Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Review: Divergent

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: May 3, 2011

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 to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating 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 a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

Divergent contains everything I look for in a book: uncensored action, a strong, conflicted main character, romance, and a complex society filled with morally ambiguous characters. Finally, a novel worthy of the hype and many Hunger Games comparisons that have preceded its release!

First off, I love the idea of people being organized into different value-oriented factions, and Veronica Roth develops this idea in unique and interesting ways. The problems inherent in classifying individuals based on a single characteristic are also expanded upon, with explosive results. Secondly, Divergent is never boring. It’s impossible not to become immersed in the storyline. The first-person, present-tense narrative – again, reminiscent of The Hunger Games – keeps the plot moving forward at a rapid pace. Knife fights, roof-jumping, gun-shooting, and fear-facing simulations also propel the story.

Beatrice, aka Tris, is the best type of heroine. Forced to jump – literally – into her faction initiation training, she is a contradiction of compassion and ruthlessness. Not scared of violence, but plagued by questions of morality: what does it mean to be selfless? To be brave? And are the two mutually exclusive? Tris is thrust into difficult, often violent situations that her Abnegation upbringing has done little to prepare her for. She does not recoil from these challenges; rather, she revels in them.

The side characters Roth has created are equally engaging, so it’s easy, once you’ve been sucked into the story, to cry with their tribulations and laugh with their victories. And sometimes grimace, because Divergence does not shy away from bloodshed. Towards the end of the book, the death count quickly rises, as does the action. I was flipping through pages so fast, I’m surprised I didn’t rip them right out.

Some of the revelations, both character- and plot-related, are a bit predictable. I also would’ve liked to see more of the dystopian society beyond its immediate Chicago area. Information pertaining to the outside world and its history is sparse (though it’s quite possible that this will be addressed in future installments). But from a purely ‘how much did I enjoy reading this book’ perspective, Divergent is perfect.

The main romance progresses naturally and makes sense given the characters’ similarities. It is beautifully done. I fell in love with their relationship and both characters individually without even realizing it.

I predict that Divergent will very easily be my favourite book of the year.

Rating: 5/5

My Thoughts on the Cover: Suits the book. It's more bold and clear than pretty - which is a good thing, I think - and has a dystopian-y feel to it. I especially like the symbolism of the fiery eye shape.

If you liked Divergent, you may enjoy reading:

The Hunger Games, Enclave

1 comment:

  1. After having read this informative and interesting review, I have decided to read Divergent even though this is not a genre that I normally favour. Thanks!