Thursday, July 7, 2011

Review: Divergent

Veronica Roth
Young Adult/Dystopian
1st in Trilogy
Harper Collins/May 3, 2011

From the inside cover ~

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, 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.

This, like many young adult novels is a hardcover, which in my house means it is a library book. Since I knew I wasn't going to get to it right away, I gave it to the teen to read. When she gave it back I asked what she thought. She said, "I read it in less than a day." Now, she's a fast reader but she's also taking summer school so she does have homework. Plus she has to spend time skyping and texting. So for her to read it that quickly, I took as a good sign. I didn't read it quite as fast but it did prove to be hard to put down. That's not to say I didn't have some issues but it's a story with a plot and characters are so compelling, it's easy to overlook those issues.

The world Beatrice inhabits is regimented with military precision. She, along with her parents and brother, are trained to think, act and be selfless. They are expected to put others needs first. To do with the minimal comforts and not indulge in excess. Beatrice tries so very hard to be a good little Abnegation but she struggles. She questions her place in her parents world and in society as a whole. To be so young, at sixteen, and have to decided your entire future is an overwhelming concept because once the choice is made there is no turning back. They must stick with their choice or become factionless. And being factionless for some is worse than death.

Once Beatrice makes her choice she becomes Tris to signify her new life. If I thought things were tense before the Choosing Ceremony, the reality is that things were about to get even more tense and stressful for Tris. I can see how some will compare Divergent to the Hunger Games trilogy but I think that's going to happen anytime you have children/teens in any type of ruthless competition.

The story is told from Tris' POV and while some may think that is limiting, I found it enthralling to see her experiencing so many different emotions and dealing with those emotions. She is a character that makes profound changes, letting her true self expand and be what she was meant to be. She has physical and psychological obstacles to overcome and she does them while still conflicted in her role in society. In seeing through Tris' eyes, we get to feel her deep emotions, her heartbreak and her loss. I loved how she evolved and you could see this taking place with each obstacle she overcame and each tough decision she made.

There is far more going on that just Tris' initiation. In a world that is so controlled it's not surprising that there will be cracks in that structure. Roth shows how change is inevitable in an environment and in people. I really liked how she developed the characters in showing their reactions to situations. Those reactions were not always what were expected and it made for fascinating reading. Tris is one whose development takes unexpected turns, surprising her but staying true to her beliefs.

I did mention that I had a few issues with the story. The first being that the society as a whole being so segmented with each member of each faction suppressing their emotions to only reflect that factions directive is unrealistic. It's unnatural which is the whole point and why it ultimately didn't work. So it wasn't to difficult to go with that mindset. It just surprised me that there wasn't more ongoing dissent. The other was the initiation and training, which could have gone a bit quicker. Then there was something that Tris did near the end that had me frustrated, irritated and angry. No spoilers but after everything she had been through and all the sacrifices then she does this! I didn't feel like it was in character with her at that point of the story.

There is a boy, of course, that catches Tris' interest. He's mysterious but it becomes pretty obvious who he really is. Tris is drawn to him and while there is a romance brewing, it stays fairly tame and thankfully didn't take over the main plot of the story. The other characters, who the reader gets to know as Tris gets to know them, are varied with their own unique characteristics, showing that not everyone can be categorized in the simplistic method of five factions.

I think the suspense of not knowing what these characters would have to face next and how they would react is what made this book hard to put down. The ending some might say is cliffhanger-ish. There is an ending but everything isn't tied up in a pretty bow. Which really shouldn't be expected in a dystopian novel. It's more of a ride off into the sunset, not knowing what's on the other side of the hill type of ending. There are two more books planned so we should see more of these characters and I look forward to finding out what happens next.

Rating: A-


  1. Hmmm, I've been seeing this cover around a lot and it's clear that publishers and bookstores are hoping it will ride the success of the Hunger Games series. Again, not my type of story, but it does seem like the hype is justified which is always nice :)

  2. Nath ~ I read the hype too and if Abby hadn't liked it so much I probably would have passed.

  3. LOL, lucky you have a beta reader!

  4. Nath ~ Yeah, too bad I'm not into Manga too. LOL