Here it is, finally! The rant you’ve all been waiting for…
Now, before I go all nit picky about the book, let me give it some credit where it’s due.
Reading on the author Veronica Roth’s bio, she wrote Divergent during winter break of her senior year in college (her major was creative writing). The fact that she was able to get a whole story written in such a short amount of time is worth applauding. And Divergent was also her first published work, so some of the things I point out are probably natural things that happen with some first-time writers.
And, in the context of the story, I do like the idea of the factions divided by different personality traits. That, in my opinion, is a very unique way of, in a dystopian setting, splitting people up. It’s the one original aspect of this dystopian novel that sets it apart from others.
Now that we’ve addressed those things, let’s talk about the not-so-good parts of the book.
In a nutshell, Divergent is as if The Hunger Games and Twilight had a baby, and tried dragging Harry Potter into the mix.
There’s a lot of ground to cover here, so let me start off with this point.
What does it mean when you’re told, “You’re Divergent”? What is so dangerous about this type that you mustn’t tell anyone who you really are?
Well, you’re not going to find out until almost two thirds through the book!
That’s right. I expected to find out about it sometime in the first few chapters of the book. When that didn’t happen, I got a little annoyed, but I was like “Okay, maybe the explanation will come in the middle of the book.” So I tried to be patient and I got to the middle of the book. Still no explanation! By this time, I was starting to get frustrated. By the time I finally got the explanation near the end, the explanation came a little too late. And anyway, the meaning of Divergence ended up being what I guessed it to be and isn’t really all that complicated. Sure, in the context of the story, it is a very dangerous secret, but it’s not so complicated that an explanation had to be put off until near the end of the book. Sheesh!
Then there’s the world of the story and its dystopian nature.
Tris talks about there being a war that caused the people to split into factions. A war over what? Why was there a war? This is never explained-or if it is in a later book, at least not in here. The first book in a series should always be the place to explain why things are the way they are now in a story. Even in The Hunger Games series, it was explained why people are separated into Districts, why Panem is dystopian, etc.
But with Divergent, there is no explanation. I suppose we’re just supposed to believe that the story’s world is dystopian for…general reasons? Human nature? I really don’t know. And if there is an explanation in a later book, then that came a little too late.
Next, there’s our “heroine”, Beatrice, or Tris.
Oh my gosh, where to begin?
Let’s just start with this.
When I’m reading a 1st person view of a story, it’s only natural for that character to sometimes dwell on his/her own thoughts every once in a while. I’m cool with that. But Tris dwells on her own thoughts way too much-sometimes it even interrupts the story! She’s all caught up in “Oh, I wonder if Four loves me?” or “Well, this was how it was done in my home faction…” or “Oh, should I step in and help, or should I protect my own selfish hide?” She is so absorbed in her own thoughts that she is an unreliable narrator. Sure, she gets the story told, but she spends too much of the time thinking about herself.
Also, Tris is very much of an “observer” type of character. She really doesn’t do a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. It’s better, in a 1st person narrative, to have someone who’s actively shaping the story through everything he/she does. And I don’t think worrying about fitting in with the other Dauntless, reflecting on the ways of Abnegation, and other such stuff is actively shaping the story. Sure, some of it (the Abnegation reflection) helps us understand a bit about some of the factions. But the author could’ve told us how the factions worked differently from each other in a way that didn’t interrupt the story as it’s happening.
Another thing that bugged me about Tris was how little I knew about her. All I know is that she’s “not ugly, but not pretty” and comes from Abnegation. I don’t know a whole lot about her family, less about any hardships in her life; heck, I hardly know anything at all! Tris has very little character. If she were to die in the next book, I could care less.
It must be said-Tris is a weakling! I don’t care if she’s (for some strange reason) the highest ranked Dauntless initiate, she is a weakling!!! She can’t fight well enough to fend for herself. And moments of success in training (like finally hitting the target with the knife) are nothing but moments of cheap empowerment for someone who would not even begin to survive a day in the Hunger Games.
Tris is only slightly stronger/”wittier” when her boyfriend Four (or Tobias) is around. Seriously, it’s the truth! If you were to back her into a corner, she would helplessly stutter until Four broke in. Then and only then would she be able to start either lying her way from you or tearing you apart.
Who wants her as a role model?
I certainly don’t. I’ll take Katniss Everdeen, flaws and all, over Tris any day.
Also, on the whole weakling thing, I’m sorry, but Tris is not a good back-talker. Like whenever Peter bugs her for the millionth time, the retorts she gives him are anything but witty. She [Tris] may think that they’re good, but I groaned with every single piece of her banter.
Then I have a big problem with Four being Tris’s love interest. First off, a trainer/learner relationship is always a little bit sketchy to begin with. But then it’s also Four’s behaviors. When he tells Tris he’s been “watching her”, that, in my mind, might as well be the same thing as stalking. I don’t care if the guy is a human or a sparkly vampire (ugh!), stalking is not okay. Stalking does not equate to love.
But apparently Tris doesn’t know the difference. It only confirms her (to be honest) stupid fantasies about Four being in love with her. And then she simply falls into his arms.
Also, the love interest doesn’t feel necessary or that it has a place in the story at all.
Of course, I have to make a comparison between Katniss/Peeta and Tris/Four right here.
Katniss and Peeta don’t start out in love. They have to pretend they’re in love to gain the audience’s sympathy. But by the time all is over with, Peeta wishes for at least a friendship between him and Katniss. Slowly, that friendship gradually grows. And then, after all the hardships (not to mention the possibility that Katniss might choose Gale), the two come to realize how much they actually love each other.
That, my friends, is a true love interest development right there.
Tris and Four don’t have a true love interest development. Right from the beginning, we can see a love interest between them coming a mile away. And then boom! It happens. But the love interest feels like it’s only there to add extra “drama” to the story. It’s mere piffle, cheap entertainment. It’s there for the sake of being there, and that’s not a good enough reason for its existence.
Out of all the factions, I have a really big issue with Dauntless.
Almost all the factions have a purpose in the world of the story except Dauntless. I know, I know, they protect the fence surrounding the city. But from what?
From all that I read of Dauntless, they seem to serve no real purpose. They’re just the cool kids of the factions. They get to do parkour, get tattoos, learn how to fight, and form cliques.
Sounds like a very necessary faction to have, don’t you think?
Then, there are some, you could say, extremely nit-picky issues I have with the book.
In The Hunger Games, Katniss has a mockingjay pin.
In Divergent, Tris gets a bird tattoo.
Sounds original, huh? Come on, couldn’t the author have made the tattoo a little bit different? Like maybe a different animal at least? Because when I read about the crows on the collar bone, all I could think of was the mockingjay pin.
Also, there’s Peter, Drew, and Molly. In my opinion, it’s as if the author wanted a Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle trinity of friends, so she just decided to throw Peter and his friends in there for the sake of having an evil friend bunch in there.
Overall, I think Divergent is a book full of underdeveloped characters, concepts, and story. There are some points or moments where I can feel that it’s supposed to be powerful, but unfortunately, everything else is so undeveloped that the power in those moments is lost.
It felt like reading a book that never saw the light of revisions and just got published in its first draft form. Whether or not Veronica Roth revised her first draft is something I’d like to know. I know she was writing under a time crunch, so I understand the need to get all those thoughts, characters, and ideas down as soon as she could’ve. But I think she needed to spend a little more time fleshing things out before submitting the first book to a publisher.
Sadly enough, because of all the things I’ve pointed out, I will not be continuing the series. If anything gets explained or fleshed out, I’ll never know. If it does, then it came way too late.
But what do you think? Do you like Divergent? Do you think Tris is a strong, developed character? Is there anything I missed, or do you have some defense to make for the book? Let me know in the comments! Like with my River Song rant, I promise not to bite your heads off.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
‘Til next time, laters!