Monday, December 3, 2012

Divergent: A Book Review

There will be NO SPOILERS in this review! Enjoy (:

Even though I said I probably wouldn't be posting book reviews for a few more weeks, I couldn't resist. I stumbled across Veronica Roth's Divergent about 1.5 years ago when I was looking for a book that would satisfy my Hunger Games pangs. In passing, I even mistook the flame on the cover for the mockingjay symbol, but I hesitated and put the book out of my mind- until recently. On a whim, and after reading some Defoe, Austen, Radcliffe, and Burney I was itching for something fun (not that society/manners/British culture aren't fun, but you know what I mean). And by now my Hunger Games pangs have dissipated so Divergent didn't have much space to fill. So, why not?

(photographed: Veronica Roth's Divergent)

And because I'm always wary about giving book descriptions (I often give too little, but fear giving too much) here's the description straight from Amazon:

"In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, 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 alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating 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 unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her."

I want to mention The Hunger Games as little as possible in this review, but seeing as human minds are associational by nature, that will be difficult to do. So, outright, I want to name the primary similarities I noticed between the two novels. (If you haven't read The Hunger Games series, then this will just be a little of random things I noticed in Divergent).

1. both are modern dystopian novels (Not a remarkably interesting similarity. There are many out there, but I thought I'd just mention it.)
2. both have 16 yr-old female protagonists
3. both female protagonists have the desire to look tough (I would say Jennifer Lawrence Katniss more so than Beatrice)
4. like what made Hunger Games incredibly marketable to teen girls, Divergent involves details on makeup and hair (even braids!)
5. both contain a significant amount of teen-on-teen violence

Those were what I found to be the main similarities. And because I made that list, I thought I'd do a list on significant differences I found as well.

1. The social structure of Panem was meant to cruel and unjust. The social structure in Divergent is meant to spawn a war-free world.
2. Divergent contains much more romance than The Hunger Games (I'm mostly just referring to the first book, but I would even venture to say that Divergent has more romance than all the Hunger Games Trilogy).

For the first quarter of the book it was incredibly hard for me to not picture Katniss and Panem, but as the book progressed, it fell into it's own. Now that I got all references to The Hunger Games out of my system, I want to focus primarily on Divergent.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It was fast-paced, engaging, incredibly difficult to put down. The premise of the story in which is society is divided into attributes is refreshing and unique. If you enjoy these modern dystopian novels, chances are, you'll enjoy this one as well.

My favorite part of the novel is when it touches on subjects of overcoming fears- probably the best, and most underlined section in my copy of the book.

"Becoming fearless isn't the point. That's impossible. It's learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it, that's the point."

I cared enough about the characters to root for a specific group, but unfortunately that quickly segues me to a point I wanted to make on what I felt the book lacked.

The characters in Divergent were not incredibly likable. Beatrice's moods fluctuated in a way that got annoying fast. She became that girl who wanted to be tough but gave way to her romantic emotions quickly- almost too quickly. Other than minor characters, I wouldn't say there were any characters that I particularly liked (and often I don't like to include minor characters because since they play minor roles, it's easier to not see their flaws as we do with the major characters). I don't consider "liking" a character an essential component to enjoying a book, but either way, they must feel real, and in many ways, Beatrice was far too one-dimensional. She regained herself towards the end but even then, only slightly.

Lastly, I consider it a requirement for dystopian novels to make me assess the society I live in in comparison to the novels. I like how the five different factions really do speak to the major human faults, but as far as revelations that the characters experience in the novel, they weren't very interesting revelations. I'm tempted to use an example, but I won't for fear of spoiling anything.

Despite those complaints, I really did enjoy this novel so much that I had to purchase Insurgent before I had even finished Divergent. I'm currently reading Insurgent right now and am still very much engaged so Veronica Roth is definitely doing something right.

If you have been on the fence about reading this book, I would just recommend that you go for it. It's an easy read that you could get through in one sitting if you really wanted to.

I hope you enjoyed this review! (Expect Insurgent in a few days? Maybe?)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review :) I think once my schedule clears up, I'll try to give this one a read...if I can find it in the library again.