Saturday, August 20, 2011

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

My Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

I had a lot of people recommend that I read Divergent. I would like to thank all of them, because I really loved this book. Also, those who told me that I would like Four -- you were absolutely right.

With that said, it can be daunting to read something that is receiving so much praise. I'm not the kind of person to deliberately dislike a book for this, but I am the sort of person who likes to reach my own conclusions. In this case the truth is simple: Divergent deserves all the praise it is getting. Now let's talk about why...


Now that she is sixteen, Beatrice Prior has to make a choice: will she remain with her family in their faction, abnegation? Or will she join one of the other four factions in her world. It's no small thing -- choosing her faction will determine not only who she is, but what kind of job she will have, what she will value and who her friends will be. Faction over family. Can she really leave her mother, father and brother behind?

I love books where a character is learning to become something new. The largest portion of Divergent dealt with Tris (the name Beatrice chooses for herself when she joins Dauntless) going through the testing that will determine whether she will pass initiation and become a member. I liked a lot about this: watching her make new friends, deal with the kids who weren't so friendly, go through her training... I felt like I was with her every step of the way. I cheered when things went well, I bit my nails when they went wrong.

I also like how Roth carefully constructed the other plot points that will lead to the next book so that they were being prepared from the very beginning and made perfect sense by the time that Tris passed initiation and we discovered the major conflict that happened at the end. My only concern with this portion of the story is that at the end of the book there were a lot of deaths. While I felt that they were handled well enough and that their depictions were appropriate for the situations, it makes me wonder how dark the other two books in this trilogy will end up being. Tris lives in a very scary world.


The stars of the show were definitely Tris and Four.

I loved how Tris constantly struggled with being brave and being selfless. The balancing act that she went through kept her from being too vicious for me to connect with her. I also really liked the fact that it was her need to be selfless and help others that tended to bring out her best.

The thing I really liked about Four was that as we watched Tris get stronger and become tougher, in contrast we learnt more about Four and it allowed him to be viewed in increasingly softer light that made him easier to relate to. To me, Four represented the ideal that Tris needed to achieve -- a realization that strength and cruelty are not one and the same. (Which was something that Roth carefully contrasted through the rivalry of Four and Eric.)

The other character that really impressed me was Al. For a moment here, I am speaking as a writer rather then a reader. Al represented everything that can go wrong when we listen to someone else's expectations rather then being who we truly are. I'm not sure what faction Al was meant for, but as we watch him fail physically and morally a clear contrast between what is going 'right' for Tris and what could go 'wrong' is shown through him.

The Romance:

Tris and Four are awesome together! I loved the buildup between these two. It was not insta-love in my opinion. He was her instructor first and as they experienced things together their interest in each other carefully and gradually grew from what was happening to them and around them.

Another thing I really liked was the thought Tris had where she realizes that whether they were dressed in their black Dauntless clothes or had they remained in Abnegation and been dressed in gray, nothing would have changed the fact that they would have found and been right for each other.

There was no love triangle, which is a refreshing change. Tris wasn't an idiot once she and Four got together, which (yet again refreshingly) happened part way through the book. One of her friends, Uriah, offers to let her sit on his lap at a time when she and Four cannot be sitting together and she turns this down despite all of the seats being taken because she does not want to have Four see her sitting with a guy like that. She also turned down Al earlier in the book when she wasn't interested rather then stringing him along. She knew what she wanted (or didn't want) and she remained true to that throughout the entire book.

In General:

Divergent is a pretty long book at 486 pages. I read the whole thing in one sitting. So I think it's pretty clear that I felt the pacing was solid. I also found Roth's writing to be really good -- this was one of those books where I read quickly yet was still able to see the story in my head like a movie was playing out in full color.

Divergent is a well written book. It is a satisfying story in its own right and the beginning of what I hope will be a really awesome trilogy. If you haven't read it yet, what are you waiting for?

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