Title(s): Divergent; Insurgent; Allegiant
Author: Veronica Roth
Publication(s): 2011,; 2012; 2013
Whenever I write up a book review, I try to be objective about it. So, I feel like I need a disclaimer this time: there may be some subjectivity to my love for this series. Veronica Roth has written a series of novels set to become a multi-million dollar set of movies at the ripe old age of 25 (she wrote the first book, Divergent, during the winter break of her senior year in college!). She is everything I've ever wanted to be, and although part of me is incredibly jealous, another, larger part is optimistic - she did it, it's doable. Claiming that I wanted to be a best-selling novelist with a film adaptation was always confronted with an doubtful response. "Not in your lifetime" I heard coupled with example after example of authors whose novels failed to see the silver screen before they died (think Austen, Larsson and the Brontë sisters). Roth debunks what I began to take as a given and she did it all before her mid-twenties. And because of that I love it (and her!)
That aside, let me explain why I loved the Divergent series.
I want to say that I decided to review all three books at once because I'm vastly efficient and had the forethought. But honestly, I couldn't find the time between the first book and the second to right down anything aside from a few errant words of praise. "F-amazing. love. must get book 2". Turns out that even if it changes the format of my review, it's better to review the series as a whole to avoid saying too much or giving too much away. The series tracks Beatrice Prior, the 16 year girl who belongs to one of the five factions that post-war U.S. has devolved into, from the day she decides the course of her life - a decision that sets a chain of heart-racing (and at times scary) events in motion that can neither be stopped nor stalled until it arrives at the ultimate destination of the truth.
Divergent is fast-paced, intriguing, surprising and romantic. I loved it, especially on that last count. Although I loved Hunger Games, the one thing I thought it was missing was a little more of that crazy little thing called love. It was there but it wasn't plentiful. And I'm one of those readers who likes a good dose of at least lust if not love. I feel like Divergent gave me just enough of both romance and world/character building. I finished the novel feeling like I knew this world, this girl, and this love. In a way, I felt like a faction member because of how well Roth described this world and because how lovable her characters were. The factions were clearly laid out: Erudite, the beacon of knowledge; Dauntless, the fearless daredevils; Amity, the generous caregivers; Candor, the advocate of black-and-white honesty; Abnegation, the selfless saints. And Roth's characters are robust, round, complex people with honorable traits and faults, who are all the better for the rough bits. No one was perfect because no one really is. I could relate to every single one, even those that seem like examples of pure evil or absolute perfection. My only complaint for this first novel is that I would've liked to see more "settling in" (those who've read the first novel should know what I'm talking about). I know there are lots of people that like the quick movement of a novel from one crazy revelation to the next, but I enjoy writing especially when things are chill, mundane even, the "calm before the storm" if you will. I find beauty in those moments, but I'm thinking that's just the writer in me.
A few things here or there where a little predictable but nothing that ruins the story (just moments when characters finally put it all together you're like "well duh!"). But other things were so unexpected and exhilarating that you couldn't stop yourself from turning the page or, you know, running out to buy the next book at Barnes & Noble even though you know if you waited for 2 days, you'd get it from Amazon.com at half price.
And run out for the second book Insurgent, I did. Insurgent carries on in the footsteps of its predecessor. Now that quite a few things have happened, Insurgent aims to make sense of it, delving into the 'how' of it all now that we've witnessed the 'what'. Undoubtedly, there's less romance than the first book and plenty of the "real life drama" secrets and the past bring, which is why I'm surprised that Insurgent is actually my favorite of the three. The pacing didn't slow down but rather picked up right where Divergent left off. This book is what I'd call "the nitty gritty" of the story. The reader soon discovers that very little is as it seems, those we think are good perhaps aren't so good. Characters' reputations change dramatically as some become more loved, others become more hated, and some switch sides entirely. I remember reading on Roth's blog (yes, I read her blog religiously now) that every character has to have a purpose and if not, they get cut. It's clear she abides by her own advice. Roth jumps head first into the personalities of many, making the peeks we got in Divergent pale in comparison. Through her characters, she questions the virtues of the first installment, finding that every virtue has a complementary vice and none are mutually exclusive. Nothing is black-and-white, but rather fifty shades of gray (no pun intended!). Insurgent is like peeling back the layers of an onion, searching for the core not knowing if this is the last protective layer and never quite sure if the next pull will take it too far.
If Insurgent gives us the 'how' and bits and pieces of the 'why', Allegiant attempts to answer the 'who' and flesh out the 'why' even further. I say attempts because if I'm honest, it does get a bit muddled in explanation. There are moments when I thought "wait, how'd we get here?" as if we'd skipped entire points that would've made the story easier to understand. If you suspend the questions for a moment, you realize that those 'gaps' don't actually effect the story, but I understand why many get hung up on them. Although I liked seeing things from inside someone else's head, the switching of the point of view in this book didn't help to alleviate confusion. A few times, I had to look back to see who was telling the story because the voice of second narrator felt undeveloped. Yet, as a writer who has tried to do the dual point of view in my own work, it's not as easy as it seems. All in all, Allegiant felt rushed, and that in combination with a heavy editing hand attributes to the confusion, in my opinion. Now the ending that everyone's complaining about? Although I cried my way through the final 50 pages of the novel, I understood it. I know sure as shit that I could never do the same (and in some ways, it felt like the story was being pushed in that direction because it was something Roth thought of since book 1), but I respect the hell out of it.