Genre: Young adult/Dystopia/Science Fiction
I finally read Divergent this past week! Big thanks to my future mother-in-law for letting me borrow the trilogy! Unfortunately, she’ll probably be getting all three books back this week.
I said, unfortunately.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past month or so I’ll give you the Goodreads synopsis of Divergent:
In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
I love dystopian novels. The genre is very fun to me. Maybe it’s the American in me, but I love rebellion against overbearing government authorities. Dystopian novels tend to be character driven and thick with action. I love the rush of a good dystopian novel, the thrills, and the suspense of whether the rebels will be successful. Reading a dystopian novel gives the reader a feeling that they’re reading from the other side; reading from a side where the war has been won and we’ve achieved a Democracy with total freedom. So, the reader cheers on the rebellion or the main character that is fed up with the accepted way of life. You understand that discontent because you know what life is on the other side. So you scream, ‘Yeah, go, go!’
But first you have to get through the frustration of being an observer of the overbearing government of the dystopian landscape.
Roth’s opening to Divergent describes the faction of Abnegation, a completely selfless faction that can only look in the mirror every three months or something. Beatrice, our main character, doesn’t narrate as though she’s completely unsatisfied with this way of life, but you do sense her unease. As you read about Abnegation there are several moments where you think ‘ugh, dumb’ or ‘wow, I would never survive in this faction’. That’s not how Beatrice feels, however.
I really liked that Roth made Beatrice believe that she was the problem. Beatrice is unhappy with Abnegation, but she doesn’t project her unhappiness as a problem with the society. As a person that was born and raised in this government system she believes in it. She questions herself, instead, and wonders if something is wrong with herself. I thought her viewpoint was very reminiscent of Guy Montag from Farenheit 451. The character identifies a sense of unease or discontent as a malfunction or evilness of their self, not their right and just way of life.
What I didn’t like was the lack of world building. I’ve been told that more world building takes place in Book 2, but that got me thinking. If I was reading these books as they came out and all I had was Divergent then I wouldn’t be picking up the next book in the trilogy because the lack of world building utterly turned me off. This structure doesn’t make sense. To avoid war we split up into factions with completely different values and beliefs? So…to avoid war you split yourselves up into disagreeing countries…right. Shouldn’t Erudite (the smart faction) have seen this earlier? There was some confusion, for me, over how long these factions had been in place. Beatrice mentioned her father being a leader and the set up of the factions. Part of the city is still in ruins from a war, so how long ago was that? It goes unsaid.
I really enjoyed the main character. Beatrice just makes sense. She has a good head on her shoulders. She reacts to things in a way that makes sense. She’s not this perfect archetype of a hero that always makes the right choice. The side characters are also fun, but I felt like they were kept as too small a part. They weren’t meaningful. I will also tell you that you can breathe easy with this novel- no love triangle! I’m sorry but, I’m beginning to award YA or stories with a female lead a star right off the bat if the story does not involve a love triangle.
The writing in this novel was very simple. I think what really lost me about this story was the simplistic style. I really felt that Roth just told me instead of showing me. This story is told in first person, but I didn’t quite feel what Beatrice felt. She told me what she was feeling. Because of that, I wasn’t drawn in. I wasn’t jumping from page to page.
Also, if I had to read Beatrice say one more time:
I am divergent.
I am brave.
I was going to punch a small dog. We get it, you’re brave. We get it, there’s something wrong with your brain.
At first these lines that were written by themselves had impact. Then, she said them so often I started to laugh whenever I read it.
I felt the story really started halfway through the book. Even then, the pacing of the novel was too slow. Scenes were no more than five pages long and the print was huge. Overall, when I finished the novel I just sort of shrugged.
I was underwhelmed. I blame a little bit of the fandom hype. I felt people were telling me I would love it before I even picked it up to read. The movie looks wonderful and I’ve heard good things so I really wanted to like this book, but that wasn’t the case.
I liked the book. But I didn’t love it.
I’m not going to read the rest of the trilogy.
Instead I’m going to cry over the fact that they made The Giver into a movie that is completely in color.