Excuses, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and Divergent.

The item “blog post” has been showing up on my teuxdeux list every day for something like three weeks. I keep ignoring it.

I refuse to blame “being busy” because I firmly believe that if you want to get something done, ask a busy person. Busy people know how to fit all kinds of stuff into a day. I know how to fit one thing into a day. I am not a busy person.

I did manage to busy myself reading 13 Little Blue Envelopes, which I had ignored until Maureen Johnson decided to give it away for free on Kindle, which is a testament to internet marketing. Although I’m not sure it was 100% successful as it did not quite motive me to buy the sequel yet. I also read Divergent. Everyone I talked to who read it was pretty much ambivalent about it, but for some reason that did not stop me.

13 Little Blue Envelopes is actually delightful, and I should really find new words to describe children’s and YA books that I like besides “delightful.” I loved the premise, that Ginny’s aunt wrote her 13 letters before she died that would lead her on a trip across Europe. It managed to deftly walk the line between trite and touching, and between too-high-concept and plausible. Ginny was believably flawed and relatable. The descriptions of Europe were nice and atmospheric. In the end, though, I flipped through (clicked through?) the excerpt from The Last Little Blue Envelope and couldn’t get myself excited to read it. I couldn’t spend THAT much time with Ginny. [SPOILER ALERT highlight to read] I am curious to find out how the hell some kid in England wound up with Ginny’s letter that was stolen in Greece, but not quite curious enough to read a whole book just yet. A wonderful train read at least. And made me want to take a trip around Europe.

Divergent was everything everyone said it would be: pretty exciting with an interesting premise but ultimately not that remarkable. The idea of seeing a futuristic dystopia of a city you actually know is pretty cool, so anyone who has spent a decent amount of time in Chicago will like hearing about what has happened to the city. I actually wish there was more detail on that front. Maybe because Veronica Roth went to Northwestern and she now lives “near Chicago,” as her author bio describes, so she’s not that into the geography of the actual city? Just kidding. That’s my U of C vs. Northwestern bizarre rivalry rearing its head. Maybe she wrote it and her editor cut it, I don’t know. I would have read it and liked it if there was more local detail is what I’m saying.

The premise is fascinating but clearly unrealistic. The people of Chicago have divided themselves into five factions: Abnegation for the self-less citizens, Dauntless for the brave ones, Erudite for the academics, Amity for the friendly, and Candor for the honest. It’s fun to imagine a society divided so drastically by personality traits, but I found it very hard to believe that anyone would have believed that this kind of arrangement would actually work without conflict. Also, that such a large percentage of the population would so clearly fall into one group. (Although I’m pretty sure I’d be Erudite, which made me sad when they were painted in such a negative light. Maybe that’s how all the kids who identified with Slytherin felt?) ALSO, that any teenager would choose Abnegation at the choosing ceremony. I can see why adults could join Abnegation. They seem a very noble and peaceful people. I do not know a single 16-year-old who is selfless, though. It seems like it would be a hard sell.

The book also features a very prominent and detailed romance plot-line, which I cannot handle reading in YA as an adult reader. I do not care about teenagers in love or like. In my goodreads review I called it “barf-inducing.” There’s not actually anything wrong with this part of the story, I just personally had no desire to read about it. At all.

And I could not quite get behind the ending. Also: does ANYONE write stand-alone dystopian/post-apocalypic books these days? They’re all trilogies. Just let me finish the story in one book for once.

Other people’s complaints about this book did not stop me from reading it, and in the end, I don’t think any of these complaints should keep anyone else from reading it. It’s a fun, exciting read and I happily finished it.

Coming up tomorrow: a post I wrote a long time ago when I was still in writing mode about Kevin Henkes’s new novel, Junonia. Let’s all cheer for post-dated posts!

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