Monday, May 21, 2012

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

[Insurgent is the sequel to Divergent, so it is suggested that you read Divergent before reading this review so nothing is spoiled for you!]

"Part of me wishes I could burn them from my mind, so I would never have to mourn for them. But the rest of me is afraid of who I would be without them."

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

If you've discussed Divergent with me, you're probably very tired of hearing me sing its praises. (Especially since my singing voice is something you get tired of very fast.) But in case you didn't know, I adored Divergent, and I'd been very eagerly awaiting its sequel.

Oh, Veronica Roth. She sure can write a story.

First off, I have to say that this book has a completely different tone than Divergent. I've found that's usually the case with books that are in a series, though, and especially with books that are in trilogies. Insurgent launches straight into the story and picks up—literally—right where its predecessor left off. Seriously, if these two books had been grafted together into some monstrous (but extremely engrossing) Franken-novel, I would never have guessed where they were supposed to be split.

Okay, character-wise, I was pretty pleased with this book. In the first book, I was completely taken aback by Tris and how she didn't follow the usual YA girl stupidity pattern (that I've mentioned before). In this book, I sometimes thought she was making a generally reckless choice, but here's the thing:

1. She thought each of those decisions was a good idea at the time
2. She was making those choices because of recent events that tied into the plot (yay plot!)
3. And (the clincher!) she learned from her choices and became a better person

So hurrah for character development! 

In other news, I'm glad that Four got a little more fleshed out, because I think he needed it. Still, I don't really think much of him as character, which is odd since he's one of the central ones.

Okay, something I love right here: I am absolutely fascinated with the simulations in the story. They are just about the coolest things ever! I love how they're used in all different ways: by the Dauntless for training and as a layer of security for Erudite, for example.

As bad as it sounds, my favorite part of the book was the ending. Everything got so exciting and I just couldn't flip pages fast enough. I'm actually really satisfied with how it ended and I'll definitely be reading Divergent #3.

All right, if there's one thing I want to stress, it's this: you better have Divergent fresh on your mind.

There were a few months and a couple dozen other books between when I read Book #1 and Book #2, and while I usually can remember books to a T, I blanked on this one.

This was a huge reason I wasn't enjoying the book. I didn't remember most of the characters by name or how the factions specifically worked, or where exactly the plot was left in the last book. It's my fault I didn't re-read Divergent first, because I know I would've liked this one more if I'd read the books back to back. Veronica Roth didn't write it in a way that helped you remember what had happened before, which isn't a bad thing, but in my case, I just kept getting confused: 

Is Christina that girl she used to know from Abnegation? Nope.
Isn't Johanna from The Hunger Games? Yes, but also no.
I don't think that kid's name was Edward in book 1. Um, no, it definitely was.

The list goes on and on.

My other complaint was that it took it's time getting started. I read another review with the same opinion, so it's not just me. I really didn't get into until about two hundred pages. Also, whereas in Divergent, I didn't have a problem with the length, I think this one could've been condensed a lot and it wouldn't have hurt the story.

If you enjoyed Divergent, and your memory doesn't fail you like mine failed me, I think you're guaranteed to like this one as well. And if you haven't read Divergent yet, you better get to it before I start singing.

(By the way, thanks for hanging in through this insanely long review. I could have written a review to rival Insurgent's length with all my thoughts, so be grateful for my summarizing skills!)

Read other reviews for Insurgent here:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Where it Began by Ann Redisch Stampler

"The finish line is in sight; what's the point of blowing it?"

Sometimes the end is just the beginning.

Gabby lived under the radar until her makeover. Way under. But when she started her senior year as a blonder, better-dressed version of herself, she struck gold: Billy Nash believed she was a the flawless girl she was pretending to be. The next eight months with Billy were bliss...Until the night Gabby woke up on the ground next to the remains of his BMW without a single memory of how she got there.

And Billy's nowhere to be found.

All Gabby wants is to make everything perfect again. But getting her life back isn't difficult, it's impossible. Because nothing is the same, and Gabby's beginning to realize she's missed more than a few danger signs along the way. 

I really like this cover, (more about that here) and I pretty much always choose my books by how they look. (Yes, I do realize how bad that is. It's working for me so far!) Anyway, it was free to read on Pulse It so I gave it a try.

Despite my shameless cover-judging, this book actually turned out to have a really cool plot. (I mean, far as I know there's not too many partial amnesia by car-crash books out there.) 

So the good points of this book that you should look forward to are:

Gabby is a really good main character. This is especially good praise from me, because I tend to be really harsh on the main character. (It's not my fault—YA main character girls are just so ugh sometimes.) I really liked reading the book from her point of view—she's just a normal teen.

The writing, too, is great. I love writing styles that are unique so you can pick up a book and know who wrote it. Plus, the author is really good at making it funny even when Gabby's in a pretty serious and solemn situation.

Now, I'm not going to spoil anything, but pretty far into the book, Gabby finds out something that took me completely by surprise. I can't even remember the last time I'd read a book when I didn't at least guess at the big surprise of the book. I was totally clueless. Now I keep looking back and thinking "How did I miss that?", but it was really, really cool to be surprised like that.  

Alright, I had just a few tiny issues with this book, but these just might be me, so you'll have to decide for yourself.

For one, Gabby, the whole book through, talks about how she constantly tries to be the best girlfriend ever so she won't lose her very-popular boyfriend. And you see, when she's talking with him sometimes, how she says what she thinks he wants her to say. But other times, she'd say things that were definitely not best girlfriend in the world lines, and it still seemed like she thought she was saying the right things. I mean, when your boyfriend is giving you serious advice, does the world's best girlfriend say "whatever"?

A little thing that confused me for a small part of the book was her parent's names. The whole book through, she refers to her parents by their first names. It never explained why she did that, and  nobody else seemed to think it was strange. I just thought it was really strange-sounding. Does anyone actually do that? Maybe I just don't know anyone who does.

There's one last point which might be a possible plot flaw, but since it's tied up in the conclusion, I won't say it here. But if you read it as well, you might pick up on it.

Despite a few minor bad marks, I liked this book. Like I said before, it's a really, really interesting read, and I'd recommend it!

Read more reviews for Where it Began at:
A Good Addiction and I B Book Blogging