Divergent, Katherine Tegen Books, & Contemporary Novels

divergentI recently finished Divergent by Veronica Roth, and I. Loved. It.

The book is set in post-apocalyptic Chicago, where the city is divided into five factions, each based on what they most value.  Abnegation values selflessness; Erudite values knowledge; Amity values friendship; Candor values truth.

And Dauntless?  It values fearlessness, bravery, courage.

Beatrice Prior is sixteen, so it’s time for her to choose a faction.  Should she stay in Abnegation, where she was born and raised, or should she leave her faction for a new one?  Her choice changes her life.

As many of you know, dystopians are not typically my first choice to read, which is why it took me so long to pick this one up (I bought it about a year ago!), but I shouldn’t have waited.  It was delicious.  The characters are fabulous, the world-building is incredible, and action is non-stop.  And it’s safe to say that Four, the love interest, will be pushing others further down on my Literary Boyfriends List.

One thing that is super exciting to me is that the Divergent series is published by Katherine Tegen Books, my new publisher!  I feel incredibly blessed and humbled to be invited into the publishing family that published Divergent!  Every once in a while it will hit me that the same people who gave this incredible book its wings into the world are doing the same for Truest.

What I loved the most about Divergent are the characters themselves, the relationships between characters, and the ideas and concepts that it helps you to process.  It’s almost always this way for me.  I value characters, relationships, and ideas more than world-building, action, adventure, setting, etc.  I think that’s why I’m drawn to writing contemporary, realistic novels– because they allow me to focus on the former more than on the latter.  (Don’t misunderstand me: setting and plot are still terrifically important!  But characters are always first in my book.)

I feel that I’m not explaining myself well (maybe because I’m writing this near midnight).  To be clear, I loved Divergent.  Veronica Roth did an amazing job.  What I’m saying is that she made me fall in love with her characters, and once that happens, the rest is (nearly) moot to me.  I love Tris and Four, and so Roth could make them do almost anything, and I’d be invested.  In other words, their story (for me) wouldn’t have to be about factions in post-apocalyptic Chicago.  I feel the same way about Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys.  I am in love with Blue, Gansey, Ronan, Adam, Noah, and the rest– and so the book wouldn’t even have to be about awakening a Welsh king or a family of psychics.  I mean this as a tremendous compliment.  I only hope that one day people love my characters this way.

I often think that this disproportionate love I have for characters over action is what has made me so at home with contemporary novels.  (Along with my sorry lack of world-building skills!)  Heaven knows I love magic and fantasy as much as (read: more than) the rest of the world, but I do think that there is tremendous magic in daily life: dynamic discussions, building one’s worldview like a tenuous fort, falling in love slowly and deeply, watching fireworks from a rooftop patio, talking about words in a field of wind turbines that skulk like monsters.  These things become fantastic if they are spent with characters who are beloved.

I hope this post makes sense.  To summarize: I am besotted with Divergent and wish I wrote it; I am in love with Four; I value characters more than anything else in a story, and I think that’s why I write contemporaries.

Edit: Since I originally wrote this post, I finished the whole series, including Insurgent and Allegiant.  At the time of writing this, I just finished Allegiant about five minutes ago.  I’m grappling with a lot of things right now and loving that literature presses us to do that.  So powerful.