Review Time: Divergent by Veronica Roth

The first thing that everyone says about this book is how much it is like The Hunger Games; yes it is a young adult dystopian novel with a female protagonist but really, the similarities end there. While I do think it can sometimes be useful to compare books and/or authors, I also find it can really get in the way of a reader’s pure experience of the book in question. Divergent by Veronica Roth (HarperColins) is one of these books that suffers from such comparisons. It is really good; a fast-paced, adventurous story with a really unique and well-developed world that deserves to be read and enjoyed based on these virtues, and not on its ability to stack up to another series of books.
cover imageDivergent takes place in a futuristic Chicago, a society that is divided into five distinct factions where each citizen lives in adherence to the quality most valued by their faction. There is Dauntless who value bravery, Erudite who value intelligence, Amity who value kindness, Candor who value honesty and Abnegation who value selflessness. 16-year-old Beatrice Pryor was born into Agnegation, but has never truly felt that she belongs and the story begins with her making the mandatory choice as to which faction she will choose to live in for the rest of her life. If she leaves Abnegation for a different faction, she will never again see her family. Before deciding, Beatrice takes an aptitude test, designed to indicate which faction’s values best align with her own. However, it turns out Beatrice is actually Divergent, showing aptitude for more than two factions, which is a very dangerous thing to be. The test administrator warns Beatrice not to reveal her results to anyone, ever. The next day Beatrice decides to leave her old faction behind and pledges to join Dauntless, renaming herself Tris in the process.
The rest of the book focuses mainly on the Dauntless initiation process, a series of terrifying tests designed to push people to the edge of their fear and pain thresholds. If the initiates do not pass the tests, they will become factionless or they will die- which many believe is a more desirable fate than living as an outcast. During the course of the book Tris begins to uncover deadly secrets about their world, those who rule it and why being Divergent puts her in a very dangerous position. The resolution of these discoveries comes to an intense and heart-pounding climax in the last quarter of the book that played out really well.
There were some things that I wasn’t really feeling in this book though, the first issue being with the character Tris herself. I didn’t love her, which for me is important in a protagonist. I don’t have to like everything about a character, but I do need to care about them and feel a certain connection and with Tris, I just didn’t get there. I really wanted to and I’m hopeful that in the next book it will happen, but there was just something about her I found annoying. She was kind of a baby, really self-conscious and weak at times and uncaring and distant at others. I think Roth might have been trying to make her sympathetic by showing her flaws, but to me, she just came off kind of whiny. Hopefully in the next book she grows and becomes more sure of herself.
The second irksome part of this book was that it was predictable. Too predictable, to the point that it was actually disappointing. I was able to guess all the “twists” in the story well before they actually happened, so that when Tris had a revelation, it just made me like her less for not cluing in to things that were being laid out in a pretty obvious fashion by the author. I wish Roth had used more subtlety in this aspect of her writing, I really love being caught completely off guard in a book, especially one with so much action as Divergent has.
That being said, I did really enjoy this book, it was a quick, well-paced book with a fascinating world and I sped through it in a couple hours worth of reading time. I thought Roth’s imagining of a future society was really well-developed and clever; I found myself thinking on more than one occasion that this was a realistic portrayal of a futuristic world.  The ending was set-up perfectly for the sequel, it tied up the main storyline well and left a lot of openings for the next storyline to begin. I finished it wanting to read the next one right away, which luckily for me, is being released May 1st of this year. According to Goodreads, a third book is also expected and I think that is great, the storyline, and particularly the world, will lend themselves well to a trilogy. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that as the story continues, Tris will grow on me and the plot won’t be as predictable as in the first book. All in all, a great book that lends itself well to an escapist read.


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