Can we all just take a moment to mourn the fact that I do not own the US cover of this book? It has been frustrating me for weeks, WEEKS I TELL YOU. The US version is so shiny and pretty and more appropriate for the story, and what do the UK do? Create a new naff, forgettable not to mention PINK (I hate pink) cover. It’s not even a full on I’m pink and I’m proud cover! It’s a I’m a halfway pasty pink that can’t make up its mind! Then of course the retailers had to go and make it impossible to get hold of the American version. Really publishers? REALLY?
*Steam protrudes from ears.*
Sorry, I had to get that out.
Readers that follow the YA book market will have been hard pressed to miss the buzz surrounding Divergent. Not only does it follow the dystopian trend but was one of the first that surfaced to rival the popularity of The Hunger Games. I avoided reading it for a long time; as you can tell I’m late to the hype with just enough time to get excited about the upcoming movie. I felt so passionate about The Hunger Games that I dismissed Divergent. Who wants a watered down, money grabbing imitation of one of their favourite books? Yet the positive reviews kept coming, some from my favourite and most trusted blogging friends so I had to sit up and take notice. I’m glad I did, because yes, while Divergent has parallels with The Hunger Games it stands in its own right!
Sixteen-year-old Tris is forced to make a terrible choice. In a divided society where everyone must conform, Tris does not fit.
So she ventures out alone, determined to discover where she truly belongs. Shocked by her brutal new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her.
The hardest choice lies ahead.
Sheesh, anyone else think that’s naff blurb? I hate it when they try to fit in all the YA cliché’s.
Tris lives in a futuristic Chicago, a world that has learnt to function by separating individuals into five idealistic personality types. Each faction has its own role within society ensuring order. There is Candor the honest, Amity the peaceful, Erudite the knowledgeable, Abnegation the selfless and Dauntless the brave. On turning sixteen aptitude tests are administered to individuals indicating which faction best suits their personality. This leaves them with a life-changing choice – to stay with the faction they were born into, or to choose another and leave their family behind.
Born into Abnegation a faction that frowns upon focusing on outward appearance, personal gain and selfishness, headstrong Tris has never quite fit in. So when her test instructor informs her she is Divergent, a dangerous individual that does not fit into one category, she is unsure where to turn. With a flash of courage she chooses Dauntless, the thrill seeking that jump onto moving trains and shames cowardice of any kind. Will she have what it takes? And how long can a personality based world function?
Whoa, what a whirlwind of a book! This is a stunning debut by Veronica Roth. Initially it took me a while to settle into Divergent because throughout the first few chapters I kept rolling my eyes. As I said I was prejudiced about this book before starting it and the opening seemed to confirm all my fears. The novel began with the protagonist describing her reflection, one of the biggest writing cliché’s going. The world setup seemed clunky and obvious and I didn’t like Tris’s clinical narrative voice. Once I hit page fifty however, no one could have pried this book from my vice like grip! Not even with the help of some chocolate and a handsome movie star. Well, maybe the movie star…
Similar to Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth’s writing style is simplistic but powerful. She can manipulate the English language to its full potential so that even though her writing is simple, it has remarkable precision. Roth knows where to kick you in the gut to make it hurt the most, she knows how to make you so wretched with emotion that you can’t think straight for days. And not only has she got the emotional fluffy bunny feelings down, but she writes brilliant, heart pounding action scenes that will have you gripping the book far harder than needed and flicking the pages a little too roughly in a crazed haze to discover what will happen next.
Now, I do have one massive gripe with this novel, the world building. I realise with fiction we have to suspend our belief to a certain extent, but the society created in Divergent doesn’t even SLIGHTLY make sense to me. Is it even dystopia? Dystopia is supposed to be the equivalent to hell on earth full of repression and poverty, if anything this novel appears more like a utopia until a bad guy turns up with ideas of grandiosity. It’s a pretty thin line. So Roth has created a world split into personality types, that’s cool, except she can’t logically justify how it came about in a way that makes sense to me. Supposedly it was the governments way of preventing war. Was this government made up of four years olds??? How the hell did they think that would ever solve the world’s issues? Any scientist, or anyone with a brain for that matter would realise it is impossible to only have one defining personality trait, you can’t be one thing. And that brings up another issue, how is everyone in this world NOT Divergent? Many characters in the novel show multiple personality traits which means in theory they should all be Divergent, but they’re not. Also, so many sixteen years olds decide to transfer which again I find unrealistic. With the interplay between genetics and environmental factors hardly anyone should transfer but hey ho. Who knows, maybe some of these kinks will be ironed out and explained in the subsequent books. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get past my angsty feelings, but the rest of the novel was so excellent that for once I proceeded to not care! Although the world formation was sketchy, the setup actually allowed for some interesting analysis about what makes us human.
The plotting in this book is spectacular, mostly because the pacing is insane. There are no pauses for breath, just pure unadulterated action from beginning to end. Because Tris picks Dauntless there is always another trial, test, or drama to overcome. Every day is a battle of bravery and survival both physically and mentally. It was fascinating to read and forced me to wonder how I would react if I was in the same situation. Plus, I am so fangirling over the fact that the Dauntless jump on and off moving trains!! Sure it didn’t have a bearing on the plot but it’s just so freakin’ awesome! 😀 I also liked that there was a sprinkling of romance but that it remained firmly as subplot rather than overpowering. I started reading this book in the exam and deadline crazy end of the semester so I kept telling myself I would only read one chapter because I needed to be up early and alert. Of course, that never happened and I would end up reading for hours until my eyes were numb and my head fell into the book! Then I would have a severe case of guilt the next day when my psychology notes swam dizzyingly in front of my eyes.
It took me a while to warm to the main protagonist, Tris. I found her voice annoying initially because she seemed so oddly factual and stiff (ha, pardon the pun Roth fans). As the novel continued though I began to like her. Her transition from the faction Abnegation to Dauntless meant I was able to witness Tris go through a huge transformation. She is constantly trying to work out who she is, where she fits and how to best serve her society in a confusing world. I loved watching her internal struggle between being selfless and brave, as well as her realisation that the two may not be all that different. Tris is not necessarily a likable character, she can be pragmatic, reckless and stubborn but there is a certain integrity and conviction about her I admired. I think what makes Tris such an intriguing character is that she makes one drastic decision within the space of a few seconds and it will define the rest of her life. We all have a slight reckless, adrenaline seeking part of us hidden away somewhere and Tris’s story gives us a glimpse into what it would be like if we acted on it, lived by it and made it our most emphasised personality trait.
Four was also well written; he’s dangerous, intimidating and a bit rough around the edges. I liked that Roth didn’t throw all her cards down at once with his character. She makes the reader work for it, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs hinting at his back story. Granted I spotted the big reveal about his past within the first scene he was introduced, but I’m guessing by my friends bemused face at the time that it is not a normal occurrence, lol! Luckily there were a few other surprises thrown in to keep me amused.
Christina, Will, Al, and Uriah also make good supporting characters. While we do not learn much about them they helped keep the mood light and added in a few funnies.
Divergent is a fast paced, emotional and roaring read. Though it may be a little predictable at times and had strong parallel’s with The Hunger Games (How could it not?) it is well worth investigating if you are a fan of YA, dystopian or action books. I do not normally overlook flaws when giving out five-star ratings but Divergent was so exceptional I couldn’t resist! 🙂 While there is substantial violence it is not graphic, so I would recommend Divergent to anyone 12+.
Have you read Divergent? Did you think it lived up to the hype?
(To read my review of the next book in the Divergent series, Insurgent, click here.)
‘His absence will haunt their hallways, and he will be a space they can’t fill. And then time will pass, and the hole will be gone, like when an organ is removed and the body’s fluids flow into the space it leaves. Humans can’t tolerate emptiness for long.’ – Pg45
Human reason can excuse any evil; that is why it’s so important that we don’t rely on it. My fathers words.’ – Pg102
‘I’m not sure who I should rely on more, because I’m not sure who my true friends are. Uriah and Marlene, who were on my side even when I seemed strong, or Christina and Will, who have always protected me when I seem weak?’ – Pg294
‘I believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.’ – Pg207
Writing Style: 4/5
Character Development: 5/5
Would I recommend this book? Yeeeeeeeessssssssssssss. 🙂
Overall Impression: 5/5
Book Cover: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13335038-divergent