YA BOOK CLUB: ALLEGIANT

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YA Book Club is a product of Tracey Neithercott’s brain. This usually results in a lot of fun times and general shenanigans. For full details and instructions click the link.

The book of the month is…

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Allegiant by Veronica Roth.

I will not even try to do a post without spoilers. At this point I can’t imagine what purpose that would serve any of us. Though, I will say, THIS POST CONTAINS MANY SPOILERS AND DRAMATIC EXCLAMATIONS. 

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SPOILERS THROUGHOUT!

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I have a lot of good things to say about the Divergent trilogy as a whole. I think the creation of Four (because when you can be called Four why would you ever go by anything else?) and his existence in our imaginary world is one blessing that cannot be taken from us. The story is absorbing. The world is compelling and largely believable as a functioning future version of our own world. The swoon and the feels present in all three books never disappointed me.

I am impressed by Veronica Roth’s storytelling ability. Her prose is clean, bold, sometimes stark, but always engaging. She created characters that were flawed, strong, weak, broken, beautiful, and deeply real.

I have a lot of good things to say about Allegiant individually.

For me, Tris was never my favorite narrator. I had a hard time connecting with her from the beginning of the series. It’s hard to explain. I loved Four, though, and while I don’t think the dual POV in Allegiant was distinct enough for me, I still very much enjoyed having his POV because it helped me see Tris in a new and kinder way. I found myself more attached to her and more aware of her beauty and goodness than when I was confined to her head.

I think this was genius on Veronica Roth’s part because…when Tris dies, it resonated with me for days. Tris became a woman capable of true sacrifice over the course of this series. She became solid but vulnerable in Allegiant, and losing her was truly devastating. However true to the character and the story as it may be, watching Tris die still didn’t sit well with me and it has taken me a a few weeks of intermittent mulling to discern why.

My reasons are three-fold:

1. I can see a way out. I can see how Tris could sacrifice herself for Caleb (which, yep, she had to do) and still survive. As writers we give ourselves outs in our prose, sometimes they are small and wobbly because you don’t ever intend to use them but feel safer with them there. Sometimes they are foreshadowy and red-inked because you need to know they won’t go away. It was written, in multiple places, that Tris could withstand serums. I believe she could have survived had David not shot her. I also think there was a way to redeem Caleb’s character and save Tris from David’s bullet. I think Caleb could have done something. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m reaching. Maybe she could have reached a little too. For us and for Four.

2. Four didn’t get to say goodbye. The death will never feel satisfying to me, and it will never feel worthwhile for this reason. It will always be a little incomplete and unfinished. I needed more than I was given. I can even understand the argument that the way in which she died — and all the unsaid and unfinished — was appropriate for this series and world. I am not sure I care though. As a reader, I felt a little let down. It hurt.

3. Taking those other thoughts into consideration, this next one is completely and utterly personal. I am writing a series (hopefully someone else will agree and want to publish it), in first person POV, so I know what it feels like to share headspace with a character. As attached as I am to my protagonist, and as much as she is a part of me, I try to believe that if I HAD to kill her to tell her story honestly then I would. I respect Veronica Roth for her willingness to do this with Tris, because I am sure it was very painful. Having said that and understanding why she felt this was the right ending, it bothered me that she (Veronica Roth) didn’t fight harder for Tris. This is not an attack on her writing ability, nor is it an attack on her person. I just feel this way, and it won’t go away.

Beyond my problems with the books (overall and Allegiant specifically) I still think the Divergent trilogy is a well-written, engaging and accessible series. Veronica Roth is a talented writer, and someone I expect, and hope, to be writing for years to come. I think the ending overshadowed some of the other big, fascinating aspects of the book. The world outside the fence is a broken but interesting place. The relationships feel real and vulnerable, which make the characters feel more human.

For Veronica Roth’s first series, at such a young age, Divergent is a powerful example of her talent. I am able to get past my own muddled feelings to still recommend this series to everyone and anyone, and that speaks volumes to its value.

What’s Up Wednesday

whats up wednesdayWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom Jaime’s post. We really hope you will take part!

What I’m Reading

I will admit — honestly and openly and with no shame — that I put Legend down for the moment. I am hoping it has to more to do with me than the book. Maybe I just don’t want to read that kind of story in that kind of world right now. I intend to pick it back up in the future and try again because I can’t NOT finish. Instead, I am reading The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I think I’ve said this before, and to everyone in my life, but Maggie’s writing is some of my favorite. Everything she writes is so alive and pulsing. The Scorpio Races is much different than her other books, but in no way is it less vibrant. Plus, she writes guys better than any chick out there. I am still beta reading, and am still so impressed and loving it. Hope to have notes for her by the end of the weekend.

What I’m Writing

Other than blogging, and some stuff for a class (which I will elaborate on below) I am not writing anything. That should not be taken as saying I am not writing. My brain is whirling again, and mostly, it’s about the sequel to the book that’s out with agents. I am trying to keep the ideas in order until I actually can start on the sequel. In the meantime, I am doing a lot of pre-plotting and hopefully next week I will begin working on an idea I have had that is totally different (genre, world, kind of story) than the book I spent the last nineteen months writing and revising.

What Inspires Me Right Now

Readers. I recently spent time chatting with a teenage girl who gets excited about reading. I have had beta readers come back to me in a panic after finishing my book because the sequel isn’t written yet. This may be contributing to my growing urge to begin work on the second book. Readers make us want to write more.

This article featuring snippets of Veronica Roth’s speech at BEA. She shared her own experience of stifling the excitement over the new Harry Potter (whichever came out while she was still in high school) due to the ennui of her boyfriend at the time. She later learned to be true to the reader inside, and clearly that has translated into being a phenomenally accessible writer. I think what she has done with Divergent is so impressive, not only because she is a first time author, but because she is a clever business woman.

The Fruit produced by a good book. Because when that teen’s (Who was at our house with her parents so I’m not just a creeper hanging out with a teenager, guys.) face lit up at the sight of The Hunger Games trilogy sitting in esteem on the top bookshelf, she couldn’t hide what it had done in her. And when she started asking questions about other YA books on my shelf, my gushing was so not cool but totally awesome still.

What Else I’m Up To

I am teaching a writing and acting workshop for teens. It’s a six week course in which they will write four 5-minute episodes of a web-series, cast the episodes they write, and film them to be shown on the web. My job is to impart my storytelling and character development wisdom while also inspiring them to tell their own story. One of the kids in the group is my working actor nephew, Ben J. Pierce, who is crazy talented. I’m pumped to be working with this group. No doubt next week I’ll be writing about them in the “What Inspires Me” section.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

 

Insurgent Review

I don’t particularly like to review books. I feel like it will never matter what you think about a book because ultimately reading — like all manners in which we experience art — is deeply subjective. In other words, we like what we like and that is hard to change. That being true, I am going to review Insurgent because I want to talk about it and maybe you want to read about it.

Insurgent picks up where Divergent left off, quite literally. There is very little second book summarizing, making us responsible to remember what the hell happened at the end of the first book. I don’t mind this, but I think some people do. Most of the plot of Insurgent hinges on the conflict between the Erudite and Dauntless traitors and everyone else. This makes for a sightly disturbing war like environment where teenagers and adults are murdering each other. It also sets us up for the surprising possibility that this world we are in is not entirely what it seems. This is good, but reminds me a little of LOST. When you read it (and if you watched LOST) you may understand what I mean.

Insurgent is better than Divergent in a lot of ways, but it still left me wanting. I like Veronica Roth’s style, it’s clean and clear, and she has a real talent for writing fight scenes with great finesse. Tris, the narrator and main character, is a departure from most female voices. I like her, but I think she would be very difficult to be around. The real draw for me (and many other young women I know) is Tobias. He is an incredibly strong character, perfectly outlined and detailed, and totally sexy. I would read it again just to visualize him.

A conversation with my sister-in-law about Tobias or Four. It went on for a bit. I will spare you.

One of the tests with any piece of fiction is whether you can do anything else well while reading it. Insurgent is the kind of book you’ll set down, thinking you are ready to do something else, and then pick up again ten minutes later. The pacing is fast, the voice consistent, the story deeply compelling. There are problems, and Veronica Roth is the first to admit that, but there are so many truly clever things too that you really do overlook the shortcomings.

I recommend it, especially since writing about it is making me want to read it again. Get it if you don’t already have it. Swoon along with me, and be thankful for characters like Tobias and young writers like Veronica Roth.

Insurgent Book Signing

Last week was a fun time for those of us who have discovered (and it’s a pretty big group) the YA series Divergent . The second novel in the the trilogy, Insurgent was released on Tuesday, May 1. I was excited about the release, and my reasons are three-fold. One: I follow Veronica Roth’s blog (check it here) and think of her as a huge inspiration. There will be more on number one later, and I will probably say too much. Two: Insurgent features Tobias — or Four, as he is known through most of the first book — and I want to eat him up. Three: There was a book signing/reading in Tribeca. I was going.

Tuesday morning, Samuel and I took the train to Barnes and Noble. We could have walked, but it was one of those days that the sky was spitting rain at us as if it had a bad taste in it’s mouth. That is fairly annoying weather for walking with a two-year-old. Sam got an Iron Man toy, sock puppet kit, and a new book. I picked up Insurgent. The signing was that evening and I wanted t be prepared.

I started reading it on the train as I rode into Manhattan. It wasn’t a long ride, so I didn’t get far. When I arrived — at one of the nicest Barnes and Noble’s I’ve ever been to (Tribeca is the most expensive neighborhood in NYC. The B & N was glossy, shiny, perfection) — I made my way to the children’s/YA section where the reading was. I was not admitted. The man at the entrance informed me my book should have been bought here, and he wasn’t sure I would be allowed to come in. You can imagine…that was not going to fly. He called his supervisor over, and I smiled, explaining very genteelly that I had bought my book in Brooklyn. He chuckled and waved me inside. The man at the entrance wouldn’t look me in the eyes.

I sat a couple rows back. I went to the signing as much— ehh, who am I kidding, I was geeking out about the signature — to observe the event for my own education as a hopeful author, as to meet her. There was one particular girl there that I honed in on. She was this incredibly awkward, ugly duckling who came with her very proud and excited father. This girl confirmed why being a YA writer is so utterly rewarding. THAT girl is who we write for, (or that girl inside each of us) because that girl needs a heroine to find strength in, or beauty in, or to recognize her potential alongside. I tried not to stare at her too much, and found gratitude in knowing I am writing someone she will find all those things in.

Overall, the reading, and Q & A was a blast to be a part of. Veronica Roth was as doll — a little self-deprecating, and admittedly trying to overcome her anxiety of crowds and public speaking — and someone I think we would all love to have coffee with. She was also a very kind and mature twenty-three-year-old who probably feels like this is a lot to handle for anyone, let alone someone her age. For me, Veronica Roth was a major kick in the pants about a year ago when I read Divergent. When I saw how old she was, I felt like throwing-up a little. I also felt like I needed to get my not twenty-three-year-old ass in gear. In a lot of ways, she is why I have pushed so hard to finish my novel. Not out of competitiveness or jealousy, but out of the realization that it is very possible to succeed at creating something meaningful that young. And that I had something meaningful in me to create.

I left the signing with a wonderful sense of hope, and also a book signed by the author. Then I got a stomach bug and I was able to lay in bed for a day and a half reading. This was a huge blessing, once I was done wishing I were dead. Next post, my Insurgent book review. For now, some pics from the signing.