Review: Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent, Divergent #1
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre(s): Young Adult Dystopia

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Title: Insurgent, Divergent #2

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Title: Allegiant, Divergent #3

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I wanted to like the Divergent series. I really, really wanted to like it, since everyone else does. Far be it from me to criticize something just because it’s in pop culture. Despite Twilight‘s brainlessness, I devoured it. Despite the Hunger Games‘s excessive angst, I enjoyed it (although the first is the best and it devolves as the series goes on). But in these books, the publishing industry seems to be trying to capitalize on a dystopian trend without thought to what it’s promoting for us to consume.

The books were easy to read, the protagonist was likeable enough, and her struggles were difficult and potent. However, as I finished the first book and started the second, I found myself wondering why Tris’s difficulties seemed hollow. The storyline was all right, and the themes it explored were thought-provoking. But as I thought more about it, I tried to understand this society.

I found myself wondering: Where’s the rest of the world? Why does this only take place in Chicago with no mention of other places? Hunger Games is very clear that different cities exist. In Divergent, the rest of the world is left as a mystery, and not a good one. Young people are naturally curious, and Tris has propensity for Erudite. How could she not wonder about it?

Then I started to wonder further. Why do these kids have to pick a faction to stick with for the rest of their lives? God forbid I made a decision like that when I was sixteen. I’m a totally different person now. While teenagers in our society do get forced to make decisions that affect the rest of their lives, we all have the capacity to change our fates. It might be difficult the older we get, but mechanisms still exist.

I was happy to see that some of the questions about the society itself were answered in the third book; however, I didn’t like the answer. I now know why they were insistent on people only clinging to one virtue, but it doesn’t seem natural nor does the setup into factions make sense. I just don’t believe that the people who created the society were that dumb. I get the whole back story–but it doesn’t mean that the founders wouldn’t have tried to make it operate within the confines of human behavior.

As I thought about this, other things started to bother me:

The entire “factionless” concept made no sense. First of all, if people are cast out of society, they’re going to band together. People gravitate toward one another. Why was anyone surprised by this? Secondly, why was anyone cast out of factions anyway? What’s the point? It just seems like a recipe for disaster. And, finally, wouldn’t the Abnegation take in the rejects? That just seems like something they would do.

The more I think about these books, the less I like them. Struggles are only meaningful in fiction if they stem from something believable. The more I read the books, the more I found myself unable to suspend my disbelief. The more information I got on the founding of the factions, the less I was able to buy into the premise. And as the third book progressed, the heavy-handed morality lesson–set within the confines of a society that made no sense–grated.

I really liked Tris and Tobias (although at one point, I feel like Ms. Roth created conflict between them just for the sake of conflict). Overall, their interactions and choices seemed natural. Allegiant had a solid, well-thought-out, realistic ending.

But I just can’t believe the world they live in.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant by Veronica Roth

  1. Dystopian fiction does seem to be an oddly popular genre of late, though quite often it seems to be framed within the modern trend of Mary Sues taking on the world. I liked this review, anyway. It’s refreshing to see a critic really consider the society the author’s created; too often, I think, dystopian fiction’s given a pass on believability because it’s meant to be allegorical, or satirical. If you want to read a really crappy dystopian story, try Anthem by Ayn Rand. *shudder*

    • Good point about Mary Sue’s. It’s an easy trap to fall into as a writer, I think. People still like those books, though. Bella from Twilight was perhaps one, although she was more tailored for the reader to fall into than a personification of the author.

      I started Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged but didn’t get through it. It was very slow going.

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