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This review is from: Divergent (Divergent Series) (Taschenbuch)
I disliked this book. Immensely. It felt like a middle school read. Actually, it felt worse than a middle school read. It felt like the story a 9th grade girl would write in her spare time, hoping that maybe the ex-boyfriend of her best friend''s mother who has a cousin who knows someone who once dated an editor at HarperCollins will discover and publish it. When I started this book -- I was reading several books about fictional future societies for a project -- ' I had no idea who the author was. But after a few pages I wondered if she were, indeed, a 9th grader. I looked her up and realized that I had come very close. She''s a young college graduate, major: creative writing. Oh. Oh. Oh. If these are the kind of writers that America''s creative writing departments are churning out, boy, are we ever in trouble.
Didn''t Miss Roth learn how to develop characters who live and breathe, who have individual speech rhythms, who you would recognize in a second on a street if you bumped into them? She has so many characters who have no face, no personality and no development. In fact, none of her characters have a character arc. Not even the protagonist, Tris. Tris keeps on telling us that she has changed, but, hello? Nothing at all that she does allows us to see, feel, understand any of these changes. Sometimes, yes, a character has a sudden new character trait, but it appears, suddenly, because it is needed to further some plot point. For example, at the end of the book, ATTENTION: SPOILER*** Four, Tris''s romantic interest, suddenly lets us know that he''s really good with computers. Ms. Roth needed a nerdy type to get the work done, so suddenly Four, who until then had shown no interest in computers, is suddenly a computer expert. Sigh. SPOILER END ***
In short: the plot dictates the characters. Ms. Roth should have learned in creative writing class that it''s the other way around: in good writing, plot happens because of the way characters behave. But 'Divergent is no character-driven story. The characters do what the plot calls for. And here all the characters are put into one of two categories: either good or bad. Are there any differences between how Tris''s mother and her father are portrayed? No. One might just as well be the other. Will and Christine, two of Tris''s fellow initiates, were good guys. And that was all we ever really know about them. We have no idea what they look like or what makes them so special that Tris considers them her friends. Molly and Peter were from the start the bad guys and they end the bad guys. If Ms. Roth''s editor is smart, she (or he?) will force Ms. Roth to at least try to develop in the sequels the two main characters, Tris and Four, and maybe a supporting character or two could get some development too. A good writer can do that. An unskilled writer does what Roth did: cardboard, cardboard, more cardboard, dialogue with no sub-text, no flair, no nothing. Words, words, and more empty words with little to involve us or move us.
I have read a bit now about Ms. Roth, read some of her interviews. I suspect that she knows in her heart that what she has written is not worth the paper it was printed on. She knows it. She must. And I suspect that she''s thinking: I''ll milk the cow as long as I can. She''d be stupid not to, of course.
If it were only kids, 10 to 15 year olds who are reading this book, it wouldn''t bother me that much. Their sense of what is good or bad prose is not yet developed. But I must admit, I am shocked when I see that grown women, librarians, book sellers, people who ought to know good prose when they read it, praise this book. Why, for goodness sakes? There are perfectly acceptable and accessible books out there, written with heart, soul and mind that take their young readers into far more complex and deeply felt worlds. Why not look for and praise those books? Why a book of such obvious poor quality and lack of craft?
Besides the poor quality of the prose and the author's lack of skill when it comes to building characters, I am also shocked at the amazingly absurd world she created. Five factions for all mankind? Her society is ridiculous, it has no details, no logic, we have no idea why it developed into its present state.
And, hello? Ms. Roth has no sense of technology whatsoever. Not that I''m much better at that, but I do know that, for example, important computer programs are duplicated, that there is always a failsafe. The end of 'Divergent' is so illogical. Tris stops a war by going to a computer, shutting it down and taking away the hard drive. Hello? An entire war, an entire society being controlled in one computer? Puleeeeze!
And the violence in the book seems so gratuitous. So unnecessary. Tris talks a lot about being brave, but, whew. Does shooting somebody mean she''s brave? Of course she is only as good as her creator and I wonder if Ms. Roth is aware of what it truly means to be brave. To be desperate. To have no other choice but to die. Few of us do, I suppose. But a good writer will understand that the feelings involved in such situations are complicated and complex. We should be moved by the despair of the characters. This book did not move me except to let you know how much I disliked it.
In brief: this is one of the worst-written books I ever read. Her editors should be ashamed of themselves.
For Germans who want to read this book in English: it will be a very easy read for you. It's simple, uses short sentences and it is written with the vocabulary of a 10-year-old.
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1-10 von 28 Diskussionsbeiträgen
Ersteintrag: 25.06.2012 00:27:01 GMT+02:00
thank you for your post! i thought somethingŽs wrong with me because obviously everyone likes this book and i couldnt motivate myself to go on reading after 60 pages. i mean just the discription of the dountless is sooo ridiculous.
Antwort auf einen früheren Beitrag vom 25.06.2012 12:06:17 GMT+02:00
Glad to help! It's always a shock to realize how hype can sell a book, how so many people are fooled into thinking a lousy book is good, how silly some writers are and even get paid royally to continue being silly. Very disheartening.
Veröffentlicht am 02.09.2012 10:22:51 GMT+02:00
I didn't give the book a 5-star rating either, but I usually refrain from belittling the author and everyone who enjoyed the book while praising my own intelligence and literary competence. Sadly, sometimes a review reveals more about the reviewer than the book that is being reviewed.
Apparently the reviewer also didn't bother to read Amazon's review guidelines: reviews should address customers who don't know the book yet to help them decide whether to buy it or not. This review fails to introduce the plot and characters, but contains several major spoilers, which is against Amazon's no spoiler policy. Plus, there is no structure whatsoever, just random plot details mixed with insulting comments and bouts of hubris. How is this supposed to be helpful for anyone who doesn't know the book yet?
This is a long rant, not a review and should be posted in the discussion forums below.
Antwort auf einen früheren Beitrag vom 02.09.2012 15:22:56 GMT+02:00
Thank you for your comment. Sometimes I feel very strongly about a book and although I don’t mean to belittle the writer or the readers who enjoyed the work, it may come across like that.
On the other hand, I truly AM appalled that booksellers and librarians and other adult readers do not see the weaknesses inherent in this book and I felt it was important to write that.
Furthermore, I am thoroughly convinced that Ms. Roth’s editors did not do their job well and should be reprimanded. So I wrote that too.
Where in my review did I “praise my own intelligence and literary competence”? I seriously have no idea what you mean. Where did I “flaunt” knowledge? Actually, you’re the one throwing words around like “hubris,” not me. You’re the one who is grading my review like a professor, saying it has “no structure whatsoever.”
In addition, with a book like “Divergent” that has so many customer reviews, I do not feel it is necessary for me to introduce the plot and characters. The reader who might be considering buying the book, knows already what it’s about, I’m sure. They just want to know if people liked it or not and why.
You write, “Sadly, sometimes a review reveals more about the reviewer than the book that is being reviewed.” Actually, reviews always reveal a lot about the reviewer. I see nothing wrong with that.
Antwort auf einen früheren Beitrag vom 02.09.2012 21:00:34 GMT+02:00
Zuletzt vom Autor geändert am 02.09.2012 21:01:45 GMT+02:00
thanks for your quick reply. I'm in a bit of a hurry, so only a few comments:
Maybe you didn't intend your review to sound that way, but saying this book could have been written by a "9th grade girl", assuming that the author "knows in her heart that what she has written is not worth the paper it was printed on", telling the editors to "be ashamed of themselves" and being shocked that "grown women, librarians, book sellers, people who ought to know good prose when they read it, praise this book" sounds like you are belittling both the author and all readers who liked the book. Because you apparently know what they "ought to know".
I also don't think that it's appropriate to include major spoilers like the following ones, because these details might ruin the story for some readers:
"Will and Christine, two of Tris''s fellow initiates, were good guys. [...] Molly and Peter were from the start the bad guys and they end the bad guys."
"Tris stops a war by going to a computer [...]"
I read some of your other reviews and I must say I really like your writing style. But I think you might have gone over the top with this one (which I am guilty of too occasionally). When reviewing a book that you really disliked, it's hard to stay objective and refrain from criticising the author personally. This might be ok on a personal review blog or in discussion forums, but Amazon has certain guidelines that we should try to follow.
Antwort auf einen früheren Beitrag vom 03.09.2012 11:13:14 GMT+02:00
Zuletzt vom Autor geändert am 03.09.2012 11:42:08 GMT+02:00
I do see, of course, what you are saying. But what you are asking is that if someone doesn’t like a book, she shouldn’t be personal about explaining why. But frankly, I don’t buy it. I don’t write for the NY Times. I can be as personal as I want to be. Ms. Roth and her publishers want us to buy her book and I seriously don’t think we should. I don’t like pussyfooting around a subject. If something is bad, tell it straight. It is extremely difficult and very time-consuming to explain in a neutral and scholarly way why DIVERGENT is poor writing. I’m not writing a thesis. It’s just a review because I feel strongly about something. Besides, it is much easier and really much more precise to say that the book reads like a 9th grader wrote it. Everybody knows what is meant. I’m not insulting Ms. Roth as a person. I am criticizing her as a writer, because that is what she wants us to think she is. And I do believe that Ms. Roth knows that what she has written is not good. Maybe she will strive to write better in the future.
On another note: Yes, I DO believe that librarians, booksellers, and adult readers should know better. Am I implying that “I know what they ought to know”? Yes, I am. But I’m not flaunting it. I’m just stating it. It truly surprises me that librarians can praise this book. Furthermore, along this line, I do not belong to that faction of adults that says, “Well, at least they’re reading.” If they’re reading, then give them something with quality. I don’t mean they have to read the classics, but there are plenty of quality books out there for young adults in the fantasy/sci fi/future fiction arena, if that is what they like.
Re: spoilers. Here, too, it is very hard to write without spoilers. Sometimes we need to mention something in order to drive a point home. It’s unfortunate, but the spoilers I mentioned do not, I think, reveal so much as to spoil the story for new readers.
Thanks for your compliments re: my writing in my other reviews. You’re not so bad yourself.
Antwort auf einen früheren Beitrag vom 10.12.2012 00:12:22 GMT+01:00
Didn't read the book and do not want to, after I've read your comment. But you could have warned with
no big deal I'd say :)
Veröffentlicht am 02.01.2013 10:18:17 GMT+01:00
Zuletzt vom Autor geändert am 02.01.2013 10:19:05 GMT+01:00
M. Helmerich meint:
Bought this book on cybermonday as I really liked The Hunger Games. The ratings were good so I thought why not?
Just before this book I read a Ken Follet novel. Follet is pretty good in shaping believable characters so compared to him Roth's characters are a catastrophe.
Ridiculous story no depth in any character. Illogical dystopian world. Didn't work for me in any way. After this book I started with Angelfall, there is more character development, depth and identification with the characters in the first 40 pages than in the whole Divergent book...
Thank you for your comment, you are totally right. After all the praising comments I nearly thought I have strange expectations of a book ;)
Antwort auf einen früheren Beitrag vom 02.01.2013 10:44:37 GMT+01:00
Thanks, M. Helmerich, for your comment. I appreciate it!
Veröffentlicht am 05.04.2013 21:55:06 GMT+02:00
This review helped me to dim my expectations since after I read the book, I was quite content. Though the utopian idea stills evinces my logic, I like the characters and don't think the book is rather plot-driven, as during the Dauntless test phase, the interactions between the characters make up most of the pages.
As for the shut-down, it is not mentioned if there is a failsafe. But stopping the programme (for a short time) may have been enough to create confusion and thus stopping the attack.
But, well the book is a very easy read, I almost read the whole thing in one sleepless night and if I really disliked a book, I would have thrown it on the wall much earlier or would have despaired at a writing I totally can't ge into. Easy reads usually make up most of the bestseller listings.
Though Miss Roth's vocabulary is not that simple. The factions's names are some of the rarest words I've ever encountered oÖ