If You Loved The Hunger Games, You’ll Love Divergent!

Ever since I read the Hunger Games Trilogy I’ve been devouring dystopian teen novels. Divergent is right up there with quality of world building and character development. Beatrice or Tris, as she’s called later, is 16 years old. In her world (what used to be Chicago) five different types of people exist. You either fit one of these molds or you are an outcast. We meet her the day she takes a simulation to determine where she will best fit in. Even with the test, Tris and her classmates still get a choice which faction they will join. Tris grew up in Abnegation, which is a selfless clan who eat dull foods and wear gray clothes. Dauntless is the brave group who protect the city from what lies beyond. They are known for their daredevil stunts. Amity is the peaceful faction. Erudite is the academic one and Candor are known for their truthfulness. This world is based on the idea that you will fit one mold. If you show a capacity for more than one fraction you are known as divergent, a danger to society. That person becomes factionless or is killed. Tris must keep that she is Divergent a secret. Tris chooses Dauntless because she has a taste for adventure and does not want the quiet, selfless life of Abnegation. What she faces is a dangerous training and initiation that will have you asking what does it really mean to be brave? The factions are starting to crack and Tris must be braver than she ever imagined. I really loved this book and can’t wait for the second installment. Insurgent will be published in May of 2012.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Talk about what the words, Abnegation, Dauntless, Candor, Amity, and Erudite mean. Which word or words do they think describe them?

What does it mean to be brave? How is that different or alike the way Eric or Four from Dauntless feel?

Talk about the word Divergent and how that would be seen as a danger to this type of society?

Talk about Four. Discuss his fear landscapes. What would your fear landscapes look like? Why do you think they had fewer fears than others?

Talk about the stunts Tris performs, like jumping off the building and riding the zip line. Which would you want to do, or not want to do?

Discuss Tris’s mother’s sacrifice and her background. What do you think it all means?

What will happen now?

What do you think it means to factionless? Would it be better or worse?

Compare the Divergent world to other dystopian worlds you’ve read about.

Talk about tattoos and their meanings. Do you know anyone with a tattoo? What would one mean to you?

The abnegation are the ones who rule. What qualities do you think are important in a leader or ruler?

I Enjoyed Alexandra Adornetto’s Hades Even More Than Halo!

I’ve been reading as much angel fantasy as I can get my hands on. I’ve said before that for the story to really take flight (yes, that pun was intended) there needs to be a religious component. Alexandra Adornetto’s second book in the Halo trilogy was a very exciting read. There is a lot of mushy love between Bethany and Xavier in the beginning, but the story really gets going when Jake Throne tricks Bethany and kidnaps her into Hades aka Hell! The author creates a vivid and frightening underworld that draws on legend with plenty of creative modern twists. Some souls are destined to club forever. They cannot stop dancing. The demons that look beautiful on the outside just barely hide the hideous disfigurement of their true selves. Jake hopes to make Bethany his bride. We find out quickly that for Jake this is not just about starting a war with Heaven, he truly loves Bethany and wants her to accept him and choose to love him back. Back on earth, Bethany’s siblings, Gabriel and Ivy, along with Xavier try to figure out how to rescue her. Both angels are tied to whatever the Heavenly Father has planned. He sends word through the magnificent archangel, Michael. The plan is cryptic and involves saving more souls along the way. The book is about sacrifice and what you would give up for the ones you love the most much more than just a simple teen love story. Heaven’s rules are complicated. Bethany often wonders if she will be left in Hell. Is someone watching over her? Will she ever see Xavier or her siblings again? The ending will make you dying to find out what happens next. I’m hoping to see as vivid as description about Heaven and she created for Hell. The third book in the trilogy, Heaven, will be published sometime in 2012.

Ideas For Discussing With Teens:

*Much of this book is religious in nature. Most of these questions take a Christian perspective.

Talk about Bethany and Xavier’s relationship. Is their love worth all the risks she is taking?

Discuss the séance and Ouija Boards. Have you ever tried one? Do you think they are real?

Why do you think Jake wants Bethany? Is it really about war? Is he capable of love?

Discuss when Bethany finds Taylah in Hades wastelands. Talk about why she ended up there. How do you feel about her final judgment?

Why would God send such a cryptic message through Michael? Why not just tell Gabriel and Ivy what to do?

Talk about Bethany’s powers to heal in Hell. Talk about her act with the small child.

Talk about how Satan himself was portrayed by the author.

Talk about how Tucker and Hannah traded their souls to help others and ultimately what happened.

Talk about how the experience changed Bethany.

What do you think Heaven will look like in the third book? What will happen next?

Sultry Historic Fiction About Cleopatra’s Daughter

Vicky Alvear Shecter wrote Cleopatra Rules! The Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen. Now she writes a fictional story about her daughter, Cleopatra VIII Selene . Cleopatra and her three brothers are the royal children of the Great Cleopatra VII. Cleopatra Selene and her twin brother Alexandros Helios and their baby brother Ptolemy Philadelphos are the children of Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius. Egypt is about to be invaded by the Romans. After both of her parents commit suicide, Cleopatra Selene and her brothers are taken captive by Octavianus, the nephew of Julius Caesar. They face many dangers while being reared in Caesar’s house. The wife of Caesar is rumored to be a brewer of deadly poisons and the slaves are everywhere as spies. Cleopatra tries to follow what her mother would have wanted and desperately wants to return to Egypt as the queen she was destined to be. A love triangle springs up between Cleopatra, Juba, who was taken captive as a baby when his royal family was killed, and Marcellus the nephew of Caesar. Which will get her back to Egypt? There is rich detail in describing her home in Egypt and Rome. While this is historic fiction (with many facts at the end), it reads like the novel Luxe. I enjoyed this book very much. It is fascinating to wonder what it would be like to be the only daughter of such an historic icon.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Talk about the differences between Juba & Marcellus. Which would they choose? What did she have to give up to choose either one?

Talk the Goddess Isis and the mummification process.

Who did you think was more dangerous, Octavia or Livia?

Talk about Cleopatra’s bravery.

Read some of the facts out loud from the back of the book and discuss.

Discuss the propaganda used to discredit Cleopatra’s mother Cleopatra VII.