Category Archives: Dystopian

Divergent by Veronica Roth

divergentBibliographic Information:

Roth, V. (2011). Divergent. New York: Katherine Tegen Books. (978-0062024022)

Insurgent, bk. 2

Allegiant, bk 3 (forthcoming)

Plot Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior was born into an Abnegation family but she has never felt she belonged. She knows that she going to have to decide what faction she belongs with on Choosing Day.

When she takes her aptitude test, she finds out that she has an aptitude for three factions; Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. She does not have an aptitude for the other two factions Candor or Amity. She also learns that showing an aptitude for more than one faction makes her Divergent, which can be dangerous to her if anyone finds out.

On Choosing Day, Beatrice decides to choose Dauntless. Renamed Triss, she now has to prove she belongs to her new faction. She will have to be Dauntless to survive.

Critical Evaluation:

There have been many comparisons made between Divergent and The Hunger Games. Both feature strong female protagonists who have to leave their families and compete to determine their place in society. Neither accepts the social conventions of their society but they are forced to play a part that is based on lies and deceit.

The similarities also mean that fans of The Hunger Games that are mourning the end of the series will be happy to turn to Divergent and the two additional books in the trilogy.

Divergent should not, however, be viewed as a carbon copy of The Hunger Games. Roth has created a conflicted main character who is trying to decide who she is away from her family. Beatrice/Triss will learn some truths about her society’s past in the novel and she will have to decide if being Dauntless is enough.

Reader’s Annotation:

Beatrice needs to choose her role in her society. She can only choose one. How can she choose only one and be true to what she is – Divergent.

Information About the Author:

For more information about Veronica Roth and to follow the series please visit her blog.

Genre:

  • Dystopian fiction
  • Post-Apocalyptic fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Identity
  • Family

Curriculum Ties:

  • English – could work as a novel study with other dystopian novels currently published.

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Combine with the other dystopians that are so popular
  • Read-alike with The Hunger Games
  • Watch the book trailer.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

Reviews:

  • Kraus, D. (2011). Divergent. Booklist, 107(13), 56.

“The simplistic, color-coded world stretches credibility on occasion, but there is no doubt readers will respond to the gutsy action and romance of this umpteenth spin on Brave New World.”

  • Divergent. (2011). Kirkus Reviews, 79(8), 696.

“Fans snared by the ratcheting suspense will be unable to resist speculating on their own factional allegiance; a few may go on to ponder the questions of loyalty and identity beneath the facade of thrilling adventure.”

References:

Home. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.ca/2010/09/divergent-cover-and-summary.html

All Good Children by Catherine Austen

all good childrenBibliographic Information:

Austen, C. (2011). All good children. Victoria, B.C: Orca Book Publishers. (978-1-55469-824-0)

Plot Summary:

When Maxwell Connors returns home after his aunt’s funeral he notices that the kids at school are acting strange. It turns out that the students were given a treatment while he was away that has turned them into obedient, well-mannered citizens.  His sister Ally notices it first. She says that the other kids are “are fuzzy and slow. They just go along.”

Middletown is special walled community that protects the inhabitants from the terrorism and disasters that are happening throughout the world. The whole community works for the same corporation, Chemrose International. As a result, the corporation controls everything that happens in the town. When Max’s class is vaccinated he has to pretend to be a “zombie” too. It is time for the family to leave Middletown but that may prove more difficult than one would expect.

Critical Evaluation:

Catherine Austen has created a multi-dimensional wise-cracking teenager as her protagonist in the dystopian world of All Good Children. A wise choice since young adults are very interested in developing their individuality at this stage. Max’s sarcasm and “tell it like it is” attitude will resonate with readers. These characteristics also infuse some humour into an otherwise stark plot.

Max’s development from a kid who accepts the way his world operates to one who is willing to give up all the nice toys for freedom is realistic. At first, Max is pretty comfortable with his situation. He lives in a safe community that has a good standard of living and the newest technology toys. He knows that he is smart enough to be successful. So, he is okay with the security. He likes that the city is clean and secure.

The novel, told from Max’s point of view, follows his dawning awareness that the New Education Support Treatment is stripping children of their individuality and making them into good workers with no emotions who are willing to do what they are told.

Reader’s Annotation:

In a world with terrorism and disasters, what would you be willing to give up for security?

Information About the Author:

Catherine Austen is an awarding-winning author of children and young adult fiction. All Good Children was her first young adult novel.

Catherine grew up in Kingston, Ontario. She studies political science at Queen’s University and environmental studies at York University. After, she worked in the conservation movement. While a student, she wrote short stories, which she published in small literary journals. She started writing stories for children in 2003 but her first children’s book, Walking Backwards, was published in 2009.

When she became a parent, she decided to become a freelance writer so she could be home with her family.

She currently lives in Aylmer (Gatineau), Quebec. She says she lives in a little house with a big yard (About the author, 2013) with her family.

For more information please visit her website.

Genre:

  • Survival fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Dystopian fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • Social Justice
    • Behavior modification in schools
  • English program
    • Companion book to Brave New World

Booktalking Ideas:

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

Austen is a Canadian author who wrote a great book with a theme that is very popular with young adults currently.

Reviews:

  • Wiersema, R. (Ed.). (2011, October). Book review: All good children. Retrieved
  •      May 11, 2013, from Quill & Quire website: http://The Canadian Library
  •      Association’s 2012 Young Adult Book Award Winner.

Awards:

  • Canadian Library Association Young Adult Canadian Book Award, 2012.
  • The 2012 Sunburst Award (for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic) Young Adult Winner.
  • A YALSA Teens’ Top Ten nominee and a YALSA 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee.
  • A Forest of Reading 2013 White Pine Nominee.

References:

About the author. (2013). Retrieved 15 March 15, 2013 from http://www.catherineausten.com/contact_author.html

Hunger Games (The Movie) Directed by Gary Ross

Bibliographic Information:

Ross, G., Collins, S., Ray, B., Jacobson, N., Kilik, J., Lawrence, J., Hutcherson, J., … Lions Gate Home Entertainment. (2012). The hunger games. Santa Monica, Calif: Lions Gate Home Entertainment Plot

Running time: 142 minutes

Summary:

Katniss Everdeen takes her sister’s place in the Hunger Games, a television show created by the Capital where two young adults aged 12 – 18, a girl and a boy,  from each District have to fight to the death. The fact that she already has broken the law and learned to hunt to support her family has taught her the skills she will need to survive. But in the Games, survival is not enough; you have to be willing to kill too.

Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson.  Directed by Gary Ross.

Critical Evaluation:

The movie is an adaptation of the successful novel, The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Suzanne Collins joined Gary Ross and Billy Ray in writing the screenplay. As a result, the movie remains very close to the novel.

Following the themes of the movies, the movie is dark with a documentary feel. The cameras are shaky with awkward angles. The lack of colour in the Districts in the buildings and in the people’s dress indicates the lack of hope and future in the Districts. In contrast, all things Capital are overproduced; the colours are saturated; the fashion is extreme.

Reader’s Annotation:

Katniss wil do anything to protect her family. But is her will strong enough to survive and fight against the Capital?

Information About the Author:

Director Gary Ross is writer, director and actor. He was born in 1956 to Arthur A. Ross, who was also a screenwriter. Pleasantville was Ross’ directorial debut. He also directed  Seabiscuit. (Gary Ross).

Genre:

  • Action and adventure films
  • Dystopian films
  • Film adaptations
  • Apocalyptic films

Curriculum Ties:

  • N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • PG-13

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

Reviews:

“Thrilling and superbly acted, The Hunger Games captures the dramatic violence, raw emotion, and ambitious scope of its source novel.” 85% rating

“Relax, you legions of Hunger Gamers. We have a winner. Hollywood didn’t screw up the film version of Suzanne Collins’ young-adult bestseller about a survival-of-the-fittest reality show that sends home all its teen contestants, save the victor, in body bags. The screen Hunger Games radiates a hot, jumpy energy that’s irresistible”

References:

The Hunger Games. (2013) Retrieved March 5, 2013 from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1392170/

Gary Ross. (2013). Retrieved March 5, 2013 from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0002657/bio

The Knife of Never Letting Go

Bibliographic Information:

Ness, P. (2008). The knife of never letting go. Cambridge, Mass: Candlewick Press. (978-0-7636-3931-0)

Chaos Walking trilogy, book 1

Plot Summary:

Todd Hewitt does not know what it means to have any privacy. He lives in a town where everyone – every male – can hear the thoughts of every other male in the town. There are no women left. They were killed when the Spackle, the native species of the planet, released the germ. The side effect of the germ is that men can hear each other’s thoughts. Now, there is always Noise.

Todd is the last boy in Prentisstown. Before he becomes a man, his adoptive parents, Ben and Cillian, force him to flee before the ceremony. Confused, he takes his mother’s diary and heads into the swamp where he is shocked to find a girl whose spaceship crash-landed, killing her parents.

Now, Todd and the girl start a journey where Todd will learn all he knew was a lie and that it is hard to hide from yourself – and others – when your thoughts can never be private.

Critical Evaluation:

I was once told that a great book will hook you in the first paragraph. The Knife of Never Letting Go has one of the most memorable first paragraphs I have read in a long time:

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. About anything.

“Need a poo, Todd.”

“Shut up, Manchee.”

“Poo. Poo. Todd.”

“I said shut it.”

There are no profound words of wisdom in these lines, no lyrical imagery or evocative phrases. But, there is enough to catch the curiosity of the reader and to hook him into the tale. That light touch of humour is sprinkled throughout this terribly beautiful tale.

Aside from the plot, which I think is tightly woven, there are two things I particularly appreciate in this tale. First, is the pacing. Ness, as a marathon runner, understands the need to set a pace and keep to it even when your legs are burning and you do not think you can catch another breath. Ness writes the same way. He starts the tale in the middle and keeps moving. He has cut away the extraneous pieces; all that is left is the muscle.

I also appreciate Todd’s voice. He has kept Todd real with the rhythm of the language and the slang-like dialect. He is confused. He makes mistakes. He survives. Because the reader can relate to Todd as a real person the rest of the story also becomes believable. He takes the reader into his world.

Reader’s Annotation:

In a town without women where men can hear each other’s thoughts how can one lone boy be alone?

Ness scholasticInformation About the Author:

Patrick Ness has two very different biographies. His personal one is quirky and firmly roots him in the world of supernatural writing. His professional one focuses briefly on his life and delves into his works.

Although Ness was born in Virginia, he admits he has never been back. As an army brat he has lived in Hawaii, Washington, and California. He has called England home since 1999.

Ness studied English Literature at the University of Southern California. He always wanted to be an author so he has tried to make sure all his jobs were related to writing. As a result, he worked as a corporate writer at a cable company, freelanced as a journalist, and taught Creative Writing at Oxford University. He has written for a number of English papers including The Guardian and The Times Literary Supplement.

An interesting factoid about Ness is that “under no circumstances will I eat onions.” Disappointing for me – I don’t think he will be coming to dinner at my home any time soon.

For more information please visit Patrick Ness’ website

Genre:

  • Science fiction
  • Dystopian
  • Adventure

Curriculum Ties:

  • Media classes to discuss the concept of writing for ones’ audience and tone.
  • Expository writing and persuasive writing.

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Stream of consciousness
  • Books with slang
  • If dogs could take quotes
  • Book trailer by Christie Kimsey created for educational purposes for INLS 530 at UNC Chapel Hill.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up
  • Reading level 5.6

Challenge Issues:

  • Violence

Challenge plan:

  1. Listen to the critic to understand what the concerns are.
  • Ask if he/she has read the book
  • Ask if he/she has spoken to his/her child about the concerns.
  1. Explain rationale for including the book in the collection
  • Provide CLA Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom and CLA’s Position Statement of Diversity and Inclusion documents
  • Provide school’s selection policy
  • Provide list of reviews/lists
  1. If necessary, provide a “Request for Reconsideration form”

Why did you include this book?:

I read a lot of books from a lot of different genres and age ranges. I like to be able to find the right reader for the right book. But when my students ask me for my favorite books I do have to admit I have a preference for two things in a book; a protagonist with a distinct voice and interesting language. I love authors that play with words. Ness revels in words.

Awards:

  • Winner of the 2008 Booktrust Teenage Prize
  • Winner of the 2008 Guardian Award
  • Winner of the 2008 James Tiptree, Jr. Award
  • Shortlisted for the 2009 Carnegie Medal
  • Longlisted for the 2009 Manchester Book Award

References:

“Patrick Ness” (n.d.). Retreived from http://www.candlewick.com/authill.asp?b=Author&m=bio&id=3327&pix=y

Rebel Heart by Moira Young

Rebel Heart

Bibliographic Information:

Young, M. (2012). Rebel Heart. Toronto: Doubleday Canada. (9978-0-385-67186-6)

Dust Lands bk. 2

Plot Summary:

Rebel Heart, the second book in the Dust Lands series, follows Saba and her family’s attempt to move on from the deception and destruction sown in Blood Red Road. Lugh wants nothing more than to take their small family and start a new life at the Big Water. He wants to forget his time with the Tonton and all the misery they have lived through.

Saba, however, is being followed by too many ghosts to allow her to find peace. When a message comes from Jack, she decides to risk everything to find him and get him away from the Tonton. While hunting for Jack, Saba is reunited with another of her nightmares, DeMalo.

Critical Evaluation:

First person narrative is a common motif in young adult literature. This narrative mode has many benefits to an author. First, the immediacy of the telling can quickly draw a reader into the plot. It also a great way for an author to control the information the reader is receiving as the narrator’s understanding is limited to, and shaped by, his own experience and what he has been told. Young uses this technique to demonstrate the duality that exists in Saba’s character: she is strong and determined but vulnerable and filled with guilt.

Through allowing Saba to tell her own story, Young depicts the typical flawed hero often associated with high fantasy plots. Young’s post-apocalyptic setting provides a contemporary feeling to the typical hero’s quest. In this, the Dust Land series follows a current trend of post-apocalyptic dystopian novels starring strong female protagonists which includes The Hunger Games, Legend, Shatter Me, and Divergent.

Saba has many similarities to the female protagonists in the books listed above. One of the main differences is her voice. Young’s future is one where literacy is limited; where the very language is decaying. As a result, Saba’s dialect is filled with misspelled words, contractions, and grammatically incorrect sentences. The result is jarring and uncomfortable to a reader used to novels following the rules and conventions of English – which is the point. This devolution of language is echoed in the harsh, barren landscape where Saba lives.

Reader’s Annotation:

Saba, now known as the “Angel of Death,” has successfully rescued her brother Lugh but at what cost? The sacrifices made have marked her and her brother. When a message comes from Jack, she knows she must risk going to New Eden to rescue him but New Eden has some more surprises for her – who is Jack really working for and what does she really want? Maybe there is a place for her in creating this brave new world – maybe she does not have to be its’ destroyer.

Information About the Author:

Although Moira Young was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, she graduated from high school in Winnipeg, Manitoba. After completing a history degree at the University of British Columbia, Moira attended the The Drama Studio in London, England. She had a short-lived career in theatre as both an actor and dancer. After retraining, she continued her stage career as an opera singer (“Moira Young”).

Blood Red Road was her first book.

Young was an avid reader in her youth. Explaining she said, “I was hungry for books, I devoured them. Libraries provided boundless food for my imagination, shelves full of ideas and thoughts and possibilities. I’d quite like to be buried in a library, there among the stacks” (“Moira Young: About the Author”).

Genre:

  • Dystopian
  • Post-apocalyptic
  • Science Fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • English – voice, hero tale
  • Companion book for dystopian unit

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Read-alikes for The Hunger Games
  • Girls kick butt too
  • Unique narrative voices

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up
  • Lexile Level: HL420L

Challenge Issues:

  • Violence
  • Sex

Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?:

I chose to include Rebel Heart for the following reasons:

  • Blood Red Road won the Costa Children’s Book Award, was a Cyblis Award Winner for fantasy and science fiction. Rebel Heart received a starred review in Publishers Weekly.
  • Moira Young is a Canadian author with a Winnipeg connection.
  • Dystopian literature is very popular right now.