Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Harper Collins
Rating: 5/5 Stars
I went into Divergent as unspoiled and unaware as possible considering the insane level of hype surrounding the book. I was not disappointed.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said? With nearly 30,000 reviews on goodreads alone, I doubt I’ll come up with anything new, but I’ll give it a shot.
In Divergent, Veronica Roth has created a vivid dystopian world that is so different, so other, that it’s nearly impossible to see it as a future version of our own. Rather than calling that a detriment, I find it a testament to the event or events that led society to embrace the five factions in their effort to survive.
I loved the specificity and militant way each faction followed their own rules – the specific color choices for each faction, the way Abnegation took the stairs, rather than the elevators and stayed to stack chairs after an event, the way Dauntless always, always leapt onto and off of moving trains to get around and used tattoos and piercings to mark their accomplishments.
I also found it interesting that the remnants of the old world were allowed to survive – the old Ferris wheel and the ruined buildings outside of each faction’s home base. I frequently found myself wondering why no one had cleaned that up and if it was an indication of how recent the divide into factions actually was.
Also, is Chicago the only center of population that survived whatever apocalyptic event led to this future world? You’d think that with the virtual reality tech that Dauntless uses for their tests, they’d be able to communicate with other parts of the country…
So many questions that I hope will be answered as the series continues.
Our heroine, Beatrice Prior grew up in the Abnegation faction – the faction I’m pretty sure would be the last one I’d show an aptitude for – and the story begins on the eve of her aptitude test to see which faction she truly belongs to and will call home for the rest of her life. Choosing a faction is the single most important decision a person makes in Beatrice’s world and she goes into it appropriately nervous.
Bucking expectations, Beatrice follows her heart right into the world of the Dauntless, but this is not a case of never looking back. The story takes place during the rigorous Initiation process, where Beatrice – now Tris – is forced to face her fears and go up against her friends in a fierce competition to stay in her chosen faction.
And of course, that’s only the beginning of the story. ;)
The world of the Dauntless was an interesting one, defined by this strange juxtaposition of freedom and strict rules. Whenever Tris was out after dark or wandering alone within the Dauntless compound, I always found myself anxious for her safety because I kept thinking she was breaking rules, but she wasn’t. Apparently, I’m so indoctrinated to expect stringent rules with harsh consequences in dystopian fiction that I just expected it everywhere. It took me quite a while to get used to the fact that Tris wasn’t going to be thrown out on her ass for taking a walk through the Pit without an escort.
Or that kissing Four wouldn’t get her killed.
I really appreciated the way Roth handled Tris and explored her dueling, divergent nature – especially the way the random acts of insanity/bravery that the Dauntless perform on a regular basis exhilarated and excited her. Tris approached each challenge with a healthy dose of apprehension and delicious anticipation. She also had just enough Abnegation in her to keep her from being little more than a blunt instrument like some of her fellow Initiates.
There was a little bit of the “I’m so plain, why would he be interested in me” going on with Tris, but considering her background in Abnegation, I understood that. She wasn’t crippled by it, nor did she let it define her.
Speaking of the other Initiates, they ran the gamut. I liked them all – even the antagonists because they provided such great challenges for Tris. I really liked her close friends and was pretty heartbroken over what happens to basically all of them.
Apparently, Four is HUGELY popular and I can see why. I enjoyed him a lot in terms of a romantic foil and a character on his own. It was fascinating to watch him transform in Tris’s eyes from an enigmatic and mysterious presence to an ally and finally a love interest. I also loved that while he was special, he wasn’t Divergent like Tris. The coincidence of who he was and what faction he belonged to before the story began was enough of an aha! moment for me.
Plus, it let to that awesome confrontation between him and Tris at the end of the story.
Divergent succeeded from a technical standpoint as well. In fact, it really just succeeded all over the place. Everything about it was compelling. The heroes, villains and supporting players all stood on their own and fit into the ensemble beautifully. Roth’s writing kept me turning pages relentlessly until I got to the end, which is always the mark of a good story. I will definitely be reading Insurgent – in fact I already have a copy of it, but I’m holding off so that I don’t have to wait quite as long for the next one.