Monday, June 11, 2012


On the second Monday of every month, we choose an outstanding YA book to review. We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors!

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Synopsis (from Goodreads): In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

Reading Divergent, Desert Hot Springs, California

There’s no better way to spend an afternoon in Desert Hot Springs, California than to sit next to the pool with a glass of sangria and a good book.  In this case, you guessed it, the book was DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth.   
First Line: "There is one mirror in my house." 

Holy cow, just one mirror?  I’m not a teen (nor hopefully an egomaniac) but even I can see the problems with having only one mirror (mind you my make-up trumps my boyfriend's hair any day). 

But enough about me, more importantly, the first line raises questions for the reader while providing clues about the world we’re about to enter. Why is there just one mirror?  Clearly, this is not your average household.  The sentence is short and to the point.  It sets the tone – something serious is going on. 

I recently got back from the SCBWI Canada East conference in Niagara, Canada.  If you can't make it to SCBWI New York or L.A. definitely consider Canada East for next year.  It is well worth the visit to the Falls (not to mention the scenery).  

It was there that I had the pleasure of listening to agent Tracy Adams of Adams Literary speak about the "It" factor and what it takes to have a great opening hook. 

Lets take a look at the rest of DIVERGENT's opening paragraph:

"It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs.  Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day of every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair."

What does this tell us?  A lot.  

1) It starts with action.  We can picture Tris sitting in front of the mirror as her mother cuts her hair.  

2) This is not the society we currently live in (unless anyone out there lives in a faction that I don't know of).  It's rules are definitely stricter than ours.  

3) Tris lives with her mother.  She willingly allows her to cut her hair. This implies that Tris is probably young and she follows the rules.  

What else? More questions.  Why is Tris living in a society of strict rules where her mother is the only one that cuts her hair?  Is she forced to?  Is this a choice? 

Should I be worried about Tris?  Should I be scared for her life?  I wouldn't want to be in Tris' shoes, so yes, to both.   

All this makes me want to read more.  Conclusion: the hook was a success.


Roth takes us on a journey.  But what I enjoyed most about DIVERGENT was not the physical journey but the mental one. I’m not living in a dystopian universe filled with four factions, but I can recall (unfortunately too clearly) my days as a teen struggling with identity and trying to balance between being a “good girl” and wanting to be a badass rebel.   

Notes for Writers: 

Roth has a way with words.  I particularly enjoyed the way she was able to put words together to describe not only features but the person behind them.  Take this sentence for example:

"His eyes are so deep-set that his eyelashes touch the skin under his eyebrows, and they are dark blue, a dreaming, sleeping, waiting color."  

A handsome thinker with dark blue eyes?  I'll take two please.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
A Good Read For: Similar to Marie Lu’s LEGEND, DIVERGENT is a good read for fans of/writers of dystopian fiction, science fiction, and action-adventure. It is action packed and even though these teens live in a dystopian universe, they act and feel (for better or worse) like real teens .  

The next book in the series, INSURGENT, has a release date of... oh wait, it's already been released! And it's another New York Times Bestseller.  So go get yours stat!

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