|Title: Divergent |
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: Dystopian, romance, science fiction
Summary: On Goodreads
Reviewing: Opening, plot, characterisation
If you chose more than one, then you are Divergent and are therefore a danger to this society! Sounds a bit strange? Yeah, I don't really get this world either.
This book has had tonnes of praise. There's drama in almost every chapter, adrenaline rushes by the buckets, and enough heartbreaking scenes to have you reaching for a box of tissues. Oh, and let's not forget the customary romance that seems to be an obligatory part of the package now for young adult dystopia. Not bad for a 23 year old's debut novel, eh?
OK, I'm not gonna lie - the opening did not make me want to read on. I didn't buy into the world (and still don't, but that's beside the point), and went to bed feeling a bit disappointed and let down by the all the hype, but resolved to carry on reading it the next day. And you know what? I'm glad I kept going - once the author started dropping in hooks about the mystery of the Divergents, I sat there and read the book until I hit the last page.
Beatrice a.k.a Tris is your typical Amnegation girl, like one of those charity workers or nuns you see on the street. All her life, she has belonged to this 'faction' of selflessness, and as such, her personality and thoughts have been shaped by her environment. No wonder the opening was a bit dull. Now, at the age of sixteen, she gets to choose which faction she will belong to for life. And then the rest of the book is all about the tough initiation into that faction, plus a tiny snippet of plot towards the end. To me, it definitely feels very much Hunger Games, as another reviewer has pointed out here.
In terms of plot, the story is pretty straightforward. Girl chooses a path for life. Girl spends the next 400 pages being initiated into that life. Girl then finds herself in the middle of a faction war in the last few chapters. Cue some customary romance and character deaths along the way. To me, it felt like the plot only got going halfway through - I think the author wasted far too much time on the introductions. Yes, we get it that the trials are brutal. Yes, people have to fight each other. But so much of the excessive violence could have been condensed and still have the same effect.
To me, the most interesting characters were Tris and Al. Tris, because she goes through character growth from originally being a sap to...becoming less of one, and Al, because he is the most broken character and displays a wide range of reactions. Peter was the predictable jerk, Christina seemed to serve no purpose other than to apply make-up to Tris, and Four just didn't do it for me. I think it's because I've had enough of young adult fiction where older guys fall for younger girls who've never had boyfriends before. And after finishing the novel, I still don't like Tris. She just didn't feel real enough to me, as if there was something missing - like, when she made jokes and threats, when she acted hard, all of it felt way too forced, as if her character growth was being pushed too quickly in the space of the pages to be completely believable. Plus, she forgets about all of the deaths way too quickly...
Nevertheless, you gotta have respect for someone who isn't afraid to kill off her cast.
In conclusion, I'm glad that I did read this book as it raised some interesting moral issues, and I liked the sci-fi technology aspects that were introduced despite there being major flaws in the world-building - see here. Pigeon-holing people into one of five qualities - of course that's a recipe for war! Anyway, the writing was pretty solid and the dialogue believable, but at the moment, I am still sitting on the edge of the fence as to whether or not this book deserves the recognition it has gotten. Not as good as The Hunger Games, but definitely better than Delirium.