Monday, August 15, 2016

DIVERGENT // Discussion

WARNING: There will be spoilers. 

Rating: Five Stars—ajklsdflk (when words fail to describe how wonderful a book is)

At long last, after hinting about doing this for the past few months, I am finally beginning to discuss the DIVERGENT trilogy. Please hold the applause. 

While this was my fourth time reading DIVERGENT, I feel it’s important to talk about the first time I read this book. I read DIVERGENT in 2013, shortly after ALLEGIANT came out (though I didn’t get a chance to read INSURGENT and ALLEGIANT until late 2014). Now, in 2013 I was an avid reader, but most of the books I read had already been out for several years, so I wasn’t up to date with the popular trends in YA literature. 

When I first sat down to read DIVERGENT, I was in a bad mood. On top of that, I had to read the book on my sister’s iPad, and reading on that screen made my eyes hurt. But I really wanted to read it, because the cover was pretty (yes, I am a crow and I like shiny things), and the hype had made me curious. Also, sister-mine had liked it, and I trust her judgment. However, because I was feeling contrary, and because I had read a short review that said DIVERGENT wasn’t very good, I grumpily decided that, while I was going to read DIVERGENT, I was going to look for all the reasons I should hate it. 

*cracks knuckles* *whips out red pen* 

And, sure enough, I wasn’t hugely impressed by the writing in the first few chapters. Yep, I admit it. I see your eyes traveling up to the rating; I see you checking to see if you read it right the first time. Don’t worry, it says five stars. I’m getting there. 

Like I said, I didn’t think the first few chapters were well-written. I found some of the repetition of information annoying, I found the build-up to be slow, and I found a couple passages that seemed like info dumps. On top of that, the overall writing was a bit choppy. 

This warmed my evil little heart. In my first sitting, in which I had read thirty pages or so, I had successfully determined that it was a sub par book. (I will admit, I was also going through a stage where I felt very insecure in my writing. I hadn’t succeeded in finishing a workable rough draft yet, much less an edited novel, and I was desperate to see myself as a good writer. At this point in my life, that took the direction of putting down all published authors so I could feel better about myself. No, I am not proud of pre-November 2013 me.) 

I even spent a good half an hour talking to my mom about all the faults I had found in the first thirty pages, mistakes I would never make. *rolls eyes* I even considered DNFing it out of spite, even though, hello, it hadn’t done anything to hurt me and I was being a butt. 

But then, the next day, I read a couple more pages because I was still strangely drawn to the book. I didn’t get a chance to read much because we were driving to my cousins’ house (one of my favorite places on earth), and it was a four-hour trip. (I usually can’t read while riding in a car, especially not ebooks.) Instead, I had packed other books and had planned to focus on those over my vacation. But then THE ENTIRE DRIVE I could not stop thinking about DIVERGENT. I even pulled it out and made myself car sick trying, unsuccessfully, to read a few pages. The closer we got to my cousin’s house, the more excited I got to just hole up somewhere and eat that book. 

And here’s the part where my lack of experience with popular YA comes into play. Back then, I wasn’t as familiar with the popular tropes because I read a wide range of things, but mostly older books and classics and middle grade and adult. While my obsession with owning books in general started with getting a copy of THE HUNGER GAMES, my obsession with reading YA and owning YA started with DIVERGENT. 

There, I said it. You have it in writing. Clearly I am not a real reader. 

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I’ve seen such an attitude against people who get started reading because of THE HUNGER GAMES and TWILIGHT and DIVERGENT. But you know what, whatever gets you obsessed gets you obsessed. I was already a reader before, of course, but I wasn’t the same reader, and DIVERGENT changed that. I will give credit where credit is due, even if it means pretentious people judge me.) 

Moving on. 

I honestly did not know what faction Tris was going to choose. Looking back, I realize it should have been obvious. I’d even seen the previews for the movie, though I hadn’t paid close attention to them. But it shocked me when Tris dropped her blood on the coals. Blew my mind. And I like getting my mind blown. I hadn’t had my mind blown like that since the cliffhanger ending in CATCHING FIRE. 

To be completely honest, I predicted nothing in that book. Looking back, I laugh my head off because so many books are so predictable and I cherish the times when a book surprises me. I don’t think 2016 me would be surprised by many of the major events in DIVERGENT, simply because I have had much more experience. 

Here’s the thing though. I read that book so quickly. I ate it up and surprised myself in doing so because this was during a time when I had difficulty prioritizing and finishing books. I had a bad habit of starting a book, reading fifty or a hundred pages in one sitting, and then starting another book until I had seventeen or more going. And then I would get discouraged, shelve all the books, and start new ones. So the fact that I read DIVERGENT in roughly a week is saying something. I even braved the car sickness and finished it on the ride home. 

I felt everything, during a time when I wasn’t feeling much. The ferris wheel scene and the zipline scene made me feel alive. In fact, I fell in love with Dauntless as a faction because of those scenes. (Fun fact: Those scenes weren’t in the book when Veronica sold it. During revisions, her editor suggested she include scenes like those to remind the reader why Tris loves Dauntless enough to stay, which worked for me brilliantly. You can read more about it here.) 

As violent as it makes me sound, I loved the scene where Tris destroys Molly and the scene where Edward gets stabbed in the eye with a butterknife, because I loved what they say about Tris’ character and the people she’s up against. I fell in love with the enigma that is Four. I felt for Tris as I saw the damage that had been done by her faction in stressing one virtue (in this case, selflessness) to the exclusion of all others—because we require balance, which I realized as I saw Tris learning about the very virtue she had supposedly turned her back on by choosing a faction that favored another virtue (bravery). The pacing was killer. I never wanted to set it down. I kept thinking, “one more chapter, one more chapter” and I normally have a lot of self control when it comes to books. To this day I sometimes get distracted and set them down mid-sentence, even when I’m really absorbed. For me to get sucked in, to the exclusion of all else, is a miraculous feat. 

Having read it another three times since, I still see all the little faults. The sentence structure tends toward choppiness; the writing is a bit too spare for my taste and relies too heavily on passive tense; information sometimes gets repeated too much. Etc… I see where it would be probably a little predictable (though not in a bad way—it just wouldn’t blow my socks off now). If I had read this for the first time last month, I probably wouldn’t have been able to overlook these things as easily, maybe because I am pettier now, maybe just because I am far more familiar with YA as a whole and it's getting harder to wow me. But the fact that the story made me forget the issues I did see and love it despite its flaws speaks volumes. 

So here’s the thing. I feel this pressure to revise my rating, to deny my deep love for this book because it is popular to hate on it, at least in the circles that I have run against far too often. I am not saying that if you hate it, you are a bad person. Obviously you have good reasons for your negative opinion, just as I have good reasons for my positive opinion. I’m more addressing the slightly snobbish attitude that keeps popping up in reviews, the idea that those who love DIVERGENT have poor taste or are stupid. I’ve seen the same attitude, even more magnified, aimed at people who love TWILIGHT, almost like it’s some secret, bookish community test. “Oh, look at the n00b. You love TWILIGHT? You love DIVERGENT? Clearly you have no taste and don’t know this genre and are just pretending to be a reader. Those are probably the only book titles you know. Real readers don’t give books like DIVERGENT five stars. Blah blah blah.” 

A lot of these people are trolls, and their opinion shouldn’t matter, shouldn’t affect me. But sometimes it does anyway. 

Maybe you have not encountered these attitudes. Maybe you couldn’t care less. I know I care far too much about how other people see me, and that frustrates me. DIVERGENT managed to overcome my desire to hate it. It made me fall in love against my will. Yes, I see more of its faults now. But I am still the person who read that book, even if I have had more experience since. And I’m tired of trying to convince myself to see DIVERGENT as sub-quality literature because a bunch of people have tried to use peer pressure to change my positive experiences into negative ones. (Goodness, I sound paranoid here. I promise I’m not paranoid. Is that a camera?) 

In two weeks, I’m going to be talking about INSURGENT (and DIVERGENT a bit more), because I do want to spend time discussing the stories themselves. I just felt it was important to talk about this, because it was a phenomenal reading experience for me, and the idea that I will get judged for that makes me want to stick a butterknife in my eye (but, not my eye, if you know what I mean). 

So here is a list of things to keep in mind, for your sake as well as mine:  

You are allowed to love a book, no matter how hyped or over-hyped it might be. 

You are allowed to love a book, no matter how popular it might be to hate it. 

You are allowed to love a book, even if you also see its flaws. 

You are allowed to love a book, even if loving it makes you look like the new kid on the block. 

You are allowed to love a book, even if loving it makes more pretentious readers turn  up their noses at you. 

You are allowed to love the books you love, and you are not even required to give a good reason. Other people don’t get to determine whether or not your love for a book is valid. 

That is all. 

What about you, my little coffee beans? Have you read DIVERGENT? What were your thoughts about it? And if you’re curious about my short-term reviewing schedule, next Monday I will be reviewing MISERY by Stephen King, followed by more DIVERGENT discussion the Monday after that.


  1. Yes, you're entitled to love a book and series no matter what everyone thinks. Books like this series, Percy Jones, and the Hunger Games really turned my daughter into a reader and she reread many of these books like you have with this one. I don't really have time anymore to reread books. Too many I want to read. I really enjoyed this book though didn't love the series as much as it progressed to the end.

    1. :) It's nice to be reminded of that. I'm such a people pleaser, but I never want to cave to other people's opinions as to what I should or shouldn't enjoy. It's great to see what books turn people into readers. But yeah, I can understand not having enough time to reread. It's so hard to choose sometimes, since there are so many new books I want to read, and there's so much work I have to do. Yeah, I felt the same way about the rest of the series. :(

      Thank you for commenting! :)

  2. I love this whole post! The idea of DNFing it out of spite is hilarious. Now I wish I could remember the first time I read Divergent as clearly as you can remember yours. I always love when books just grab you like that and don't let you go. I can absolutely relate to not being able to stop thinking about a book when I'm in the middle of reading it!

    1. Aww, thank you! I'm so ridiculous sometimes. But at least I give myself something to laugh about. :P Getting sucked in by a book is the best. It happened with Illuminae too, even on my reread. And I love it when I can't stop thinking about a book I'm reading.

      Thank you for commenting! :)

  3. Divergent. Finally read the entire series this summer and will do a review (Even though I'm soo late. Bleh).

    I liked the first and second book. I definitely agree that the first book is the best. I didn't know what to think of Four. He was just... I don't even know... I didn't hate him either. I usually prefer the male characters... Tris was my fave character until the second book.

    I can't wait to talk more about Divergent next week? That's assuming I have time...

    1. Better late than never! I'll have to check out your review! :)

      Yeah, it's hard to know what to think of Four, especially in light of his character arc in the rest of the series. I would have to say Tris was also my favorite until Insurgent.


      Thank you for commenting! :)

  4. I really enjoyed Divergent. The prose isn't my favorite, but I love Tris as a character and I did feel alive too during the Ferris Wheel and zipline scenes. I loved her growth. I also get miffed by people who hate on books because they're popular. Like when people hate on the Hunger Games it irritates me to no end. And they often haven't even seen or read them they just don't like them because they're popular. I mean what is up with that? Anyway good discussion.

    1. It's so enjoyable, even if it isn't as well-written as I would have liked. The idea of hating on popular books because they're popular is so lame. Like, don't people have better things to do with their time than be needlessly contrary and judgmental? Thank you! :P

      Thank you for commenting! :)


    Ahem. Anyways.

    I've definitely seen the same attitude that you have towards Twilight and a little towards Divergent, especially the last book. Sometimes it's hard to see when you're crossing over from explaining why you don't like something to putting down someone else for liking it. Especially if you're ridiculously over-opinionated, like I am. But I 100% agree: you're allowed to love a book, popular or unpopular, and you don't have to justify it to some random individual on the internet who doesn't know you from Adam.

    To actually talk about Divergent, I don't love this series, but I do like it and there are certainly things I love about it, especially the movies (Allegiant movie = coolest), and I can't wait to see what you have to say about the rest of the series (especially Allegiant the books).


    1. XD

      Ugh, yes, I've seen so many people say that people who like Twilight are stupid. Like no, shut up and sit down. I don't care if people dislike a book. I just care when they feel the need to get militant about it.

      On the whole, I wouldn't say I love the series, just the first book. The other two were rather disappointing, tbh. :(

      Thank you for commenting! :)

  6. Soooo, I know this is an old post, but I had to reread Divergent before reading your review. XD

    I noticed a lot things that I never noticed on my first read. Like you, The Hunger Games and Divergent are what got me into YA, mostly Divergent. I didn't know any of the cliches around YA or even dystopian. And I never would've read either if the hype hadn't made me curious.

    The writing is not phenomenal. But I still love the story. I enjoy the themes. When I first read Divergent, I was struggling with trying to figure out where I belong so I really related to Tris without even realizing it. Also, I LOVE heights. So the Ferris wheel scene, the zip line scene, jumping on and off trains, and off roofs, all of it was amazing to me! Like you said, I felt like I was part of the book doing these things beside Tris.

    The one thing I didn't notice was how heavy the romance was. After I had actually finished the series, the hype was over and had turned into the hate fest that you were referring to. I can't stand that. It kinda of makes me sad and I wonder how the author feels to have her book considered trash by so-called serious readers. As if they think their opinion matters that much to everyone else. Anyway, everyone kept talking about how dark the romance was and Four was a bad boy, etc. Soooo, I was very oblivious to romantic things back then (maybe I still am, just not as much). I did know there was romance, but I didn't realize how heavy it was. And after rereading it, I wonder how in the world I missed it. XD It was staring me in the face. I feel a little stupid, but at the same time wiser because now I do see it. So at least there's that, right? :P So some of the romance heavy scenes did make me squirm during my reread. . . Because I'm that person in the movie theater who makes faces when a couple kisses for a prolonged period of time.

    But I can't say I don't like it. Yeah, I admit it has flaws. But I still like the story. And I really don't care if anyone thinks I'm an idiot because of it. Maybe they're the idiot because they're willing to judge my level of intelligence based on one book I enjoy against their own personal preference.

    (I had to engage in a conversation with my co-workers/fellow college students about Divergent on practically the first day of work. Everyone was hating on it. It drove me crazy, but I just quietly listened until my friend asked if I liked it and what I thought. So I told her. And while I did everyone else stopped listening and changed the conversation topic.)