Saturday, January 18, 2014

Reader Response: Divergent Pt. 5

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

* spoilers everywhere *

Chapter Twenty-Five

I hope this book eventually gets around to condemning Tris for being so gung-ho about silencing political speech from repressed groups. I'm reminded of when people went around stealing yard signs that favored my mother in a local election. Tris would totally do that, and apparently she'd litter in the local water supply while she was at it.

The only way...to show this fear landscape who's boss...is to snuggle tighter with me, Four! Hah, I kind of approve of this scene.

Back to disapproving. Four's next fear test involves loading a gun and shooting a woman in the head. How this any kind of fear mastering? The only thing that comes to mind is that he feels guilty about shooting someone in the past, but guilt isn't fear. Or does he believe he needs to kill a specific woman in the future and "dreads" doing that?

The odd ending of the simulation scene most likely means Four has never successfully finished on his own, but seeing Tris in danger finally let him dissolve the fear of his father.

Chapter Twenty-Six

And then there was kissing.

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Not sure what happened there. It can't be rare for an initiate to also fear an instructor's fear, especially Tris who was abducted in the night mere days ago. I was expecting her to Divergent her way out of it and hoped she were smart enough not to try. No one should have blinked an eye at this.

Chapter Twenty-Eight

On the plus side, I now know who the conveniently overhearable Divergent hunter was in the hallway a while back. Tris also does a good job of playing up a Dauntless caricature to avoid having to tell more complicated lies. On the minus side, there weren't any interesting revelations about the testing system.

Eric just became far more interesting as a character. Tris is getting better at this lying thing. Still unbelievably slow witted, though. She really didn't get that Four was putting on a brusque show when he didn't hold her hand in front of everyone?

Just in case readers missed the bit about the Erudite leader sneaking around in Dauntless headquarters conspiring with her planted instructor, the conspiracy is revealed (again) by rebel hacker dude Four. Seems reasonable enough. The truth faction isn't going to be good at sneakiness and the stay-nice-always faction isn't going to be good at coups. Plus, it's much smarter to control Dauntless than make enemies of them.

Chapter Twenty-Nine

If a chicken breast, peas, and bread is Abnegation food, what's Dauntless food? Balut?

Chapter Thirty

"What combats powerlessness? Power. And the first time I felt powerful in the Dauntless compound was when I was holding a gun." [...] "As I aim and shoot, I feel the same rush of power I felt the first time I held a gun." Hey teen readers, if you really want to conquer your fears in life, get yourself a gun and start blasting away!

Way to make sure everyone sees that you're Divergent, Tris!

How is the gun to her head scary for Tris when she knows it's a simulation gun? It's not like being burned to death and having to feel that. Guns are overused in this book.

Chapter Thirty-One

These Dauntless are so afraid of questioning authority. "Some other faction said we should all inject ourselves, so let's do it ok? Sure! Why not? Jab me with that big needle!"

Four: the only sane person in Virtuetown. It's still sad that it takes a huge insight to realize neglecting four other virtues in favor of laser focus one is...less virtuous.

No sex in this scene, but lots of intimacy. I sure don't mind. I want to like Four, because he knows he has a problem with being a jerk and is trying to work on it, but why couldn't he wait two weeks for Tris to finish initiation instead of continually leveraging that position in his pursuit of her?

Also, I still don't know what he sees in Tris. She's potentially going to become an interesting person because of her Divergent property, but so far she isn't. I'm tired of books about bland girls inspiring raging devotion in the nearest hunk for no apparent reason. I can, unfortunately, see the attraction of such romance stories for teen girls with low self-esteem.

Chapter Thirty-Two

"A moment later, Tobias' thumb brushes over the injection site in my neck, and a few things come together at once. I don't know how I didn't figure this out before." Perhaps Tris can maintain a normal level of insight if Four keeps touching her at all times.

Chapter Thirty-Three

Zombie serum. Underwhelmed by this master plan. At least the "kill Divergents" thing makes better sense, except the bit about calling them "rebels."

With all of this leg shooting, I must be watching Person of Interest!

Chapter Thirty-Four

"Why are most of the Divergent weak-willed, God-fearing nobodies from Abnegation, of all factions?" Roth miiiiight have a religious agenda with this book. Ignoring that, one answer: Abnegation is about suppressing any natural talents a person has, so it shouldn't be the tiniest bit surprising when some of them do have another talent to suppress. Remember, being Divergent is just being normal in our world. Tris is special because she's not entirely one-dimensional!

AND NOW MR. BOND, APPRECIATE MY EVIL PLAN BEFORE I KILL YOU.

"Send him to the control room." Oh, this villain.

Chapter Thirty-Five

Nice symbolic re-baptism there, Roth. Good thing Tris' mom is a gun fan too. Guns and God to the rescue! ...which, somehow, is still much better than Four magically showing up and rescuing her.

Funny how Tris was just feeling happy she didn't kill murder-happy Eric, but no one bats at eye at her mom killing Dauntless guards who weren't in control of their minds.

Not happy with the whole: commando-mom -> Tris finally realizing mom started out Dauntless -> Mom revealing that she is also Divergent -> Mom murdering more innocent people to distract Tris -> Mom getting shot in a needless scene of self-sacrifice.

So...there wasn't any mind control stuff in the normal serum and it's just that factions are typically able to "condition" most initiates into being one-track Virtue nuts? Even if that were a sensible explanation, why kill Divergent teens? Why not just send them out of the city with the rest of the people who fail initiation?

Why is this whole book being so dramatic about common human psychology?

Chapter Thirty-Six

Dad and brother took all of two seconds to get over mom dying. Is dad secretly a Klingon with his "A good death!" response?

It is satisfying for Tris to show off what she has learned, how she has changed.

"...and surprise whatever guard is shooting at us before he gets the chance to fire a bullet into my brain." So much of this imagery in Divergent.

The messages on when it's ok to kill people are so mixed that I have no idea what Roth is trying to preach here. Tris goes from shooting her fellow initiate in the face to being all nonlethal-gun-ninja. Then just starts shooting to kill again. What's going on here?!

Tris' parents show up just so they both be similarly shot down dramatically by soldiers immediately after they killed soldiers to save Tris? Ugh. Not moved at all. I'm sure in the film version this will be all slow motion and dramatic music.

Chapter Thirty-Eight

"I feel his muscles shift as he pinches the trigger and duck my head just in time. The bullet hits the wall behind me." More head shooting imagery, because that's Roth's favorite form of violence! Good thing Tris can twitch as fast as Spiderman.

A minute ago, Tris was worried about the general slaughter of Abnegation. Now she's prepared to not only give up her own life to avoid shooting Four, but the mission to save all of those other people. Self-sacrifice is a bit more noble when it's just you.

Chapter Thirty-Nine

And then everything is ok(ish) because the villain decided to put a Divergent fellow with precisely the right skills to stop the master plan in the one room where he could stop the master plan if he was able to shake the drug, like had happened in all earlier drug tests.

I would say Divergent is a confusing book, but it's really more of a confused book. I feel like I'm reading a middle-of-the-process draft that hasn't been checked over for coherence. I feel like it suddenly turned into "Christian suspense fiction" in the last few chapters, and did a terrible job of being that. Was the whole draft more religious and an editor asked Roth to keep it down until readers were almost finished? Was there an editor?

I can't say I'm happy about Divergent being popular for teens. There are good bits here and there, more often in the "telling" than the "showing" parts. But I can't endorse it as a worthwhile read with the way physical and personal ideals are conflated, the empowerment-through-guns message, the total lack of questioning when power is used for sexual advantage, poorly inserted religiosity, and just plain shoddy world-building. Every thumb down.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad I read all of this. Just this weekend I passed on buying Divergent. Sounds like burn bin material.

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