Remember when I vowed to read more YA books from now on when I wrote The Percy Jackson Experiment? Well, I took that seriously and have been searching for other decent YA novels. This lead me to another much talked-about Dystopian novel which both has been praised as highly original and dejected as a Hunger Games rip-off. The book is Veronica Roth’s Divergent, the first book in a new trilogy.
Divergent serves as a fast summer read brimming with action and suspense, but very little substance– the themes Roth tries to translate come out forced. What she’s trying to say isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but we’ll touch more on that in a second. Where the book shines is in its plot, which though not exactly tightly woven, twinkles with moments of action.
In a dilapidated future-version of Chicago, Beatrice Prior lives with her family and faction Abnegation. In this city surrounded by a fence beyond which there are apparently terrors, there are five factions who cooperate but live by different ideologies. Each holds one trait above all else: for Abnegation, this is selflessness, for Erudite knowledge, for Amity love and acceptance, for Candor honesty, and for Dauntless bravery. At the age of sixteen, each teen must complete an examination to determine the correct faction and then decide whether or not to leave their families and factions or stay.
Beatrice (or Tris as she is later known) makes a choice which might shatter the status quo and uncover a conspiracy.
You already know what I liked about the book, that it keeps you engaged with action. Leaping on and off trains, fighting, shoot-outs, zip-lining from skyscrapers. When Tris joins Dauntless, she embraces their lifestyle by acting out dangerous missions which really aren’t so brave as they are stupid. But I love stupidity and reading about a community of people devoted to risking their lives for no reason to do stupid things– count me in!
The political overtones about coming together rather than driving each other apart because of ideologies felt a little heavy-handed and strangely ineffectual. From the very beginning, the system of factions seemed rather strange and though the system begins falling apart, it probably should have fell apart a long time ago.
All this turned out completely fine. I really enjoyed the book, in fact, and would suggest it for those rainy summer days you may spend all hours indoors reading. You will finish it fast and likely want to continue the series because the story ends with a dramatic cliffhanger. If there’s one thing Roth does right, it is to entice you to buy the next book. And yeah, sure, I’ll probably buy the sequel at some point, but there are plenty of other books to read at the moment.
The only real problem I had with the book was the forced romance with the characters Tris and Four. Before they even build a real relationship (which they do, fair enough), she already has “feelings” and freaks out when he is around. I’m sorry, but as a “strong” female protagonist, Tris gets much too “shaky in the knees” around Four. What starts out as a school-girl-type crush blossoms into a full-fledged romance and though toward the end, this romance becomes more believable, her initial queasy feelings toward him rubbed me the wrong way.
I think also most reviewers find too easy of a connection with The Hunger Games or Harry Potter, though besides the genre Dystopian, I think Divergent differs great from Collins’s novel. There is, at least, something fresh and fun about the read. Roth’s tale is not exactly like those, but that’s a good thing– reading the same book again would make me snore.
If you’re looking for something fun and fantastical and action-packed and teen-friendly, pick up Divergent by Veronica Roth. And maybe even the sequel Insurgent.