So, this is where ratings fail me. I mean, ratings are kind of ridiculous anyway because how can I fit all of my love for the books that I love and all of my hatred for the books that I hate into five little stars? I can’t. Here’s how I feel about this book: I liked it exactly as much as I liked Divergent
. That used to be a four-star rating for me. But, then I read Graceling
, which I like a ton better than Divergent
, so then Graceling
became a four-star for me. Because, I mean, I can’t love Graceling
as much as, like The Hunger Games
or Daughter of Smoke and Bone
, for example. AAARRRGHHH! What is a girl to do???
And that’s not even taking into consideration the horrible problem books like Swann s Way
cause. And what about I Capture the Castle
?! Oh, stars!!
I am having a star-rating meltdown about this book!
I am giving it four stars because I liked it equally to Divergent
, but this stretches my four-star rating to cover a really broad range of books. I like Tris. Four is hot. The action is fun in this story. There is a lot of good to it. But, the fact that I am giving this, Swann's Way
and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
four stars shows that there is true injustice in the universe, and in my rating system.
I am often confused in YA novels about whether people are having sex or not, and if not, why not. That is true in this book. These kids are sleeping in the same bed the whole time, but I honestly can’t tell you if they are sleeping together. I guess I’d say not. But, there is a lot of non-sex activity that leads me to wonder whether I’m supposed to think that the fade out is fading out to sex. I guess it doesn’t make that much of a difference to me, but I am curious.
But, now down to something more serious. A lot of this book is about suicide, I think, and Roth deals with it in a way that I basically like. For various reasons, I take the topic of suicide very personally, as we all probably do. It makes me so angry when I see those books, and I think there were a few of them coming out a couple of years back, that go through a story explaining why a group of people caused a suicide. While I do think it is possible for a person to be driven to suicide by the treatment of others (as, of course, the It Gets Better
project addresses), I think that ultimately suicide is a very personal, and often only selfish, choice.
By saying it is selfish, I don’t mean to be accusatory or uncompassionate to people who struggle with suicide. And I certainly don't mean to disparage the memory of anyone who is dead because of that monster. Honestly, the reason I feel personally about suicide is that I grew up in a house where my father often threatened to commit suicide, and I myself was suicidal for a lot of years (though I haven’t been for many years, so no worries on that front). I like how Roth talks about the interplay between self-sacrifice and selfishness and how that struggle manifests in the question of whether life is worth it. Strangely, I feel like she danced around that struggle a lot in an attempt to show and not tell, but I feel like the complexity of that issue is here in this book. Tris struggles with the sacrifices others have made for her and in her self-focus, which manifests as self-condemnation and survivor guilt, her internal struggle in this book becomes whether she can continue to live when so many have died. I like that (view spoiler)[ultimately she decides to live on her own and for herself, and not just for Tobias (hide spoiler)]
In the end, the crushing, spiraling questions of whether we would be better off dead is only selfish, and I’ll tell you the answer: no. No one else will be better off because of your death - suicide is not generous. Your life is important, even if you don’t even typically kick as much ass as Tris. Your life is important independent of what anyone else thinks of you or how much they sacrifice or don’t sacrifice for you. Your life is important even if people hate you as much as you think they do. Probably, if you get over yourself, and stop worrying about all that bullshit, you could kick an equal amount of ass to the ass that Tris kicks in this book. You could do it. I like that Tobias doesn’t feed the Audrey II monster
of Tris’s selfish self-condemnation because I think that is what people need to hear. Sometimes pity from others doesn’t cultivate self-respect, but only grows the weeds of self-pity.
There is one part that I particularly like in this, where Tris asks Tobias if he is giving her an ultimatum, and he says, no, that he is just stating a fact that he won’t consider her to be herself if she continues to be self-destructive. Snaps to that, dude. There is a lot of heaviness and mistrust to this book, as, really, there was in Divergent
as well. In part, I think that happens because this whole series pretty clearly comes from a framework within Protestant Christian morality, but questioning it, which is basically a serious situation. The story, though, feels burdened in some way by that questioning.
I think Graceling
was more fun to me partly because it lived outside of that type of structure, so it felt less rigid. At the same time, both books dwell heavily on the idea of control, and that is really interesting to me. I think the idea of control is particularly relevant to the audience of these books, so I’m glad there are smart women exploring stories based on overcoming control with strong, vulnerable heroines who grow in learning to trust themselves.
To copy Catie's style, the song that feels to me like this book is Radiohead’s