Three mini-reviews: City of Bones, Divergent, Just One of the Guys

City of Bones  DivergentHiggans One of the Guys

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

2007. Simon Pulse. Paperback. 485 pages.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

2011. Katherine Tegen Books. 487 pages.

I once read more YA than I do now, back when I read the Hunger Games trilogy, and the Uglies trilogy, and Shannon Hale’s Books of Bayern. When I’ve read a young adult novel lately, it’s been at the encouragement of my co-worker, Kim: we’ve been picking YA novels that have upcoming film adaptations. Neither of us have high expectations for the novels we read, but it’s fun to compare notes on what we thought worked and what we thought was ridiculous.

City of Bones was . . . mostly ridiculous. I thought the writing was flat-out bad, especially the dialogue. The banter and jokes between the teens felt clunky and forced, and every now and then, one character would pull out some ten-dollar word, and the other character would (sincerely) be like, “whoa, I had no idea you were so smart.” I will say that Clare has some interesting ideas for the world she has built in City of Bones, and one of the adults, a werewolf, had some real promise as a character. Also, kudos for taking the love triangle in an unexpected place (I sort of saw it coming, but didn’t know if she’d actually commit to it.) But I will not be reading other books by Clare. The screenwriter for the film looks to be a newbie, at least in her IMDB profile, and the director’s past films don’t impress me either, so I’m not holding out hope for the film to suss out the good bits of the plot and overlay some decent dialogue.

I heard about Divergent last year or the year before when my cousin swore that it was better than Hunger Games, a claim I greeted with skepticism. I have very good memories of reading the Hunger Games. I thought that Divergent‘s cover looked like a pretty blatant reference to Collins’ books and I marked it as a wannabe. And the plot – where society is organized by people’s predominant virtue (honesty, intelligence, bravery, selflessness, peacefulness) – seemed  outlandish. I mean, it’s intriguing but not at all believable as far as human nature is concerned. The protagonist is ‘special’ because she tests out as being capable in several of these virtues. That’s kind of insulting to humanity in general. Anyway, suspension of disbelief, yada yada. I finally did read it in March of this year. As my co-worker promised, the book is fast-paced. And I really liked that it was set in a dystopian Chicago, as I am fond of that city. That was my favorite part. The romantic storyline was fine. The body count was higher than I expected, but the carnage was not really given a lot of weight, which kind of put me off in the end. I won’t be reading the other books, but it was a more enjoyable reading experience than, say, City of Bones.

Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins

2007. Harlequin. Mass Market Paperback. 384 pages.

This one was lent to me by a different co-worker, who reads a lot of romance novels, and I was in the mood for trying Kristan Higgins, whose books I’d seen around. First I tried Higgins’ book All I Ever Wanted, but the main character was being insufferable, so I abandoned it. Just One of the Guys was much better. The main character was a heroine I could get behind. Chastity O’Neill is a Lord of the Rings nerd and a newspaper editor, and is the sister to a bunch of firefighter brothers and daughter to the fire chief of their upstate NY town. I loved that O’Neill had a good career and that her singleness was in no way connected to this fact. The book acknowledges the challenges of print journalism, which was a nice dose of realism. The romance is between her and a guy who has been a longtime friend of the family, and they had good chemistry, but they also had lives apart from each other. Chastity’s interactions with other characters are just as interesting as those with the guy she loves. She makes new friends, works to get certified as an EMT, and sorts through various family catastrophes. I had such a nice warm feeling when I was done reading this book. I was game to try another Higgins – this time Too Good to be True, but it employed a trope that I hate, which is the character making up a fake boyfriend, so I dumped that one. But I’m glad I gave Just One of the Guys a shot, because it was truly a fun light read.

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10 responses to “Three mini-reviews: City of Bones, Divergent, Just One of the Guys

  1. Like you I used to read a whole lot more YA but not so much now. A family friend just lent me City of Bones as the film adaptation is due to be released later this year. I enjoyed it for the world Clare had created but I certainly didn’t love it. My heart sank when I saw another love triangle forming! But I agree Clare did take it in an interesting direction near the end. I will probably go see the film with my friend. I am more excited about the next Hunger Games film though.

  2. Yeah, I didn’t care for City of Bones either. I wanted to like it, but the writing was dull and the story was predictable — I didn’t even have to read the end to know what the end was going to be. :/

    I think I go through phases with YA. At the beginning of this huge dystopian YA fiction trend, I was reading more YA than I’m reading now; but I think I’m sort of burnt out on the tropes that are so popular in YA. Once that subsides maybe I’ll start reading more of it again.

    • I know there are some dystopian YA out there that I haven’t read yet that are supposed to be good – like the Patrick Ness series, so I guess I’ll still be trying YA dystopian/supernatural books in the future, but I just don’t want a steady diet of them.

  3. I liked Divergent pretty well, but I’m listening to Insurgent on audio and finding it really annoying. Tris and Four go from being, I think, pretty enjoyable characters to just being really ridiculous. So, I wouldn’t recommend reading it if you weren’t that into Divergent in the first place.

  4. I don’t know. Ever since I started reading more classics and serious books, every time I picked a YA book, I was disappointed. I made the grave mistake of picking up the City of Bones after reading the Picture of Dorian Gray and I was SO let down. I like ONE character, Simon, I think it was, and nothing else. And even the plot twists felt forced to me. It was like, let’s just put a little plot twist here so you can flip the page to the next chapter and so you can be in such a confused trance that the next plot twist you see throws you off. Blah. I feel mean every time I talk about this book because there are so many people out there who like it, but I just can’t deal.

    The only YA book that actually didn’t bother me was the Maze Runner. I don’t think it was too fast paced and the language was polished. AND THERE ARE NO LOVE TRIANGLES. I hate love triangles.

    And I don’t think I’ll be picking up Divergent any time soon. I’ll probably succumb into doing that a few days before the movie comes out just to be able to keep up with all the buzz.

    This is a great post, and I’m sorry if my comment was too heatedly contemptuous.

    • No worries – thanks for commenting! I’ve been disappointed by a lot of YA books. And the love triangle thing has been done to death, just about everywhere. If you do succumb to reading Divergent, at least you’ll find that it doesn’t take much time to read.

  5. Hey! I love how you read all those books and made reviews for each one! Personally, I enjoyed the Divergent book. I haven’t read any of the Mortal Instruments books but the movie wasn’t that bad. What YA fiction books would you recommend to a person who just started reading YA fiction books? 😀

    Anyway, digging deeper, I found two prevalent themes between the two works of art 😀 http://doitchoco.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/how-a-city-of-bones-and-a-dystopian-world-can-teach-us-the-value-of-choices-and-trust/

    • Thanks for stopping by! Based on what I have read, and the fact that you enjoyed Divergent, you may like Scott Westerfeld’s “Uglies” trilogy. The first book is called “Uglies”. Of course I enjoyed “Hunger Games” like many people.

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