By Veronica Roth
Published on April 25, 2011
Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Published by Katherine Tegen Books
So I put off reading Divergent for a long time. Partly because I just had so many other books to read, and partly because I was just sort of afraid that I wouldn't like it. Oftentimes whenever a book is so hyped and so well loved by a lot of people, I just wind up being disappointed, and this is especially true with dystopians, which have just been disappointing me right and left lately. But Divergent was this month's pick for the book club that I go to, so I figured it was finally time to read this one.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.
And, of course, as pretty much everyone I know predicted, I definitely wasn't let down. I read the bulk of this book in a day, and stayed up way too late reading it because I needed to know what happened. The story is fast paced and engaging, and I definitely found myself wanting to know more about the world and its characters. For the most part, it's pretty clear-cut who the bad guys are and who you're supposed to be rooting for, although there are a few surprises here and there.
I am interested to watch Tris develop over the series - I already know how the series ends (I was curious so I went and spoiled myself because of all the uproar), so I'm interested to see what happens to get her to that endpoint. I somehow have managed to stay spoiler-free for most of the major developments in the books, so I really don't have any idea what's going to happen, and am looking forward to seeing what happens.
I liked the supporting characters and wish we got to know more about them. I had a hard time keeping many of the initiates straight, even the ones who were supposed to be closest to Tris. I did enjoy the romance between Tris and Four despite myself and my longstanding feelings of meh towards most YA romances. I wish their developing relationship had been a little more drawn out -- they fall in twu wuv after only a matter of weeks -- but I could buy it, for the most part. They share some really poignant, moving scenes together that I was excited to read. And I'm trying to think of YA romances a bit more through the lens of an actual teenager, because teenagers do fall in love in a heartbeat and start doing dumb things when they realize their feelings. I know I sure did! So me as an adult was kind of annoyed with the total personality transplant Tris seemed to get after she and Four first made out, but thinking about her as a 16-year old who had been relatively sheltered and is experiencing her first kind-of relationship, it made sense.
But like any book, I've got some gripes about it. First - alright, look. I am really picky about books set in Chicago (or books set anywhere that I have lived). And even though the author grew up in the Chicago area, the Chicago setting felt very... paint by numbers to me. It hits the major landmarks -- Navy Pier, Lake Michigan, Sears Tower, Hancock building, Millennium Park, etc. -- but didn't feel Chicago to me. It's a very nebulous criticism, because it's something so specific and has little to do with storytelling and more to do with "this is a place I love, let's do it justice". I'm excited that the movie was filmed in/around Chicago, so maybe that will make the book's kind of phoned-in locale feel a little better to me.
I also found myself with a ton of questions about the book's universe, which I hope may be answered by books two and three. Like -- what happened to the rest of the world? What's outside of the city gates? Who in the world thought that separating people into factions that take behavioral traits to the extremes was possibly a good idea? Why do people just accept the fact that having more than one of these traits is bad news? Like, why wouldn't you want to be a little bit of all of them? What sort of wacky societal brainwashing happened to tell people you had to be the extreme of one trait. I don't need a complete history of the world, but I felt like I could have used just a little more backstory to set me off on the right foot.
Another reviewer on Goodreads said that Divergent is good as long as you don't think about it for too long, and I think that's where I fall with it. I enjoyed reading it and will definitely be reading the other two books, but the longer I think about it, the more things I start to find that rub me the wrong way.