Honest and lively YA book reviews
This review is so late in coming! I've had a very busy week flying from Canada to the UK, buying a house (just about) and taking care of a horse who managed to stab her eye pretty badly on something (on what?! you ask. Who knows?! I reply) ..... In amongst this my other half and I have new jobs to apply for, I'm finally biting the bullet and learning how to drive and I now seem to have picked up a chest infection from somewhere. Phew! Think I need to go lie down ......
I'm really not sure if I enjoyed this one or not.
I can heavily relate to Tris' feeling of not fitting in. I never fitted in anywhere! I was always a misfit, never followed the crowd. I had my own opinions and ideas about things. And it was hard! I think it takes courage to step away and do your own thing and I applaud anyone who does because I understand what it's like to stand at the edge, alone with your integrity. The world can be a very lonely place. I was so relieved when I met my other half - finally someone just as weird as me! Someone who understands!
I like that about Tris, she doesn't give up and take the easy option. She stands up and makes her own choices even at the risk of upsetting others.
This is the only thing I liked about Tris. This chick is cold! She leaves her parents - her nurturing, loving, caring parents for apparently no reason at all! There is no explanation for anything in the whole damn book! Why did Tris turn her back on the people she loved and the only lifestyle she knew? And seeing a bunch of strangers jump off a train every morning at school is not a good enough reason! I can understand the need for change in life, I can appreciate wanting to take a different direction, but there has to be a reason. And "just becuz" really isn't good enough ....
This was a common theme running through the book. The author decided that Tris had to be brave, so she was. The author decided that Tris had to be calculating, so she was. The author decided Tris had to stand up for others, so she did. We were never let in on Tris' thought processes, her reasoning behind her actions. We were never allowed to know her. She had no voice! I read 487 pages narrated by the girl and I still can't hear her! Gah!
If I'm honest, the entire premise of the book set my teeth on edge. It was plain dumb! Really, c'mon guys .... Would you accept a society where you're forced into a box aged 16 and then have no choice but to live under that label for the rest of your life?!! No, course you wouldn't, because you're all free-thinking, unique and special people. There's no way any of you would gladly tolerate being herded down a chute into a pen and then live there quite happily until the end of days. The world building really flopped in Divergent because I simply couldn't accept the logic in the dystopia that Veronica Roth has created. Nope, sorry. Doesn't work for me.
Life is so diverse. Everyone's personality, view points and attitudes are shaped by so many different factors and no two people think and see the world completely alike. The brain is a brilliantly complex piece of engineering. It really is wonderful. And there's no way that I can be fooled into believing that every person on earth can be slotted into one of five categories. Sorry Ms Roth, I'm not buying it. I'm also not buying how unusual she's trying to convince us it is for anyone to test as divergent in this futuristic vision of Chicago. I reckon the majority of people would be divergent. Often one has to be selfless to be kind. One has to be honest to be brave. And smarts require, at times in all our lives to be all these qualities. Do you understand my problem?
So we trip along with Tris. We follow her through Dauntless training and the writing isn't too bad, the subject matter is a little lacklustre and unbelievable (you do not build muscles in a week, I wish this were true but it's not. And a tattoo does not take one night to recover from. The scabbing lasts a while .....) but it's all tolerable. And then we reach the romance. The dreaded romance.
Oh Four ..... Who is Four, except a six pack on legs? He's so cardboard-cutout it's unreal. This is a big fault with having a block of ice as a main character and narrator. Tris conveys no real emotion. She's a cyborg. So it's difficult to feel like what is going on between her and Four is genuine. I mean, we're told there's a lot of sparks flying and electricity when Tris brushes against him and blah, blah, blah. But I just wasn't feeling it. I think one of the main issues I had, aside from Tris and her heart of stone, is that the entire relationship was such a YA stereotype - plain girl catches the eye of older, hot boy who, beneath his tough, manly exterior hides a sensitive soul created by a troubled past. Yawn. It was just a giant bore. A giant unrealistic, unbelievable bore.
So we carry on and of course Tris is the best in her group of Dauntless initiates (natch) and she's totes amazeballs at fighting her fears and all that .... Blerk. The training that Ms Roth proposes these initiates are put through is psychotic! No-one on this earth would tolerate being treated this way! I mean, a girl dies for Chissakes! How is that okay?!! A girl dies falling off the side of a building and everyone just carries on about their merry business. What's that all about?!! Mental - that's what it's all about! The vast bulk of the training is based on the three Bs: brawling, bullying and brutality. This does not create brave individuals, it creates fearful, downtrodden and broken people incapable of thinking for themselves. There's nothing in any of this training regarding teaching the initiates to be smart, to use tactics, to be leaders. It's absurd.
But then the entire idea of splitting society into five different, but entirely one-sided factions and expecting them to function smoothly with no conflict is truly beyond me so we were kinda off to a non-starter with this one to be honest ......
So we weave our way to the end. Oh the end ..... What the hell? What the actual hell?!! So all of a sudden, in the space of a few short weeks Tris transforms from a passive, meek little abnegation who wouldn't swat a fly for fear of harming it, into an unstoppable killing machine capable of fighting though a bullet to the shoulder and witnessing her own mother's death. Uh huh, sure ..... I just couldn't wrap my head around this. It's like she becomes a completely different person. There's zero logic in her personality swap. Her dad acts all like "wow, Tris you're a strong, confident woman now. That's like, totally rad." and there's no questioning of where his daughter went. Weird ..... The actual revolution was such a non-event. It was the only mildly exciting thing in the entire book and yet it still managed to be dull as hell because it was just plain stupid. I just can't believe this was the first time revolt had crossed anyone's mind. This society is based on segregation and communist values and yet they've all waited this long to stand up and state that they're not happy? Really?
I've kinda ripped into this book huh? I never really intended to, but the longer I thought about it, the more it irritated me. There just were so many plot holes it was hard to dodge them. The pacing was appalling. And the complete lack of explanation for anything bothered me deeply.
I really don't think I'll be picking up book #2. I can't suffer through any more of Tris and Four and their bizarre little situation. I'm gonna do more useful stuff, like shop for furniture for my new house. I've never bought a house before. I've always rented and it's a slow and frustrating process. But ..... I'm excited to move and so are my cats. They have their own bedroom at the new house! I'm gonna decorate it with mouse wallpaper. Is that a step too far? Maybe .....