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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Review of Divergent

So, I've decided to keep things short (aside from the witty comments in parentheses, I couldn't bring myself to cut those). I'm still trying to decide on a format, so I'd love to hear feedback on how it works.
Note: I read this book quite a while ago, and while I got it out again for a quick review, I didn't do an in-depth reading of it again while taking notes. You might notice that this review doesn't go into a ton of detail- that's why. I decided to get this done sooner and concentrate on more general things than go into a huge amount of detail and end up with a boring post that takes a week to write.

Divergent, by Veronica Roth, is the first book in the Divergent series (Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant). It was published in 2011, and was made into a film in March, 2014. The book receives around a 4.5 on book review sites such as Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and Amazon. I think that's about it for the boring bit. :)

Unfortunately, Divergent fails majorly in the plot category. When I first began writing this, I planned to do a one word summary of each category, and the plot word was "argh".
Divergent is set in a Dystopian world where every child is divided into factions at age 16. There are five factions (let's see if I can do it from memory): Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, and Erudite. Selflessness, Love, Truth, Courage, and Wisdom. Sounds good, right? You have people sorted out where they belong; they'll love each other or tell the truth or jump off trains along with other lunatics like them (except for the ones who can't decide, those will be homeless and on the street... but who cares about them?). All of the problems of the world solved. Yay.
Sadly, the world doesn't work like that.People are different from each other. It's not only Beatrice Prior who's brave and selfless and smart, it's everyone in the world. Interesting idea, but unfortunately it's just a flawed premise.
As we move through the book, Tris (yes, she changed her name 12% of the way through the book) struggles to find her place in her chosen faction, eventually discovers a rather ridiculous plot involving some magic potion (sorry, serum, which she is helpfully immune to), finds out just enough to allow for a sequel, makes out with her boyfriend, etc.
I'm not being fair. There are good things, too. The faction system is interesting, and seeing it from the mind of someone who doesn't fit in is cool. Watching Tris struggle to succeed in a world not meant for her is one of the best parts of the book. She practices, she faces her fears, and she succeeds. Great lesson, interesting to read about, and just generally a good idea when writing books for teenagers.
Divergent's premise may be flawed, and the plot might not be the best, but it contains valuable lessons and on the whole could be a lot worse.

Writing Quality:
Divergent is written in first person present-tense, which is always risky, but mostly pulls it off (please note that I am using the Kindle version, and so the edition I'm using may have mistakes not in the print version. If I quote something unfairly, please comment and I'll try to fix it.)
There are some bad lines. Examples from the random page I turned to include: "My stomach squeezes when I see her face" (what else would it be doing?); "They are sleepwalkers" (uh, no, they're not); "All the initiates fall into a line when they finish dressing" (I think she's missing a word there, and it's just an awkward sentence). In general though, the writing isn't terrible, and it was a quick and easy read. Maybe it could have used a little more editing, but what can't?

The characters are pretty good. Tris, the main character, is rather irritatingly good at everything she does, but we do see her work to improve from her rather terrible starting place. Nothing outstanding about her, but no major complaints, either. She is not perfect, she does make mistakes, she does have to face consequences, and she works to overcome her shortcomings.
Her boyfriend, Four (long story), is also okay. He seems a bit old for Tris (although when you look at their ages he isn't), but he has an interesting backstory and I could stand to read his lines, which is more than I can say for a lot of boyfriends in YA novels.
The minor characters- Tris's friends, her family, etc. are pretty good. They get fleshed out in interesting ways, which a lot of novels don't bother to do, and even the ones who seem to exist only to die later on have the grace to do it on-screen and epicly.

Work hard to overcome your problems, it's okay to be different, stand up for yourself, etc. Basically a lot about how to be who you are and not let anyone get in your way. The only bad lesson (although there are probably many more that I missed) I can think of in this book is that it shows tattoos (the permanent kind) as a thing to get on a whim, instead of a serious decision that will stick with you for the rest of your life.
I've seen it be a great confidence booster in friends of mine, and it's a great book to read if you feel like you don't really belong anywhere. Actually, as it shows the outcast from society having to work hard to hide who she is while struggling to belong, the book is great in that way.

Other notes:
Special mention for whoever designed the covers:

And also a congratulatory note to Veronica Roth for one word titles that I don't actually hate (although Allegiant is pushing it). The whole "one choice" thing was a bit much, though.

I thought the books got worse as I moved through the series, but since it took a while for each book to come out, my tastes might just have changed. I didn't throw any of them across the room, though, which in sequels can be hard to achieve.

*Pause for evil cackle*
Divergent receives a 2.24 (I did warn you about the fractions)

Thanks for reading. :)

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