Why did I pick this up? I watched a panel discussion with the author on women authors of dystopian fiction. And I thought the idea of factions based aWhy did I pick this up? I watched a panel discussion with the author on women authors of dystopian fiction. And I thought the idea of factions based around different values was interesting. I like that kind of thinking fiction.
Why did I finish it? It was really fast! The story was action packed. The main character keeps facing challenges and overcoming them in various ways.
Who is the protagonist and what does she want? The protagonist is 16 year old Beatrice Prior. She wants to leave the safety and selflessness of the community she was raised in for adventure, and she does.
Criticisms Some people have complained that the society is unrealistic. That nobody would think dividing society into five factions is a good idea, or that this could not possibly happen. Personally I blame such criticism on poor education is public schools. A better understanding of history would make you realize that people end up doing a lot of things that no rational person would think are good ideas.
A better understanding of literature would make you realize that just because a story takes place in the future doesn't mean it is a prediction. This kind of story is a thought experimenter. It is an answer to the question "what if". The idea of factions based on values gives the author a chance to explore what it would be like to base a community around these ideas. That the faction don't like each other is a given. But what are the strengths of each group. What are the unexpected consequences of their choices. What is it like to live in a community of shared values. We only get to see Abnegation and Dauntless in the first book. Abnegation are very much like some religious orders in their adherence to selflessness and service to others, but with touches of the Amish or the Mennonites. Dauntless are more like a biker gang or an anarchist camp. My version of the book came with extra material in the back about the author and the world she created. She got the idea for the Dauntless from exposure therapy, a way of overcoming your fears by exposing yourself to them until they are no longer scary. Fear serves a good purpose in our lives. It keeps us from doing stupid things. The Dauntless get hurt and die a lot. It is hard for me to see that working as a life style choice. On the other hand, there are people in our society who do choose that life. People who want every day to be exciting.
Some people have complained that the plot doesn't get started until the end. Again I would have to say that a better understanding of literature would help you see that the plot of the book is not the political intrigues of the factions but the growth of the protagonist. Beatrice wants her life to be more interesting. She chooses to leave her family and choose a faction that values bravery and facing your fears. Every day in the story she faces tests and conquerors challenges. The plot is a coming-of-age story about a teen aged girl who (essentially) joins the military and grows up a bit. It's about her discovering who she is and what she can do, as all coming-of-age stories are.
Some people have complained that Beatrice is too special. That she succeeds because she is the "chosen one". I have to disagree. While Beatrice is Divergent the story makes clear that she is not the only one. Despite the efforts of the big villains to kill off every Divergent they find there are several in the book. It is mentioned that the Abnegation faction produces more Divergents than any other faction. And while Beatrice does get some training on how to kick ass, when she succeeds on her own it is mostly when she is using her will, in simulations where will power is the only thing that really matters, or when she has a gun in her hand. When it comes to hand to hand fighting or strength she usually loses and needs to be saved by others. She is dauntless but not invincible.
Spoiler Warning One person pointed out that toward the end of the book Beatrice kills one of her friends but chooses not to kill several of her enemies. She agonizes a lot afterward about killing her friend. Was killing her friend necessary? Could she have done something else? I think that the problem here is that the author knows something that Beatrice can't know yet. Here is the real spoilery part. When Beatrice's father shoots the soldiers who are under control of the simulation we sees that they don't stop. People under control of the simulation will not stop attacking until they are dead. They are like zombies that way. People who are "awake" on the other hand can and do respond to pain and choose self preservation, so wounding them is viable option. So, no she had to take the kill shot anything less would not have stopped him. But we don't see any evidence of that until after she kills him. Which is unfortunate. If Beatrice's mother had told her that the mind controlled soldiers don't stop until they are dead or if Beatrice had noticed that when her mother was shooting at them then her actions shooting her friend would have made more sense. End Spoiler
Overall I enjoyed reading this. It was a fast fun read. I plan to read the rest of the series. ...more
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Brian Froud illustrates Joni Mitchell's lyrics. The book includes a CD of the song sung by Joni Mitchell. [return][return]The illustrations are brightBrian Froud illustrates Joni Mitchell's lyrics. The book includes a CD of the song sung by Joni Mitchell. [return][return]The illustrations are bright show Froud's usual whimsy. A good book to read along with the song....more