My teenage daughter recently gave me a precious gift through her sneakiness.
I looked at Divergent by Veronica Roth when it came out on local shelves. For whatever reason, I read the description about how choices can define you, and I assumed it was some kind of quantum physics alternate universe storyline, where maybe the main character could see the answer to “What if I turned left instead of right, what if I did X instead of Y” and so on. You know, two roads diverging in a yellow wood, and what if you could see the way both paths would lead?
It was on my list of possible future reads, until my daughter mentioned it. “Have you heard about Divergent? My friends say it’s awesome. And they’re making a movie of it soon!”
I checked out the trailer and discovered it’s not what I thought at all.
But it seemed like an interesting dystopian world, and it piqued my interest. I bought the book shortly afterward.
It disappeared from the living room shelves, and I knew where it probably went. “Have you seen my copy of Divergent, sweetie?”
“Oh. Uhh… yeah. It’s in my room. I read it.”
This conversation has happened before.
“Also, Daddy, can we go get Insurgent sometime? And you should take the quiz to see which faction you’d belong to. I’m Dauntless.”
Being the concerned parent that I am, I committed to finding out exactly what my daughter was reading. So I grabbed the book and gave it some of my attention.
Which quickly became completely consumed attention.
First, it’s in Chicago, so that calls home to mind. Second, it explores some issues of morality and human interaction without becoming preachy. I enjoy that. Third, it is written in a fast-paced first person present-tense style, so it feels like I’m in the character’s head while everything is happening. Roth does well making sure the reader only knows what Tris knows, though that leads to some irritating moments. (“Why couldn’t she just spy on that conversation so that I could get the rest of it?”)
On top of all that, Roth provides insight into her thought process for the book, and her thoughts on dystopian settings. She explains she never set out to make a dystopia, but rather came to realize that the utopia she originally pictured might in fact be the next person’s vision of a hellish society. What one group may call the ideal, another group may call immoral, and vice versa.
Yes, it’s considered Young Adult fiction. I’m not sure if there’s a stigma associated with that. It certainly isn’t the deepest, most complex literature.
But it’s an entertaining story and consistent setting, with plenty of mysteries that tug at me. (“Why is everything destroyed? What happened to America in this world? How far in the future are we? What motivated this society to form the way they have?”)
I picked up Insurgent as soon as I finished the first book, and used it to taunt my daughter mercilessly. I finished it late one night when she was staying the night with her grandmother who had come to visit. So I thought to surprise her by leaving it on her bed, wrapped with a ribbon, as a little gift.
Because, after all, it’s her fault that I finally sat down to read the book. And it’s her fault that now we have something else in common, something we can talk about and share with each other.
It’s also her fault that on Tuesday when Allegiant comes out, I will be rushing to the store to pick up a copy.
For my daughter, of course.
But as a concerned parent, I’ll have to read it.
You know, to make sure it’s okay.