Dystopia is the new Vampire: DIVERGENT
A book review
Divergent by Veronica Roth
For a while there, we were inundated with vampires. Pop culture everywhere. But The Hunger Games is now the new It franchise. And on its heels, it’s Dystopia everywhere. Is the future so bleak? Are we driving ourselves down into a sh-t pit? Is China the enemy?
Megan McCafferty’s latest Bumped comes out tomorrow. I will write about it next week. In short, she imagines a world in which women over 18 in North America become barren. And the Chinese are kicking everyone’s ass at reproduction. So Teen Moms become the most valuable American commodity. Not unlike Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story (which I LOVED) – in his book, China controls the money, and everything is marked against Asian currency, and everyone else is in the Big Red’s debt. Don’t roll your eyes and call it a stretch. Turn on the news and listen to the China scaremongering that’s happening all the time.
Veronica Roth’s Divergent (I don’t love the title either) isn’t quite so obviously political, but the undertones are certainly there. Her satire however is embedded within a more traditional “self-discovery of a girl hero” format. This was the book that got me sunburned in Barbados a couple of weeks ago. I deliberately waited for that trip to read it, knowing I’d want something to keep me up at the beach, and then it ended up frying my ass anyway because I was so engrossed I forgot to turn over. F-ck!
Another one of these young, first book bitches. Hate them! Veronica Roth is 22. And they are calling Divergent the Buzz Book of the year. Summit Entertainment has already acquired the movie rights which…
I love this book.
And the thought of Summit f-cking this up with their cheapness, like they did with Twilight, is making me anxious. Having said that, the source material for Twilight was the sh-ts. Veronica Roth is far superior to Stephenie Meyer. And Beatrice Prior is no Bella Swan.
So…is she Katniss Everdeen?
The comparisons are inevitable. These are two girls who must survive in a very, very violent world. Beatrice’s not too distant future reality is set at a time when everyone is categorised by dominant personality trait into one of five factions: Amity (for those who are spacey and happy all the time), Dauntless (for those who are courageous), Erudite (for people who like learning and sh-t), Candour (for those who are honest, even to a fault), and Abnegation (I know it’s an awkward word, and it represents the selfless so, I guess they’re too busy helping others to come up with a nice sounding group name).
At the age of 16, every citizen must choose to which faction they belong. We meet Beatrice when she’s about to decide how she’ll live the rest of her life. And then she has to train to meet the faction requirements that will determine the rest of her life. And of course there’s a boy and some friends and some sinister sh-t that goes down, and I was tearing through the pages only to reach the goddamn end and that sinking realisation that started about a third of the way through – this is another f-cking multi-booker, and it means I’ll have to wait another year to find out what happens, only to have to wait another year after that, probably, to get to the end. If that.
Why do I like Beatrice? I like her because she’s not pretty. And she never becomes pretty. At no point is she “transformed”. In other words, when people like her, it has everything to do with who she is. That’s a message I can get with. I also like Beatrice because she’s not perfect. Like Katniss, she is selfish, she withholds, she knows she’ll regret her cunning and she goes ahead and deceives people anyway, and she makes all the mistakes you expect from a 16 year old girl who is trying to make friends and fit in and excel all while, you know, staying alive.
Why do I like the story? It’s a pretty compelling plot. And while Veronica Roth isn’t quite as thorough or as organised in description (when she’s laying out the Divergent world) as Suzanne Collins – that might come with experience, after all she is only 22 – her pacing is excellent, and she holds you, right from Beatrice’s initiation, through her preparation with her classmates, and just as it was in The Hunger Games in the Arena, these are the best parts, full of creativity and action and suspense and tension and conflict and romance. Here’s where Roth may have succeeded over Collins. I wasn’t into Peeta or Gale in The Hunger Games one way or the other. But this guy? In Divergent? Super sexy. I’m into it.
Thematically though, behind the formulaic elements that give Divergent its Young Adult classification, the book explores the universal and very modern struggles of social integration. Segmentation exists today – legally, morally, arbitrarily. Debates about segmentation and rights are still happening. Laws are passed that deny certain segments certain freedoms. More lines are being drawn and walls built on top of them then the ones that are being erased and torn down. As is the case with good Young Adult fiction, Divergent was written for a wide audience, of all ages, and the questions it asks are worthy of discussion among teens and among those who are beyond teen. These questions are especially germane right now, and I’m sure you won’t have to look far to find evidence of the fractures that philosophical, political, racial, and doctrinal alignments can cause.
Simply put, as I’ve said often, those who dismiss the YA Genre are shortsighted. There is sh-t in every form. Literary literature can be bad too. The true stars of YA however are those who make the reading fun, and get you thinking at the same time. Divergent delivers.
Divergent will be released on May 3rd. You can read some of it here.
I have 5 copies to give away. Interested? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with DIVERGENT as the title by midnight Pacific on May 2nd, 2011. Standard terms apply. Good luck!