Wordy Wednesday: The Trickster Figure

Here we go. Last couple days of the semester!

Yesterday was my twenty-first birthday, which I celebrated with lots of unhealthy food and people I love (and just a little champagne at midnight, because while I am far too much of a control freak to ever want to even get buzzed, I’m cool with a little celebratory champagne).

My last final of the semester is tomorrow, then I’m freeee. Finally. I loved my classes this school year, but I need a break.

One of the classes I took (and absolutely adored) this semester was Fantasy Literature. We read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. We dissected excerpts from The Lord of the Rings, short stories by Ray Bradbury, and an episode of The Twilight Zone. We watched Pan’s Labyrinth, Doctor Who, Star Trek, The Matrix. Basically: it was amazing.

More than anything else, what stuck with me from this class were our discussions about the Trickster Figure.

We used the term in relation to the Jungian archetype, and defined it as being someone–usually of some sort of lesser status (a child, or someone from a lower class, etc.)–who defies the rules of society in a way that is cunning (and often entertaining). For example, a classic Trickster Figure is Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

The other thing our professor pointed out, though, was the way Tricksters weren’t always that obvious. In fact, most Fantasy protagonists fit the role (as well as a lot of YA protags).

Take Harry Potter, for example. JK Rowling describes him as being kind of scrawny and gangly. He isn’t amazing at magic (although he is good at the things he works hard at) and he’s not super charismatic. But The Boy Who Lived does manage to defeat He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named–by tricking Lord Voldemort.

Likewise, Katniss survives the Hunger Games by outsmarting the Capitol and Tris’s whole superpower of divergence is built on her, you know, diverging from societal norms.

As a society and a generation, we’re in love with the Trickster Figure. The person who’s always one step ahead–unbreakable. We flock to see superhero and spy movies. (And speaking of Tricksters, who doesn’t adore Tom Hiddleston’s Loki?)

Why? You can argue that there’s something exciting about the act of deception. Secrets and cunning and that moment a superhero pulls off the mask. But what does that say about us? The fact that we seem to be so addicted to that excitement?

My first inclination is to say it means we’re bored with the mundanity of everyday life. We’re too set in our rhythms or too scared/tired/whatever to break the rules, so we live vicariously through the Trickster Figures’ adventures.

But while this might be true to an extent, I think more than that it comes back to Robin Hood.

People didn’t start telling the stories of Robin Hood because they were bored or scared. They told the stories about him because Robin Hood, as a character, was empowering.

After all, I doubt any of us want to live through the Hunger Games or go wand-to-wand with Voldemort. But seeing someone–and not just anyone, but an underdog–go up against something so terrible, and succeed, shows us that we could succeed against the antagonistic forces of our own lives too.

All this to say: I think Trickster Figures are awesome. And I’m happy they’re something everybody’s into right now. And while we already have a lot of Tricksters in the books and movies coming out these days, I want more.

After all, I doubt I’ll ever stop loving that squirm in my stomach I get every time a superhero reveals his/her identity to someone s/he loves for the first time.

**********

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

DIVERGENT Movie Reaction

If you’ve been following me for a while, then you know I was very excited, but also very nervous for the Divergent film adaption. I wasn’t a fan of a lot of the promotional stuff, and quite a few of the casting decisions had me nervous (particularly Shailene Woodley as Tris, Theo James as Four, and Ben Lloyd-Hughes as Will; so, you know, no one important).

However, I have now seen the movie twice (first at the Detroit pre-screening a few weeks ago, then again on opening night this weekend), and I LOVE it. It exceeded my low expectations by a long shot, and although it’s definitely not perfect, I also definitely recommend seeing it. The fact that so many people haven’t liked it took me by surprise, so: give it a chance.

Of the seven friends I’ve seen it with, only one didn’t like it (which has to be some sort of record, getting that many people I know to agree about a single movie). Two of those friends knew absolutely nothing about the books, and they both understood and enjoyed the movie just fine, so if you haven’t had a chance to read the trilogy yet: Rest assured. You probably will be okay.

For opening night, my group all went as Dauntless. Check out that rad Tris tattoo Hannah Sharpied on me.

Moving on to more specific thoughts (so if you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want spoilers, you should probably stop reading now): While, like I said, Divergent isn’t perfect, more of it works than doesn’t work. They made quite a few changes to the events of the story, but these generally don’t affect the overall plot or character arcs, and they work better on screen, I think, than staying one hundred percent true to the book would have.

The one change I do have a problem with is how Natalie (Tris’s mom) dies. In the book, she full-out, very obviously sacrifices herself in order to let Tris get away to safety. In the movie, however, she’s simply caught by a stray bullet as BOTH she and Tris run for it. Since it’s less obvious of a sacrifice, I’m a bit worried about how they’ll handle Tris’s character development from here, since she’s basically supposed to become obsessed with her parents’ deaths and figuring out what the definition of sacrifice is to her and all that.

Acting-wise, I thought the majority of the cast did great. Shailene Woodley absolutely blew me away. She’s definitely grown as an actress since I last saw her in something. Theo James also did fantastic (I barely even noticed his accent, which was a nice surprise since it was so noticeable in the trailer cuts). The two of them have fantastic chemistry–looks like that lengthy casting search for Four paid off.

IMG_0244A couple friends and I stalked the Divergent set last May. This is outside the central school all children attend until they’re sixteen in Tris Prior’s dystopian Chicago. Off to the right, here, are a certain two actors you may recognize. 

The supporting cast are generally good (Ben Lloyd-Hughes, it turns out, is a perfect Will). I’ve heard lots of complaints about how a lot of the actors don’t look like how the characters are described in the books, but I’ve always preferred someone who can play the personality properly to someone who looks spot on like the descriptions, so I didn’t mind.

Kate Winslet is appropriately icy and semi-robotic as Jeannine, I’m excited for Ansel Elgort‘s Caleb to get some more screen time in the next two (hopefully not three) installments, and although they get far less screen time than they deserve, Tris’s fellow initiates do well with what they have.

Which brings me to a problem I had with this adaption: the lack of time spent on the initiates. I get that the movie’s already two and a half hours long, but couldn’t we have spent just a few more of those minutes on developing Tris’s friends? Honestly, so little time was spent on Al that what time they did spend on him felt random and awkward. When he commits suicide, it barely even seems to matter, and that sucks. It’s an important issue they glossed right over.

Meanwhile, they cut all the scenes in which Peter (played by the ever charming Miles Teller) is truly awful (stabbing Edward, groping Tris, etc.). Without those, all we had was him taunting Tris in ways that honestly registered as funny–to the point that during the premiere screening, a friend and I kept whispering things to each other like, “Is it bad that I like Peter now?” followed by a, “No, I’m totally Team Peter now, too.” Which, you know, is not good. (Like at the end when they’re all running for the train and Peter is WAY ahead of the rest of them? This should be despicable, not lovable and funny.)

Christina (Zoë Kravitz) felt really underutilized. In the book she’s a fully-fleshed out, very important character with a life beyond the time she spends with Tris. In the movie, she is merely the easily forgettable sidekick. However, I was okay with the changes to the capture the flag scene, because I don’t think they would’ve had time to follow that whole subplot of the tension between Christina and Tris. If we could have gotten a bit more of her in other places to draw out her depth and unique characteristics, though, that would’ve been great. (And I just loved the changes to the capture the flag scene overall. So much more intense.)

Ferris Wheels are Scary YoMe showing off how brave I am on the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel. (Shailene Woodley and Theo James ACTUALLY climbed this thing for the movie. Truly Dauntless.)

Back to Caleb: I would have loved to have gotten a bit more of him at the beginning in order to give us a better hint that he wanted to defect to Erudite. This came completely out of left field in the movie, and although it’s a surprise in the book too, afterward we DO get Tris’s internal commentary about how she should have seen it coming. Obviously we can’t get that in the movie, so what we SHOULD have gotten were more foreshadowing-type hints leading up to it.

I thought Ray Stevenson‘s Marcus could have been better. He did well as far as tone and emotion and all that goes, but his American accent was terrible. Completely took me out of the scene whenever he spoke. Can we get the guy a vocal coach for Insurgent? Because otherwise he really is good. It’s just that accent.

(By the way, an apology for how much I’m improperly switching tenses in this. Back and forth and back and forth I go between past and present.)

The film does get a little campy sometimes, but I don’t think that’s necessarily bad. It keeps it from getting too dark.

A few of the lines I would’ve loved to have seen make it from the book weren’t there, like when Christina is afraid of moths and Will’s all, “That’s my girl. Tough as cotton balls.” And how the Dauntless are basically obsessed with chocolate cake. And, you know, the fact that Uriah exists (I’m excited for him to finally show up in the second one). The movie works fine without those elements, so it is fine. Just a bit of a personal disappointment for me.

IMG_0062Raised train platform set that Tris and her fellow initiates climb after the Choosing Ceremony. 

On the other hand, the filmmakers also created some of their own lines that I didn’t like, like, at all. And based on the reactions of the other people in my theatre both times, it seems like nobody else liked them either. An especially unfortunate occurrence of this is in the scene when Fourtris kiss for the first time, because in the midst of them doing nothing more than kissing with their arms wrapped around each other while standing (so it’s not like they’re in bed or something), Tris breaks it off to say that she doesn’t want to move too fast. Which is okay–it is okay that she doesn’t want to do more than that when it’s her first time kissing not just Four, but any guy ever. But it’s also not like he’d suddenly reached under her shirt or shifted towards the bed or something. They were just kissing–just like they had been for a while at that point. So it didn’t make sense, and it was awkward, and it made everyone awkwardly laugh, which is not what a line like that should do.

(Meanwhile, don’t get me started on how annoyed I am at all the reviewers interpreting that line to mean that she’s “saving herself,” because seriously–all she’s saying is that she doesn’t want to do more than kiss at that time. Is it really so bad that a sixteen year old girl doesn’t want to have sex on essentially the first date? And even if she is waiting until marriage, THAT IS NOT A NEGATIVE THING ANY MORE THAN NOT AND–Anyway. I’m stopping myself before I go into Rant Mode.)

Questions for the class:

  • Why did the Abnegation women wear makeup and heels? I will never understand the logic behind this decision.
  • Why did we suddenly forget that Tris has a freaking bullet in her shoulder partway through the climax? I feel like that’s really not something you should forget.
  • What, exactly, was the purpose of doing the fear landscapes the “Dauntless” way, rather than the “Divergent”? Coming out of the movie the first time, I thought I understood that this meant that Divergent face their fears head-on whereas Dauntless find ways to skirt around their fears (so like Tris wanted to be all Divergent and jump off the little bridge thing to conquer the fear of heights, but Tobias instead crawled across the bridge and into the neighboring building, thus avoiding it). But the second time through, I realized that it’s not as clear as that, so now I’m not sure about what they were trying to say there. I would have loved for that to have been clearer, because that was a really fun twist on the fear landscapes.
  • What was up with Tris’s Dauntless clothes? Like I know Shailene is a good-looking human being so you want to show that off, but you also need to remember that she’s playing a character who’s grown up in a faction that didn’t allow tight-fitting or low-cut clothes. She shouldn’t have gone straight from her Abnegation grey to a Dauntless outfit that accentuated her cleavage.

My favorite scene is when they’re at the top of the John Hancock Center and Veronica Roth is the first one out the door and then she and Tris stand next to each other at the edge, looking out over Chicago. Absolutely beautiful moment.

My favorite line is when Peter tells Tris that she won’t shoot him and she goes, “Why does everyone keep saying that?” AND THEN SHE DOES. (YOU SHOW ‘EM, TRIS.)

I enjoyed the music throughout, and it was really cool how much of actual, modern day Chicago they used. Tris’s voice overs are a nice touch, and I enjoy how they chose to make it such a first person narrative (we’re never somewhere Tris isn’t, so it keeps everything tight and focused).

Overall, the pacing could have been a little better, as could have been the character development and script and all that. The cinematography was a little funky and the sets could have been cooler. But most of what they did works, and the movie is fun and holds true to the overall vision and feel of the book. I really, truly, did very much enjoy it. And I want everyone to see it. And I can’t wait to see Insurgent.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Purchase tickets to see Divergent here.

 

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (The End Where I Begin, Chapter Nine)

Life is insane. In a really good way. I’m on spring break right now, which means that I’m ditching homework for career-work. In the past few days I’ve gotten a ton done on Ch1Con 2014 (we’re finally getting semi-close to being ready to put up registration forms and all that!), worked quite a bit on writing-related stuff (revising and I are BFFs), and–less on a career-side and more on a fun-side–a few of my friends and I spent yesterday at the Detroit premiere of Divergent. Which was an incredible experience.

Go see Divergent when it comes out on March 21st. Do it. I’ll do a full review of the movie later, but for now, know that it’s way better than the trailers make it look and I wholeheartedly enjoyed it and I have already bought my tickets to see it opening night. (Also, while at the premiere, one of my friends and I got to have posters signed by Mekhi Phifer, aka Max, and the other two in our group got to do a little Torchwood freaking out with him, and it was all really cool.)

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a new chapter from my 2013 NaNoWriMo project, The End Where I Begin.

As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff throughout.

Read previous chapters:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

**********

Chapter Nine

The New Capital branch of the Clinic is a maze of hallways and elevators, and Dr. O’Brien leads me through enough of them that I no longer remember the way back to office suite 4581, let alone my way outside and to the subway station.

I don’t think I’m going to make it to school in time for lunch, as I promised Amelia and Eric I would. I hope they aren’t angry.

We pass a window overlooking the plaza I entered the Clinic’s building from and I stop, stare. We’re at least twenty floors from the ground, and I didn’t even realize it.

Sunlight reflects off the polished glass walls of the neighboring buildings surrounding the plaza. Businessmen and women hurry over the scrubbed pavement below.

Dr. O’Brien turns back. “Please do keep moving.”

“Sorry.” I hurry to catch up.

We ride another two elevators—one up, then a long one down—and step out into a lobby similar to the one I waited in before, only this one is not as nice. Instead of ergonomic chairs and a fish tank in the corner, they have metal folding chairs and a ceiling fan that turns slowly but surely overhead.

Dr. O’Brien walks to the secretary desk and tugs back the sleeve of his lab coat. The secretary scans his Identiband with a nod and no words, and the door beside the desk beeps open.

“Come along, Miss Dylan.”

I follow Dr. O’Brien down one hallway and another, around corners and through doors with locks that will open only with a prick of his thumb. We occasionally pass other employees of the Clinic, but none of them ask who I am or what I’m doing here. Instead they avert their eyes and bow their heads as we walk by, and I keep my eyes focused on the back of Dr. O’Brien’s head in an attempt to stop my mind from wandering.

Before Amelia befriended me, no one at New Capital High knew who I was. Most of them still just know me as that quieter girl, unmemorable, who Amelia Anderson hangs out with for kicks.

Before Amelia befriended me, Ramsey and I were so tightknit you couldn’t fit a pair of scissors between us to snip the thread.

Before Amelia befriended me, Eric spent a lot of his time with Ramsey as well. It was always the three of us, and occasionally a couple of the other kids in our year from Portsmouth. But the day after Ramsey hurt me and the two of us stopped talking, he stopped talking to her too. It wasn’t until Eric abandoned her for Amelia that Ramsey completely lost it.

But I shouldn’t think of all that, I shouldn’t sympathize with Ramsey, not when I’m about to see her and she won’t remember any of the things that I remember anyway.

Dr. O’Brien stops before a smooth black door without a knob and lets the scanner prick his thumb. The skin must be hard and calloused there, always sore, from the Clinic testing his blood to make sure he is who he says he is so often.

The door slides back into the wall. Behind it is a room even smaller than his office, made entirely of metal. A spigot dripping water sticks out of the wall in one corner with a drain beneath it, and a low metal table like the one I sat on before hangs from the wall opposite.

The only thing in the room otherwise is Ramsey.

She’s crouched in the very center, as far from the walls and table that must be her bed and drip, drip, drip of water as she can get. Her knees are pulled up to her face, forehead braced against them, arms wrapped around her head almost like a makeshift halo. Her school uniform is rumpled but clean—of course Ramsey would be the one girl at NCH who didn’t bother to change into nice clothes for the assembly. Her hair is pulled back in a frizzy, practical bun.

She doesn’t look up as we enter.

Ramsey. Her name is on my lips.

Not the Ram, but Ramsey, my friend. It’s hard to see the brutish bully she transformed into these past few months when she is so pathetic and quiet on the floor.

“Carp.” Dr. O’Brien barks it out. No more Miss Carp and poor girl, but just her last name used as a command to look up and recognize the girl he has brought with him.

I shrink into the doorway. Dr. O’Brien lays a hand gentler than his voice on my shoulder and prods me forward. He steps away, back into the hallway. The door slides shut between us, sealing me in with the girl who attacked me yesterday.

My heart thuds so hard it feels like my entire chest will cave in from the pressure. I press my back against the door and don’t take my eyes of Ramsey’s forehead, where acne has broken out across her skin.

What if this has all been a hoax, and they haven’t sent me in here to question Ramsey, but rather to lock me up as well? What if I never see my father, or Calvin, or Amelia, or Eric again?

Goodness, I’d even prefer see Stephanie Jones to the girl I do see before me, now.

Ramsey lifts her head and traces my shaking body with tired eyes. She chews her lip. “They send you in here to get me to apologize?”

Her voice is high, sweet. It doesn’t fit the words or her current appearance.

“We—we just want to know why you did it.” My voice trembles.

She laughs. “Did what exactly? You know me, Alexa. You know I’ve done a lot of things that could make the Clinic upset with me.”

You know me, Alexa. That isn’t right.

“They said you didn’t remember me.” I say it to myself, but the metal walls and ceiling and floor make everything echo a thousand times, so she hears me all the same.

Ramsey laughs again. “They’re right. I don’t remember you. I don’t know you. But you know me, Alexa.”

“So you know that we’ve been friends since year zero?”

“Right.” She nods. “That’s it. That’s how we know each other.”

This conversation isn’t going at all how I expected.

I’m grasping at air, all the thoughts and ideas of things I had to say dissipating like smoke. The door is frigid against the back of my hot neck.

“Why did you hit me?”

“And we’re finally there.” She twirls a single finger. “I hit you because it was a good idea.”

“Why was it a good idea?”

She shrugs, but her words are not at all nonchalant. “Because they were going to offer recruitment to you. And you were going to say yes. And that would not be a good idea.”

“You didn’t know they were going to recruit me.”

She arches an eyebrow. “Didn’t I?”

“Of course not. That would be an impossibility. No one ever knows if they’ll be recruited by the Clinic before it happens, and they almost never recruit year elevens anyway. You had no way of knowing.”

Plus, they recruited me early because of Ramsey.

My shoulders stiffen.

A deep, irrefutable problem exists within the Clinic’s logic.

Dr. O’Brien told me they recruited me because of Ramsey. He told me it was beneficial to them to recruit me now rather than later, because they needed help figuring out Ramsey.

But his partner called my name at the Recruitment Assembly before Ramsey even brought herself onto their radar by raising her fist.

Which means they recruited me early for some other reason, and Ramsey just happened to get in the way.

“I see you working out something, there.” The dark bags under her eyes make her look almost ghoulish. She grins.

“Doctor O’Brien?” I glance around the cell, but can’t find a security camera to speak to. I direct my words to the corner above the spigot. “Doctor O’Brien, I have a question.”

“Goodness, you’re like a little amnesic puppet now, aren’t you?”

I turn to Ramsey again, lightning-fast. “What did you call me?”

Her smile falls. She looks at her shoes. “Nothing. Of course not. Nothing.”

“Of course not what?”

She doesn’t reply.

“Doctor O’Brien,” I call to the ceiling.

“You said yes, didn’t you.” Ramsey still doesn’t look up. “You said yes to working with them.”

“Only because they need to figure out what’s wrong with you.”

“What’s wrong with me?” Ramsey picks at her nail. “Tell me, dear, sweet, naïve Alexa: What did you say right before your jaw bruised my fist.”

I cross my arms. “That’s an interesting way of approaching the fact that you hit me.”

Her eyes flick up to meet mine, and I’m so shocked by the firmness of the action, I don’t look away.

“I said yes.”

“Why? Did you want to say yes?”

My mouth is open, but no words come out. I lick my lips, then try again. “I guess so?”

“No, you did not. I can see it on your face. You didn’t want to. So why did you say it?”

I don’t know how to respond. I said yes because it was the right thing to say, didn’t I? Does it truly matter if I wanted it or not if it was the right thing to do?

Ramsey points a finger at me. Her arm shakes. “Exactly. And do you want to know why those other kids said no when they were recruited?”

I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know, I don’t want to know, I don’t want to know, but I can’t figure out how to shape my mouth, how to move my tongue, to push the words past my lips.

“They said no because the Clinic trained them to. You said yes because the Clinic trained you to. Why do you think no one ever stands there and deliberates over their answer before responding? Because it’s predetermined. It’s all predetermined. All of you robots just do what the Clinic tells you to and then hope for the best.”

“That’s not true.” I mean it, but my tone is weak.

She smirks. “Can you prove that?”

“No.” I force some of the confidence back into my voice. “But you also can’t prove that hitting me was a good idea, now can you?”

She throws her head back when she laughs this time, and some of her hair pulls free from the bun. It floats around her face, catches in the light. “Alexa, dear, it’s not my fault my plan didn’t work out. I was hoping knocking you out might also knock some sense back into your head, but maybe it truly is all gone.”

Goosebumps rise on my arms. “You’re insane.”

Her head snaps forward. Her stare locks onto mine. “Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s crazy.”

 I stare at her. She stares back.

A sound comes from the other side of the door, and I spin to face it. I slam my hand against the black metal. “Let me out.” Footsteps approaching. “Let me out!”

From behind me comes the tinny clatter of shoes against metal; Ramsey standing.

I turn back to face her. “Don’t come near me.” She takes a step. “Stay away. I’m warning you, stay away!”

The door swishes open behind me and I stumble backward into the hallway. Dr. O’Brien is right there, something shiny in his hand—a gun?—and a woman wraps her arms around my middle, tries to pull me further from the cell.

Ramsey is too quick for them. Clammy fingers snake around my left wrist and pull me back towards her. Hot, moist breath presses the inside of my ear.

She whispers, “Tell me what color your Identiband is.”

 I almost ask, How do you know that? How do you know it’s been changing color? But the words catch in my throat. I choke on them.

The woman is still pulling me away while Dr. O’Brien presses the gun to Ramsey’s temple and barks orders to get back in the cell, and if she were insane she would smile, but she doesn’t. Instead she looks sad.

I meet Ramsey’s eye, and something desperate reflects there. She is desperate for my answer.

My Identiband is flashing back and forth so quickly it could be a strobe light. I am dizzy just from the thought.

I squeeze out, “It’s green.”

**********

81

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“I Miss You”)

This past week has been a busy one. I can’t talk about some of what’s been going on because they aren’t my stories to tell, but amongst the things I can talk about: one of my best friends in the whole world visited over the weekend, and it was really nice to see her because we hardly ever get to hang out anymore. And–oh yeah–I (along with like half the people I know) scored tickets to the Detroit premiere of Divergent next week. Which is like ADKRUALDNRKLSJR-level exciting. Oh my gosh.

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem called “I Miss You.”

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You used to mean everything, and now you mean nothing

and I don’t know which I miss more—you

or the freedom of not having to remember you.

Sometimes I get so caught up in

living in the moment

that I forget that the next moment

might be worth living in too.

 **********

80

~Julia

NaNo Day 18: Movies I’m Excited to See

Well, I didn’t make 5k yesterday, but I did get a few thousand words written, so my total’s now up to 31,000. And although I have a nice chunk of homework to do today, I’m hoping to get some writing done in between assignments. We’ll see how that goes.

Meanwhile, rather than revolving around classes, my writing schedule this week focuses on what’s happening Thursday night. AKA The Hunger Games: Catching Fire comes out and I’m about to pee myself small dog-style out of excitement, so I’m trying to get a lot of my writing done earlier in the week so that I can relax and enjoy the movie later on.

Catching Fire isn’t the only movie releasing soon that I’m psyched about reaching theaters, though. I give you: Movies I’m Excited to See

**********

The Book Thief

While normally I prefer to read a book before I see its film adaption, I’m actually really hoping to see the movie version of this one first. Because I feel like spending a couple hours on a sad film that’ll let me in on all the sad plot twists of the story, first, will help me prepare for trying to get through the novel later. (Yes. I know the novel is incredible. But I also know it’s going to make me cry really hard, and I want to be prepared for that.)

This movie has already released in some markets, but won’t release here in Michigan until November 23nd. Maybe. It’s been really complicated trying to get release information, since it’s apparently already out in the rest of the country but not at all in this state.

*****

Frozen

I’m purposely avoiding learning too much about this movie right now because I’d rather be surprised than disappointed when I see it, but from what I’ve heard it’s supposed to be the best animated film since The Lion King? Okay. I’ll take it for a spin.

This movie releases in the United States on November 27th.

*****

Saving Mr. Banks

Apparently a lot of people have not heard about this movie yet. If you have not heard about it, please watch the trailer and fall in love with it. (I’m not a big Mary Poppins fan, but this looks like such a unique story, and kudos to Disney for telling it, even though I’m sure they’ve cleaned it up a bit to end in their favor.) (If you’ve heard the back story of how the movie came to be made, it’s also incredible.)

This movie releases in the United States on December 20th.

*****

Divergent

I’m getting a little bit very nervous for this movie, because I haven’t been huge on a lot of the promotional materials they’ve released so far. But I’m hoping it’ll turn out as good as the book after all. (If you want to know why this trailer makes me antsy about the film, Christina of polandbananasbooks on Youtube describes my thoughts perfectly.)

This movie releases in the United States on March 21st, 2014.

*****

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Let’s be honest. I’ll just watch anything with Jennifer Lawrence in it.

This movie releases in the United States on May 23rd, 2014.

**********

Of course there are a few other movies I’m excited for too (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, TFiOS, etc), but we’re yet to get trailers for those, unfortunately.

What movies are you excited for that are coming out soon? Do you have any suggestions for things I should see?

day 18

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“The End Where I Begin, Chapter One”)

First off: The Divergent trailer premiered today. React accordingly. (I’ve watched it five times already. It’s not my favorite trailer ever, and I’m worried how much people who haven’t read the book will be able to get out of it, but it’s got me excited nonetheless.)

Second: I’m currently in the midst of my final re-read of Catching Fire before the movie comes out next week, and OHMYGOSH I am both terrified and overwhelmingly excited to see this on the big screen. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself next Thursday.

Third: This week’s Wordy Wednesday is an excerpt from my NaNo, The End Where I Begin. (Note: Gillian’s name has been changed to Amelia since I posted the plot blurb I just linked to with the title.) (Also note: I know this is really rough and probably more than a bit cliche, so keep in mind that this is just a first draft, por favor. I’m sure it’ll get better with revisions.) (Also also note: I realize some of the names, like Mrs. Prudent, are ridiculous. Please bear with me until I find better ones.) (Also also also note: The number of these asides right now is getting even more ridiculous than the names. Sorry ’bout that.)

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Chapter One

            The stares begin in English class, the day of the Recruitment Assembly. The most important day of the year for students in the Fifth Reality. My desk is situated in the second to last row of the low, wide room, two from the left, in the perfect position to simultaneously take notes on Mrs. Prudent’s lesson about Thoreau and share exasperated looks with Amelia.

She sits to my right, with her legs crossed and pencil tapping against the edge of her desk, black hair held back in a long, straight ponytail that sways in time with the beat. She glances at me out the corner of her eye, then glues her gaze to the black board again. I frown, but she doesn’t answer the question the look shoots at her.

“Excuse me, class, give me just one moment.” Mrs. Prudent teeters to her desk and yanks a tissue from the box. As she blows her nose, twenty two pairs of eyes turn to take me in. The girls shiver; the boys snicker. I swear despite their reactions, we are not five years old.

Amelia’s pencil stops tapping and she leans over the aisle in a manner that would appear cautiously conspiratorial if it weren’t for the onlookers.

 “What’s this about the Ram coming for you during the Recruitment Assembly this afternoon?” Her voice quivers a little, whether from excitement or disgust I can’t tell. Her European accent turns the sentence down at the end, even more dramatic than her scowl.

I roll my eyes at the students waiting with bated breath to hear my reply and lean towards Amelia as well. “I don’t know.” Her brown eyes widen, accentuated by the thick streaks of black crayon around them. “All I’ve heard is that she’s planning to beat the snot out of me. No idea if it’s true or not. But do you truly think even the Ram would be gutsy enough to go after someone at the Recruitment Assembly of all places?”

“I don’t know, it’s not like she’s exactly—”

Mrs. Prudent clears her throat at the front of the room, a long, low sound like a cat hacking up a hairball. “Miss Anderson, Miss Dylan? Do you have something you would like to share with the rest of us?”

The rest of the students already know what we were talking about—the entire student body of New Capital High has probably heard the rumor by now. But my classmates have all turned back to the chalk board, backs straight, eyes barely even flicking to take in my paled cheeks and the way my fingers have clenched into a death grip around my pencil, so I don’t say a word.

Amelia composes herself enough to flash Mrs. Prudent one of her infamous, daughter-of-a-representative smiles. “No, ma’am. We were just discussing how especially interesting the lesson has been today.”

Mrs. Prudent doesn’t fall for the words, but the smile thaws her scowl. “All right. Just don’t make a habit of speaking out of turn in my class, or I’ll have to report you to Principal Scully.”

A few of the students around us—the ones who like the safe distance from learning the back of the room provides—hide snorts behind their hands. Mrs. Prudent has said the same thing to Amelia at least once a week since the semester began. Thank God that girl always has a way of getting us out of trouble.

Amelia doesn’t smile like she’s pleased with herself, the way she normally would. Instead she turns back to me with her lower lip sucked into her mouth, thin eyebrows so low her mascaraed eyelashes brush against them. She lifts her shoulders in a question. I nod.

I’m fine, the action says. I’m not worried about Ramsey.

But Amelia knows me, which means that she knows why the pounding of my heart is visible straight through my uniform and my knuckles are white around my pencil.

Ramsey Carp has been suspended probably more times than the rest of New Capital High combined, just since this semester began. Ramsey Carp has a history of landing her victims in the hospital with bruised kidneys and shattered wrists. Ramsey Carp hates me more than anyone else in the Fifth Reality—and today, my name and hers have begun passing lips in the same breath for the first time since last school year.

Chalk squeaks across the black board as Mrs. Prudent writes quotes from our text book, and pencils whisper across paper in reaction. Amelia doesn’t take her eyes off me as I spin my Identiband around my left wrist once, twice, three times. A nervous habit.

Out the corner of my eye, I make sure the bracelet is still lit the same green as an old-fashioned traffic light, as it always is. It’s stupid, because that’s the only color an Identiband can be, but sometimes I still check. It’s been a nervous habit since my first confrontation with Ramsey. All she did was twist my wrist, then, leaving her fingerprints as bruises. I’m sure, if she does attack me during the Recruitment Assembly, she’ll give me much worse now.

I spin the thick wristband two more times, then lace my fingers and place my hands on my desk. I nod to Amelia to say, I’m okay. I swear.

I wish it were true. I wish I were the sort of person who didn’t have to worry about my old best friend giving me a black eye in front of the recruiting officers from the Clinic. But I stopped being that girl four months ago.

**********

65

day 13

~Julia

Story Time: The Week of Book Signings

Before we begin, you should know that the mug I’m currently drinking my hot apple cider out of has Grumpy Cat on it,  courtesy my CP Kira. And it makes me unreasonably happy.

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Snapshot_20131028It’s impossible to have a case of the Mondays when Grumpy Cat already has them for ya.

Now, onto what we’re actually talking about: The Week of Book Signings! This past week I had the opportunity to attend three different book signings, which was kind of crazy considering how I usually only go to a couple book signings a year. They were for Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (SHILOH), James Dashner (THE MAZE RUNNER), and Veronica Roth (DIVERGENT). I was super excited for all three of them, and it was fun to meet them in that order, because that was also the order in which I originally read the books. SHILOH was one of my favorites back when I was about eight, I read THE MAZE RUNNER junior year of high school, and I’ve been obsessed with DIVERGENT since senior year.

*****

I went to Phyllis Reynolds Naylor‘s signing with Rebecca Cao–a fellow Wolverine writer–and her boyfriend. Phyllis is on tour to advertise the last book in her Alice series right now, and while I’ve never read those books, it was neat to see how passionate a lot of the people at the signing were, along with the broad range of ages who showed up, from little kids to college students to adults. When it was my turn to meet her, I told her how SHILOH was one of my favorite books growing up and I have a beagle now. She’s an absolute sweetheart, full of the kind of spunk that makes a person glow. I’m definitely going to have to check out her Alice series.

Snapshot_20131028_3The inscription reads “To Julia a dog lover–best wishes! Phyllis Naylor”

*****

On Thursday, my friend (and future roommate) Emily and I sat impatiently through our evening classes before hurrying off to James Dashner‘s book signing, to talk about his new book THE EYE OF MINDS. Because of said classes (and a bit of confusion with our taxi driver), we didn’t get there until after he’d finished speaking and was already a good way into signing books, but we did manage to still score the last spots in the signing line–which actually worked out quite a bit in our favor, because it meant he could just stop and talk to us when it was our turn, since we were the last ones there.

We talked to him about his books, and our majors, and other such things, and then as we turned to leave, he called out a “Good luck with writing!” and I managed a thanks with a smile, and one of the people from the book store told me to come back if I ever had a novel of my own published. I looked back and sort of laughed and said, “I’ll attempt,” because what else is there to say, right?

It was especially cool getting to meet James Dashner because I first picked up my copy of THE MAZE RUNNER at the airport as my mom and I waited for our flight home from my first writing conference, the Writer’s Digest Conference 2011, in New York City. Whenever I think of that book now, I also think of that feeling of hope, that excitement and contentment that accompanies a good writing conference–the idea that maybe I could write a great book and get published someday, too.

Snapshot_20131028_4When Emily and I purchased our copies of THE EYE OF MINDS, we managed to get one that was printed upside down. The store offered to replace it for me, but I’ve always had a thing for messed up books since they’re more unique, so I kept it. Keeping with the theme of it being upside down, James Dashner also signed it upside down for me, and joked that it’ll be worth, “Maybe like five dollars someday!”

*****

Last but MOST CERTAINLY not least, I MET VERONICA ROTH!!! I went to the signing with my vlogging partner Hannah, Emily again, and mi madre (who was awesome enough to drive us all to Chicago). You can watch a video about it on Hannah and Julia’s Vlog.

We drove out Friday evening, and then got into line to wait for the signing around 11:00 AM central time on Saturday, Starbucks in hand. The event was by far the biggest book signing I’ve ever been to–it sold out over a month ago, with a thousand VRoth fans getting to meet her and have books signed–and a good number of them were already ahead of us in line, even though the event itself didn’t begin until 2:00.

Our seats in the theater for the interview portion of the event depended on where we were waiting in line, while our numbers for the book signing itself were predetermined by when we purchased our tickets–which meant that while my mom and I had ticket numbers 220 and 221, Hannah’s ticket number was 890.

We managed to snag seats in the fifth row, center section of the theater, which meant that our view was this:

Which, you know, is a pretty good view.

Before Veronica and the interviewer–Margot Wood of Epic Reads Tea Time fame–came on, the theater kept us busy listening to an organist who had risen on a little stage from the orchestra pit to play songs from the Beatles, and Phantom of the Opera, and more. It was brilliant.

Then Margot and Veronica DID come on, and we all basically just went insane, because OMG VERONICA ROTH.

The interview lasted about an hour–you can watch it here. At the end, Veronica surprised us by bringing her brother Karl Vincent Roth on stage to perform a song with her that he’d written for Tris–listen to it here (it’s called “The Mark”). Veronica sang backup vocals for him in the live performance.

Afterward, a massive screen dropped down over the stage, and Veronica had us watch Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (both Hannah and my favorite HP) while we waited for our group to be called to go get our books signed (they had us leave the theater for the signing area, in the lobby, in groups of fifty). The movie finished before Hannah’s group was even called, but that was fine because she finished reading during the climax.

Also while waiting, we had the opportunity to meet Margot Wood. I professed my love of Tea Time to her, and she told me that my hair “is so soft!” (Makes sense, since my name means “youthful, or downy,” after all.)

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Some shots of Hannah, Emily, and me freaking out with our copies of ALLEGIANT:

When it was my turn to meet Veronica Roth, I managed to hold down my squeeing enough to tell her she was my hero, and she sort of just looked down with a sheepish, disbelieving but grateful smile and said thanks–exactly the kind of response I’d expect from someone as awesome as Veronica. I still can’t believe how nice and down-to-earth she is; she tried to make the signing special and unique for every single one of the thousand people she met on Saturday. It was amazing.

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After the signing ended–a good four+ hours after it began–we headed into downtown Chicago to do all the touristy things, like drive down Lake Shore Drive, visit Millennium Park and Michigan Avenue, and watch the Navy Pier fireworks.

I’ve never been to Millennium Park at night, especially towards the end of October, so it was cool seeing how empty it was–it had a bit of a real life dystopian-fiction feel to it.

My favorite part was seeing Crown Fountain (aka the “face fountains”) completely empty of people with the water turned off. The faces were still all lit up, but everything else I associate with Crown Fountain was gone–there was no sunlight reflecting off the tiles, no shrieking children splashing through puddles. The only sounds came from the street and our voices echoed between the two fountains.

Because it was the Saturday before Halloween, Navy Pier put on a special out-of-season fireworks show, which we watched from Lake Shore Drive. Afterward, we made our way to the pier itself, where we wandered and then got a very late dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. At that point, it was around 11:00 PM central time (so midnight our time) and the only things we’d had to eat that day were Starbucks twelve hours before, and then popcorn during the movie.

Understandably, we were all pretty loopy by then.

Afterward, we all crashed the instant we turned the lights out. Sunday, we got brunch at my favorite Chicago-area crepe place, and then headed for home. On the way, we stopped at a beach, which was cold but gorgeous.

A bunch of giant, flat boulders led out into a point, I think used for weather monitoring.

Emily and I climbed all the way out.

Overall, it was a fantastic weekend. Veronica Roth is an amazing individual, and I fall more in love with Chicago every time I visit.

*****

Now, special treat: In honor of meeting my writing idol (and you reading through this entire, monstrously long post), I’m giving away ONE SIGNED COPY OF ALLEGIANT to a lucky reader!

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All you have to do is enter the Rafflecopter giveaway linked below. I’ve set up lots of different entry options, so hopefully at least one will work for you! The giveaway will run through November 7th at midnight, eastern time.

 Enter Here to Win a signed copy of ALLEGIANT by Veronica Roth

Sound good? I can’t wait to send you the book!

~Julia

PS. The newest/last Hunger Games: Catching Fire trailer is incredible. The end of it is so powerful–I can’t even imagine what the movie will be like.

My Thoughts on ALLEGIANT by Veronica Roth

So this is probably going to turn out being less a proper review as much as just me rambling and using bullet points and stuff, because I’m exhausted right now and probably still too close to having read the book to say anything properly coherent.

But here are My Thoughts on Allegiant. (Because I know these are quite spoilery and I don’t want anyone accidentally coming across them, I’m putting the text from here on out in white. Just highlight below if you’d like to read on.)

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As I already mentioned in this week’s Wordy Wednesday, I had a bit of a mixed reaction to Allegiant. As a reader, I adored it–all my favorite characters were there, we finally got to learn what was outside the fence, and overall, it was a pretty satisfying conclusion to a trilogy I love. But at the same time, as a writer and someone who likes to critique movies in her free time, there was a lot I didn’t like about Allegiant. Not enough to make me actually not like the book–because no, I really do love it–but enough that I think it warrants me sharing my thoughts.

Also, let it be known: This in no way is a critique on Veronica Roth. A lot of people have been terrible to her since finishing Allegiant, returning their copies of the book and threatening her, and that is NOT okay. Veronica Roth is an amazing person who has granted us access to her life and writing, and she didn’t need to do that. She has given us a gift. Just because a book doesn’t end the way you want it to doesn’t mean you have a right to be rude or downright nasty to the author.

On the other hand, you are allowed to react to the book itself, which is what I’m doing here: Reacting to and critiquing the book. Not the author, never the author. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, right? (Not that I think anyone who’s awesome enough to read my blog would be one of the immature jerks being mean to VRoth, but I just wanted to get my opinion on the matter out there. So yeah. There ya go.)

*****

One: Let’s Kill Tris

Tris’s death scene was beautiful. I adored the way Roth wrote it, and part of me really loves her for going through with killing off the protag, because most people don’t have the guts to do that (I’m looking at you, Christopher Nolan, Beth Revis, and S’Meyer, just to name a few). After being disappointed so many times over being promised a good protagonist death that never actually happened (I swear I’m not a psycho–I just really love it when people actually do what they claim to set out to do), I should’ve been happy that Roth actually killed off Tris.

But here’s the thing that stopped me from sobbing my eyes out after David the Poop Face shot her: It wasn’t necessary for Tris to die. Tris’s dying didn’t solve anything, it just caused more problems. And oh yeah, we all saw it coming that you were going to kill Tris, Veronica Roth, because YOU WROTE THE BOOK WITH TWO PERSPECTIVES.

The moment Roth announced she was doing that, everyone knew what it meant. And yeah, yeah, yeah, having Tobias’s perspective throughout the rest of the book is helpful in giving a broader view of what’s going on, but for someone with as much character blood lust as Roth, it was obvious where that decision ultimately was going to lead. And the moment she started laying the breadcrumbs about Caleb and Tris’s relationship, it was obvious even how and why it was going to happen.

Not that Tris’s death being predictable is a bad thing, per say, but it did annoy me just because, after everything that happened in Insurgent, Tris was meant to survive. Killing her in the way Roth did destroyed Tris’s previous character development, and thus her arc.

Now, I REALIZE Veronica Roth can do whatever she wants to her characters–they’re her characters. But after spending so much time teaching Tris that throwing yourself head first into sacrificing your live isn’t the only option–that she could do good in her world without dying–it felt like a slap in the face for that ultimately to be the way she went.

You finally teach the girl how to survive, and then you make her go back on that freshly learned lesson in the defining moment of the trilogy–Tris claims to have learned the lesson that her life is important, but the first chance she gets to throw it all away again in Allegiant, she runs headfirst into the path of the bus LIKE SHE NEVER LEARNED IT IN THE FIRST PLACE. Tris’s death basically completely invalidates everything that happened in Insurgent. And sure, she has that line about not wanting to leave, but how is that one line supposed to hold up against 525 pages of Tris learning to value her life in the last book.

And then there’s the other stuff: It doesn’t solve any problems. Tris can save the day without dying; because she survives the death serum, it’s not actually necessary for Tris to die when she goes to set off the memory serum. She’s already made the decision to sacrifice herself to the death serum to save Caleb, which means that once she’s survived the death serum, it’s no longer a sacrifice. Instead, her death becomes one of collateral damage. Once she’s into the lab and David is there, she has no way of backing out or saving herself, because he’s going to shoot her whether she sets off the memory serum or not. She doesn’t sacrifice herself to save her friends and family; all she does is decide to take the bad guys down with her. It’s not a sacrifice if you don’t have any other choice.

So, when it comes down to it, Tris’s death doesn’t solve anything. It’s contrived. It’s not a martyr’s death like our brave, selfless protagonist deserves–it’s the death of a person who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Roth put David in that room for the sole purpose of killing Tris in as dramatic a way as possible, and as far as I could tell from an outside perspective, she decided to kill Tris for the sole purpose of it being the ultimate people-die-in-war scenario.

But here’s the thing: Tris isn’t just another person. This isn’t real life, this is a book series. And because of that, even if you want to kill your protag, I think you still have to follow the rules of Plot Armor to an extent. Basically meaning: Anyone Can Die applies to everyone but the main characters, and then once you’re ready to kill off a protag, you should try to make it mean something. Plot Armor, in this case, stops meaning that everyone’s favorite characters can’t die, but instead that their death should not just be there as collateral damage, but as something that affects the overall plot, symbolism, AND his/her personal character arc. Otherwise, it’s not going to be satisfying to the reader–any reader, including someone like me who relishes a good fictional bloodbath.

I think the main reason readers are upset with Tris’s death is less because she died as much as because of how she died. If Tris had actually, in dying, saved the day, it would be a whole other matter. It’s the fact that she had already survived the death serum, thus fulfilling the obligations of the sacrifice, and then died as collateral damage–just another body–that got people upset. Sure, she still set off the memory serum, thus ending the immediate conflict, but she didn’t need to die to do that. David still could have been in the room and still could have shot her, and she still could have pressed the green button, without choosing to, in the end, let go of her life.

Tris deserved the death of a martyr–someone who could have survived, but chose to save her people, what she believed in, instead. And what she got was the death of someone who had no other choice–the kind of death that should be reserved for a secondary character, not the narrator. She becomes someone who knows she has no choice but to die, so might as well take the bad guys down with her. She should have been (in my personal, flawed, ultimately unimportant opinion) someone who could live, but decided to do the hard thing anyway, because it was right.

There was no right or wrong in Tris’s death. It just happened. It didn’t matter. Two+ books telling us how Tris matters, and then in the end, she doesn’t.

(Also: I would have been more disturbed seeing my mother with a bunch of bullet holes in her than relieved. just saying. That’s freaky, yo.)

EDIT, 10-28-13: Veronica Roth just posted her reasoning behind Tris’s death on her blog, and it’s definitely worth the read. It’s interesting to see how she views her protag’s death from a completely different perspective from the one I take here, and although I still don’t think Tris’s death is executed properly, it’s nice to know how Roth DID mean for the scene to be interpreted, and it’s nice to know that she didn’t mean for Tris to just become collateral damage. (I don’t know about you, but I still really want to know why the heck Natalie had to look like a redneck’s pinata at the end there, though.)

*****

Two: One Perspective Isn’t Enough

I actually think the two perspectives worked out all right in the book, because they did bring us such a broader image of what was happening. But at the same time, I am sick and tired of people changing how the third book in a trilogy is written–adding perspectives, etc.

Authors: You’re getting annoying. Stop making this a trend. It is possible to give multiple perspectives without making all the different characters new narrators (beautiful example: Natalie’s journal).

*****

Three: Tris Loses Her Voice

This is actually less of a point of critique as much as just an observation: Tris was a LOT more mature in this book than she was in the previous two. Which I think is actually great, because it shows how she grew up throughout the series, but at the same time, maybe a LITTLE more transition into Tris’s grown up voice would have been nice. It was jarring to go from her younger, more teenager-y voice at the end of Insurgent to it being just a few days later at the beginning of Allegiant and suddenly she’s a grown up.

(Observation to go along with this: VRoth has stopped talking/acting as much like a teenager the past couple years, herself. She’s really growing into her role as an adult now–she’s begun talking down to teen readers rather than talking on level with them, in more of a super-awesome-older-sister sort of way than her previous awkward-fabulous-fellow-teenager one–and it’s been fun watching her grow up. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with her talking down to us a bit, because she is in her twenties and married and all that fun stuff. But it’s something I’ve been noticing in her interviews/videos/blog posts/tumblr posts/etc lately.)

*****

Four: Tobias is a Whiny Four Year Old

Tobias isn’t called Four because he only has four fears. He’s called four because that’s the age he stopped developing emotionally.

Seriously, Tobias stopped being attractive to me in this book. Not that he’s ever been my type or anything (I’m more of a nerdy, Peter Parker kind of girl), but I did get why someone like Tris liked him. He was strong, knowledgeable, and always pushing her to do better. Tobias was basically who made Tris who she was in this book–logical, resilient, always looking at the bigger picture rather than her own insecurities.

And then you find out that Tobias is actually the exact opposite of who he molded Tris into being.

There’s nothing wrong with showing weakness sometimes, but when you’re in the sort of situation Fourtris are in, it’s important to remember that you’re just a piece of a much larger puzzle, and you need to keep your focus on that–for someone who’s from Abnegation, Tobias is about as self-centered as they come; all he comes to care about is fixing the problems that directly affect him.

Tobias suddenly being so insecure and pre-teen-PMSing moody about the not being Divergent thing in this book made him seem less like he was weakened by the circumstances as much as that he just naturally was weak-willed and minded, emotionally immature, and a toddler lashing out at anyone who tried to help him by pointing out his mistakes.

You’d think someone who taught Tris how to be strong despite all the broken pieces in her life would know how to do the same for himself.

*****

Five: Let’s Kill Everyone But the New Characters

Anybody else notice how while Roth happily killed off Tori, Uriah, and Tris, she never even touched any of the new characters? Seriously, I don’t even understand why Nita is still alive. If anyone should have been sacrificing themselves at the end there, it should have been Nita–that would have been such a nice bit of character development, after she was so self-centered, manipulating, and idiotic with the first rebellion.

Both Nita and Matthew were such flat characters, just there to help move the plot along, I would have loved to have seen more development for the two of them, Nita especially since she ultimately was the more influential. I never knew whether or not I truly should trust Matthew, since he always was just sort of there without revealing a lot about himself. He seemed like a plant, trying to gain everybody’s trust before turning them over to David. Roth did eventually give us the bit about how he’d once been in love with a GD who died because the GPs attacked her, but it definitely felt like it was there purely just to justify Matthew helping them.

Also: Did we ever actually meet Matthew’s supervisor? Because I don’t think we did, which was weird since so much time was spent talking about him.

Also also: None of the bad guys, on either side, died. (Well actually: Edward. But he was never a figure in power, so I’m not sure if he should even count.) I would have loved to see one of the antagonist leaders go, and preferably in an inconsequential sort of way. Like if Marcus got caught by a stray bullet or something in the final battle–something super inconsequential like that–it would have been fantastic.

Also also also: I WANTED A FINAL BATTLE. ARE THESE YA ACTION THRILLER DYSTOPIAN NOVELS OR ARE THEY NOT.

*****

Six: I WANTED A FINAL BATTLE SCENE.

Seriously. Why didn’t we have a final battle. The only one who does any fighting in the end is Tris, and that’s for about point-five seconds before she gets shot.

I get that Roth was trying to give us the message that talking things out, being diplomatic rather than pigheaded, war-hungry idiots is also an option, but I don’t know. I like fiction with action. I like elaborate battle sequences and unnecessary causalities, and you should know: I am the most gentle person ever in real life. I’m a vegetarian, I regularly talk my parents out of killing spiders, and I suck at stage combat because I’m always afraid I’m going to actually accidentally hurt the person opposite me in the scene.

But I do love a good action-packed book or movie. And in a series that has depended so much on violence to advance the plot up until this point, it was disappointing for everyone just to make nice in the end. Maybe if Tobias’s group had to dodge and fight off Bureau people on their way to getting the Chicago leaders to talk things out, it would have been more satisfying for me. As it was, they kind of just did their whole half of the climax without trouble and then were just done with it.

*****

Seven: Who Needs Consistent Pacing

In both Divergent and Insurgent, Tris is caught up in nonstop plot twists and action sequences. I felt like Allegiant just sort of plodded along in comparison, giving us the occasional twist and/or burst of action to keep us going, but not enough to make it a proper page turner.

In comparison, I’d like to retract my comment in the Wordy Wednesday post about the book not demonstrating as obvious an example of dramatic structure as D1 and D2. I read most of Allegiant while I was absolutely exhausted, and I think that affected my ability to pinpoint the inciting incident and catalyst and rising action and all that. Looking back on it, it’s actually all fairly obvious. So: Ignore me on that. The dramatic structure was fine. I more just have a problem with the lack of plot twists and action sequences. (Roth says she’s matured as a writer to no longer feel like she needs to include as many of those, but unfortunately, I have a really short attention span. Which means that unless there are five different subplots and a bomb about to go off at any point in time, I’m probably not going find the book very captivating when I go to reread it. And I kind of judge books’ quality on how well they hold up in the reread. So sorry about that, that’s more my problem than Allegiant‘s.)

*****

So, I think that covers just about all of my main critique. I could talk more about some of the little stuff, but this post is long enough as it is. (If you read through this entire thing: Here. Take my love.)

The important thing to remember is that I did enjoy this book. A lot. I stayed up until 5:00 AM to finish it Tuesday night, I and I don’t do that for just anything, especially during the school year. I loved the decision to give Uriah a slow death, and I loved the action sequences that we DID get, and I think Roth described grief in a very realistic, beautiful way. I liked that she almost broke up Fourtris at one point, and as much as Tobias’s weakness annoyed me (come on, seriously, GET A HANDLE ON YOURSELF, MAN), his scene with his mother at the end, when she chose him over power, brought me the closest to tears I ever got while reading this. I enjoyed all the inside jokes and the airplane ride and the scene with the targets when they’re teaching Caleb how to shoot. I enjoyed Christina and Uriah having a completely platonic relationship, and I love the fact that she and Tobias end up such good friends in the end, since they started out not liking each other much in Divergent. I liked SO MUCH about this book–and ultimately, all of that outweighs the parts that I didn’t like.

So: Allegiant isn’t perfect, but it’s still a good novel. It has its moments. The line-by-line writing is tight and purposeful, and I am really sad this trilogy is over. But I’m also really excited that Veronica Roth is still just at the beginning of her writing career.

In the immortal words of JK Rowling, “I think we must expect great things from you, Veronica Roth.”

If the Divergent trilogy is any indication, great things, indeed.

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About to leave for Chicago for VRoth’s book signing!!! 😀 See you on the other side.

~Julia

Fashion Friday: DIVERGENT Faction Costumes

So I know it’s only September, but I’m already getting super excited for Halloween this year. It’s one of the few times I get to show off how truly geeky I am–in the past I’ve gone as a cowgirl (with my beagle Sammy dressed as a cow), penguin supporter (in which I carried a huge sign and petition declaring that penguins couldn’t fly for the sole reason that the government had stolen their right to) (please note that some people were actually drunk enough to sign the petition), and Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games (check out my guide to that costume HERE).

I haven’t decided who/what I’ll be dressing up as this year yet, but with the last book in Veronica Roth’s NY Times bestselling, and absolutely phenomenal, Divergent trilogy coming out just before Halloween–and the first Divergent movie releasing in March, 2014–I’m definitely considering going as a member of one of her factions.

So, here’s a guide to how to dress like a member of a Divergent faction. (Please note: this is based on the descriptions in the books and just what I had lying around at home; I’m going to see about doing another post eventually based on the movie costumes, but for now, this is what we’ve got.)

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CANDOR

Excerpt from Faction Manifesto: “Dishonesty is rampant, Dishonesty is temporary, Dishonesty makes evil possible.”

How to Dress: Our first faction today is the Candor–a people who believe that the best way to further society is by being honest no matter what. Because of this belief, they dress in all black and white (ya know. like the truth).

A character in Divergent who’s originally from Candor is Tris (the MC)’s best friend Christina, who she meets while in Dauntless initiation. Although by the time we meet Christina she’s already transferred out of Candor, she still holds onto some of her habits from growing up, like the fact that she is loud and abrasive, and never holds back what she thinks, even when it hurts those she loves. Christina is proud and honest, and will always support what she believes in, even if it isn’t popular.

For my Candor costume, I wore a white lace dress, black leggings, black ballet flats (not pictured), and a black headband. I feel like the Candor wouldn’t be a faction to wear a lot of makeup or do much with their hair, because those things conceal what you naturally look like, to an extent, but I did throw in the headband to get just a little more contrast into the outfit, since the white dress is sort of in-your-face.

If you don’t want to wear a dress (or you’re a guy), you can go for some nice black pants, a white button-down, and black oxford shoes.

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Purchase These Items:

White Dress** – $25.00, JC Penney

Black Leggings – $11.96, American Eagle

Black Shoes – $24.99, Payless Shoesource

Black Headband – $5.69, Rite Aid

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ABNEGATION

Excerpt from Faction Manifesto:

“I will be my undoing If I become my obsession.

I will forget the ones I love If I do not serve them.

I will war with others If I refuse to see them.

Therefore I choose to turn away from my reflection,

To rely not on myself

But on my brothers and sisters,

To project always outward

Until I disappear.”

How to Dress: The Abnegation believe in selflessness–putting everyone else before themselves at any cost. Because of this, they dress very conservatively (author Veronica Roth has described them as being Puritan-like) in different tones of grey.

Tris, the narrator of the first two Divergent-books (and co-narrator of the soon-to-be-released finale, Allegiant), is originally from Abnegation. When she transfers to Dauntless towards the beginning of book 1, she brings with her the selfless tendencies drilled into her from birth, which makes her at first appear shy and weak to the Dauntless–that is, until with a little help from her love interest and fellow Abnegation-transfer Four, she discovers that her selflessness can actually make her stronger, because it means that she’ll do anything to protect those she loves when they’re put in danger.

For my Abnegation costume, I wore a loose grey dress (the longest one you can find, the better), grey tights (not pictured), grey ballet flats (also not pictured), a too-big grey cardigan (there is just so much grey in this outfit), and my hair pulled back in a practical side-braid, tied off with a black hair tie. [Update: A lovely commenter alerted me to the fact that the Abnegation only wear their hair in tidy buns, never braids. Sorry for the bad advice!] I pulled my bangs away from my face with bobby pins, and suggest not wearing any makeup. I’m also wearing a very plain watch with this (hidden by the sweater sleeve), because that is the one sort of adornment the Abnegation allow.

Abnegation women generally have long hair pulled back from their face in a bun or braid, and men keep their hair buzzed short.

Another option for this outfit would be to wear baggy grey pants, shirt, and shoes with a plain watch.

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Purchase These Items:

Baggy Grey Dress** – $22.80, Forever 21

Grey Tights** – $7.80, Forever 21

Over-sized Grey Cardigan – $19.99, Kohl’s

Grey Ballet Flats** – $39.99, Famous Footwear

Simple Watch – $34.99, Target

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AMITY

Excerpt from Faction Manifesto:

A daughter says to her father: “Father, today I fought with my friend.”
Her father says: “Why did you fight with your friend?”
“Because she insulted me, and I was angry.”
“Why were you so angry?”
“Because I was hurt by her words.”
“My daughter, did your friend’s words change who you are?”
“No.”
“Then do not be angry. The opinions of others cannot damage you.”

How to Dress: The Amity believe in peace and happiness leading to prosperity. They’re pretty carefree, love the environment (they supply the food for Divergent Chicago), and wear lots of reds and yellows.

Amity barely makes an appearance in Divergent, but plays a much larger role in Insurgent. An important character from Amity is Robert–Tris’s old neighbor from Abnegation who transfers to Amity at the same time as she transfers to Dauntless. Robert, and the rest of Amity, like to avoid conflict at all costs (including drugging themselves to keep from disagreeing) and spend their free time singing, playing guitar, and just generally being casual and relaxed (so they’re basically hippies).

For my Amity costume, I wore a flowy red skirt with flowers on it, a red v-neck, and bronze, strappy gladiator sandals. I put my hair in a side ponytail with an orange flower-clip tucked into my hair, and I wore rose-tinted lip balm, mascara, blush.

If you’re not up for wearing a skirt, you can exchange that for red or yellow pants. Same goes for shoes. I think a pair of bright red Keds or Vans would fit this look really well.

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Purchase These Items:

Floral Skirt** – $16.00, Kohl’s

Red V-Neck** – $9.00, Target

Sandals** – $19.99, Payless Shoesource

Flower Clip** – $2.25, Claire’s

*****

EURIDITE

Excerpt from Faction Manifesto: “Intelligence is a gift, not a right. It must be wielded not as a weapon but as a tool for the betterment of others.”

How to Dress: Euridite is a faction that believes in knowledge being power. This is the place all the nerds go. (Unfortunately, it’s also corrupt by the time the trilogy begins, so it’s associated with being the bad guys and has taken to withholding information, rather than spreading it). They’re required to wear at least one blue article of clothing at all times, because it gives off a calming aura, and they’re often found wearing hipster glasses.

A well-known character from Euridite is Jeannine, an antagonist in the Divergent world, and the primary baddie of Insurgent. The Euridite are very concerned with self-image, and are known to be ruthless, self-centered, and arrogant, although they generally do have the greater good at heart when making decisions (they’re just not very good with people).

For my Euridite costume, I wore a navy blue skater skirt, navy blue tights (not pictured), a medium blue v-neck, navy blue kitten heels (not pictured), and my hair pulled back in a prim bun. Euridite are definitely the type to wear makeup–they’re all about impressing people. (I forgot to put on my hipster glasses when taking this picture, but I definitely suggest them–they’re a fun touch.)

If you’re STILL not up for wearing a skirt (seriously, you should get on this dress/skirt bandwagon), then I’d suggest wearing navy blue trousers, a blue button-down or Polo, and dark blue dress shoes. Don’t forget the unnecessarily large plastic glasses.

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Purchase These Items:

Navy Blue Skater Skirt** – $14.80, Forever 21

Blue V-Neck** – $9.00, Target

Blue Tights** – $5.80, Forever 21

Hipster Glasses (not worn here, but you should really get them) – $9.50, Claire’s

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DAUNTLESS

Excerpt from Faction Manifesto: “We believe that cowardice is to blame for the world’s injustices. We believe that peace is hard-won, that sometimes it is necessary to fight for peace.”

How to Dress: And finally we come to the faction that plays the most prominent role throughout Divergent–the Dauntless. Dauntless is a faction of kickbutt thrill-seekers who primarily supply the security force of Divergent Chicago. They wear all black, generally have lots of tattoos and piercings, and basically look like those people your mother hoped you’d never grow up to be. Like Euridite, Dauntless has grown pretty corrupt and ruthless by the beginning of Divergent–but those who have resisted the corruption remain loyal and strong, and they’re deadset on lending their strength to those who are weaker than them in order to protect innocence and loyalty and all that gushy stuff.

If you’ve read Divergent (or even just the back flap), then you know that Tris transfers to Dauntless at the beginning of Divergent, and once there she meets the majority of the other main characters in the books, including her love interest, Four. Four embodies everything Dauntless is supposed to be: he’s resolute, confident, and wants nothing more than to make everyone as powerful and independent as they can be. He teaches Tris that being in Dauntless isn’t about being fearless, but being strong despite their fears.

For this costume, I wore black skinny jeans, a black v-neck, and black ballet flats (not pictured). I don’t suggest the black ballet flats–you’d be better off with some black Converse or combat boots–but since I don’t own either of those, ballet flats it was. [Update: Zara has some really kickbutt trousers that remind me of the ones the Dauntless wear in the movie. Check ’em out: pair one, pair two, pair three.]

Like I mentioned above, the Dauntless like piercings and tattoos, so if you’ve got some of those to draw attention to, or can get your hands on some fake ones, go for it. I also suggest wearing lots of eyeliner and maybe putting your hair up in a ponytail/braid/etc.

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Purchase These Items:

Black V-Neck** – $9.00, Target

Black Jeans – $29.99, American Eagle

Black Combat Boots (option 1) – $99.95, Steve Madden

Black Converse (option 2) – $100.00, Converse

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And that wraps up how to dress like you’re from a Divergent faction, based on the descriptions in the books! Again, I’m going to see about doing another post, eventually, about how to dress like the five factions based on the costumes in the movies, so watch out for that. Thanks for reading! If you use any of these costume ideas as inspiration at any point, feel free to email pictures of your cool Divergent-wear to me at jbyerswriting@aol.com, and I might feature them on the blog!

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Faction manifesto quotes courtesy Divergent Wiki: http://divergent.wikia.com/wiki/Divergent_Wiki

[Photography by my super cool brother.]

 

~Julia

** This is not the exact item that I’m wearing, but either the closest I could find or one that fits the descriptions in the books better.

Lovely Links

Hey there! I’ve been collecting up some links for a while now to share with you in one compact, beautiful little post. You ready for this? Let’s go!

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Smoore’s Adventures

Smoore’s Adventures is the blog of my writing friend Shelby, and I definitely suggest checking her out. She’s a total sweetheart, and besides being an awesome writer, she’s also a seriously talented musician. Like me, she just finished her first year of college, and now she’s getting back into the swing of things with her blog for the summer.

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Miss Snark’s First Victim: The 2013 Baker’s Dozen Earliest Info Ever

Are you a writer and don’t know what Miss Snark’s First Victim and/or the Baker’s Dozen Agent Auction is? Make sure to check ’em out, because this is an opportunity you do not want to miss!

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Chapter One Young Writers Conference

I know I’ve talked about it before, but if you haven’t checked out Ch1Con yet, you definitely should. 🙂 It’s a conference I run with some friends (and a lot of help from my much more worldly parents), targeting teenage writers. Our next event will be in Chicago in July, 2014, which is still a ways away of course, but I’m already SO EXCITED for it.

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WriteOnCon

If you don’t know what WriteOnCon is, I wrote a post about it last year, which you can read here. If you don’t feel like clicking on that link, let me just say: It’s the most amazing free online writing conference focusing on kidlit in the universe EVER. (There. How ’bout that description?)

Anyway, they’ve just announced the dates for the 2013 conference, and I’m kind of urging my summer vacation to go by faster now, just so WriteOnCon can come. That’s how much I love it.

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Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent trilogy (and my personal hero), is going on tour!

Guys, I’m a huge Veronica Roth fan. I am a HUUUGE fan. I am a fan to the point of probably being kind of creepily obsessed with all things her and her books. (Like my friends and I literally drove six hours to Chicago the other weekend just to stalk the set of the Divergent movie.) Obviously I’m not going to stop you from voting for her to come to your state on tour, because I know I’m not the only one who adores her to pieces, but if you wanted to maybe help me get her to come to Michigan instead, I would really appreciate it. Just saying. Because I love her. (And you, whether you vote for Michigan or not.)

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… And that’s it for now! Thanks for checking out the links, and I’ll see you next time!

 

~Julia