Author: Veronica Roth
Series or Standalone: 1/3 of “The Divergent Trilogy”
Genre(s): Dystopia, YA, Action, Romance
Since last year, everyone has been raving on and on about a book that I initially thought was called “Detergent”. I was mistaken and the title of the novel is in fact Divergent. As soon as I found out that there was going to be a movie adaptation starring Kate Winslet, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and finally got around to reading Divergent. The novel is set in near future Chicago, where society is separated into different “factions” depending on the personality traits of its inhabitants. There are five different factions; Abnegation (the selfless) Eruidite (the intelligent), Dauntless (the brave), Amnity (the peaceful) and Candor (the honest). Once they turn sixteen, the teenagers of the dystopian society must choose whether to stay in the faction they were born and raised in, or, choose a different faction and ultimately betray their family and the society in a world where the idea of “faction over blood” is a serious motto. Once they have chosen their faction, the teens must undergo a series of initiation tests to pass into their new home. However, failure to pass means one becomes factionless, the bottom of the social ladder and forever quarantined from society. Our protagonist, Tris, must choose her faction, however we find out that Tris does not just have the qualities of one faction, but a number of them, thus making her divergent and a danger to the repressed and organised society.
I’m slightly torn on my opinion of this novel and I did enjoy it but, to an extent. Let me start off by saying that I liked the fact that Tris is a strong female character and that her weaknesses are sometimes her strengths and vice versa. Another thing I admired about the protagonist is that she is not willing to compromise who she is, but rather develop and this is a great, strong message that Roth sends out to the numerous teenage girls (and boys) reading this novel. Props to Roth on Tris’ character development as she develops from a meek little girl, into a sturdy young woman who is willing to confront her fears and take control.
Issues of the novel reached much darker places than I had anticipated and some issues that are touched upon include rape and poverty and I felt this was quite daring on Roth’s part as the novel is aimed at a younger audience. The pace of the plot was fairly slow for the first 100 pages but then definitely picked which kept me compelled to continue reading. However, I found the setting rather than the plot more exciting and would love to read more about the background of how Chicago transformed into these factions which is perhaps developed further in the sequels.
I’ve talked briefly about what I enjoyed, now onto what I didn’t love so much about the book. The thing that frustrated me the most was the predictability of the plot. Maybe because I’ve read that much YA, I’m just attuned to it. I knew instantly which faction Tris was going to choose, who her brother, Caleb was going to choose and I even had inkling to Tris’ love interest, Four’s identity and this predictability in the plot meant that I couldn’t enjoy the novel as much as I possibly could have done. Another slightly frustrating plot was the romance. Will I ever get to read a YA without an underdeveloped and cringe-worthy romance? I’m not necessarily criticizing Four or the romance, just the way in which they were both portrayed. They were both predictable and terribly clichéd.
With a similar setting, themes and strong female protagonist, it is inevitable that The Hunger Games comparisons begin. I know I’ve just been praising Tris as a great example of a strong female character but she has nothing on my girl Katniss, who manages to be bad-ass and vulnerable simultaneously. Tris doesn’t even meet her standards. Additionally, I feel Collins manages to convey the violence and poverty more effectively than Roth as she doesn’t shy away from the brutality of society whereas Roth sometimes avoids going into detail on the more controversial and realistic issues. It further lacked the emergency and immediacy that made Collins’ dystopia novel so compelling.
I did thoroughly enjoy Divergent (although it might have been because it’s the first thing I’ve read in months that is not university related). I found the characters driven and interesting. As a standalone, it would be amazing. However, it is hard not to compare it to success of The Hunger Games. Is this the next Hunger Games? Possibly but for me, it only just manages to touch the high bar that the Collins’ trilogy has set but I do believe this may quench the thirst we feel for a new dystopia series in the absence of such YA series by the likes of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.
My verdict: 7/10