Allegiant by Veronica Roth

allegiantI was so excited and lucky that a friend ordered this and gave it to me even before she or her son read it as I was something like #141 on the holds list at the library. Then, to my disappointment, I had such a hard time getting into it that it was almost a week before I settled in and got into it.  I recall really liking that book #2 (Insurgent) started mere moments after book #1 (Divergent) ended, but when that was the case with this final book in the trilogy, I had lost the details of the story and thus was no longer caught up in the momentum. [When I look at my review of Insurgent, I see that there was an exciting “big reveal”-I honestly didn’t even remember what that was.]  I recognized names and the general idea of the story but felt like I was not properly responding with surprise! excitement! shock! because I had no background.  Fortunately, I was able to start piecing things together and once it was more about what was happening right then I enjoyed it more.  In fact, this book employed one of my favorite dystopian plot points–venturing beyond the know city and discovering what the rest of the world is like.  I loved this angle and also how it fully filled in all the questions you had throughout the first two books about how things had gotten that way in their world and what the heck was going on. And you didn’t even have to wait until the end of the book to have those questions answered.  Of course, our trusty band of protagonists realize you can’t trust The Man and things aren’t so great on the outside.  Cue another insurrection!

I thought this had great adventure, heartfelt emotion (Caleb and Tris, in particular) and of course I loved it that there was an epilogue. This is a trilogy that I would recommend to people to discover now as they could read all three books right in a row, which would be immensely satisfying.  Still, I really liked this and thought it was a terrific and strong ending.


Insurgent by Veronica Roth

This is the sequel to Divergent, which I enjoyed very much.  I thought this was a very worthy follow up and strong second book in a trilogy, complete with a big reveal at the end that things had been leading up to (what’s behind the fence?!) The action of this book picks up literally moments after book one ended. The divergents have been revealed, there is warring between the factions, and it’s more apparent than ever that big secrets are at the foundation of this society.  Tris is especially haunted by the murder she committed, even though it was necessary, and it drives a wedge between her and the others. I really don’t remember many more specifics to give much of a summary, just that this had good action and was really solid.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

This was totally awesome.  A dystopian future, but with a touch of post-apocalyptic as Lake Michigan is a dried up marsh and many of the buildings of Chicago are just ruins.  Clearly society and civilization degenerated a bit before being built up into what it is now.  Which is a society that decides itself into factions.  Each faction is based on a personality trait and those in a faction live and work together.  Like many dystopian societies when one reaches a certain teenage age one must decide on the label that will dictate the rest of one’s life.  Beatrice is quite torn about her choice.  The choice is usually easy, but her sorting test was abnormal and she’s not sure she wants to stick with what she was raised.

Once she chooses Dauntless Beatrice begins her training and initiation.  Dauntless should mean being brave, but it seems like the new leaders of Dauntless just want their members to be cruel and merciless.  Also, Beatrice, having been warned to not let anyone know about her abnormal test results, suspects that something is going on.  This is equal parts hazing-brutality-conspiracy-adventure-etc.  I was totally caught up in it and loved it.  Now if only that hold list for book #2-Insurgent-would move a little faster!!


Crossed (Matched #2) by Allie Condie

This was totally not as good as the first-falling prey to middle book in dystopian trilogy syndrome–it’s the dark times of sort of escaping, figuring out where you’re going, who to ally with, and I pretty much didn’t even care about these characters crossing through a big canyon and wondering whether they’d make it to the resistance.

I’m sure I’ll read book #3, but I definitely didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first. To remind my future self-this is the series with Cassia and Ky and Xander.  Cassia and Xander have been “matched”, but first Cassia saw Ky-an error the government said was just a fluke.  She’s since learned that there is a resistance to the government.  This volume seemed to do a lot with the love triangle aspect of the story, which I honestly didn’t care about!

Matched by Ally Condie, Delirium by Lauren Oliver

[Caveat: I’m trying to make good on my New Year’s Resolution and get caught up to speed on this blog. That means I’m writing about books I read months ago, my memory might be spotty, and I’m just going to jot down a few sentences.  In this particular case I’m really wishing I hadn’t procrastinated because at the time I read this I wanted to also write about Delirium and compare and contrast. Let’s see what I can do…]

I read Matched and Delirium within 2 weeks of each other and there is was no way to read the second without comparing it to the first as they both have such ridiculously similar plots.  In Matched society matches up a boy and a girl who are perfectly chosen for each other.  The couple then have a prescribed courtship, marriage, and children.  It’s very determined, no choice, but people are happy with it-much like in The Giver.  But then Cassia has a blip during her ceremony where she is shown another face other than her chosen partner.  Strange things happen after that, including falling for that boy.  In Delirium the world considers love a disease and when you reach a certain age you can be cured.  Everyone hopes they don’t fall in love before the cure is able to be administered, but alas for Lena she falls in love shortly before her time.

Both stories have societies that try to control human emotions and the population, both have underground movements resisting that control, both have main characters who inadvertently fall in love, and both are clearly just the first in a series.  I preferred Matched, though I did really like Delirium. I was really interested in how the premise was so similar but the worlds were so very different (I found that sentence from an email I’d written at the time of reading-now, months later, I cannot be more specific about how they were different!)

Definitely both series I’ll be continuing to read.

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist


I do love a good dystopian novel, so when I read about this one I had to get my hands on it.  The trouble with them, though, is that they get me so wound up, and this one is particularly emotionally hard hitting.  In this future the world seems pretty much as now, except socially (so, no crazy technology or robot overlords or anything like that.)  In this world there is a strange blend of mandated gender equality (women must not be dependent on men, both men and women must work, children must be in daycare, men must not do heavy work for women) and a value on having a partner and children that is so high it outvalues anything else.

When women turn 50 (men, 60) if they do not have a “needed” career and do not have children they are deemed “dispensible” and sent to the Unit.  This is the name for the Reserve Bank of Biological Material, or, as one of the characters calls it, a “luxury slaughterhouse.”  Here the dispensibles live in luxury, with every need met.  They are very well taken care of because they are very valuable.  They are used for research experiments (psychological and physical) and as organ donors.  Most people start out by giving a kidney and then more and more of them is given away.  The final donation is the heart and lungs.  The dispensibles live in these strange circumstances for a few years at most.  Everyone knows it is only a matter of time until they are dead, but until then they all find ways to live fully.

When Dorrit arrives she is told at her orientation that most people there feel that they finally fit in.  This turns out to be quite true.  At 50 Dorrit has a close circle of friends and is surrounded by love.  It is absolutely heart wrenching to read about Dorrit falling in love, knowing that her life is considered dispensible simply because she didn’t reproduce. The notion that your life is only valuable if you have a child is absurd, clearly, but it is really interesting how Dorrit explains how it gradually came about.  That most of the people there are intellectuals or artistic also says something about the kinds of people this future society values.

I found this a really emotional novel- reading Dorrit’s beautiful love story, her rage at the injustice of her society, her grief for dog (of course this stood out to me!), it was just all really well put together.  And by the way, this is a Swedish novel and translated really well.  I thought it was written originally in English, actually.

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

fforde(First of all, I hate it that I efficiently wrote this on the airplane on Sunday and today is Wednesday and it’s the first chance I’ve had to efficiently copy and paste my write up here. Gah!)


(coming out in January 2010)

Jasper Fforde’s style is quirky and odd, funny, and richly literary.  Or, if not literary exactly, it assumes its readers are, well, readers.  I loved the Thursday Next books and the enjoyed the Nursery Crime ones as well, and so was delighted to get an advance reading copy of his newest venture, Shades of Grey.  This is apparently the first of three projected novels.  The style was very much like Thursday Next-kind of confusing and nonsensical and you just have to give yourself up to it and go along for the ride. And not try to figure anything out.  Like Thursday Next this is set in an alternate world with crazy societal rules and regulations.  Unlike Thursday Next it is a bit more sinister, a futuristic (but backward) dystopia.

Edward Russett is a Red.  In this world everything is ruled by color.  It forms the basis for a caste system which places greys at the worker bees who are good for nothings, and the reds, blues, and yellows as the highest ups.  A system of merits and demerits rules what people are allowed to do and also controls who might marry whom.  Edward doesn’t expect too much from his life except to hopefully marry Constance Oxblood, which would be a very beneficial match to both of their families.  But then he and his father get sent to East Carmine, which is a settlement near the Outer Fringes.  There Edward meets a Grey, Jane, who opens his eyes to the fact that their chroma-society might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

There are all kinds of weird and wonderful thnigs populating this world: swans that attack people and are feared as vicious beasts, giraffes roaming as freely as feral cats, giant trees that gobble up people like some sort of combination Whomper-Venus Flytrap.

I really enjoyed the wordplay in this, such as the fact that everyone’s surnames are a shade of the color family they are in (Oh and what color you are is determined by what color you can see. That’s right, a Red can see red but not really the other colors.)  The Greys don’t get different surnames other than Grey and some of the characters we meet are Jane, Zane, and Dorian, so that’s pretty funny.  This whole concept of colors being the foundation of the society and some being considered more valuable than others reminded me a bit of Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry.  Another thing about this world is that when night falls everyone stays inside.  To venture into the inky darkness means you will likely succumb to Nightloss and be gone forever.  This terrifying darkness outside the town reminded me very much of City of Ember, by Jean DuPre.  Thinking about these comparisons, as well as other novels I’ve read, it seems that a tool of those in power in any dystopia is Fear.  Fear of the unknown, fear of real or imaginary (but told they are real) threats or creatures, these are the things that keep the masses in line and ignorant.

Overall, a great new venture for Fforde.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

fireOne of the most hotly anticipated YA novels of the fall, this is the sequel to last summer’s Hunger Games (actually it is the second in a projected trilogy.) It lived up to the high standard of dystopian shock and thrilling supsense that the author set in the first novel. There is definitely some unpleasant violence, as in the first one, too.

I really don’t want to say too much about the content of it because I was lucky enough to read it without knowing anything except that it was the next book and thus I was delightfully surprised and shocked by everything.  So I’ll just say that it is well paced for a trilogy (and don’t you dare do one more after that because then it will just drag on and not wrap up well), lots of the same characters return, and it was very exciting. I read this very quickly because it was hard to put down. I sort of liken it to The Empire Strikes Back in that the first one the rebels have success, the second one is dark but meaty and really intensifies the story. So let’s hope the third book, out next year I believe, wraps things up with the good guys winning. But no Ewoks, please.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I picked this up at ALA and there was already a buzz about this book.  Let tell you the briefest bit about it and see how intrigued you are….

In a future world in the area we know now as Appalachia, two children from each of twelve districts are chosen to participate in the “Hunger Games”.  These 24 are sent to an outdoor arena.  Only one can be the winner.  Everyone else must die. Continue reading