Katherine Tegen Books (2011)
YA / Dystopian
I have to admit that I read Divergent directly after I finished Dearly, Departed (seriously, I finished one in the afternoon and started the other in the evening) and I fear my opinion was colored a little by exactly how much I adored Dearly, Departed. With that in mind I’ve also come to a point where it’s very difficult for a post-apocalyptic/dystopian book can truly leave me in suspense for very long. Somehow I manage to figure out the twist or the “ah ha!” moments way before they’re actually revealed. Now I read the dystopian genre hoping to find fully formed worlds and interesting characters, not necessarily a jaw dropping plot or mystery.
Divergent follows Beatrice during a very vital transformation in her life – she must choose between one of the five factions that make up her society and live the rest of her life under that faction’s guidelines. Having grown up in the selfless Abnegation faction, she has spent her short life always thinking of others and finds she’s not capable of such complete disregard of her own needs. When she chooses a different faction, she finds herself in the middle of a political conflict that will have far reaching repercussions among all the factions. As she goes through the rigorous (and dangerous) initiation training to get into the Dauntless faction, Tris has to make some difficult decisions in hopes of saving her new friends and her former family.
So Divergent… I really loved the concept of the five factions and how, over time, what started out as separate doctrines to become the best human beings possible had morphed into the same maelstrom of political backstabbing. Roth really created a full world with minimal amounts of descriptions or exposition. Through weaving it through the actions of her characters and the staging of her scenes, she managed to create a fully functional world without ever lecturing about it. Above all it came across as a viable world despite the strange idea of five factions that rarely associate with each other yet live together.
Tris was a perfectly fine lead character. She wasn’t annoying. She didn’t do anything stupid like keep important information to herself or try to save the world without telling anyone where she was going (okay, she might have done that once, but that’s still pretty good). I enjoyed reading about her own internal conflict of negotiating the life she had with the one she has chosen. But there wasn’t anything really exciting about living inside her head. I didn’t like that she regularly misconstrued Four's attempts at protecting her as him being cold or picking on her. Perhaps I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a teenage girl, but it wouldn’t make any sense for him to show her affection when his superiors were around. That would endanger both of them.
Mostly though I was fond of Four. Despite figuring out his “identity” soon after he was introduced, it didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the character. He swooped in to save the day when he needed to, and he kicked the new recruits’ asses without blinking. He was protective in his weird, gruff way that was sweet to me as the reader even while it was really annoying to Tris. He was my favorite part of the entire book, and made some of the slower parts far more enjoyable. And no, I’m not ever going to call him by his given name. For some weird reason, I like him as Four.
But as far as plot goes, I saw most of it from early on. The key reveals of certain people’s origin factions were not surprising. The actions of the elite and the outcome of their manipulations (being vague to avoid spoilers) were also not all that surprising. It was a fun ride and I really enjoyed reading about the journeys through a ruined Chicago, but mostly it was a predictable ride. Despite the predictability, I found myself having a hard time putting the book down, especially once I reached the final third when everything sort of blows up and the action becomes nonstop.
I can see why so many people are so fond of Divergent and I am very much looking forward to Insurgent when it comes out in a few months. Without the trials of initiation, the story should hopefully have a less predictable story structure and leave more things up in the air that I don’t figure out. Plus for some reason, I really like Tris’ brother despite the little amount of time he’s on the pages of Divergent.
Oh, and Four. I like Four.