Divergent by Veronica Roth

publication date: 2011
pages: 425 (ebook)
ISBN: 978-0-06-202402-2

Well, guys, I made a big mistake. I read the entirety of this series before I wrote the review for the first book: Divergent. And of course that completely colored my thoughts on the first book. With that in mind, I will try to keep this review as uninfected and focused as possible. Except for this one remark: don’t feel the need to finish the book series; if you want to, be my guest, but it is certainly not necessary. In fact, it would not be misguided to only read the first book and create your own ending.

The Divergent series is the next big thing in YA fiction, with a movie coming out soon. The book is set in a future dystopian Chicago, where everyone is separated into five “factions” based on one personality trait. The main character, Tris, was born into the Abnegation faction, which most values the characteristic of selflessness. The other factions are Candor, Erudite, Amity, and Dauntless. At the beginning of the book, a teenage Tris, along with other students her age, must choose the faction she wants to be associated with for life. As the consequences of her decision unfolded, she also discovered that the factions’ leaders were not as uncorrupted and honest as she believed.

For readers who enjoy YA fiction, Divergent had a lot to offer. First, the book featured an interesting and unconventional main character. Tris was legitimately unpleasant and even unlikable. She was still the hero of the story and of course I still rooted for her, but the author exposed Tris’s faults and included several scenes where Tris was not brave or nice or lovely or everything a main character in YA is supposed to be. Additionally, the book contained one of the most refreshing YA passages I have read. Commonly in YA fiction, the main female character thinks she is unattractive or insufficiently attractive; Divergent was no exception. However, unconventionally, the other characters in Divergent agreed. At one point, Tris and a young man have this conversation:

“Don’t pretend,” I [Tris] say breathily. “You know I’m not [pretty]. I’m not ugly, but I am certainly not pretty.”
“Fine. You’re not pretty. So?”

I also enjoyed the stark and simple tone of the book. Roth did not include a lot of flowery or figurative language. It reminded me of Cormac McCarthy in that way.

Maybe its just because I’ve read a lot of YA fiction lately, but sometimes I found the book boring or tiresome. The romance scenes between Tris and Four especially seemed forced, although Four was a compelling character on his own. Additionally, there were some pacing issues, and scenes and plot lines would begin and end suddenly.

4/6: worth reading (not the rest of the series though!)

Some other reviews:

New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
The Book Smugglers

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