Rant & Rave: Hourglass and Divergent

This is going to be a regular feature: I’ll whine about a book I disliked for a bit, and then I’ll counteract that negativity with a positive review. That way, the karma balances out, or something like that.

So let’s start with the Rant: Hourglass, by Myra McEntire.

Hourglass by Myra McEntireThe premise: Emerson, or Em for short, can see ghosts. Unlike most other protagonist’s families, Em’s older brother and guardian actually believes her–or believes that she sees something, anyway. So he enlists help from all sorts of paranormal agencies, hoping to find help for her. Nobody can help until a group called the Hourglass sends out Michael, a too-perfectly-handsome college student to whom Em is drawn like a magnet. She discovers that she’s not seeing ghosts so much as gaps in time–Em has the power of time travel, and with Michael’s help she might be able to save someone’s life.

The problem: You see how long it took me to get to the time-travel part of the premise? That’s about how long it takes the book to get there, proportionally speaking. If the jacket flap is talking all about time travel, maybe there should be some actual time travel going on. The first 300 pages of the book consist of Em being attracted to Michael, then attracted to Michael’s friend, and then attracted to the strange not-quite-ghost who keeps showing up in her bedroom uninvited. (Yes. She’s attracted to him, not alarmed and disturbed or anything.) When the time travel finally arrives, it’s very tense and dramatic, but ultimately it’s too little, too late to save the story.

The verdict: Hugely disappointing. I had such high hopes for this book–the premise is fantastic, but it got way too bogged down in a romantic side plot. I was expecting science fiction; instead, I got Twilight with ghosts. *sigh*

Now for the Rave–Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica RothThe Premise: In a future Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each of which represent a virtue that its people value above all others. Tris is born into Abnegation, where selflessness is not praiseworthy, but mandatory. On her sixteenth birthday, she must choose the faction that will be hers for the rest of her life. She chooses the Dauntless, who live without fear and jump on and off of moving trains for fun. But it’s hard work being fearless, especially when she’s hiding a huge secret: When Tris was tested to discover what Faction would be her best fit, her test results came back inconclusive. She’s a Divergent, a fact that puts her in terrible danger, but may in fact be her strongest asset.

The Pros: Everything? Sorry, that’s not very specific. It’s hard for me to say exactly what I liked about the novel, because I was so drawn into it that I stopped reading as a librarian and just jumped into the story. The writing is good, and the world is built up very well. Tris is a very engaging main character, with her own faults and fears, and I have to say that I was pretty well blindsided by the story’s creepy and intense climax.

The Verdict: While it definitely does resemble The Hunger Games in its dystopian/apocalyptic future setting–heck, even the cover is vaguely similar–Divergent pretty quickly builds up a world of its own. The characters evolve in their own ways, too, and the inevitable romantic subplot is nicely done. In fact, Divergent succeeds in exactly the way that Hourglass fails–the romantic subplot remains a subplot, instead of taking over the entire novel. If you liked The Hunger Games, then Divergent is a good pick.