This post was written by Guest Contributor Rhydnara
I read Divergent when I was in a really weird place in my life. At the time, I was in a serious relationship in which I was crazy in love, but he wasn’t. I knew I had to break it off, but couldn’t bring myself to make the move. The romantic arc in Divergent was cheesy, but it reminded me of what I really wanted and wasn’t getting out of my relationship. Finally, I worked up the nerve and broke up with the guy. Afterward, I read both Insurgent and Allegiant (that should be Convergent). That’s when the shit hit the fan.
See, I thought Divergent was really good. Really, really good. I was so caught up in how great I thought it was that I thought Insurgent was decent (it’s not). Unfortunately, the utter terribleness of Allegiant (that should be Convergent) finally snapped me out of my reverie. Allegiant wasn’t just bad – It was so bad that it forced me to reexamine the previous two books, and that’s when I realized something awful.
I had been fooled.
I had made a major decision in my life based on cheesy, terrible, teenage sci-fi.
It’s not like I was new to the genre, or unprepared for what it might bring. I’ve read The Hunger Games, I know not to expect much from this kind of novel. Both Hunger Games and Divergent are great if you need a break from the mature stuff like Lord of the Rings or A Song of Ice and Fire. However, before I read Allegiant (that should be Convergent), I actually thought Divergent transcended the genre; I thought it covered mature topics like love and identity.
Regardless, I was still kind of excited for the Divergent movie. The Hunger Games translated well to the big screen, so I figured Divergent would also translate easily. Although the movie succeeded at that, seeing trailers for Insurgent have served to remind me of the backlash from Allegiant (that should be Convergent). In order to spare you all that nasty shock, here’s everything wrong with the Divergent series. It doesn’t really matter if I differentiate between the books or movies here, because the last book is so terrible that there’s no way they can make a decent movie (or two, based on current trends) out of it without changing the entire plot. In other words, some of this crap isn’t going to end up in the movie anyway. And yes, this contains VERY LARGE SPOILERS.
1. The Title
Divergent isn’t just a title given to people like Tris; it’s also symbolic of the chaos that is inevitable with any political or social society, as seen in the first book. You can tell this story is setting up for some pretty big messes, so the title refers to the chaos as well as the actual Divergent people. Insurgent is a stupid title, but it’s the second book, and we all know the second in a trilogy is usually the worst (save Mass Effect 2, which was awesome). The last book should wrap up all of the chaos introduced in the first and second. After all, it’s the end, the conclusion, the “everything should make sense now.” And what’s the opposite of Divergent? Of chaos? Convergent. Order.
Veronica Roth, the author, said that Allegiant was the first title she thought of, and knew right away it was the best. Really, Veronica? It took me three seconds to think of a better title. However, that’s not the only thing that makes the title Allegiant stupid. Allegiant refers to The Allegiant, a group of people living in the city who want things to go back to the old way with factions. Unfortunately, it’s obvious that they can’t go back to the old way. Not only that, but The Allegiant play a tiny part in the entire story in the book. Most of the story takes place OUTSIDE the city, featuring very little contact with The Allegiant – yet she named an entire book after them? It’s ridiculous. Convergent makes a lot more sense, and it sounds better.
2. Tobias is Kind of a Dick
This wasn’t even something I noticed until I reread Divergent, but Tobias is pretty terrible to Tris. Any time she tries to walk away, he physically grabs her by the arm. He’s dominating without any consent, and demands a lot from her. In Insurgent, he presses her too hard over why she’s being reckless, without realizing that HER MOTHER JUST DIED.
He doesn’t recognize that she’s in serious shock, and instead acts like a kicked puppy because she won’t admit to him what she’s feeling. Their romance was the entire reason I got sucked into this series, and I only realized later just how horrible it is. I’m terrified to think of all the people who were similarly dragged into Fifty Shades of Grey without realizing it was full of rape (ignoring safe words and getting a woman drunk equals serious rape).
Look, I get that both of them are pretty sexually repressed after growing up in Abnegation, but Tobias seriously needs to see a shrink before he accidentally beats Tris bloody.
3. Undoing the Entire Point of the Second Book
The second book ends with an announcement from a dead woman that the city and factions were all set up to help the outside, and the outside needs the city’s help. People died for that message – Tris risked everything she had worked for to get that message out. Regardless, the third book explains (in a paragraph or so) that the dead woman was actually being melodramatic.
Yes, the city was set up to produce more divergent people, but it’s an experiment that has largely fallen by the wayside and has basically failed everywhere but Chicago. In other words, we read through Insurgent, Tris and company went through all of that drama, and it was all for nothing? That’s just crappy writing.
4. Undoing One of the Main Points of the First Book
Turns out, that thing that makes Tris and Tobias so good together? The thing that brought them together in the first place? Also not true. Tobias isn’t actually divergent. He’s not special, and Tris doesn’t actually have a lover that understands what she’s going through. Not only does Veronica undo all of those plot points in Divergent, she also unsexies Tobias.
Tobias is supposed to be this strong, handsome, smart, mysterious guy who happens to harbor a deep secret. Mystery tends to be pretty sexy. But nope! He’s actually just like everyone else. It’s ok for a sex symbol to have flaws, but to introduce a piece of sexiness and then remove it? That’s just dumb.
5. Crappy Science
I understand that most readers of these books aren’t scientists, didn’t enjoy science class in school, et cetera. I get it. However, if you’re going to write about genetics, you need to do more than read the Wikipedia entry for five minutes. It’s pretty obvious Ms. Roth barely passed high school biology, and that’s fine, but if that’s the case then just don’t write about it!
I understand that it’s science fiction and it doesn’t have to be entirely accurate, but it’s SCIENCE fiction; it has to be somewhere along the lines of legitimately possible. Isaac Asimov had a PhD in biochemistry. When he started talking about science, it was obvious he knew what he was talking about. Science fiction should be able to convince someone who only has a sprinkling of scientific background, and Allegiant (that should be Convergent) did not.
Apparently, in this universe, mankind discovered specific genes responsible for things like greed and fear. Upon discovery, they deleted the genes, which created a whole race of psychopathic humans. The factions were set up to encourage the production of ‘divergent’ people, those who had ‘pure’ genes. That trope may be used pretty often in science fiction, but that doesn’t make it a good trope.
It’s been stupid every time I’ve seen it pop up. Genetics do not work like that. It makes no sense at all, and it is incredibly obvious that Ms. Roth took a couple of sentences out of a biology textbook and wrote a book about it. However, that doesn’t excuse the lack of research. It’s not hard! Genes do special things, but not the special things mentioned in Allegiant (that should be Convergent), and the genetics play a BIG part in the book. It all presents as a childish, immature way of writing.
6. Crappy Writing to Go With Crappy Science
At one point in the book, someone with ‘damaged genes’ (nope) is attacking someone with ‘pure genes’ (again, no). The genetically pure person (seriously, I hate even writing this crap) yells out “I know you’re only doing this because of your genes!” That’s the kind of nonsense you hear in tasteless movies about racism in the 1950s. “I know you’re only doing this because you’re black!” or something like that.
It’s dumb. It sounds dumb. The genetically pure person yelling this is supposed to be a researcher working on these ‘damaged’ genes. Even if you can accept this terrible science, an expert in the field should not be that utterly stupid.
7. It Takes Away From the Problems in the City
This is something that Catching Fire and Mockingjay suffered from as well. The Hunger Games was set around the actual Games. When writing Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins tried to drag the story back to the Games, and in the third she just stopped caring and wrote some mixed jumble with reptile monsters. Divergent is set around the factions and the city, and so is Insurgent.
Allegiant (that should be Convergent) is some terrible amalgamation of nonsense (at least without the reptile monsters). If you’re going to write two books that center around a certain point, you need to stick with that point in the third. Otherwise, why make such a big deal of that point in the first place? The third book has almost nothing to do with the factions, which is another reason why the title Allegiant is so stupid.
8. Death Serum
It’s pointed out in the first book and confirmed in the second that Tris is so insanely divergent that serums don’t work on her. No one can come up with any formula that does work, which is handy when Tris has to go up against the death serum – and yep, she can survive that one, too.
Alright, death serum? That’s so ridiculous I can’t even think of a good comparison. Why not use, I don’t know, poison? I have a lovely list on my desk of various things that will kill you if inhaled. There’s no need to go through all of the trouble of developing a specialized serum that kills you. Just…use something that kills everyone.
This wasn’t a big deal, but it did annoy me. I’m not from Chicago. I don’t feel like pulling up a map and memorizing the city so I can understand all of the street references she makes, so for the author to describe it as if we’ve all been there? Nope. This is a long time in the future and the city is mostly destroyed. Don’t make it an existing city that only natives will know, make up a new one.
10. Tris Dies
Yes, I said there would be spoilers. Tris finally makes that sacrifice she’s been trying to make across two books. It’s not the death serum, it’s just her getting shot. Now, there’s an unspoken rule of fiction: The main character can’t die. Especially if they’re in a relationship. There are some authors that break this rule. For instance, George R.R. Martin seems to enjoy doing it. Finding a character that doesn’t die in A Song of Ice and Fire is actually difficult. Shakespeare does it, too. Do you know what those authors have in common? They’re good authors (actually, Shakespeare was the South Park of its day, but I digress).
Divergent and The Hunger Games don’t fall into the category of books that can get away with killing the main character. The Hunger Games follows this trope, as Katniss and Peeta both survive. So why did Roth think she could do it? It’s shocking, it doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t pack the emotional punch she probably meant it to have. It just leaves a bad taste in the reader’s mouth. It’s what finally snapped me out of the reverie I was feeling toward these books; what finally convinced me that it’s crap.
Such crap that I don’t even like to acknowledge this book as existing.
Look, I was really sad when Ned died (no I wasn’t, he killed Lady) and when Kal Drogo died, but I kept up with the series and realized their deaths were worth it. The books are good enough that their demise was acceptable. Unfortunately, Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant (that should be Convergent) aren’t.
I was still excited for the Divergent movie, but then I reread the books and realized just how terrible they were. I’m not looking forward to the Insurgent movie, and even if I do watch it, it’ll be because I have nothing else to do and love to complain about garbage. I’ll probably even waste time watching the two Allegiant (that should be Convergent) movies just so I can throw popcorn at the screen, but never again will I get sucked into the sticky miasma that is teenage sci fi.