library waitlist for Insurgent. After reading the two books in less than two days, I was rewarded with yet another hanging element – to be published Fall, 2013. Maybe the intermittent movies will sustain the momentum.

Beatrice Prior, aka Tris, lives in a world of the future with limited choices at sixteen years old. When her aptitude test fails to designate a “faction,” one of several adult living options with names defining the group, she defies tradition by leaving her home in the selfless, community-oriented Abnegation group, and opts for the challenge of the exciting warrior Dauntless clan. Through her harrowing training, she connects with other teens, vying for acceptance, and meets her true love, an eighteen year old instructor, Tobias, nicknamed Four.

The story follows the formula of a coming of age exploration, with futuristic omens and narrow escapes from both internal insecurities and jealous friends. The plot is fast-paced, easy reading, and Tris is a match for Katniss, and a fun beginning to Roth’s futuristic rebel cause.

Insurgent continues the quest for a better world that will use the talents of the five factions: Erudite (the brainy ones), Amity (peace and love for all), Candor (mostly honest), Dauntless (brave), and the idealistic Abnegation (selfless). Tris, with her brother Caleb and true love Tobias, along with foils Peter and Marcus, find the factionless – the future version of homeless – who have banned together to form a rebel army.

The action in this book has more romance and violence, with references to teen jealousies and clicks, and not as satisfying as the first book. The ending is the requisite cliffhanger, but the dystopian world view seems hopeless.


The Cinderella story has many versions, but none like Marissa Meyer’s new young adult sci-fi character in “Cinder.” This Cinderella is a mechanic who can repair anything, and she is “36.28 percent not human”- instead of a slipper, she loses a foot at the ball.

In Meyer’s futuristic world, victims of mutilating accidents can be saved by substituting computerized limbs and nervous systems for destroyed human parts, changing people into cyborgs. Unfortunately, the world of the future has not evolved enough to avoid deadly viruses, and cyborg Cinder’s cruel stepmother delivers Cinder to the authorities for the clinical trials to find an antidote when one of her stepsisters falls to the epidemic. But Cinder has a mysterious natural immunity that may save the Emperor and the nation from the disease as well as from the insidious Lunars (moon people), who plan to wage war for control of Earth.

Combining a love story, including an appealing Prince Charming, along with some Star Wars references, Meyer’s story includes suspense, adventure, romance – and a heroine appreciated for much more than her outward appearance. If you are a fan of “The Hunger Games,” you will enjoy Cinder’s heroism as much as Katniss. And, like Katniss, her story continues into a sequel – with 4 books in the Lunar Chronicle series.

I read through “Cinder” in one sitting, and was only disappointed when I discovered that I have to wait for the next installment.

National Book Giveaway

Modeled on a British program that distributed over 1 million books, World Book Night in the United States recently gave away 500,000 free paperbacks to potential readers who may not otherwise be able to own a book – no e-books; all physical books in hand.

A list of 30 titles for the giveaway, compiled by librarians, bookseller, and publishers, included:

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Zeitoun  by Dave Eggers
  • A Reliable Wife  by Robert Goolrick
  • Just Kids by Patti Smith
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The History of Love  by Nicole Krauss
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

For the full list, go to “World Book Night List of Books” – here

How many have you read?

The Hunger Games – Coming to Your Local Theater

Are you a fan of the Stieg Larsson trilogy – The Girl  With and The Girl Who – with suspense, murder, mayhem, thriller action?  Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games have the same exciting bent for intrigue with blood and guts, but for the young adult audience.  Collins wrote a trilogy too, but her first book in the series was the best – and now it will be a movie.

If you haven’t read the book, published by Scholastic, check my review of Hunger Games here.

With Stanley Tucci as Flickerman, the idiosyncratic host of the games, and Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, the perceptive (but drunk) mentor, the movie should be fun.  But, read the book first – so you can appreciate the action.  You have time; the movie is not due until March, 2012.

The Hunger Games

Target practice on children has been a theme that occasionally pops up in literature – from Jonathan Swift’s 18th satirical essay, A Modest Proposal, suggesting we eat them for population control to Shirley Jackson’s haunting short story, The Lottery, having the winners stoned by family and friends.  The latter is closer to Suzanne Collins’ young adult science fiction  The Hunger Games, the first book in a trilogy.

True to form, Collins has adventure, true love, and villains – and a subliminal message.  The hunger games occur annually in the future – after the world as we know it has been destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed again, and finally at a place you wouldn’t want to live – unless you had lots of money (maybe not so different from today?).


When Katniss’s 12-year-old sister’s name is announced as the district 12 (coal miners district) female representative to the murderous games, she volunteers to take her place.  The baker’s son, Peeta, becomes the male “tribune,” and they form an alliance that helps them both as they try to survive, without killing each other.  The Gamemakers’ rules  demand that out of 24 children, only one can be alive at the end.

Pitting children against each other in a fight to the death, the games are televised for the pleasure of gladiator thrill seekers – think Survivors episodes.   The games have a futuristic and macabre quality:   the controllers can strategically shoot fireballs at the participants just to liven up the action and electronic chips keep track of each participant and projects their moves (ala the Truman Show).

You know Katniss is going to survive – hey, she’s the heroine and this is the first in the trilogy – but you’ll still be on edge as she encounters each terrifying obstacle and almost dies a thousand deaths.  Collins hooks you into the action, and it’s fun – like riding an upside down roller coaster in the dark.

Katniss is better than Wonder Woman or Supergirl; her powers are those of a real girl and anyone young and resilient, smart and strong, true of heart, could tap into them – although shooting a rabbit in the eye with a bow and arrow might take some practice.

Part of growing up, at any age, is knowing how to play the game – unless you refuse to play or make your own rules.

I started this book in the morning and could not put it down until I finished.    What a trip – check it out for yourself.