MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

3/5 stars.
ebook, 416 pages.
Read from January 21 to 30, 2016.

This book was a fitting ending to a trilogy that unintentionally took me a  few years to finish.This is because I didn’t even know this was meant to be a trilogy when I picked up Oryx and Crake all that time ago. This book is an action packed dystopian that questions our current societal values along with what it is to be human. Heck, there is even a bit of romance that’s worth reading.

A waterless flood has wiped out humanity. Those that remain are struggling to survive and those from the passive religious group God’s Gardener are finally rejoining. Toby and Ren manage to save Amanda from the ruthless Painballers, though Amanda is left with severe mental trauma from the ordeal. They then return to a safe house but are accompanied by the Crakers, a gentle and subhuman creation of the deceased Crake. With them they bring their “prophet”,  Jimmy-the-Snowman, who is very unwell. Their prophet tells them the stories of Oryx and Crake to them every evening before bed but since Jimmy is so unwell the strange task is left to Toby.  Zeb has been out looking for Adam-One, the creator of God’s Gardener’s. Zeb is Adam’s brother, and the creator of the MaddAddamites, an active resistance group in the fight against the CorpSeCorps. While learning about their horrible and destructive childhood, together, the two of them help unearth the deception and lies against the CorpSeCorps, all while trying to survive in this post-apocalyptica setting.

One of the most intriguing parts of this book is getting to know the Crakers. Crakers were created to be non-violent in hopes to create a better race than that of the humans. Yet their naive beliefs and practices do not play out well outside of the walled-utopia they were living in. Admittedly, they are very annoying in the beginning as they are so very naive with the real world;  that, and they never stop singing. However their role is crucial as they counterpart the violence, and other challenging human instincts and emotions, which help portray a wide-scope definition of humanness. There are also a few Crakers that come to understand certain human ways, implying that they might become more human like, which can be good or bad, depending on how your own views.

What really made this book for me though is Toby. She has always been my favourite character so I was glad to read even more about her in this book. You also finally get the in-depth story on Zeb and Adam and just how the Gardener’s and the MaddAddamite’s were created.

While you could potentially read this book without having read the other two books in the trilogy, I really would not recommend it. The world that Atwood has built takes the full 3 books appreciate and understand its depth. They can also get a little convoluted even when read together so it helps to have all of them as reference. Overall, a great read that I would recommend to anyone interested in a unique and well-plotted trilogy.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Q19

4/5 stars.
ebook, 325 pages.
Read from June 23 to July 04, 2014.

*Originally published on August 13, 2014*

You know what, I’d say that this book is deserving of all of the hype and fame that it has received. Why you ask? Because this is one of the few YA novels that isn’t chalked full of a bunch of barfy teenage romance but instead focuses on the more interesting dystopian setting and all of its encompassing action!

Divergent is set in a dystopian version of Chicago in which everyone is separated in to five different factions that represent different ideals to create a whole and peaceful unit of government:

1) Abnegation; The Selfless: “I choose to turn away from my reflection, to rely not on myself but on my brothers and sisters, to project always outward until I disappear.”

2) Erudite; The Intelligent: “Ignorance is defined not as stupidity but as lack of knowledge. Lack of knowledge inevitably leads to lack of understanding. Lack of understanding leads to a disconnect among people with differences. Disconnection among people with differences leads to conflict. Knowledge is the only logical solution to the problem of conflict. Therefore, we propose that in order to eliminate conflict, we must eliminate the disconnect among those with differences by correcting the lack of understanding that arises from ignorance with knowledge.”

3) Dauntless; The Brave: “We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another… We believe in shouting for those who can only whisper, in defending those who cannot defend themselves.”

4) Amity; The Peaceful: “Give freely, trusting that you will be given what you need… Do not be angry. The opinions of others cannot damage you… The wrong is past. You must let it rest where it lies… You must no longer think cruel thoughts. Cruel thoughts lead to cruel words, and hurt you as much as they hurt their target.”

5) Candor; The Honest: “Truth makes us transparent. Truth makes us strong. Truth makes us inextricable.”

At sixteen, each teenager is given an aptitude test to see which faction they would be best suited to. While the test is often the best suggestion to which faction they should go to (often the same one they grew up in), each teenager has the free will to choose which faction they would like to go to. Each faction follows specific rules and ways of life. For example, the Abnegation faction is based on selflessness. They dress drab, as to never focus on themselves and believe in helping others. A quirk with this faction is that they don’t have mirrors. It is in the Abnegation factions where the main protagonist, Beatrice Prior grows up.

The Abnegation faction is not the most well liked faction as they are the ones that run the whole government, given their selflessness. The Erudites, believe that because they focus on knowledge that they should be apart of the government which has created a massive rivalry between the two factions. Beatrice never feels like she quite belongs in the Abnegation faction, she isn’t quite selfless enough, not like her brother. When Beatrice takes her aptitude test she isn’t quite sure what to expect. He assessor tells her that she is Divergent, a word she had never heard before, and warns her not to share this information with anyone for fear of her life. When it comes time to pick a faction she decides to go with the Dauntless faction, and her brother, shockingly to the Erudites. It is not often that teens will leave their faction and family.

Beatrice is thrown into the world of the Dauntless, the brave and the fearless. They sport tattoos and eccentric clothing which, is unlike anything that Beatrice has ever seen before. The first few tests with the faction force her to do some death-defying feats in which not all new initiates make. For those that survive and fail any of these feats, they are considered ‘factionless’ and are sent to live, homeless, outside of the city.

Making her way from an initiate to a full Dauntless member, Beatrice learns what it means to be Divergent and why it was so important to keep it a secret. She also unfolds a plot which will change and destroy the way of life for each an every faction.

The book spends most of the time within the Dauntless faction following Beatrice’s trials, which are action packed and intense. She fights and beats up boys, she has to constantly put herself in the face of danger and stand up for those that were not Dauntless-born, like herself. Granted, she does meet a love interest but that doesn’t really unfold until near the end of the book and up until that point you’re taken on a wild ride of adventure and awesomeness!

Unlike a lot of YA novels, the qualities that make Beatrice different from the rest of the characters are not necessarily a good thing or overly exceptional. As Beatrice is Divergent, she thinks differently and has harder choices to make than those who aren’t. Things are not cut out so nice and clear for her as they are for others. It also raises the question of the potential that perhaps everyone is capable of being Divergent if they were given the chance to think outside the box of what their faction and government restricts them to. What makes Beatrice remarkable and a great heroine are her choices to want to be something more and her ability to stand in the face of fear even though she is deeply afraid. While she ends up fully embodying the Dauntless creed: “…ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another…” she ultimately represents every faction by being Divergent and shows that every person is able to display the qualities of each faction.

For those who are looking for a refreshing YA read and have been curious about the potential for this book I strongly encourage you to give Divergent a read!

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

4/5 stars.
ebook, 449 pages.
Read from April 20 to May 02, 2014.

Three down and two more to go for the Canada-Reads nominations of 2014. At this point, I would have to say that this novel is my favorite out of what I’ve read thus far. While I admit I am already partial to Atwood as an author just because I’ve read more by her, I would still say that this one worked best for me as a reader.

The Year of the Flood is the second book in the MaddAddam trilogy. While this book is the second in the trilogy, it is technically a prequel or rather a companion piece to Oryx and Crake, the first novel in the series. The third book is called MaddAddam which takes place after these two books. While it is not necessary to read them in order if you are going to take up the novels I would recommend doing so as you’ll experience a whole different  level of plot depth.

The novel follows two main characters, Toby and Ren that are connected through a religious group called The God’s Gardeners. The women are separated by at least a decade of age between them yet they are invariably connected. The  God’s Gardeners anticipates the coming of a waterless-flood that is going to come and wipe out the human race so that the Earth can heal and rebuild from the destruction and unbalance that humans have caused it. The book moves through different areas of Ren and Toby’s lives in different time-frames, including what happened to them before they came apart of The God’s Gardeners, their time in The God’s Gardeners and where they are after the waterless-flood has hit the Earth.

The Gardener’s believe that humankind has strayed away from how God wanted us to live on the Earth. Especially with the way the world has become. Corporations, called the CorpSeCorps, now rule everything and are less than moral.  They have used up almost all of the Earth’s resources and have erased most of the animal species on the planet. The animal genes that remain are spliced and used to create horrible hybrids that serve human purposes. Food is highly processed and people have stopped asking where it comes from. The most notorious example of this is the burger chain, Secretburger. They will use any protein that they come across to use in their burgers. Even human protein. Hence, the name of the establishment, as you don’t ever really know what you’re eating. As a result, The God’s Gardeners choose to separate themselves and live in the pleeblands, the slums. The pleeblands and are inhabited by some very desolate people: homeless, refugees and criminals which make living there very dangerous. The God’s Gardeners are strict vegans and condemn anything material made. They recycle everything, grow their own food and teach their children how to live in one with God. The children take courses and learn essentials skills in classes taught the leaders of the groups, the Adams and Eves.

The book focuses on Toby and Ren in this very detailed and expansive world that Atwood has created. Like the Earth, both Toby and Ren have to heal from items that they have suffered in their past and they find this peace when the book concludes. The writing is at times chaotic, though I wouldn’t say that it’s hard to follow, so it perfectly mirrors the chaos in the plot.

There is a scary sense of realism that comes while reading this book. I found myself looking at the teachings of The God’s Gardener’s and wondering if I should take some of their own practices into my own life because the world that Atwood has created feels like it could be a possibility for our future. An excessive one maybe, but humans are an excessive race so I wouldn’t put this story too far past the concept of reality. With that being said, another point that I believe that Atwood makes, is that there is always hope and resilience, no matter what the horror.

Overall, a must-read for dystopian and Atwood lovers.