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 by Veronica Roth
My reaction: Divergent is such an adrenaline rush of a read. It will get your heart pounding and your breath quickening as you experience the highs and lows along with the protagonist Tris. I liked the concept of a society divided into factions based on personality traits before I even started reading the book. Roth does a fantastic job of demonstrating how even qualities normally seen as positive – selflessness, for instance, or bravery – can be destructive when taken to extremes.
I do still have a lot of questions about how these factions developed over time, and why they seem to be set up as mutually exclusive. In our world, humans don't normally display only one of these five traits, but rather varying levels of several. So in Divergent, do they basically hone a particular trait through, for a lack of a better word, inbreeding within the faction? Has courage, for instance, eventually become genetically manifested in only those of the Dauntless group? I'd love to know more about how the aptitude test was designed and is supposed to function as well.
Tris is a complex, multi-layered character; often I found that I didn't agree with the course of action she was taking, but at the same time I found myself still cheering for her. There is an interesting internal battle of wills that Tris fights, with her instinct for self-preservation warring with her desire to be selfless. Still, the ruthless, occasionally bordering on sadistic, tendency that Tris shows sometimes is unsettling – but she's not the only one. Several of her peers display schadenfreude far more frequently, which adds to the readers' sense that the system is clearly not working.
After Tris, my next favourite character was probably Four, and for the most part I enjoyed the development of their relationship, which didn't overpower or slow down the plot but was still definitely central to the storyline. He's a bit of a mystery to Tris, and about the closest thing she's got to a protector in her situation. (Sidenote: I so totally guessed the revelation about Four long before we find out! I'm usually terrible at that.) But even Four has his flaws, and there were a couple instances that were troubling to me in his treatment of Tris. Spoilery bit, highlight to read: Okay, was it just me, or did the scene where he tells her his instinct is to push till she breaks give anyone else the 'this is not a healthy relationship' red flag? By the end, however, we see a greater level of trust and openness between the two of them.
There are a lot of side characters in this novel, and I had some trouble keeping track of all of them and which faction they were originally from. Since there are so many, they are not all equally dynamic and fleshed-out, although perhaps some of them will get more screen time in the sequels.
Best aspect: I really enjoyed that we get to see so much of Tris' daily life in training, with the focus being on her experience rather than pushing the dystopian aspects of the society at the reader. Instead, they are reflected in the worrisome behaviour of more than one faction, signaling that despite initial outward appearances, a society based on division that pits one group against another is dangerous.
Also, the theme of fear is central to the story, and this really affects the reading experience: the journey we are taken on is intense, gripping, and anxiety-producing. If this book doesn't get your heart racing, blood pumping, and palms sweating, you might be clinically dead.
If I could change something... I didn't find one of the most important antagonists particularly frightening, frankly. Also, I had some qualms about the ending; the villainous threat seemed to happen with too little warning or lead-up. BIG spoilers: the serum is mentioned a couple times throughout, but the Erudite control of the majority of the Dauntless, essentially turning them into robots, just happened so suddenly and easily that it was a little unbelievable. I really wanted to know more about how both the regular serum and the special "Divergent" serum worked, because clearly they were different from the serum the Dauntless initiates were injected with to stimulate their fears.
Also, it probably won't come as a shock that some characters in this book die. Not going to spoil who, of course, but as a reader I found that for most of the deaths I wasn't strongly impacted emotionally, perhaps because we – along with Tris – aren't given much time to process them before the next action scene happens. I'm not sure that some of the deaths were really necessary for the storyline.
Hopes for the sequel? I am really hoping that we are introduced to the Amity and Candor areas of the city, and that we get to meet more characters from these two factions. I'm interested to see if there will be a 'dark side' displayed in these as well.
Read if you like: The Hunger Games, Uglies, Enclave, The Giver
Final verdict: 4.5 shooting stars.
Author's website: http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com/
Note: Because there is a substantial amount of violence and brutality in this one, I'd recommend it more for the older set of YA readers.
Disclaimer: I received a Divergent ARC from the publisher for review for A Cornucopia of Dystopia.
And now, I'll be giving away that ARC, so here are the guidelines...
- Open to Canadian mailing addresses only.
- Entrants must be 13 years or older.
- One entry per person (tweeting and following are not required, but are certainly appreciated)
- Ends April 30 at 11:59 pm EST
- Winner will be selected randomly and contacted by e-mail