Rummanah Aasi
  YA Dystopian novels seem to be everywhere this year. One of the most talked about and hyped book this year is Veronica Roth's debut dystopian trilogy, the first book called Divergent, which is set in post-apocalyptic Chicago. Summitt Entertainment, which now known for the Twilight Saga movie adaptations, has picked up the film rights before the book was published. After reading several glowing reviews about the book and my own curiosity of the book's setting, I decided to give it a try. While I didn't "love" the book, I did enjoy it.

Description: In the future, you are born into one of five factions, each of which is characterized by its strength and focus: Abnegation (service), Candor (truth), Erudite (intellect), Amity (friendship), or Dauntless (fearlessness). On your sixteenth birthday, however, you take a test and you can choose a new faction if you are so compelled. This is exactly what happens to Tris, who shocks everyone by exchanging the drab gray robes of Abnegation for the piercing and tattoo styling of Dauntless. What people don't know is that Tris really doesn't belong in any faction, but she must keep her anomaly status to herself in order to stay alive.

Review: Divergent is marketed as the next Hunger Games series. Though both series share very similar structure, they differ in their storytelling. In both books, there has been a post apocalypse which forces the remaining nation (or in the case of Roth's book, only city?) to divide into different districts or traits with the sole purpose of keeping peace and paying for past sins. Both series contain gritty moments where characters are pushed to their physical and mental limits, causing great tension and fast paced adventure. With the Hunger Games, we knew right from the start that the games are real life and death situations. There is a sense of urgency and our emotions are heighten. I didn't sense anything like that with Divergent. In fact we spend most of our time with Tris in the Dauntless training camp and finally get to the central conflict of the book after we are 3/4 into the story.
  I liked the characters of Divergent. Tris is a strong female character that joins the ranks of Katniss and Katsa, girls who can stand on their own, persevere, and fight back. She is constantly battling over which of the five traits that defines her, which makes her likeable and someone you easily root for. Another stand out character is Four, the reserved, broody, and of course, handsome trainer of the Dauntless camp. He holds secrets of his own, but clearly doesn't agree with how things are currently running in his camp. Roth does a good job in creating the romantic tension between these two characters. There is quite a bit of romance to balance the action/thriller scenes in the book.
 What Divergent failed to do, for me at least, is make me deeply care for these characters. The training at the Dauntless camp is grueling. Roth isn't afraid to make her characters miserable, but I didn't come away feeling sad or angry when a character met his or her demise.
  Like many dystopians, we find out that society isn't as perfect as it seems (surprise!) but for an advanced technological society, it is quite predictable. I predicted all of the plot twists of the book, which I'm sure many close readers will too. I found the world building a bit shaky. Is there a world beyond this dystopian version of Chicago? If not, then why is Chicago the chosen city (despite the fact that Roth herself is from Chicago). The world of Divergent just seemed too simple for me. Most of the book discusses morality issues, but there is a very clear line between the "bad" guys and the "good" guys. I was really disappointed that the setting of Chicago wasn't used to its fullest, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to read the book. In fact there were many times where I forgot we were in Chicago unless a landmark like the Millennium Park or Navy Pier was mentioned. I hope Roth does take advantage of the city's landscape in the next two books.   
  Overall, Divergent doesn't add anything new to the crop of dystopian novels that are out right now. Those who are eagerly anticipating the Hunger Games movie will easily love this book for its romance and gutsy action scenes. Despite the books tome-like appearance, it reads quite fast (besides the font is large and the margins are big). The book kept me entertained, but I wanted more and was left unsatisfied. I'm not sure if I'll pick up the second book when it comes out, but I guess I'll wait and see.

Rating: 3.5 stars


Words of Caution: There is some strong violence in the book. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins or The Maze Runner series by James Dashner
8 Responses
  1. Daisy Says:

    Sorry it wasn't a winner for you! I always hate it when I can't connect to the characters and thus don't care about what happens to them. I have this one sitting on my shelf, I hope I'll like it better than you did! Thanks for the review.


  2. MZMollyTL Says:

    Oh Rum, I'm so sorry you did not enjoy Divergent as much as I did. I hope it's okay if I "debate" you on some of your points.
    I quite liked the factions and would quibble in how you describe them. Each faction stems from a "societal ill" that people wanted to address (e.g. Abnegation is more about selflessness, to counter humanity's tendency toward selfishness - this then explains some of the daily habits of the "stiffs" like their policy towards mirrors).
    I liked not knowing everything. Why do the farmers in Amity work outside the city limits with guards present? Is life similar outside Chicago? Not having everything answered for me lets me ponder it and look forward to the other books.
    At the same time, I like being able to predict some of the plot twists. There was one superfluous scene that I thought didn't make sense but I'm willing to let it go and see what happens.
    I'll write more later, if you let me. Thanks for the chance to talk.


  3. We Heart YA Says:

    We haven't finished reading it yet (about 1/4 of the way through) but so far we agree with you: it's a very interesting world and story and set of characters, but we haven't been emotionally engaged yet.

    Thanks for such an insightful review!


  4. Jenny Says:

    It was really fun reading your thoughts on this one Rummanah, I've read only one other review that has been less than positive and it's nice to have some differing perspectives. I love the sound of Tris and Four, and I like that she's not afraid to put them through the wringer, but it's too bad you didn't quite come to care about them as much as you had hoped:(


  5. Daisy: I do hope you enjoy the book. I think I set the bar way to high for this one because of the buzz and hype.

    MZMolly: Of course you can disagree! I don't mind not having all the answers, but there really was nothing left for me to ponder. I might have liked this book more if I hadn't read the Hunger Games series.

    We Heart YA: Yeah, the pace of the book goes quickly, which is kinda hard for the characters to stick with you. I'll be interested to read your thoughts once you are done!

    Jenny: Yeah, I had the same reaction as Linds. I liked Tris and Four but I wanted to love them, you know? They really didn't stand out as much. I hope you like the book more than I do when you read it. I tend to be a little harsher than you. :)


  6. A couple of my friends have felt the same way about Divergent where as I am one of the fan girls. I don't know if it is because I have only read a few dystopia novels or because I am crushing on Four hard but this is one of my favourite reads. Good honest review!


  7. I'm late to the party!!! But yes, 100% agree with you! The book was solid, but it lacked a hook for me. LOVED Four, and Tris was rad, but eh, yeah something missing for me. And the style of writing - I like when it is maintained, such as in Blood Red Road, but at time here, it just seemed redundant rather than add to the overall effect.

    A good book, but not a great one (in my book, anyway).

    You and I are in the minority on this one, my friend.

    -Linds


  8. Anonymous Says:

    How do you know that Divergent's setting is in Chicago?


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