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Divergent (Divergent #1) by Veronica Roth

27 Sep
Divergent (Divergent, #1)
 
 
Divergent (Divergent #1) by Veronica Roth
Rating: 3.7/5 Stars
 
 
Description:
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.
 
Review:
Any book that arrives heavily hyped usually has a ton of marketing power behind it. Sure, there are critical reviews to consider, but these days consumers are more aware than ever of the dollars at stake behind book and film negotiations. Which means that there’s a lot of pressure riding on any book to live up to its promise, particularly one that comes from a 23-year-old author who has already landed a 3-book deal and signed away the movie rights. After so many big dollar and wearisome projects such as Halo or Matched, it’s a pleasure to find that every once in awhile, there’s a good reason behind the fanfare. Divergent is the fast-paced, action-packed story of 16-year-old Tris, who comes from one of the five factions in a dystopian Chicago. She must choose one of the factions–Candor (honesty), Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (peacefulness), or Erudite (intelligence)–to live in and serve for the remainder of her life. Tris makes the decision to leave her old faction, Abenegation, in favor of Dauntless, and the majority of the book focuses on the dangerous trials that the new initiates must endure in order to find out whether they qualify to stay. Failure means living a factionless life–or death. The very concept of the novel, however, asks that readers accept a fairly rigid framework for the story. This idea that human beings would sublimate their natural instincts to live in a society where a single virtue is promoted is pretty farfetched; it reminds me of various Star Trek alien races known for a single prevailing characteristic, but at least they are also usually presented along with certain instincts and behaviors that made sense. The division between the factions here doesn’t really serve much of a purpose, and is simply explained away as people who chose a lifestyle based on differences in philosophy. Even within the factions, the doctrines don’t really hold up under scrutiny–members of Dauntless, for example, are forever indulging in reckless, pointless exercises that are more about posturing than about testing their mettle. But the thing is, the book is really fun to read. Most of the trials are pretty well thought-out, with scene after scene of nerve-wracking physical and mental tests. I liked the interplay between Tris’ fellow initiates, who cautiously bond with each other but also have to look on each other as rivals, and I liked the mysterious and attractive Four, as well as the way her family members’ characters eventually revealed themselves. Tris herself I had a harder time connecting to, as she’s physically very capable but mentally and emotionally it’s more difficult to say whether she belongs on my “butt-kicking heroines” shelf. Some of her actions also ended up being more self-centered than I expected, mostly because I think the author was trying to show the change in Tris’ morphing from Abegnation to Dauntless. But she and Four also make a huge tactical error at a crucial scene late in the book, which negates both Dauntless’ philosophy and their training. I’m also not sure that several of the deaths later in the book had the appropriate emotional impact, though there were several other scenes that made me yelp. Let’s just say that I gave my knife some pretty fishy looks at the dinner table last night. Still, I had a really good time reading this book, and there’s a lot to be said for books that are just plain entertaining. Many of my fellow readers have major issues with the world-building and the plot holes, and I can’t say that I disagree with most of the criticisms I’ve seen. It’s certainly not in the same category as The Hunger Games; it’s closer to light entertainers such as Blood Red Road or Legend, but I think we often do ourselves a disservice when we endlessly make those kinds of comparisons. It’s always important to read with a critical eye–and it’s true that with more attention to detail, this book might have been even better–but I don’t feel that getting hung up on criticism or comparisons should get in the way of enjoying a book when so many of the other elements do work well. For me, the positives of this adventure outweigh the negatives and in the end, Divergent is still loads of fun to read. I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes next!
 
-Kathy @SMBSLT
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