18 January 2012
Review 7: Divergent by Veronica Roth
Divergent is a super-exciting, fast-paced teenage read set in a dystopian future. Tris is, for the most part, an appealing heroine who will definitely appeal to teenagers of both genders and Roth manages to blend action and romance seamlessly. Highly recommended thriller that more than stands on its own two feet next to The Hunger Games.
First Line: 'There is one mirror in my house.'
The central concept of Divergent is hugely compelling and one of the chief reasons I really loved this. Beatrice (as we know her at the start) lives with her parents and brother in one of the five factions in dystopian Chicago. When teenagers turn 16 they have to decide which of the factions they will join for the rest of their lives. Their choices are Abnegation, the faction Beatrice was born into, Dauntless, Candour (or Candor as we're in America), Erudite or Amity. Each faction holds its base value core and members are expecting to live their entire lives based on those principles. The majority of teenagers choose to stay with their home faction so when both Beatrice and her brother choose to change to Dauntless and Erudite respectively, a stir is caused, especially as their father is a prominent Abnegation leader. Novels where people are sorted or similar are always going to be appealing as you make your mind up where you like to end up. It's the Harry Potter houses syndrome and learning about the different factions is one of the strongest elements of the novel. Personally I found Amity rather appealing as they believe in peace and friendship and one of the reasons I perhaps didn't find Tris quite as appealing as I felt I should was because Dauntless, which is a kind of apocalyptic, gritty Gryffindor, sounds horrendous to me! But then again, I was the girl who would have chosen Hufflepuff.
Once they have chosen, teenagers are required to go through their factions initiation. The Dauntless initiation takes up the biggest chunk of the novel but that's no weakness as it's by turns fascinating and horrifying and also run through with a frisson of romance between Tris and one of the Dauntless trainers, Four (seems like a bit of a silly nickname but the reason for it works). The various tasks they are put through are rather violent at times and there are a couple of rather unpleasant incidents as competitiveness takes over some of the initiates. It's not something I minded, but it's not something I personally get any kicks out of. My favourite aspects where when we heard about the history of the city and the details of all the different factions.
There are plenty of twists and turns in the book and Roth manages to balance plenty of build up and character development with getting the action going for the rest of the series. I can't wait to read Insurgent and have pre-ordered it on Amazon already so I can read it as soon as it is published. There were several chapters which provoked out loud gasps as various things were revealed and it keeps you on your toes, the story constantly moving. Teenagers will adore this. Roth wrote this whilst she was at university which I both massively impressed and hugely jealous about. I would recommend reading her blog as she is refreshingly honest about the whole experience.
So Tris is undeniably a great heroine, but I don't think she hit my buttons the way she seems to have for many other readers. She is brave, determined and selfless but there was just something that grated with me sometimes, part of the problem is that it's first person so you hear all her thoughts constantly. I think an element of what slightly irritated me is just general teenagerness, which actually probably demonstrates Roth's skill in developing an authentic teenage voice. Tris' inclination towards some of the more violent aspects of Dauntless, her headstrongness, sometimes as the expense of others, and lack of compassion at times, just don't click with me as I'm a total wuss who avoids things I'm scared of rather than trying to overcome them and am all about getting on with people, so maybe it's my own character flaws that are throwing a spanner in the works! This is a minor quibble though and for the most part I found Tris to be an exceptional heroine who is easy to root for. Her romance with Four (hardly a spoiler as it is so very obvious it is going to happen as soon as he is introduced) is believable and organic and I'm keen to see where that goes in the rest of the series.
Ultimately, this is a superb young adult novel and just the thing for people mourning the end of The Hunger Games trilogy as there are several obvious parallels; feisty, determined heroine against the odds, dystopian society, romance (although no love triangle - yay!) and plenty of action. Incredibly readable with a really strong central idea that I loved reading the details of. I can't wait to read the next instalment.
Try it if you liked: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins or Gone by Michael Grant