[Review] Divergent by Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Edition: U.S. Paperback
Summary: “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.”
After reading the Hunger Games I became skeptical of books that were subsequently published as Dystopian books. Twilight spurred a legion of badly written vampire books as publishers attempted to piggyback on the multi million dollar ride that Stephenie Meyer hit upon after her books rocketed into best seller lists all over the world. I admit seeing Divergent on bookshelves and avoiding it for this very reason. So after a long time after it was published I finally picked this incredible book up and gave it a shot. Boy was I wrong.
This book was a thrilling ride from beginning to end. I read it all within 24 hours which means that it is a winner. I am a naturally fast reader but only when the book I am reading is capturing my full attention. Unlike characters like Harry Potter and Bella Swan I didn’t identify with Tris’ character, which makes Roth’s attention to plot advancement a greater power in Divergent than any other young adult book I have read in awhile. While books like Harry Potter and Twilight pay closer attention to the interaction of characters, I felt more inclined to turn the page to find out what was happening in the world Roth created rather than to find out what would happen to Tris and her friends. True to Dystopian form, Tris Prior is a troubled soul in an even more troubled world. She doesn’t feel like she belongs, no matter where she is, and that is not just something common to teenagers who devour these YA books, it’s something that keeps adults picking up these books, and making YA books the biggest genre seller in bookstores.
Divergent, unlike the Hunger Games, relies on plot more than the romantic interactions of the characters. I found myself thinking about this while I was reading. Perhaps I am too romantic at the core, but I love it when a writer can make me care about the story over the relationships, because it means they have saved me from myself. I want to read books for the story, not for the lurch in my stomach when my two favorite characters kiss, but I am a girl and like many girls I have a weakness for romance. You won’t find too much of it in Divergent, but its use of it is strategic and just enough to keep girls satisfied while taking nothing from the integrity of the story.
Divergent painstakingly reveals that adults sometimes don’t know where they belong, and that no matter how hard you try, maybe you won’t belong in the society that you grew up in, or the one that you moved to, but that doesn’t mean that you are worse off. Instead of giving up, Tris fights to be a part of the people she has chosen to call family, and sees that belonging isn’t what she needs most, it’s being strong inside to face the situations where she is alienated.
My one little beef with this book was that the plot seemed to flow too easily, so that in some parts I wasn’t quite sure where I was or what just happened to lead us from one place to the other. Unlike Harry Potter where everything is strategically separated by the space of time and firmly concluded chapters, Divergent has many end of chapter cliff hangers that doesn’t allow the reader to take a break and digest what they have just read. Time is fluid and days pass without my realizing that is has – particularly toward the end of the book.
Overall the book will keep a reader engaged long enough for them to realize that this book is different from the usual sappy romantic books that they normally pick up when trying to find a great YA novel. This is refreshing and I’d love to thank Roth for turning away from the easy way to capture a reader’s attention and actually writing a book that is worth reading for its story rather the its romantic side plot.