|image via Google Books|
When people claim a new book- especially a new YA book- is "the next ____________", I'm hesitant to read it; I'd rather a book be able to stand on its own than climb on the shoulders of someone else's good idea. So when Divergent was being labeled "the next Hunger Games," I wrote it off immediately. Frankly, I'm getting sick of dystopian futures and teenager-led revolutions- can we move on to another trend now? However, Veronica Roth has built up quite the fandom around her series and there's a movie coming out- plus a good friend of mine read it and enjoyed it- so I went ahead and gave it a try.
I read this book pretty quickly considering all the other things going on in my life right now, and that's largely due to the writing style. Much like Suzanne Collins, Roth has built her world in First Person through the eyes of her main character, and the action unfolds in short, choppy sentences, pulling you forward and making it hard to put down. Even as elements of the plot started to frustrate me, I just wanted to know what happened next, so I kept going.
And yes, some of it is frustrating.
Does it make me a boring old mom to complain about the romance? Because yes, there is romance, and for a while it seems to overwhelm the storytelling- I really want to tell our narrator to stop with the googly-eyes and get on with the plot! Thankfully it doesn't start out that way- we get to know our main character and her world a bit before she sets her sights on the broody, hunky guy. However, the budding relationship itself bothers me a little bit as well- at least at first. The friend who recommended this book thinks I'm overreacting when I say this, but the romance feels slightly on the Bella-and-Edward side of the spectrum to me. Roth places her main character in a struggle to prove that she's brave- not only to the world, but to herself as well- and that is so incredibly real to me, no matter the setting. I can't help but feel that Roth cheapens that journey a bit by introducing a love interest that comes to save the day at just the right moment- and that seems to be what attracts our main character to him the most. There is this facade of, "Oh, no, he's attracted to her because of her strength," but I can't help but feel like he's more turned on by her fragility, her weakness, her vulnerability- because she needs him and because he can overpower her. Again, my friend thinks I'm overreacting a bit, and supposedly things get better on the romance front in the next book.
The only other problem I have with this book is that for most of the story, this world seems just...well...not all that believable. I had to ignore the fact that this is supposed to be set in Chicago, a real place, in the real future, and pretend it's a complete fantasy world where a society would ever decide to live by these rules.
In all honesty, I did enjoy Divergent overall, and I'm excited to move on to the sequel (once it's available in softcover, because I'm cheap). I think this is going to be a good movie as well, and for me at least, it'll be a little test-drive of Shailene Woodley's acting chops before The Fault in Our Stars. If you like speculative fiction, action-adventure stories, and, yes, a good old-fashioned dystopia, then you'll like Divergent, so I suggest you give it a go.
What did you read this month?