Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Is Divergent the new Hunger Games?

I say yes!

triologySuzanne Collins penned the wildly successful Young Adult Hunger Games trilogy (Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay).  I read the series at the recommendation of my friend Tess, and had a “lost weekend” gulping it down, one book after another.  The talented Jennifer Lawrence made a giant splash as Katniss in the 2012 movie.  (Sequel to come out November 22.)  The young, strong, complicated female character leading a force for change in a dystopian world resonated strongly and drove the series to the top of bestseller lists.

DivergentNow it’s deja vu all over again with Veronica Roth’s YA series, featuring Tris – a young, strong, complicated female character leading a force for change in a dystopian world.  I just finished Divergent, have downloaded Insurgent on my Kindle, and rumor has it that the third book in the series,  Allegiant, is coming out later this month.  And just as with Hunger Games, there’s a Divergent movie coming out soon.  (Shailene Woodley as Tris.)

The premise of Divergent:  It’s sometime in the future – probably the near future – and society is divided into five factions.   Beatrice Prior (Tris) and her brother Caleb have been raised in Abnegation, where the people put the good of others ahead of their own good.  The Erudite are the intellectuals.  Amity are the friendly, congenial bunch.  Candor cannot tell a lie and value truthfulness above all else.  And then there’s Dauntless, who value bravery.  Every year, the 16 year olds for each faction are tested and told their aptitude for the various factions.  Then they choose their faction.  There’s no requirement to choose the faction for which you have an aptitude.  If you choose to leave the faction in which you have been raised, you are leaving your old life, your friends and family behind, for it’s “faction over blood.”   Each faction has its own responsibilities, and the careful balancing of roles is meant to facilitate ongoing peace.  Abnegation – the selfless – are the decision-makers for society as a whole, trusted to put the good of all before their own.

The fly in the ointment:  there are some – a small number – who have a facility for more than one faction.  These are the Divergent.  Tris is one, and unusual in that she could belong equally well in Abnegation, Dauntless, or Erudite.  She chooses Dauntless.   And then there are the factionless – those who fail the initiation for their selected faction, are exiled for some reason, or prefer not to conform.   As with the Hunger Games, the well-ordered universe in Divergence is actually deeply flawed.  The peace will soon be shattered.

Divergent is, in equal parts, coming-of-age story, political thriller and fantasy, with a strong thread of teenage romance thrown in.  Despite the mayhem (and there is a lot of it!) parents have little to fear.  I’m more than halfway through Insurgent, and in-love-and-might-be-killed-any-moment Tris has not done more than smooch with her two-years-older boyfriend.

Here’s what I like about the series:  Well-written, interesting characters, good description, some plot innovations, lots of forward momentum.  There’s a touch of Harry Potter here – the special skills are not only physical, but in some sense, magical.  Plus, Roth does a good job of making you care about the characters, so when a character fails or dies, you care.  Not quite as much as you cared when Rue died in the Hunger Games, but still, a lot.

Still, I’m not sure Divergent and Roth’s subsequent books will have what it takes to eclipse the Hunger Games series.  Book sales are strong, movies are on the way, and the internet is hopping with that very question… but generally, discussions are focused on the financial success of the films.

For the reader, the question hardly matters.  Pick it up.  If the first few pages appeal to you, you’ll probably be rushing through it, page after page, to see what happens next.   And that’s the point.

Stat monkeys astound me

KBIt’s January 1, 2013, and the stat monkeys at WordPress have issued my blog’s annual report.  Literary Lunchbox has grown exponentially this year, to my delight and astonishment.  The nitty-gritty details are fascinating to me, “meh” to you, so here are just a few highlights.

I’ve had over 22,000 page views in 2012.  The busiest day of the year was October 9, for no discernible reason whatsoever.  My post for that day featured Breakfast Club actress Molly Ringwald and called her book “better than expected.”

My reviews of the Harry Potter book and movies have attracted the largest number of visitors, followed by MWA Edgar nominee reviews/rankings.  Edgar smack-downs, if you will.  Posts about Laura Lippman, Christa Faust, Carol O’Connell and Libby Fischer Hellmann all generated lots of visits to my blog, as well.  (Thank you, ladies!)

How are they finding me?  Tons through Google.  Google UK, Google France, even.  Facebook and Goodreads also account for a good number of visitors, as does She Writes.  Linked In, not so much.  Pinterest is making headway, considering that I just started using it for this purpose!   I have a couple of dozen followers – people who have signed up to get my blog via RSS feed.  Some of them are even people I don’t know personally.  I’m grateful to all.

Whence came they?  Mostly from the United States, but 135 countries in total were represented, and the U.K. and Canada were pretty big.

Is the conversation two-way?  Um, not so much.  I don’t get a lot of comments, and when I do get one, it really gives me a thrill.  Even when they’re nakedly plugging own web site.  As in “Great post, Karen, you might be interested in my thoughts on a similar topic, nude sumo wrestling!  Just click here.”  Because I tend to respond positively to comments, I am my own #1 commenter.  Sad, really.

What’s ahead for 2013?  I’m giving some thought to a second blog… not that this one doesn’t suck up a lot of time and energy!  Topic?  Business, organizational behavior, marketing, consumer behavior, etc.   Still pondering, though.

So to all Literary Lunchbox visitors, thanks so much for your interest and support this year!  The community of readers is a wonderful one and I’m proud and happy to be a part of your community.  Happy 2013!

new year

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for Literary Lunchbox.  (I need some helper monkeys at work.)

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,400 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

I must admit, I have been amazed at the number of visits my blog has generated, and also taken a bit aback by how many visits Harry Potter is responsible for.   It is nice to see, however, that there are other pages that are also popular.   Most disappointing is the fact that I don’t get many comments – in fact, with 181 blog posts, I have only 148 comments.  I wrote about the lonely life of a blogger here back in 2010.  A lot of bloggers do giveaways to get comments… not ready to go there, seems a little desperate.

I know that book lovers account for lot of Literary Lunchbox drop-ins, especially mystery fans.  Edgar frenzy continues to account for many, many visits in the weeks between the nominee announcements in January and the Edgar ceremony in April – and I must admit, it’s a fun time for me.  2010 was a time of triumph, 2011 abject humiliation – who knows what 2012 will hold?

Facebook, Linked In, She Writes all account for a goodly number of visits – friends, colleagues, other writers follow the link to my blog when I have a new post.  I have several subscribers (Thank you!  Love you!).  But Google is the biggest source, which tells me that when people are out there looking for book reviews, they find me.  Or if they want to read about writing, they find me.  That’s cool.

Harry Potter. Harry Potter. Harry Potter. Update!

So, have you heard about Harry Potter?  Evidently there’s a new – and final- movie coming out this weekend.   Very popular among the kiddies.

I’m kidding you, of course.  Two years ago, one of my first blog posts was about the final Harry Potter book – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – and you can read that post here.   I’ve had a long history with Harry, as have many moms! I need closure.

That’s why I’ll be heading to the theater this weekend.   Cameron might go with me.  Or maybe not.  Either way, I want to see for myself how the story plays out. To see good triumph and the vanquishment of evil.  On the big screen.  With popcorn.

******  Update!  The Chicago Tribune gave the movie 3 1/2 stars.  Read the review here.   Also, for FB friends (and friends of friends!), my friend Karin (California dentist) pointed me to a fun fact – Hermione’s parents are dentists.  See the video clip here.

Revisiting Harry Potter

I had surgery earlier this week and packed in my hospital bag the 7th book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I had just seen the new Harry Potter movie at the local theater with my 19 year old son, and it took me back to the days when we started reading the series together.  Of course, back in 1997, when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released, Cameron was only 8 – still old enough to enjoy a chapter book with Mom, and to reading aloud every other chapter – me, chapter 1, him chapter 2, and so on.  So I was feeling very nostalgic, sitting there in the theater, with a kid who now tops 6′ easily and sings baritone, but still is willing to share his nachos.  As the theater lights came up, I realized that even though I had read all the books, I had absolutely no idea how the story was going to end.  I had some inkling that maybe Snape was not a bad guy, but maybe he was – I’d just seen him kill Dumbledore, after all.  I’d read the books for plot and then the plot just vanished out of my brain… Evanesco!

I thought that 3-5 days in the hospital would be a good time to settle back with the fantasy novel (purchased at the Book Table in Oak Park at a discount, thank you very much!)  It was slow going at first thanks to the drugs and lack of sleep (they wake you up every hour in the 24 hours after surgery), but a couple of things were notable.  First – health care workers, whether physicians, nurses, patient care assistants, food service workers, or cleaning staff – all read Harry Potter.  I talked to more people about Harry Potter between Monday and Thursday than you would think possible.  Now this may be because most of the people I came into contact with were between the ages of 22 and 35 – meaning they were teenagers and young adults during the period of Harry Potter mania – but they all seemed united in something more than a piece of pop culture.  Much better than I did, they remembered the characters and the plot.  And when I said I was rereading the book, many people told me they had read the books multiple times and still had them on their bookshelves.

The second notable thing was how compelling the book was.   Love, loyalty, and longing were all present. Misunderstandings and human frailties abound.  Leave aside the major characters for a moment.  Just look at Kreacher the House-Elf, who tells the tale of obeying his master – Regulus Black, Sirius’ brother – even though doing so results in Regulus’ death.  When touched by Hermione out of sympathy, Kreacher spurns her empathy, calling her a mudblood, “What would my mistress think?”  Harry admonishes Kreacher, who proceeds to punish himself cruelly, as Hermione cries “stop him – oh, don’t you see how sick it is, the way they’ve got to obey?”   Why does this resonate so, in this time when politicians persist in division instead of diversity?   They’ve played the game so long they can’t even see that it’s not a game anymore.

These are just a few pages out of an 800-page book in a 7-book series, but it’s these pages and others that make you think that J.K. Rowling has real insight into the human condition.   Things are not always what they seem, people are generally more complex than you think they are, and there is good and bad in everyone and everything, but it’s the choices you make that matter most.  This is pretty compelling stuff for a children’s book.

Of course, by the end I found that my memory had not deceived me, Snape was both a terribly bad guy and a terrifically good one, who gave not just his reputation, but his whole life, to making up as best he could for causing the death of Lily and James Potter, Harry’s parents.  Only by receiving Snape’s memories did Harry find that his decision to trust Dumbledore was the right one, and that believing his heart, instead of his eyes, was the right road to take.  And ultimately, when he met his enemy with the belief he must die to rid the world of Voldemort, he was doing the right thing.

I’m finding “do the right thing” to be a pretty compelling message to live your life by these days.  Be honest.  Give freely.   Cherish your family and friends.  Be happy.