It’s out now in cinemas and people keep saying it’s the next Hunger Games. I’ll go to see it at some point this week, if I manage to tear myself away from my desk, because I like a good ‘action movie featuring a strong female lead’, as Netflix would no doubt put it.
With The Hunger Games, I read the books after I’d watched the second film, Catching Fire. The first movie hadn’t really struck me in any way; I thought it was OK, but not amazing. The second movie was fantastic and I went to see it six times. After that, I read the books. I didn’t massively enjoy the writing style, but I thought they were OK. It’s unusual for me to like a film more than a book, but I’m wondering if that’s also going to happen with Divergent.
I bought the first book because in general I prefer to read things before I watch them. Plus, I was at Victoria station late at night, all the trains were delayed, and WH Smith had a buy-one-get-one-half-price book deal on. And the blurb sounded cool:
Sixteen-year-old Tris is forced to make a terrible choice. In a divided society where everyone must conform, Tris does not fit.
So she ventures out alone, determined to discover where she truly belongs. Shocked by her brutal new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her.
The hardest choice lies ahead.
Sounds good, right? And it was. A really strong story, great characters, lots of action. Plus, there were some definite parallels with Tris’ life and my own. In Tris’ world, everyone is split into ‘factions’; groups that define how they are going to live their lives. She is born into Abnegation, a Puritanical faction where abdication of self is encouraged, and basic things like mirrors and jumping around are not really allowed. At the choosing ceremony, where she gets to pick which faction she wants to be in as an adult, she chooses Dauntless instead; a faction of black-clad rebels with tattoos, known for jumping off tall buildings and onto moving trains. During the aptitude test, she’s told she’s Divergent, a scary term which means that she doesn’t really ‘belong’ anywhere, because she has too many skills that could be attributed to several factions. She makes her choice by joining Dauntless, but she’s still in danger and doesn’t know who to trust.
I was brought up in a strict religious sect which preached that lack of personal possessions, a focus on others/god, and lack of vanity in any of its forms were the ways to salvation. Higher education was also discouraged, but I went to high school and did A-levels anyway. Whilst there, I was told that the world was my oyster and I could probably do pretty much anything I put my mind to (except, according to the aptitude test I did, chemical engineering). I battled for a while with the parts of me that were still influenced by the religion in which I’d grown up, before becoming a black-clad, motorbike-riding, tattooed adult. In other words, as much of a badass as I could muster from the confused shreds of personality I possessed.
So why didn’t I relate more to Tris?
This has been bugging me ever since I read the first book. I’ve now finished all three, and I thought they were technically excellent, particularly the ending of Allegiant, the final book in the series. It’s a bold conclusion, and one which many authors wouldn’t dare to write, but perhaps Veronica Roth chose Dauntless in this respect. 😉
But there was something about the books which just didn’t quite hook me in, somehow. I wanted to know what happened. I liked the characters and thought them well-formed. But when a couple of the big sad moments happened, I didn’t even get a lump in the throat, just read past them like they were any other paragraph. And I didn’t really feel any kind of connection with Tris, even though in the back of my mind I kept telling myself that I somehow should.
They’re very good books, and I’d recommend them to anyone who likes good YA fiction. I can’t quite work out what I thought was lacking, but I’m hoping that it gets ironed out in the films.