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So what if I am divergent?

Do you like dystopian novels?  Do you like action and adventure?  Tired of love triangles, and silly romances ruining the gritty world of a post-apocalyptic society? Then Veronica Roth’s new Divergent Trilogy is the series for you.

In Divergent, Beatrice Prior has lived her life trying to be as selfless as possible in the Abnegation faction.  Now she is forced to make a decision.  This is the first decision she will ever make completely on her own.  She must choose a faction. However, before she can choose a faction she must pass the exam.  The exam should help Beatrice make the right decision, but what happens when the test results come back inconclusive?  She is divergent.  She is warned divergent is not a good thing, but is given no additional information.  She is still allowed to choose a faction, but must never tell anyone her true fortune.  Beatrice is left with little information and an even harder decision.  Now the decision must be based on a gut feeling.   How will she know which is right?  Once on the stage at the Choosing Ceremony, she doesn’t think she acts… a classic characteristic of Dauntless.

Now an initiate for the Dauntless faction she is put through a series of test.  Her limits are tested, and her strength is found.  She knows she has chosen correctly.  But she is still divergent.  What does divergent mean?  How will it affect her training and the rest of her life as Dauntless?  If she fails, she will either be killed or factionless, living on the streets with nothing.  She must keep it a secret.

Once committed to Dauntless, she shortens her name to Tris and accepts the life she has chosen.  The more she learns about Dauntless the more she learns about the meaning of being divergent.  No matter what she encounters Tris never gives up.  When I say she never gives up, I mean it.  Tris never gives up.  She has to face her fears head on.  She willingly steps up the challenge in order to get stronger and braver.  Somehow Tris knows she will need to be brave in order to be selfless.  She figures out that some of her characteristics are deadly.  She learns how to combine the positive aspects of bravery and selflessness to fight as hard as she can for what she knows is right.

There is a little romance, but who doesn’t like a kiss every now and then?  The romance lightens the mood, and shows the softer side of Tris and the Dauntless world.  I was thoroughly impressed with Divergent.  I am more than tired of the love triangles.  It annoys me that ever young woman in a dystopian novel is more concerned about who she will kiss next than she is about the world collapsing.  Maybe it is Tris’ selfless attitude but she is one awesome heroine.  She stands up for what is right, while caring for those she loves.  Plus, those she loves would never expect her to take care of them first.  Every character has more to teach Tris than she could possibly imagine.  She grows and changes when other characters start to trust and love her.  Together, they fight for the greater good.  They all know what is right, and want good to win no matter what, just another refreshing quality of Divergent. 

Insurgent is the second title of the Divergent Trilogy.  There wasn’t much of a cliffhanger in Divergent, but there is more than a desire to keep reading.  The action is just beginning!


And then there was Pandemonium

Book number two in the Delirium trilogy, Pandemonium.   It is almost as good as the first.  (I say almost, only because I love Alex.)   

This will not be like any of the other book review you have ever seen on this blog… Pandemonium demands defiance.  The entire Delirium world would not exist without defiance.

So here are a few things I loved about the book.

  1. Pandemonium illustrates Lena’s journey on both sides of the fence.  Lauren Oliver does an exceptional job creating two worlds inside one book.  Alternating chapters between then and now was a wonderful way to show the growth in Lena, and to explain current situations.
  2. There is a ton more action.  Lena’s journey is rough.  She proves she is one tough cookie.
  3. And a lot more love Lena keeps spreading the love.  She just can’t help it.
  4. Lena never forgets.  She may have moved on but she never forgets.  She is still so in love with Alex.  She knows what he has sacrificed for her.  She knows he has given her a special gift.  As she begins to fall for another she hesitates.  She knows the importance of love, and does not want to hurt anyone.  She is cautious while simply letting herself fall.
  5. Oh the ending… I want to read the book all over again, just so I can read the ending.  It was perfect.  I cannot wait for the final installment of the Delirium Trilogy.  Team Alex all the way!

Here are a few things I did not love about the book.

  1. Raven, why do you have to be so mean?  There is little insight into her life.  What has happened to make her the way she is?
  2. Stupid trilogies!  I want to know what happens now!!!  There are a lot of loose ends.  Lena’s story is so good I don’t want to wait for the final installment.  It must have some answers to the questions, and bring closure to Lena’s life.  It must!

Pandemonium. I don’t even know what else to say.  It was wonderful.  Together with Delirium, it is phenomenal.  If you haven’t read Delirium, you need to.  Then read Pandemonium.  But be warned, Lauren Oliver has not released the date for the final installment.  Trust me; you will want to know how it ends.

Do you have what it takes to survive?

Ashfall begins with a bang.  Literally, a bang from a supervolcano!  Alex Halloran is left home alone for the weekend.  Finally, he will have the freedom to do whatever he wants for an entire weekend.  Well, that was before a giant boulder crushes his house, and the ash started to fall.

Mike Mullin’s first novel Ashfall, follows Alex on a 140 mile adventure of toxic gases, murderous cannibals and a ravening FEMA camp. The action begins on the first page, and it does not stop.  Yellowstone has irrupted, and ash is falling like snow.  Plus there are the thunderous bangs, and the ear splitting sound waves.  With no one else at home, Alex seeks help from his neighbors and community members.  He quickly learns this is more than anyone is prepared to handle.

When looters break into his neighbor’s home, and his neighbors fight back, Alex sees for the first time the effect of the disaster on human beings.  He believes he has seen the worse of the worse, but little does he know things can get a lot worse.   Alex decides to set out on his own.  He has made a commitment to himself to find his family in Warren.  He knows he will need help from others, but has more confident in his own skills and morals.  He sets out across the ash on his father’s cross country skis with nothing more than bottles of water, can goods, and his martial arts bo staff.

He seeks shelter under logs, and in abandoned homes.  He is welcomed by some and threatened by others.  Alex sees the devastation is larger than he first imagined.  No one knows how long the aftermath with last.  Everyone is hoarding what little food they have.  Alex presses on.  He is appreciative of the families who are willing to trade or share their food with him.  He knows he will find his parents and stays positive through the hunger and exhaustion.

Until, he gets sliced while fighting a cannibal named Target.  Stumbling into a barn, Darla and her mom nurse Alex back to health.  Immediately, Alex is impressed with Darla.  She shares Alex’s desire to live.  Unfortunately, trouble follows Alex to Darla’s farm, and soon Darla’s world is turned even more upside down.  Darla follows Alex when he has to move on toward Warren.  They work well as a team.  Darla always seems to be there when Alex needs her the most.  Together they never give up hope.

Alex is the perfect mix of a typical boy, heartwarming softy, and imaginative teenager.  He has the determination to overcome any obstacle.  He is stubborn when it comes to helping people, and is quick to act.  Darla is level headed, and knows a little about everything.  Ashfall is exciting before Alex met Darla.  But when they travel together it becomes great.  Darla fills in the gaps.  Ashfall is a serious story of action and adventure, but has a lightness about it that will make any reader cheer.  Their determination is infectious.  I question whether or not I would have what it takes to survive.  Alex is a normal kid living a normal life.  I don’t have a black belt in taekwondo, but a little determination goes a long way.

Alex and Darla’s story continues in Ashen Winter, the second book in the Ashfall trilogy.  What else does Mother Nature have to offer?  And will Alex and Darla be able to survive on determination alone?

You thought your high school was bad

Benson Fisher was tired of getting bounced around from foster family to foster family.  Never having roots throughout his childhood he wanted to settle down, make friends, and finish out high school like a normal 17 year old.  So he applied to Maxfield Academy.   Maxfield Academy sounded great on paper, but once Benson arrived he realized he should have been careful what he wished for.

Robison Wells’, Variant, takes you inside the stone walls and fences of Maxfield Academy.  Benson was used to high schools with gangs, and fist fights.  He was used to having to stand up for himself. He had no friends, no family, and no one to watch his back.  He thought Maxfield Academy would be a pleasant break from the norm.  Upon arriving at Maxfield Academy, Benson learns that this school is unlike all others.  There are no teachers, no test, no grades, and no way out.  Immediately, Benson knows he must escape.

Benson’s dreams have been crushed.  He would give anything to have the freedom to do whatever he wanted, and he can at Maxfield, as long as he stays on the school’s grounds… and follows the school’s rules.  The first person Benson meets is Becky.  She informs him of the rules, but the rest Benson will have to figure out for himself.  He is given a wrist watch containing a personalized chip.  This chip will unlock the doors Benson is allowed through.  If he doesn’t have access, the door will remain close.  The catch is that the school has a mind of its own.  It chooses when to allow access and when not to.

In addition to the crazy rules, and the temperamental school, Benson is forced to join a gang.  The gangs consist of Society, Havoc, and Variant.  Society’s loyalty to the school is frightening.  Havoc’s drive to overcome obstacles may be helpful, but is not directed towards the school.  Variant is the only gang left.  If Benson has to choose, he knows the members of Variant have the desire to escape.

After living with Variant, and the other gangs for a while Benson starts to feel like he has made friends.  Benson met Jane, and starts to see why people haven’t tried to escape.  The food is good, the classes are easy, and they get to play paintball every few days.  His classmates are all foster kids, loner children with nowhere else to go. However, Benson can’t shake the desire to get away from all the cameras and microchips.

The more Benson wants to get out, the more the school fights back.  Until one night when Benson discovers something that will change the school forever.  He learns the truth.  The problem now is that he can trust no one.  Now he has to come up with a way to show the rest of Variant, and to escape.

Robison Wells does an excellent job creating the world inside a nontraditional high school.  The issues are the same with some much needed pizazz.  This book does not take place in the future, but is unlike any book about high school I have ever read.  It really has it all; action, adventure, and of course some romance.  Plus it ends with a phenomenal cliff hanger.  Feedback, the sequel to Variant comes out in October.  Trust me you will want to continue the journey with Benson Fisher.

Are you on the list?

Like most high schools, Mount Washington High, has many traditions.  No one knows how the list was started or who writes the list each year, but every year there it is infecting the lives of eight high school girls. The Monday before the annual Homecoming dance and football game a list, listing the ugliest and pretties of all four grades, is plastered around the school.

Siobhan Vivian’s, The List, travels through the week with the eight girls on the list.  Each chapter is a new perspective; each intertwined and connected with the last.  All eight girls handle the list differently but all learn valuable lessons about the school, their friends and family, and their choices.

It is one thing to think you are ugly or pretty, but it is an entirely different thing to have it announced across the school that everyone else thinks you are ugly (or pretty) too.  Sarah, Abby, Bridget, Lauren, Candace, Margo, Jennifer, and Danielle have to decide if they are going to let what others think define them.  For some the list is a blessing in disguise. For others the list is the start of something special.  For all, the list brings a new revelation.  No matter the label every girl has their inner strains, and is struggling to overcome the challenge of defending (or living up to) the labels. Unfortunately, the way others perceive you is connected to the way you perceive yourself.  The girls think they are able to overcome their connection to the list and what others are saying about them.  But they judge themselves based on how others are judging them.  No matter what, each girl listed wants to be more than the list.  They feel they have something to prove, a statement to make.

The prettiest start to dream of the perfect homecoming dance and game, but start to realize that being the prettiest is not all that it is cracked up to be.  The ugliest want more, and search inside of themselves to break through the judgments.  Like it or not, all eight girls need each other to overcome the discomforts.  Soon everyone realizes the “ugly” girls can be pretty and the “pretty” girls can be ugly.

All eight girls are heard throughout the book beautifully.  Throughout the chapters the reader is able to see the progression of the girls.  What they thought and felt at the beginning of the novel are not how they feel at the end.  There is wonderful insight to the entire thought process.  It was never confusing or jumbled together.  It was great to see how they were all connected and related.  The addition of family members and other girls not on the list just flesh out the book.  The side characters add dimension and seal home the point of the story.

Siobhan Vivian in the end focused on the larger picture, and left a lot up to the perspective of the reader.  All of the questions don’t need to be answered.  The List is a snapshot.  One week in the lives of eight high school girls.  The lessons learned take time to set in.  Change doesn’t happen overnight.  Siobhan Vivian does an incredible job keeping the focus of the week, and showing the progression over the course of six days.  Yes, I do wonder what happened to the girls and their families beyond Homecoming, but I have high hopes.  They have seen and felt the worse of what high school can offer.  I believe they are able to rise above the list.

Apples and Oranges

Have you ever felt your day couldn’t possibly get any worse?  Every minute seems to be worse than the last.  As soon as you start to feel things are on the upswing, something else happens to knock you down.

This is exactly how the main character in Rebecca Callow’s debut novel, Apples and Oranges, feels every day.  Charlotte “Charlie” Crawford is determined to make the most of her senior year of high school.  This is her year to shine.  Charlie has amazing friends and super supportive family members.  But Charlie is still struggling to stand on her own two feet.  She is terrified of Clarissa, the meanest girl in school.  She is in love with the hottest jock in town, and can’t figure out why Lucas keeps trying to talk to her.

Throughout the year Charlie misses out on a lot of fun due to some of her insecurities.  Is it worse to go to the Homecoming dance alone or to not go at all and miss everything?  While Charlie is figuring out how to stand up for herself, she learns the true meaning of family and friends.  When Charlie is trying to be someone she is not, her life gets worse and worse.  Once she realizes her true feelings, and finds out what is really important in life, she begins to relax.  Things begin to fall into place once Charlie is able to just be herself.

Charlie uses her blog, Apples and Oranges, as a way to vent and to escape from the day.  She spills her most intimate secrets on to the internet.  Through this reflection she often discovers she has what it takes all along.  Charlie, at times, desperately seeks advice from her online followers.  But once she is able to sleep and ponder the situation for herself she realizes she knows what has to be done.

Rebecca Callow’s, Apples and Oranges, takes you through the paces of an ordinary day of a high school student.  From waking up and having to share a bathroom with her sister, to work and dance classes after school.  It is a challenge to schedule everything; maintaining a balance between work and hanging out with friends and family.  Apples and Oranges give you a clear picture of the inner working of the teenage mind.  Rebecca is able to write about the angst, anxiety, frustrations, and heartaches of a high school senior since she wrote this while in her senior year of high school.

A round of applause should be given to Rebecca for her thoughtful awareness as well as the dedication and guts it took to write such a novel.  It has been a while since I was in high school, but this book took me back.  Yes, back through it all; the good, the bad and the ugly.  In the beginning, I felt sorry for Charlie, and wished for her the insight that only years can bring.  But then Charlie turned it around.  She figured it out just in the nick of time.  This story doesn’t end at graduation.  But Charlie’s future is bright, now that she is able to see anything worth having is not worth a compromise to the wonderful woman inside.

Have you ever been in love?

Oh the wonderful, exciting, euphoric feelings of being in love.  Who doesn’t love love?

However, remember the flip side.  The magnificent feelings of being in love also bring anxiety, fear, and insecurity.  Are the glorious feelings of being in love worth the heartache?

The delirious feelings of being in love make us forget the insecure feelings of falling in love.  Over time the anxiety fades, and trust sets in.  And so begins Lauren Oliver’s new trilogy, Delirium.

The Delirium Trilogy begin with Delirium.  Magdalena (Lena) Ella Haloway, will never experience falling in love.  Lena lives in a futuristic society that looks like modern day, but with no love.  At the age of 18 each member of society undergoes the process of being cured.  The government has proven that love is a disease, amor deliria nervosa, and it must be abolished.  The government has control over everything, deeming certain types of music and movies inappropriate for their society.

Lena is about to turn 18 and cannot wait to be cured.  She has seen the effects of the disease, and does not want it to take over her life.  She willingly goes along with the process of being matched and evaluate.  Lena knows the most important day of her life is her evaluation day.  Once Lena has her results she will know who she will marry, where they will live, and how much money they will make a year.  She will even know how many children she will have.  Love will not be a factor.  She does not have to love her husband or her children.  She will be obligated to fulfill certain duties and that is that.

That is until Lena completely bombs her evaluation and delivery truck confusion allow her to take her evaluations again.  Also, her friend Hana, dares her to join her at an illegal party.  Boys and girls will be hanging out together listening to banded music after curfew.  To Lena this all spells disaster. Lena’s curiosity and desire to prove Hana wrong win.  She sneaks out of her house, and what she sees and feels at the party change her forever.

She listens to forbidden music, is shocked by boys and girls dancing together, and meets Alex… again. Lena thought Alex was just another security guard.  That night she learns Alex has something to hide.  Agreeing to meet Alex the next day, start Lena’s suspicions about the disease.

Needless to say Alex has a lot to tell Lena.  Through Alex, Lena learns that her world has never been what she has imagined.

Delirium will take you from the anxious first meeting of Alex and Lena to their love creating a trust stronger than any government’s rules or regulations.  Delirium will have you questioning the realistic qualities of love, while rejuvenating your passion for everything you love.  The process of being cured, removes the opportunity to love anything.  Lena has been going through her life blind.  Not allowing herself to fully enjoy anything.  Why love running, sunsets, or Hana if one day it won’t even matter?  Lena decides it matters and it matters a lot.  While loving another person requires a lot of trust, Lena discovers she would rather take a chance on love, than live blind for another day.

Lauren Oliver does an amazing job creating this alternate, but realistic society.  The thoughts and feelings of Lena are so relatable, but yet unimaginable. However, Lauren Oliver will leave you wondering if love really is a disease.  Was Lena really wise to subject herself to the tortures of living with love?

We will find out in the second book of the Delirium Trilogy, Pandemonium.