by Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent #1
Published on February 28, 2012 by Katherine Tegen Books
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Paperback features over fifty pages of bonus materials, including a sneak peek of Insurgent, an author Q&A, a discussion guide, a Divergent playlist, faction manifestos, and more!
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
I’m not sure why I liked this book. I know, not the best way to start out a review but it’s something to think about. Divergent has several negative aspects, most (if not all) that would turn many readers off of the whole series, yet I flew through it. This book isn’t a terribly difficult read and flows fairly well if you don’t pay too close attention to detail. On my first read through Divergent, I absolutely adored the book. Now, having reread it in preparation for book 3, Allegiant, I noticed parts of the story I previously ignored during the hype of Divergent‘s release. I still enjoyed the novel, but there are a few aspects I wasn’t a fan of.
Before I say anything else, I am not comparing this book to The Hunger Games. While they’re both dystopian novels, they are two completely separate books. In any case,Divergent addresses an interesting take on the future with a world divided into five factions representing the best parts of human nature. Enter plot holes. The factions are never really described–their creation/history, their purpose, their way of living–outside of generic responses repeated throughout the story. It begs to question, “Is the whole world like this?” Divergent is set in a single city and gated with locks on the outside. But back to the factions–their current states embody the very reasons for war and chaos. Tris’s former faction Abnegation rules the city while remaining passive pushovers too “selfless” to oppose anyone. Dauntless is all about courage and bravery, which only leads to a struggle of who’s the strongest and “let’s beat the crap out of our initiates because being reckless idiots is more important than true courage.” Candor is a group of jerks who are too honest for their own good. Amity reminded me, from the descriptions given, like elementary school where it’s all sunshine, rainbows, and happiness–too peaceful. Last, Erudite seeks knowledge and we all know that knowledge is power, and power leads to greed and lust for more power. Together, this city was doomed from the start.
Divergent has a lot more action than other dystopian books I’ve read, but all that action comes at a price. Roughly 80% of the novel is about Tris and her initiation into the Dauntless faction. She faces three stages of different trials meant to prepare her for life among the “courageous.” Roth did a good job with her fight scenes, describing in great detail how Tris was beaten to a pulp several times, or how she did so to others. Yet the story didn’t really start until near the end of the novel when suddenly it wasn’t just Tris’s initiation at stake, but the whole city’s safety. That’s a little long to get to the bulk of the story, if you ask me. When I finally reached that point, I wasn’t surprised to see the story take on a predictable path. As for the characters, Tris is a good one, but she isn’t great (and somehow she goes from 400 pages of an average fighter to a total killing machine in the big “fight scene”). Four comes off as the typical brooding, mysterious older guy who just happens to fall for the pixie, child lookalike. Thankfully Roth didn’t subject us to a love triangle on top of all of this.
The lesson from this review is: don’t think too hard while reading Divergent. The city’s system is less-than-logical in terms of what could actually happen, sending its believability rating down a slippery slope. The characters are good–not great. The action scenes are decent but most of the story doesn’t really go anywhere until the last hundred pages or so. The romance is sub-par. Finally, the entire concept of Divergent is just a disaster waiting to happen. BUT, if you ignore all that and read this novel for fun with low expectations, you’ll enjoy it. I know many people raved about this book almost as much as people have ranted about it. My opinion falls somewhere in between and I recommend you read it yourself. There’s a lot of fluff involved but it makes for a soft pillow when you hit the ground of logical reality. Divergent is definitely not the worst dystopian novel I’ve read, nor the most unrealistic, but it doesn’t rank too highly in my mind either.