This Month for EOG Book Club our genre was YA or Teen Lit. This gave me the opportunity to dive back into the rather entertaining Divergent series by Veronica Roth. I read the first book, aptly named Divergent shortly after it came out, and found myself enjoying it. Sadly that meant waiting nearly a year til I could get my hands on and sink my teeth into the next instalment.

As soon as I got it I popped off the dust jacket (I never read with them on, I’m always scared I am going to ruin it!!) and nested down with  my new read. I was very confused! I read the opening chapter and found myself remembering nothing. I recognized one name, the setting of factions and the city, but otherwise found myself drowning in a sea of unfamiliar names. So I popped it on my shelf and picked up the first book for a quick reread before my glorious adventure onwards and  upwards.

Ripping through a book a second time is pretty simple. You remember large chunks and have the option of skipping over parts that are familiar or rereading chunks that baffled you the first time with the benefit of whole book context. It took me til about the middle of the first book to start remembering who everyone was and how they all fit into the first chapter of the second book. The confusion only aided by the fact that several key characters change their names at one point or another. But I got the gist and was back on my way.

For those who have not read the first book let me give you a quick world builder: There is a city and the city is set up in a very particular way. People are catagorized into one of five groups depending on what they believe is the most important value:
-Abignation: selflessness
-Euridite: knowledge
-Dauntless: bravery
-Amnity: peace
– Candor: honesty
If for some reason you are unable to fit or function into any of the factions you are doomed to a life of the factionless, second rate citizens with few rights and no wealth. When children turn 16 they take a simulation exam to determine which faction they are most suited for and help them choose which faction to be a part of for the rest of their life, faction over family. Leaving your old faction means cutting all ties. When our lead character Tris goes for her test she finds that she has an aptitude for 3 factions and the ability to control the simulations. This labels her the danger and unspoken title of Divergent. And when she chooses to leave her life of selflessness for a world of danger, bravery and ruthlessness she finds theres more behind being Dauntless then she ever imagined.

Insurgent picks up quite literally right where Divergent left off. No great span of time has passed its only moments later. Tris and Four, she calls him Tobias which is his given name (and one of the reasons the first chapter threw me off) must escape the fallen Dauntless and Abignation districts of the city along with Four’s father Marcus, Tris’s brother Caleb and the ever hateful Peter. They flee with other Abignation to the Amnity compound and seek refuge from the power hungry Euridite. The book chronicles the movement of Tris and Four as they attempt to save what Abignation is left and muster the forces of Dauntless to retake their city.

I honestly cant say a whole lot more about plot without giving away some key events that really make or break the story, I will however give my thoughts on how it was done.

Veronica Roth does a spectacular and delicate job of handing suicide. We loose someone in the first book to suicide and in Dauntless they are exalted as a hero and truly Dauntless, for having been brave enough to take on the final adventure into the unknown. By so parading something we know to be so blatantly untrue she is able to tackle the idea without trivializing it and alienating people who might have had the same thoughts. She shows suicide as the tragedy it truly is and I applaud her for it. Suicide pops up again in the second book but we see it in another of its forms. Not as the overt taking of ones life, but as acting foolishly and recklessly with no regard for their own life, putting themselves purposely in harms way. It is all too common, but under recognized in a lot of cases. By highlighting it in the way she does, showing the danger and impact it has on others, Roth is again able to call out such behaviour for what it is without becoming preachy or condescending.

The idea that we are more then one dimensional is also tackled in the innovative idea of factions and separation of people for what is considered their key characteristics. This is most prevalent in the writing of the main character Tris, who has an aptitude for 3 different factions and gives her the label of divergent. But it can also be seen in all of the transfers as well. Al, while from Candor shows he can be brave by excepting to join a faction he has no desire for, as well as being selfless in his throwing fights so as not to hurt the other transfers. Christine who is also from Candor never looses her propensity to tell the truth, but her strength and desire for adventure pegs her as Dauntless. Even Peter, who we love to hate, shows signs of his Euridite past along side his violent Dauntless tendencies.

I also have two problems with the books thus far, but they create spoilers. So read beyond the cutline at your own risk.

For those who don’t and do read on, let me say this. The Divergent series has proven to be a very good series thus far. I have enjoyed it immensely. It is a YA title which I know is likely to throw people off but it really shouldn’t. Its not the next great American novel by any means, but it hits on some really important points that more then just teenagers need to hear. Its not quite brain candy with all the serious themes riddled throughout, but it is written in an easy to read style that will have you whipping through it in a couple of days.

This is my pretend cutline because WordPress won’t do it for me!

Warning Spoilers below!








In the first book we learn through Tris’s fear landscape and just her general personality that she does not do intimacy well. Touching and physical affection is just not something that people in Abignation are taught or are generally exposed to. We get one brief and awkward scene of Tris and Four talking about it and it all seems to just disappear. Suddenly kissing and making out and touching half naked Four is no longer an issue. I get that the fear landscape helped her to face that fear, but it doesn’t make a fear go away. She goes from being shy and uneasy around Four to having zero qualms about getting all up in his grill and being super touchy. The transformation for me was far too fast  and therefore left it feeling unrealistic.

In the first book we see Tris kill Will (told you spoilers) during the simulation attack.  She in reality had some choice about what she did, but in the absolute terror and adrenaline of the moment we have to give her some forgiveness for her actions, it was an extraordinary circumstance. The guilt of this carries on with her through the entirety of the the second book and it drives me a little bit bonkers. I understand that the timeline of the second book doesn’t cover much more then a month at most, and that the drama of killing your best friends boyfriend is going to linger. What makes me the most annoyed is how long she goes with it bottled up and not telling/lying to others about it. She buries it deeper and deeper until it entirely envelops her and stops her from doing what she needs to do, as well as alienating from absolutely everyone she loves when it finally does come out. I get that she is suffering, but she is portrayed and being a thinker and percieving things in situations, you’d think she would look at what she was doing and say to herself “Hey, this is only going to cause a TONNE of problems later, maybe I should just get it out quick and easy!”


Dear Fatty

As promised, a review of Dawn French’s memoirs, as titled Dear Fatty.

Let me start this off with letting you know how I stumbled onto this gem. Netflix… Oh the wonder that it is! I was tootling around the titles, and wanted so bad to laugh. I looked at all the comedy movies they had, nothing really peaked my interest. So I looked through the tv titles, mostly dramas. I had however flagged some amazing British drama/action mini series, and the Netflix, oh lovely darling, created a category of British comedies. Ooh, and there planted in the middle… The Vicar of Dibley. ❤ I cannot sing the praises of this rediculous show often enough. The writing is both hilarious and heart felt and the actors true comedians. I adored it. Lead actress? Dawn French. 

Fast forward 6 months, and I’m running around Chapters looking for something to read. Nothing caught my eye, so I wandered over the biographies hoping to get another copy of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by  J. Randy Taraborrelli, a 545 page monster I had read, loved, lent out and never got back. The system said 4 copies were in stock, I searched the obvious places, the not so obvious places (I had worked this particular Chapters for 6 months in the past) and couldn’t find them. So I asked a staff to check the carts in the back to see if it was just recently in and hadn’t made it to the shelves. Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes, so I started browsing the shelves for something new. The Royals, Maya Angelou, Beck, Jimmy Carson, Doris Day, Amelia Earhart, Anne Frank, Dawn French! Ok so I’d only ever watched one of her shows, but it was called Dear Fatty and there was no putting it back!!

Dawn is very upfront about how she plans to write her “biography” and calls it her memoirs for a reason:

“I have decided to think of this book as a memoir rather then an autobiography. As I understand it, the latter means that I have to be precise about chronology and touch on all aspects of my quite-dull-in-parts life. […] Those bits would mainly be about puddings I’ve enjoyed and when I’ve set the washing machine on the wrong cycle and my quest for comfortable shoes, and the time I put a gun in a kitten’s mouth.”

The style of writing in letters I find can become annoying very quickly, but French masters it! Switching between heartfelt letters of love, to letters that make me laugh til my face hurts. She starts off with a letter to the reader, then a heartfelt one to her deceased father, the letter that follows is one of my favorites. Its a letter to her father, reminding him of the time she was 3 and had secretly wriggled under her parents bed while they were still asleep one morning. Her hand becomes stuck and she calls out for help and what follows is a hilarious account of her nude father leaping from the bed to pull her out, and her shock and dismay to see her father naked for the first time, and that he has a “vicious hairy saggy mole-snake creature” attacking the gap in his legs.

I quickly learned that the Fatty from the title had nothing to do with French’s own  “spherical” shape, but everything to do with her long time comedy partner. I was surprised however to hear her talk about herself and her body with the utmost respect. I cant recall ever hearing a bigger woman who revered her own boobs as much as she, or be completely unconcerned with her shape. It was more then a little bit inspiring. Her letter to her niece was inspiring, telling her to embrace her body, and that if one day she was curse with knockers as enormous as herself to use them to her advantage. I caught up on her life and found that she has recently lost 8 stone (112lb), an amazing feat! She is very upfront for why she did it, in an interview speaks to it being due to her desire to want to be around for her daughter as she grows up and that “I had great fondness for that other body. I knew it very well and I don’t know this one as well, not yet.” and ‘… Well I suppose I’ve always thought that that isn’t really what mattered, and yet by losing all this weight I realise that for a lot of people that is all that matters and that’s really sad. And I refuse to dislike the old body and you know, I may have it again you never know!”

Dawn skips merrily along, touching on her childhood with her family moving about because of her fathers position in the  RAF, and meeting the Queen (another laugh out loud moment), and saunters into her teen years and all the exploration and love it entailed. French describes her family, immediate and extended, with such warmth and love as they require to jump off the page (or in the case of a venomous grandmother makes her seem like more then a one dimensional villain). Her letters to her teen dream celebrities are beyond hilarious as she recaptures all those embarrassing things we all have written to our Hollywood crushes!

Throughout the bulk of the book it is made clear that Dawn has a loving relationship with her father, that he means the world to him, and many of the letters are written to him, She is also clear that at this time her father has already passed away. She makes mentions several times how she genuinely wished he had been around for key moments and key people in her life. When she finally makes it to the letter concerning her fathers death she tackles the topic with grace, humility and complete openness. We learn of her fathers deepening depression and despondency, as well as his tirelessly hard work of keeping the family afloat in a rough economic situation. The she very carefully reveals that her father committed suicide. And she isn’t angry, or at least thats how it reads, she is sad, she obviously misses him, but she understands where he was at and why he did it. She isn’t happy about it, she isn’t glad, she simply excepts that it is what she felt he needed to do. I can only imagine the time, and mental/emotional anguish that had to be mulled through to reach that point. In my opinion this letter is the one that makes the book the most profound.

Overall I would recommend this book to anyone 13 and up, and that’s only cause I’m a prude. Her language and content is mild, and I would be surprised to find anyone who would be offended, but she does with great candour the relationships and experiences she’s had as well as the very delicate topic of her fathers suicide. All in all though, if you want a book that balances hilarity and heartfelt perfectly this is the book for you. If you want to laugh til you cry, or just cry cause its needed, this is a book I would highly recommend.