• Divergent by Veronica Roth
• Paperback: 487 pages
• Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2011
• ISBN: 0007420412
• Genre: Science Fiction; Young Adult
• Recommended For: Anyone interested in young adult dystopian fiction.
Quick Review: Highly recommended to readers in the mood for a solid dystopian plot that is hard to put down.
How I Got Here: I actually get this novel last January as an ARC when I attended the ALA Midwinter Conference here in San Diego. I put it right on my classroom shelf, where it was read by only one student, a young man who praised it as “awesome”. I forgot about it until I started getting into book blogging and I quickly found out that it was one of the most praised young adult novels of 2011 amongst book bloggers. I quickly retrieved it from my classroom and added it to my TBR list in September. Then, I joined the Busy as a Bee reading group on Goodreads, where it was added as a book to read in December. Finally, to really push me into reading Divergent, it was selected as the Goodreads Favorite Book of 2011. Now, here I am, finally.
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
Beatrice “Tris” Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth’s dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place in mortal danger. Veronica Roth’s young adult Divergent trilogy launches with a captivating adventure about love and loyalty playing out under most extreme circumstances.
My Analysis and Critique:
Very good book! Hard to put down! Best book of the year? Um. No.
For what it is, Roth’s Divergent is very well done. It’s a young adult dystopian novel; it’s got a well-constructed plot full of action, corruption, violence, romance, and ill-fated do-gooders. It’s not exactly original, but if this is what you’re looking for, Divergent delivers. Sometimes you’re just in the mood for this kind of story, and Roth truly gets it done.
Many reviewers complain about a lack of world-building and characterization- I disagree on both counts. In dystopian fiction, world-building isn’t really that essential. You don’t need to know why and how this crappy world came into existence, it’s not about that. It’s about what you do with this world. Any good reader of dystopian fiction knows this–Orwell didn’t waste time on this, and neither did, nor should, Roth. What’s important is what comes after.
Also, I cared about all of the characters that I was supposed to care about. I thought Tris, Four, and the other initiates were believable and understandable. I did care when something bad or good happened to them, and I think that is what counts the most in characterization.
I also really enjoyed the romance angle of this story. I think the relationship between Tris and Four was very good, and I often found myself being all blushy and such whenever developments were made in their relationship. This is why I occasionally read and enjoy young adult fiction; when it’s done right, you can feel like you’re fifteen all over again, going through the minute yet huge details of first love. Roth made me feel the rush of that all over again, and I applaud her on this.
The action was really good in this novel also, and I had a lot of trouble putting this book down. I loved the trials that Tris had to go through and I loved reading about the life in the Dauntless compound. The cameraderie and the competition among the initiates was a lot of fun, hitting upon the same love I have for Hogwarts.
The only complaint, or rather not a complaint, but negative comment, I have about Divergent is simply that it is still rather formulaic. But, aren’t all dystopian novels? When I read these types of YA novels, I can’t help but think Suzanne Collins did it! Lois Lowry did it! George Orwell did it! It’s all been done before. Of course, one can make that comment about anything, and it’s not about that, but rather about how they did it. But, it does make things somewhat predictable.
Yet, I do highly recommend this to readers in the mood for a dystopian novel that’s hard to put down. You will enjoy the characters and the challenges they deal with in this warped, but somewhat well-intentioned world. I will be reading the next book in the series, Insurgent, when it is published in 2012. I am eager to see what happens next, which is a sign of a good story.