Posts Tagged With: Chicago

Divergent by Veronica Roth– Pineneedles Goes Popular

Veronica Roth’s first published novel Divergent (publication 2011) hit the young adult fiction world with a great splash. Following it are two more novels in the trilogy: Insurgent and Allegiant. I have only read Divergent, so I beg my readers to refrain from imbedding “spoilers” about the plot line or fate of the characters in your comments.

Divergent is about a young woman named Beatrice Prior (“Tris”) who lives in a futuristic Chicago that is divided in to five factions called Dauntless, Abnegation, Erudite, Amity, and Candor. Each faction is dedicated to cultivating a particular virtue in its members: bravery (Dauntless), selflessness (Abnegation), intelligence (Erudite), compassion (Amity), and honesty (Candor). Tris grew up in Abnegation, where she has always felt stifled, but at the age of sixteen, she will have the opportunity to choose which faction she wants to belong to for the rest of her life –but if she leaves Abnegation, she’ll also have to leave her family, and there’s no going back.” Veronica Roth, www.veronicarothbooks.com

Divergent

The dystopian world created by Roth features a re-organized government in war-ravaged Chicago that works tirelessly to keep order, but allows for little free will and the protagonist, Tris, needs more and is more than boxed in conformity. As the tale unfolds, her divergence shakes the entire foundation of this skewed society.

Tris’s faction trainer and love interest, Tobias “(Four”), explains his epiphany about the flaw in the Faction system: “’I think we’ve made a mistake,’ he says softly. ‘We’ve all started to put down the virtues of the other factions in the process of bolstering our own. I don’t want to do that. I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and kind, and honest.’ He clears his throat. ‘I continually struggle with kindness.’” (Divergent, p. 405)

Numerous other themes run through this young adult series that I look forward to processing, including the questions: what is our core identity? how do we obtain the freedom to grow in it?

It looks like Roth got ahead of herself while studying for her creative writing degree at Northwestern University as her author bio reads: “while she was a student she often chose to work on the story that would become Divergent instead of doing her homework”. This quirky comment inspires me as an author to write creatively in the midst of other responsibilities.

Roth continues to pour forth stories set in her futuristic world, told from the perspective of Tobias: Free Four, The Transfer, The Initiate, The Son, and The Traitor.

Also available for Divergent fans is the movie of the same name released in March 2014 and starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Ansel Elgort and a stunning cast of excellent actors and actresses. I was one of the “see the movie first” fans, and then played catch up by reading the novel.

divergent moviehttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1840309/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt

As an endnote, I would like to promote the value of cultural literacy, different from literacy in general, that allows us to interact knowledgeably with others in the broader world around us. Although I have parameters regarding what I expose myself to in popular movies, media and books, many offerings from these sources excel in describing what is happening in the minds and hearts of our fellow world citizens and give me the means of connecting with people of different ages and beliefs.

Please note: unlike other books I have recommended, this novel has an element of sensuality as the “chemistry” between the main characters is described in several scenes.

 

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Categories: Chick lit, Fantasy, Girl Fiction, young adult fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Yada Yada Prayer Group

“I solve problems in my life by sharing in the lives of others.  I grow spiritually by encountering the wisdom of people who have thought through issues that still cause me to struggle.” Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Woman’s Heart

Sometimes I avoid Christian fiction because I am held back by my personal bias that their plots are superficial or formulaic; i.e. too much romance, problems solved too easily.  But I also crave hope and strength from the books I read.  I certainly don’t want a “gray” book, which offers only hopeless tragedy or no answers to life’s problems!

The Yada Yada Prayer Group by Neta Jackson (Integrity Publishers, 2003) may have a bright neon-colored cover but what lies between the pages is not a “light” read.  The main character, suburban elementary school teacher Jodi Baxter, encounters real-life issues and problems when she gets assigned to a “random” prayer group at an urban Christian Women’s Conference.  Her reluctance and naiveté are not enough to keep her from becoming sucked into the vortex of the lives of eleven other women who are culturally diverse, but in need of the genuine caring of one another.   In Jodi’s own words: “We were a drawer of mismatched socks if ever there was one –I wasn’t sure we even liked each other.  But we were Prayer Group Twenty-Six and we had the chance… to give God a sacrifice of praise and love a young woman who was fresh out of prison.”

What results is an amazing journey of true heart connections.  As the reader I related to many of the book’s characters; even those who were so different from me.  The author describes two women in the prayer group: Avis (the classy principal of the elementary school): “she had a kind of authority — not bossy, just firm, confident — that gathered up the loose ends and knotted them so they wouldn’t fray any further.” (p. 27) and Florida (5 years saved, 5 years sober) : “Our lives were about as different as two people’s could be, but I liked her.   Really like her.  I could only imagine everything she’d been through, but she was so upbeat.  So close to God.  Where did that come from?” (p. 84)

Jodi’s spiritual journey drew me right in.  Her connection with God and the prayer group women keep her from drowning when faced with a horrific personal crisis.  I truly learned from this story: to pray more in faith, to leave assumptions of others at the door, to persevere in friendship when others are in trouble.  I don’t know how autobiographical this story is, but the dedication page may indicate that author Neta Jackson learned some of these lessons herself:  “To my sisters in the women’s Bible studywho loved me anyway and stretched my faith.

If the story and the characters grab hold of you, six more Yada Yada Prayer Group books await.  My friend Heidi, a die-hard non-fiction reader, succumbed to the book series’ appeal and is currently reading book #4.  Learn more about the author: http://daveneta.com/index.htm.

I had the fun experience of hearing back from Neta Jackson by email, thanking me for my positive blog post about the Yada Yada Prayer Group series.  She has written another wonderful series – the first title  is Where Do I Go?

Categories: Chick lit, Humorous, Inspiration, Romantic Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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