Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Epic Reading List Updated: Divergent

List Update as of February 26th

1. 'The Hunger Games' -Suzanne Collins
2. 'Alanna the First Adventure' -Tamora Pierce
3. 'Anna Dressed in Blood' -Kendare Blake
4. 'In the Hand of the Goddess' -Tamora Pierce
5. 'Graceling' -Kristin Cashore
6. 'The Woman Who Rides Like a Man' -Tamora Pierce
7. 'The Name of the Star' -Maureen Johnson
8. 'Lioness Rampant' -Tamora Pierce
9. 'Tale of Two Cities' -Charles Dickens
10. 'Wild Magic' -Tamora Pierce
11. 'Catching Fire' -Suzanne Collins
12. 'Wolf Speaker' -Tamora Pierce
13. 'Matched' -Ally Condie
14. 'Emperor Mage' -Tamora Pierce
15. 'Divergent' -Veronica Roth

16. 'The Realm of the Gods' -Tamora Pierce

I thought this book sounded interesting so I bought it when Borders was closing. It was shuffled around the shelves as I got new books and rearranged them and everything. It was sort of forgotten about. I have just discovered that there is a perk to having forgotten about it for so long. That perk is this: I DON'T HAVE TO WAIT AS LONG FOR INSURGENT! May is way too far away as it is.

Warning: Potential for SPOILERS! (I tried to limit them but...)

This may go without saying but, I LOVED Divergent. Loved it. It's absolutely wonderful. The character growth, the setting, the ruthlessness, the interactions. It's so carefully crafted and totally inspired.

Tris is a brilliant character. She's so incredibly real in this horribly familiar yet still foreign setting. Divergent easily could have been a cheesy coming of age novel in a dystopian setting but I am very pleased to say that it is far from that.The same type of doubts that plague people in our own time, world, setting, whichever word you choose (I'd say teenagers but I'm 23 and I haven't figured this stuff out yet) plague Tris. The identity issues that Tris faces are not so different from those we face only they have a far more immediate impact on her. Throughout the book she goes through a wonderful transition. I think one of the strongest things about her as a character is that she never really was  the meek Abnegation girl. It allows for her growth to flow a little more naturally. She didn't switch factions because she was bored, she struggles with the decision to stay true to who she is.

And she's fierce, brave, and horribly flawed. She's not a perfect role model and Roth doesn't set her up to be. No one in Divergent is perfect. There is a ruthlessness in Tris that borders on cruelty at times. She has been the small insignificant one for so long she is breaking out of that and coming into herself. That is instantly a draw for  anyone who doesn't fit in, or is a younger sibling, or just can't seem to find themselves. Tris is easy to relate to.

Okay, so this will come as no surprise to anyone who has read my reactionary reviews before, I love Four. I do always seem to love the boys. But Four has a beautiful mix of vulnerability and solid strength. (Reminds me a bit on Finnick that way, but I digress) We only really see him a few times with Tris because he spends most of the book in teacher-mode. Even the moments with Tris have a certain strain on them due to nervousness, fear, and in same cases, anger. He is not sweet, though he has his moments ("I might be in love with you....I'm waiting until I'm sure to tell you, though.") but he is steady. Four hasn't figured out his life completely and sometimes the strain and uncertainty show. His initiation into Dauntless was an escape but one that he still isn't sure was right.

He has a fierceness similar to Tris' own and respects the strength in her, perhaps more than she does herself and I think this is key to their relationship. They are similar in that strength and desire to not have to depend on people but at the same time they are willing to depend on each other. That being said they also balance each other out. Tris is reckless and Four is careful. Tris frequently lets her emotions get the better of her and Four is more controlled. Theirs is the sort of relationship that I don't think we see enough. It is a real balance. They've both saved and helped each other. Neither of them is perfect and they both know that.

One of my favorite things about this book if how Veronica Roth chose to break up the factions. They are natural divides that I hadn't considered. Each of these traits (generally described): Honesty, Peacefulness, Selflessness, Fearlessness, and A Thirst for Wisdom (saying Intelligence would sound better but isn't quite right) are ones we prize to a certain degree but to a different degree depending on the person. Roth has it all set up so that everything should balance and be controlled. But there is no room for divergence of any kind and though being divergent is considered a rarity in that society it isn't for human nature and thus the conflict.

I really love the depth Roth gives Tris' mother. For someone who is on the page so little she is really well constructed. Her divergence and reasons for leaving Dauntless are slid in there without smacking us in the face. My only issue is that in giving her mother so much depth it made her father seem even more shallow. He is the one whom is described as being a little more opinionated than most Abnegation and perhaps that was used to throw us off of her mother's Dauntless aspects but it made come off flat. Which in term made his sacrifice at the end less powerful than it could have been. I would have liked to see more of his interactions with Tris after her choosing. But I also realize that would have slowed the pace.

That leads to my other issue. I see why it was important for Tris to lose her parents. It cements the very firm theme of the book that selflessness and bravery are not that different. But it felt as if Roth was trying to show that Tris no longer had a family one of those, now it's personal moves. But she still has Caleb and that softens the loss just a little. I also can't decide how I feel about the parallels between their deaths.

So there are bits that come off perhaps a little formulaic. Losing both her parents, the sudden turn in her character in her fight against Molly. But somehow with everything else that is happening they work. Though upon breaking it down, their formulaic use is apparent they don't take away from the story or the impact these events have on Tris.

One of Divergent's greatest qualities is it ability to force us to take a moment to look at ourselves. Which of these qualities we most embody and how it impacts what we do. The novel's greatest triumph is that it does this without coming off heavy handed. I wouldn't exactly say that it is subtle but the characteristic Roth chose to explore are perhaps not typical ones and it isn't like taking a brick to the head as it could have been. But it does leave you wondering if you would be willing to leave your family if it meant being true to yourself. And can you have your self worked out by 16?

What I look forward to seeing is how everything that has happened with impact Tris. The loss of her parents, the own terrible death she has on her hands, and losing not one home, but two. I can't wait to see how things get even more tangled before they settle, or if they settle. I greatly anticipate Insurgent with the same dread I always have at knowing it is one step closer to the series ending.

Overall Rating: Beyond Epic

Oh, and does anyone else want to get the Dauntless symbol (the one embossed on the cover not the dust jacket) tattooed on themselves? I really do, all of a sudden.

Next is the last book from the reading list: Tamora Pierce's The Realms of the Gods.

Until then, I'm going to spend my time reading and trying to decide which faction I would chose.


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