Monday, June 13, 2011


Divergent - Veronica Roth
Genre: YA Dystopian
# of pages: 487
Publisher: Katherine Tegen, Harper Collins
Divergent @ Parental Book Rev

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.

When I started it a few weeks ago, Divergent seemed like one of those books that everyone had already read but me. I was seeing 5 star reviews for it right and left. And to be honest, I thought, "Oh, swell. Another dystopian. Please, please tell me there's no love triangle or emotion suppression a la Giver or anything else that's been done to death." Heehee, that's me and dystopians. Well, that was me and dystopians, because Divergent is one of those blessed books that truly surprised me. I was expecting, at best, to find an entertaining book that I could nod my head at, go "yeah, cool," and then go on with my merry little life.
But folks...Divergent is every bit as deserving of the praise it has received.

For one thing, the book succeeds at its most basic (but often overlooked) level: believability.
Does believability in a dystopian mean a world that is in our near future? No, not really. It means that it is a story that is both rational and (to a certain extent) possible. Beatrice Prior's near-future Chicago world is one that makes sense: I could definitely see the principles behind the creation of the factions, I could believe that ordinary people thought that they were creating a better, more virtuous society, and I could believe that this man-made world would misplace their values, become totalitarian, and descend into corruption.
So not only was the story world believable, it was fascinating. I absolutely loved and absorbed the idea of the factions - what they stood for, how members lived...everything. Easily, this is the most compelling dystopian I've read since The Knife of Never Letting Go. Because the main character was brought up in Abnegation and then transferred to Dauntless, I really got to see those factions in high-def detail. I'm hoping that in the next installment I'll get to see how some of the other factions work as well, because they are all so vividly unique.
For me at least, Beatrice 'Tris' Prior is exactly the kind of character/narrator I look for in a YA novel. She's someone who is still very much learning about the world around her and her place in it. Yes, she was a strong and determined character. So are a lot of others in the genre. It was her capacity for compassion, tenderness, and the possession of a conscience that made her stand out. Sure, in the beginning she was a little closed-off, and I originally found her to be a little on the cold and detached side, but it's how she matured that really impressed me. And also, she was the perfect heroine for a dystopian book. I think there's this tendency to make them immediate question the world around them, and by the end of book one, they're already screaming out "Vive le revolution!" and planning a new world order. But Tris is perfect because she's someone who initially a product of her society - it's what she knows and what she's always known. Slowly, though, she sees cracks in the system and starts to question the world around her. Perfect.
And this review wouldn't be complete without mentioning Four. The funny thing is, I wasn't originally very impressed with him. I have this idea of guys as chivalrous and inherently mannerly, and at first glance I was puzzled by his seeming complacency with a clearly flawed system. But just like Tris, I came to discover that there was more beneath the surface. After that, he easily became my favorite character (especially when I found out that he had this characteristic that I absolutely LOVE but don't see enough of in YA fiction)
So I said how much I loved the worldbuilding. I said how much I loved the main characters.
The story itself was a near-perfect blend of action, emotional growth, juicy revelations, and buildup. Sure, there were some parts that were slower than others. It just made the buildup more exciting. And really, some parts were a little hard to get through. I was a little unsure what to think about some of the Dauntless initiation practices - excessive violence as bravery, really? But see, the cool thing is...that was the whole point. The point was to show how one faction's noble values disintegrated into brutality. At the same time, other factions' noble principles had been replaced with greed, corruption and dishonesty - the very vices that led to the formation of the world of the factions in the first place. At the same time, I liked the message the author seemed to present - the pursuit of virtuous behavior (i.e. being brave, selfless, or honest) isn't the problem; rather, it's trying to choose one at the expense of the others. If you can't tell, I absolutely devoured this premise!
Lastly, I don't exactly know how to say this, because this is a quality in literature that is personally important to me, but may not be to other people. I'm not saying that Divergent is a 'morality tale' or anything that heavy-sounding, but I really, really liked that it seemed to have some powerful (yet subtle) moral truths within it. It just really stood out in such a substantial way. And it's a testament to how extremely intelligent and well-spoken (or well written?) Veronica Roth is. I mean, if she had a dinnertime conversation with Erasmus, Chesterton, and Lewis, she'd definitely be able to hold her own, that's for sure! I know that ideally, we reviewers should be able to separate authors from their work and just look at what they produce...but honestly, it's been so cool to not only find a new favorite book to gush about, but also a new author to admire.
So yes, I definitely feel like one of the last ones to read and review Divergent, but believe me when I say that this is top-notch fiction right here. It doesn't get any better than this. All the pieces came together to craft an EXCEPTIONAL ending. And while it does leave you wanting more, it's not the kind of ending that induces nail-biting hysteria. I'm actually really, really glad it ended where it did (I won't say what, but if you've read the book...I really like how it ends up with "Four." :D)
Don't you dare pick up another dystopian book from your TBR pile until you've read this one first!
Final Rating

Veronica Roth's website
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