A Quick Review of the Divergent Series (And the Beginning of a Discussion)

Aaand I’m back! It’s been far too long since I last posted here, but unfortunately graduate school took more of my time than expected.  Now that I know this, I hope to be able to better organize myself so that there aren’t any huge gaps between posts again. Ideally I’d get something up at least once a week, but I’d settle for every other week if that’s what time allows. (And yes, I will get back to the other series I ‘ve started.

With school ending, I also gained more time to spend reading, and the first books I read were those of the Divergent trilogy, as most of my family was reading/had read them, and I’d heard it highly praised. And just like with the Hunger Games trilogy (which I may or may not review/discuss at some point) I barreled through, reading each book in more or less 3-5 hours, which I’ll say is one of my favorite things about many YA books. The way they’re written and paced gives them an almost thriller-like feel, and lend toward fast reading, as opposed to other genres I enjoy, such as epic fantasy. I think, if I were to compare books to food, YA would be junk food–quickly and easily enjoyed, and lots of fun, but not something I want to read exclusively. That isn’t intended to a slight against YA books at all, rather just how they fit in to my reading.

As such, I enjoyed the Divergent series, (as well as the Hunger Games trilogy, which I may discuss at a later date), despite the problems I’m going to discuss, though I will say that at the moment I’m kind of burned out on YA books and currently letting my mind relax by reading the Dangerous Women anthology (which is awesome, by the way). The focus of this series of posts is not meant to be exclusively a review, rather using the Divergent trilogy as a springboard to discuss wider topics that relate to writing in general (though it will likely focus a bit more on YA, as that’s what these books are).

This first post will feature my quick thoughts on all three books, and I’ll mention some more major things that I will devote separate posts to in the near future. (Really, I promise.)

Divergent–By far the best book in the series. Veronica Roth excellently sets up the society and fascinating faction system, and the story is well paced and focused on Tris’s struggle through Dauntless initiation while learning more about her divergent status. The book culminates in an excellent twist and very well done climax, which, like the last leg in a race, leaves you both breathless and pumped for more.

Insurgent–This book was definitely good as well, though inferior to Divergent. The tension is ramped up in this book as the factions are about to launch into all out war, and the addition of the ‘factionless’ as a major player was brilliant, both in that it makes a lot of sense given the world that was set up previously. However, this is also where the series starts get too carried away in trying to make things ‘bigger’, and in keeping everything morally gray, as it really seems there are no ‘good guys’ apart from Tris and a few others. Also, the pacing suffered as the characters basically ran around visiting the other factions a lot, and much of the climax was reliant on Tris making poor, illogical decisions, in the name of discovering what would later prove to be disappointing things in a bid to make the story ‘bigger’ (I’ll discuss this more later). Insurgent does end on a terrific cliffhanger, which redeems the book and keeps excitement up for the third and final book.

Allegiant–Oh, Allegiant, the latest in horribly disappointing conclusions to otherwise good or great series, joining the illustrious ranks of the Mass Effect series, and the Hunger Games trilogy. There are just so many things that bugged me about this book, which tried to make things again ‘bigger’, only to have the lack of logic compound on itself and all sense vanish as it limped toward an awful conclusion. First off, the revelation that the whole city was an experiment, is really dumb, in my view. Not only does the reasoning given make little sense, but it was unnecessary. We had enough conflicts to resolve already without adding this one. This book also further over-complicates things by adding one conspiracy, revolt, on top of another in a mad attempt to keep everything very much in the gray, and there are long periods where little is happening. This is also the book where Roth’s regular offing of side characters finally got really annoying (something else I will discuss separately). And we also had the addition of a second first person viewpoint, Tobias, and early on I found it very hard to tell the difference between the viewpoints. This did get easier by the end, but by then I’d realized that the only reason she added him was to kill off Tris at the end. I know that’s what angered a lot of people, but for me it was just another nail in the coffin for the series. It was a book with a lot of potential that I think tried to do too much while also trying to up the tension unnecessarily, and it ended up a mess (at least as far as the plot and characters go).

Overall, I’d recommend the series, despite its many flaws. It was a good fun ride, and there were a lot of interesting ideas in it. Unfortunately, many of those were not explored enough and some took on too much importance. And the ending was very much a letdown both emotionally and as a story. Why can’t these great stories stick the landing and end on a satisfying note?!  On the bright side, disappointing endings help teach me what to avoid, so I guess that’s a plus.

That’s it for now. Next time, we discuss the ideas of plot and setting in the context of the Divergent trilogy. Until then, keep reading and writing! (And I promise, no more huge gaps of nothing new.)

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