Divergent; Evermore

I got a few books out of the library last week – four, in fact. I’d just gone in to see if they had anything worth checking out, not really expecting anything new since the last time I was there, and I walked out with four that I’d been itching to read for quite a while: Divergent by Veronica Roth, Evermore by Alyson Noël, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, and City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare. I was so stoked by this haul.

I read Divergent first, and finished it off in a day and a half. It was, in the sophisticated book-reader’s lingo, unputdownable. Roth does a really good job of crafting an interesting world and a heroine the reader can care about. She’s got an excellent sense of plot pacing. The romantic interest was believable and very likable (not always the case with YA!), though I’ll admit to liking his first name better than his second. This is the first of a series, and I’ll most definitely be picking up book two.

If I had any problem with Divergent it was simply the way bravery seems to be depicted in the Dauntless faction. There’s a fine line between bravery and foolhardy risk-taking, and many of the tasks the initiates are put to seem to fall into this latter camp. Quite a few things seem to be very teenage-guy, sort of “hey, look how brave I am, I’m going to jump from my garage roof into my swimming pool!”, which isn’t really brave, it’s stupid. But I obviously didn’t feel it detracted significantly from the story.

I first saw Evermore in the drug store’s book section (they’ve got a really good recent-releases-and-bestsellers selection that I like to browse every time I go in) and thought the back of the book sounded interesting. But when I went to find it in the library, their copy seemed to be MIA: the computer said it was in, but it was nowhere to be found on the shelves. Then last week, there it was, mysteriously returned from wherever it’d been vacationing.

Evermore had an interesting premise: a girl with psychic abilities that she can’t control who discovers in a boy someone who can help tame the noise. It starts out with promise, and while I did enjoy it enough to finish the book, I don’t feel it really lives up to its potential. This one is the first of a series, too, but I won’t be searching out the rest.

The tension in this novel is derived from the mystery behind the love interest, and the inability of the heroine to figure him out. Lots of miscommunication, waffling back and forth on the heroine’s part. The usual. Some books do this well, but I think this one falls a little short. The ones that do it well give you occasional half-answers along the way before the final reveal at the end, but you don’t really get that here. There are clues, certainly, and plenty of them, and you know they’re a clue, but you haven’t any idea what it means so you can’t put it together yourself. The big reveal in this book ends up being a chapter-long info-dump at the end.

And second, I felt the book needed one more round of polishing. Noël starts a lot of sentences with the words ‘And’ and ‘But’, which begins to get repetitive after a few chapters. She’s also regularly guilty of the run-on sentence, many of which could easily (and probably should) have been split into at least two. Something about the way the scenes and action takes place occasionally feels choppy and not quite believable.

According to the “also by” list in the book, this is Noël’s eigth published novel, which surprised me – it feels more like a debut. What amazes me is that (according to Wikipedia) the book spent 25 weeks on the NYT bestsellers list, reaching #1 at its peak. I feel there are many better books, and better-written books, deserving of this honour. Which just goes to show – the writing isn’t everything.

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