Saturday, March 8, 2014

Divergent (and Insurgent and Allegiant) - Veronica Roth

This is a great book (and series) - if you like futuristic novels where the protagonist is a young adult facing both life-and-death choices and life-and-death situations. 

This is the synopsis of the first novel, Divergent, which the author gives on her blog site
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. 
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.
Because I'm … old… and not teaching teenagers anymore, I first heard of this bestselling trilogy when I saw Matt Lauer interview Roth on the Today show. Lauer was "teasing" the major twists and turns and shocking decisions which Roth made with her characters. Roth did make some surprising choices in the ending of the series. She credits JK Rowling and the Harry Potter books with making young adult fiction more realistic in terms of the consequences of character's choices (*trying not to give anything away).  I have to say that I first downloaded the novel based on how authentically shocked Lauer seemed to be with the course the books take.

I think I'll give my take on the Hunger Games novels tomorrow - because these two series will inevitably have comparisons. The main character is female, strong, figuring out her place in her world. There is a love interest (but no triangle in  Divergent). Personally, I liked Katniss a little more than Tris, but I always had the feeling that Roth meant for Tris to be a bit unreliable as a narrator. Tris is very much a teenager, where Katniss was always adult-ish. But, Tris clearly develops in this novel. She has difficult but authentic relationships with her parents and her brother and the twists and development of these relationships was what I must enjoyed. Family relationships are a major theme of the series.

I think I would let mature pre-teens and any teens read these books. There are "elliptical" sexual encounters  i.e. … the main characters are hot for each other but nothing is very detailed about their actual physical relationship. There is a homosexual couple but I don't know if pre-teens would notice as it's vaguely alluded to (in the 3rd novel, Allegiant). There is A LOT of death. Literally, A LOT. Not as gruesome as the Hunger Games, but much more emotional, as far as I'm concerned.

It's 100% knowing your child - I like my friend, Mindy's take - you should read this series with your child if he or she is considering reading it. If they've already finished the novels, I'd ask them about their favorite and least favorite parts.

**spoiler alert**I know about 5 teenagers who think the ending is ok. Most hate it. Feel free to comment if you'd like to know the end.

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