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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Review: Divergent Series - Veronica Roth

Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Dystopian, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Divergent is about a world that has long since had its World War III and is trying to piece itself back together. A group of people living within walls of a broken down Chicago, where Lake Michigan is all but gone. Five factions - a way of dividing society so it prospers - manage day to day lives. Abnegation is the government. They are selfless and are trusted to make and uphold laws because of their natural ability to deny themselves what they want most. Candor manages law. The Candors are honest to a fault - annoyingly so. So it stands to reason that they handle the law the same way. Amity are the food producers. They are kind and value peace above all things. They are silly and loving and will do whatever they need to in order to avoid conflict. Erudite are smart. They handle technology and science. This faction is where the doctors and the computer techs reside. And then there is Dauntless. They are the ones who guard the city and its people. They are the ones who keep the town safe and look to help those who cannot help themselves when it comes to violence. They are reckless and brave.

When the children of the city turn 16. They are tested for their traits and have to decide which faction suits them. They then go to live in that faction. They can choose to stay in their own, even if they test differently. But if they choose to go to a different faction, they are asked to cleave to their faction. They believe strongly in "faction before family".

Beatrice Prior is a small, colorless girl. She is seemingly timid. She tries to adhere to her Abnegation teachings, but feels she is not worthy of the selfless behavior her faction exhibits. The books are about about her choice and how she deals with it.

There are so many wonderful aspects to this story. Tris Prior is a small heroine that becomes larger than life as her story unfolds. Her small, paleness is outweighed by her ability to take several of her traits and use them. She becomes striking and brave and is strong beyond some of her larger more beautiful cohorts. She is not afraid to be who she is. She grows throughout the books. She is not perfect; She is flawed. Her journey is not easy. She fights her own frailties and flounders a bit. I love this about her.

Four is her trainer and her strong support. He is an amazing character in that he has very few fears. He guards those fears but allows himself to be vulnerable with Tris. His own story unfolds and makes someone seemingly invincible become wonderfully human.

Each faction has merit, but it also has its equal failings. Veronica Roth builds an amazing story around human traits that allows us to see that each person has potential to be their very best or very worst self. Our choices are what propel us to be more than we ever thought: Or end us.

I loved these books. Hated the movies. What's new?

The stories have language and premarital sex. It is not rampant. The kids are little adults. Seem to be much older than they actually are. Tris and Four's relationship is fairly balanced. It is very mature. Parents are present - but are background characters. They are also a mixed bag of good and bad. Some better than others. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Review - Lux Novels - Jennifer L. Armentrout

Lux Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Publisher: Entangled Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal

The Lux series is about a group of aliens that travelled to earth to live. They have assimilated seamlessly - or have seemed to until some unexpected things occur. A Floridian named Katy that moves to West Virginia is our heroine. Her dad died of cancer and her devoted work-a-holic mom is wanting to start over in a new place. Ketterman, West Virginia is a very small town full of strange people. And there is an obvious tension from the very beginning. Her next door neighbors are siblings. Beautiful siblings. Her first encounter is with an annoying but beautiful boy named Damon. She then gets to meet his equally beautiful sister who is charming and very likable. They are destined to become great friends - in spite of huge differences. Those differences are what this book is based on. That - and overcoming those differences. And of course an undeniable sexual attraction. A girl - who doesn't really know she is beautiful and a boy - who definitely does know he is beautiful - fall in love. Each additional book opens to new characters and perpetuates the saga of Katy and Daemon as well as Daemon's family and those connected with  a secret government operation that uses people to further their plans. No one can be trusted (but the person you love and that loves you back) and everyone has a dark side.

These books are easy reading, light, fun and exciting. Jennifer Armentrout is good at hooking you into reading more. Young adults and teens will eat it up.

I like that she takes different groups of characters and shows there are good ones and bad ones. There is no black and white - lots of gray, all good all bad. Each person has strengths and frailties - they can be good - but they can be bad. It takes into account that bad decisions can't be undone. They can be absolved by sincerity of intention - as long as that person is willing to look past what is seemingly too big of an obstacle to overcome. There is also a sense of working off your bad decisions - making it right.

Titillation (I really don't like this word - but it is accurate) is all throughout the book. It will hold a teen or young adult captive for sure. There is pre-marital sex and absentee parents abound. These kids are raising themselves. With limited help from supportive and loving parents. A teenager's dream. If only all teenagers were as mature as these kiddos. Another thing that realistically speaking our young people need to realize, is that it takes more than just loving one person and them loving you back to keep you happy. There are parts of the book that make Katy and Daemon's complete and utter happiness in their love seem like the pinnacle of all things. Which, of course, is not true.

And the kids have potty mouths. Words like douchebag, dickhead, slut shaming, and there are others - such as fuck -  but you get the picture. Really not so different than what I hear in the hallways at school. If you have a teenager - they have more than likely heard these words. It is a maturity thing. Most kids grow out of it. But you need to know it is there.

Jennifer Armentrout has young adult fiction and she labels it well. It really is all about the relationship. Katy is sassy and she doesn't cave to the male lead. She fights him and herself to be who she is. Does she care about others in relation to Daemon? Yes - she does. The couple is a happy accident though. Typical pushing away because of the inability to believe he could be attracted to her but the attraction cannot be stopped and therefore they end up in a big mess that has to be overcome because of their - da da da dum....forbidden love. But it is an enjoyable big mess.

She also does adult fiction which - if your teen tumbles into looking for more of her books - is soft porn. And it is racy stuff. You should be aware of that. And it is available from your online library - so they can have it on their device and you might never know unless you are pretty good at keeping up with what they download.

My job in this review is not to recommend one way or the other. It is strictly to give parents an idea of what their child is reading. And if you find they are reading it, the information above should give you a good basis to ask questions that will allow them to think realistically.

God bless and keep you.
Happy Reading

Reviews and Tools For Parents and Teachers

I am going to start reviewing books. I read a lot of books. I read a lot of Young Adult fiction. You know why? Because I have worked with high school kids for 30 years and I know how easily influenced they can be by the written word. Especially romance and the ideas that come with those mush laden stories. My girls - and boys - need me to know what they are reading. They need YOU  to know what they are reading. There are tools we can give them that will help them enjoy and be balanced in their reading. It's hard work. Especially if you don't love to read. But I am here to help you. (smile)

When Twilight was the thing I remember seeing some of my girls reading it and telling them, "It's a fun read - but please...PLEASE understand, a guy climbing through your window and watching you sleep is not sexy. In reality - it is seriously CREEPY. And you would freak the heck out -that's a normal response. Hear me - normal response is to freak the heck out - do NOT think that is something you want." I laughingly deliver this - but I am so serious. They know it.

Not kidding. Our kids need to be told this. OK - Some of our kids. I would have been one of those kids. The fairy tale was what I wanted to be reality and it got me into a bit of trouble at times.

Another thing that comes with the dose of good common sense while reading these books is the ability to tell myself that I will not feed into the rampant PATHOS. Yes. I said PATHOS. I cry - I can feel so sorry for the heroine - and in turn - I feel sorry for myself. This 51 year old woman has put herself in the place of the 18 - 23 year old in the book and am totally bawling over the unfairness of life. Thankfully - when I finish I can talk to myself and say it's pitiful. Feeling sorry for myself does me no good. Yes, I understand hard things happen - but I can shake it off and move forward. I don't always think our sweet girls or boys do this. They kind of hunker down in the hormones and waller. Please understand - the comforting blanket of mutual understanding these books bring to our kids, can be a dangerous place. We do not need to let them escape permanently into the realm of books and get lost. It can happen. And generally what happens is they try to live it out in their day to day life. This needs to be constructively nipped. Teach them how to talk to themselves about these books. Teach them how to disassociate themselves from the heroines or heroes in a realistic way. This will actually help them take away the good stuff the book offers and leave the weird stuff, or even the unhealthy stuff behind. Momentary loss of self in books is an amazing thing. But we do need to escape to reality. Our kids can be taught this. It is important.

As a parent or teacher, we also need to understand what context we are wanting to deliver information to our child or student. That would be our morals, our guide to living well, our religious or social beliefs. Heck yeah we are to set up a network of our teaching that will help our kiddos make it through the middle and high school years and on through college. Know what you believe, construct a scaffold of truths to live by and teach it to your kids. Teaching the love of reading with a good framework in place will lead to balance and healthy self-image. Of course as a teacher in a school, your religious and social beliefs should be yours and kept that way, parents can give their kids that information and of course the kids will make their own choices as they get older. But a good foundation of thinking of others, being aware of their surroundings, being grounded in reality and being kind, is a great point of view to start reading a book.

I hope this helps with knowing what works for your student to read. I think that knowing your child and their personality will help as well. Your best tool is to know the book to be able to discuss it with them - in a casual manner. Asking questions to get them to form an opinion about how that book relates to them is also a great thing.

Happy Reading folks!
My first review will be the series of Lux novels by Jennifer L. Armentrout. So be looking for it!