am 15. Juni 2012
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.