Am I too old for Divergent now? Is it just not good? Or am I simply tired of the genre?
I’m a lover of young adult fiction, and a sucker for ‘the next big thing.’ Harry Potter took over my life for a decade, and even though it will continue to do so for decades to come, the mass hype and excitement just isn’t there anymore. When Harry Potter ended, there was a huge void left in my life, and that void desperately needed filling. Fortunately, I wasn’t short on choices.
I picked up the Twilight series shortly after finishing Deathly Hallows, and the bitterness and disappointment of Breaking Dawn was quickly assuaged by The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner.
Then came the year between 2010 and 2011. It was depressing. The final Hunger Games and Maze Runner books were released, the final Potter film was released, and Twilight-fever was at a low (for me, at least). What was a YA addict to do? Please say ‘hello’ to Divergent, ‘the next Hunger Games.’ At least, that’s how it was toted.
Divergent was another female-led, dystopian, YA novel that even had factions to rival the Districts in The Hunger Games. I bought the hype. It was exactly what I was looking for, and I devoured the first book, only to be met with a wait for the next one.
When Insurgent came out, The Hunger Games hype was at a high, what with the first movie having been released, and I was lacking the ability to be excited about both fandoms. Nonetheless, I bought Insurgent as soon as I could, and started reading it right away. It took me an entire month to finish.
I’m not a fast reader by any means, but a book that size should only take me a week. I just couldn’t get into it. I couldn’t remember much that had happened in the first book, but didn’t care enough to go back and read it again, or even Google it. I wasn’t engaged in the story, and I often had to go back and read pages over again, having not paid attention to what I’d just read.
By the time Allegiant came out, I almost didn’t care at all. In fact, it took me a few months to even go out and buy the book, let alone read it. The only thing that got me to pick it up was the controversy that surrounded it, the hordes of angry fans complaining about something that had happened. Curiosity got the better of me, so off I read.
Like Insurgent, I was bored. The only thing that prevented me from giving up on Allegiant was the anticipation of finding out what had made readers so livid. When that moment finally came, I had a strange reaction. That is, I didn’t react at all, and I realized what had kept me from being as engaged with this series. I didn’t like Tris or Four.
As lead characters go, they’re toast without peanut butter or jam. They have so little personality, and it’s difficult to care what happens to them.
Perhaps you could argue that the Divergent series is more about plot than character, but the plot didn’t keep me engaged either. Not to mention, the environment it’s set in so closely resembles that of The Hunger Games, it almost feels like you’re reading a bad spin off.
Allegiant spoilers below.
After a little while though, I did start to feel something about the shocking death: satisfaction. It wasn’t that I was happy Tris died, per se, more that it was the most exciting thing that had happened in this series, and I hadn’t expected it. How often do lead point of view characters die, especially in young adult fiction?
What made many fans hate the series made me like it a little more. Amongst all the YA dystopian fiction that’s run rampant these last few years, Tris’ death makes this series stand apart. This series was competing with so many others of the same genre, and seeing as it wasn’t ‘first’, it had to be different, and until Tris died, it wasn’t different enough.
Therein lies my problem with Divergent: It isn’t The Hunger Games, but it’s trying so hard to be. Hollywood has the tendency to exploit anything that does really well, producing an excess of similar content in the hopes of matching the success of the inciting franchise. In this case, The Hunger Games created a trend for the post-apocalyptic, dystopian genre. But this creates a disenchantment with the dystopian genre due to the excess of it.
What Hollywood forgets is that a large reason the first franchise does well is because it was first. It was different from everything else that was out there. If this series had been released at a separate time from The Hunger Games, perhaps I would have enjoyed it more. But as it stands, when set against each other, Divergent feels more like a midnight snack than a hearty meal, even though it was force-fed otherwise.
Divergent was forced on us as ‘the next big thing,’ despite not being good, nor being better than what we already had. Twilight may not have been good either, but at the time of its release, we didn’t have anything else like it. A slew of vampire romances came out afterwards, but none achieved the same level of success and popularity as Twilight.
Naturally, when the film version of Divergent was released, I didn’t rush to the theatre to see it, and I’m glad I didn’t. When I eventually watched it months later, I found myself checking how much time was left of the film, I was so bored and ready for it to end. Thus I have not, and have no intention of seeing, Insurgent , or Allegiant.
The Divergent series feels like it’s run its course. I’m over this genre trend and the feeble attempts by everyone to attain the same hype and success of The Hunger Games. In the meantime, I’m content to wait for the ‘next big thing’ to be thrust upon us, one that satisfies a niche that isn’t currently pervading the media landscape.