Monday, January 20, 2014

Four Reasons to Read Divergent

A lot of people I know just read, are currently reading, or are about to read the Divergent series.  More than one friend recommended these books to me before Christmas, and I’ve doled out my share of recommendations since.  If you’re one of those people, beware: at the end of this post, I’m going to divulge the final four sentences at the end of the trilogy. But I promise I’m not the kind of person who would ruin the ending of a good book or a good movie. 

(Now, a bad movie on the other hand, I’d be glad to ruin.  For example, do not ever bother watching The Perfect Storm.  By the time it’s over, you’ll feel seasick and they’ll all be dead. I still haven’t gotten over the fact I endured that movie on the fourth row of the good ole K-ville theater when I was a teenager.)

On the contrary, I am counting the days until the Divergent movie comes out in March.  It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book as good as these.  I commented the other night that it might be my favorite book/series ever, and my middle school language arts teacher brother-in-law laughed at me, as if the latest teenage movie craze could not possibly be considered my favorite piece of literature.  Well, he was only 50 pages into the first book…I’m betting he’ll be changing his tune soon.   Move over Of Mice and Men; Mr. Elkins is about to have a new favorite book!

At first glance, it may seem that this series fits right in with the young adult fiction mania of the past several years: Twilight, Hunger Games, etc.  But for me, this series was more well-written, more enticing, more thought-provoking and just plain better than any of those.  So for that reason, I’d like to encourage you to read it with my short list entitled Four Reasons to Read Divergent.  And yes, I chose four reasons because one of the main characters is named Four. :)

1.  The factions are fascinating.
The books take place in a futuristic Chicago, where the people living there have been placed inside a fence and divided into five factions: Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, Candor and Amity.  Each faction has a strong suit that enables them to contribute positively to society (selflessness, bravery, intelligence, honesty, and peace) but also a converse weakness that contributes to their possible downfall.  As you are reading, you can’t help but think about which faction you’d find yourself in, which one you’d choose, and which ones you’d even be able to cut it in.  You’ll also think of others and where they would fit.  And you realize we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and many times they are inherent, so perhaps we should be a little more forgiving. 

2.  Tris is a terrific heroine.
One of my problems with the Hunger Games books was that Katniss drove me a little bit crazy.  Not that I would have done any better in her situation, but I still found her to be rather frustrating.  Tris, on the other hand, is much easier to relate to.  You’ll find yourself cheering for her, laughing with her, scared to death for her, and crying with her.  While she makes some questionable decisions at times, I could totally understand why she did what she did – every time.   And she’s a lot quicker to act than Katniss…these books move really fast!

3.  You won’t be able to put them down.
The books are written in first person and present tense.  Almost every chapter is a cliffhanger.  There is a lot of dialogue and since they are technically young adult novels, the spacing is generous.  While the books look thick, you’ll fly through them.  It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that kept me up at night, but these did.   My husband started reading them the same time as me, and we tried to share my one set of hardcover books (a Christmas gift from my awesome sister).  Brent read the books so fast that I had a hard time staying ahead of him so he could have the next one when he was finished.  The teacher in me suggested we read the last one out loud to each other, but Brent laughed as if that was ridiculous.  It’s his loss – he’s still not finished with the third one and I am…I could have read it to him in my best teacher voice if he had taken me up on the offer! 

4.  You’ll remember why we’re here in the first place.
These books caused me to reflect not only on the state of our society, but also on my own life and what matters.  They reminded me that no matter what goes on around us, what counts is how we interact with and support the people around us.  There are love stories, familial relationships, and close friendships woven throughout the plot, even as unthinkable conflict is occurring.  Not so different than our own lives really.  The last four sentences of the third novel summed up so much of the way I’m trying to live my life these days.  It ends,  Since I was young, I have always known this: Life damages us, every one.  We can’t escape that damage.  But now, I am also learning this: We can be mended.  We mend each other.”

So true, and so worth the read!

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