Hello everyone! Last week, I recommended some books for specific genres, in my discussion of my opinions of the problems of YA – or young adult, if you’re new around here – literature. This week, I’m discussing my review and comparison between two books of the same genre.
To start with, let’s talk about a commonly loved, hated, and love-to-hate genre in young adult fiction – dystopia. While there are countless contemporary and romance-related dystopian fiction books floating on the market, some of the classics include the Divergent series by Veronica Roth and the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.
The synopsis of the first book of Collins’ series reads: Could you survive on your own in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don’t live to see the morning?
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weight survival against humanity and life against love.”
The synopsis of the first book in Roth’s series reads: “In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue — Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is — she can’t have both. So, she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are — and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves … or it might destroy her.”
Both seem similar at first glance – a young girl from a downtrodden division of politics, society, and the economy, is thrust into a position of power and must lead a rebellion against an oppressive system – in Divergent, a genetic experiment, and in the case of the Hunger Games, it is the government. Both are set in America, with a bit surprisingly, no regard or mention of what is going on in the rest of the world.
But there are several differences. While Divergent borders on a futuristic, bleak outlook and combines elements of science fiction and technology, Hunger Games sticks to a “true” version of dystopia and dark future.
The thing that for me, places the Hunger Games on a higher platform than Divergent is that Katniss’ motivation is much, much greater than Tris’. And if you’ve read my pieces on my opinions on the problems of YA, you would know that I’m not a huge fan of the ‘chosen one’ trope. Tris Prior, plays into this trope, being seventy per-cent Divergent, and one of the only people who can open a certain box that contains a huge ancient secret. However, Katniss never had any real desire in being a part of the Games or the corrupt government of their world, and her sole motivation for volunteering is to save her young sister, Primrose, from being sent into the arena.
Another huge difference in the two series’ is that in the Hunger Games, there’s more build-up to the rebellion and eventual revolution, with history to fall back on. Hunger Games takes into account the perspective of people similar to Katniss, who may have become hardened and morally grey due to the way they have to survive, and seeing the people from ground-level up helps it make a much larger, much more powerful political statement.
The rebellion and ‘breaking-free’ seen in Divergent is much more spontaneous and suddenly brought about towards the middle of the second book. However, Divergent does a better job of capturing what happens with those left in limbo, and the chaos that ensues in between unstable politics and governments, through the sudden leader that is Evelyn, and the role of the factionless.
However, Divergent seems more elitist, in some respects, in the fact that the five factions perform only white-collar jobs. The factionless, in the first book, are portrayed as the undesirable, yet they form a large part of blue-collar workforce and labour- construction workers, bus drivers and more, as Tris describes them.
Overall, while the Hunger Games explores a more complex and intricate future, Divergent delves into the human perspective and psychology, and emphasises such with what I feel are superior characters. As a reader, I found that Tris, Four, Christina, Caleb- and all the characters of Divergent were incredibly realistic, layered, and whole characters.
That’s it for this week! Next week, I’ll be comparing a different pair of content of the same genre, so stay tuned! Signing off.
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