People are thought to be pretty complex, but in the world of Divergent everyone is categorized into groups based on one of five personality traits. Each person is best suited to life in one group. If you are brave, you are Dauntless. If you are selfless, you belong in Abnegation. If you are smart, you are an Erudite. If you are friendly, you are Amity. If you are honest, you are in Candor. Your faction dictates where you work, what you wear, how you spend your free time, and who you spend it with.
Beatrice has turned sixteen and it is time for her to choose her faction. She has been raised in Abnegation, but never really felt like she belonged. That feeling is confirmed when her aptitude test reveals that she is an aberration, a Divergent, who is not well suited to any single group. Her results indicate she could be Abnegation, Dauntless, or Erudite. The Dauntless who administers her test instructs Beatrice never to reveal these results to anyone. Not even her family can know that she is Divergent. Her life may depend on it.
Nevertheless, Beatrice must still choose a faction. Without test results to guide her choice, or the ability to talk about her results with others, she must make the choice alone. Feeling that Erudite is not the faction for her, she is torn between her longing to be Dauntless and the pressure she feels to yield to expectations and stay in Abnegation with her family. She leaves her decision to the last minute. When the Choosing Ceremony begins, and her name is called, Beatrice makes the decision that will change her life. Will she be brave, or will she be selfless?
Choosing a faction is only the beginning of Beatrice’s story. Life in her chosen faction does not quite go as she planned. How can she learn more about what being Divergent means if she cannot discuss it with anyone? Divergent is the first in a trilogy and is followed up by Insurgent.
Check the WRL catalog for Divergent.
Kyle’s story begins with what is expected to be just another annual Millgrove talent show. Things begin to take a strange turn when Danny Birnie, “The Great Danielini,” takes the stage to perform his new hypnotist act. Danny, who’d never been particularly successful at anything, claims he was actually able to hypnotize his sister only a few days earlier, and now he intends to hypnotize four people from the audience. Kyle is surprised to find himself volunteering, along with Lilly (his best friend’s girlfriend), Mrs. O’Donnell from the Happy Shopper convenience store, and Mr. Peterson the postman. Kyle is even more surprised to find that Danny is really able to put his volunteers into a hypnotic state. What he finds when they all wake up, however, is not surprising. It is terrifying.
Everyone in the audience is frozen in place, their mouths open in a look of horror and shock. Bees still buzz, the wind still blows, but nobody moves. It is the same all over town. Then they discover that the phones, computers, radios, and televisions don’t work. Something terrible must have happened while Kyle and the others were under hypnosis.
Mr. Peterson takes it particularly badly:
They’re gone,” he said. “Changed. All of them. You hear me? I …I SEE THEM!” His words sent a physical chill down my spine. “See what?” I demanded. “What can you see?” “All of them.” His eyes were stretched even wider now, and his voice was little more than a rasping whisper as he said, “They are to us as we are to apes.”
No sooner do they begin to formulate a plan of action than everyone wakes up, acting like nothing out of the ordinary has happened at all. But no one is behaving like themselves, and when Kyle tells his parents what happened, they phone Dr. Campbell. Only Kyle was sure the phones still weren’t working. Kyle’s suspicions that all is not back to normal are confirmed when he overhears Dr. Campbell’s advice to his parents: “I’m sorry, but it is clear that he is one of the zero-point-four. There is nothing that can be done for him. He will have to be dealt with.”
Check the WRL catalog for Human.4.
One thing that seems to be drawing readers to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the bizarre vintage photography that author Ransom Riggs has integrated into the book. It is definitely the first thing that caught my attention, and it does give the book a little something special. You might think that a novelty such as this would overshadow the story (or be compensating for a weak plot) but I found that the characters and plot were my favorite part. The photographs were just icing on the cake. It’s not often that an author’s inspiration is shared so directly with readers, but Riggs has crafted a whole world which revolves around the subjects of these unusual pictures.
Jacob grew up hearing his grandfather tell stories about his youth. The most interesting stories were about the time he spent in a Welsh home for orphaned children during World War II. The home, his grandfather claimed, was full of children who could do peculiar things. One could float, one was incredibly strong, one was invisible, and others had even stranger abilities. He said they were all living in the home, under the care of Miss Peregrine, to hide from monsters that were after them. That’s not the sort of thing even a young boy would believe outright, but Jacob’s grandfather had proof. He had photographs of all his old friends. Unfortunately, as Jacob got older he became more skeptical, and eventually stopped believing in his grandfather’s tales altogether. That was a mistake.
Now Jacob is almost sixteen. When he receives a frantic call from his grandfather in which he sounds agitated and delusional, Jacob goes to his home to check on him. He finds the house has been ransacked. There is a large gash in the screen door and a bloody trail leading into the woods. Jacob races into the forest, and finds his grandfather dying from what appears to be an animal attack. His grandfather lives long enough to give Jacob some final instructions (which Jacob doesn’t understand in the least) and then succumbs to his wounds. Jacob senses he is being watched, and sees something moving in the trees. His flashlight catches a glimpse of the creature. It’s a monster from out of his grandfather’s stories. Jacob has a horrible realization: everything his grandfather told him was true. Now he must decipher his grandfather’s last words before the monsters come for him.
Check the WRL catalog for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
Clay is excited to receive a package in the mail, until he realizes that it contains cassette tapes from a classmate, Hannah, who committed suicide. In the tapes, Hannah gives thirteen reasons why she took an overdose of pills. Her voice explains:
I hope you’re ready, because I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to these tapes, you’re one of the reasons why.
And so begins a compelling, compassionate, intimate glimpse into Hannah’s life. Her story appears in italics, and Clay’s actions and reactions in regular print. They both have pretty ordinary lives that many people will be able to relate to.
The stories of the thirteen people and what they did to her were mostly ordinary as well. You find out that someone started a rumor and how that hurt Hannah. Another pretended to be her friend, then ignored her. And someone else stole her notes from a class. There are a few “big” events in the story, but they aren’t lifted any higher than the more ordinary events as the reason Hannah decided to take her life.
Hannah explains it in the tapes:
I guess that’s the point of it all. No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.
Long after I closed the book, I continue to wonder how my words and actions impact others.
The author doesn’t glamorize the suicide, and it’s not portrayed as the only option that Hannah had. Clay is frustrated because he thinks he would have listened had Hannah confided in him. Maybe it would have made a difference, maybe not. The author doesn’t get hung up on being preachy. He makes it an interesting story. One that ends with hope—hope that Clay will never forget Hannah and hope he will make an effort to reach out to others who may be hurting inside.
Check the WRL catalog for Thirteen Reasons Why
Beatle’s real name is John Lennon. For obvious reasons, everyone calls him Beatle. As the title suggests, Beatle meets a girl named Destiny. For a guy who describes himself as superstitious that would be reason enough to take notice, but her last name is McCartney— as in Paul. Beatle and Destiny keep running into each other at random places and Beatle is sure they are being drawn together by fate, much like the greatest song writing duo of all time. Unfortunately, Beatle already has a girlfriend. Cilla, in addition to being his girlfriend, is also the best friend of his twin sister, Winsome. If you think that sounds complicated, wait until the story really gets going. There are a lot of plot threads in this book, but they are all interesting, funny, and enjoyable. There is a curbside trash-to-treasure art project gone awry, a stalker, an eccentric mother who makes star charts, an astrology column, a stroke, a documentary, and a secret romance, just to name a few. Not to mention a few major misunderstandings. Pick up this book for the relationship drama, but read it for the quirky characters, unbelievable situations, and offbeat plot.
Check the WRL catalog for Beatle Meets Destiny.
I have been meaning to read some of the urban fantasy of China Mieville, if for no other reason than that someone with a name like that ought to be a great fantasy writer.
Certainly, all the reviews have praised Mieville’s characters and stories. Some time ago, I came across a copy of Mieville’s YA fantasy Un Lun Dun on display at an American Library Association conference, and I picked it up for the return trip. It proved to be all that I could want in a novel. Mieville has a deft hand for characters, and Deeba, the ultimate heroine of the story, can take her place with Phillip Pullman’s Lyra Belacqua and Francis Hardinge’s Mosca Mye in the ranks of tough, enduring characters who make their way through dangers that they never foresaw.
The story is complex enough to keep all readers interested, and Mieville mixes humor and wordplay in with a variety of intriguing plot twists. There are betrayals and failures here, and, as in all good fantasy, help often comes in unexpected ways and from unlooked-for quarters. Mieville conjures up an alternative London, where the unwanted debris of the real, contemporary London comes to life. This Un Lun Dun, or the Abcity as it is called, is threatened by the Smog, and it falls to Deeba to lead the struggle against this evil. There are puzzling connections between London and Un Lun Dun, and a sinister plot that involves the British government and those who would control the Abcity. Mieville blends a beautifully descriptive writing style with a flair for thrilling action, and I look forward to getting to his other novels soon.
Check the WRL catalog for Un Lun Dun
There are all sorts of materials that can be checked out from a library. The most typical, of course, are books, but some libraries circulate items such as maps, art prints, even toys. Elizabeth’s new job is as a page at a very different type of library, The New York Circulating Material Repository. This library circulates objects. Some objects, like one of Lincoln’s hats or Marie Antoinette’s wigs, are particularly valuable. Others have little intrinsic value, but are no less important to have in the collection.
“Some of the more popular types of items we loan out these days include musical instruments, sports equipment, and specialized cooking tools. Many New Yorkers like to give the occasional fondue party, for example, but they don’t want to devote the cupboard space to a lot of fondue pots. Or if you’re thinking of learning to play the piccolo, you might want to borrow one to see how you like it. In the late nineteenth century, specialized silver services were very popular. In the 1970s, it was wood lathes.”
Now, the idea of such a library is so incredibly cool that it prompted me to immediately Google “New York Circulating Material Repository” just to be sure it wasn’t real. The realization that this library was fictitious was a blow, but the author had even more up her sleeve. My longing for this library to be real grew as Elizabeth began to uncover its secrets. In the Dungeon are sections with names such as the Grimm Collection, the Wells Bequest, the Gibson Chrestomathy, the Garden of Seasons, and the Lovecraft Corpus.
Elizabeth, being a fairy tale fan, is most interested in exploring the Grimm Collection. She learns that it contains objects related to the Grimm brother’s stories and that many of the objects are powerful, even dangerous, and as such are kept under lock and key. Her coworkers are hesitant to reveal any other details, however, as other library pages have recently disappeared, and Grimm objects are going missing as well. Elizabeth is still learning her way around this mysterious new job, and she doesn’t know who to trust, but the lure of working among genuine Grimm Collection items is too great a prospect to resist. Sounds like a dream job to this librarian!
Check the WRL catalog for The Grimm Legacy.
Sophie is a teen witch who doesn’t have much experience with spells. She was raised by a mortal mother, and her warlock father has never been in the picture. Despite her lack of expertise, or perhaps because of it, Sophie has cast one too many spells in front of her mortal classmates. Her punishment is to be sent to Hecate Hall, a reformatory boarding school for witches, shapeshifters and faeries. Hex Hall, as it is called by these magical teen delinquents, is to be her home until she shapes up, or she turns eighteen (whichever comes first).
While Sophie doesn’t fit in the regular world very well, she doesn’t exactly fit in the magical one either. In addition to being behind in her magical abilities, there turns out to be a few things that her classmates know about her father that she doesn’t. Her ignorance of the magical world leads her to say and do many wrong things, and prevents her from making many friends. She has drawn the ire of the resident mean girls by declining to join their coven, and she has a crush on the head mean girl’s boyfriend. On top of all that, her roommate, Jenna, is a vampire. She is the only vampire student at Hex Hall and her last roommate was found exsanguinated in the bathroom from two puncture wounds on her neck. Although Sophie has been assured that Jenna was cleared of any wrongdoing, the culprit is still at large.
As Sophie is finding out, the magical world, and her place in it, are much different than she ever could have dreamed.
Check the WRL catalog for Hex Hall.