What I’m Reading: Divergent by Veronica Roth

I actually sat down and rented the movie Divergent, starting Shailene Woodley (the star of the TV show The Secret Life of the American Teenager). I was pleasantly surprised, and it made me dig the book (written by Veronica Roth) out of the vast repository that is my Kindle library, and re-read it.


Divergent is set in a dystopian society, where people are divided into factions based on certain principles they deem important. The factions are Amity (caring), Erudite (knowledge), Dauntless (courage and bravery), Abnegation (selflessness), and Candor (honesty). In theory, all of these factions ensure a world where everyone has a place, and thus no need to start wars. When a child turns sixteen, they can choose which faction they wish to belong to in a formal ceremony: this means they can stay in the faction into which they were born, or they can go to another. Going to another faction is usually seen as an act of betrayal by one’s birth faction, and the phrase “faction before blood” ensures that those birth ties are all but severed if one goes to another faction. The main premise of the story is a girl Beatrice (“Tris”), who is born into the Abnegation faction, but has issues with the selflessness of the society. Plus, she’s always had a secret admiration for the Dauntless. When she undergoes testing to determine which faction is best suited to her personality, it is discovered that Tris is DIvergent: she can fit in more than one faction, and it’s basically her choice. Divergents are hunted and killed because they are deemed dangerous to society: if one can’t be placed into a categorical box, then one can’t be controlled, and that’s dangerous. The book chronicles Beatrice’s transformation to Tris when she transfers to the Dauntless faction during her ceremony, and how she survives the faction initiation while hiding the fact that she is Divergent (the woman who administered her test, and Tris’s mother, both warn her that people will try to kill her if they know she is Divergent). She also comes to realize that Dauntless used to be structured in a more harmonious way, but recent interference by someone in another faction has transformed Dauntless into a warmongering bloodbath of a faction, a fact underscored by the reluctant but true leader of Dauntless, Four (who was once in Abnegation as well).

While this is a young adult book in the manner of Twilight (but minus all of the annoying teenage angst and vampires), it’s an interesting discourse on societal workings and how our society trains people to be one of the crowd–and how those who are different are treated. It’s a nice read, and a nice respite from all the drama going on in the news. Check it out for yourself.


Thanks for stopping by.

The Bandwagon Syndrome (or, what NOT to write)

A friend forwarded me this link about humorous writing advice from The Worst Muse. After chuckling over the truthful absurdity of it, I was a bit sad because this is but an inkling of how our literary world functions.

Admit it: how many times have you seen a popular book spawn a lot of not-so-popular copycats? One need look no further than the Twilight series (vampires amok!), The DaVinci Code, and the Harry Potter series to identify the plethora of wannabes in their wake. Or even TV shows doing the same (zombie stories in a post-apocalyptic society are the new black, thanks to The Walking Dead). Kinda like the misfit kids in high school, who tried their best to be one of the cool kids.

It goes beyond plot devices (teenage vampires with lots of angst, search for historical /mythical relics, normal kid realizing s/he was actually a magician, race to save the world/town/country from imminent destruction), but is more widespread in characterization. If you go to BookBub, Choosy Bookworm, or even the free e-book sections of Amazon and Barnes and Noble, you will find many books with detectives (preferably broke-down, retired, or otherwise seeking redemption), FBI/CIA/undercover spy/agent, ex-military, attorneys. Or accidental sleuths such as housewives, new mothers, fashionistas, chefs, caterers, and the like.

I know there’s nothing new under the sun, but DAYUM. :/

At first, I blamed the mainstream publishing industry. Its corporate business model is predicated on the replication of a successful book, in any iteration, until it is no longer successful. Kinda like how a virus replicates until it outgrows its breeding ground and is forced to seek a new one; lather, rinse, repeat.  But I see a lot of the aforementioned among self-published authors, as well.

They should have never given folks the ability to copy/paste. Or, for that matter, computers, increased technology, and the greater ease of self-publishing. There was a lot less of this blatant copycatting when books were actually written on typewriters, or by hand.

It’s one thing to take a popular theme and put your own spin on it. It’s a whole ‘nother story (no pun intended) to write something very similar to what’s already out there (and likely glutting the market). It’s as if people are taking the copy/paste function way beyond where it was intended to go. It’s easy to fool oneself into thinking that if one element is changed, then the story is different (e.g,, instead of a mad race with a male university professor to find a historical artifact through Italy, a la The DaVinci Code, there’s a mad race to find a historical artifact through Egypt, with a female archaeologist.).

No. Just…no.

Reminds me of the end-of-movie scene in The Five Heartbeats, where the brothers tell Eddie King that they are starting their own label ( “…instead of Motown, we’ll be…Frotown!”) and they won’t just rap, but they’ll “…rap Country and Western!”. Meanwhile, they wore Run-DMC-type, 1980s  outfits of thick, gold rope chains, Kangol floppy hats, and adidas tracksuits.  (I wish I could find the scene clip on YouTube, but alas…)

I say all this to say: originality still rules at the end of the day, so embrace it.

Thanks for stopping by.