Librarian Nancy Pearl, author of Book Lust, NPR personality, action figure and role model, once told me that I don't have to read the books that everyone is going to read anyway, unless I want to. We were talking about Twilight at the time, and it was a big relief to be let off the hook on that one.
Today's big book that it appears everyone is going to read is Divergent by 22-year-old Veronica Roth. Billed as "the next Hunger Games," it has been passed from hand to hand by aficionados of YA sci-fi action fiction with genuine fervor.
So I brought it home, but, as often happens with exciting-looking books, it got snagged off the coffee table by my man Milo* while I was busy reading something else. He read it in a day, which tells me something already, so I figured I'd get him to booktalk it to me, see if it was something I wanted to read.
Milo and his little brother in San Diego for ALA Midwinter.
Your Neighborhood Librarian: So Milo, you read Divergent.
Milo: Pretty much yesterday.
YNL: You read it in a day! How many pages in this book?
M: 487. But I'm a fast reader.
YNL: What made you not what to put it down?
M: The theme: how there were separate nations all forced to do one thing, and then some people switched nations during that thing.
YNL: Who would you recommend this book to?
M: Anyone who liked Hunger Games. That includes you.
YNL: Got it.
YNL: Who's the main character?
M: Her name is Beatrice but she calls herself Tris. She's really brave, and she has some special really important good thing about her brain that is different from most people, called being Divergent. It means that she can control simulations and isn't effected by mind control.
YNL: So... there's mind control in this book? Who does the mind controlling?
M: The Big Bad - a person who's in control of one of the nations, and she mind controls another nation, and then she attacks Beatrice's old nation.
YNL: When you talk about nations, are they countries?
M: No. They are factions, all living in the same city.
YNL: Why are there different factions?
M: This is way in the future, and there's already been a World War Three, and the survivors all blamed different things for the war, so they formed five factions, all with different beliefs and virtues.
YNL: What's the goal? and what's at stake here?
M: They try to coexist, to rule together to prevent war. As each kid turns 16, they choose which faction to join. When Tris switches nations, that's when her adventures begin. The bad guy is just a violent maniac who wants to rule everything and so she uses mind control to get one faction to wipe out another. But since Tris isn't affected by mind control, she tries to stop the bad guys.
YNL: What kind of book would you say this is?
M: It's an epic.
YNL: Any laughs?
M: No. It's pretty serious.
YNL: Is there a lot of kissy stuff?
M: A little.
YNL: Does she have two boyfriends, or two guys who like her?
M: Not at the same time. This one guy who likes her gets thrown in a waterfall by Tris's arch-nemesis. The book is mostly action.
YNL: Is there anything else you want to say about Divergent?
M: It's very exciting - it seems like there's a cliffhanger at the end of each page, so that's what kept me reading.
That's my boy. I think we can guarantee that Divergent is an exciting page-turner, a great summer read for middle school and high school. And yes, probably me.
*Milo is a rising 5th grader, and old enough now that I think I can desert his pseudonym. I called him "Mao" online, partly because when he was little that's how he pronounced his name, but also because as our first-born, he is kind of the chairman, plus he's quite likely to cause us to starve to death once we have to start paying tuition. But so far he's shown no particular animosity to sparrows, so that's as far as that goes, one hopes.