Tag Archives: Suzanne Collins

Spotlight on Reached by Ally Condie

I am reading an ARC of Reached by Ally Condie.  Reached is the third and final book in Condie’s Matched trilogy.




I loved Matched and compared Condie to Lois Lowry.  Crossed, though, was not as good as the first book.  But Reached is just as good, maybe even better, than Matched.

If you love YA dystopian fiction, or if you are a fan of The Hunger Games, you will definitely want to try Condie’s trilogy.

Reached comes out November 13, 2012.  ALL WILL BE SORTED.

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Not Quite the Girl on Fire

Insurgent by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen Books; 544 pages; $17.99).

I flew through Veronica Roth’s Divergent, marveling at how a college student could beautifully imagine and then, more difficult, skillfully render a unique dystopian world.  Roth, I was certain, would pick up Suzanne Collins’s torch and run with it.

Set in a future Chicago, Divergent introduced us to Beatrice “Tris” Prior, Roth’s heroine.  Factions mean more than family; in fact, your faction is your family.  Tris was born into Abnegation.  But at age sixteen, though, young adults may choose which their own faction.  Typically, one stays with the group she was born into.  So when Tris switches to Dauntless, some call her a traitor.

Tris is unique.  She has an aptitude for not one, not even two, but three factions.  For that reason, she is called “divergent,” hence the title of the first book in Roth’s Divergent trilogy.

Roth employs a technique that most YA authors of dystopian lit do not do: Tris alone tells the story.  There is no hero as her co-narrator.  Tris is it.

Sparks fly between Tris and a Dauntless leader named Four (No, that is not his real name.)  When the two get together near the end of Divergent, I pumped my fist in the air with a cry of “Yes!”  I think Divergent is so strong, so readable and compelling that Roth does not need any other narrator besides Tris.  Tris is the star and she carries the tale on her slim but capable shoulders.

The same cannot be said for the second book, Insurgent.

Roth begins Insurgent just where Divergent left off–on a train.  Her pace, from page one, is hurried, too hurried for my taste.  The characters have no time to reflect on anything that has happened.  Tris and others make decisions rashly.  Then again, perhaps that is Roth’s point.  Most of the characters in this story are young adults.

I strongly urge you to re-read Divergent before reading Insurgent.  There is no prologue to catch you up.

Insurgent is darker than the first book.  The situation is dire.  Roth creates many conflicts in her story: faction versus faction; fighting within a faction; Tris versus Four; Tris versus herself; fighting within a family; leader versus leader.  Those are all pluses.

The real problem is Tris herself.  Tris can no longer carry this story alone.  Dare I say it?  The story needs another perspective, preferably from the point of view of Four.

For most of the book, Tris is fearful, broken, and unsure of herself, quite unlike the Tris from Divergent.  That Tris was fierce, brave, self-confident, and mighty.  In Insurgent, Tris cannot even fire a gun.  She battles inner demons.  While this inner conflict should add to the story, I feel it does not.  I miss the old Tris.  I do understand what Roth is doing with Tris, though.

In this book, Tris is on the outskirts of her faction.  Her peripheral role allows her to see things in a different light.  This is how she becomes an insurgent.  Yet, for me, it is too little, too late, when Tris wakes from her stupor and emerges as a real threat to her enemies.

Roth does accomplish some things, and she does them well.  She introduces us to Four’s mother and puts her in a very intriguing position, making for an interesting family dynamic.  Roth reminds us that not everything is as it seems in this story.  Not everyone is who he seems either.  Her twists and turns are astoundingly clever.

The author drops a bombshell at the end of Insurgent, setting up the next book nicely.  Yet, I fear she has set up far more questions than she will be able to answer (Think of Lost).  It will be a tall order.

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“Pure” Genius

“Pure” Genius

Julianna Baggott, Pure (Grand Central; 448 pages; $25.99).


            Author Bridget Asher has written the best-selling adult novels My Husband’s Sweethearts, The Pretend Wife, and The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted.  I adored The Pretend Wife, especially, but thought the others were just okay.  I had no idea that Bridget Asher is a pen name.  Her real name is Julianna Baggott.  Baggott has also written under the nom de plume N.E. Bode.  Grand Central is releasing Baggott’s newest novel for young adults on February 8.  Pure is pure genius.

I must confess that I am a junkie for young adult dystopian fiction.  From Lois Lowry to Rebecca Stead to Suzanne Collins to Carrie Ryan to Veronica Roth to Ally Condie to Beth Revis to Mary E. Pearson to Moira Young.  You name it, I’ve read it.  Pure, though, is nothing like anything I’ve read previously; Baggott stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Pressia and her mother return home from a trip to Disney World.  Pressia’s grandfather meets them at the airport.  On a beautiful sunny day, nuclear bombs go off all around the world.  Millions die.  Ash falls everywhere.  Operation Search and Rescue begins.  Some, though, knew this day would come and were prepared.  A dome had been built, designed to withstand the bombs and their aftermath.  Only the very rich were invited to live in this dome.  For the lucky and the unlucky, life goes on.

Partridge is one of the lucky ones who live in the dome.  His mother, though, did not make it to the dome in time.  He has thought all these years that she died.  However, he finds something astonishing that calls into question everything he believes.  In an amazing and daring feat, Partridge escapes from the dome and sets out to find his mother.  Pressia and Partridge meet and join forces to find out the real story behind the bombs and the building of the dome.

There are many patterns in dystopian fiction that Baggott breaks, and I believe she does this deliberately.  Usually, authors set their stories after some kind of great tragedy or apocalyptic event–generations, even hundreds of years after.  When this method of storytelling is employed, readers may find it difficult to discern what really happened or why.  The government or whoever is in power tends to suppress the truth.  No one alive knows the truth either.  That is the biggest difference in Pure.  When Pure begins, the “Detonations” occurred less than a decade ago, during the lifetimes of our characters.

Baggott tells her story from the point of view of several major characters.  This is not typical of most YA dystopian novels that alternate the narrative between the heroine and the hero.  Pure gives us accounts from Pressia and Partridge, the heroine and hero of the novel, but the author also lets us into the minds of others.  At first, this surprised me, and then I applauded this tactic for adding to the story.

Baggott’s characters all carry inner and outer scars.  When you picture the heroine of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss Everdeen, you see her as a beautiful teenage girl.  In March, we will all be picturing Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in the movie.  The heroes and heroines of young adult fiction are always good-looking, and this trend is no different in dystopian fiction.  The world as the characters know it may be very different from our world but the idea of beauty still stands.  That is not the case in Pure.

You must have a strong stomach to read Pure, it’s true.  At the time of the Detonations, if a person was close to another individual, an animal, or an object, the two melded together, sometimes in grotesque ways.  For example, Pressia was holding a doll.  Her hand is no longer a hand; a doll’s head is now where her hand should be.  Bradwell, a secondary character, was near several birds when the bombs went off.  The birds are now a part of his back and sometimes Pressia can see the wings of the birds flutter.  El Capitan was on his dirtbike with his little brother, and…well, you just have to read it.  The point is that these characters are not beautiful.  Yet they are not ugly.  Baggott writes them with a kind of dignity, for everyone is marked in some way.  Only those in the dome are unblemished and “pure.”

Pure is first in a trilogy, and I cannot wait to read more.  I love that Baggott puts her own mark on young adult dystopian fiction.  She is truly like no one else.

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Beth Revis is out of this world

In the tradition of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Ally Condie’s Crossed, and Veronica Roth’s Divergent, Beth Revis brings us dystopian literature with a twist: she sets her young adult novel in space.

It all begins with Across the Universe in which we meet Amy, a teen from Colorado who, along with her parents, is cryogenically frozen on the spaceship Godspeed.  The hope is that in 300 years or so, the ship will land on Centauri-Earth, a planet that is said to be perfect for human habitation.  On this new planet, Amy and the others can build a new world without the wars and environmental challenges of Earth.

On the ship, we meet Elder, second in line to lead the entire ship, who is the youngest person on it.  He will take over power when Eldest steps down.  Godspeed is a strange ship, full of locked doors, history that has been rewritten, and people on drugs to take away their anxiety.  Strangest of all is the Season, which you just have to read about for yourself.

Revis tells the story using alternating chapters from Amy’s and Elder’s point of view.  In this way, nothing is revealed too soon.  In both Across the Universe and its sequel A Million Suns, Revis puts her characters through a Campbellian quest.  There are minor characters who take on the role of guide or helper.  She also has several different subplots.

Most interesting is that Revis invents her own language for the Across the Universe trilogy (yes, you guessed it, Shades of Earth will be released in 2013).  Words like “frex,” “uni,” and “brilly” show up often here.  “Frex,” clearly, is derived from “frack” in Battlestar Galactica.  But it works well here, all borrowing aside.

Is this trilogy as good as The Hunger Games?  I have to say no.  I don’t think it’s even as good as “Matched” or “Divergent,” but it’s got something different.  None of those young adult novels are set in space.  Beth Revis gives readers something new.  And please do not think it’s only for teens!  Dystopian YA novels are so hot right now, and I do not see this trend cooling anytime soon.


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