Book 39: Divergent by Veronica Roth
In a future Chicago, the population is divided into five factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Candor (the honest), Erudite (the intelligent), and Amity (the peaceful). At the age of sixteen, teens must decide which faction they belong in and undergo a rigorous initiation process that tests whether they really belong in that faction or not. This novel follows Beatrice Prior as she struggles to find her place among the other initiates and discovers that people aren’t always what they seem.
I continually see this book described as the next Hunger Games, and while I can’t say that this book lives up to the hype, it was definitely an interesting read, and I will definitely be reading the next book in the series. Tris definitely has her flaws, but overall she’s fairly likeable and reads like a real person. I also really liked Four. He’s sort of a young adult cliché (an eighteen-year-old who’s the best at what he does AND who’s drawn to Tris AND who’s a virgin AND who has a troubled past), but I could go with it. Given what we learn about his past later in the book, it makes sense why he would be curious about Tris to begin with, and I could see how that curiosity could grow into something more.
That said, I didn’t really like anyone else in Dauntless. They’re supposed to be the brave, the ones who protect the city, but they seemed more like drunk frat boys than people I’d want looking out for me. Gryffindors are brave – the Dauntless are just a bunch of jerks. I understand that part of that has to do with the fact that there are new leaders who are moving Dauntless in a different direction, but I can’t really see why Tris would want to join them. Perhaps it’s just because I’m a coward and would probably end up joining Erudite (if, you know, they weren’t just as crazy and greedy as the Dauntless), but I never saw the appeal of joining Dauntless.
I also feel like the pacing was a bit off. The beginning didn’t really interest me at all, and the main reason I kept reading was because I was trapped at work with a lot of free time and my hands and only one book to read, so reading it was really my only option. Once she chose her faction, I because more interested, but I still feel like most of the book could have been better spent. There’s nothing really going on for 415 pages. On page 416, everything starts happening, and the plot is just racing uphill after that. It’s like all the action that wasn’t in the rest of the book was thrown into the last 70 pages.
That’s not to say that there was no action in the rest of the book, but the action was a lot more laid back. Yes, they beat each other up and there’s a lot of violence and even a death, but it’s not really dealt with that much. It’s just sort of this thing that happens. It’s like there are no real consequences to any of their actions until the end of the novel, and even then, the consequences are kind of random. For instance, everyone tells Tris that being Divergent can get her killed, that she has to do well enough to stay in Dauntless but not so well that she draws attention to herself, but she’s constantly drawing attention to herself, and it never really seems to matter.
This book does remind me of the Hunger Games trilogy only in that the ending reminds me a lot of the end of Catching Fire, where stuff happens and then you get to the end and are scrambling to catch up on everything that you missed offstage. Definitely not the part of the trilogy that I would have recommended copying.
All of that said, I still enjoyed the book. Once I actually got into the book, I wanted to keep reading, even when I didn’t really agree with Tris and the choices she was making. I still look forward to reading the next book. I think I just had slightly higher expectations for this novel. I didn’t like it nearly as much as The Hunger Games trilogy, but I definitely liked it more than Matched, so if you like most of the current YA-dystopian novels, you’ll probably like this one.