Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The H.Y.P.E. Project: The Conclusion!

If you have been sticking around for a while, you may or may not have noticed I've been working on the H.Y.P.E. Project, a self-assigned reading project dedicated to hyped up YA novels of the past two years, since June 2011. Ten books, nine months, and a short lists of statistics of my results that I would like to show the world.

Total number of books read: 10
  • Number of books that lived up to their hype: 4.5 (Unearthly by Cynthia Hand, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (bad kind of hype), Halo by Alexandra Adornetto (again, the bad kind of hype), Die for Me by Amy Plum (this is the one-half because it did kind of live up it), Across the Universe by Beth Revis)
  • Number of books that did not live up to their hype: 5.5 (Nightshade by Andrea Cremer, Matched by Ally Condie, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Die for Me by Amy Plum (didn't live up to it in certain ways), Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini)
If you want to see my reviews for the books, you can check the "h.y.p.e. project" tag attached to this post or check the link above, where I included more links to the reviews. Now for a few unorthodox stats I'm including just because I can:

Number of series the project had me read the first book of: 10
  • Number of series I have continued/will continue: 1
  • Number of series where the idea of continuing on makes me want to cry: 9
Number of books I will be seeing in my nightmares: 4 (One of them has already been there and given me a great idea. Half-angel warrior with a necklace made of demon teeth!)

Amount of time wasted: None, in a sense. I've gotten something out of all the books, even if my only gains from a particular book might be headaches and the desire never to write such a horrible book.

Will I ever do a second H.Y.P.E. Project? I doubt it. If I have the chance to read a book people are talking about and interested in it at all on its own merit, I will read it. If what I've heard about it has kept me away from it (like with Nightshade, Matched, Halo, and Delirium, which I happily avoided until I decided they qualified), I'll stay away from it like I've stayed away from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. There is huge reader and blogger hype behind it, but I know it won't go over well with me.

Thanks for sticking around and dealing with me, everyone! I am so, so happy to be finished with this.

    H.Y.P.E. Project: Divergent by Veronica Roth

    Title: Divergent
    Author: Veronica Roth
    Publisher: HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books
    Release Date: May 3, 2011
    Pages: 487 pages (hardcover)
    How I Got the Book: Bought it for the H.Y.P.E. Project (details here)

    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.

    Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

    Review:

    Characters

    Hands-down, Tris was the best part of the book. Her fantastic character development as the switch from Abnegation to Dauntless changed her in some ways and left her untouched in others is the kind of stuff I want to see in every book, not every few months in rare books. When the boys took her to the Pit to scare her, I felt fiercely angry for her and hoped the boys would get their just desserts eventually. The other characters were so pale next to her, people colored with just twelve crayons instead of two-hundred fifty-six like Tris.

    It dampened my buzz a little every time I remembered there isn't anything truly extraordinary about Tris, though. Objectively, she is unusual because she is the average human being thrown into a sea of people wired like robots instead of human beings. Is that the best way for her to stand out? Because she is the only normal one in a crowd of abnormal people (and they are only abnormal because they are not written the way they should be)? Tris deserves better than that.

    Really, characters other than Tris (and possibly other Divergents) just don't form connections to their families and have no issues with dropping them if they leave for another faction? Are there drugs in the water? That isn't the way a human being works. Humans are social animals and form deep connections with friends and family. Being able to sever those connections as easily as everyone apparently does in the world of Divergent? That doesn't happen very often.

    Plot/Pacing

    This was largely what I heard about Divergent prior to reading it: It's so exciting that it will make you want to pee your pants and you'll be glued to the book from the first page to the last.

    Well? Where was the excitement for most of the novel?

    The last eighty pages did catch my attention and kept me reading when I had other work to do.The four hundred pages before that were a very different story. Jumping in and out of trains to get around isn't exciting to me; it's stupid, as demonstrated when a Dauntless girl died leaping out of a train. Really, when only ten new members are allowed into Dauntless per year, they need to keep all the people alive that they can. Until Tris started navigating her fear landscape near page four-hundred, I could easily put the book down.

    Moreover, it didn't take me thirty seconds to figure out what was going to go down, who was involved in the evil plot, and how they were going to do it. The hints had spotlights on them and such pains were gone to so Tris (and the reader by extension) would know what the big deal about being Divergent was that it gave everything away. So I suppose Divergent is decently plotted, but it is painfully transparent in its execution. I don't like waiting one-hundred fifty pages for the villains to reveal themselves when I've been aware of them the entire time.

    Themes/Conflicts

    I have little to say here. The points about what courage means (doing something even though you are afraid) are valid and everything Tris had to go through to figure them out was great character development for her. The conflict between the Dauntless initiates was well-drawn considering exactly where they were and what would happen if they didn't make it in.

    Writing

    The writing was nothing outstanding in terms of its stylistic choices and descriptions, but it never distracted from Tris' trials or what was going on and worked well with the kind of story being told. If I had to make a clear verdict (and I do), I would say the writing is great. Not poetic-great or I'll-remember-it-forever great, but a writing style so smooth that you never need to stop and consider a bad description or watch the atmosphere fall apart because of a disastrous choice of words is respectable.

    Logic


    I'm sorry, what?

    (I really don't use GIFs often, but this about sums up my feelings about the logic of Divergent... and it involves a kitten. Leave me alone.)

    What happened to Chicago? How did this deeply flawed society develop? How did it not fall apart ages ago? Why did anyone think the faction system was going to prevent war when history has shown time and time again that creating deep divisions between people like the faction system does will lead to war? The prejudice the Erudite had against the Abnegation demonstrates exactly this. Also, what kind of government would let large numbers of the factionless stay around, become bitter at the system for its highly unfair processes and its inability to give everyone a fair go, and possibly plot their own revolution? It looks like you're pretty much done for life once you're declared factionless. Because of that, I'm surprised and a little disappointed the factionless played no real part in the novel..

    Stick around for the sequels, some of you might say to me. That's what sequels are for: expanding on the first book. Why should I get the sequel? Tell me. Why should I? The first book of a series is supposed to hook me for sequels and Divergent failed to do so. Too many questions are left unanswered or with hints at an unsatisfying answer and I did not like the book overall. I highly doubt paying $17.99 for Insurgent when it comes out and spending several days reading it will be a worthwhile investment of my time and money.

    Was it worth the hype?

    Not at all. For all the good word I've heard, for all the time my friends have spent talking it up, and for all the accolades it's getting, I don't see what the big deal about Divergent is. So many questions are left unanswered, but I lack the motivation to keep an eye out for Insurgent when it comes out in about three months.

    Bonus cover section

    I envy the abilities of the person who made this cover. As I've learned in the past year and a half, digital design is not easy and the cover, down to the details of each and every little flame of the Dauntless symbol, looks flawless. Great focus, understated fonts--I would love to be able to create something like this some day instead of turning green over someone else's ability to do it.

    2 stars! (But I would put it closer to 2.5 stars.)


    What am I reading next?: Embrace by Jessica Shirvington

    Monday, February 27, 2012

    The Alchemy of Forever by Avery Williams

    Title: The Alchemy of Forever
    Author: Avery Williams
    Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
    Release Date: January 3, 2012
    Pages: 246pages (hardcover)
    How I Got the Book: Simon Pulse It

    After spending six hundred years on Earth, Seraphina Ames has seen it all. Eternal life provides her with the world's riches but at a very high price: innocent lives. Centuries ago, her boyfriend, Cyrus, discovered a method of alchemy that allows them to take the bodies of other humans from jumping from one vessel to the next, ending the human's life in the process. No longer able to bear the guilt of what she's done, Sera escapes from Cyrus and vows to never kill again.

    Then sixteen-year old Kailey Morgan gets into a horrific car accident right in front of her, and Sera accidentally takes over her body while trying to save her. For the first time, Sera finds herself enjoying the life of the person she's inhabiting--and falling in love with the boy who lives next door. But Cyrus will stop at nothing until she's his again, and every moment she stays, she's putting herself and the people she's grown to care about in danger. Will Sera have to give up the one thing that's eluded her for centuries: true love?

    Review:

    I'll try to keep this review as short as the book.

    The Alchemy of Forever isn't exactly the most original book on the block. It may seem like it if you aren't into anime like I have been for most of my life (yeah, I was one of the little kids obsessed with Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z--there were a lot of us back then), you may not have heard of a show called Fullmetal Alchemist. The idea of two lovers using alchemy to switch bodies for centuries so they'll never die, then one of the lovers leaving when they get sick of it, may sound familiar if you've seen enough of FMA and gotten to a certain point. That was something in the show I wanted to see a little more of and in a way, that is what brought me to read The Alchemy of Forever.

    Disregarding that point, the book is a quick read and difficult to let go of. I sat down at four in the afternoon and despite various interruptions, I was finished with it by eight-thirty. Seraphina's story is well-paced and interesting, but it's not overly involving. Its subject matter and occasionally suicidal heroine don't seem like they would make for a very fluffy book, but something about the novel feels so fluffy. Insubstantial, maybe. Yeah, I think that's the word I'm going for.

    Some inconsistency issues--one minute, Seraphina is a genuinely horrible liar; the next, she's such a good liar that she fools a man who has known her for six hundred years--knew her so well, in fact, that he could predict her dreams--and "misses nothing"-- were the largest problems that stuck out content-wise. A cliffhanger I saw coming from a few miles away closes the book and sets up the next novel, but what I read makes me unsure I should invest in this series. The Alchemy of Forever isn't a bad book at all. It simply could be better than it is right now.

    3 stars!


    What am I reading next?: A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies