Yet Another Comment on Divergent: BuzzFeed Edition!

by jonnahzkennedy

So, here we are again. With yet another one of my long winded comments about Divergent. I can’t make any gaureentees that this will be my last comment on any website. I’m sorry for all the poor souls who dare to read my incredibly long comments. Here it is folks! ‘I personally have several things to say about Divergent. Firstly, Divergent gets a lot of hate, simply because a lot people who have either not read the book or seen the movie are angry about several things (That I don’t necessarily agree with, by the way!): 

  • How have they lived behind this Fence for so long? How come it always take this long for them to finally go beyond?
  • The book/movie is bloated
  • The writing is sloppy
  • The characters are weak and others. I would like to note a few things, though. -Roth wrote Divegrent over a Winter Break, which (I’m only in High School, I don’t know how long it is in college) is 2 weeks. So, there’s that to think about. Honestly, no ‘amazing’ books ever come out of that much time writing. -I’m holding to the idea that Roth was somewhat forced by her professor who read it to publish it. I mean, I know she had been looking for an agent, but it seemed like he was the one who really pushed her.
  • It’s a YA novel that takes on a whole new idea of a dystopian world, and for a writer like Roth (as far as I know), it’s pretty daunting to have to try and make this world as real, thrilling, and great as possible when a)you are writing this story from a first person perspective and b)you’re having to handle this very ‘cliche’ idea that this character is the ‘I’m different’ character (which turns out to be a total fluke by the final book, and that was one of my biggest problems about Allegiant as it was a total anticlimax of the greatest kind) while adding something exciting and new to the story. This has always been the challenge when you write books (I would know, it is a challenge I’m facing with my own dystopian, in fact, the character is completely normal, he just happened to be very, very unlucky; I could have chosen any other of the people in the book. I think that’s always a better story, when your character just happens to be that unlucky soul, by chance, not by genetics or a God, just unlucky, it’s much more believable in my opinion) 

Anyhow, now that I have that out of the way, let me go on. Divergent had a lot of cool ideas and a lot of things going for it. Roth’s original intention, I assume, was to play with the psychological aspects of this future where we are very dependent on serums and simulations (though, I must admit, she went way overboard with it in the finale), of course, this did not come off very well in the way that she wrote it, as she was very focused on the action aspects of it all, but one thing that bothered me was that, I felt that she had the potential to go deeper, but she didn’t. A lot of Tris’s inner thoughts are condensed to one sentence, and are very limited. I don’t believe that YA novels should be condensed and limited like this, I think that YA novels can be just a brainy and deep as any other novel (we only separate them because of their characters, which is stupid to me), but she failed to it. Where she could have delved into the true meaning of fear, the morality of serums and experiments (like this whole trilogy was, writing wise, no spoilers I hope), she did not tread.

The reason that this is no Hunger Games (I have never compared it, but I will now based on it’s genre and success), is because it does not express these ideas fully or go deeper into these problems as she should have.  The reason Suzanne Collins’s books were more widely read are for a couple of reasons, though: a) Collins was already an established author by the time the fist Hunger Games book came out, with her Gregor the Overlander series (it’s even read in schools, widely, today, so that always is a factor in an authors future success) b) Scholastic, I don’t know how they do it honestly, is incredibly well at selling and marketing their books c) The Hunger Games was one of the early dystopian books in this little era of YA dystopia that really set things off, and it caught on like fire, and finally d) the only other factor in Collins’s success is that she is a very good author. If a writer can write well, then their books will sell. But, know that I’m not calling Veronica Roth a bad writer, but these are her Freshman novels, she has plenty of more novels to write, and by the time she writes her next one, she’ll have refined her skill and likely her next series will be a great improvement on the Divergent Series. 

Anyhow, what Collins’s books have also brought to the table is that they took on very broad issues in a very entertaining way. Where Roth focus’s on a small population (yes, teenagers do make up a great population, but there is a population within that that would have read Divergent) of: The New Kids, those kids who suffer from anxiety as she had, those who don’t know their place, etc. This is all became very obvious to me after having seen the movie, as it was never so obvious that Tris and her initiate friends were quite literally the new kids at the school who had no where to sit in the cafeteria; in fact, Divergent does a very good job of using that as a metaphor: the training that takes up a great majority of the book (too large of a majority for my liking) is something like a metaphor for you beating the odds, beating the bullies, or becoming part of this population of people who have only just met. The mental part of the training was a metaphor for facing your fears, doubts, and anxiety that comes with being the new fish (This is a big one in Tris’s first simulation scene where she attacked by the crows: the crows are the Dauntless, or all the factions maybe, who are pecking and picking at her, attacking her and taking her down; she is afraid of being beaten and not accepted, torn apart by those around her, which is also a way Roth explains her own fears in life, which is a very common thing for writers to do as it’s the only thing we can do to explain and make peace with our lives as they were and are). Most of all though, most blatantly, the first book is primarily about the titles namesake and really being Divergent, for Veronica Roth is really trying to get people to understand that, you can’t fit into one place: you cannot simply be a jock (Dauntless), a popular (I’m not totally sure with this one, I’d assume that it would be Amity or Candor), a nerd (Erudite), a ‘normal’ person (Abnegation); you can be more than one thing or all of those things, because no one is simply one thing, we are far to diverse to be classified that way (in some ways like we classify each other by our skin color, or a dog by its origin or fur color, etc.).  One other thing, that I have mentioned before in another comment on another site, is that Veronic Roth is likely speaking out against authority, as what teenager doesn’t hate authority at some point or another? Divergence is dangerous is a common phrase that is thrown at you throughout the movie and the book, and this is to say that if you cannot conform you’re going to be eaten alive by that big bad world (which could also be true for high school, as if you don’t fit into one place specifically, you’ll be sort of lost because there would be almost nowhere for you to turn, and you’ll be Factionless). 

Still, back to Suzanne Collins, Collins focuses on broader issues such as the worlds obsession with television (many people say they don’t watch television in the conventional way, but you are still watching TV on something whether it be Netflix, Hulu, HBO, or some other service, ‘The world will be watching’ always; she also focuses on war, as even today it’s still a big issue (which is really, really sad, but it’s in our nature to fight as demonstrated in both books) which many of us can relate to (the only downside to Collins’s war comment she speaks through her books is that, she seems to be obsessed with war in all of her books, and it gets tedious to always know that she was often worried about her father (Katniss’s father died in the coal mines, which is a metaphor for how Collins lost her father in the war, at least I think she did, my memory is spotty as I write this); she also talks about class divisions (this is talked about in both books, but Collins’s is stronger, Roth’s falls apart somewhere between Insurgent and Allegiant) and our obsession with material things; she also goes on to talk about our other obsession with violence. If you haven’t noticed yet, humans are very obsessive, greedy, horrible creatures, who at the same time can be selfless, caring, and ultimately beautiful (which is part of our own beauty, because we are just that complex). 

As I draw to a close, a comment about dystopia. Dystopia is not about ruined buildings, how horrible you can make that ficitious world, or showing us where our technology will go, in the end, Dystopia is truthfully about making a commentary on our world, because Dystopia is showing us what happens when our goal for a Utopia ultimately fails because of our flaws in human nature and our flaws that we fail to see in the mirror that is so cracked, it’s clear to us now. Dystopia is about trying to really show people the negative aspects of our society and how it can be our great demise or how one thing will affect another thing, for it is the greatest example and tool for cause and effect. It is also a way to show us how history can repeat itself or how valuable history is. Dystopian writing was founded on this, it was founded on this idea that if we can say something about an issue, then we can say it and make it as impactful and important as we want. 

So now, my conclusion. Divergent is a hit, but yes, it is no Hunger Games, and it will never be. I personally don’t care how much a movie or a book makes, if it’s on a bestseller list, or some other superfluous thing; it’s about the impact it makes on society, maybe not always in the long run, but in some way, it has an impact on society or at least one person. Hunger Games has had the chance to do that and it took that chance, it has impacted a lot of people, and based on where it has come to, people really care. Divergent has left it’s mark on me, honestly, without Roth I would have never realized how generalized and limited our world view could be, I would have never realized that there are truly basic morals that we all live by (No matter your religion or belief), but while there is no such thing as a new story (this is obvious in thatThe Hunger Games has been accused of cheating Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale, and even that accused of cheating Lord of the Flies), rather it’s how it’s told, Roth’s story is not the strongest way this story could have been told, and there for it’s success reflects this. I do look forward to Insurgent, I hope that they tweak Allegiant, and I can’t wait to see Mockingjay later this year.  Cheers!’