I had a moment about midway into reading this book where I looked up and remarked aloud (I wasn’t alone in the room, not that that would have stopped me) that all authors steal, you know? They all have and they all do, and the difference between my noticing Veronica Roth “stealing” where I generally haven’t often noticed other authors before is that probably I’m just not as well read in their influences, predecessors, competitors, what have you.
It’s weird and feels wrong to admit, but I like dystopian fiction. I only say that it’s weird and feels wrong because I don’t particularly want to like it, as the idea of a dystopian future has haunted my nightmares since I was forced to watch the movie The Road two years ago. It was an awful experience, I was terrified and disgusted. However, I have to admit I like it because I’ve read so much of it. Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, The Hunger Games, The Host (yes, even Stephenie Meyer), Ender’s Game, Margaret Petersen Haddix’s Among the Hidden. To name a few.
Throughout Roth’s attempt to amalgamate these elements and visuals I was forcibly reminded of elements of all of these other works. It made me feel both kind of bored and also ridiculously well-read in this genre. But let’s focus on the boredom.
I couldn’t care too much about Tris because it became clear very early that our tiny, non-pretty, speshul snowflake wasn’t really going to come to harm. I liked her, but I’ve read book after book about small white blonde girls against the world, and it’s really tired. I only say this having read all of Tamora Pierce’s Alanna novels, plus other short authors like Laurell K. Hamilton (who I manage to mention in every. single. review. How??? I’m obsessed, clearly). We get it. Fighting people bigger than you is hard and takes more work. Geez. I should write a book where the protagonist faces the perils of bumping her head, can’t ever find long enough pants, tall enough dates, and consistently knocks things over in close quarters. Because normal to tall people seem to be an underrepresented minority in fiction. Or maybe I’m just being silly. Who knows.
But let’s not get me started about the feasibility of the entire plot. Getting through this novel required a huge suspension of not only disbelief, but also, you know, reality. Physics. Psychology. You know. Stuff.
It’s just so unlikely that the response to world disorder is a big ol’ personality quiz segregation. I mean, people are stupid, but it just doesn’t stand up to logic. Virtue ethics are great measures of character, but they don’t dictate behavior the way Roth designed the society to work.
All in all it just didn’t live up to the hype. Roth is a great writer, but I’ll hold out until a different series/novel appears to give her another go.