Posts Tagged ‘Moira Young’

Would you jump off a moving train? Climb a crumbling Ferris wheel? Zipline from a skyscraper into the pitch of night?

Me neither. But maybe that’s why I got such a rush reading Veronica Roth’s first YA novel, Divergent. Narrator Beatrice never thought of herself as a physically brave person. After all, in futuristic, dystopian Chicago, she has grown up in the faction Abnegation, devoted to the virtue of selflessness. Four other factions rule the city equally: Candor ( the honest), Amity (the peaceful), Erudite (the intelligent) and Dauntless (the brave).

But every year on an appointed day, all 16-year-olds select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. Most know ahead of time what they’ll choose because they’ve recently taken secret appitude/simulation tests. Beatrice’s results were logged as “inconclusive,” which may be why she finds herself joining Dauntless. First, though, she must survive the rigorous training, hazing and initiation rites. If she fails, she can’t return to Abnegation or transfer factions. No, she will become one of the “factionless,” living in the slums. It’s also entirely possible she could die trying to be Dauntless. Others do.

If Divergent sounds a bit like Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular The Hunger Games trilogy, well, it is. But so is a lot of other dystopian fiction going back over the years. It’s the familiar coming-of-age, hero’s-journey action-adventure tale. I read such novels when I was a teen and I’m still reading them, especially good ones like Divergent.

Roth’s world-building is amazing. The Dauntless leap on and off the still-running El as it thunders through the ruins of the city. The Ferris wheel that trembles at the touch is at abandoned Navy Pier. Fortunately, Tris, as she has renamed herself isn’t afraid of heights, unlike one of her enigmatic instructors known as Four. He seems almost nice to Tris, unlike the sadistic Eric.

Dauntless is not for the faint of heart or spirit. Tris struggles to survive in this truly brave new world, wondering who she can trust among her new “friends,” missing her family, and guarding a secret that could imperil the world as ske knows it. She confronts fears — real and simulated — she never knew she had. And she also begins to question a society built on and divided by its rigid rules and factions.

“He told me once to be brave, and though I have stood still while knives spun toward my face and jumped off a roof, I never thought I would need bravery in the small moments of my life. I do.”

Divergent left me breathless. How soon a sequel?

The sequel to Ally Condie’s recent dystopian novel, Matched, is called Crossed. It will be out in November. In Matched, the Society tells everyone what to do — what to eat, what to read, what pills to swallow, what job to take. Teenagers meet their future perfect mates at a special ceremony where faces appear upon a screen.

Cassia expects to see Xander, and she does, but for a brief instant, she sees the face of another boy, Ky. The Society says it’s just a glitch, but the Society never make mistakes. Or does it? Maybe it also matches people with the wrong careers…

Award-winning fantasy writer Robin McKinley’s last book, Pegasus, also ends on a cliffhanger, which means there better be a sequel. Gorgeously written and imagined, her world is inhabited by two species — humans and the winged creatures knows as the pegasi. Princess Sylvii is bonded to a rare black pegasus, Ebon, on her 12th birthday. While generally the two species can only communicate with the help of magicians, Slyvie and Ebon only need one another. The magicians see these two as a threat to their power and . . .

Ever since the Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece last week decrying the darkness and violence in YA fiction, the blogosphere has been all atwitter. As more than one person has noted, this is not a new complaint (S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders was published some 40 years ago), nor is it relevant. Many of us read adult books by Stephen King and James Bond as teens after cutting our teeth on gruesome Grimm. Vampires have been around for a really long time.

The WSJ writer suggested that teens read Betty Smith’s classic adult novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I think everyone should read this book, one of my all-time favorites that I first read the summer I was 10, and reread every summer thereafter. Brooklyn in the early 20th century was as foreign to me as Narnia, but I sure identified with 10-year-old Francie Nolan, who loved books. As Smith wrote, “The world was hers for the reading.” Other worlds, too. Amen.

Open Book: I bought the e-book version of Veronica Roth’s Divergence (HarperCollins Childrens Books). I received a galley of Ally Conde’s Matched (Penguin Young Readers) as part of of a web promotion. I bought the hardcover of Robin McKinley’s Pegasus (Penguin Group). I’ve just started reading an ARC of Moira Young’s post-apocalyptic YA novel Blood Red Road (Simon & Schuster Teen), which is suitably titled. And at last count, I have three copies of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I’ll loan out the trade paperback, but I want it back. Don’t make me come after you.

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