Thursday, July 10, 2014

Four by Veronica Roth—Companion novel a piece to the puzzle


Release Date: July 8 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books

ISBN: 9780062345219

It has been two years since Divergent’s release, when teens everywhere fell in love with not only Tris as the heroine but Tobias Eaton, a.k.a. Four, the surly and secretive Dauntless instructor. As Tris slowly fell in love with Four, so did readers, and they loyally followed the couple through Insurgent and Allegiant. On July 8, Roth released the companion novel told from Four’s point of view where he takes the reader through his decision to leave Abnegation and join Dauntless, through his initiation and offer as leader, through the realization that his mother is still alive, and finally through the first steps of falling in love with Tris.

“The Transfer,” “The Initiate,” and “the Son”

In these first three sections, we see Tobias’s home life with his father, Marcus. From Divergent, we knew that Tobias was abused, and now we get to see first-hand what it was like. Marcus is relentless, often isolating Four to his room. When Marcus finds Four’s box of keepsakes initiated by his mother, Marcus calls him self-indulgent and breaks everything inside. When Four allows his blood to drop on the coals, we cheer for his bravery and Marcus’s disappointment.

In the same way that Tris left Abnegation for Dauntless, Tobias must take the train jump, the ledge/net jump, and enter the fear landscape, where he earns his nickname Four. Unlike Tris, Four is the last jumper, and this is not what readers would expect from him. He seems more afraid than the brave persona he wears in the Divergent series.  

We watch as he meets Eric and begins to learn his way around the Dauntless compound. Four learns what it means to be divergent, to be aware of one’s surroundings. After finishing initiation in the number one spot, he is offered a leadership position, but he politely refuses and instead takes an instructor position as well as working in the control room.

He also hears from his mother (whom he thought was dead) that the factionless are aware of impending downfall of all five factions, which begins his obsession with watching Dauntless leader Max’s secretive encounters with Jeanine Matthews. The perks of working in the control room!

I’m glad that Roth took the opportunity to share Four’s abusive life with his father because it sheds a lot of light on why he is so guarded around Tris. Roth fast-forwards through Four’s initiation, which is clever, considering we’ve already seen the process once. These three sections work together as a prequel of sorts, providing necessary information to Four’s background. As a companion piece, each of these three sections could be read in tandem with Divergent.

Perhaps the most interesting (though not the most original) is the fourth section “The Traitor.” Here, we get a flashback to Four’s encounters with Tris, beginning with Tris’s Visiting Day with her mother and including scenes where Edward is stabbed and Tris is attacked. Bringing back the dialogue from the first book while intertwining Four’s perspective is brilliant, and it feels good to revisit the key moments from Divergent that made us cheer for Four and Tris.  

As a companion novel, Four is mostly successful. As a teacher, I could totally see myself pulling sections from this book to supplement gray areas in Divergent. As a YA reader, I can only help but wonder if this would have been more successful as a straight up sequel. Instead of taking us back through what we’ve already experienced, I would have liked to see how Four copes after Allegiant. If he’s as strong enough of a character to rewrite (of sorts) sections of Divergent, he should be able to withstand his own spin-off or sequel. As it is, the novel works more like the special edition sections of a Blu-Ray.