Friday, February 28, 2014

Divergent: Engrossing dystopian YA

I am wary of YA books. Especially those that have hit the bestseller charts and stayed there for quite long. AND have been commissioned for a movie. Hunger Games wasn’t bad but I didn’t really go gung-ho over Catnisss Everdeen and her antics and a grey world ruled by tyrannical government that pits sixteen year olds against each other for fun? Unbelievable premise but it seemed to work.


And so with Divergent. A sixteen year old protagonist, underdog with the odds stacked up against her set in a world that is ludicrous (Well, most YA dystopian books seem to have a world that boggles the mind and has no logic as to why the world is so!). I haven’t read reviews about this book as I wanted to keep my mind clear of prejudices before I plunged in. 

It was a book that kept me reading non-stop for a while. An intriguing world that is split into factions to avoid friction that would lead to chaos as it did in the older times. It’s interesting as each of the faction believe different “vices” to be the cause of all that is wrong in this world. Abnegation, the people who believe in selfless service and are against selfishness. Dauntless, the fearless and brave who believe cowardice was the cause of the end of the world. Candor, the honest people who believe lies to be the cause. And Erudite, who blame lack of knowledge. There is no mention of what happened to the world before. We live in the broken remains of such a world that mirrors our real world – with glass and steel buildings, trains that seemed to wind through the city going from nowhere to nowhere, guns and such. Veronica doesn’t delve into details but we don’t care. For we are swept into a taut, nerve-wracking account of 16-year old Tris’ life that will change this day. The day of her choosing which faction she would belong.

Our protagonist Tris, originally born Beatrice into an Abnegation household is bit of an oddball. She’s short, skinny and is not selfless. Well not the sickly sweet servile type that most Abnegation guys are like. And she has balls of steel. So well, Dauntless seemed like a natural choice for her and the day of choosing, she defies traditions to be one of the very rare Abnegation to choose Dauntless as her life faction. The build-up of the book towards this is like how most books do. Information expository dialogs and the churning conflict ridden thought-processes of Tris as she mulls over life’s choices and the unfairness of it all.

But once inside the Dauntless compound, while actually right from where the Dauntless initiates and members hop into a running train, the book picks up speed and goes into overdrive. Choosing to go first-person narrative (Actually most YA-dystopian do that. Living inside the confused muddled head of a teenager vaulting over issues of love, loyalty, friendship and choosing a future) is an excellent choice. For Tris is an entertaining person. despite being a short skinny Abnegation transfer, she adapts well to this life. Most training sessions seems meaningless but we are so wrapped up within the proceedings that we don’t really care. Veronica’s prose packs a punch, she keeps it minimal, realistic and grim. The brutal life within the Dauntless compound is presented without fuss and we’re rolling with the flow. Tris’ friendships, her forbidden love, roiling emotions and conflicted loyalties make for a pretty engrossing jarring read. The tight-rope tautness however falls loose in the final bits of the book where Tris has to make her final choices. I would have expected some things a little more world-shattering to follow but Veronica decides to keep the narrative within the folds of her unexplained world.

Now coming to the title. Divergent. A set of people who are talented enough to be transcending all four factions. Why are they dangerous? What do the rest of the Divergent do for a living? Where are they? What is beyond the cities that the Dauntless are said to be protecting? These are questions left unanswered. Tris is a worthy protagonist of our affection. A YA book that I kind of liked and might be willing to invest time in. Three-stars. 


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