Having recently tried and failed to meet Hannah Hart at a book signing because I completely forgot about things like “capacity” and “waiting in line”, today I’m going to try to meet XKCD‘s Randall Monroe at a book signing, and see if I ever learn from my mistakes. [Ariel says: Omg you’re such a Pamela.]
Once again, I get a chapter that starts with Tris staring over the city by herself contemplating who she is, because Divergent is trying really hard to put me back into the shoes of a teenager. This time Tris’s crisis is over her poor results in the first public fear landscape, and she decides that since she’s forbidden from seeing her parents in her old faction, no one technically said she couldn’t see her family in their new faction. Although people have explicitly said she can’t leave, but that’s beside the point. Let’s go see what Caleb is up to when Tris happens to run into him in the middle of Chicago.
The Erudite buildings loom above me, dark and unfamiliar. How will I find Caleb here? […] the main Erudite building would be a library. […]
“I am looking for someone,” I say [to the man at the front desk]. “His name is Caleb. […] He’s an initiate. Can you at least tell me where I can find them?”
“Beatrice?” a voice behind me says.
Wow, that was lucky! That might have been the biggest coincidence we’ve ever seen in a BBGT novel. It takes most people longer to open a bag of Doritos than it took Tris to find Caleb. [Ariel says: This was a missed opportunity to have a hilarious scene where Caleb is paged to the front of the Erudite compound like you would call a missing child to the front of a supermarket.]
You know how we’ve been making fun of the mindless conformity to the simplistic stereotypes over at Dauntless? Apparently Erudite is the hipster faction.
“You have a tattoo,” he says, his voice muffled.
“You have glasses,” I say. […] “Your vision is perfect, Caleb, what are you doing?”
[Ariel says: God damnit, Matthew, we really do have the same brain. I was so excited to write my hipster joke here! In the sense that all I’d written was “Ha ha Caleb is a Hipster now” and felt really proud of the observation.]
Tris and Caleb go off to talk about how the others’ self-imposed conformity to a simplistic stereotype is bad, in contrast to their own. Before things get too dangerously self-aware and force the novel to have to actually make a point about this, they change topic and discuss the plot.
“Something big is happening, Beatrice. Something is wrong. […] I don’t know what it is, but people keep rushing around, talking quietly, and Jeanine gives speeches about how corrupt Abnegation is all the time […] I don’t know what to believe.”
“Yes, you do,” I say sternly. “You know who are parents are. […]”
“How much do I know? How much did they allow me to know? We weren’t allowed to ask questions, Beatrice […] Here information is free, it’s always available.”
Tris storms off (because knowledge is evil), but tells Caleb about the MacGuffin first.
“Not that it will matter to you, but Mom told me to tell you to research the simulation serum.”
“You saw her?” He looks hurt. […]
“The Erudite don’t let Abnegation into their compound anymore. Wasn’t that information available to you?”
Okay, why are we supposed to be taking this subplot seriously? Caleb’s still going through Erudite initiation. Are we supposed to believe he can just walk into the simulation serum lab and ask if he can work with them? Even if he could, wouldn’t there be, I don’t know, some prerequisites? Dauntless barely let their initiates tie their own shoes, and we’re supposed to believe that the plot is being driven in the background by the prospective student asking to join the graduate lab and having any clue what the fuck is going on?
Anyway, eventually someone realizes Tris shouldn’t be there, and she gets taken directly to the main antagonist, Jeanine the Erudite representative. Man, if coincidences were handcuffs, this chapter would be Christian Grey’s red room of pain. [Ariel says: This would only be more of a coincidence if Jeanine was Four’s sister who had to leave Abnegation because of the abused she suffered at her father’s hands.]
“Sit,” she says again. I have definitely heard her voice before.
I heard it in the hallway, talking to Eric, before I got attacked. I heard her mention Divergents.
That was easy!
In what’s largely an infodump kind of scene, we learn that Jeanine invented the aptitude test (which she calls “by far my greatest achievement as a scientist”, which is sort of like saying your greatest achievement was learning how to tie your shoes), and that someone has finally noticed that all of Tris’s test results keep getting mysteriously deleted. In her narration, Tris immediately realizes that Jeanine is a real threat, but asks a really good question about why.
But what is so threatening about my ability to manipulate the simulations?
GOOD QUESTION, TRIS. I, TOO, WONDER ABOUT THIS.
Tris plays into her expectations of the Dauntless stereotype to assuage Jeanine’s suspicions that she might be Dauntless, which means the book manages to get even less subtle.
“You know why I chose Dauntless? […] It’s because I was bored. […] I was tired of being a wussy do-gooder and I wanted out.”
Speaking of less subtle, take a minute to wonder why Jeanine is evil. Did you guess, “Because she is evil”? Golly gee, how’d ya know?
“So you don’t miss your parents?” she asks delicately. […] “Can I take that to mean…” Jeanine purses her lips and pauses for a few seconds before finishing. “…that you agree with the reports that have been released about the political leaders of this city?”
It’s boring stuff like this that make me really miss the “the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters” of Harry Potter, because what’s going on in Divergent is the exact opposite of that. A lot gets lost in the subtlety. Like characters. [Ariel says: I also hate how Jeanine is meant to be this brilliant scientist but her logic is so childish and stupid. Oh, so if you don’t like ice-cream it must mean you like to eat turds!”]
Jeanine also tells Tris that she’s one of two people to ever get an Abnegation result and switch to Dauntless, which makes Tris wonder if Four/Tobias is also Divergent! You know, again. Speaking of that guy, guess who shows up to save Tris (again) when she’s returned to Eric? [Ariel says: I guess since there’s no more “Will They? Won’t They?” happening, there has to be a “Is he Divergent? Isn’t he Divergent?” question.]
But first, a can of worms:
I have never seen [Eric] like this. He is not a maniac anymore; he is perfectly controlled, perfectly poised. Careful and quiet.
For the first time, I recognize Eric for what he is: an Erudite disguised as a Dauntless
Are we supposed to take this literally? Because… wow, this raises a lot of narrative problems. Wouldn’t this make Eric Divergent? Why are Divergents a threat to society to be eliminated if they use Divergents to hunt them? [Ariel says: Right?? Wouldn’t it then make more sense if Tris and other Divergents were strategically placed in positions where they were seemingly given power but actually being carefully controlled like Eric?]
Anyway, Four shows up and saves Tris again. This time by fabricating a wacky misunderstanding!
“I… I was just embarrassed and didn’t know what to do.” […] I look up at Eric, sniffing. “I tried to… and…” I shake my head.
“You tried to what?” asks Eric.
“Kiss me,” says Tobias. “And I rejected her, and she went running off like a five-year-old. There’s really nothing to blame her for but stupidity.” […]
Eric looks from me to Tobias and laughs
They leave Eric’s office and make out. Okay, no, they don’t, but you’ll wish it were only that obnoxiously adorable in three… two…
“Why do you care anyway?” I say. “You can be either cruel instructor or concerned boyfriend. […]”
“I am not cruel.” He scowls at me. “I was protecting you this morning. [If people knew about us,] they would always call your ranking a result of my favoritism rather than your skill.” […]
“You didn’t have to insult me to prove something to them,” I say finally. […]
“Sometimes I forget that I can hurt you. That you are capable of being hurt.” […]
I stand on my tiptoes, lift my head, and kiss him. Only our lips touch. […]
“I’ve been thinking about this for a long time,” he says, kissing me briefly. “How I would handle it, if you and I…” He pulls back and smiles. “Did I hear you call me your boyfriend, Tris?”
Okay, I’m fucking sorry, but is “I forgot I can hurt you” supposed to be cute? Guess it’s time to pull out the abusive relationship checklist for Divergent! [Ariel says: Also, boyfriend? They kissed once!]
Because this chapter won’t end already, Christina’s also getting her mack on, and it has to happen in a really sexist way.
“Can you be a girl for a few seconds?”
“I’m always a girl.” I frown.
“You know what I mean. Like a silly annoying girl.”
Let’s see if you’ve been paying attention.
Christina tells Tris that Will kissed her, and OH, FUCK ME SIDEWAYS. MORE HETERONORMATIVITY?
“[There were] little things… [like] how he opens doors for me like I’m a girl instead of someone who could beat the crap out of him.”
The point of the scene is probably supposed to show how Tris is sad she has to hide her relationship with Four, but really it just shows that this future dystopia that fits every member of society into one of five stereotypes also has very reductionist thinking towards gender. [Ariel says: I’m surprised at this point there wasn’t a Girly Girl faction called the Sparkle Rainbow Princesses who were basically just like the Plastics from Mean Girls.]
Tris and Four sneak out somewhere in the city that night and Four explains more of the plot.
“Two things you should know about me. The first is that I am deeply suspicious of people in general […] and the second is that I am unexpectedly good with computers.”
I’ll take ways a person would literally never describe themselves for $500, Alec! This would be like someone saying, “I am unexpectedly good at vacuuming.” Why is this unexpected? Why would Four find this unexpected about himself? This isn’t a way people talk about themselves, this is the way an author outlines a character on a bar napkin.
Anyway, what did Four unexpectedly find on the Dauntless computers he unexpectedly used his unexpected mad hacker skillz on?
“What I discovered was what looked like war plans. Thinly veiled commands, supply lists maps […] sent by Erudite.” […]
“War on Abnegation?”
[…] “The faction that controls the government. Yes.” […]
“They’re going to use us,” I say.
“I wonder,” he says, “how they plan to get us to fight.”
Yes, in a book that has been shoving brain-altering drugs in our faces since the first chapter, this is a huge mystery.
In completely unrelated news, my sister finished her second week of college classes this week! What’s some of your best College Advice? Or worst college advice? She’ll figure it out.