Friday, August 3, 2012

The Trouble with Young Adult Literature: Divergent Book Review

This past winter I read The Hunger Games trilogy and truly enjoyed it.  I think I devoured (LOL) the series in less than a week. I read them in the process of our move, so I'm fairly certain I did not have the time to write a review, but they were a fun read and I'm looking forward to seeing the first movie on DVD in the very near future.

I've been reading more classic literature this summer, especially short stories by Elizabeth Gaskell.  If you haven't read anything of hers, you should.  She is a little known gem of an author.

My sister recommended a new dystopian series by Veronica Ross.  It's a not yet completed trilogy set in future Chicago.  I must say, I did enjoy the first two books (Divergent and Insurgent) immensely.

The heroine of the series, Beatrice is about to choose her destiny in a very ordered society.  Chicago has formed a community based on five factions in an attempt at preventing the natural inclination of humanity toward dysfunction and eventual conflict.  The five factions exist independently but are dependent upon each other for certain functions.  Beatrice has been raised as an "Abnegation", a faction focused on service above self, and she has never felt she has belonged.

In her sixteenth year she, as well as all other sixteen year olds, will take an aptitude test that will indicate which faction she would most likely fit in with: sacrificial "Abnegation", fearless "Dauntless", truth seeking "Candor", peace-loving "Amity" or knowledge driven "Erudite".  Regardless of the aptitude results, every sixteen year old is free to choose any faction he or she desires, but that choice is final.

During Beatrice's aptitude test something goes seriously wrong and her results are perplexing, leaving her with little direction.  Her faction choice shocks and dismays many, and she is thrown into a dangerous adventure fraught with more questions than answers.

The two finished books of the trilogy are very well written, fast paced, and exciting.  They are geared toward young adult readers and so they are a quick and easy read.  Even so, Veronica Ross did not shy away from asking big questions: Do we have a destiny?; What does it mean to be human?; What is true courage?; How far can one go to protect the ones they love?; How do we truly serve our fellow man?

Unfortunately, like too many other novels geared toward the young adult, the romance aspect of the trilogy is too intense and in the end unchaste.  Sexual relationships are far too casual and engaged in without any moral discussion or implications.  While such relationships are "off camera" so to speak, they are absolutely implied, and I found that to be extremely disappointing.

The trouble with young adult literature (like the Twilight Series and even The Hunger Games) is that it really isn't geared toward a true young adult market.  Too often it is mistakenly skewed toward the tween and teen market.  This is a real problem.  Most tweens and younger teens are not completely equipped with the tools to discern and reject the behaviors or ideologies of the characters they read.  It is too easy to be sucked in by the romance of it all and miss the moral ramifications of what they are reading.  As such, I would recommend this series to much older teens and adults. Print Friendly and PDF

1 comment:

Party of Ten said...

Thanks for this review! I'm always looking for a new read or series for my Joz, who is turning 12. She devours books and I never know which ones are keepers or what to stay away from. BTW, love the pics of the kiddos on the sidebar. They are all beautiful but that one of Wingnut Jr. is fantastic!!