But Wait! There’s More Future Dystopia!

*Update 10:28pm*

I have been corrected – there is no love triangle. 10 points for Griffindor!


I mentioned that publishing houses and movie studios are snorting up Young Adult Dystopian Fiction like Lindsay Lohan at an all-you-can-blow cocaine buffet.

And now Summit Entertainment – the tween-gasm peddlers of both Twilight & Hunger Games - is seeking a triple sweep by announcing the release date of a film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s Divergent.

Via CinemaBlend:

The film is set in a futuristic, dystopian Chicago where society has been divided into five factions based on virtue – Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). At the age of 16 all teenagers must choose which virtue they want to dedicate their lives to and the protagonist, Beatrice Prior, must decide if she wants to stay with her family or with the boy she’s fallen in love with.

The book is the first of a planned trilogy with the second book, Insurgent, having come out this past May selling 1.5 million copies.

I have never heard of Veronica Roth or Divergent, but I would also be the first in line for a Farenheit 451 book-burning of Young Adult Fiction, so my lack of knowledge doesn’t come as a surprise.

Apparently, Veronica Roth is only 25 years-old; I give her a virtual high-five for writing her way all the way to the bank. Because if you tell me that she “never wanted to become rich or famous”, you can throw yourself atop the aforementioned burning pyre.

And that’s where my kudos end because it is blatantly obvious that Divergent is a Hunger Games clone. Not that Veronica Roth purposely did so – she very well may have had the idea ever since she was a tadpole – but the similarities are a little difficult to ignore.

  • Separate factions that specialize in a certain industry
    • These factions were created to prevent war after it was war that destroyed most of America
    • The factions are altogether excommunicated from one another
  • A teenage girl with a cute little nickname – ‘Tris’
    • Entered into a faction where she is militarily trained and given a makeover
    • Has a “true love” and “another boy” love triangle
  • Limited world-building and explanation

Those are just a few examples worth a few minutes of searching the internet, but again, you can almost see how the story will begin and end; my money is on an uprising of factions or some type of “factionless” and then rainbows and flowers explode from the sky as ‘Tris’ ascends into the sky like a YA Jesus.

It makes me wonder if Divergent, and those of its faction (get it?!), are enjoying commercial success due to the wake created by The Hunger Games.

There is no doubt that literary agents and publishing houses are scooping up as many YA Dystopian novels as their “bring out yer dead” wagon will carry, but are readers engaging in the same type of behavior? Walking down the YA aisle and blindly knocking books into their shopping carts? Searching for anything that quietly, or bombastically, resembles The Hunger Games.?

Again, I have nothing but fist-pumps for Veronica Roth, but I find it fascinating that readers will continue to clamber for genre books that are, a lot of the times, nothing more than tweaked versions of previous entries.

The old adage “it’s not what story you tell, but how you tell it” couldn’t be anymore true in this situation.

5 thoughts on “But Wait! There’s More Future Dystopia!

  1. IntrovertedAnalyst

    Having actually seen an event with Veronica Roth (there’s a college connection…) she actually flat-out said that she lucked out finishing her book when she did, because she started sending it out right when the demand for this kind of fiction was rising. If nothing else, she did seem to have her head screwed on straight when it came to that aspect of her writing.
    Unfortunately that’s about all I can say for her. Having read the book- I feel like her making it YA really hurt it in terms of quality. She had some ideas that could have been really intriguing had she allowed herself more time to worldbuild and had she trusted her audience to have a more mature protagonist (though there is no love triangle, thank almighty God). The ideas she had for the factions are ones that I actually found rather interesting, and I found it especially intriguing that she seemed to be aware that that kind of society couldn’t last (it was falling apart after only a generation or so).
    But because the protagonist was yet another teenage girl with love problems, we never got to see much of why the world was the way it was or why the final third of the novel, where the plot actually showed up, would have fallen out the way it did. Overall it was just a giant mess of wasted potential, something that could have been really good if she’d just waited a few years and given the story some time to grow.

    1. G.P. Merwede Post author

      I’ve made note of your “no love triangle” comment, and I thank you for that. Again, I haven’t read the book and my internet gnomes have been known to get things wrong after a few whisky sours. But I digress.

      I have noticed in reading The Hunger Games and listening to friends who partake in many volumes of YA, that ideas and potential are wasted on the genre. Or perhaps they are wasted on the writer. Either way, the plot summaries of these books sound like epic tales of survival and love when read on the back cover, yet fall apart into mired and murky worlds with unrelatable and/or eye-rolling characters.

      Being that the book pushes 500 pages, I found it difficult to believe that she dropped the ball on world-building, but I feel that for the 400 pages of The Night Circus, I still don’t understand how any of the magic works, so it’s obviously possible.

      I admit that I have issues when trying to read YA. It’s not the prose or style, which is usually anywhere between simple to “why the hell did you write that?”, but the plot holes that I discover. With a short glance, I don’t understand how anyone could believe that war can be prevented by breaking people into factions – this is how most wars begin. Hell, look at the class war that is being debated in American politics.

      I’ve also just thought about the idea that it’s possible these books would never be published, or the authors picked up by agents, without a groundbreaking genre book to pave the way for them. And thus, the quality of writing suffers because it becomes a rat race to find the “next big thing”, or any variant of the “last big thing”.

      I also question why there always has to be a love story. I try to put myself in the characters’ situation, and the last thing on my mind while I am being hazed in a dystopian society would be love. That’s not to say that situations like war and despair cannot cause love or emotions to blossom, but these relationships are rarely done well. Authors usually state “…and they fell in love” and now we are to believe that they are. It’s lazy writing. Or amateur writing.

      And I agree that she was maybe too young to take on such a story. Especially since she has never before been published. It’s rare for authors younger than 30 to be successful, and Divergent may be an example of what could have been a much tighter story in the hands of a non-novice.

      1. IntrovertedAnalyst

        Not at all! And I find it really depressing that the lack of the love triangle is something so rare that we feel compelled to celebrate it. I really have a hard time understanding the appeal of that plot device. Even in my dark days as a Twilight fan, I remember getting annoyed when the whole Jacob/Edward split reared its ugly head.

        I have heard rumors in the case of The Hunger Games that the love triangle was emphasized at the request of the editor, but of course that’s well-nigh impossible to confirm. And that series- while I do like some aspects of it, it’s like you said, the potential just isn’t used. It’s pretty easy to make anything to sound like a great story in a blurb. I just wish that books that were actually good would get more publicity. There is good YA out there- the Inkheart series comes to mind- but most of what I’ve read that’s good involves good worldbuilding and characters that have distinct personalities, which I guess makes it harder for the potential audience to insert themselves. Or something.

        Maybe I should rephrase when I say she screwed up her worldbuilding- the world itself is pretty concrete and interesting, but I have a very hard time understanding how the world as we know it today got to that point. I think she might actually have been better served by setting it in another world entirely, or just making it some sort of allegory (though those are a lot harder to do well). I guess my thing was, I could see a fringe group or something trying this method of building a society, but as you pointed out, it doesn’t make much sense that they would try this as a solution to a war.

        I have to admit I like love stories, but in dystopias, they don’t really work unless there’s an element of bittersweetness or outright tragedy, like Winston and Julia in 1984. And I’ve yet to read a romantic subplot in YA that didn’t become a romantic plot tumor. Having written a love story (though it was admittedly fanfic) I have to say that a story solely devoted to two people falling in love is immensely difficult to write. If you’re going to combine that with another immensely complicated plot that by rights should be what the story’s about- I say cut the romance angle altogether. As you can guess, I’ve had a hard time finding fiction that does this.

        Hell yes, to the youth thing. I’m younger than her and trying to finish up my first novel, but I honestly don’t think that the final version will resemble any of what I’ve written now, and that’s assuming I don’t leave it altogether and go on to other better ideas. Your first work, especially when you’ve written it at a rather elite college in a bubble environment, is probably not going to be your best.

      2. G.P. Merwede Post author

        That a missing love triangle has become an anomaly is a testament to the fact that YA or certain genres have become cookie-cutter. And it’s most probably true that editors or literary agents “suggest” adding or beefing-up such an element – their mission is to sell books, not produce proper plot. The reasoning for such a device is to encompass as many demographics as possible; in this case, females. Publishing houses have discovered that 1/4 blood, 1/2 teenage angst and indecision, and 1/4 love will produce a hefty bagging of greenbacks.

        I’ve heard about the Inkheart series – and several others that are basically underground bands that readers get angry about when they “sell out” – and I have some article ideas where I’m going to touch upon these concepts. Sometimes the book didn’t come out during a good time for that genre – like you mentioned with Divergent – G.R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire comes to mind. It existed between the cracks for nearly 15 years before receiving commercial recognition.

        I think that many of these books are spurred forward by the lemming effect and how many marketing dollars the publisher decides to put behind it; essentially, manufacturing a bestseller. Supposedly, Hunger Games was passed around the Scholastic offices before it was launched and the company decided, to the best of its ability, to make it huge.

        In regards to the world-building, I should have been more specific in saying that – what I researched – the major issue with Divergent was an explanation of your exact point – how and why the hell did this happen? It boggles my mind that an author wouldn’t think to explain these things in the first book of a series. You could argue “you have to read the other books to understand”, but that’s just poor planning; don’t mention something in Book 1 and explain it in Book 2 or 3.

        The issue with YA using these dystopian settings and rather dark plots is that the writer cannot – or will not – take the plot to where it would elevate the entire book. They choose the safe road because, after all, this is still YA, and the good guys must win; if I wrote Harry Potter, I would have killed him at the end.

        There are dozens of story ideas in my writing folder, but when I return to them, more often than not, I understand that I am not mature enough as a writer or human being to tackle certain stories. And so, I leave them as is until I am able to do them justice. You only get one chance to write a book, so you better make sure that you can do the plot, characters, and yourself justice.

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