However, there have been some good ones. Here are a few of my favourites.
We have lots of book-related treats this week! A while ago I wrote about Half Bad, a young adult novel by Sally Green which was refreshingly interesting and had some great characters. The good news is that there’s now a sequel! It’s coming out in 2015 and we have a sneak preview of the first chapter below. Enjoy!
If you can’t wait until 2015 to read the rest, there’s a short story coming out soon, Half Lies, which is an ebook prequel to Half Bad.
And as if that weren’t enough exciting news, the first ever YA Book Prize has recently been announced. Watch this space for more news!
It’s out now in cinemas and people keep saying it’s the next Hunger Games. I’ll go to see it at some point this week, if I manage to tear myself away from my desk, because I like a good ‘action movie featuring a strong female lead’, as Netflix would no doubt put it.
With The Hunger Games, I read the books after I’d watched the second film, Catching Fire. The first movie hadn’t really struck me in any way; I thought it was OK, but not amazing. The second movie was fantastic and I went to see it six times. After that, I read the books. I didn’t massively enjoy the writing style, but I thought they were OK. It’s unusual for me to like a film more than a book, but I’m wondering if that’s also going to happen with Divergent.
I bought the first book because in general I prefer to read things before I watch them. Plus, I was at Victoria station late at night, all the trains were delayed, and WH Smith had a buy-one-get-one-half-price book deal on. And the blurb sounded cool:
Sixteen-year-old Tris is forced to make a terrible choice. In a divided society where everyone must conform, Tris does not fit.
So she ventures out alone, determined to discover where she truly belongs. Shocked by her brutal new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her.
The hardest choice lies ahead.
Sounds good, right? And it was. A really strong story, great characters, lots of action. Plus, there were some definite parallels with Tris’ life and my own. In Tris’ world, everyone is split into ‘factions’; groups that define how they are going to live their lives. She is born into Abnegation, a Puritanical faction where abdication of self is encouraged, and basic things like mirrors and jumping around are not really allowed. At the choosing ceremony, where she gets to pick which faction she wants to be in as an adult, she chooses Dauntless instead; a faction of black-clad rebels with tattoos, known for jumping off tall buildings and onto moving trains. During the aptitude test, she’s told she’s Divergent, a scary term which means that she doesn’t really ‘belong’ anywhere, because she has too many skills that could be attributed to several factions. She makes her choice by joining Dauntless, but she’s still in danger and doesn’t know who to trust.
I was brought up in a strict religious sect which preached that lack of personal possessions, a focus on others/god, and lack of vanity in any of its forms were the ways to salvation. Higher education was also discouraged, but I went to high school and did A-levels anyway. Whilst there, I was told that the world was my oyster and I could probably do pretty much anything I put my mind to (except, according to the aptitude test I did, chemical engineering). I battled for a while with the parts of me that were still influenced by the religion in which I’d grown up, before becoming a black-clad, motorbike-riding, tattooed adult. In other words, as much of a badass as I could muster from the confused shreds of personality I possessed.
So why didn’t I relate more to Tris?
This has been bugging me ever since I read the first book. I’ve now finished all three, and I thought they were technically excellent, particularly the ending of Allegiant, the final book in the series. It’s a bold conclusion, and one which many authors wouldn’t dare to write, but perhaps Veronica Roth chose Dauntless in this respect. 😉
But there was something about the books which just didn’t quite hook me in, somehow. I wanted to know what happened. I liked the characters and thought them well-formed. But when a couple of the big sad moments happened, I didn’t even get a lump in the throat, just read past them like they were any other paragraph. And I didn’t really feel any kind of connection with Tris, even though in the back of my mind I kept telling myself that I somehow should.
They’re very good books, and I’d recommend them to anyone who likes good YA fiction. I can’t quite work out what I thought was lacking, but I’m hoping that it gets ironed out in the films.
‘You nearly lost your hand.’
It’s lying on the kitchen table still attached to your arm by bone, muscle and sinew that are visible in the open raw groove round your wrist. The skin that used to be there has formed lava-like rivulets, running down to your fingers as if it has melted and set again. Your whole hand is puffing up nicely and hurts like . . . well, like an acid burn. Your fingers twitch but your thumb is not working.
‘It might heal so that you can use your fingers again. Or it might not.’
She took the band off your wrist at the loch and sprayed the wound with a lotion that dulled the pain.
She was prepared. She’s always prepared.
And how did she get there so quick? Did she run? Fly on a bloody broomstick?
However she got to the loch you still had to walk back with her. That was a tough walk.
‘Why don’t you speak to me?’
She’s right in your face.
‘I’m here to teach you, Nathan. But you must stop trying to escape.’
She’s so ugly that you’ve got to turn away.
There’s an ironing board set up on the other side of the kitchen table.
She was ironing? Ironing her combat trousers?
‘Nathan. Look at me.’
You keep your eyes on the iron.
‘I want to help you, Nathan.’
You hawk up a huge gob, turn and spit. She’s quick, though, and snatches back so it lands on her shirt not on her face.
She doesn’t hit you. Which is new.
‘You need to eat. I’ll heat up some stew.’
That’s new too. Usually you have to cook and clean and sweep.
But you’ve never had to iron.
She goes to the pantry. There’s no fridge. No electricity. There’s a wood-burning range. Setting the fire up and cleaning it out are also your chores.
While she’s in the pantry you go to look at the iron. Your legs are weak, unsteady, but your head’s clear. Clear enough. A sip of water might help but you want to look at the iron. It’s just a piece of metal, iron-shaped, with a metal handle, old. It’s heavy and cold. It must be heated up on the range to do its job. Must take ages. She’s miles from anywhere and anything, and she irons her trousers and shirts!
When she comes back a few seconds later you’re round by the pantry door and you bring the iron down hard, pointed side against her head.
But she’s so bloody tall and so bloody fast. The iron catches the side of her scalp and sinks into her shoulder.
Text copyright © Sally Green, 2014 published by Penguin Books
Half Bad by Sally Green is published by Penguin £7.99 www.halfbadworld.com