07 March 2014

Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth

It's been a while.  In December I decided it would be fun to re-read all of Harry Potter.  Brilliant, of course, except that spilled over into January...and then into February, too.

So, 10 books later (if one counts Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch Through the Ages, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard), I am finally back into reading new books.

I don't get through books as quickly as I used to, with my current work schedule; I used to do two a week and now I'm lucky to do two a month.  I picked up Nick Offerman's Paddle Your Own Canoe in December from a White Elephant party and finally started reading it the last week of February.

In the midst of this came Divergent.  It's been getting a lot of hype right now, with the film adaptation coming out in a few weeks, and I like to stay ahead of the culture curve when it comes to YA stuff (as long as it doesn't involve vampires, which I find tiresome...but anyhoo...).  I would like to say it's for "market research," and it sort of is, as it's good to see what else is out there as I work on my own YA story.  But that said, I find myself frequently drawn into YA fiction in a way I am rarely drawn into adult fiction.  I don't know if it's because it addresses a part of me and my inner child that adult fiction doesn't; or because of the frequent use of first person narrative, which can allow a deeper connection with the characters; or something else entirely.  That's a whole other blog post.  In fact, I am almost certain I've pondered this very notion before...

Indeed, after perusing my own archives, I find that I mentioned this attraction obliquely in my response to The Fault in Our Stars...ironically, also soon to be a major motion picture, and with some significant casting overlaps.  Providence?

Anyway, suffice it to say, Divergent absorbed me quite completely, such that I finished it, Insurgent, and Allegiant in 6 days.

Devouring books like that is something that happens to me only rarely.  It's both extremely rewarding and extremely exhausting.  When I immerse myself in a world so enthusiastically, it becomes hard to disengage once it's all done.  I find myself revisiting favorite passages, and trying to suss out meaning I didn't have time to ponder before.

Clearly, then, I loved Divergent and its sequels.  How much is too much to say?  I do hate spoilers, so I will try me best to be spoiler free.

Divergent is set in a dystopian version of Chicago.  Year: unknown.  The people have been divided into factions that value one particular virtue above all others: selflessness, intelligence, bravery, peace, and honesty.  At 16, you choose: stay where you were born or join a different faction.  Of course, like any system, it has outsiders.  Some are those who, for one reason or another, don't stay in their faction.  In such a system, it follows that those who can't fit into it become second-class citizens.

Other outsiders are those who are (title plug!) "divergent," and can belong to multiple factions.

The story snowballs from there, following 16-year-old Beatrice Prior as the discovers threats to her world from within, without, and even its own dark past.

There's been a lot of comparison to The Hunger Games.  I think that's inevitable, but unfortunate.  Then again, The Hunger Games was compared to Twilight ad infinitum, and those two are a lot father apart.

There are similarities.  Dystopian futures.  Female protagonists.  Violence.

But here is what I found interesting.  The Hunger Games seemed to me very much focused on the cost of violence when it's thrust upon essentially ordinary people.  We see Katniss dehumanized.  We see her suffer from PTSD.  We see her nightmares, and we see how it destroys her life.

In Divergent, Beatrice chooses Dauntless, the faction focused on bravery.  She trains for violence.  She is desensitized to it.  And so its consequences on her are different.  We see her guilt over the lives she has taken.  We see her rationalizations.  She is a different person from Katniss, and that makes Divergent a different series from The Hunger Games in the most important way.

One of the things that hit me most about Divergent was its theme of forgiveness.  Maybe it's my own bias that I saw so much of it in there, but I don't think so.  Forgiving others.  Forgiving yourself.  So much of the trilogy was wrapped in questions about how to forgive, and why, and when, and what it truly means.  Where is the line between redemption and forgiveness?  Is there one?  Are they the same, linked, or separate?  Divergent had me thinking about that more than anything else.

I find myself out of things to coherently write about Divergent.  I loved every second of it and hope, quite vehemently, that Into the Shining Sun can affect even one person as strongly as Divergent affected me.  I think that would be a win.

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Books: Working on Paddle Your Own Canoe.  I still have two volumes of Echoes of All Our Conversations, and I have few things on hold at the library.  We'll see what comes first.

Bottles: Ordered 2011 Continuum yesterday.  Can't wait!  I've had several amazing bottles recently, including 2011 Cloudy Bay Sauvingon Blanc.  I have been remiss in reviewing them - I've been using an app called Delectable to catalog my wine drinking.  I have to get back to making notes and posting reviews.

Writing: 75% done with this round of revisions.  I've been seriously pondering cutting the entire first chapter for the last day or two.  We'll see.

Guitar: Working on "One of These Days" (by Pink Floyd, not Foo Fighters).  I love love love my lap steel.