If I were to describe this novel in a gif, it'd be this:
First, the good stuff. It's a fun, silly, entertaining, fast-paced, somewhat action-packed eaIf I were to describe this novel in a gif, it'd be this:
First, the good stuff. It's a fun, silly, entertaining, fast-paced, somewhat action-packed easy read. There's an interesting concept where a city is divided into five factions that represent a virtue of the society that created the new standard of living to dispel evil. AND THERE'S NO LOVE TRIANGLE!!!!
That's it. Now the bad...
First, this book needs trigger warnings so...BOOK TRIGGER WARNINGS: flippant use of suicide, racism, misogyny (body shaming, male entitlement, girls hating girls, damsel in distress).
How is there still modern religion in a utopian society that has no necessity for it? Roth never went into detail about religion or spirituality in her world of factions so it was weird that her characters continuously alluded to a Christian/Catholic deity and even mentioned a baptizing. I don't know how long her society dates back but it must be more than 50-70 years considering how easy it was for each member to accept and adapt to their utopian society. It seems that they have been adjusted to it for a long time so a religion like Christianity doesn't fit in this kind of framework. Anomalies like this breaks immersion.
The body shaming is absolutely unreal in this book, especially to the women. Actually, now that I think about it, it was only women's bodies Roth demonized. Besides making a villain of people who enjoy piercings and tattoos, female antagonists were written with perfectly fine physical human traits that were exaggerated to make the women seem uglier. Because a woman having stretch marks or a muscular body or teeth that isn't as straight or white as a Disney star's is extremely unrealistic, unattractive, and unheard of /sarcasm. Let's not forget how Roth kept reminding us that Tris (the female protag) is just a small and weak little girl over and over and over again. Totally doesn't perpetuate any sexist standards like the "damsel in distress" trope or that women aren't allowed to take up as much space as a guy. Hence, her weakness and smallness to create multiple environments for a strong man to swoop in and save her. I hate damsel in distress stories. If she's so weak, how is she 1st rank overall after failing to be top-rank during the first round? It doesn't make sense, especially because she only got top rank during the second round. It also doesn't make sense to constantly use her smallness as a weakness, especially after her smallness was established as a strength. It's fine to be weak and accept help but deliberately writing a female character as weak for the convenience of your male characters, whether they're saving her or abusing her, is not okay.
Speaking of perpetuating ridiculous standards, this next piece of conversation is a doozy:
"Can you be a girl for a few seconds?" "I'm always a girl." I frown. "You know what I mean. Like a silly, annoying girl." I twirl my hair around my finger. "'Kay." [commence chat about kissing boys]
Was this really necessary? Stuff like this is out of place and doesn't belong in a society that's supposed to improve upon a flawed one. If I wanted to see girls hating other girls, I'd watch Fox News. I hope to all that is mighty that Roth doesn't do the whole "virgin-whore" complex in any of the sequels 'cause that is one of the reasons why people think this stuff is okay to write. Earlier I called the book "silly" because the "butterflies in the stomach" moments were cute for all the teeny-bopper charm that it was worth but it quickly became "boy obsessed annoyances" that stunted Beatrice's potential to be a stronger character. Let's not try so hard to fail the Bechdel test, please and thank you.
As if internalized misogyny weren't enough for Roth, we've got racial ambiguity and a whole lot of colorblindness going on. She makes it perfectly clear who is blond, blue-eyed, and white but racial ambiguity is all up in that brief "dark-skinned" description. Come ooooon, people of color aren't difficult to write. Look at a picture of a person of color, copy & pasta features, and you're finished—straight blond hair to curly black hair, blue-eyed to brown-eyed, alabaster skin tone to deep mahogany skin tone. And no, "flesh tone" doesn't cut it 'cause that's worse than anything else. Things like "dark skin" tend to fly by readers who are more prone to colorblindness aka averse racism (re: Hunger Game's Rue character). I'd imagine post-apocalyptic societies understand not to be racist and sexist buttfaces better than our current society does so all this white privilege junk goin' on makes no sense unless a white supremacist power took over. Then it needs to be made clearer.
Oh yeah and let's not use suicide so flippantly and call people cowards for it through your main character, Roth. The main characters were just as bad as the antagonists. If anyone here plans on writing in the future, please please please do not fall prey to sexist tropes because 1 woman surrounded by 5 guys isn't progressive (nor is 3 women and 2 guys when 2 ladies end up dead). Don't find reasons to exclude or minimize PoC/WoC representation either 'cause constantly writing a character as half-white and half-non-white isn't progressive either. And don't include depression or suicide if you don't know how to write it without doing your research and being a offensive about it. Thanks.
I have the sequel so I'm gonna give it a go. please please please sequel be better. otherwise ...more