Review: Divergent

I like being someone who can find a great novel few people have read and help generate interest in it. It’s largely a desire to share my discovery. It’s also about being able to discuss the book with others. Unfortunately, like I mentioned in my review for The Hunger Games, I rarely ever get in on the ground floor of something big. Well, I just may have my chance with Divergent by Veronica Roth.

I was browsing Amazon back in May for my niece’s 13th birthday. I call her my little doppelganger, so I thought to pick her up an interesting young adult novel. I came across Divergent and thought it sounded very interesting with the new common theme found in YA of a dystopian future society. So I quickly purchased it and sent it on its way. My sister texted me that my niece had yet to put down the book since receiving it. I thought she was just being nice, but a few days later I got a text from my niece herself. She said the book was amazing and read it in just a couple days. After that, I found myself constantly browsing the book on Amazon, and hovering over that taunting little “1-click Buy” button.

I was trying to retain some self control about buying new books when I have so many left to read on my shelves. Well, last month, that button got to me. I could swear it was laughing at me, and I just went to poke it to tell it to stop, when the book appeared on my Kindle.

In a city that was once Chicago, there are five factions. Each faction was formed to eliminate the qualities they thought responsible for the decline of civilization and embrace those which could lead to a better world. Chapter 5 has an amazing explanation of each faction, and I want to quote it here.

  • The peaceful, “Those who blamed aggression formed Amity.”
  • The intelligent, “Those who blamed ignorance became the Erudite.”
  • The honest, “Those who blamed duplicity created Candor.”
  • The selfless, “Those who blamed selfishness made Abnegation.”
  • The brave, “And those who blamed cowardice were the Dauntless.”

Beatrice was born into the world as Abnegation. But at age sixteen, she gets to choose to be different. Before the ceremony, each teenager is given an aptitude test to determine where they would best fit, but the ultimate decision is up to them. Beatrice is at a loss as to where she belongs, and things are only made worse when her aptitude test is inconclusive. The test giver tells her she is Divergent, but what that really means she doesn’t know. She just knows that it’s dangerous, and she must keep it a secret. Is she selfless enough to devote her life to others? Can she leave her loved ones behind? In the end, she must be herself, and that means being brave and moving on. Renaming herself Tris, she must now pass Dauntless initiation or become Factionless, a fate worse than death. She must discover who she is and who her friends are. In the process she also discovers new enemies, what it means to be Divergent, and what is really going on in the city.

The novel mostly revolves around her life in the Dauntless compound, so don’t worry about feeling like I gave you too much information. And I should warn you now that there is an “ending,” but not much of one. There is a sequel to be released in May of 2012, entitled Insurgent. After reading a little on Veronica Roth’s blog, she states that it will indeed be a trilogy, but no more.

I hope that after reading the little summary above that I have already garnered some interest. The plot and theme itself is what drew me in and kept me reading (I finished it in a day or so), but the characters are truly enjoyable. Tris is flawed, which is good, because no one likes a perfect heroine. She is believable as any sixteen year old girl. She is brave in situations that many of us would be frightened stiff, but she remains shy and awkward. Four, one of her Dauntless teachers, is mysterious and intimidating, yet she is drawn to him. Eric, another teacher, seems obsessed with violence, which seems to rub off on several initiates. There are very few characters that we get to know in-depth, but even the minor characters are intriguing, particularly her nemesis, Peter.

What is the appeal of young adult novels nowadays? When I was growing up, there was a large gap in reading material. I went from Goosebumps to adult novels. Now kids have all of these amazing options to choose from, and while at first I was wildly jealous, then embarrassed for picking them up, I now embrace them with full force. I have found myself completely drawn in to the dystopian theme that is trending in the YA section. There are many different takes and versions of a future society, and it is interesting to read the many options and compare. It is a great mix of young characters we can relate to and a science fiction/fantasy element.

As far as this book goes, I put it near the top of young adult novels out there, but like every novel, it is not without flaws. I give it an 8 out of 10. The plot is new and interesting, although the large climax at the end seems like it is given too few pages in comparison to her training with Dauntless. Tris is a likeable main character, although I felt like I didn’t know enough about her. She seemed so shy and quiet in the first five chapters, and then she is courageous and I find myself wondering where it came from. If it was there from the beginning, it would have been better to see traces of it at least. In the end though, it didn’t matter that much. It hooks you in the beginning, and it is a quick read because it is fascinating but not too complicated. Roth is a very talented new writer. I am very much looking forward to the rest of the trilogy. If it ends well, I would gladly pick up anything else she writes in the future (if only Rowling would do that).

On a side note, I was doing a little reading about the trilogy while writing this post, and found out that a deal has been made to make the first book into a movie. I guess I didn’t get in on the ground floor, but at least I am not late to the party. As far as how I feel about every book being made into a movie… I might have to save that for a different day.

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4 thoughts on “Review: Divergent

  1. I’ve been looking for a new YA book to fall into since I just finished the Hunger Games. And dystopian does seem to be the new genre to watch out for. You gave a good solid review. I will definitely have to check this one out. Especially since I too keep seeing the title on Amazon and on a long waiting list at the library.

  2. …so where are the Vampires? :p In all seriousness, I grew up with a gap in fiction as well. It’s good to see that today’s youth have lots of options. Today’s kids are reading more than their parents, and also more than their parents read when then were younger.

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