Wednesday, August 8, 2012
REVIEW: Divergent by Veronica Roth
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, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
Paperback, 534 pages
Published February 28th 2012 by Katherine Tegen Books (first published April 28th 2011)
ISBN 0062024035 (ISBN13: 9780062024039)
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Beatrice is an well brought up Abnegation girl. And, of course, it is assumed at the Choosing Ceremony that she will choose to remain in her Abnegation faction. However on the appointed day she shocks her family when she chooses to switch factions, leaving her family and everything she has ever known behind. Then begins a brutal initiation process which she doubts at times she will survive.
I approached this book with relatively low expectations. In the past I would have had higher expectations (enjoying the dystopian bent as I do), but I've read enough YA now to know not to expect much.
And I got pretty much what I expected. If I approach a book like this from the standpoint of a 40+ year-old woman who really loves quirky literary fiction and southern gothic, then a book like this can be a bit of a let down. Very simple characters. Superficial interactions. Straight-forward writing. Not the type of prose I've come to love.
But if I approach it from the 17-year-old I once was, and try to simply lose myself in the "story", the plot, the fragmented city that once was Chicago, then I can see the appeal. In the beginning I found the book was a bit of a letdown, even though I was simply looking for a light read-- something a little mindless (I don't expect much more out of YA). But then I shifted my mind into that teen-mode and tried to be more superficial (not really hard for me-- I am a pretty superficial person in a lot of ways), and found that I could enjoy the story a bit.
Tris (formerly Beatrice) didn't seem very realistic to me. On the one hand, she is portrayed as this very plain, non-extraordinary girl. Then she is portrayed as this extremely brave girl who is terrified of everything, and at the same time fearless. I felt as if she was all over the place. Perhaps this was because she was "divergent" and couldn't really be pigeon-holed, but she just didn't feel very real to me.
Most of the other characters were very one-dimensional and didn't really have any impact on me. Other than Four, whom I actually liked, even though he also didn't make much sense to me, being kind and sensitive and cruel all at the same time.
My final word: In the end, I was left with an "okay" story. It had its moments, and it had potential with an interesting premise, but it was too loosely executed and just didn't pull it all in together. I was left a little bored by the whole thing, but perhaps would have loved it at 17? So this one gets an "eh" and a shrug, and I'm not sure whether or not I will give Insurgent a try. Not right now. Too many great books to read!
My Rating: 7 out of 10