Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Monday, March 19, 2012
Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: dystopia, young-adult, science fiction
Series: Divergent #1
Pages: 487
Published: May 2011
Source: bought
Rating: 4/5

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. 

Divergent is a dystopian thriller about a society based around five principles: peace, bravery, knowledge, selflessness, and truth. Every person belongs to one of these factions, which is chosen when they reach adulthood. They go through initiation into their chosen faction and are either accepted or rejected. Normally, their choice is made easy for them: whichever faction they identify with most strongly, as based on their test. But some, called divergent, are able to manipulate their VR simulation- we learn early that they are rare, and they are dangerous. But not for the reasons you might think.

This is the story of Beatrice, a young woman undergoing the trials and tribulations of divergence. Told to keep her true result quiet, she chooses the faction Dauntless- those who value bravery over all else. Coming from Abnegation- the faction of selflessness- she expects to be welcomed into the fold as a new member, but an ugly surprise awaits her. She has to fight, literally and figuratively, her way into the ranks of Dauntless. And along the way, she will discover there is much more to this divergence thing than she could have imagined.

I greatly enjoyed this book. It probably would have been rated a full five if not for the expectations placed upon it. The premise itself was what I found hardest to believe. Five factions, five ways of thought; these are supposed to hold all of human experience? People are far too complex to fall into these kind of circle-shape-goes-in-circle-hole categories. My assumption would be that nearly everyone would be divergent; human action and reaction often depends on the situation presented. Even the most selfish of us can act selfless given the right motivation. Amirite? Having a really scary dystopian landscape where people are forced to identify with ideas far more simplistic than they truly are is a well-known literary tactic. For the purpose of this author's story, the scary factor was almost nil, in the sense that it was more story driven and not concept driven. For me, that meant the story was exciting enough, but not really riveting in the way that mind-fuckers like 1984 are.

That being said, as a YA novel this hit the mark very well. The character of Beatrice, her love interest Four, and the other young adults she has to work with fill the story in a way that speaks of major talent. In comparison with The Hunger Games, (because you knew I'd have to bring that up) the love story is Divergent's strong point. Four and Tris are believable as a couple from the moment they meet, and Four has this sort of brooding, needy sexuality that spices up the narrative nicely.

All in all, a job well done, and I'm definitely looking forward to the next in the series. Recommended.

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