Finding Bravery in Unexpected Places

By Lindsay Ritenbaugh
@lindsayrite



Yes, I’m almost 30 years old and unabashedly read young adult novels. I’ve already shared that I have an addiction to awful juvenile television shows like Pretty Little Liars, so I’m going to continue to be vulnerable about the Divergent book series I just completed (just in time for the first of many movies I’ll most likely see on opening night like I have for every other young adult novel-turned-movie since my Harry Potter and Twilight days). I was instantly intrigued by this series because it takes place in a dystopian Chicago. Although the city described in the trilogy is much different, I have visited the same buildings, walked on the same streets, and even been on the same train platforms that are featured in the novels. I even walked past the cast and crew while they were here filming the first movie!

I won’t go into detail about the plot or give any spoilers, but I will share this quote found somewhere in the last of three books:

There are so many ways to be brave in this world.

Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.

But sometimes it isn’t.

Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.

Damn you, Veronica Roth! If/when you get to this passage in the text, you’ll understand the angst and agony inflicted upon me when I read those words for the first time. But for now, take it for what it is: another way to define bravery. People often align bravery with strength and courage, and the visuals that usually go along with this definition do not always make me think of the last sentence from this excerpt:

Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.

In this description of bravery, I see a character picking up the pieces of a difficult situation [still no spoilers, don’t worry] and carrying on as best as they can. I see vulnerability, weakness, and authenticity. And that’s okay. This character, while faced with adversity, is going to continue to persevere no matter what happens next. How many of us can say we do this on a daily basis?


I think people give young adult novels a bad wrap. Sure, this book was written with students in grades 9-12 in mind. But as a nearly thirty twenty nine year old, I learned a lot about myself as I read these words. 

Joshua Wilson

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1 comment :

  1. I recently read the Divergent Series and I really enjoyed it! You're right - it may have been designed for students much younger than us, but I gained some incredible and empowering insight from the novels. The different sectors of society encouraged me to think more deeply about which values I emulate in daily life and in my professional work. Are you going to see the movie when it comes out this week?

    -@meridithbalas

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