Tag Archives: Young Adult Lit.

A Few Updates/Reviews

9 Apr

  • A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly – This novel tells the story of Mattie Gokey, a bright and determined young woman who dreams of becoming a writer. Armed with a tattered dictionary, Mattie finds a word for every situation. Mattie’s words fail, however, when she learns of the murder of Grace Brown, a young woman found dead in the lake in Mattie’s hometown. A Northern Light depicts Mattie’s coming-of-age and the investigation behind Grace Brown’s murder. While this is a fictional story, it is based upon an actual murder investigation. I also read that Grace Brown’s murder inspired Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy … another book for the TBR pile! This is the fifth book I read for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge. It is also the sixth book I have finished in 2012.

  • Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon – I am OBSESSED with Downton Abbey! I just started watching the show this year, and I finished every episode within one week. I am already counting down until next season’s premiere. With that being said, I was so excited to find Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey at my local bookstore. This book focuses on the fifth Earl of Carnarvon and his wife, Almina. It was an incredibly interesting story! One of the most interesting facts I learned from this book is that the fifth Earl of Carnarvon discovered King Tut’s tomb. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Downton Abbey. This is the seventh book I have finished in 2012.

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot – I do not usually enjoy nonfiction; I prefer the more creative world of fiction. However, I thoroughly enjoyed The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. This book has been on my TBR pile for quite some time, and I am so glad I finally decided to read it. I found the story of Henrietta’s cells very intriguing! I liked how the narrative transitioned between the past (Henrietta’s life/sickness) and the present (her children’s struggle to understand what happened to their mother). This is the sixth book I read for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge. It is also the eighth book I have finished in 2012.
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Divergent: Review

25 Jan

In her dystopian novel Divergent, Veronica Roth tells the story of Beatrice Prior, a young woman living in futuristic Chicago. Before the novel begins, Chicago experiences some sort of catastrophic war, dividing its inhabitants into five different factions. Beatrice grows up in Abnegation, a faction that believes selfishness led to war. To prevent future uprisings, members of Abnegation resolve to live as selflessly as possible. The other factions attribute the war to different causes: Dauntless believe the war was the result of cowardice and resolve to live courageously; Erudite believe intelligence and logic will prevent future wars; Amity rely upon kindness and friendship to avoid conflict; and Candor promote peace with honesty. When they turn sixteen, members of each faction take an aptitude test to determine which faction they will join for their adult life. The results of Beatrice’s aptitude test are inconclusive, and she is given the label “Divergent.” Instructed by the test proctor to keep her results secret, Beatrice is faced with the difficult task of choosing which faction she will join. Will she remain in Abnegation to stay with her parents, even though she has never felt like she belonged? Or will she surrender the familiarity of Abnegation to join a new faction?

I read this book based upon the recommendation of a coworker who compared the novel to The Hunger Games. I LOVED The Hunger Games. Seriously. I couldn’t put it down. So I was a bit skeptical about my coworker’s comparison. While The Hunger Games remains one of my favorite dystopian novels, Divergent was a very enjoyable read! Like Katniss, Tris (Beatrice) is tough. When she joins Dauntless, Tris must prove that she has the courage and physical strength needed to survive in the faction. In addition to the physical challenges Tris faces throughout the fierce initiation process, she also grapples with the label “Divergent” throughout the novel. Divergent can be categorized as a coming of age novel in that Tris learns about her own strengths and weaknesses while also uncovering the truth behind her society.

This is the second novel I read for the 2012 Mount TBR reading challenge.

Revolution

7 Feb

In her novel Revolution, Jennifer Donnelly weaves together the lives of two young women living in very different time periods – Andi Alpers, a modern-day teenager who relies upon anti-depressants to escape the pain of her reality, and Alexandrine Paradis, a heroic young woman in the midst of the French Revolution.

Andi Alpers is nearing graduation at a prep school in Brooklyn. She should be working on her thesis paper, a requirement for admission to Ivy League colleges. Andi, however, has decided to not write a thesis. Instead, she spends time playing her guitar, attempting to drown out the pain of her crumbling family. Her younger brother died nearly two years ago; her mother experienced a subsequent emotional breakdown. Unable to face the loss of his son and instability of his wife, Andi’s father focuses on his work as a geneticist. Andi is alone.

When Andi’s parents receive a letter from her school regarding their daughter’s poor academic performance, Mr. Alpers insists that Andi accompany him to Paris where has been hired to match the DNA of a heart believed to belong to Louis-Charles, son of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. While he works on his research in Paris, Mr. Alpers hopes his daughter will use the city’s wonderful libraries to research her thesis topic.

For Andi, being stuck in Paris with her estranged father is like a jail sentence. So she strikes a deal. If she is able to write an outline for her thesis and get it approved by her father, Andi will be permitted to leave Paris on the weekend. Her plans change, however, when she discovers a beautiful guitar from the 1700s with mysterious origins. While Andi adores the instrument, she is more interested in what she finds within its case: a painting of Louis-Charles and a diary belonging to Alexandrine Paradis. At first, Andi tries to ignore the diary. After all, she must focus on her thesis outline or she will never be able to leave by the weekend. However, the diary keeps calling her back. What happened to Alexandrine? And what happened to her young charge, Louis-Charles?The diary brings the past to life for Andi. Within its pages, she discovers the brutal history of France during the Revolution; she also discovers a kindred spirit within Alexandrine. Most importantly of all, Andi learns about the transformative powers of hope.

I loved this book! From the first page to the last sentence, I was riveted to Donnelly’s narrative about the French Revolution. Prior to reading Revolution, I knew very little about this time period in France’s history. However, Donnelly skillfully weaves fact into fiction, creating a believable story that has inspired me to learn more about the French Revolution. In fact, before finishing Revolution, I downloaded a book about Marie Antoinette to my Nook. 🙂

I LOVED the theme of this book! As the story begins, we are greeted by a hopeless Andi. Her family is a wreck. She is addicted to anti-depressants. She has no idea what she wants to do when she graduates from high school. To Andi, hope is a four-letter word, the “crystal meth of emotions.”  As the story unfolds, however, Andi finds a purpose. She starts to trust people, to let herself love. Although the world may be brutal and uncaring, Andi learns that she does not have to act in kind. She can let herself hope.

I also really enjoyed the characters in Revolution. Jennifer Donnelly has captured the life of a teenager in a compassionate and realistic manner. Andi, depressed and withdrawn, is the type of teenager most adults would label “no good.” However, Donnelly’s account of the young woman’s personal turmoil makes us sympathetic to her plight. I found myself truly caring for Andi Alpers.

On a side note, I heard about this book via Dana Huff’s website, Much Madness is Divinest Sense. I probably wouldn’t have selected this book on my own, but Dana spoke highly of it so I thought I would give it a try. I love it when a book recommendation leads me to a book I truly enjoy!

Mockingjay

3 Feb

*Sigh.* I just finished Mockingjay. I devoured the Hunger Games trilogy, impatient to discover what would happen to Katniss and Peeta. As I neared the end of Mockingjay, however, I deliberately slowed my pace, unwilling to say goodbye to the characters. It’s only been a day since I finished the book, but I already miss Katniss. Pathetic? Probably. But I have a feeling I’m not the only one …

After discovering the chink in the Capitol’s armor during the 75th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is rescued by rebels and becomes the unwilling symbol of the rebellion. Peeta, her Quarter Quell counterpart, is presumably taken captive by the Capitol. Katniss’s reluctant acceptance of the Mockingjay role hinges upon one important condition: that President Coin will grant immunity to all former Hunger Games victors.

Though she now lives in District 13, Katniss travels throughout the Districts shooting propaganda videos that endorse the rebels’ mission. At first, Katniss fulfills her duties as Mockingjay out of a sense of obligation; however, as she witnesses the unrest in Panem, Katniss realizes that she plays a pivotal role in the resistance. Katniss’s journey brings her to the Capitol itself with the intent of assassinating President Snow. While there, Katniss must make decisions that will affect not only her own future, but the future of Panem.

My thoughts are reeling after finishing this novel! I suspect the Hunger Games will stick with me for quite some time! One of my favorite aspects of the trilogy is the way in which Suzanne Collins navigates difficult moral issues. For example, her characters represent many differing attitudes about war. Gale, for instance, represents those who support war as a means by which to improve social conditions for the oppressed. Peeta, a pacifist, disagrees with Gale’s willingness to use the Capitol’s own violent tactics to bring it down. Despite their differences, Collins demonstrates how Gale and Peeta are both motivated by compassion. In doing so, the author refrains from endorsing her own political beliefs while challenging the reader to consider other opinions about war.

While I loved this novel as much as the others in the trilogy, I was disappointed with how abruptly Mockingjay seemed to end. Due to the exciting plot she created, Suzanne Collins certainly had a lot of loose ends to tie up; however, the ending of Mockingjay was less descriptive than the other two novels. The last couple chapters and the epilogue describe Katniss’s life after the Capitol is successfully overthrown. These chapters seem more like a list – first Katniss does this, then she does that … I would like to see more about how different Katniss’s life is now that the Capitol has fallen. I am, however, very satisfied with how the Katniss-Peeta drama resolved – I was  rooting for Peeta throughout the entire trilogy! 🙂

I suppose I should get back to real life now …