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Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Divergent There’s a lot, a lot of dystopian, post‐apocalyptic‐the‐world‐has‐gone‐to‐shit teen fiction out there. Shelves of it, it seems, sometimes. And I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan. Admittedly, I haven’t read all of it, but the teen genre’s one I kind of plow through on a pretty regular basis, and you can’t read teen without tripping on a dystopian book. So maybe some of it’s just super fantastic, but I’m going to say that’s few and far between.

(I just want to point out here, that, as far as I’m concerned, dystopian is different than post‐apocalyptic, and is also different than say, an alternate history or pre‐apocalyptic like ‘How I Live Now.’ I don’t know if that’s how everyone classifies it, but that’s how I do.)

Anyway. This disfavor with the genre is probably why I didn’t read Veronica Roth’s ‘Divergent’ right away. Also, I have an annoying tendency to read books years after they come out, but that’s not here or there. (Like Poole. I’m so sorry. That’s an inside joke. Kind of.) Whatever the reason, I think I only consented to read it after NPR, I believe, was like, ‘This is the shiznit.’

…They didn’t really say it like that.

It is the shiznit. Right from the start, I was hooked. And it starts with one of those main‐character‐looking‐in‐the‐mirror‐to‐describe‐herself things, which is just so, so taboo and generally not very interesting. But whatever. Who cares, because Veronica Roth can write, and she can pretty much do whatever she wants, as far as I’m concerned.

Insurgent There’s just something different about ‘Divergent.’ The plot is good, of course. It’s about a society where people are put into factions when they come of age. They get tested, and generally, everyone falls rather neatly into one faction or another‐ the brave ones and the scholarly ones and the charitable ones and… I’m forgetting one, but yeah. You can still choose where you want to go, but usually people go where they’re ‘supposed’ to. But our main character, Tris, is divergent‐ she fits into a bunch of factions. And she ends up choosing Dauntless, the brave faction, the faction of wild risk takers.

Now that I type that out, it doesn’t sound that spectacular. It actually sounds kind of crazy that anyone reading that wouldn’t be seriously skeptical. But when you’re reading it, you’re not skeptical. It works and it makes sense, and it’s entirely believable and completely plausible. And you’re too busy getting way more entangled in Tris’s life and problems that you probably should.

Because she’s awesome. She just rocks my socks. She’s tough and strong, but not in that caricature way so many girl characters are written. She has depth. She has fears and she’s lonely and sometimes she really messes up and you wonder what on earth she’s thinking. And she gets tattoos. And she jumps off trains. And if it’s just not the coolest thing ever to have a character who is that bold and awesome, I don’t know what it.

And to have an author say, this is my character, this is what she does, this is what she looks like‐ not super pretty, kind of short, tattooed more than any teen girl ‘should’ be, and it’s all right. It’s good and perfect.

I love that.

And Tris’s family and friends are just as interesting and complex and likeable/hateable, always so three dimensional. I read a blog entry the author wrote where she said she’s always so careful to make sure that she’s never using a character, even a minor one, to further the plot. That they always act within character, are always themselves. And you can see that in how real and honest these characters are.

And Four, Tris’s love interest, is just as excellent‐ confused, strong, nervous, afraid, brave, not classically handsome or attractive, which I love, but, trust me, really, really attractive. I loved him as much as I loved Tris.

So I read ‘Divergent,’ and I grabbed ‘Insurgent,’ the next book. And I started reading, but even though I’d loved the first book, I wasn’t expecting much. To be honest, I’ve read a million great, breathtaking first books, and then, somewhere in the second or, if they’re lucky, third book, they lose me. It gets boring or predictable and I just… stop. I have zero time for series that can’t live up to their initial promise.

But I read ‘Insurgent’ with the same absolute attention as I’d read ‘Divergent,’ and I loved it. And then I was absolutely desperate to get my hands on the third and final book, ‘Allegiant.’ I needed it. Reading it was all I could think about. I went to the bookstore and bought it because I couldn’t wait long enough for it to ship. And I had no money to buy a book but I did it anyway because, you know. I was desperate.

And I loved it. I did. That level of awesomeness and awesome characters and intense, rich, complex story and relationships and huge emotional impact never, never flagged. It was incredible.

And at the end, I cried. Great, heaving sobs. Which is really, really embarrassing, but also, I think, the mark of something amazing, that it moved me that much. That I loved those characters that much. I did. And the ending was… right. Good. Great. If you haven’t heard about the end, please don’t go look it up. Or read ahead. And if you have heard about it, or seen the movies… I thought the end was the right thing to do.

I haven’t seen the movies. I don’t plan to. Maybe they’re great, and I hope Veronica Roth makes a killing and a billion more people see them and decide to read her books. But for me, the books were perfect, and I don’t want to mess that up.   -SEL

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