Title: Divergent (Divergent #1)
Author: Veronica Roth
On the Shelves: Young Adult> Dystopian
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, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her (Goodreads 2014)
This is my third re-read of the first book in Roth’s Divergent trilogy. The reason for re-reading it this time around was initially to make sure I had the plot fresh in my mind for when the movie comes out next month since I actually couldn’t remember the specific events of the book, and then I intend to continue re-reading Insurgent next, and then finish up with finally reading Allegiant, which I sadly am lagging behind the internet on- however I have managed to avoid most of the spoilers so I’ve no idea what happens…
Upon re-reading Divergent, I realised the reason why I’d previously given it four stars, and why it was destined to stay four stars on my rating. The quickest way to summarise it is that I could not remember the events of the book. I actually couldn’t remember what happened in Divergent beyond the “Tris becomes a Dauntless” aspect. While Roth’s writing is good, it does fall a little shorter than other good examples I can think of (the most obvious and common comparison here will probably be Collin’s Hunger Games series). The characters aren’t very memorable in the first book, they don’t really stand out in my mind as boldly as some other YA protagonists, despite being the main characters of the book.
As such, I had little to no chance of remembering any of the side characters, like Will’s humour, Christina’s sassy personality and the desperation of Al. All of which are enjoyable during reading but once the book is shut..these characters just faded from my memory. Similarly the world-building is ironically so confined and limited to focusing on the factions, you have no idea what is “missed” from the wider society- although I think a lot more of the world building happens throughout the series, I think the author should have devoted some time in the first book to the society they live in besides “these are the factions, here is what they stand for, annnnd…what now? Oh right…they should fight, okay go”
That being said, once I’d gotten back into the book, I remembered how great Tris is as a heroine. She is probably one of the more realistic young adult heroines so far.Tris is flawed. She is selfish, brave, proud. She isn’t kind or vain. Not everyone loves her instantly and some hate her guts. it makes her realistic and you don’t see that often enough in YA . There were some moments of dialogue which concerned me a bit. I know a lot of readers adore Four (you aren’t alone there), and a lot of people adore his line of “my first instinct is to push you until you break, just to see how hard I have to press”…does nobody else see how disturbing that is? I mean, that sounds almost borderline threatening when you think about it.
One aspect I’ve always loved of this book is the idea of the Dauntless facing the Fearscapes. I always wonder what would be in my fearscapes, how many I would have and how I would react to them. I also would really, really like a Novella about the period of time where Tris’ mum changed her factions and what exactly happened to her during that time. (Please?!)
I’m glad I’ve re-read the book, as I now remember how it all kicks off at the end and I know what to expect for the film (I’m so on the fence about the casting for this film, really. I just can’t seem to bring myself to like it much), and I imagine some people, saw the trailer and immediately rolled their eyes “oh another dystopia where the girl must save the world and obviously be in love with the first good looking guy she meets”. It does tick a hell of a lot of “what is popular in YA today?” boxes, and reading some of the Four/Tris scenes made me cringe, simply because when I imagined what it will be like in the film, it will be far too cheesy. But at the same time, Divergent– while not the strongest of YA dystopia, has a pretty good go at it and manages to hold it’s own ground well.
I’m looking forward to re-reading Insurgent and finally getting around to reading Allegiant, even if the major death in it did get spoiled for me (stupid goodreads friend-feed -.- thanks for that).