Review: Divergent, Veronica Roth

The beginning: There are five factions in Beatrice’s world, each of which values a particular quality above all other qualities; once you choose your faction as a teenager, it’s where you belong all the rest of your life. When Beatrice (Tris) takes the aptitude test that will indicate whether she best suits Abnegation (the faction in which she was raised), Dauntless, Amity, Erudite, and Candor, the results she receives are frightening. She’s Divergent, not controlled by the quality of any one factor, and this (her tester tells her) is a very unsafe thing for her to be.

 

The end (spoilers in this section only; highlight ‘em if you want ‘em): It’s not clear why, but the book ends with two of the factions in ruins and both of Tris’s parents dead in her defense. Evidently the test administrator wasn’t lying about the danger of being Divergent. And Tris has a kissy thing going on with someone called Tobias, who I guess I haven’t met yet. Or wait, I bet that is her instructor’s real name. Cool.

The whole: I coined the term process dystopia for a reason, my friends, and the reason is books like this where I cannot get my brain to jump the track of being completely baffled by how the world got this way. And when? And like–how? Dystopian fiction origin stories are a tricky beast. Plus, the day-to-day workings of the adult world in this book were unclear to me. What’s the norm that the Nefarious Plot Tris uncovers is supposed to be disrupting?

There is also a very weird antipathy for the Erudite throughout the book that puzzles and annoys me. Do you think Veronica Roth conceived a grudge against Ravenclaw during the whole Cho Chang episode, and this is how she’s paying them back? By making their equivalent in her world nasty awful schemers? Because, okay, Tris uncovers a nefarious plot by some Erudite folks, and the plotters have an extremely valid gripe. They do not like it that the Abnegation faction controls the whole government. Lack of representation in the government is a fair gripe. Indeed that is the whole reason MY NATION EXISTS. But then they come up with this insane and violent plan that proves how ultimately unreasonable they are, and it sort of makes their gripe with the government seem inherently insane and violent. Which I don’t think it is! At all!

(Why it would be as if in a vibrantly diverse country of 320 million people only the rich white men got to run everything!)

On the up side, I do like how angry and tough Tris is, and how this is something that makes her love interest like her. There are moments when the book seems to be making Tris out to be the specialest snowflake in all of special land (endemic peril of YA dystopias these days!), but mostly not. She’s flawed and scared and pissed, and I like all of that. The book is engaging and readable, despite flaws. Despite flaws I enjoyed it and felt like reading the second one (which I then did) (and it was fine).

I read this at my aunt and uncle’s when I should have been reading Book Club Book. But that one was pretty slow-moving, and Divergent was pretty fast-moving, and it was all sunny in a hammock, so you can see how I ended up reading this and Insurgent before finishing Book Club Book.

15 thoughts on “Review: Divergent, Veronica Roth

  1. :) I find it frustrating when the origin of a dystopian world is either absent or vague. When and how, indeed? The idea of “divergent” appeals to me, and I’m adding it to my TBR list.

  2. I understand that there’s some sort of spurious explanation later in the series for why the world is set up in this completely nonsensical way. But I was most bothered by the fact that the faction names were not consistent in their parts of speech. Dauntless and Erudite are adjectives; Amity, Abnegation, and Candor are nouns. Who sets up a whole society around such a stunning inconsistency? I ask you!

    (I enjoyed the first one but gave up on the second about halfway through when I mostly stopped caring. Second book syndrome.)

    Also–what was the book club book?

    • Second book syndrome, is that a thing? I feel like I usually like the second in a trilogy the best (Two Towers, Empire Strikes Back, The Ask and the Answer).

      The book club book was The Makioka Sisters. It was a lot of the same events (finding a husband for the unwed sister, the engagement falling through for some reason) happening over and over again, and I’m not a fan of books in translation to begin with.

      The author addressed the parts of speech thing, I think in the back of the book? She said that the factions made up their names independent of each other. So that’s why.

  3. Hahaha, Sharon is dead on. The parts of speech thing annoyed me to a ridiculous degree. I wanted to like this, but honestly, really did not. Didn’t hate it either; just couldn’t stay interested. This is one of those reading experiences wherein I got bored, read the ending, and then couldn’t be bothered finishing the middle.

    • Hahahaha, yeah, I can see that. Did you have expectations for them going in? I had zero, but if I’d expected it to be awesome I think I’d have been annoyed and disappointed.

    • Yep, I think the dystopian YA trend has run its course and needs to give me a break from it. I like dystopian fiction, but I’m tired of all the specialness. Why can’t books be about just regular people who are actually regular instead of “What, me, I’m the specialist? But how can I be? I’m just regular!”

  4. I enjoyed this one a lot when I read it but I will admit that the parts about how the world got this way didn’t bother me…lol..I was too busy being caught up in the book. I’ve yet to read the second one but I probably will at some point. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed this one even if you didn’t love it :)

    • I think it’s something that’s only started to bother me in the last few years. I wouldn’t have minded if it was a completely separate world from ours (I can roll with whatever in that case), but I just can’t see a path between our current world and the world of Divergent. :/

  5. I keep passing this one when I walk by the YA fiction section, so am glad to know what it’s about so I can sneer at it knowingly. We were at Barnes and Noble over the weekend and noticed that a copy of The Devil Wears Prada was displayed under a sign that said “Teen Paranormal Fiction.” The devil, you know.

  6. Yes to the origin issue. I suppose after a while we, the general we, are supposed to have become used to the idea that things have been ruined and that’s good enough, but details are best. I don’t mind the sound of this book, but it hasn’t appealed to me enough to want to read it yet.

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