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Book Rant - Divergent Series

I just finished reading the Divergent trilogy. This entry isn't so much a review of the series as a rant. This is one of the only series I've ever read where I'm going to actively discourage others from reading it, and I've read Dan Brown and parts of the Left Behind series (LB 1, LB 2, and TF) , so that's saying something. In fact, the only reason I'm including the Amazon link to the right is so that readers here can go see reviews on Amazon, not to encourage anyone to buy the book.

Warning: Spoilers ahead

Of course, if you've read the books yourself, or read any articles about the books, you'll probably know that the ending was not very popular with fans. And I'll admit, I wasn't particularly happy with it myself (there's enough sad news in reality, I don't need it in the book equivalent of an action movie). But it's not just the final few chapters that made the series a disappointment. The entire last book seemed out of character with the first two. My daughter had to struggle to get through the final book, and my wife just eventually gave up and let my daughter and me tell her how it ended. The big reveal on why people were living in the faction systems was a bit of a let down, and not very plausible scientifically. Tobias ceased to be the badass he'd been all along. The resolution of the war between the Allegiant and factionless was anticlimatic. And then the controversial ending itself seemed contrived and forced, without really seeming to add much to the story. I could go on with the shortcomings, but instead I'll just recommend a review on Amazon by someone named Penny, Why Allegiant is one of the worst books I've ever read (I just found a link to a longer review by Penny on Blogger, Breaking down the ending to Allegiant).

After doing a little looking around online, I came across an interview with Roth herself, on the site SugarScape, Author Veronica Roth on the Allegiant shock twist: 'It was always part of the plan, but it was hard to do'. Despite the headline of the article, the ending wasn't always part of Roth's plan. Just read this portion of the interview.

Well, I wrote Divergent totally blind without any planning so I didn't plan it from the very first page that it would even be a trilogy because I didn't know what the book would be. But after I wrote the first draft of Divergent and when the book sold I do remember talking to my editor about how I wanted the rest of them to go because the publisher said, 'You know, do you have other books planned?" I said, 'This is how I'm thinking of ending it," and she said 'Don't tell anyone about that!'

That was her reaction. So it was definitely a part of the plan although I wasn't sure if I would stick to it because I try not to stick so closely to my outlines that I have sacrifice the story. But then I was inching closer and closer to the end I was like this is the right option, this is the only option.

And a bit later in the interview, regarding a question on the meaning of 'divergent', she again revealed her lack of planning.

I just fell on it really. I was writing the Outside World and it just kind of appeared out of nowhere. What I really found appealing was throughout the whole series I was trying to figure out what Divergence really is, just like everybody else. By the time I got to the 3rd book I didn't really like that I had elevated Tris as being like this special one so I was like, 'Wouldn't it be cool if Divergence really isn't anything?' Like, if it was just what people believe it is and people put this importance into this thing that doesn't really exist, because I think people would do that.

Two books in, and she still didn't know what one of the central themes of the books was about!

This lack of planning is very apparent in hindsight. So much of the third book just doesn't seem to fit with the first two, but that now makes sense. Roth never knew where she wanted to take the stories, and had to fit an ending into a trilogy format, even if it meant abandoning the earlier plot and instituting a multitude of 'retcons'.

I know different authors have different levels of planning when it comes to writing stories. J.R.R. Tolkien created new languages and an entire mythology. J.K. Rowling had backstories and the entire plot planned out enough to guide moviemakers for Harry Potter. At the very least, you expect authors to have an idea of the overall plot and major themes of their books. To find out that Roth had been winging it the entire time leaves me feeling cheated. It certainly doesn't seem like a very professional way of writing.

Oh well, at least I learned one lesson - don't read any more series written by Veronica Roth.

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