I have been on a tad of a Dystopian novel kick lately. While reading this last addition to the increasing list of Dystopian YA books, I had an epiphany. No, perhaps that is too strong a word for the small glimmer of light that brightened my brain pan for a millisecond.
A mental flash. Yes that’s it.
It has occurred to me (and I am 100% sure that I am not the only one to have come to this conclusion) that to be considered Dystopian a novel must:
1. Set itself up as a Utopia that can’t see the cracks in its own infrastructure (or at least the cracks are only known by a select few).
2. Use the idea of a peaceful society, where everyone’s basic needs are met (using the Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs, that would be the first two rungs of the pyramid) as the reason for inhibiting freedom of choice.
Roth’s Divergent does just this. In her Dystopia, the city (future Chicago) is divided into factions: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless and Erudite (all freakin’ awesome words, by the by.) When a citizen turns sixteen, they are issued a test, a serum injected into your neck that shows what your aptitude is by how you react to the various simulations. If you are Abnegation, you are selfless and thoughtful and self-sacrificing. Abnegation are the leaders of the city as they are deemed to be incorruptible. Amity wants peace and friendship above all else. Candor, truth. Dauntless need to live their lives on the edge- courting danger, pushing their physical and mental limits. Erudite are the thinkers of the society, the builders, inventors, innovators.
When Beatrice goes for her test, however, her result does not fit into any of the above categories. She is a word she has never heard before, a dangerous word: she is divergent. With the help of her tester, she is able to keep it a secret until the choosing ceremony, where she will have to choose which faction. Her own Abnegation, where she has never felt worthy, or another? But when you have an aptitude for three out of the five factions, which one to choose?
Thus begins Roth’s dark, scary, fast-paced trilogy (two of which have been published the third will be out…I don’t know when it will be out- Ms. Roth has just finished Insurgent so must be taking a break now) and when I say fast-paced I mean speed-of-light paced. Warp-speed paced. So fast that I finished the first and HAD TO BUY THE SEQUEL IMMEDIATELY. Which I did as an e-book. Too cheap to buy the hardcover.
That is not to say that the book didn’t have its flaws. I am still not convinced about the premise – how people can have only one dominant trait. This rings extremely false to me. We are complicated folk, us humans, apt to act one way in one situation and another way in the same situation on a different day. So to have a whole society based on whether they value honesty over anything else, or peace above anything else, or, well you get the picture, seems a little contrived. So right from the get go I was suspicious.
What drew me in, then? Well some pretty horrific fight scenes, I guess. Be warned: there will be blood. There are some interesting ideas about reality and non-reality and dealing with fear, as well as some good tension building as the fabric of their society crumbles.
Oh, and there is also a boy.A cute, angst-ridden, complicated boy, in the tradition of cute angst-ridden YA boys as love interests.
Need I say more? I will conclude by saying that though I don’t think it lives up to the crazy hype, if you are looking for a quick, fun, gripping summer read, you could do worse.