Tuesday, August 30, 2011

[Review] Divergent by Veronica Roth *****

I have actually had this book on my to-read list for awhile, and it wasn't until a couple friends of mine started reading it and couldn't stop gushing about it that I finally picked it up. Picking it up was a bad idea, as I finished it in two nights.

The Story

Beatrice is a girl raised in the world of the selfless Abnegation, one of five factions that divide the people of this futuristic reality. Society has divided themselves into five aspects of human principles; the honest Candor, the brave Dauntless, kind Amity, genius Erudite and selfless Abnegation. Each of these factions raises their children to embody their individual virtue to become members of society, but at sixteen you can choose. Will you stay or do you truly embody another faction?

When it comes time for Beatrice to choose her place she finds that she is a mix of three, Dauntless, Abnegation and Erudite: Divergent. This makes her a threat to the tipping balance of society.

What's So Great About It?

Personally, my favorite aspect of this book was the factions and what they mean for human society. Imagine if humanity decided that we were going to highlight only one aspect of your personality and that was how you lived? Would you be fearless and brave like the Dauntless, or dedicate your life to the pursuit of knowledge and power? Divergent really puts the idea of human character and what it really means to embody these characteristics to the max. It shows how with even the best of intentions, humanity can, and most likely will, still twist its principles.

Ever since The Hunger Games I have truly become a fan of protagonists that have obvious flaws. Tris (Beatrice) isn't necessarily the ideal heroine that many novels create. By joining the faction she does, she brings out the more brutal aspects of her personality and becomes a very different person by the end than what you met in the beginning. This shows character growth and change, something that I feel is at the heart of a really great YA novel. In the same sense, she also becomes aware of her true self and what morals and beliefs she can not live without.

Did I mention Four? Because Four is amazing (and definitely sexy). Thank you Veronica Roth for not creating a story around the relationship of these two characters. Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily find anything wrong with centering a YA novel around the relationship of two protagonists, but this does not define them. Tris would not be who she is without the lessons that Four has taught her, however, she is independent of his character as well. Throughout the novel you can see both of them grow and learn. I would definitely look forward to reading some of the novel from his perspective.

Oh yeah, and did I mention the novel has tattoos? I love tattoos.

Why This Book?

I may reference The Hunger Games a couple of times when reviewing this book, but Divergent is not The Hunger Games. The freshness and intellectual/sociological depth of this novel is really refreshing and exactly what I, as a teacher, would look for when choosing a book for the class. There are an endless number of discussion topics and important, thought provoking questions that arise when reading this book. The story is a fresh idea in a vein of fiction that could easily suffer from the copy-cat syndrome. Roth does an amazing job fleshing out both her world and her characters and make you truly feel like you could walk outside and live between its walls.

I would give Divergent 5 out of 5 stars for readability in the classroom. I would definitely recommend this novel for anyone teaching the topics of society and culture, human morality and character.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Apologies for this week

Major apologies for not posting this week. I should have forseen it, however, with getting the classroom ready and teacher inservices, I was unable to sit down and get a post set up. This week was also supposed to be a Writer Friday, but I'll have to post pone that to either tomorrow, or bump it to next week.

Being a teacher is crazy! I'm not even a "real" teacher and it's crazy!

However, I did make an AWESOME bulletin board for current young adult literature in my classroom. I'll post a picture of it on Monday when I take one.

Later, all!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

[Review] Eon & Eona by Alison Goodman *****

And we're back! Welcome back to LEIO and the reviews! I've been on a book binge as of late, and I'm definitely back logged on books to review and place up here. So in the spirit of giving you a bunch of reviews at once, I'm actually recommedning two books at once.  

The Story

Eon takes us to a world inspired by ancient China and magic, where a 16 year old girl disguises herself as Eon, a potential apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons, the protectors of her world. Crippled, and hiding her potentially fatal secret, Eona soon finds herself twisted into the politics and mystery of the lost Mirror Dragon and a country whose throne is under threat from within.

What's So Great About It?

I have always been a big fan of epic adventures and Eon caught my eye instantly because its a story of a girl who pretends to be a boy in order to follow her heart and passions. The books are rated for grade 8 and up, but there are a lot of life lessons and hard choices within the pages that even an adult could relate to. The maturity of the circumstances, and the very real mistakes that Eona makes and potentially makes, raise the stakes. The books create a world where small missteps can lead to much larger catastrophes, which Eona finds out through her journey to becoming an apprentice.

Like many of the books I review, it's the characters that truly make the book shine. Eona herself is determined and realistic, with a compassionate side that shows as a lion might show affection to her cubs; with a strong hand. She makes mistakes and lets her fears influence some of her decisions. She acts as many people do and learns from her mistakes. The supporting characters in these two books have just as much heart as their main protagonist, and the books cover topics such as gender identity, homosexuality, loyalty, and obsession in mature and insightful ways.

Why These Books??

I suggest Eon and Eona for the classroom because of the quality of story, maturity of the material, and the characters. These are books that any teacher, or professor even, could pull discussions and paper topics from for their students.

I give Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman  5 out of 5 stars for readability in the classroom. My only exception is that I believe these books would be great as supplemental material. For example, if you gave students a list of similar books to choose from, as apposed to forcing the whole class to read one book. The reason for this being that some students may not be as interested in the story as others. Just as some like certain flavors, these two definitely have a flavor.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Writer Friday: The Story Lives

I have officially decided to dedicate every other Friday as Writer Friday. On these days I will post something about the current status of my writing/stories if not a tip/trick/topic that any who wants to is more than welcome to respond to. So, to start us off, this Friday is a quick review of what I am actually writing and where I am.

 "Eyes on Fire"

This is the main novel that I have been working on and is kind of my biggest baby. The story came from a dream I had of this very vivid scene of a girl making a pact with a spirit to save her own life. The story of why this happened to her evolved in my head over a few years, then one summer I became compelled and wrote the remainder over a period of about 3 months. The story is now sitting at 90% done, with the end waiting for me to actually put it to paper. At that point it will need to be read through and edited.

This is the novel that I want to send out for beta reading, edit, and send to publishers. If I go into a Ph.D program that allows me to use past work, I would like to have this be my main work as well. This story does have a sequel, but it is bare bones in my head at the moment.

"WTTS" [Working title]

The working title of this book is "window to the soul" and focuses on a girl who can see into others souls via their eyes. The idea that the eyes are the "window to the soul" is a very old proverb that has always intrigued me and quite honestly, I think could really be true. So the idea came to me, "what if you really could see into someone's soul through their eyes...or worse...mess with them?" Thus, this story was born. The main idea had been bouncing around my head for a few years until the story finally came to me.

I have just begun writing this story since I stalled on EOF, so I have maybe 30+ pages on it. I am still hammering out the plot, but I have at least 50% of it figured out. This is a companion piece to the book below and is in the same realm as EOF.

"CC" [working title]

CC is actually the abbreviated title for an anime that I got the tiny, tiny inspiration for this story from. The main reason that this story exists is because it's main character popped right out at me and stated that she has a story to tell. Her story is pretty much known to me and how her story fits in with WTTS is also clear. The rest, however, is not so clear. I have some plot written for this and a little bit of the main characters' back story so that I remember it for when I start writing.

If anyone here is interested in beta-reading any of my stories, please, I would love to hear from you. I have at least one that's ready and perhaps that would get my booty in gear to being active on the rest of the.

Writer tip: Write. Write write write.