by Terri Wager
Has anyone had the same impression I have had regarding popular series lately? Let me explain. At the behest of a good friend, I started reading the Divergent series. Much as Hunger Games I found myself both enthralled and repulsed by the first book of each series. I struggled to get through the whole concept of children beating each other to death. (BTW, the movies thankfully left out a great of the more horrific violence.) Both books are an apocalyptic Amercia. In each, a single group has managed to separate individuals, and family is the less important aspect of life. It's a gruesome future...I personally to continue to hold out hope for a Star Trek future.
When I can get beyond the violence, the disturbing society, and the coming of age of the two female heroines, I like the first books. Both Katness and Tris have admirable qualities. They stand out, and find in them real courage. I like the way the two young women are challenged on many levels as they work through a process defined by others. I love the way they question what they have been taught, and then discern between the good and bad, and choose the better part. Neither by circumstances is an awesome choice. For a person who related better to Star Wars, I have to admit liking my bad guys bad, and my good guys good. In Divergent and Hunger Games, there is more gray than black and white. In this, I find myself understanding my dad's preference for shoot'em up cowboys.
Perhaps these books are a necessary blend of gray in a society that appears to be hurtling down a slide of relative morality, if there is any morality to even be found. I particularly find it abhorrent that in both series, the real enemy are the adults who have created the circumstances these young women live in.
Unfortunately I have digressed. What really astounded me was my reaction to the second book in each series. They were awful, more (read that worse) of the same. In Divergent, we are confronted by much the same storyline. Tris runs around with a broken body, doing incredible (read that unbelievable) things while figuring out the why, well that sorta gets hint at. In Hunger Games, we have...well, more games. I'm not sure if the success of the first book was the catalyst for the second books, or the authors' intended a series from the beginning. Either way, it was blown. I dragged through the last book of the Hunger Games, and just started the last of Divergent. My real thoughts at this point are how do I get this time back?
So my question here is what is the secret to a terrific series? My personal favorites (because when it comes to books, I never have just one) are Dave Eddings' Belgarid series and Terry Brooks' Shannara series. What was their secret to keep me coming back year after year book after book?1