|Divergent (Photo credit: prettybooks)|
The main reasons I like this novel are its focus on confronting fear, its authenticity in describing the internal world of a teenager in this conflicted society, and its simple prose, which makes it a quick read. One chapter, in particular, stands out for its depiction of fear -- the chapter about ziplining from the top of a skyscraper, which strains credulity but also provides a glimpse into how overcoming fear creates a bond among those who have done so. The teenage heroine's internal consistency is shown in multiple scenes, but particularly in the scenes involving a technology that allows her to be tested through a sort of shared hallucination -- the "aptitude test" before she chooses her faction (from whence we get the novel's title), then again when she confronts fears as part of the Dauntless initiation. Finally, the stripped-down prose allows the reader to focus on the plot and doesn't get in the way, with the possible exception of the fact that the faction's names are not parallel -- something that probably only bothers a grammar geek like me.
Young adult (YA) literature has reached deeper into the culture since Harry Potter became a pop culture phenomenon, with both good and bad effects. Twilight, The Hunger Games, and now The Mortal Instruments (City of Bones) have all been made into movies. I have read bits and pieces of all three of these series and have seen most of the Twilight movies and The Hunger Games movie, mostly because of my wife's influence. I also loved the Harry Potter series, and thought the movies did a decent job of bringing the books to life. Harry Potter bent the children's lit/fantasy genre in some ways, while more recent books have been following a YA genre formula. Some have been called "dystopian" futures, especially The Hunger Games, but I don't think they fit that term precisely. (I tend to think of A Brave New World, 1984, and Bladerunner as more dystopian than The Hunger Games, but maybe that's just me.) Divergent will also be made into a movie in 2014, part of the trend toward YA lit in moviemaking. It does fit neatly into the genre of "dystopian" YA fiction, and I hope it is a stepping stone toward those classic dystopian fiction novels for young readers. The only place it really falls short is that its themes do not come close to the questioning of norms that truly dystopian fiction evokes.