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Choices and Secrets: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Beatrice has a choice to make.

She is sixteen and in her society when people hit this milestone its time to make the biggest choice of their lives;  choose one of the five factions to devote their lives to.  In Beatrice’s dystopian Chicago (sometime in the future) society, to correct the wrongs of the past,  has divided itself into five factions – each one devoted to specific virtue; Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the courageous), Abnegation (the selfless), Erudite (the intelligent) and Amity (the peaceful).

Beatrice has been raised in Abnegation, but is struggling with the selflessness that seems to come so easily to her family. She wonders if she can truly live the life of Abnegation or if she is better suited for another.  Things get worse when Beatrice’s aptitude test shows that she is mysteriously special – she’s Divergent.  Beatrice shocks her parents by choosing to leave the faction in which they raised her to join Dauntless. But once in the middle of Dauntless initiation, the consequences of Beatrice’s choice soon make themselves known and she is forced to keep a secrets and make choices so dangerous they could put her life in danger.

Honestly?  I was hesitant about another dystopian novel after the publishers started churning them out in hope of catching some of the Hunger Games’ fame.  Turns out I was so pleasantly surprised! Roth’s debut novel showcases her creativity wonderfully.  Society split up into factions based on particular moral values?  So interesting!  I love the reasoning behind each factions’ chosen value.  I actually wonder if the factions are commentaries on different sects of Christianity?  (Hmmm…if I ever meet Veronica Roth, I will ask her).  I would have liked a bit more info on the factions’ history and if the rest of the world is set up this way, or just Chicago.  Questions that will hopefully be answered in the sequel.

Beatrice, or Tris as she is known in Dauntless, is an interesting narrator.  Often times, teen fiction creates one-sided characters, but Tris is as multifaceted as you can get. She wants to be kind and selfless, and at times she is.  She is also brave and honest at the most important times (there are many).  But she is also a fragile and vulnerable  sixteen year old girl. She can also be incredibly vindictive and prideful, even towards her closest friends.  Tris is so easy to relate to, but it was also easy for me to be disappointed in her as well.  I like Tris so much, she might even be Katniss’ cousin.

Is there a romantic hero?  Oh you bet there is! His name is Four and he’s pretty much awesome. I think I’m going to have to post on my favorite YA book crushes soon.

Divergent is intended for the older teen set and does contains some definite action.  It’s all part of the Dauntless craving for bravery and adrenaline.  If you’re sensitive to violence or blood, this title might not be for you.

The sequel, Insurgent,  is due in May 2012 (Can I wait that long?!) At Divergent’s end you’re definitely let wanting more and I’m completely on board with whatever Veronica Roth has planned!

Oh and BTDubs:  Apparently there is a Divergent movie in the early stages!

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Top Ten Tuesday: October New Releases

It’s a new month (a week ago! oops!), which means there are new releases coming soon!

So, lets look at ten October Releases! It’s a mix of Young Adult and Middle Grades, so I’ll note which accordingly).

The Death Cure (#3 The Maze Runner series) by James Dashner (Oct. 11) (YA)

The time for lies is over. But the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever imagine.

Will anyone survive the Death Cure?

Twilight: The Graphic Novel #2 by Stephanie Meyer adapted by Young Kim (Oct. 11) (YA/MG)

Having uncovered the dark secret of her enigmatic classmate, Edward Cullen, Bella Swan embraces her feelings for him, trusting Edward to keep her safe despite the risks.

Sammy Keyes and the Night of the Skulls by Wendelin Van Draanen (Oct. 11) (MG)

Grams always told her those binoculars would get her into trouble. Now Sammy’s witnessed a crime at the Heavenly Hotel.

The Son of Neptune (Heros of Olympus Series #2) by Rick Riordan (Oct. 11) (MG)

Percy Jackson remembers only his name and the name of Annabeth, a mysterious woman he associates somehow with the city of San Francisco. From those sparse clues, he must somehow complete a mission.

Maya’s Choice (Kimani Tru: Kesha Series) by Earl Sewell (Oct. 18) (YA)

Maya’s summer is shaping up to be unforgettable—in both good and bad ways.

Beautiful Chaos (the Castor Chronicles #3) by Kami Garcia (Oct. 18) (YA)

Sometimes there isn’t just one answer or one choice. Sometimes there’s no going back. And this time there won’t be a happy ending.

Rumors from the Boys’ Room: A Blogtastic Novel by Rose Cooper (Oct. 11) (MG)

“After my non-sneaky, non-eavesdropping ears heard the rest of the secret-like conversational exchange, I did the only thing I could. I rushed home and blogged about it.” excerpt from Rumors from the Boys’ Room

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George (Oct. 25) (MG)

When King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it’s up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle’s never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom.

Tris and Izzie by Mette Evie Harrison (Oct. 11) (YA)

A modern retelling of the German fairy tale “Tristan and Isolde”.

The Jewel of the Kalderash (Kronos Chronicles series #3) by Marie Rutoski (Oct. 25) (MG)

How much is Petra willing to sacrifice to defend the people she loves? Her search for answers will take her to castles and cities, through mountains, and even underwater as she tests her strength, and gambles her life.

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Mystery and History: Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon

I was pretty excited to read this mystery for many reasons.  First, Zora Neale Hurston is from Eatonville, Florida and so are many of my students. Second, the authors came to visit our school and talk to our students (which was awesome!).

Told through the eyes of Zora’s friend, Carrie, Zora and Me begins with the discovery of a dead body by the railroad tracks.  Zora, with her incredibly wild imagination believes that a dangerous shape-shifting gator man (from a local myth she read) is prowling the swamps around the town, feeding on the souls of men.  In order to stop more people from getting hurt, and possibly murdered, Zora, Carrie and their friend Teddy spend their time trying to solve the mystery.  The three friends have no idea what they’re in for as they get a peek into the hearts of men; hearts full of jealousy, deceit and betrayal.  Mystery and history wrapped into one! LOVE IT!

This is a fictionalized story about the childhood of Zora Neale Hurtson, famous writer of the Harlem Renaissance, and her time in Eatonville during the early 1900s.  This book is great for a lot of reasons.  First, the authors, Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon grab the readers’ attention within the first few pages as Zora and her friends recount the death of a man by a local alligator. Way to get my students (and me!) hooked!  My students are usually not interested in reading historical fiction, but the authors manage to create a sense of immediacy that makes you want to find out what happens next. Second, I really enjoyed the way in which the authors imagined what Zora Neale Hurston might be like as a young girl.  Knowing her love for learning, people and story-telling they really fleshed out a character who is both believable and interesting.  Zora and Me encourages imagination as it helps readers think beyond the historical figure and wonder “what was that person really like?”.

I also appreciated (as a history major while in college) the fact that the authors didn’t shy away from discussing some of the more disturbing issues that were common in the early 1900s south.  Race and racism is brought up, as well as questions of class and “passing”.  I wasn’t sure how or if my students would really understand any of these concepts (especially the idea of racial “passing”), but they did pretty well and even asked the authors some good questions when they visited the school.

All in all,  this is an exciting historical mystery that younger teens will enjoy.  Some younger readers may have questions about some of the issues mentioned above (and the use of the “n” word- I say so since my students did), which is why I’d tell all parents to read this one too so your kids have someone reliable to answer their questions.