Friday, March 30, 2012

On the Pretty Bookshelf: March '12 Edition

This is the latest in my monthly series about what I'm reading, either for myself or for/with my toddler; for more detailed bookstalking, please let me bore you over at Goodreads too.
Do you believe in ghosts?

Me too.

Specifically, it's the one ghost - the ghost of my 9th grade Honors English teacher - who haunts me to this day with that skeptically raised brow of hers whenever I'm tempted by a popular, seemingly puff piece of a read.

With that specter looming over my reader's conscience, I mightily resisted this month's favorite, chanting "But it's popular, which must mean it's not very good" to myself as I kept adding it & removing it from my online library queue, clinging to the shreds of my literary snobbishness. It's where my Venn diagram overlaps with Hipster Nation's - if something is popular, I want to dislike it on principle.

Alas, I'm only human - and a human prone to loving trendy teenage fiction at that. With apologies to Miss F. - I tried to resist, I truly did - I bring you my March favorite, as well as one for Master P. I'm late to the trendy bandwagon here, but you know what they say about better late, etc.:

For the Grown Ups (and - ok, ok, Teenagers)

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Image via Barnes & Noble
You know when you finish a book and you just can't shake it? You walk around in a bit of a haze, forgetting things you're supposed to do and children you're supposed to be watching and staring off into space?

If I'm making this sound like a crush, that's because I'm in the first blush of book crush with Divergent, which I just finished today after staying up far too late the past few nights whizzing through it.

A fast-paced, action-packed debut novel in the young adult & dystopian genres, Divergent is the story of sixteen-year-old Beatrice, who is living in what appears to be Chicago of the future; it's a bleak, barely recognizable world divided into five factions, one of which Beatrice must pledge allegiance to in an upcoming ritual ceremony. Her decision there sets off a chain reaction which gravely affects not only her but also her family, her faction, and this new world (dis)order.

There is a temptation to write this book off as a Hunger Games knockoff. While there are definite similarities - a seemingly ordinary heroine who discovers unknown strengths, a dystopian world in which the grown-ups in power are the last people suited for the job, a coming-of-age love story, adolescent themes of alienation and struggling to find identity - Divergent stands on its own as a compelling exploration of that truism about absolute power corrupting absolutely, amongst other themes.

I am heartened to see a generation of young writers creating strong female protagonists like Beatrice, in a culture that still wants to reduce us to a number on a scale. You can bet your, uh, faction that Beatrice has better things to do than worry about her weight.

As bacon is the gateway drug for many a former vegetarian, so this should be not only a thrilling read on its own but also an introduction to the literary dystopian gems - Lord of the Flies, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, etc. 

For the (Trying to Discipline the) Toddler Set

1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 by Thomas Whelan

Image via Barnes & Noble

My wee CEO, perhaps in his own dystopian literary gesture, has taken to questioning authority. Repeatedly. While this is a terrific idea for your average fictional heroine (or, ya know, grown up person), it's less good in an almost two-year-old - unless you view an arms flailing, body-flung-on-floor screechy tantrum as good informed citizen training.

As with many things in parenting, the toddler discipline theory/book I wanted to love ("Love & Logic", for anyone else in the toddler trenches) just hasn't worked out for him. A friend sent me this, and so far, it's a much better a fit for my Master P.

This book, like any, has a lot that just isn't applicable to younger children; the bits that are relevant, though, have been very helpful in our coming up with a discipline system. It's an easy, quick read, which I appreciate since I tend to be reading these books when I'm at my wit's end and would rather be diving into the latest popular YA novel.


What are you reading lately? Any recommendations on the dystopian literature front - or for resident young-rebels-in-training?


Valerie Griffin said...

I finished Divergent on Wednesday. REALLY enjoyed and I'm looking for the sequel in May!

Nicole F said...

I loved Divergent and agree with your "can't shake it" assessment. I'm glad I'm following you on good reads now:)

Adrienne said...

I'm so happy I'm not the only one with the "can't shake it" mentality post a wonderful read. I felt exactly the same after Divergent. It was phenomenal.

I was worried too, about Divergent being a knock-off of the Hunger Games, but I realized that it's more the genre that makes it seem so, especially when I started to discover other wonderful dystopian finds.

Another fantastic dystopian is "Wither" by Lauren DeStefano. It's another trilogy, but the second book is already out, so you won't have to wait. It's also not as popular (yet), so you can avoid the ghosts of English teachers past.

Happy Reading!

P.S. I read Love + Logic during my elementary ed undergrad. Loved it in theory, never in practice.

Brandy said...

I was obsessed with Hunger Games and found Divergent to be (almost but not quite as) awesome! I loved Beatrice! And I, too, feel like it's so great to see young, strong, female characters! These dystopian plots are just so fascinating. As for what I'm reading now, I just finished Fever (the sequel to Wither). (I wrote a review at

hima said...

I'm a huge fan of the Hunger Games, although I haven't seen it yet. I thought that the book cover of Divergent, from the picture on my reading list, was the Hunger Games cover. Thanks for posting this, because now I have yet another book to add to my reading list! I mean, similar to the Hunger Games, strong female protagonist; what could go wrong!


Wendy said...

I loved Divergent too!!! Can't wait for the second one. Sometimes I think I loved it more than The Hunger Games!!! I'm reading the second book in the Delirium Series - pretty good. Very similar, but not as good as Divergent! Also bought The Happiness Project today and can't wait to start it. My MIL just finished Defending Jacob and she said it was wonderful, so that will be my next read I guess.

Jen said...

I keep hearing about that book, and Ed (my husband) and I bought a copy on Friday to read together!

I also wanted to let you know that I am hosting an Easter Basket link-up on my blog this week. Hop on over and post a pic of the wee CEO's Easter Basket once the bunny has prepared it. : )

KTBFerg said...

I read Divergent back in December & loved it! I've preordered the second book from amazon. I think it is scheduled to come out in May!

Emily said...

I can't decide why I like Divergent better than THG, but I do. Maybe because the relationship between Tris and Four is better than Katniss and Peeta? I don't know. But I completely agree...I couldn't stop thinking about it when I finished.

Wiz said...

This is on my list! I am currently in the middle of the Hunger Games series and love it! I love being a mama, but I sure dont have much time to read!

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