When I get into a book series, I like to look up the author's website, join their Facebook page, and read interviews with them. I like exploring the characters in a way closer to how the author really sees them. I enjoy back stories. It's my understanding, from reading these interviews, that an author generally these characters living with them all the time, kicking around in their heads, taking charge of a scene without the author really controlling the actions and motivations of these make-believe people. This fascinates me. I've written many stories and pieces, but it's all been non-fiction or stories based on real people. I've tried writing fiction, but I don't have all these characters dancing around in my head. I enjoy other people's characters, but I don't have any of my own. I have a lot of respect for a storyteller's ability to spin a tale and create a world.
So is it any surprise that, given Amazon money for my birthday, I jumped at the chance to grab up Four by Veronica Roth?
I've already reviewed the Divergent series. I'm a fan. No, it's not Pride and Prejudice or David Copperfield or anything, but not everything has to be high literature. Wal-Mart shelf fiction is good too, especially when it's clean and allows you to ponder truths of life. (Confession: David Copperfield is actually one of two books I "Cliff-noted" in my English 12 AP class. It was assigned summer reading and I ran out of time. But I spent so much time the night before the test reviewing the Cliffs Notes that I failed to review the books I HAD read and failed the test anyway. Ah, lessons learned.) Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant were fast paced, fun reads. I enjoyed them all, although Allegiant kinda wandered around. And the end was...well, let's just say I think she could have made all her points without doing what she did.
But I digress.
Four is a collection of stories from the world of Divergent, but they are all told from the perspective of Tobias instead of Tris. The first three stories happen before the events of Divergent while the fourth one overlaps with Tris's experience. According to the introduction, the Divergent series was actually birthed in Roth's mind through the eyes of Tobias, not Tris. Over time, Tobias didn't have quite the right tone she wanted, and eventually the right narrator of the story came along in the form of Tris. However, Tobias's story was always very important to Roth and her development of the story she wanted to tell, so once the trilogy was complete, she went back and told pieces of the story from Tobias's voice.
First, let me say this. Read Divergent first. The whole series. Four will be a much more meaningful experience if you already know what's going on. I fear that future generations will look at the series and do what they did to the Narnia series and "put them in order." Yeeech. Sometimes things are written out of order for a reason. (Someday I'm sure I will use my blog space for a published-order argument for the Narnia series. Because doing the other way is STUPID.) Four is meant to be read after you've finished the trilogy.
However, if you've read the trilogy and enjoyed it, you will absolutely love Four.
One of the draws of the Divergent world is the character development. If you enjoy the series, you love Tris and Four. (The same cannot be said for The Hunger Games. I enjoyed that series for the action, but I spent a lot of time wanting to smack Katniss.) Tris and Four are one of the best couples I've read. They are like a younger version of Claire and Jaime for you fellow Outlander fans. Seeing the events you've read and enjoyed through Tris's eyes turned around and seen through Four's is a lovely literary experience. Suddenly the experience of reading Divergent becomes richer. You become much closer to the story. It feels like you are there in the midst of it all because you know more of the ins and outs. You begin to see the story the way Veronica Roth see it - intricate and complicated. One character only gives you a straightforward, 2-D perspective. Adding another major character's point of view turns it into a 3-D experience. It's well written, and Tobias's traits and motivations are well explored. It was a highly satisfying experience.
I enjoy the world of Divergent. If you enjoy it too, you need to read Four to round out your journey with the factions of dystopian Chicago. It won't take you long - the book's pretty short - and you'll feel thoroughly satisfied once you've finished, like finishing the dessert of a good meal.