If you still haven't heard of Veronice Roth, don't worry, you will soon. The first of her YA Divergent trilogy will hit screens near you later this year.
As a child of the digital age, the first thing I did when I heard about her was hit Google. I learned a few enviable facts.
1. She's only 25
2. She wrote Divergent, the first novel in the trilogy, during summer break at uni
3. Movie rights was sold before she finished uni
I was a little too disheartened to carry on cyber-stalking after that. However, as she's touted as the hot new author to watch out for in one of my favourite genres; post-apocalyptic fiction, I naturally felt that I had no choice but to read the entire Divergent series.
Here's what I have to say: it's pretty good! The end! Kidding...
I enjoyed parts of the trilogy, which consists of Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant (in that order). They weren't particularly outstanding examples of the genre, but Roth was writing for a young adult audience, and I don't think she was aiming for it to break any new ground.
I will say - and warning, kinda spoilerish - that there are a few surprising twists in it, but overall, it conforms to the romantic YA sci-fi genre, in which a love story forms, there is a sort-of triangle, a feisty heroine and a strong, dark and handsome hero who has to navigate the muddy waters of late teen-dom while trying to survive. Literally.
There is one complaint I will make: I'm a little sick of YA novels holding back on the sex. I am not talking about inserting graphic sex scenes or thinly veiled soft porn here. Most teens can get that kind of stuff from Mills & Boon if they so wish. But having the main angst of the relationship be this kind of broiling, unconsummated, hormonal stewpot is a formulaic. It also feels unrealistic.
Two teens who are super hot for each other on the run from the authorities, facing the danger of death at every turn, and they hold off on having sex because...? It sure isn't from the lack of birth control. After all, condoms have been around since the 1600's or so, when they were made of such wonderful material as sheepskin (eww).
I'll rehash the plot very briefly here, as I never think that's the point of reviews. In a nutshell, the society of the future has been divided into 5 key factions. Upon coming of age, children can choose to remain in the faction to which they were born, or renege and join another. Those who do so are usually shunned by their former factions. Tris, the heroine of the novel, abandons old for new and that's where she meets the mysterious Four.
I do think Roth does well on a few points. Her writing is easy to read without being condescending (very important for YA). She keeps the plot trotting along at a good pace, and mixes up moments of real pathos with enough action and humour to keep the story from dragging.
Read this one before it hits the theatres. And if you're keen to, you can watch the trailer for the movie here. I'm glad they've chosen an older actor to play Four, because it means I can perve to my heart's content without feeling any sense of guilt!
Who just died on The Simpsons? (spoiler)