Katniss Ain’t Got Shit on Beatrice Prior

4 Feb

Allegiant hc c.JPG

Fans of the Young Adult Dystopia genre (YAD for short) should at this point be at least vaguely familiar with Divergent, the first book in a trilogy by Veronica Roth that tracks Beatrice (Tris) and various other residents of a post-apocalyptic Chicago whose society is divided into five factions, each founded on respect for a particular virtue (Candor/honesty, Abnegation/selflessness, Dauntless/bravery, Amity/peace and Erudite/intelligence.) Divergent, which comes out in movie form on March 21, was released in 2011, while Book #2 (Insurgent) came out in May 2012 and the final book in the series (minus all the BS “extras” Roth will publish over the coming years to reap untold profits from obsessive tweens) was released in October.

It’s always hard to review the second or third book in a series without inevitably giving away some of the haps in the preceding titles. But given the impending theatrical release of Divergent (which I reviewed about a year ago) I would be remiss to not weigh in on the Divergent series in its entirety, which feels* so plainly desperate to capitalize on the popularity of Hunger Games that one almost expects Katniss herself to wander into a scene by accident. (*In the interest of full disclosure, Roth did write Divergent before HG was a thing, and HG itself has been criticized for its similarity to other novels.)

By the time we catch up with Tris and Four (Tris’s instructor turned love interest) in Allegiant, the entire premise of the factions has been called into question, and the residents of Chicago 2.0 have been made aware of a world outside their city. Without giving away too much, suffice it to say that controversy emerges over the genetic difference between those naturally predisposed to single factions, and those that are “divergent” (like Tris and Four) whose willful and complex personalities cannot be limited to one group. (It’s worth noting that divergence can also mean immunity or resistance to population-control tactics like serums and fear simulations.) There are myriad political machinations and high jinks in Allegiant — and a hell of an ending — but the meat of the book raises issues of genetic predestination, just as Divergent shed light on the efficacy of valuing certain personality traits over others, or valuing them to an extreme degree.

Roth is partial to these kinds of big ethical questions, and the Divergent trilogy raises them more frequently and forcefully than The Hunger Games, whose main source of injustice remains the same throughout. As a result, Divergent/Insurgent/Allegiant have the capacity to be headier material than THG: the books hit on touchy subjects like eugenics and civil war, and rarely do a character’s choices or actions not raise some broader question about What Is Right. But Roth sometimes finds herself in the weeds; in Allegiant in particular I had a hard time keeping up with the frequently shifting alliances, and remembering who was betrayed by whom in the previous two books.

If you’re a fan of YAD books, there’s absolutely zero reason not to pick up the Divergent trilogy post-haste. It’s got all the essentials: post-apocalyptic city life, romances forged in battle, political thought experiments, etc. And it’s going to be a movie, so there’s that. But Divergent also reminds me, by contrast, of the simpler impact of the dystopian greats: 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451. Sometimes less is more.

2papercutsTITLE: Allegiant
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AUTHOR: Veronica Roth
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PAGES: Kindled
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ALSO WROTE: Divergent, Insurgent
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SORTA LIKEThe Hunger Games meets Brave New World
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FIRST LINE: “I pace in our cell in Erudite headquarters, her words echoing in my mind: My name will be Edith Prior, and there is much I am happy to forget.”

12 Responses to “Katniss Ain’t Got Shit on Beatrice Prior”

  1. Rynzi February 5, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    Reblogged this on Where My 7 Dreams Grow….

  2. reflectedfantasy February 5, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

    Your thoughts are interesting. As a teen that likes dystopian fiction, I can say that I enjoyed the Divergent trilogy, especially Allegiant. But there was one thing in your review that I have to say is completely wrong. You said that “…the Divergent series in its entirety, which is so plainly desperate to capitalize on the popularity of Hunger Games that one almost expects Katniss herself to wander into a scene by accident.” However, it has been said by multiple sources (including Veronica Roth’s agent) that Ms. Roth had written the first book before The Hunger Games was published, and happened to simply be lucky enough to be shopping her novel around while it got popular. So she was not “desperate to capitalize on the popularity of Hunger Games”.

    I see where you’re coming from, but the two really aren’t that similar. The only really big that they have in common is that they’re dystopian YA books.

    Overall, though, I enjoyed your review. Just had to get that off my chest.

    • Kira Bindrim February 5, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

      Very fair point! Though while Roth may not have been copy-catting HG, everything else about Divergent feels that way – from the similar cover design to the marketing of the movie. Which obviously isn’t on the author, but did make the books feel less unique for me.

      • reflectedfantasy February 5, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

        I do agree with that, but as you said, that has nothing to do with the author. The marketers just know that they can make a lot of money off comparing Divergent to Hunger Games, so of course they will. :)

  3. missljseymour February 6, 2014 at 6:47 am #

    Reblogged this on theteainteacher and commented:
    A must for teachers to read especially if you teach dystopia!

  4. erin555 February 12, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

    Leer es lo mejor, Veronica Ruth adoro tus libros como la saga de divergente!!!

  5. nikkig326 February 13, 2014 at 8:58 pm #

    I may have to go back and reread these books. I never bothered on picking up Allegiant because the other didn’t get to me as much as The Hunger Games did. I also heard many people were upset about the way Allegiant turned out. Loved this post though.

  6. S dot Love February 24, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

    I can say that I enjoyed the Divergent Series much more than The Hunger Games as well. My favorite part is the fact that we don’t even know that the city that the factions make up is indeed Chicago until further into the story. It was like all of a sudden, this world that I had come to know has become even more real to me because it represents a real place in the real world. The whole premise of building up a city by capitalizing on the strengths of different personality types is really interesting and to see how it all came to be and how it changes is also a bit of a wonder as well. I enjoyed reading your review.

  7. Shannon March 2, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading your review. I loved these books and the Hunger Games as well, and your comparisons were accurate and fair.

  8. Kristine N. March 3, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

    Great review! I’ve been a little curious about the Divergent series, but never really bothered to find out what it was about. I really enjoyed both The Hunger Games and Brave New World, so this might be right up my alley. I think I’ll pick up the first book and give it a read. Thanks!

  9. ditchthebun April 16, 2014 at 5:31 am #

    I agree that it could be hard to keep track of who betrayed who and who was maimed, hurt, killed etc. across the three books when read far apart. I read them one after the other and I think that was a much better way of keeping the story straight. A few times I wondered whether the authors influences might have been 1984 and Game of Thrones hahaha.

  10. beholdtheinfinite May 30, 2014 at 6:35 am #

    You’ve given me a bit more respect for Veronica Roth. I like the point you made about the origin of evil–there’s never an obvious “bad guy.” For a YA author in particular, that attempt at capturing the complexity of good and evil in human nature is admirable.

    With that said, I was not a fan of Allegiant. I thought the series as a whole was entertaining and brought up some interesting ideas about human nature, but Roth’s writing style kept tripping me up. In Allegiant, especially, I could not stand the constant bouncing back and forth between POVs. Any thoughts on the style as opposed to the content?

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