Please, please tell me that in the three or four days it took me to read Divergent someone invented the time machine so I could go back those three or four days and somehow get them back. Reading this book was one of the biggest wastes of my life.
The argument I hear most with novels like this is that because it’s YA I am obviously not the target audience, which is probably why I didn’t enjoy it. For me, this does not do today’s young adults enough credit. Some of the best novels I’ve read in the last few years have been YA. E Lockhart’s We Were Liars immediately springs to mind. In fact, my favourite book of 2014 was Jonathan Stroud’s The Screaming Staircase which is written for age 9-12, an even younger readership! Having a young readership does not mean that people outside their age groups can’t enjoy them. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that appealing to a diverse readership is the mark of a great writer. Something that Veronica Roth is not.
Roth’s writing style itself is not terrible. She has a good sense of pace, gets her descriptions pretty much down so you know what’s going on but doesn’t get bogged down with an excess of descriptive prose. She even has a decent sense of excitement and adventure. I wasn’t bored reading Divergent, let’s put it that way. Where this book really struggled for me to give it any more than two stars is that the entire basic premise for the entire bloody plot just made no goddamn sense! And I mean that in the sense of it just doesn’t work! These so-called ‘Divergents’ are meant to be super special because they have a normal range of human emotion? Someone in the wake of some form of (I assume?) nuclear catastrophe came up with an idea that meant segregating the entire populace of a city into dominant personality traits (because apparently, that’s a thing?) as a means of promoting peace. A committee of people sat around and thought that was reasonable, and then implemented it, and didn’t think that segregation and the stifling of a human range of emotions would perhaps have the opposite of the desired effect? If we’re living in the past of Divergent‘s alternate future then we need only see the rise of fundamentalism and the violent outpourings caused by that to see how completely ludicrous an idea that is. The person who had suggested that idea would have been laughed out of the room. And then fired.
Roth writes a world that is too black and white, with everything pigeonholed to perfection. I see that essentially that’s the point she’s trying to make, but all I see when I read Tris’ character is not a girl who is ‘Divergent’, but an ordinary teenager trying to find her place in the world. Divergent’s aren’t special or abnormal, they’re just normal fucking people. There is no deeper knowledge to be gained here because the world created is so unbelievably unrealistic; a pastiche of sci-fi and fantasy tropes used to represent the human condition, but represented in the blandest possible packaging.