Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"Divergent" by Veronica Roth

Dystopian societies continue to reign the Young Adult genre with the highly praised Divergent series. Beatrice discovers that her mind can't be controlled, which makes her a target in society. The high point of the series is that while Tris does have a love interest and great friends, she learns how to defend herself. She has her own opinions and she is willing to fight for them. The strong heroine in this series encourages readers to become strong as well. The first two books in the series builds up only to be let down in the last installment. The third book makes the series seem pointless within the first 100 pages, although it continues on for 400 more pages. As a whole, the books encourage young women to become strong and understand the meaning of sacrifice and love.

Beatrice Prior takes a test that is supposed to tell her what future to choose. However, the test fails because Beatrice is different. She is able to choose her path but in this society, being able to choose is bad. Beatrice changes her name to Tris and hopes to hide the truth about what she can do.

Highlights: Transformation from Beatrice to Tris

Lowlights: Violence, rejection


Tris struggles to deal with the deaths of those close to her that were inadvertently caused by her. She also learns that there are more people like her and Jeanine Matthews is determined to destroy them all.

Highlights: A new family

Lowlights: Betrayal

Tris and the others finally go beyond the wall and learn the truth about the rest of the world. Tobias struggles to learn about science and how it relates to your decisions and actions.

Highlights: Learning the truth about sacrifice and love

Lowlights: The "experiment," the ending

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- dystopian setting, strong heroine
Matched by Ally Condie- dystopian setting, love triangle

Illustrations proved by Goodreads

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games trilogy was one of the first series that brought dystopian societies back into the conversation since The Giver. The series centers around Katniss, a teenager who volunteers herself in the place of her sister during the annual Hunger Games. However, Katniss proves to be a strong competitor and soon, she has most of the districts standing behind her. Although the series has the usual rebellion against the government and a love triangle, the main theme of the books is family. Katniss would do anything for her sister and this bond is what drives her to do right. The character of Katniss also grows to have confidence in herself throughout the series. For these reasons, the series has proven to be a good influence on young adult readers. Overall, the writing is easy for all levels of readers to understand and the descriptions throughout the series easily allow readers to immerse themselves in this world.

The Hunger Games
Katniss volunteers herself in the place of her sister. The other chosen tribute from her district is Peeta, a boy that she knows and has history with. During the Games, she must partner with him in order to go home.

Highlights: The cave scene

Lowlights: Goodbye to Rue

Catching Fire

In the Quarter Quell, Katniss and Peeta are forced to go back to the arena. This time, they face other victors. Katniss wants to make sure Peeta wins but everyone else has another agenda.

Highlights: The beach scene

Lowlights: Peeta's selflessness


District 12 is gone but District 13 provides a new home for the survivors. Katniss must become the leader of the rebellion. Peeta returns but he is changed. War erupts and Katniss will do what she can to fight.

Highlights: Katniss as a leader

Lowlights: The bombing

The Giver by Lois Lowry- the first dystopian novel
Divergent by Veronica Roth- dystopian setting, strong heroine

Illustrations provided by Goodreads

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Twilight" by Stephanie Meyer

The Twilight series challenged everything readers thought they knew about vampires. The books focus on the romance between Bella Swan, a human girl, and Edward Cullen, a century old vampire. The alluring part of the series is that behind the romance and the love triangle that develops, Bella has to come to terms with who she wants to be in the future in order to truly love someone. Of course there are parts that are dramatic and overdone but the writing is simple and easy to read. The series became a movie phenomenon and inspired a lot of fan fiction. Although mainstream media has taken over the series, it was a turning point in young adult culture. New readers became interested in the young adult genre and books about the supernatural began to receive more publicity than ever.

Bella, the new girl, catches Edward Cullen's attention. They become obsessed with one another and Edward reveals his secret: he's a vampire. A forbidden romance develops.

Highlights: Portland rescue, prom

Lowlights: Hunter vampires

New Moon
No matter how they feel, Bella can't change that she's human. Jacob steps up to help Bella fix her broken heart. However, Jacob has his own destiny that he can't escape from.

Highlights: Motorcycles, new beginnings

Lowlights: The despair of heart-break

Bella is in love with two boys and neither of them is human. By choosing one, she will decide the path for her future. A familiar vampire reappears, threatening Bella's life.

Highlights: Tents

Lowlights: The silent treatment

Breaking Dawn
Bella has chosen her life and she can't wait to start living it. However, something derails her: a baby. A half-human half-vampire baby is supposed to be impossible. Once word gets out, the vampire world feels threatened. Will the Cullen clan be wiped out as a result? Will there be a happy ending?

Highlights: The wedding, a piece of forever

Lowlights: Melodramatic fights

Dracula by Bram Stoker- the original vampire
The Shiver Trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater- werewolves
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead- teenage vampires

Illustrations provided by Goodreads

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"Harry Potter" by J.K. Rowling

Everyone is familiar with the Boy Who Lived. Harry Potter has been a cult classic since the first book was released in the U.K. in 1997. The series follows Harry, an orphan that discovers he is a wizard and a very important one at that. The Wizarding World has been a quiet place since Harry defeated Lord Voldemort but there are always rumors of his return. What makes this series great is the fact that every reader can connect to Harry on some level, whether it's through his journey to find meaning in the death of his parents or struggling to understand friendship. Although it's been ten years since the last book was published, it's clear that the series will continue to live on.

 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry learns that he's a wizard and he begins attending the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry makes friends with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Not everyone is excited to have him there.

Highlights: Friendships, Quidditch

Lowlights: The Dursleys, going home

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Hogwarts feels like home but Harry receives messages that he shouldn't be there. He learns that he can talk to snakes, a skill that dark wizards possess. Could this skill be used for good?

Highlights: Dobby the house elf

Lowlights: Arrogant teachers

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry learns more about his parents through their friends. One becomes a professor at Hogwarts and the other, an accused murderer, escapes from prison. Harry realizes that his past is more complicated than it seemed.

Highlights: Patronus Charms

Lowlights: Dementors

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Two wizarding schools arrive to participate in the Triwizard Tournament. Harry is content to watch but his name is drawn and he must compete. The games turn out to be a cover-up for more.

Highlights: Hermione's romance

Lowlights: Harry and Ron's fight

 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
No one believes it when Harry says that Lord Voldemort is back. Even Harry's mentor, Dumbledore, avoids him. Harry struggles to deal with qualities he shares with Voldemort and he discovers how he's connected to Voldemort.

Highlights: Secret societies, the prophecy

Lowlights: Professor Umbridge

 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry is back in Dumbledore's good graces as they learn as much as possible about Voldemort. Harry finds a book that helps him excel in Potions Class but leaves him wondering who the owner was.

Highlights: Quality time with Dumbledore

Lowlights: The ending
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry, Ron, and Hermione team up to destroy horcruxes. Harry struggles to accept Dumbledore's past and he discovers a different side of someone he thought he knew. Harry also learns what it means to live and to die.

Highlights: Friendship, love

Lowlights: The struggle of grief

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith- written by J.K. Rowling, for an older audience
The Lord of the Rings by J.R. Tolkien- fantasy, 3 volumes

Illustrations provided by Goodreads