Thursday, January 16, 2014

Reader Response: Divergent Pt. 4

A continuation of reader response to Divergent by Veronica Roth for my Teen Materials class (maybe).

* spoilers everywhere *

Chapter Seventeen

I'm intrigued by this hush-hush initiation trip with Uriah, but puzzled about Tris seeing the "Dauntless mania" and echoing the attitude. How is she getting attached to thrill-seeking from the terrible experiences she is having? I can get group bonding, but not running off with someone outside the group to do "something dangerous." Well, I have a guess. When Tris' mom mentioned something about the drug given during the Test, I began to wonder if the drug has longer-term effects than merely running the simulation. Maybe the drug encourages this ridiculous docility I've been seeing. And maybe the problem with divergence is that the docility doesn't take hold properly. So I'm thinking: maybe Tris was *given* a personality push along three different scales instead of the usual one scale, including the Dauntless mania. This would make her both more potentially powerful and less complaint than usual.

Or I'm just trying too hard to save this book from its own inability to portray humanity.

"Something in me deflates like an untied balloon." Oh dear.

Why should I be surprised that Tris can't identify her own jealousy about Four when she took so long to identify her own melty excitement about his body? No one is this oblivious in real life. I hope.

"The train is going much faster than it has every other time I've jumped, but I can't lose my nerve now, in front of all these members. So I jump, hitting the ground hard and stumbling forward a few steps before I regain my balance." Ms. Roth, for the love of hard science fiction, this is not how physics works!

C'mon Tris grab onto that harness and jump off the building before they strap you in! Now's your chance to do something unsafe when everyone else is only doing something I would do for fun in real life. ...nope. Trust falling exercise. I can't handle this. At least not without snickering a lot.

That earned the respect of the Dauntless? Are the Dauntless-born just way more laid back than the import training makes it out to be? Would Tris be the queen of the fashion by now, if the Dauntless-born had watched her stand there when knives were being thrown at her? Or maybe nothing makes sense and I shouldn't try to force it.

Chapter Eighteen

Interesting idea to push someone's fear button and expect them to be all zen about it anyway. At least this is a legitimate, controlled exercise to learn how to think and act when afraid, not just taking dares and bullying. Well, assuming it's humanly possible which is questionable in itself.

Chapter Nineteen

It's time once again for a city politics injection! Erudites jerks are questioning the power structure because, well, they don't have any power. What else would anyone expect to happen with an educated faction that is denied democratic participation? For all we know, half of their curriculum is revolutionary literature by now.

Must admit I didn't see it coming for the stoic perfect love interest to show up drunk and crude.

Poor long-suffering Al. His simulation was acid and Tris is thinking both "heavy" and "large" about him while he's busy saving her from social embarrassment and literally carrying her.

Chapter Twenty

First sign of divergent power. Tris can not only cope with having her fear button pressed: she can unpush it. Also the first hint of what happens to divergent folks: killed off.

"I broke the glass. I didn't know that was an act of Divergence. How did he?" Oohhhh, probably the same way your mom knew her way around the Dauntless compound. Is Tris this dumb to make readers feel smart?

"These people taught you how to use a gun. They taught you how to fight. You think they're above hurting you? Above killing you?" What the hell kind of argument is this? Does Roth think military and marital arts trainers are especially open to the idea of murdering trainees in real life? (Ignoring, for the moment, the total lack of teaching involved in this winnowing process.)

Chapter Twenty-One

"[The article] promotes a return to the democratically elected political systems of the past. It makes a lot of sense, which makes me suspect it is a call for revolution wrapped in the clothing of rationality." Yes, beware of things that make sense! The Erudites are such violent radicals that they're...asking civilly for change!

"I undo the buttons of my gray Abnegation shirt, exposing my arms, revealing more of my body than anyone else has ever seen." Well, except the bullies who stripped her naked and taunted her about it later. Maybe this was true in an earlier draft, but someone said: "Roth, could you go back and insert some more sexual assault to spice things up?"

Once again, the Dauntless born are much more reasonable than Tris' training group. I was worried about the shooting-a-muffin-off-Marlene's-head-at-100-feet dare, but it's "plastic pellets." I'm just going to believe she wears glasses so losing an eye wasn't a major danger. Almost an unbelievably good shot from a pistol, but maybe Uriah has been practicing with those kind of rounds for years.

To complete the contrast between Dauntless born initiates and Tris' group, her group tries to murder her and Al sexually assaults her. Al! I was expecting it to be a fear simulation of betrayal. Then it wasn't. This is the actual plot in this actual book!

I'm going to have a hard time donating this anywhere when I'm done. I just don't think it would be nice.

Chapter Twenty-Two

So, Four is religious. He's the first we've met, so far as I could tell. WHAT?! Four draws appreciation points from Tris by pointing out that he could report her for crying after attempted murder and actual sexual assault, and goes out of his way to caress her in his bed while reassuring her he won't tell? This is not ok to portray as ok.

Pissed at what Roth did to Al. Four's explanation is just rubbing it in. How would he know Al's motivation for--out of nowhere--switching from self-sacrificing hero to leader of the murder and rape gang?

Oh, Four didn't notice the groping before he ran in and started cracking heads. So I will downgrade him from creepy to using his position of authority to advance his sexual interest in...oh, nevermind, he's still creepy.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Then Four is walking around, being all sexy and shirtless and touching her and she loves it, even though she realizes he's not really so much kind as someone who compliments her. Hey! Guess what guys who aren't kind but who are complimenting you are doing, Tris? (Manipulation.)

I like Uriah. Why isn't Tris falling for him? He includes people, plays it safe and sane, and thinks things through. He's not described constantly as overweight, so Roth might not even turn him into a psycho to show readers what happens when you trust "heavy boys."

"The difference is that you are aware, in the fear landscape, that it is a simulation [....]" The other initiates had to calm down in the earlier fear simulations without the capacity to realize it was a simulation? Impossible. Just flat out impossible.

Chapter Twenty-Four

Al kills himself and we get a couple of paragraphs about how much effort it took to haul someone so overweight back up from the chasm. Then Tris gets in a giggling fit about how he won't fit in a body bag.

It sure makes sense for the faction that jumps on and off moving trains to get drunk whenever they're upset.

"In Abnegation no one has ever committed suicide in recent memory, but the faction's stance on it is clear: Suicide, to them is an act of selfishness. Someone who is truly selfless does not think of himself often enough to desire death." No one kills themselves in the faction that strips everyone of self-esteem? Suicide = selfishness? This is such a shallow book. Possibly a dangerously shallow book for teens to read.

I'm less upset about the Dauntless (literally) cheering Al's bravery for killing himself because, finally, something awful is portrayed as something awful. Oh, now Al killed himself because of "Pride." Keep the trite explanations coming! They do: "depressed" & "coward."

Four reveals that he is constantly repressing an urge to "break" Tris and make her fear him. This is not the guy you want to be crushing on.

There are some hints here that are consistent with my guess that the Test serum is supposed to encourage a faction-limited personality.

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