I read Divergent by Veronica Roth today. If you’re one of the five people who hasn’t read it yet, you probably shouldn’t read any further. This bad boy’s about to be rife with spoilers!
I’ve always been a big reader. I’ll read almost anything, but I especially enjoy imaginative and romantic things and stay away from anything too scary. Recently, through studying Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creative Imaginative Fiction by Jeff Vandermeer, which features a lot of science fiction authors and perspectives, I’ve been wanting to read more from that particular genre (science fiction) but since I’m in the middle of a Book Challenge, some of that is going to have to wait. I did take a break from the Book Challenge to read Divergent, though, mostly because I wanted to see what all of the fuss was about. I also like to read books before seeing their film-counterpart. I also read an article about Veronica Roth that a friend sent to be recently (with the charge, “You’re next!”) and found out she is only months older than I am. I wanted to read her stuff and see if I could do what she did – write a winner.
Well, I’ve finished it now, and I liked it. Shrug. It was no Hunger Games, I will say that, despite some similarities*. I don’t like the main character, Tris, but that’s not necessary for me to enjoy a book. (For example, I don’t care much for Katniss, especially as the series goes on and sometimes Harry Potter is so whiny and woe-is-me I want to stomp on his foot.) I like Four, but liked him less when I found out his real name is Tobias. Couldn’t get Fünke out of my head.
I’ve always said that being a good writer means being a good reader and recently I’ve started really listening to how good writers phrase things, what they don’t say, and mostly how they describe setting because that’s something I’m bad at. (What I have not been paying attention to is how often celebrated writers end sentences with prepositions.) So when I cracked open Divergent I also cracked open my Harriet the Spy style notebook, ready to take notes. (I also like to note lines or quotes from books that stick out to me, and as I read a borrowed copy of Divergent I had to write them down somewhere!)
The first note I wrote (that wasn’t a quote) was this: “I can’t see the value in Dauntless. It’s not bravery or courage, it’s stupid pride and self self self – proving yourself to be better or stronger than others, proving yourself able. That’s not courage.” I was glad to see that V. Roth (I just think that’s what I’d call her if we were friends) came around to that with Four. Don’t we all just love Four? The next note I wrote was, “Four gets it. Of course.” because maybe he was a little too conveniently there and also Divergent and also hunky and also deep and wise.
Another note I wrote that I still believe in after having finished the story (I know it’s only the first in a series!) says this: “I don’t get the big deal about being Divergent. So far it’s a interesting story without that piece.” Obviously, I understand now why that Divergent-status is important, but I still don’t really get it. How are people Divergent without choosing to be? Maybe someone can explain that to me a bit more.
Like I said, we all love Four, and I do, I suppose, but I wasn’t a huge fan of his and Tris’s relationship. I found it a little annoying that Tris either pretends to be or actually is (which would be even more annoying) ignorant of what’s going on between her and Four (Her and Four? Is that grammatically correct? Is my overuse of parenthesis distracting you from what I’m actually trying to say, yet?) and also what’s going on between Will and Christina. I only saw snippets of Will and Christina’s “friendship” but from the beginning it was clear to me what was going on! Plus Tris picked up pretty quickly on Al’s true feelings, so why did she so often question “whatever is going on” with Four?
Something I really don’t like in film and fiction is a relationship that moves at super sonic speed. From the Choosing Ceremony to the love-declaration on the train is like what, a month? Maybe I didn’t pay close enough attention to timeline, but by the end of a month Four is confessing his love for Tris? I don’t like that. And I don’t buy it. At one point Tris says, “We have each other memorized,” and I think I actually said out loud, “Really?! It’s been like a month!” Maybe this speaks more to my personal feelings about (healthy) relationships, and even more possibly, to my lack of experience in such relationships, but I just don’t trust this kind of all-encompassing immediate “love.”
When Tris brings Four out of the serum induced trance with just the sound of her voice I cringed. Then I wrote down, “I just heard your voice? Why is this so corny to me now but when it was Ron and Hermione I loved it? Oh… I know – they had history.” This isn’t a V. Roth critique, or even a Tris and Four critique, it’s just personal opinion, yo.
Here comes the critique, though, because of a scene that felt a little too familiar.* When Tobias (NOT Fünke) got injected by Jeannie or whatever her name is and tried to strangle Tris, this is what I wrote in my notebook, “Really? Her beloved turns against her because of a calculated power-hungry dictator? Peeta thanks to Snow a la Mockingjay anyone? When Tobias attacked Tris I actually rolled my eyes. At least Katniss and Peeta had a history to alter.”
I will admit that I went into this reading experience very critically. I’m still not sure why. It could be because if I were in the fear landscape one of the fears that would pop up would be a world where everyone is sick of dystopian futures about teenagers overcoming their challenges and making out every once in a while, just in time for me to finally finish my book and get it out there. So, maybe I was hoping V. Roth’s would suck so that, what? Mine could be better? I don’t know. I will say that reading Divergent encouraged me that if she could write a best seller and if this is what a best seller is, then I could write one, too.
I’m excited about the movie – and not just because it’s about time a movie that interests me comes to theaters in the Dominican Republic! – but I’ll really be okay if I never read V. Roth’s other two installments. Especially if we’re going to keep referring to Four as Tobias.