This Is Why I Love Dystopia

Hi there!

Today’s post is about Divergent, which I said I would talk about but never actually did.  So this is my attempt at a review.  Here goes.

Such a pretty cover.

Divergent is the story of Beatrice Prior, who lives in a post-apocalyptic Chicago.  The city is closed off from the outside world, and within the city there are five factions.  Each faction values a certain character trait and thus its citizens model their entire lives around that trait, sometimes to extremes.  The factions are: Amity, which values peace; Candor, which values honesty; Abnegation, which values selflessness; Erudite, which values intelligence; and Dauntless, which values bravery.

At the age of sixteen, each citizen is required to choose the faction in which they will spend the rest of their lives.  In steps Beatrice.  She has been raised in Abnegation, but ultimately chooses Dauntless.  In the initiation process that follows, the newly renamed Tris must make some difficult choices and, ultimately, learn what bravery really means.

This book was A-MAZE-ING.  I’m not kidding you.  It’s by far the best new fiction I’ve read in a long time.  I’ve always had a soft spot for dystopian post-apocalyptic fiction, but this really knocked it out of the park.  Everything is so fresh and unlike anything else on the market.  I applaud Veronica Roth for her ingenuity.  Speaking of the author, I’ve put up a link to her personal blog over in the AUTHORS’ BLOGS section of the sidebar.  (Did I mention this is her FIRST novel?!?!  Apparently she wrote this in COLLEGE.)

There were a couple of really surprising parts in this book, I’ve gotta say.  Ms. Roth shows a definite knack for plot twists, if you want to call it that.  I can’t wait for the next one, which is called Insurgent.  It won’t be out until May, but we already have the cover, and I, for one, can’t wait:

This one's pretty, too!

The movie rights have already been purchased, before the book even came out according to this article, but I’m not expecting anything much yet- the possible film is still way in its infancy.  That being said, I think this book would be absolutely incredible and engaging as a film, and I hope the people at Summit see that.  It’s such a richly imagined world.

Here’s the book trailer: (And may I just say how much I LOVE book trailers?  Because I do.  A lot.)

Also?  Whole bunch of cool stuff on the Facebook page.  Just in case you’ve read it.  Even if you haven’t, there’s an aptitude test for what faction you would be in.

Anyway.

Happy reading!

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Sock Drawers and Yard Sales

They say you can tell a lot about a person from the contents of their sock drawer.  To some extent, I suppose that’s true.  However, for getting a glimpse into another person’s life, I think one should always look on the bookshelf.

I went yard saling (let’s just pretend that’s a word) yesterday (which is part of the reason I didn’t post).  It’s always a fun time.  You should try it.  The goal is to hit up as many yard/garage sales as possible within your time frame.  I honestly can’t tell you how many I got to.  Yard sales are funny things; you walk around carrying another person’s stuff, and they stand there waiting for you to cart off the recently removed contents of their home.  Whenever someone invites you to essentially root through their private things like that, you’re bound to get a glimpse of what used to be important to them, what they collected, and what their life is like.

At least, the parts of their life that they don’t care about anymore.

I, of course, always head directly to the books at a yard sale.  That’s just the kind of person I am, and it shouldn’t surprise you if you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time.  At one house there were lots of books, at least proportional to the amount of stuff total for sale, so I could tell that particular family had book people.  There were tons of different books: novels, biographies, kid’s books.  I would guess that they were very well-rounded in the literature department.  I approved.

Another place also had a good selection, only this time most of the tomes for sale had to do with Christianity.  These, clearly, were deeply faithful people.  I respected them in that regard.  So they, at least at one point in their lives, had been affected with a curiosity to learn more about the Bible and about God.

One house (actually, it might have been the same one) had lots and lots of magazines lying out for free.  You could just take them.  Among those were maybe twenty copies of National Geographic from the late seventies and early eighties.  That was a really cool find for me.  I picked some up and I’m going to love finding out how the magazine was thirty years ago.  Not that I follow the magazine now, but still.  It’s pretty cool.  So I figured that this household had had someone with a hankering for learning about the world, at least for a while.  Then, who knows?  Maybe they got tired of it.  Maybe there were more copies that had been grabbed before I saw them.

The yard sales were profitable in more ways than one for me.  Sure, I got some awesome deals.  But I also learned just how much you can learn just from viewing what another person has (or once had) on their shelves.  I wonder what my personal shelf would say about me.  That I’m a big reader, sure.  I own more books than I know what to do with.  But other than that?  I own way more fiction than nonfiction, a lot of it YA.  So does that mean I’m immature?  Or that I’m just young (which I am)?  Would the high amount of fantasy and science fiction say that I’m not very down to earth?  Is all of this true of me?

Alas, I cannot make a good prediction, as I’m not another person.  But it’s fun to think about it.

Another thing about yard sale books: they have a separate story.  They’ve been read before.  Someone else once had them on their shelf, someone else may have loved it, treasured it.  Did they take it with them somewhere special?  Or did they buy it and simply forget about it, leaving it to sit in a room somewhere until the day the yard sale came around?  There might be whole stories I don’t even know about but I’m somehow connected to, just by owning a book.  It’s kind of strange, I suppose, to think that books have two kinds of stories in them.

In the end, though, the only one that matters is the one that’s written down, the one printed on the pages.  So no matter where the book came from or what it means about the owner, if you see a good book at a yard sale, go for it.  After all, they’re only a few dollars, and you usually can’t get a better deal.

Happy reading.

Oh, I got these too. Anyone out there read them?

On Getting Genres Right

I don’t know about you, but I really dislike it when people call a book “science fiction/fantasy.”  I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s heard this; when someone is naming a book and just kind of lumps those two genres together in describing it.  I really want to tell them that they really aren’t the same thing.

I realize the two genres are related in a lot of ways and grouped together often for those reasons, but that’s not to mean that we can call a book both things.  If you’re going to categorize a novel, you have to know where to put it.  Unless the book is actually both science fiction and fantasy.  In which case, go right ahead.  Now, let’s take a moment to look at what the differences are between these two genres:

Science fiction is generally accepted as something having to do with space and aliens and mad scientists (hence the “science” bit).  In my mind, however, this category can be stretched to include any book whose apparently fantastical occurrences are explained to have a basis in science.  So, I might consider Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps to be science fiction, because the vampire-like peeps are actually hosting a certain parasite.  Parasites are scientific and explainable.

Fantasy, on the other hand, has to do with anything that is not explainable by what we know as science.  Magic is a good example.  So are supernatural creatures.  This is a pretty broad category.

Gandalf VS. Yoda: fantasy meets sci-fi in an epic showdown.

While I realize that there is some overlap in some books between the two genres, we should be able to take a closer look at most of the ones we are putting them together for, and decide on a definitive, single category.  The double genre doesn’t work for everything, at least in my mind.

Twilight is the example that most comes to mind here.  I’ve definitely heard people call it a “science fiction/fantasy” thing.  While there may be some elements of the former, I’d say this saga can be placed firmly in the latter.  The werewolves, for a start, are completely supernatural even though they do have an origin story.  And while Stephenie Meyer has explained the nature of the venom that causes vampirism in her creations, enough of it- the powers, for instance- goes vaguely explained enough that it slides out of science fiction.

A Google search tells me that Twilight is officially in the fantasy category.  This leads me to believe that whoever is responsible for officially determining these things never strays into the double genre trap.  Apparently it’s only an unofficial thing.  That doesn’t make it any less prominent, however.

Of course, Twilight is romance, too, but in this case the two genres can coexist, I think.  They’re unrelated.

Well, that’s about it for me.  Have you ever come across this?  Do you know of any books that should only be categorized as one or the other?

Happy reading!

Blood and Gore: Books Vs. Films

Let’s face it, guys: books can be violent.

It’s not like I’m opposed to a little blood in my books.  Anyone who reads this blog knows that it’s impossible for me to be as obsessed with The Hunger Games as I am and not be okay with violence.  But there is some seriously freaky stuff that goes on in the literary world, people.

For example, I was recently chatting with a friend about a mutually enjoyed series: the Gone series by Michael Grant.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned Gone on here before, but the basics are this: A small California town is suddenly closed off from the outside world, and everyone at the age of fifteen and up disappears.  At this time it is discovered that some of the kids have superhuman powers, and at the same time there’s some freaky monsters and stuff springing up.  These books are basically a guts-fest from that point on, with power struggles and natural disasters and sadistic psychopaths and what-have-you.

The first four books. The next one isn't out yet.

These books made me appreciate adult authority a lot more.  The series still isn’t over, but I’ve seen enough to know that Grant does not hold back.  Kids kill kids left and right, and no descriptions are spared.

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy the series.  I’m probably making it out to be a bit worse than it actually is, in fact.  But my point is it’s probably the most violent series I’m likely to ever read.  More disturbing is the fact that this series is written for teens.

I don’t think there is any real interest in making this series a movie just now, but I have come to the conclusion that it would be extremely difficult to do so.  It’s just really too over-the-top to be done while keeping it true to the story.

Which brings me to my main point: gore in books is not at all the same thing as gore in movies.  In books, we as the readers can edit our mental images any way we want.  We can choose to “see” as much or as little blood as we want when getting to a violent scene.  On the page, books like Gone can exist because the visual element is left to the imagination of the readers.

But when you adapt a book to film version, the blood is no longer in the viewer’s head.  It’s on the screen, in glorious hi-def and surround sound, for the world to see.  And this is scary to a lot of people.  It’s why people are wondering how The Hunger Games and Breaking Dawn can be kept PG-13.

The gore is no longer censored by your brain, tweaked for your peace of mind.  It’s dictated by a director who has no thoughts about your personal innocence or preferences.  No longer can readers pretend there isn’t as much violent content as the author intended.  What the director says, goes.  There’s no avoiding that.

That’s why movies are always so tricky to adapt faithfully.  An author can pretty much write whatever he or she wants, but a movie must be tailored to be appropriate for audiences.

For this reason, movies are, at least to me, much scarier or sadder or more intense than books are.  When it’s just words on a page and a little imagination, there is a certain amount of distancing that happens whenever something the reader doesn’t like happens.  The reader doesn’t have to actually see it.

There is no escaping images on the screen, or sounds from the speakers.  With movies, it feels a little more real to a viewer.  It’s a little more disconcerting, as if the person is actually there, in the scene.  Not that a reader doesn’t feel something real when reading the book, it’s just that I feel that everything is a lot more in-your-face when in the theater.

So I guess my point for today is that parents have a right to be careful when taking their child to a movie.  Even if they were okay with the book, there’s a major difference there.

Not to mention the fact that this is why directors change things in movies sometimes: it’s just not always appropriate for the audience.  And they are not going to make a YA novel into an R-rated movie.  It’s just not good for the target demographic.  So instead, they’re just extra-careful.

Happy reading!

Snowball Is WHO?!

I mentioned symbolism in yesterday’s fangirl post about companion books, which got me thinking.  Symbolism crops up a lot in novels, especially in popular ones.  The Twilight covers all symbolize something.  Harry Potter carries a lot of it in everything from names (which I’ve already talked about) to the type of wood used in wands.

I’m not even going to mention The Hunger Games.  You’re probably sick of me fangirling about that anyway.

Want.

But does a book need symbols to be popular?  Sure, they add a heck of a lot of depth to the book, and create a better way of storytelling, but not every good book has so many symbols.  (But I can’t be sure on that front.  As I mentioned yesterday, I’m not the type to recognize that sort of thing.  At least not much.  All I’m saying is it’s a good thing we went over Animal Farm in reading class.)

I don’t think a book absolutely needs to have this stuff to make it big.  I do think, though, that for a YA book (which is the genre I’m interested in) to gain a substantial adult audience, the way all three series above did (I think I’ll call them the Big Three), a book needs something deeper, something more than love triangles and ohmygosh who am I going to the dance with???  And a lot of the time that richer element comes from intricate symbolism that is woven throughout the story.

And the rest of the time it comes from, well, books having a much better plot than above dancing.

SO...MANY...SYMBOLS...*eye twitch*

And there’s where I come to a halt: I’m not good at symbolism.  At least not yet.  Which means I can’t put it into my stories without everything being really cheesy.  I can’t even imagine the first step in creating a good symbol.  Do other authors even do it consciously?  I read once that Rick Riordan didn’t even realize one of his books had symbolism.

So does this inadequacy mean I’m not going to be a super popular writer?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  It all depends on what I’m able to write, if my plot is good enough to go on without symbolism.

Sigh.  That’s really too bad, because I absolutely love reading books with symbols in them.  You know, at least the ones I can spot.

WHY IS BEING A WRITER SO HARD???

Happy reading.

On Subjects And Other News

Firstly the news, because the Subjects just make me angry.  I don’t want to be angry while giving news.  Because this particular news is especially newsy.

Any-who, I was just checking out Scott Westerfeld’s blog today for the first time in a while (no offense, Mr. Westerfeld.  Huge fan.  Really.) and I noticed an interesting tidbit:

The Uglies movie is officially underway.  Well, at least it has a producer, and a company to produce it.  The same people who made Captain America and The Social Network.

The press release is a lot of official jargon that little ol’ me can’t possibly hope to get through, but that’s the big stuff I pulled from it.  As always, you can view the blog in question in the sidebar under AUTHOR’S BLOGS.

Mr. Westerfeld is an exceptional writer.  I’m slowly making my way through all of his books.  At least the YA ones.  I’ve read Uglies, of course, and all the sequels, and I’m just now finishing up The Last Days, which is a sequel to Peeps, which is about vampires.

But they’re not really vampires.  Because Mr. Westerfeld has a great way of making everything just different enough to be COMPLETELY AWESOME.

Just look at his latest trilogy, two books of which are already out (and both of which I own):

Well, that’s enough fangirling for one day, don’t you agree, reader?  Yes?  Okay.  On with the angry.

Warning: Rant Ahead!

I’ve been reading a book called Subject Seven for a while now, and if you remember I had to force myself to stay away from it a couple of weeks ago.  That was because I had only read the first few pages.

Basically, the entire premise of the book is that there was a group of genetically altered human experiments who undergo a certain Jekyll/Hyde sort of transformation when given a trigger phrase.  On the Jekyll side, they’re just everyday teens, but on the Hyde side they’re destructive supersoldiers with an attitude.

Sound good?  I thought so.  Which is why I bought it in the first place.  But, alas, I was sadly mistaken.

I’m about two-thirds of the way through the book, and I’m about ready to put it down now.  Those who know me will be shocked when they read this, I’m sure.  I’m someone who always HAS to finish books, and you can count on one hand how many books I haven’t liked in my ENTIRE LIFE.  But this little piece is just the worst bit of writing I’ve ever seen.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me go through and list the things I’ve noticed that went wrong in this book, at least in my opinion.  Spoiler Warning!

  1.  The Premise.  Okay, so we find out that the people who created these experiments tested the babies and found them to be normal.  So, logically, they thought they had failed.  That’s when they put the “normal” babies up for adoption, leading to the whole rediscovery, ohmygosh-I’m-a-genetic-freak bit.  But this has more holes than Swiss cheese that’s been used for target practice!  Wasn’t the whole point of the Jekyll side of the kids to make sure they seemed normal?  Then they could sneak into a government building for a tour or whatever, transform, do their job and then be teens again before they were caught.  SO OF COURSE THE BABIES SEEM NORMAL.  THAT’S WHAT THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO DO.  The scientists couldn’ t have at least waited a little bit for them to mature?
  2. The Pacing.  I’m over two hundred pages in, and the Jekylls have only just found out what they are.  This book is only about 320 pages.  I realize there is a sequel coming out at some point (at least a quick Google search told me so), but really.  We don’t need this much teen angst as five kids try to handle their blackouts and nine different levels of crazy.  I mean, it’s totally fine at first, but after a while it just seems like the author got stuck.
  3. The Style.  I’m sorry, James A. Moore, if he ever happens to read this, but I despise the writing style.  It’s just awful.  First of all, he repeats things way too much.  I mean, I get it.  The one dude is a geek.  The other one has issues.  There’s no need to just say it outright every time it comes up.  If you need to continue with the description, at least have it mentioned in dialogue, or show it in a character’s movements.  There are other ways.  Also, it just reads really plainly.  I don’t think I can pin that down, but just the whole overall style makes me want to put it down.  Also?  WHERE IS THE EMOTION?!
  4. The Characterizations.  Oh my goodness, the characters.  Maybe I’m just not getting it, but the characters were just not at all believable.  I don’t think I can say it all in one bullet.  So I’m putting in multiple for this one:
  • Most of them are cliches.  Plain and simple.  There’s the geek who can’t talk to people, the hot cheerleader, the tough soldier.  Like I said in number three, not enough emotion or really flesh at all.  These characters are flat and one-dimensional.
  • There is one character who actually has more than one emotion or overarching feel in the book, and that’s the antagonist.  Or at least I think she’s the antagonist.  Of course, nothing’s really clear at this point.  Over two hundred pages in.
  • Anyway, the antagonist.  She has a more complex character, but the complexity is confusing.  She has such a mix of completely opposite traits that it starts to look like multiple personality.  On one hand, she is a loving wife and mother.  On the other, she’s the one who KILLS BABIES AFTER SHE’S DONE EXPERIMENTING ON THEM.  It could work, but here it’s just done in the worst way.
  • So, during this entire book the teens are having blackouts and being tested.  They’re being accused of murdering and drug-using, and they’re scared and helpless and angry at the world in general.  They are reduced to visiting abandoned warehouses (which, when inside, is really just an office building) and going into cars with strangers just to find out what the heck is going on.  But, of course, all they ever seem to notice or think about is how cute/hot/sexy the rest of them are.  Why?  Because they’re teenagers, and apparently no matter how bad the situation, that’s just how teenagers work.  UM, NOT TRUE.
  • Descriptions: almost nil.  Most of the kids are described as “dark haired.”  Even the blond ones get darker hair when they become their Hyde selves.  What up with the dark hair?!  Other than that and naming most eye colors, I haven’t noticed any physical traits that would help me visualize.  The single exception to this is when one girl is shown to have “Asian” looking eyes, inevitably leading to the boy noticing to think about how darn CUTE that makes her look.
  • A boy whom I judge to be no older than his early teens actually says this line: “I am my mother’s son.”  I don’t know about you, but I know exactly ZERO boys who would say that, no matter how strictly they were brought up.  Reading that just irked me.

Exhibit A

That’s all I can think of at the moment.  Even though this book annoys me SO MUCH and seems to exist only for the action, I think I’m going to have to finish it.  That’s just the kind of person I am.

And, yes, I know I’m completely bashing this book, but I honestly cannot think of anything good to say about it.  I’m sorry if you’ve read it and liked it, really, but I just don’t.

Just one thing, though:  What’s “dark haired” supposed to mean?!  Is it brown or black?!  They’re not the same, you know!

Happy reading.