Sunday, 4 November 2012

Review - Divergent by Veronica Roth


Divergent (Divergent, #1)
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.

(Cover and description from Goodreads)

This book intrigued me, mainly because I had an idea for a dystopia in which people are segregated according to their personality type a while ago, which never got past the planning stage. But this was different to what I expected, and in a good way. Veronica Roth creates an interesting version of the dystopian world, one based on conformity rather than fear. In this world, there are five paths in life: Abnegation, Amity, Erudite, Candor, and Dauntless, each based on a virtue which they value above all else. The factions live separately, and at sixteen, everyone has to take a test to see which of the factions they will spend their life in. For Beatrice, this will mean staying in Abnegation with her family, or being permanently separated from them.

But what if you don’t fit comfortably into any category?

When Beatrice takes the test, she learns something about herself that could put her life at risk: she is Divergent. This gives her the choice of whether to stay with her family in the selfless, giving world of Abnegation – or to join the Dauntless and realise her full potential.  She decides to start an new life and switch factions, unable to commit to the selfless existence at home. Renaming herself Tris, Beatrice fights to pass the gruelling initiation. If she fails, she will be cast out, factionless – which, to her, is a fate worse than death. But can she survive the tests that follow?

As she fights for a place in the world, Tris is forced to question everything she thinks she knows about herself and her family, and has to face her deepest fears. In a world where everyone is out to compete, can she trust anyone? And with plots brewing in the background, her secret might not be as safe as she assumed.

Divergent didn’t grip me as much as The Hunger Games, but this is an action-packed, engaging read. The action is high and tension and suspense are maintained throughout.  The only criticism is that the majority of the novel is taken up by the long initiation process, which may frustrate some readers that we have to wait until three quarters of the way through the book for the main action to start. But the gripping finale is worth the wait, and the final part of the book is an emotional rollercoaster. The writing is well-paced throughout and the characters are convincing. Tris is a strong heroine, if a bit unfeeling, but it’s refreshing to see a protagonist who isn’t caught up in petty love triangles. The tentative romance is believable, even though Tris’s relationships with the other characters, particularly her family, are a little underdeveloped.

Divergent is well worth a look for anyone looking for their next dystopian read, even if this particular dystopia isn’t quite as absorbing as Katniss’s, and perhaps not entirely plausible under close scrutiny. But the story is enjoyable, and it’s easy to see why it has so many fans. I’ll definitely be reading the next in the series, and I’m interested to see where Roth takes the story next!

Rating: ****

2 comments:

  1. Great book, great review! I agree, it's a really good read, but The Hunger Games is like the mos epic dystopian novel ever. Oh, and you're right, the lack of a love triangle is refreshing, i's nice to see a girl who isn't drooling over every guy that comes near her.

    -JRD.

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  2. Awesome review! I have this book in my TBR pile, so I wonder if my thoughts on it will ultimately line up with yours. I never know what I'll think of a dystopian novel, since they can be so hit-or-miss for me!

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