Divergent, Book 1
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Description from Goodreads:
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.
Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.
First Sentence: "There is one mirror in my house."
I set out on this review carefully, and in hopes that people will not hate me too much for it. I did not love Divergent; in fact, I wavered between a rating of 2.5 and 3. Part of the problem, I suspect, is likely the hype. The fandom did such a good job of convincing me that this dystopia was flipping awesome that I bought it at full price without having read it, something I pretty much never do...for good reason, apparently. To my mind, Divergent does not deserve the crazy amounts of hype, and definitely is not one of the better dystopias I've read.
My problems, though, are much more widespread than just expectations set to high because of the blogosphere's immense love for this book. Let's just go in order as I experienced my big three issues, shall we? First off, there's the writing. I realized on the first page that Roth writes in the stereotypical YA style that I loathe: short sentences that are rarely compound, mostly simple words, and lots of dashes. The writing in Divergent is only marginally better than the writing in Twilight. I make this comparison not because it's common to compare every YA book to Twilight, but because that really is the book Roth's writing reminded me of.
Next up is the world-building. Maybe it's just me but this society does not make one lick of sense. You probably know, if you follow YA fiction at all, that this world is divided up into five factions based on a personality trait: Erudite (intelligence), Dauntless (bravery), Abnegation (selflessness), Candor (honesty), and Amity (kindness). Lol whut, right? How did this happen?
"‘Decades ago our ancestors realized that it is not political ideology, religious belief, race, or nationalism that is to blame for a warring world. Rather, they determines that it was the fault of human personality—of humankind’s inclination toward evil, in whatever form that is. They divided into factions that sought to eradicate those qualities they believed responsible for the world’s disarray.’"Right. Because the obvious way to remove disarray and prevent people from fighting is to break them up into groups. They'll be separate but equal. In fact, each faction is responsible for a different aspect of making the society run. Abnegation, since they're so selfless, run the government and mete out resources. Amity farms. The Erudite think things and make technology. Candor run the judicial system. The Dauntless defend from any possible external threats. Am I the only one who thinks this is the worst idea ever? Who would ever have agreed to this plan?
Not only that, but a big part of being in a faction seems to be hatred of certain other factions. How is that healthy? To eliminate evil, we will separate into groups and resent one another. This is supposed to come off as a recent development, I think, but I really can't see how it could ever be any other way, since certain personality types just won't necessarily mesh well. If this were the real world, the Dauntless would probably have overthrown everyone as soon as they were unhappy with a governmental decision, since they're THE ONLY ONES WHO KNOW HOW TO FIGHT AND THEY HAVE ALL OF THE GUNS.
Oh, and I need to say a little bit more about those factions they developed. I've heard the factions in Divergent compared to the houses in Harry Potter, but that's not what I thought of as I read about them. I like to think of the factions as 'fratorities,' a word I made up to describe a gender neutral fraternity or sorority. At the age of 16, the kids of this world have to essentially rush a faction/fratority. Then they go through initiation, and if they don't pass they can be kicked out. Just like the fraternities and sororities on my college campus, each of these has a different mentality: the friendly ones, the partiers, the smart ones, the trustworthy ones, the ones that do community service for their job applications. Perhaps it was because we so few older individuals in the book, except for some parents, but there was a very childish, fratority feel to the whole thing.
The other nigh insurmountable issue with Divergent to my mind is Tris. At the best of times, I just could not believe that she's particularly special. At the worst, I wanted to throw her off the cliff more than Peter did. Since she was divergent, she was supposed to basically fit into each faction equally, but I just didn't see that. She did not strike me as especially brave, honest, kind, intelligent or selfless, despite all the attempts to prove her so. She struck me, in fact, as very average. This is fine and could have been a good thing, except that I was constantly told how unique and amazing she was. I feel like is she's divergent, than probably about half the population should be.
The other thing that really bothered me about her was her inability to be a good friend, and how incredibly mean she was. The perfect example of this is in her treatment of Al. On the very first night in Dauntless, she's in her cot, trying to sleep and resisting the urge to cry. Then she hears Al crying and thinks: "I should comfort him---I should want to comfort him, because I was raised that way. Instead I feel disgust. Someone who looks so strong shouldn't act so weak." Wow, really, bitch? It would be okay if he was an itty bitty girl like you, but big, masculine men aren't allowed to cry? This just makes me so incredibly angry. She later befriends Al, but always secretly thinks of him as a wussy baby. This is not okay.
However, you may notice that I went with a 3 rating, so I didn't hate it, even if I did flirt with a meh. Well, the 3 is because I think I will be reading the next book, because I would like to know what happens next. I do kind of like Four, and I hope he'll have more of a personality in the next book. I also liked Christina and Will and, assuming their both alive, might enjoy Insurgent more if they had a larger role.
To conclude, I think this book has been vastly over-rated. I recommend it in the same way I would recommend The Selection: with caution and to people looking for a fun, fluffy read. This one has more darkness and violence, but is ultimately satisfying to me in precisely the same unhealthy way.
Favorite Quote: "‘I like to think I’m helping them by hating them,’ she says. ‘I’m reminding them that they aren’t God’s gift to humankind.’"
"I'll never be fraternity
Another disease fraternity
Never believe fraternity
Just armies bored in life"
Another disease fraternity
Never believe fraternity
Just armies bored in life"
Remember: Every comment on a post during Dystopian August is an entry to win one of fourteen dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels IF you've filled out the form from this post.