In my first post on the Divergent series I rated Ms. Roth’s dystopian novel, 3 for over all story, and 3.5 for pulling off such a unique POV. Now that I’ve finished reading ‘Insurgent’, her second novel in the series, I stand by my original assessment of ‘Divergent’. It was a good, not a great, start to an interesting story with a very different way of writing a first person POV. The same cannot be said about her second novel, “Insurgent”.
In a good way.
Let me explain.
The advise a new author will get from almost all editors, agents and publishers alike is; if you’re going to write a series (if they even let you write a series), you need to write the first 3 before actually publishing the first one (good advise no matter how you swing). I have no idea whether this is what happened in Roth’s case, but I’m assuming, since each of the novels came out roughly 12 months apart, it is.
So, Who who cares? you might ask. Well, actually, I do.
Why? Because in book two, not only does the main protagonist (Beatrice Prior) begin to develop some backbone, but so does her creator, Ms. Roth. (And for someone like mwah, who prefers to read a series, rather than stand alone’s, this proved to be a very unique experience)
With every word, sentence, paragraph and story a writer creates (and revises), they are growing, morphing and honing their craft, and by process of evolution, becoming a better writer for it(we hope). In the world of Indie-Self Publishing, this is far more evident; especially if you’re following a particular author’s work from the beginning. But in the world of Traditional Publishing, it’s not. Here, we the reader, are seldom, if ever, allowed to see an author’s work until they have honed their craft to a finely tuned writing machine (except maybe in the penny stories at the back of some obscure magazine no one, except maybe the Almighty, have ever heard of). Like hot-house orchids, these supposedly ‘new’ authors, who aren’t allowed in public until their editors, agents, and publishers have cloned them into the lean-mean-selling machine that will make them, the publishing house, a lot of money.
“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”― Kurt Vonnegut
Now, maybe it’s because I read all three books (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant), one right after the other, within three weeks (thank the Almighty for eReaders and treadmills), that I noticed the evolution of both the character and the author so dramatically. Or, maybe its just I’m a real pain in the butt about good character development. Whatever ! The fact remains, despite or because of (I’ve not figured it out yet) Roth’s use of first person, flatland, one-dimensional POV style of writing, I was able to experience the arch of development in both the main character as well as her creator. An interesting, and not, unpleasant experience.
Which leads me back to original statement: ‘Divergent’. It was a good, not a great, start to an interesting story with a very different way of writing a first person POV. The same cannot be said about her second novel, “Insurgent”. . . In a good way.
In my not so humble opinion, ‘Insurgent’ moved the ‘Divergent’ series from, a good, not a great, start to an interesting story, to somewhere between that and really good.
Like Suzanne Collins – Katniss Everdeen, Roth and her gal/pal ‘Tris’, have invited us, the reader, to experience what it means to go into the chrysalis of society as a caterpillar, and come out the other side, a butterfly. And not just any butterfly; but rather one which is unique, and therefore, a danger to the society in which she/her has been bred and raised. A trouble maker. An ‘insurgent’ – someone who isn’t content to let sleeping dogs lie. For Tris (and author I suspect) it was, is, a journey of becoming; not who the world says or thinks she ought to be (and therefore has a pre-qualified social obligations to act according to the society in which she finds herself in) but rather, the Tris who is and has yet to become.
But like all born again experiences, Roth uses her heroine to illustrate what all newly formed beings must learn; in order to live we must be willing to die – either to society, or family or friends or even, and more importantly, to the skewed imagination of our own making. Because as long as these nouns (people-places-and-or-things) hold the guy wires to our identity, we will never be free to fly.
On my readers scale of 1-5 stars, I’m promoting ‘Insurgent’ to 3.5, for a story better told, and Veronica Roth to a 4.00005, for an author who is, learning how to fly.