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The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth

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“But when I do feel all the strength go out of me, and I fall to my knees beside the table and I think I cry, then, or at least I want to, and everything inside me screams for just one more kiss, one more word, one more glance, one more.”  – Veronica Roth in Allegiant

From Lauren’s Perspective:

I am going to write this, not as a separate review for each book, but instead as a collective.  I read the first two books over a year ago and reread them before reading the final book in the trilogy.  I feel that I don’t need to separate the books because they truly tell just one long story.  It is the story of a girl named Tris.

I will begin by telling you how much I loved these books.  I’m slightly biased because I love most Dystopian YA novels, of which I’ve read at least a dozen at this point, but this one, just like Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy, stand out above the rest.  The writing is beautiful and poignant, the characters are flawed but likable, and the plot teaches the reader something about life.

Book one focusses on the very important theme of bravery.  Throughout this story, Tris constantly finds herself wondering what it means to be brave.  She questions her own bravery as well as those around her, and wonders if her choices in life are making her any braver than other choices might have done.

While learning all of this, Tris also develops her first friendships, her first crush, and her first enemy.  She goes through many trials on her way to becoming a full “Dauntless” and while the reader can feel how hard the trials are she is suffering through are, it is also easy to predict that things are only going to get worse.  Soon Tris stops asking whether she is brave or not, because her bravery is, time and again, put to the test.

Along with bravery, fear plays a hugely important role in this novel as well.  Tris and the others must constantly overcome their fears, better themselves in order to make themselves stronger.  Roth writes, “Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.”  These moments of revelation are scattered throughout the novel in thoughtful messages that allow Roth to convey her message, but also allow the reader to learn the lessons right alongside Tris.  You’re never sure what side you are on while reading these books.  There are good and bad people in every faction, there are good people that turn bad, bad people that turn good, and that confusion could distract from the story, but it doesn’t, it helps you question your own moral standings and it asks:  How important is bravery to you?  The clear answer Roth wants derived from this book is that bravery is everything, being brave means being good, and smart, and selfless, and honest.  Being brave means being everything.

Roth does a magnificent job of introducing characters as well.  You love Tris from the moment you meet her because of her mousy ways and reluctance to choose between what is right and what she wants, you love her because she is not confident yet, but you know she will be.  Later, when we meet Four, you are immediately drawn to his mysterious ways.  He is always intriguing, never quite giving away everything that’s going on in his mind, but always saying or doing something that leaves you wanting more.  Tris’s friends, Christina and Will are fun and energetic, and just what you’d want for someone like Tris.  And Tris’s enemies are just what you’d expect, callous and calculating, despicable, but fun to read.

In the second installment, Tris continues along her path of self-destructive behaviour, hoping to find the answers she is looking for.  Is she as selfless as her abnegation parents?  What does being Divergent mean?  By asking herself these questions, she leads us along a journey where she searches for answers about being selfless in the name of love, and sacrificing yourself in times of war.  The whole novel pits her against herself (as well as many other enemies) as she attempts to discover who she really is, and whether that’s who she wants to be or not.  Roth writes about Tris and Four,  “We both have war inside us. Sometimes it keeps us alive. Sometimes it threatens to destroy us.”  The fact that these wars that are happening internally and externally all because of the traumas of their pasts drives this story further and deeper into the realm of a stunning story.  Roth’s beautiful writing sets her apart from other YA authors, she finds sentimental and passionate ways of making her story’s theme heard.  The second novel in the trilogy connects everything Tris has learned in the first book and adds another level of life lessons to learn, near the end, she says, “I have done bad things. I can’t take them back, and they are part of who I am. Most of the time, they seem like the only thing I am.”   It is this vision of Tris that we are left with as we enter the third and final novel of the trilogy.  So far brilliant, beautiful, and thought-provoking.

Finally, we reach Allegiant, the final book in the Divergent, the book some fans (including myself) have been waiting ages to read.  I feel the need to write:  SPOILER ALERT  here, in case anyone hasn’t read this, but I hope that those who haven’t read it won’t go searching to read reviews.  All the same, I’ll try not to give it all away.  Where book one talked of bravery, and book two spoke of selflessness and war, book three speaks of self-sacrifice and what it really means.  Tris learned in Insurgent that self-sacrifice isn’t giving up your life for no good reason.  She realizes the error of what she did when she walked herself into Erudite headquarters, and knows that that would have been squandering the gift her parents died to leave her with.  The gift of her life.  So in this book, we learn all about Tris’s search for the perfect way to honour her family, to try to forgive her traitorous brother, and to learn that bravery doesn’t mean giving up.  Tris learns her lessons through another series of very hard tests and tough decisions, but as usual she comes out on top of it all.  She finally begins to understand her purpose in all of this war, and act the part of “Dauntless” that intrigued her so much when she joined.  Roth brings everything full circle rather epically, reverting us back to the themes of the previous novels, answering the questions both Tris and Four had about fear and about bravery.  She writes, “There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.  But sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.  That is the sort of bravery I must have now.”  This beautiful passage puts everything that Tris and Four have gone through into perspective.  Then Roth continues with her amazing ‘lessons’ that she treats to her readers through this fascinating story, “She taught me all about real sacrifice. That it should be done from love… That it should be done from necessity, not without exhausting all other options. That it should be done for people who need your strength because they don’t have enough of their own.”

Without going into anymore detail for worry of spoiling too much, I will say that I loved the way Allegiant ended.  When I finished it I immediately messaged my friend to complain, “How DARE Roth do that!!!??”  We complained to one another.  But the more we talked about it, the more I began to think, maybe it was the right thing to do.  There was really no other way for her to end her trilogy if she wanted it to share the messages I believe she was trying to share from the start.  To me, Roth was trying to teach all her readers about the importance of bravery and selflessness, about the complicated nature of good and evil, about the evils of war, and about self-sacrifice.  And although I was at first incensed, I came to understand and even accept the ending as something close to perfect.  No ends were left untied, and of course in a story like this, there could never really be a happily-ever-after, because it was never that type of story from the beginning.  To me, this book ended in a way that, was upsetting, sure, because you grow attached to each and every character, you want to watch them grow and see how they change, but the fact that we were all so attached just proves how good a job Roth did at portraying her characters perfectly.  Any book that ends leaving the reader bereft with grief over a fictional character is a job well done, in my eyes.  And I don’t think anything Roth wrote was meaningless, or done to get a reaction, I believe she truly wrote what she believed was right for the story, and for that I commend her.  And you have to admit, Veronica Roth has got some guts!!!

Overall, I thought the three books were amazing.  Some compare here to Suzanne Collins, and rightfully so, they did both write similar stories at around the same time.  However, in all honesty, the books couldn’t be more different outside of their Dystopian nature, and both are well written, beautifully executed, and well received, so any comparison, I can only assume would be graciously accepted.  If you only had time to read one series of the two, I would be hard pressed to tell you which one I prefer.  I actually think, overall, that the heroine in Divergent outshines even Katniss Everdeen in her willingness to do what is right, where Katniss is sometimes forced into that position, Tris takes it on eagerly.  And I also find the love story in Divergent more appealing too because there  is no choice to be made between Team A or Team B, there is love there for sure, but it isn’t the number one driving force behind the book.  I will say that Collins was better at pacing the action throughout her trilogy and had fewer dull points in between the action sequences, so that was easier to read.  Basically, both trilogies are worth the read so don’t make me choose, because I can’t.

Rating

Plot – 4/5
Writing/Style/Form – 4/5
Characters – 4/5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value – 5/5

Overall Score – 17/20

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The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

“Taking the kids from our districts, forcing them to kill one another while we watch – this is the Capitol’s way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy.” – Suzanne Collins from The Hunger Games

From Lauren’s Perspective:

The reading world today is very different from the one  I grew up in.  I always loved to read, I remember book fairs at my public school and getting so excited at the thought of being able to browse books during school hours.  I remember the first author I ever loved, R.L. Stine, and getting excited every time I had the chance to buy another one of his books.  I remember my second favourite author, V.C. Andrews.  She was the first author that got me so wrapped up in her trilogies that I felt real loss when the story was over, I longed to learn more about the characters.  I remember when The Chicken Soup for the Soul books became all the rage and anytime a “teenage” edition came out I had to beg my parents for the rather expensive hardcover copy.

I remember all these things vividly, but what I don’t remember is authors like J.K. Rowling, like Stephanie Meyer, and like Suzanne Collins who wrote such immediate best sellers.  The kind of books that people line up at bookstores around the world just to get their hands on.  And whether you like any or all of these books, or you detest them completely, a certain amount of admiration has to be given.  These woman, along with many others, have all managed to bring a love of reading to a younger generation that just didn’t exist when I was younger.  For me, having a love of reading in middle school and in high school was never considered cool.  But today, things are changing.

Having said all that, I will return to what I came here to do.  My review of this trilogy, of any book of the sort, however, has to be prefaced by the fact that I love what authors like Suzanne Collins have done for reading.

The Hunger Games

I read this first book in a little over a day.  It was intriguing.  It was addicting.  And it pulled me into its world with no effort at all.  I wanted to know what was going to happen to Katniss Everdeen and this strange but not totally unrealistic world she was living in.  Plus, I have always loved a girl who can kick ass.

I find that I get drawn into books by the believability of the characters more than the plot itself.  Show me monsters and goblins, but as long as I can relate to or empathize with any of the characters I am usually enthralled.  Little Prim was perfectly helpless, her mother perfectly lost.  Gale was the perfect friend, and Haymitch a brilliant yet stumbling drunk.  Every character you came in contact with, no matter how big or small their role, was memorable in their own way and that is a very difficult thing to write.

While the writing wasn’t magnificent, neither did it falter.  Unlike many authors of this genre, Collins has a wide vocabulary and wasn’t afraid to use it despite the fact that her target audience is young.  It flowed easily and what more can you ask for in a book.

This was a quick and thoroughly enjoyable read.  The kind of book where you get lost in the pages and want it to continue rather than having to return to your own life.

I can’t think of a negative thing to say.

Rating

Plot –  5 out of 5
Writing/Style/Form –  3 out of 5
Characters –  5 out of 5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value –  5 0ut of 5

Overall Score –  18 out of 20

Catching Fire

The second book in the series was almost (but not quite) as intriguing as the first.  I read it as quickly, enjoyed it as much, and yearned to know the outcome not only of the title characters, but the fate of Panem itself.  I wondered immediately how they would continue in a series that was so based around the idea of The Hunger Games, and naturally, they brought us back into the arena with many familiar faces and many new.  The plot grew thicker and more intricate as Katniss becomes a pawn in the games of both her enemy and her ally.  Good versus evil is often questioned and while the right side may win, no one really wins in the end.

In this book we are introduced to some more important characters, a personal favourite is Finnick.  He is suave, good-looking and a natural hero.  His personality shifts from enemy to ally, from conceited to thoughtful; he is entertaining to the last.  The character of Cinna gains a lot more depth in this book and his spirit is easy to love.  As well, we meet Plutarch, the head gamemaker, whose side we are unsure of from the first encounter.

The only negative aspect of this book was the hollow love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale.  I was discussing the displeasing quality of this romance with a friend because I couldn’t make myself root for either of these guys.  Whenever I tried to decide who I wanted Katniss to end up with, I found myself rather impartial because both guys had equally good qualities.  On some pages I was sure she loved Peeta while on others I was convinced it was Gale she would pick.  This was made more vague by the fact that the love story was definitely not at the center of the novel, it was played off as more of a side note.  Interesting but definitely secondary.  My friend argued that I had read Twilight one too many times and that maybe I was missing the point of the story.  And maybe he had a point.  However, I still would have liked to be pulled in one direction or the other, Team Peeta or Team Gale.  Without that pull, the decision that I know is coming will feel (and did feel) unfinished, incomplete, and just not right.

Besides that rather trivial point, this book was another success.  Incredibly entertaining, full of likeable and despicable characters, and a pretty decent wordsmith weaving it all together.

Rating

Plot –  4 out of 5
Writing/Style/Form –  3 out of 5
Characters –  5 out of 5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value –  5 out of 5

Overall Score –  17 out of 20

Mockingjay

In the final book in The Hunger Games series, Katniss finds herself separated from everything she has ever known, in completely new territory, and unable to trust anyone around her.  After a lot of searching, doubting, healing, and learning she does manage to complete the mission that was inevitable from the beginning.  She had to take down the Capitol.

The plot was intriguing but the pull wasn’t nearly as strong as book one and two.  I’m not sure why this happens in trilogies.  It probably has more with the readers desire to return to what was familiar, and the authors need to find new territory.  All in all, though, a lot of things felt unfinished.  Without spoiling the ending or giving too much away, things seemed left unsaid with many of the main characters.  Rather than wrapping up their stories in any sufficient way, characters that were important didn’t even get a proper goodbye.  For me, the book just left me wanting more.

This could go back to what I said about Catching Fire; the love story seemed incomplete because you are left hurting for one party no matter what.  But more than that, characters were killed off abruptly with no proper mourning period, and Katniss seemed so much less sure of herself than the kick ass girl we saw in book one.  Undoubtedly, the stress of what was occurring took its toll on her, but as a reader, I wanted confidence in her final take down.

The novel was still great, I still read it with great ease, and perhaps any dislike I had for it is just because I was remembering fondly the first novel that I had read only three days earlier.  Overall, it felt entirely too insufficient for a book that should have tied up all the loose ends.  But maybe that’s a compliment to the author because truthfully, I just didn’t want it to end.

Rating

Plot –  4 out of 5
Writing/Style/Form –  3 out of 5
Characters –  5 out of 5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value –  4 0ut of 5

Overall Score –  16 out of 20

From Krista’s Perspective:

At long last I have made my way through this phenomenal series and what an undertaking it was.  At first I was hesitant to read yet another trilogy that has been extremely hyped up by the public but then curiosity won me over and once I began to read I didn’t want to stop.  Every spare moment I found in between school and work I flipped on my KOBO and started reading, getting lost in the pages.  Suzanne Collins created this world filled with compelling characters and just enough science-fiction undertones to keep it futuristic yet not far-fetched.  No theme was left untouched within these three books: love, hate, death, mourning, victory, defeat, torture, survival…. I could go on and on. 

Since Lauren already did such an amazing job of the breakdown of each book I thought I would just write about a more overall interpretation of the trilogy.  Explain how the series moves from survivor, to victor, to rebel, to the broken defeated soul, and back to survivor.  The best way I can describe each one is with a quote from each installment that leapt off the pages and gave me the greatest understanding of the torturous journey Katniss was forced upon. 

In Hunger Games we read about Katniss, the girl who was on fire, who “has the weight of the world on fragile shoulders”.  This young girl who had suffered her entire life under the Capitol’s reign now has to make the ultimate sacrifice to save her sister.  With each page the reader feels compassion for her, fear for her safety, and a shared hatred of the Capitol for what they forced her into. 

In Catching Fire Greasy Sae tells Katniss, “You’ve got to go through it to get to the end of it“; a perfectly indicative quote symbolizing the new struggles she has to overcome even though the Games have finished.  We see the victor forced into re-living the nightmarish hell she and Peeta went through, the falseness of the victory tour, the new fear of proving to Snow she would help prevent a rebellion in order to protect her family.  You feel sympathetic for her and wish it would just end. 

Lastly, in Mockingjay a different sentiment is felt among the characters.  “I drag myself out of nightmares each morning and find there’s no relief in waking”; we start to see the breakdown one experiences after living through what Katniss, Finnick, Peeta and more did.  This book was split between a rebellion and passionate soldiers fighting for the cause, and defeated broken souls tortured by their agonizing lives and mourning the deaths of so many friends and family.  At some points it was excruciating to read, maybe more so for me because of my own personal grief, but Collins had such powerful descriptions of losing love and the torture one feels when your life is ripped away from you that I actually found myself with tears rolling down my cheeks at more than one time.  I have never cried at a book before.  But you feel such sorrow for this group of people who have endured so much because by the time you have read all three books you are fully immersed in their world and their characters.  That is how compelling this series is. 

I shared Lauren’s confusion as to how Collins would keep the story going after the completion of Hunger Games.  SPOILER ALERT~~ don’t read the next sentence if you haven’t read the book – – – Katniss gets out, she survives.  So how does this turn into a trilogy?  It does so because Collins fantastically built all three books on top of each other introducing more characters and expanded on plots from the previous book, but it was easy to follow and keep up with.  With each installment in the trilogy we learn another aspect of our characters, learn more about why they are the way they are, we become fascinated with the development of each of their relationships.  Finnick and Haymitch began as less than savory characters whom Katniss felt no connection with, but as Collins continues to take us through this world we see and understand how their pasts have made them who they are and they eventually become characters you want to root for.

I did not share Lauren’s displeasure with the love triangle between Peeta, Katniss, and Gale but I will admit it was frustrating.  You never knew who she would choose nor could you make your own decision of who the right choice would be.  Each man brought a different element to the table and as a reader you loved them too; this made you wish she didn’t have to choose.  It was a love story that stretched out for the entire series, one that kept you guessing and changing your mind until the very end.  But I think Collins masterfully brought enough plot developments, surprises, twists and turns into it to keep the reader entertained by it.  I think if Collins had written a decision for Katniss earlier it would not have allowed for some of the overall plot to come out the way it did.  So yes, frustrating because this love story drags out but it kept me guessing and I like that in a book.

This series was definitely a success and I am once again a fan of a massively hyped up series.  Who would have thought!  The story kept me fascinated with every page and I never found myself bored hoping to get to an interesting part.  A definitely suggested read for anyone looking for books that are an easy read, easy to follow, and absolutely entertaining, compelling, and intriguing.

Rating

Plot – 4 out of 5
Writing/Style/Form – 3.5 out of 5
Characters – 5 out of 5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value – 5 0ut of 5

Overall Score – 17.5 out of 20

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