Backlist Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Monday, April 13, 2015
Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: dystopia, young adult, post apocalyptic
Series: Divergent #1
Pages: 487
Published: April 2011
Source: purchased
Rating: 3.5/5

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, 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 to determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating 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 a growing conflict that threatens 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 liked this. It's not a perfect book any means, but that's a strong, very solid 3.5 stars for all my qualms with Roth's dystopian future. There's a certain generic feel to a lot about Divergent -- try and deny it --- but it's so much fun to read. It's action-packed, fast-paced, creative, and engaging. It's a perfect book for a movie adaption. It's all surface and no substance, but Divergent is a violent, reckless, thrill-ride. It's better than it should be, really, but it's hard to deny the story's attributes.

Both the world and the worldbuilding are so unlikely and hard to believe but my god if this isn't a great example of turn-off-your-brain-and-be-entertained type stuff.  I can see the sheer implausibility of Roth's world backfiring on her in 3 books, but here, in book one? Just ignore it and enjoy in second hand adventures; live vicariously through the at-times morally compromised and anti-heroine-ish Tris. Suspension of disbelief is key in books like this (coughyourpremiseisshwoing) but if you can ignore all the inconsistencies and logic fails, Divergent will never bore you.

Let's talk Beatrice-now-Tris. I liked her once she stopped fretting about her Choice. In her ridiculous world, she is supposed to put "faction before [family]" so a little hang-wringing is expected when "abandoning" them because she dares control her own life. But once she starts to be more proactive (at least when Four's not saving her), Tris is a better protagonist than she has any right to be. She's morally grey at times. ambitious, and cutthroat. She's not a Katniss, who experienced grief and guilt and moral dilemmas. Tris acts -- often to save herself. Tris thinks horrible things, but she's true to herself. I can't not respect that, especially in the harsh, unyielding world she is supposed to live in.

Anyway. Harmless, brainless, book fluff. If books were food, Divergent is the bubblegum you eat while waiting for a real meal. I like bubblegum and I liked reading this -- but it's pure entertainment. This is a case where the movie might not be better than the source material, but it's at least as good.

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