DIVERGENT… a book review.
First things first- yes I’m very well aware that YA novels aren’t really aimed at people like me as a target audience. But the recent trend in the YA genre which sets them inside a nameless dystopian future where the horrors of war are forcibly replaced by the oppressive totalitarianism of peace (and its apparently sinister guardians) is a recurrent theme in all literature from A Brave New World to so I consider the books fair game.
That being said- Divergence for all its hype and marketing is pretty typical young adult fare unfortunately and throughout its pages the novel manages to throw out almost every cliché you could name in this post Hunger Games post-Twilight world. There’s the sullen teenage heroine who doesn’t fit in with her peers. The inflexible ruling authority who care nothing for their citizen’s happiness as long as they follow the prescribed rules. The moody yet sensitive love interest who (drumroll please….) has a grand secret that changes everything…
You get my drift; it’s all a little been there done that.
I’m also sorry to say that the narrative is about as uninventive as its tropes. And yes it’s been a while since my inner teenager was unleashed in a fit of wailing/introversion but even I’m aware that since Suzanne Collins raised the bar in YA fiction with The Hunger Games, authors like Veronica Roth and Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments) seem to be chasing to catch up. Awkward teens fighting a tyrannical system just aren’t enough to capture the imagination anymore even with the occasional thrilling set-piece thrown in (interesting note: check out the abandoned theme park interlude if that’s your thing.) We want more than that as readers. We want… rebellion with heart. Insurgence with infatuation. Fighting with fervour. And maybe a few snappy bits of dialogue to lighten the mood; after all teenagers are the main manufacturers of quality sass these days. Shouldn’t teenage characters be cranking this stuff out?
I’m afraid to say that I found very little of these things in Divergent though. What I discovered was just your average fight against the machine narrative.
To be honest with you, I blame the publishers more than anyone for stoking the unimaginative money train with their daily decisions to publish things like this. But…and it’s an important but… I still kind of expected at least a little more innovation from Roth’s bestseller- older and cynical as I am I just wanted a brief shot of literary adrenaline when I picked up the novel after the marketing hoopla that surrounded its publishing… and truth be told, it kind of failed to deliver even that.
Which is a shame, really.
FURTHER WORRIES ABOUT THE MOVIE VERSION:
• It’s listed as running for 139 minutes- that’s long for this kind of movie and suggests it could be a little bloated in terms of storytelling
• The tagline ‘One Choice can Transform You’- is so vague it’s almost impossible to have any feelings one way or the other about it.
• ‘Jeremy Irvine (I)’ was the first choice for the role of Tobias ‘Four’ Eaton but he turned it down because he doesn’t want to be seen as a teen idol. Which doesn’t exactly speak volumes for the film’s credibility.
• The soundtrack is a riot of young media-friendly types such as Ellie Goulding and Snow Patrol which suggests the movie offers little for those outside the teenage audience.
I could of course be completely wrong about both the book and the movie and if so I’ll throw my hands to the sky with abject horror when the realisation strikes. Please feel free to let me know if you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said though, I’d love to hear your thoughts even if they’re laced with venomous insults!