June 24, 2011

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent Trilogy)

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 was not supposed to be the review I write next. In fact, it’s supposed to be review number 4 on my list. But I finished the book last night and I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT IT so I figured I kill two birds with one stone. Brilliant.

Another dystopian novel? *groan* Hey now, before you start moaning and groaning about us reading yet another dsytopian story, I want you to understand a few things about Divergent: First of all, it takes place in post-apocalyptic Chicago, one of the most beautiful and recognizable cities in  America. It’s such a treat to read about locations and landmarks that you’ve seen all your life in movies and television and really know the landscape that this story is told on. Secondly, Divergent tells a ruthless, sometimes barbaric story of survival with little repentance and little hope. There are places in the story that will shock you and scare you but there are moments of intrigue and discovery that will warm you as well.

Now before I continue with this review I want to warn you. If you’ve read The Hunger Games, Matched, or Delirium (and as you know, we at SYTYCW have) then you naturally might be inclined to compare those (equally fabulous) works with Divergent. Let me do us all a favor and say “please don’t.” Please don’t get so hung up on the comparisons that you miss out on the amazing story Divergent aims to tell. I asked myself this question while I was reading it and started doing the comparison thing myself, I said, “Self,” because I really do talk to myself often, “Self, if you’ve never read Hunger Games or Matched or Delirium before reading Divergent, you wouldn’t think less of this story because of it, so why would you bog yourself down now, just read it for what it is and don’t compare.” I tend to have these debates with myself all the time. What? Is my schizophrenia showing? *grins*

Filled with characters you love as much as you hate, Divergent takes us on a ride through post-apocalyptic Chicago where ivy vines grow up the walls of the majestic architecture and the vast Lake Michigan is now referred to as a “swamp”. The “El” trains (Chicago-ese for their above ground “elevated” mass transportation system) still run through the city and remain the only mode of transportation for most of the citizens of the five factions. The factions are divided both socially and geographically and cross visitation into other factions are rare and discouraged. Citizens are born and raised in factions that their parents are in, however, when they come to age sixteen  they are allowed to go through a choosing ceremony to officially place themselves in a faction of their choice. That choice is assisted by a series of tests and evaluations meant to unveil each person’s tendency towards a specific faction. That same test however, revealed a deadly secret to Tris that threatens her very existence.

Fast paced and frantic, the pages keep turning and before you know it, it’s 4:30am and you’ve got to get up in 2 hours to get ready for work. THIS is the kind of book Divergent is. Tris is the center of this story and her story is one of evolution. Through her initiation process into her chosen faction you see her evolve from someone who toed the line at societal norms to someone who steps over it completely. She truly develops into a bad ass and man, oh man, do I love her!  Tris is a strong-willed, confident young protagonist who asserts herself in some impossible situations. But she isn’t completely fearless. She battles the same emotional demons we all battle including feelings of guilt, betrayal, fear and anxiety. The way she handles herself in these intense situations are very in-character of a mature 16 year old who has lived in the kind life she has. The surrounding characters assist in moving the story along and provide great fodder for her, the friendships develop realistically and the bullies have realistic motivations behind their actions. Even the romance develops at a natural pace and although is a bit surprising, it feel very right for the characters.

Divergent is the first novel in a trilogy written by 22-year old first time published writer, Veronica Roth. The next book in the series, Insurgent, will be out in 2012 and, for one, cannot wait!

Happy Reading,


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