Sunday, August 31, 2014

Divergent, by Veronica Roth

My sister suggested that, as a political science major, I would be interested in the dystopian young adult novel Divergent, so I decided to give it a whirl. Since I assume anyone who is in the least interested in this book has already read it, I'm not going to bother with a plot summary and just make a few comments instead.

--I wish authors of dystopian novels would explain what happened to create the havoc and destruction that preceded the establishment of the post-apocalyptic society. Readers need the context to evaluate the situation in which the characters find themselves (IMHO).

--I found it interesting that the five factions were not formed because people who had the various characteristics were perceived as bringing value to the society but because people who lacked those characteristics were blamed for the ills that befell it. Unfortunately, it didn't really make sense that having just one value could be the solution to a society's problems--who would actually believe that? Furthermore, Roth did not explain why the boundaries between the factions were so impenetrable. There did not seem to be a logic to the system--it was just created for story-telling purposes (and I understand this is a story, but a story with internal logic would be better).  And why were those who had strength in more than one area called divergent?  Wouldn't they be convergent?

--It was interesting that the group chosen to wield governmental power was the abnegation (selfless) group--perhaps a commentary on the absence of that quality among our current leaders (but not necessarily a good choice for the polity).  The choice may also reflect the author's Christian beliefs, as may the choice of the erudite (intellectual class) as the evil-doers of the novel. While I saw a relevant message in the erudite manipulating the dauntless, I rebel at the notion that the educated are the ones a society should fear most.

--I really hate when a book is so obviously setting up a sequel (or two sequels in the case of the currently popular trilogies).

So did I hate Divergent? No, but I won't bother reading the subsequent books in the trilogy. I don't really care what happens to the society or, for that matter, to the main characters Tris and Four. I continue to be disturbed by the dystopic trend in YA novels--I guess they give young readers a chance to follow the exploits of heroes their own age, but at the same time they seem to pretty consistently present young people as victims of the societal structures that emerge following major ruptures in the social/environmental/governmental fabric. When I expressed this concern about the Hunger Games, only one other member of Novel Conversations agreed with me (and it might be said that others scoffed at the view as naive). Nonetheless, I hope a new trend for YA readers emerges soon.

Favorite passages:
"Welcome to the day we honor the democratic philosophy of our ancestors, which tells us that every man has a right to choose his own way in the world." Or, it occurs to me, one of five predetermined ways.

His absence will haunt their hallways, and he will be a space they can't fill. And then time will pass and the hole will be gone . . .

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