Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer Reads - Divergent by Veronica Roth

Synopsis (from book jacket):
In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the YA scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

My Thoughts:
I couldn't get my hands on my own copy of Divergent, because as soon as I showed it to my students, it went from one reader to the next until school was out. Even though I have this all to myself the rest of summer, I am just like the kids...I have to read it NOW because everyone else has read it before me. Summer reading Goal #1: Read Divergent and then immediately after, that shiny new Insurgent that I got on May 1st (Bad Teacher Admission: I didn't take Insurgent to school because I wanted it all for myself! It was just so pretty, and my Divergent copy now, is so not.)

My "well-loved" copy of Divergent

Back to the book. Oh, the book. Now I know why our school librarian raved about this book in August. She even said (gasp!) she might like it more than The Hunger Games. I have to (double gasp) admit that I kind of agree! I didn't write about how I felt while reading The Hunger Games because I was too obsessed about getting my hands on Catching Fire, that I didn't even stop to reflect on it. And now, I find myself in the same situation! I am already 200 pages into Insurgent and I had to physically stop myself from jumping back into it this morning so that I could do this write-up about Divergent! Just like with any obsessive YA book craze, the crush I had on The Hunger Games four years ago feels just like that, a crush from four years ago. And now Divergent is like that new hottie that just moved in and blows the old crush out of the water. I still love The Hunger Games; it's on my students' Battle of the Books list, and we went on a field trip this year to see the film version, but I am ready to jump onto the Divergent train. (Ah! Totally unintended pun!)

It was a super-quick read, and very fast-paced. I know why my students flew through it so quickly. The plot is non-stop action. It's basically like this: revelation, life-altering decision, devastation, life and death situation, kiss, repeat. There's no down time to catch your breath, but I was okay with that. I liked being just as breathless and stressed out as Tris. I do wish I pictured the setting as Chicago more. It wasn't until a landmark was mentioned, that I was like, Oh yeah, future Chicago. That was kind of a bummer, and I don't know if it was my own (lack of) visualization or the fact that besides the trains and the Hancock Building stunts, most of the setting took place inside the Dauntless headquarters.

Anywa, a great summer read! I just wish I had read it last summer so I could have talked about it all year with my students.

In the Classroom:
This book was on my classroom shelf, and though I hadn't read it, my colleagues had, so I put my faith in them. I think it is appropriate for upper middle school. I would suggest it to boys and girls (I only had one boy pick it up this year, but that's because I had some feisty girl readers who Tris'ed their way into getting their hands on it.) This school year I will definitely recommend it to more boys looking for their Hunger Games fix and for my dystopian-loving girls (like me!)

P.S. - Saw Veronica Roth this weekend at the Chicago Tribune Printer's Row Lit Fest. She is so cool! She's very funny and had a chic little bob, which I wish I could pull off. She described herself as a Harry Potter nerd, which made me love her even more. This picture doesn't do her personality justice. Believe me, find a clip of her talking about the book, and your kids will love her too.

She's more smiley than this!


Kellee said...

An amazing book- Insurgent is on my summer reading TBR pile. I cannot wait!

Happy reading this week! :)

Ms. Yingling said...

I did like the idea of a dystopia where people were categorized by their personality type. It was just different. It had been so long since I read Divergent that I got a bit confused, but I can't want until school starts to check out the copies to students!