Monthly Archives: April 2014

Book 10 – Allegiant

“Allegiant” by Veronica Roth (2013)

Trilogies are right ‘on trend’. Especially if you are writing for the ‘on trend’ demographic of young adults. How old are young adults? What are their literary expectations. Is it unreasonable of me, at 47, to approach a book and apply my Gen X expectations to this category of fiction? I’m a teacher. I’m pretty sure I have a good sense of what the young adults I teach are looking for in books. But they don’t strike me as desperately in need of three books, when one might do. No one I talk to is desperate to share with me their deep and abiding love of a cliff hanger that’s 1700 pages long…

Did you know Evelyn Waugh had his manuscripts returned with instructions to shorten the narrative if they were more than 250 pages long? Why have publishers dropped their game? Why not demand a punchy story with a twist and satisfying conclusion in 250 pages. It seems like a reasonable idea to me. I mean, you could have a special exemption for a multi-generational saga, I suppose, but otherwise…

Which brings me to the ridiculous waste of my time and the world’s paper supply that is “Allegiant”. I mean, I’ve read some disappointing book twos and some disappointing book threes, but I have never before read a book three that has converted me from a fan of book one to a loud and proud critic of the entire damned franchise.

Go and read my blog of Book 5. Then read my blog of Book 8. Then ignore them both and give the Divergent trilogy a great big fat miss altogether. Because you know you won’t stop at book one. And, like me, you’ll be a little bit frustrated but stick along out of duty through book two. And then, then, then, when you have devoted a significant amount of your personal time to this crowd of characters and this (fairly implausible) dystopic future, then, you will read 490 of the 526 pages thinking, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, that seems unlikely, oh, that’s a bit of a plot contradiction, but, wait, I have a question… but okay, I’ll keep reading even though this isn’t actually making much sense, and the sudden shift from one perspective in books one and two to two perspectives in book three is … really … bloody … annoying … because I’ll get a conclusion that makes it all make sense… and then… and then…

Well, I’m no spoiler. Just don’t bother. This final book ruins all that was good about book one and sucks the somewhat limited life out of book two and made me crazy mad that I had invested so much time in most of book three.

A dumb idea. A dumb trilogy. An especially dumb last book. Don’t read any of them. And I’m so sure you shouldn’t bother with the movie either, not that I have or would, so I can say with, you know, authority. This book sucked.

Yep… still mad.

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Book 9 – The Incidental Muslim

“The Incidental Muslim” by Amal Awad (2014)

Last year I read a book called “Courting Samira” by Awad and found it a very powerful novel that explored the challenges of being a young Muslim woman in Australia. I wrote to Awad, told her I had blogged about the book, and arranged to buy 35 copies of it for my school. The result of this was more hits on my blog than I’d ever seen before, as Awad shared it on her book’s Facebook page, and a lovely exchange of emails between us.

As a result of all that excitement, Awad wrote to me a few weeks ago, asking for my mailing address. She had a new book published and wanted to send me a copy as a gift. I was extremely touched. The book, “The Incidental Muslim”, is a collection of columns and short essays written by Awad that have been published in various publications previously. This collection of musings, organised into sections such as: Career Woman; Body and the veil; Religion and identity; and The happiness delusion, explore Awad’s experiences, opinions and values. They make for interesting reading, and expand on the ideas of being Muslim in Australia.

At times, the chapters are a little repetitive, as the columns were written across long periods of time, but are now condensed. As an easy read, the hurdle was to not slip to skimming when it felt like we were covering the same ground more than once. Nevertheless, I found the book very interesting, and recommend it to anyone interested in the reality rather than the sensationalised ideas we too often read in the media.

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Book 8 – Insurgent

“Insurgent” by Veronica Roth (2012)

This is book two in the Divergent trilogy and it does deliver, but there are some aspects that bothered me. Without doubt, it was hard to put down, and I was very keen to see where the plot was heading without feeling any sense of predictability or frustration, which can happen with second books. However, there are too many characters and it was frequently annoying, realising I wasn’t at all sure who the characters were that Tris was worried about or bothered by. And, to be honest, this never improved, throughout the book.

At the end of “Divergent” we were left with a cliffhanger. Without any spoilers, it is fair to say that the first book makes you want to pick up book two as quickly as possible, and the same can be said of book two. Questions raised in book one are answered, the action is fast-paced and satisfying, but yet again, a cliffhanger leaves me wanting to grab book three and ignore all the other books waiting. It will wait, though, as I am already a couple of chapters in to a very interesting non-fiction read.

If you are interested enough to read “Divergent” you will be keen to read this book and keener still to read the final instalment, “Allegiant”.

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