So there are only a handful of books I truly love, and for some reason, Divergent is one of them. Made me think about why.
- It's a book that does not flinch, but does not flaunt. For some reason, a lot of fiction nowadays glories in its atrocities. It's graphic, it's violent, it gorges our senses and desensitizes us to the horror it's portraying. There's a word for this: gratuitous. A scene is far more chilling for what it doesn't say, rather than what it does. I want to understand clearly and readily the depths of what is going on, even if that understanding is truly terrible, but I don't want to be stuck with images in my mind I can never unsee. I don't want to be traumatized by a book. Fear is not healthy. Fear is not a tool to wield on oneself.
- It's a book with iceberg worldbuilding. The book is internally consistent and evokes far more detail than it had time or willingness to explore. I want to live in a setting when I'm reading a book, and Divergent does that for me.
- It's a book with powerful characters. Not only do I love them, they make sense. They are painted as whole beings on the page, even the small roles, such as Tris' mother whose name is only mentioned once. There is nuance and depth and room to grasp the character without much telling involved. Four's main appeal I think is that when he lets Tris in, he lets us in. We never see the world through his eyes, so he is as much a mystery to us as another person could ever be. What we see of him, he chooses to show us.
- It's a book that does not characterize harshness, cruelty, or killing as noble, good, or desirable, though the last is occasionally necessary and probably will become more so. Tris calls her own descent into cruelty a weakness. I want a book that calls good 'good' and evil 'evil.' It is rare that I read a new book any more that does.