Girl Meets World

No, Girl Meets World is not a book; it’s a show.

Fun fact: Boy Meets World is my favorite TV show of all time, and I grew up on the later seasons of it, but I also have gone back in my later years and watched it from the very beginning. Still my favorite: no question.

Confession: I found Literary Disco on Rider Strong’s (Shawn Hunter) Twitter. Had I not been curious about the Boy Meets World cast, I probably would have never come across it.

Side fact to seem less crazy: Had I not coincidentally just read The Fault In Our Stars, I probably would have never clicked the link.

Any-who, this will be a special “just this once” TV show review because well, by the logic in my head, no Boy Meets World = no discovery of Rider and friends’ awesome podcasts about books and writing = no inspiration to create this blog. And no Boy Meets World obsession = no excitement for Girl Meets World, and I have been excited ever since they announced that it was happening way back when.

Reason in a nutshell: so my said obsession with Boy Meets World does not cloud my judgement.

Before I start, I am fully aware that this is not about Cory and Topanga; it is about their children. Cory’s met the world. Now it’s his daughter’s turn. I understand that we will never have shows like the sitcoms in the 90’s because the 90’s, unfortunately, are over.

That being said, I loved the pilot. Let me just say, I am still amused by some of the Disney Channel shows that are on today (i.e. Jessie, Dog with a Blog, Liv and Maddie, Austin and Ally, etc), so let that be the standard scale (does that make sense?).

And even though it is not about Cory and Topanga, I am happy that their parental characters are very much still like the Cory and Topanga that I knew and loved in Boy Meets World. The dynamic in their relationship is still the way it was, and it hasn’t drastically changed.

Anyway, Girl Meets World fits perfectly in the Disney Channel family. It’s got the Disney Channel ingredients: one over-the-top goofy character like Farkle, a comical side to an emotional scene like the lady on the subway, silly unrealistic way to get someone’s attention like Riley flying down the subway into Lucas, over-the-top schemes that don’t seem to get the kids in as much trouble as they would in real life, etc.

I’m not sure how I feel about the pilot story though. I felt like it jumped in too quickly. I’m not sure how to explain this, nor do I have any idea how I would have done it differently.

Now, it seems like the first day of class because Riley does not know who this teacher is and is surprised to find Dad as the teacher. However, Mr. Matthews says, “Now lets get back to jamming some learning into your heads.”

And I’m guessing Lucas moved in the middle of the year? Maybe they’ll get to that later, but it wasn’t a very smooth transition of Lucas going from stranger to a friend of Riley’s. When the sprinklers go off, Lucas said to Riley, “You’re better than that.” How’s he know? It seemed like it was just a switch that turned him from subway boy to someone who knows Riley is “better than that” and part of the friends and family group, approved by Dad all of a sudden.

During the sprinkler scene, Lucas asked, “Why didn’t you stop her?” Well why didn’t you, Lucas?!

Ok, ok, it’s a show made for kids on Disney Channel, so I know I’m being too critical and paying way more attention to detail than any kid would.

Big picture though, for what it is, it is great, and I love it.

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The Divergent Series

Reviews in this Post: 

  1. The series as a whole
  2. Book 1: Divergent
  3. Book 2: Insurgent
  4. Book 3: Allegiant

Before I started overthinking the premise, I enjoyed the characters’ stories and interactions. While the beginning of the series may be slowed, it picks up, and that last book is an exciting one.

***AND LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD***

THE WHOLE SERIES

Big picture, the idea of factions does not work for me. However, since I am forced to accept the factions, I enjoyed the story of Tris not thinking she could follow the rules of her own faction and wanting to switch and have a new life, a new identity.

I enjoyed her journey to accepting her Divergence and learning that she was so much more than just Abnegation or Dauntless and later learning that none of it mattered to begin with.

Her later explanations of why the factions exist was an interesting concept though.

Of course, when Tris can’t quite un-see the factions, I realize, “Hey! The factions are like labels like race and gender, or jocks and goth, etc.” The lesson being you can’t confine someone to one thing. I enjoyed the factions as a metaphor.

But the experimentation in book three… I am, by no means, a scientist or have much knowledge on the subject, and I do realize these experiments and serums are fictional, but suspension of disbelief still needs to exist. Her explanations didn’t help me understand why Tris was immune to the serums.

The “to be continued…” endings of each book definitely made me want to keep reading. I cared enough to want to know what would become of these characters; some of them anyway. There were too many characters for me to keep up with. Some of them I didn’t know well enough to care for.

I found some writing advice that suggested the first book of a series should be able to pass as a stand alone novel, and I don’t think Divergent passes if the reader does not accept the factions to be torn apart just like that. Tris just decides she must be stronger in a broken society. If that’s acceptable, it works, but I don’t think it does. Roth probably planned for this to be a series.

Reading through the series, I was entertained, but I felt like everything happened too quickly. It was just one way of thinking to another and to yet another one, and one revolt after another. But I’m not sure how I would have done it differently myself.

Roth gives us glimpses of Beatrice’s mom’s back story and her dad’s grudge against Jeanine Matthews, but we don’t know exactly what or why until later in the series. Let me ask you this, would you have wanted the answers in book one, or were you okay with finding everything out in book three? It goes back to whether or not one believes each book in a series should be able to stand on its own.

Since I decided to do this blog, I realized I hardly remembered all that happened in the middle of this series and had to flip through for reminders. And this is why I needed to start this blog. Anyway, upon going back and re-reading a couple of chapters, I discovered a big continuity issue. Obviously, it didn’t destroy the story because I would have never discovered it had I not gone back. But since I discovered it, it bugs me, and I feel you should know:

Natalie’s (Beatrice’s mom) back story:

From Divergent: “‘I know about [Divergence] because I am one,’ [Natalie] says… ‘I was only safe because my mother was a Dauntless leader” (441).

We find out in Allegiant, though, that Natalie’s mother killed her father, and Natalie ran away.

From Allegiant: “I grew up in a single family home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin… My mom was in law enforcement… ” (188). After running away, Natalie was taken into the Bureau where David later placed her inside the faction based society.

DIVERGENT

The Divergent Series

It starts off pretty formulaic: sixteen year old girl doesn’t quite fit into one place. In an action packed young adult novel, of course, she has to hide what makes her different because it threatens her life. She finds a boy who is on her side and warns her of the dangers and guides her; obviously they fall for each other.

To give Veronica Roth more credit, though, Four wasn’t “protecting” Tris really, he was there for her, yes, but he recognized her strength.

The factions exist because a government of their own people somehow came to a consensus that it was a good system. You find out more in book three, but I’m not sure how I feel about all of my questions not being answered until book three. It did make me keep reading even though I wasn’t too into it, so it worked I suppose.

Another thought: maybe the young adult reader is just supposed to accept that it was this way, maybe the YA reader will. I actually accept the explanation; it wasn’t until I started over-thinking it that I had a problem with it, and it’s often what I do in my writing which stifles me.

Anyway, I found the plot interesting enough. The test to determine the faction and the actual choosing and then the training and initiation; Tris’s transition into a new life. It all makes sense, and one can relate to dealing with change and wanting to be a new person.

On visiting day, the reader finds out Mom was Dauntless, the faction that Tris chose over Abnegation, the faction Mom chose when she was Tris’s age. Twist! Here, we find that Mom’s on a mission (but what mission? We don’t know yet); the meat of the book.

Roth did a good job of balancing Tris’s relationships: her time with Four, her time with Christina and Will, her time with the Dauntless-born, and her time with her enemies. All of this surrounds her constant fear of being found out.

Aside from Tris’s relationships, there were also news stories of Jeanine bashing Tris’s dad which complicates her life further while also uncovering the tension between the different factions as foreshadowed by Mom on visiting day.

The interweaving of Tris’s personal life and the faction tensions being confirmed by Four’s hacking and later Caleb’s research was pretty great. To me, though, Four’s hacking seemed pretty random. I guess the news articles may have given him a reason to do some research of his own. Maybe Tris talked to him about it, and I don’t remember.

Toward the end, the insanity starts, and I found it pretty cool; the mind controlled Dauntless soldiers. The action got me to stick to this book, but it was already pretty close to the end of book one. Nonetheless, I still found the battles an exciting read.

It’s not a bad lead into book two. I just don’t know how I feel about the book ending with a, “to be continued…” feel.

INSURGENT

The Divergent Series

I enjoyed the twists and turns of this book. Traitors who were actually just in it for the information and got out to help the “good guys” and a dead character who was not actually dead, though everyone was led to believe they were. The Divergent who had been in Tris’s life the whole time.

Here, we find out why being Divergent is such a grave danger; because people are crazy and afraid of people who are different. For the villain, she’s afraid of people who cannot be controlled, so she attempted to correct the already existing serums, so that the Divergent are not immune.

Jeanine Matthews controlled the minds of an army, forcing them to round up the Divergent for her research and to kill any resistance (I get that; a thirst for knowledge; need to solve a puzzle). And because of fear of the outside? She seems to know what is outside the fence, but throughout this plot line, the reader has no idea (until the very end, but even then, it’s vague). She wanted the control to keep people inside the fence. The motivation and action are shaky to me, but she was someone in government, so her want for control must have been strong. But that’s all it was; she just wanted control; I want to know why; what happened in her life to make her so crazy for it? At least some glimpse of it would have been nice. I personally like my villains to be at least a little understood; a snippet of a traumatic event or something.

Roth did give Tris her understanding of Jeanine though:

“This is what Jeanine was willing to enslave minds and murder people for – to keep us all from knowing. To keep us all ignorant and safe and inside the fence. There is a part of me that understands” (524). I, however, do not find this excuse acceptable; I do not understand.

Tris is emotionally distraught from losing her parents and the constant running from trouble and the break down of their society, so she’s determined to get herself killed, thinking, “It’s a sacrifice, it’ll be good.” Of course, Tobias, disagrees, and this causes tension in their relationship, and I find this pretty non-cliche, and I like it. You also see that, yes, Tris is strong, but she is also still human, and she can be broken down.

Even after so many fights about it, Tris continued to make stupid decisions, like turning herself in to Jeanine Matthews. However, she felt that if she, a Divergent, gave Jeanine Matthews what she wanted, the madness would stop. On the surface, not so dumb, but she went in without a plan.

Then she finds out her brother, Caleb is the one providing Matthews with the personal information she needs. I can understand that he would let his sister get experimented on for research and knowledge, but I don’t believe Caleb would have really let thirst for knowledge over run his love for his sister; to let her be executed. Where was he during the execution? I don’t believe he would not have reservations about it.

Of course, Tris escapes and returns to the group. To keep this simple, everyone was after Jeanine Matthews; their common enemy, but there were also plenty of ulterior motives: the twists and turns that I enjoyed in this book.It also made it difficult to keep up with everyone’s motives, so it might have been too much.

Evelyn just wants to be rid of the factions, Tris’s friends wanted to restore the factions, and Tris wanted to know what information it was that made everyone so crazy.

Then finally, the answer to what is outside. The people outside locked these particular people inside to restore the cruel human nature. There is a request to send everyone outside when enough Divergent are in the inside society. Roth doesn’t tell us how to fix human nature and why the inside should go outside. Not yet, but I still do not like the “to be continued…” ending.

ALLEGIANT

The Divergent Series

I personally enjoy when we get to see different characters’ perspectives, but I did not enjoy the inconsistency because Tris was telling the whole story in the first two books. However, once I got to the end, I was glad she made this choice. But, I wonder if it would have been better to do the different narrators in all three books.

I feel like even as part of a series, each individual book should also, for the most part be able to stand alone. I did not like how this one just jumped right into Tris in a cell with no explanation of how she ended up there. I don’t expect a full on detailed explanation but a small reminder would be nice; something like, “Evelyn had me arrested for leaking that footage of Edith Prior.” This goes for Caleb’s betrayal, too. Maybe I missed it, but I don’t remember much of a reminder for what he did besides get her nearly killed.

Some of the characters I felt were too trusting. I could see that the author tried to make trust something to be earned, by having Nita say, “I was testing you the other day,” but it didn’t feel like Tobias really did anything at all to show he could be trusted with such a high stakes plan to revolt. Of course, trying to gauge someone’s trust may drag out the story a bit, but it would have been more believable.

Same goes for Matthew’s sudden trust in Tris to give away that he was in on Nita’s revolution.

It bothers me that Tris and Tobias land in the Bureau at exactly the same time as Nita is following through with a revolution plan. I get that it helps the story because the main characters have to be a part of their own story, and maybe that’s why I’m having trouble with my own writing; I’m over thinking it.

Another flaw was the cliche boyfriend/girlfriend fights, especially after they had already fought good, non-cliche fights before.

Why don’t you trust me?

You’re just jealous!

You always think you’re right!

Maybe its for the teen drama fans; it is a young adult novel. But as Rider Strong said, and I’m paraphrasing, a book should be judged for what it is and not based on who its written for. The young adult label just means its popular among them; its not a genre.

I loved the ending. It was bold, but it makes it more real to me. She was immune to so much, and she was strong, but she was still human. Every hero is expected to live, but Roth threw a curve ball, and it worked. After all, Tris had defied death so many times already. And she became the martyr she wanted to be.

And that wasn’t the end. I got to see her friends mourn her. I wasn’t all there for the beginning of the series, but the end of it was heartbreaking. I felt it. I liked the confrontation between her best friend and her boyfriend and their bonding over the loss. It was moving; my favorite part actually.

Roth even gave me closure with the epilogue. It was real to me that Tobias waited so long before he could figure out a good way to honor Tris’s memory and have that zip lining ceremony.

Why This Blog Exists

Short answer: Book reviews and sometimes writing prompts. My goal is to post bi-weekly; at the very least, monthly. Questions, comments, rebuttals, and critiques are welcome, but be constructive.

The book reviews are so I don’t catch “the hype.” I made that up just now. Basically, this is a blog for my own personal real opinions about the books I read with as little influence from the media and crazy fans as possible.

Along the way, I hope the book reviews help me get a better sense of what I like and don’t like in books, so that this new found better sense of direction will help me in my own writing.

And that is why the writing prompts will be here, too. I follow a few writing blogs, so quite a few writing prompts will pop up. When they do, I’ll be sure to do some writing here.

Side story: I was reading Divergent, and a couple people asked, “Is that a good book?”

I shrugged and said, “I like it.”

And that was it. I was genuinely entertained by the book, but it wasn’t something I felt they absolutely had to read.

I loved The Fault In Our Stars.

Another side story: I listened to a podcast on The Fault In Our Stars by Literary Disco, and they made some good points about the flaws. They did not change my opinion about the book, but I couldn’t exactly argue against them about why I thought the book was great. I give credit to Julia Pistell, Tod Goldberg, and Rider Strong for inspiring me to write this blog to become a better reader and a better writer in the process.

The fact that I couldn’t argue my case, made me realize, I was reading just to read. I was doing what I did in school; read through the book, so I can half ass an essay or something. I was reading just to get to the end. I hardly remembered the middle of it.

And I don’t know what I really think of The Hunger Games series, so I’ll be going back to that at some point. I flew through the last two books during finals my senior year of college, so you can hardly blame me for not remembering a lot of the story.

Back story: There was a point in my life where I hated reading, but I didn’t want to hate it. It was strange. As a cover up, I used to say, “I do like reading but not school books.”

It was at some point near the end of high school when I decided to take on, The Golden Compass because my friend from my fifth grade class really liked the book, and at that time, I got through a few chapters, and then it lost me. It might have been a difficult read for fifth grade me.

Going back to The Golden Compass as an older person soon to be in college, the book was great, and I loved it. But I cannot tell you why I loved it. I don’t remember much of it, and that makes me sad. In hindsight, it seems like it was the book that made me really love reading, and I can’t tell you how it had that effect on me.

In conclusion, I am here to become a better and more critical reader, and thereby becoming a better writer.