Deborah: Today is the unveiling of our first Joint Review, featuring one of the books Kaite and I have both read recently! (Like how I decided you would do this with me, Kaite?) Recommended to me by fellow aforementioned A Novel Thing authoress, Divergent is book one of a hot (relatively) new young adult trilogy, featuring a strong female character just trying to make it in her dystopian society. Kaite, would you do me the honour of attempting to summarize the premise for our readers not yet in the know?
Kaite: My pleasure! Set in the future, fenced-in city of Chicago, sixteen-year-old Tris is just about to matriculate and has a big decision to make. Her city is divided into 5 different factions, each with their own defining values, and it is time for her to decide her fate! She was born and raised in Abnegation, whose members value selflessness, but she can also choose the courageous Dauntless, intellectual Erudite, honest and outspoken Candor, or peace-lovin’ Amity. Leaving all she has ever known would be scary, but it seems like Tris needs to break away from her stifling community. As the book tells us, ‘faction customs dictate even idle behavior and supersede individual preference’ so it’s a pretty big decision. Right from the start, Roth glued me to her book with a complex and intriguing society and great story-telling. But I really just explained the first chapter – maybe you’d like to explain Tris a bit more for us Debs?
Deborah: Tris! What can I say about Tris! First of all, she changes her name from its former Beatrice – one automatic coolness point! That was seriously a good call. But in all seriousness, she is everything the young adult reader is likely to admire and relate to. Her ability to do the right thing is sometimes impeded by her life situations (namely, being a teenager, and not measuring up to her model older brother), but it never stops her from trying. She’s young, but she’s tough as nails. She’s also wickedly sarcastic and clever, and she makes mistakes. But ultimately, she’s good. (All of which helps gets her noticed by hunk-boy, Four!) What did you like about this book, Kaite?
Kaite: Well, since you ask, as a fan of other YA lit., I liked that this book kind of delved into a tattoo-piercing-toughness world which was a great change of pace. I also liked that Tris was not a perfect person. Throughout the book we see how she misjudges people, even those she has known her whole life. It’s little touches like that which I really like. Et toi Debé?
Deborah: I hear you! Tris is a believable example of the teenage hero, harkening back to everything readers loved about Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games. And while we’re sitting here comparing genres, I’ll share what I thought was most interesting about this story – the way it started! I was convinced this was a Utopian society until about half-way through. Sure, this tightly-organized society had its flaws, but overall it seemed like this was actually a viable way for a city to curb war. And then Tris starts to notice the cracks forming and you soon realize all that was a ruse. But a smart strategy on Roth’s part, don’t you think? She almost lulls you into thinking this place is awesome – and then when it isn’t you feel the same fear and disappointment the main character has to work through herself. You side with her pretty easily.
Kaite: Yeah, Tris was a cool heroine and very easy to root for. It was interesting to see how she discovers the other side of her city through her new friends and heightening tensions. Her chemistry with Four was great, and I was impressed that Roth was able to create such a strong romance without crossing any teen-lines. But I did have a few problems with this book: Firstly, should huge, life-changing decisions really be made at the age of 16? I understand that it’s perhaps important to mature in your faction, but I’m glad sixteen-year-old Kaite didn’t have to make decisions like that! I mean, sixteen-year-old Kaite was pretty dumb. Secondly, and maybe my super-mature, wizened, cynical self is coming through a bit now, but sixteen-year-olds can’t save the world. I’m sorry to have to burst that bubble.
Deborah: Um…Queen Victoria was 17 when she took to the throne. Joan of Arc fought battles and crossed dressed, and accomplished other important-seeming things, all before her death at age 19. And Lisa Simpson has saved Springfield numerous times, and she’s only eight! So even though those are crappy examples, I’m of the camp that believes anyone can save the world! You just have to be willing to:
- disobey your parents
- stub your toes, weild a gun, or just wear a lot of black (i.e. be fierce!)
- garner support to your cause through motivational speeches that contain excessive amounts of fist-pumping
It also helps if you are a girl who, against all odds, finds herself in a love-triangle. But I digress. (Thankfully there is no love-triangle in Divergent!) Kaite since you’ve also read the sequel, Insurgent, would you like to give us Divergent-fans some insight?
Kaite: Why of course! As is typical in sequels it didn’t quite live up to its predecessor, but I was already so invested in the characters it didn’t matter. I won’t give too much away, but when we left off in Divergent, the city was in chaos, and a third book will definitely still be necessary to wrap things up. Some questions are answered but there is still a lot to resolve, and I look forward to the third installment, due to be released in the fall of 2013. But I want to know one thing before we sign off: which faction would you choose Deb?
Deborah: Probably Abnegation, though Erudite is a close second. To live a life in the pursuit of knowledge sounds great, but I think it’s a noble thing to commit yourself to the service of others.
Kaite: Interesting. I see myself choosing Amity. Well this was good times, my friend!
Deborah: Yes, indeed-y! Thanks for discussing this with me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go save the world…oh wait, I’m already too old. Television it is! Until Book 3!
Need more awesomeness?! Check out Veronica Roth’s blog here.