I heard Divergent is out in cinemas and so I decided to read up. From my experience, the book is always way better than the movie (except for Minority Report). And the Divergent trilogy is complete so I didn’t have to endure months of agonizing and writing my own sequels in my head. This post is about what happened to me while reading these 3 books. I’ll put the review at the end.
I’ve heard the writers’ creed so many times – if you want to write better, read a lot – that I probably quote it in my sleep unconsciously. What is not chanted repeatedly is the fact that what you read influences your writing. While reading the Divergent series, I discovered several creepy changes to my writing style. My characters became more obsessed with romance. The pace got quicker but the internal conflict got muddled. Muddled such that I used more words to describe internal conflict when fewer words would do and my imagery reduced.
I had to quit on a particular story when I couldn’t take it anymore. My writing is better, and then it’s also worse. This never happened when I was chewing up Dennis Lehane and Brandon Sanderson books regularly. Damn you, Veronica Roth! And damn you, Young Adult!
Of course I’m kidding. I love young adult and I enjoyed reading Veronica’s books. But for now, I’m gonna say bye-bye to the genre for a bit and return to my first love – Urban fantasy fiction. Which reminds me, I’m compiling a definitive list of Fantasy Fiction. I figured that if I’m going to rule the genre someday, I might as well get familiar with all the tropes and currently existing worlds. If you have suggestions that you believe is essential reading for the fantasy genre, please go here and drop a comment.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…
Divergent Trilogy Review
I don’t really enjoy rewriting book summaries which can be found behind the book cover. So here’s my own summary. Divergent is a story about Shailene Woodley, sorry, Beatrice Prior, later christened Tris (because monosyllabic names sound cooler) and her hero’s journey through the world of Chicago, sorry, The City. In Beatrice’s world, there are five factions of people based on character traits and world views, who coexist “peacefully”. At age 16 a ceremony is held where Beatrice, as well as every other 16 year old, gets to choose which faction she will spend the rest of her life in. If it sounds a little Hunger Gamesy, it is but that is not a bad thing. There’s also a Harry Potter vibe about some of the plot beats but hey, there’s a reason why formulaic writing sells millions of books.
For example, there were times when a character’s death would be telegraphed from about 3-4 chapters before(because if a minor character kills someone or tries to, it is only ethical that you kill that character- YA Rule No. 34). This however doesn’t mean Divergent tells a boring story. In fact, I think the plot of Divergent is its strongest attribute.
As far as comparisms with Hunger Games goes, this book sits just a step below Suzzane Collin’s masterpiece. I ploughed through the first Hunger Games book in under 11 hours. It was that gripping for me. The first Divergent book took me 3 days to finish. But each book ended on a cliffhanger and that made reading the next book compulsive.
One criticism for me, and this is a major one, is the amount of kissing that went on in this book. It got so much to the point of awkwardness. And the way the characters, especially the protagonists, kept ogling each other, admiring teach other’s collarbone or “hooking my thumb in his belt loops” was ridiculous. If someone just told me everything I knew to be real was a lie, kissing would be the farthest thing from my mind. But then again, I’m not 16, so what do I know? Maybe that’s how teenagers deal with depression.
I also found the dual Points of View (POV) in book 3 – Allegiant – very confusing. The story is told from Tris’ and Four’s POV. Problem though is that both voices sounded similar. I would read a chapter with Tris’ voice in my head only to get somewhere and find out that it was supposed to be Four’s POV. I don’t know why the editors allowed the change after sticking with just one POV in Divergent and Insurgent.
With that out of the way, I have nothing left but praise for this book. The themes in the book get very serious and real-worldy in book 2 and 3. Metaphors for racism and genetic cleansing come to surface and I feel the writer did a good handling of those topics.
By the way, the big idea for this Divergent trilogy was: Nature vs. Nurture – What determines Choice? The fact that it was coated in an assortment of delicious action, adventure and (sometimes barf-inducing) teenage romance is just icing on a really delicious cake. It’s not everyday a YA novel handles real world topics in a mature yet entertaining way.
Veronica Roth most certainly is Divergent.