Sometimes, you'll read a book and the adolescent main character is basically an adult. Sometimes, the adolescent main character is like a child with a teen's body. Or an actual teen, with annoying hormone issues and terrible choices tripping over one another to be made at the points where the plot won't be completely derailed by them.
And every now and then (rarely enough that it feels like a treat) you get a main character that acts their age without seeming stereotypical, trite, or just straight up irritating.
I found this character in the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth.
The overarching theme of these books, or at least what I got from them, is that your choices always, always matter. The best way to ruin everything is by making choices blindly, or without thought. Not to say that you need to always have all the information, but rather that you need to be conscious of the choices you make, rather than just dancing through life and being eternally surprised when consequences pop up out of nowhere. 'Cause here's the thing: if your choices have meaning, that implies that your choices will always have consequences, regardless of whether or not you were aware of them.
Now, that's a pretty heavy subject for anyone to tackle, and the fact that this was addressed in a YA dystopian novel series just makes it that much more powerful, I think; not because it's a dystopia, but because this message is addressed to young readers. The rule of thumb is that your audience is generally going to be the same age as your main character in modern fiction. Our main character in Divergent is 16, and I can't help but think that if I'd internalized this message when I was 16, I may have made some choices differently.
For a couple different reasons, I'm giving this series 5 out of 5. The main reason is the bravery of the author in tackling difficult subjects. The rest of the reason is for the author's tact in doing so. I never felt that any of the topics addressed were dismissed or condescended toward. They're not belittled, but explored, and that's a beautiful thing.
Book 1 confronts Identity and how hard it is for a young person to know who they will or should be. Book 2 tackles Depression and its effect on the rest of life. Book 3 emphasizes Forgiveness with a solid dose of Trust and Relationships in general. And under all that in all three books, you get the consistent clash of Duty vs Desire. What am I obligated to do, and what do I want to do?
The fact that all of these can be addressed in only three books is... staggering, honestly. I can only hope that someday, I can write as well as this.
If you like books like The Hunger Games and Mortal Engines, you'll probably like Divergent. Be aware that this series is written entirely in first-person. There are some readers I know that dislike that perspective.
In the meantime, I'm going to go cry for a while and rewrite the end of Allegiant, because that ending just tore me up. It was a bold choice and I think absolutely the right one for this series - but my heart hurts and I want to make it feel better. So, onward to fanfiction.