Divergent by Veronica Roth
At best, I’m not a huge fan of either genre/sub-genre. Why do I read them? I want to understand them, as a writer and a reader. I want to experience the trend. But now, I’m done. This post is not going to win me any friends or fans.
First, I’m “old.” This is young adult fiction and the characters in these books, including Divergent, are dealing with issues that are young people’s issues. Love, sex, gender, place in the world; all these things are approached with enormous anxiety. Unfortunately, many minor issues are approached in the same way and, when faced, are found to be no big deal. While this might appeal to some older reader’s sense of nostalgia, it just makes me impatient. At age 37, I’m done dealing with most of these issues. Well, maybe not “place in the world,” but I’m somewhat beyond worrying about whether I’m part of the popular group.
Second, I’m tired of trope characters. The doesn’t-know-she’s-pretty action girl. The hot guy love interest; the pasty “nice” guy not-really love interest. Evil adults in charge of the world and child revolutionaries.
Maybe that last category wouldn’t annoy me so much if the world these character inhabited wasn’t a contrivance. Society in Divergent is broken into five amazingly simplified factions that do not mix socially. At the ridiculously young age of sixteen, with no information about the other factions, young people are given the opportunity to choose. Leaving their family’s faction means not seeing their family again (except on visiting days). There is a sixth faction, the factionless. They seem to be either akin to homeless people, or low-level workers, or something like that. Because failed the fairly arbitrary initiation process into whatever faction they chose (at age 16 with no actual knowledge of what the other factions are about), they are now valueless.
Of course, we enter this story at a shifting point. Using technology that probably could not be innovated within the society established, [the angsty teens-in-school plot line shifts to a running from a death squad climax]. (Highlight for the spoiler.)
That’s one thing that what gets me about the dystopias I’m reading. They show a lack of understanding of how the world actually works. In particular, innovation in technology requires more than a group of brainy know-it-alls. Technology requires Candor and Amity and maybe even some Abnegation and Dauntless-ness. As does politics and art and pretty much the entirety of the human experience.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that what most current dytopian fiction fails at is showing that without x you don’t get y. Divergent has an opportunity to, as an allegory, show what we’d be missing if we had this over-the-top segregation based on basic character attributes. Of course, showing that a segregated world would result in a society that simply falls apart doesn’t make for great drama. Ultimately, current dystopias are less social commentary and more a contrivance for putting teen protagonists in danger.
Format: Kindle Cloud
Procurement: Greater Phoenix Digital Library