Divergent - review
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Harper Collins
Buy it: On Amazon
Beatrice (Tris) Prior lives in a world divided by virtues. Factions are communities created to overcome the traits of humanity that destroyed previous society and so Candor exists to overcome lies, Abnegation to overcome selfishness, Dauntless to overcome cowardice, Amity to overcome unrest, and Erudite to overcome ignorance. On her sixteenth birthday, Beatrice chooses to become Dauntless; leaving her family behind in Abnegation. As she goes through the brutal initiation she discovers where her strengths lie, where others' strengths falter, a scheme to overthrow the government, and, of course, a little bit of YA love. She also realises what it means to be Divergent.
Tris is one helluva character! I wouldn't go as far as to say she is unlikeable because, well, I love her, but she probably challenges the reader's allegiance (apt wording there for book 3!) She is quite hypocritical; She is cold-hearted and at the same time compassionate, she is violent but weak, she cries a lot but hates being seen to struggle... I never knew where I was with her and I have to say it kept me turning the pages. I liked that, ultimately, Tris is just as confused as we are. I dont need a heroine with strong morals or the propensity for good, I just want one with conviction, and no matter which way Tris turned in her actions and choices, she stuck by the decision. Her personality, it seems, is the ultimate in Divergence. A swinging pendulum between Dauntless and Abnegation.
I also need to give a shout out to Tris's parents. I always love to see parental figures used in YA as characters, and not just "the people who stop kids following their dreams" and this is a book that characterises, utilities and polarises the meaning of "parent" really well.
I couldn't close of on characters without mentioning Four. Despite the dodgy name (anyone else start thinking of I Am Number Four when he was mentioned?) he is the first male YA character I have had any love for since Will in His Dark Materials. They're quite similar actually, except Four gets to be more about the feelings than Will. But hey, it's YA. Really looking forward to see where his character goes in upcoming books in the series.
So, aside from the great characters, Divergent has a nice little narrative about the meaning of fear, mastering control of weakness, the meaning of strength and selflessness etc etc. It's a bit of an inner monologue but it has some quite poignant points for teen fiction. Not as deep as say, The Fault In Our Stars, but deep enough to get a bit of self-evaluation going. It was nicely balanced with the action of the initiation process, which may have seemed a bit gratuitous in it's violence if not broken up a bit.
Any Not-So-Good Bits?
Well, you may have noticed there is a lot of YA dystopian fiction on the bookshelves these days ;) I think it's hard for any novel of the sort written currently to avoid comparisons and, unfortunately, Divergent is victim to this. You will see echoes from other big titles throughout the book. I think it's something that just needs to be accepted in order to search for other merits above and beyond the tropes.
I also felt that there was a lot of background information left out of the narrative. We are given enough to be going on with, but a bit of faction history would have been nice. When did they come about? Who decided on it? WHY WAS THAT LOCK ON THE OUTSIDE?! That being said, it's going to make me want to read book two.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Divergent. Although it wasn't perfect, I loved the characters and especially the instability of Tris's personality. Yes it has a little bit of The Hunger Games and yes, it has a little bit of other YA dystopian novels... but I honestly feel that Tris stands alone as a character, and that is what makes Divergent so enjoyable. I will be reading Insurgent (book 2) very soon, before Allegiant's release in October!
Emma is a designer living in Bristol, UK. A self-confessed stationery addict, book lover and TV sci-fi geek, she enjoys sketching zombie-eyed women and finding her next source of inspiration in the pages on the bookshelf.