#43 “Divergent” by Veronica Roth

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  1. Divergent – Veronica Roth
  2. Insurgent – Veronica Roth
  3. Allegiant – Veronica Roth
  4. Still Alice – Lisa Genova
  5. Not For Glory, Not For Gold – Keith Miles
  6. The Mammoth Book of Angels and Demons
  7. Last Night at Chateau Marmont – Lauren Weisberger
  8. The Green Mile – Stephen King
  9. Tiger Men – Judy Nunn
  10. The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion
  11. The Rosie Effect – Graeme Simsion
  12. The Bane Chronicles  – Cassandra Clare et al
  13. Moriarty – Anthony Horowitz
  14. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

I was supposed to start these books months ago. Quite possibly almost a year ago. I went to the effort of trying to find the “adult” covers of the trilogy so that I didn’t have to deal with that garish pink or purple. And then, once I got all of the books, I let them fall to the wayside as I read every other book in my TBR pile. I feel like Divergent is a YA staple that I’ve been neglecting. Well, I fixed that!

I avoided this series for years because I was convinced it was just a retelling of The Hunger Games but with a different way of controlling the districts (read: factions). Maybe it’s just because I haven’t read all that many dystopian novels, but I figured that there’s no way the stories could be different.

I, of course, was wrong.

In The Hunger Games, the Games were designed to teach the people of Panem the consequences of standing up to their government. Therefore, all of the restrictions placed on the characters were inflicted by an outside entity. In Divergent, however:

“Decades ago our ancestors realised that it is not political ideology, religious belief, race, or nationalism that is to blame for a warring world. Rather, they determined that it was the fault of human personality – of humankind’s inclination toward evil, in whatever form that is. They divided into factions that sought to eradicate those qualities they believed responsible for the world’s disarray.
Those who blamed aggression formed Amity.
Those who blamed ignorance because the Erudite.
Those who blamed duplicity created Candor.
Those who blamed selfishness made Abnegation.
And those who blamed cowardice were the Dauntless.”

So, in this world that Roth created, the restrictions placed on the characters were self-inflicted. I found that to be an interesting distinction. Because humanity always starts out with the best intentions; but someone’s hubris always twists those intentions around to something self-serving and, usually, evil. I liked the way Roth explored this, particularly in the Dauntless faction. Bravery is a beautiful thing, but what happens when you have to prove your bravery through feats of brute strength and cruelty? Roth explored the worst part of each of the factions, or personality traits, in ways that made you forget that she was making statements on the human condition. What happens when the knowledge of the Erudite leads to the manipulation of less intelligent community members? What happens when the people of Candor twist the truth (much like the fey in Cassandra Clare’s universe) to hurt people? And what if the people of Abnegation choose to save themselves at the expense of hurting the person threatening them and then the victim is then, well, victimised for performing an act of self-preservation? I loved how Roth did this. It was brilliant. And, in much the same way that Collins made a point that capitalism will be our downfall, Roth was making a point that humanity needs to be aware of its limitations in order to prevent a world at war.

I also really loved Roth’s voice. Well, I guess it would be Tris’ voice. The way she described everything, and the way she turned her phrases, was much more intelligent than many of the books in this genre. I never felt like Roth was simplifying her vocabulary, like a significant percentage of the YA authors’ community seems to. Roth messed around with sentence length, repetition, and a myriad of other writerly techniques to give us a story that wasn’t only entertaining but well written. Thank you, Ms Roth.

I want to talk about [SPOILER] Tris and Four’s relationship. Specifically, the build up to the relationship. Tris, given that she grew up in the Abnegation faction, was completely foreign to matters of the heart. Making oneself happy by going after what one wants is considered selfish among the Abnegation. So when Tris found herself experiencing strange, positive emotions, she had no idea what to do with them. She had no idea what she felt, and this ignorance never felt contrived. Roth made Tris’ inexperience seem natural, rather than a plot device. In a lot of YA romance, the inexperience of one party is so contrived it makes me sick. But Roth did an amazing job.

My only complaint is that there were no explanations of the science in the story. I know we were seeing things from Tris’ POV, and that she wouldn’t really know any of it, but the lack of scientific explanation made me feel like Roth didn’t quite understand what she was writing about. I mean, there was one or two brief explanations, but some things just didn’t get explained. For example, the long-range simulation in the last few chapters of the book. We are told what happens during the simulation, but we are never told how the simulation worked. And that irked me. Surely, in order to stop the simulation, everyone needs to know how it works. But we never get told and the simulation [SPOILER] gets stopped somehow anyway. I understand simplifying thegiven information to appeal to the YA demographic, but YA audiences aren’t stupid. Give them a scientific explanation and I can almost guarantee that the audience will take it on board, not get lost and give up on the story .

★★★★

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About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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2 Responses to #43 “Divergent” by Veronica Roth

  1. moosha23 says:

    Love this review. Although I didn’t like Divergent as much as I had hoped to, this review of it is brilliant. I didn’t think about how Roth criticised humanity’s need to twist things and manipulate for power. 😀

    • Bec Graham says:

      Wow, thanks! I think my head just got a little bigger from that praise!
      I think it’s my English Lit training from uni: Must. Find. Deeper. Meaning. In. Everything. 🙂

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