Monday, May 19, 2014

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Here's the next big YA trilogy, the first book of which has already been released to the big screen.  It has all the sexy elements a YA dystopian thriller needs to be teenagers (going off of the movie trailer a bit on this one)...Ok, wait.  Did I just say "hot teenagers"?!?  Creepy.  I'm way too old to be saying things like that. (I was going to put "waaaaaaaay too old" but no, I'm just "way" too old).

Which brings me to my next point, maybe I'm not the target audience for this genre.  Or maybe the genre is being diluted...I don't know.  Whatever it is, I wasn't totally sold on Divergent.

Okay, back to the "hot teenagers" comment.  This is bothering me.  When a book about 16 year olds is made into a movie that is marketed to adults and teens alike, what the hell am I supposed to think when "Four" is played by a chiseled 30 year old?  I guess technically his character is 18 so I'm in the clear.  Okay, glad we hashed that out.

Back to the book.  Basically everyone in...Chicago (from what I can gather) decided that the ills that plagued them could be boiled down to one thing.  What is that thing?  Well, depends on who you ask.  Some people say it's ignorance.  Others say it's selfishness, or dishonesty, or cowardess, or just plain being mean.  So society split into 5 factions, each trying to embody the opposite of what they believed was the root evil of mankind.  When an individual reached the age of 16, he or she could choose which faction they wanted to become a part of.

So Beatrice grew up in Abnegation, which is a fancy term for self-sacrifice.  But she doesn't quite feel like she fits in.  She isn't down with wearing gray clothes, and not having mirrors, and always being stuck at parties cleaning up.  She's intrigued by the Dauntless (or fearless), who don't just ride the train to and from school, they riiiiiide the train to and from school (the extra i's in that word mean the train doesn't ever stop, it just rolls by while all the Dauntless kids jump in and out of the cars, because they're Dauntless.  And they don't need no stinking train stops).  I could see why that might be appealing enough to make me leave my family too.

So before "The Choosing," Beatrice undergoes evaluation to determine which faction best suits her.  Her test results are abnormal...Divergent, if you will.  Which, apparently is a bad thing.  But really, the fact that people fit cleanly into just one category had me scratching my head.  But okay.

Despite the results, Beatrice ultimately has the choice of which faction to join.  She makes her decision, and most of the book deals with the initiation process that entails.  Then there's some evil plot to take over Chicago (I don't think Chicago is ever mentioned but that's what wikipedia says), and hilarity ensues.

Okay, the book is better than I'm letting on, but it's not the greatest YA novel I've read.  I think my biggest problem was that I couldn't sign on with the premise that people fit into just one category.  Not only does Roth create these clean lines and divisions, but she goes overboard with the stereotyping.  Really?  NO ONE besides Abnegation can help out after an event?  ONLY Amity can be caretakers?  How the hell do children survive in the other factions?  "But that's the point!" you're probably screaming at me.  Yeah, well, if it's that glaringly obvious from the get-go, then what the hell am I doing for the next 400 pages?  And I think we already know that being "divergent" really is the rule, not the exception.

So what's the payoff here?  I'm not sure.  Maybe a great story? Maybe a chance to live in another world for a brief period?  Those are the optimistic options.  The realistic one?  For me?  To skip the rest of the series and diverge to something else.

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