Guilty pleasures

Chances are, even occasional viewers of our weekly Pick on know that I have some strong feelings about dystopias. Namely, that a lot of so-called dystopian fiction for teens utterly fails in its justification of why it is dystopic to begin with. (See my rants here and here, for example.) While other readers devour Suzanne Collins and Ally Condie the way I do homemade baked goods, I roll my eyes over the faux-seriousness of these stories and move on, as quickly as possible, to more enjoyable reads.

Except in the case of Divergent.

To be clear, Divergent had all the typical failings of the dystopian literature I’ve come to loathe. The post-apocalyptic society’s “factions” (the five groups into which all members of society must divide themselves) made no sense. Nor did the rules and customs of those factions—such as the fact that the members of “Candor” wear black and white because, you know, “their faction values honesty and sees the truth as black and white, so that is what they wear.” PLEASE.

So then why, you might be wondering, did I get sucked into this story, pausing only to realize that four hours had passed, I had seven missed calls, eleven new text messages, and that it was 8pm and I still hadn’t eaten dinner yet.

Why indeed. Divergent is not great literature. It has no profound lessons to teach, though it tries hard to make you believe that it does. Wait: People aren’t just who they appear to be on the surface? Like, a goth might not just be some angsty scary person? And a cheerleader might have something going on beneath the surface? Might we each be way more than anyone else’s slender set of superficial assumptions about us??


Yeah, so no revelations here, and yet, as a wish fulfillment story, Divergent offers a frighteningly readable, even compelling, narrative about a female warrior who has the kind of strength (and, let’s face it, body) that every girl probably wishes she had.

I’ll even give Divergent this: Tris, the main character, did have an emotional journey of sorts. Yes, she was AWESOME in the beginning and yes, she was still AWESOME in the end. But in the middle, she had some lessons to learn about how to navigate human relationships (and her own awesomeness) that I did feel rang true.

And she and a hot guy fell in love (of course). So there’s that.

Don’t read this book if you’re looking for great writing or major life lessons. And especially don’t read it for the dystopia. But if you need a guilty pleasure read for the summer—the kind that’ll make you feel like a kid again, reading under the covers with a flashlight because you just. can’t. stop.—Divergent is a strangely appropriate choice. Especially for anyone who loves imagining themselves as a female ninja.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go read the sequel.