Published by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, 2011.
I’ve finally jumped on the bandwagon of the latest YA dystopian book craze: the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth. The following review contains some mild spoilers for the first book in the series, Divergent.
What’s it about?
In a future Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each representing an ideal virtue that the faction founders believed would encourage peace between humanity. Each faction encourages one particular trait—honesty (Candor), selflessness (Abnegation), bravery (Dauntless), peacefulness (Amity), and intelligence (Erudite). Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior has always struggled to live up to the expectations of Abnegation and so on her Choosing Day she surprises even herself by transferring factions. Now, as a Dauntless initiate, Tris must undergo a series of trials that, if failed, could mean exile or even death.
This book reminds me of:
The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
What I liked most:
The main female character, Tris, actually has a personality. You know, I have such a beef with young female characters with no personality and, thankfully, this wasn’t an issue with Divergent. Divergent is told from the point of view of Tris. Tris can be a little bit thick at times, but she has a strong personality to make up for it. She doesn’t spend her time worrying about her looks (for instance, at one point she states that she isn’t pretty, but she doesn’t dwell on any of it) or boy troubles (ye will find no love triangle in these parts) and instead worries about whether she is a bad person and how she is going to pass a set of upcoming trials she has to go through. Tris wants to be the best, and is willing to fight for it.
Fast-moving plot. Like The Hunger Games, Divergent is the first in a trilogy about a dystopian society, and the book doesn’t spend a lot of time going into how a future Chicago became the Factions, instead the story races along and introduces both the readers and Tris to a new and unfamiliar world through experience rather than description. Divergent doesn’t mess around with extensive expository scenes (I’m guessing the next two books will go into Faction politics a bit more) but for the introductory book to the trilogy, Divergent works in its simplicity. Worrying about whether or not Tris is going to make it through the Dauntless initiation process is enough, and will keep you reading late into the night.
What I didn’t like:
Love conquers all and blah blah. Listen, I’m all for love playing a part in the story. Love is a defining human characteristic and we can all agree it’s a powerful feeling, but when it comes down to it, I hate the “Love Conquers All” trope. Without revealing too much, I wish that Tris would have used some of her new skills to save the day. Overall, the romantic subplot doesn’t overshadow the main meatiness of the story, but it’s still a bit cheesy.
The Factions. I’ve read some reviews criticizing the idea of the factions and how it’s completely unrealistic, but I think that’s the whole point of the books. Separating people based on a singular personality trait and encouraging the divide between factions by physically segregating them, is never going to work to create a peaceful and whole society, and that’s where we ultimately pick up in Divergent. The factions are at a point in their history when the current model is no longer sustainable. But who knows how long the factions have been in existence for things to become the way they are now? Clearly the idea of the factions started off differently and drastic changes have come within at least one of the factions within the last few years before the story begins, so I personally don’t think that the premise is entirely unbelievable. I just think it’s extremely unlikely that a society such as the one in Divergent would ever come to pass. I can’t decide if I like the premise or not, but it is what it is and Roth certainly makes the most of it. I just hope I get some answers to some of the larger questions about the Divergentverse in the next two books.
A fast-paced read that will keep you turning pages in the end. Highly recommended, especially if you enjoyed The Hunger Games or other YA dystopian fiction. If you need more incentive, there’s also a movie in the works, and the final book, Allegiant, was just recently released so you know you won’t have to wait around to find out what happens.