I’m not one to jump on a bandwagon. Things that are trendy or in vogue are not particularly appealing to me, lessened by the fact that they are as popular as they are. Given this fact, I could not have cared in the least when the YA trend swept by several years back. The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Maze Runner were among the numerous series to be celebrated and slated for blockbuster films, but I was not one of the crowds to surge to a library so I could read the next installment before the film came out. I did read The Hunger Games before it was made into a popular film, but that was also when I was reading George Orwell so – social commentary? Either way, it’s taken years and years for me to actually read even another book targeted for youths of my age.
That is, until my friend asked me to read the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. I finished it over the course of the weekend, but not because it was a particularly pleasurable read. In fact, I recommend you stay away from the series. With as much kindness as I can summon, I tell you that the writing is poor, the worldview questionable, and the content too mature that it should not be dwelt upon, least of all by adolescents with raging hormones.
While I am not prone to do negative book reviews, I think a good lesson can be learned from them as a writer. With that in mind, I’d like to point out the specific points that I thought were a significant detriment to what could have been an otherwise enjoyable series. I will not be focusing on questionable moral points, as each person has a different set of guidelines for what is safe for their household. I am merely attempting to point out the writing mistakes that I think really caused the story to be less enjoyable.
Tris’ Obsession With Four – I know that YA books seem to have a prerequisite about romance, but there is a clear difference between a romantic attraction and obsession. For the majority of the books, Tris’ thoughts bounce between being worried about her status as a secret Divergent and how much she thinks Four is hot. Or she wants to run her hands through his hair. Or something equally disgusting. (If you can’t tell, I tend to skip those sections). I’m good with an old-fashioned romance story, but romance shouldn’t quite share an equal status with something like, say, I don’t know…the story?!
Trilogy Planning – While not every author is as meticulous as J. K. Rowling, thought should be put into planning any type of series, be it trilogy, septology, or just a two-parter. Veronica Roth seems slightly guilty of having not completely thought out her book series. The two sequels are chock-full of moments that should have been set up from before we even suspected such moments would come. From shocking revelations about Tris’ mother to the truth about the Bureau’s connection with Jeanine Matthews, this vast backstory is taken for granted without any previous set up.
Characters – While many of the characters have a fair amount of personality, the one thing most of the characters tend to lack is motivation. Why does Caleb betray Tris? What causes Peter’s change of heart at the end of the series? What is up with Evelyn and Marcus? In short, the character’s motivation and change are not fully explained. While first-person points of view can often be in danger of this flaw, this series is especially guilty of it.
While I can think of some more minor flaws, they tend to fall under these major categories. As I stated before, the content of these books is rather mature and thus is not a particularly great read on that count alone. All in all, I find that most YA books tend to have these sort of flaws in abundance, a reason I don’t often find myself perusing the teen section of the library. However, I am told that there are quite a few reads in this category that are worth giving a try. Leave me a comment if you have any recommendations or just want to discuss the series!