Dipping into Young Adult — Divergent

Divergent has not been on my TBR list. In fact, I fully intended to never read it. Why? Because when I read the description and some reviews, the basic premise seemed just as ludicrous as the premise of Hunger Games. I did read Hunger Games a couple of years ago, out of curiosity, but that curiosity was more than satisfied with the first volume. So when Divergent came along, it was a big unh uh for me.

But when I had the chance to buy it for a measly dime a few weeks ago, I thought I might as well give it a try. It’s still ludicrous, and I still have little sympathy (if that’s the right word) with the trend (if it’s still a trend) of pumping ordinary kids up into unbelievable heroes in order to make teens and young adults feel good. So it’s a girl. Yay! And she soldiers on with a bullet in her shoulder. Yay! But this kind of book isn’t about realism, so that’s just my take.

However… I’m glad I read it. Since the action, at least, is somewhat closer to reality than Hunger Games, and it’s well-written, for the most part, it gave me some insights about the development of A Well-Educated Boy. For one, it reminded me that my writing is still too barebones, and that Boy is likely to suffer from that fault. Almost any book will benefit by a richly described world, and deep diving into the main character’s inner life, but I think young adult science fiction really demands it. Until very recently, I wasn’t even thinking about Boy as young adult, so there’s that transition to get through.

Another insight is about titles. While I love A Well-Educated Boy, and it conveys the theme of the plot, it’s meant to be ironic, which isn’t apparent until you’re well into the novel. Plus, doubt that most younger readers will even catch it. Even worse, it sounds like the title of an essay on education. Not exactly a hook for curious minds. So, from now until the book is actually finished, I’ll be tossing around more catchy titles. At the moment, a better one seems like an impossibility, but maybe that’s because I’ve lived with this one for so long that it’s embedded in my brain.

8 thoughts on “Dipping into Young Adult — Divergent

  1. Titles are so hard. Unless they come to the writer before the book’s even begun, I think it’s not easy to find a good one. And these days, the search engines make it difficult to use abstract, interesting ones like The Sound of One Hand Clapping. (Incidentally, I read the book and still couldn’t see the relevance.) Richard Flanagan was so famous in Australia by the time he wrote that, he didn’t have to worry, his name would do the work. But for ordinary mortals, trying to find a good title that also has good SEO remains a pain in the butt.

    1. This title came to me before I even started writing the darn thing, so it’s really ground its way into my consciousness. When it comes to titles, I don’t even think about SEO, because that’s just too limiting. My main concern is not using a title that being used a lot — unique if possible, is best. Kind of doubt my name will ever be sufficient.

        1. Vikram Seth is the author. But that one, I understand, is literary fiction. Entirely different audience. If I can’t come up with a catchier title that still gives a sense of the novel, I’ll keep it. But this goes back to one of our discussions about the difference between what we personally like about our title or cover, and what’s suitable if you actually want to sell books. I hate that we have to think in those terms, but it can’t be helped.

  2. For me, the cover is almost moot. I always go for a catchy title and blurb – if you can’t get me with those few lines, you have no chance. I have read some brilliant books with awful covers (just have to think back to my childhood). The challenge now is in competing with all the flash covers out there which draw the eye away from your book. [sigh]

  3. In general, the title is what catches me first, with the cover sometimes boosting its interest. But sometimes not. And then the blurb ruins it all, more often than not.

  4. I found The Hunger Games – first movie – so improbable that I never watched more, and didn’t read any.

    But I also thought The Handmaid’s Tale improbable – and still love it, and get dragged in every time I try to analyze how it works. And now it seems so less improbable due to recent election results.

    For me, the writing HAS to do it. Improbable MUST be extremely well-written to suck you in before you realize what’s going on. This takes space and quality – I have writing books which make that precise point: it takes more words and more care to make the improbable and implausible remotely possible. I do this myself: when you get to the eventual end to my PC trilogy (yeah, I’m trying to write), you wil have let slip by a couple of unlikely events (possible, just highly unlikely) – but will have to look hard at how you got there to see the trick, if you want to.

    YA seems to give people some excuse not to write as well; to me, the Harry Potters are in that category, and I couldn’t read them (anyone who knows about ‘failure to thrive’ in real infants won’t make it through the description of the Aunt, Uncle, and cousin in the first volume. I didn’t. I kept saying, “Oh-COME on!”

    That audience may not be as sophisticated – or as jaded – as I am.

    Proceed as you like.

    1. Yes, why we can enjoy one highly improbable story, but not another depends on how well they’re written. Certainly applies to the Handmaid’s Tale. Does it draw you in and slow down the logical critical faculties? Hunger Games had too many Oh-COME-ons for me. The premise of Divergent was terrible, but the development was sufficiently well-done to keep me reading.

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