Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Synopsis: In the future, 16-year-old Beatrice Prior must choose among five predetermined factions that will define her identity for the rest of her life. This decision made more difficult when she discovers that she is an anomaly who does not fit into any one group, and that the society she lives in is not perfect after all.

Number of Pages: 487

Rating: 8/10

Overall impression: Great read. Likeable female protagonist. The first two thirds of the book could be seen as slow if you like to get right to the action, but the underlying tension keeps you reading til the climatic final act.

Divergent (Divergent, #1)

Divergent is another dystopian future novel, in the vein of The Hunger Games (THG) that have become de rigueur in YA literature.

Like THG and many other YA novels (dystopian or not) it is in the first person, the story unfolding from the perspective of a teenage girl. Normally, I find myself not really liking a teenage girl protagonist. They are often whiny, unaware of their own appeal to the opposite sex, and generally chronically self-deprecating. Thinking back on this book, Beatrice Prior, or Tris, is possibly all of these things, but it didn't bother me. Tris felt like a strong character who was aware of her own faults and failings but always willing to work through them or with them.

However, unlike THG and other dystopian novels, I felt like, initially, there didn't seem to be a sense that the people who lived in this world felt like there was anything "wrong" with it. They all accepted that at 16, you chose your faction (Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Erudite or Dauntless) and that was that.  Your faction was more your family than your actual family. Faction over blood was a phrase and theme repeated throughout the book. At the beginning of the book, Beatrice, being 16, is about to make this potentially life-changing decision. There are, of course, nerves but only ones that seem akin to taking exams i.e. a normal rite of passage. She is Abnegation, the 'selfless' faction, and feels like she isn't good enough or selfless enough to stay there and wonders where she actually belongs.

That is, until she takes the attribute 'test' and is labeled "Divergent". This is when the slow-burning tension starts. What does Divergent mean? Why is Beatrice not allowed to talk about it? Why does it seem to be such a bad thing? Beatrice, and therefore the reader, is told nothing, and her result is logged as Abnegation.

On Choosing Day, Beatrice makes THE decision: Dauntless. She has to leave her family and everything she has ever known to enter Dauntless initiation. Dauntless: the brave faction, where they jump of moving trains and have tattoos and piercings. The apparent polar opposite of Abnegation. Within hours of making her choice, it is revealed that the Dauntless initiation is brutal. Not only must they perform daring tasks like jumping of moving trains onto roofs, only 10 initiates will actually become Dauntless members. Another increase in tension. You start to see Beatrice's (now known as Tris) iron resolve.

The second act is initiation. Over the next few weeks, Tris and the other initiates (Dauntless-born or otherwise) begin physical training (fighting each other) and mental training (facing fear-inducing simulations). While reading I was feeling distinctly uneasy about this 'initiation'. Something didn't feel right, and Tris starts to overhear things, and notice things that make her feel the same way.

We also meet the love interest: Four. Four guides Tris through initiation as an instructor and becomes closer to her before revealing some closely guarded secrets.

Throughout this initiation process, Tris becomes aware of how much the factions are actually quite hostile to each other. Erudite starts publishing propaganda against the Abnegation-ran government, while Tris is on the receiving end of more personal slights at being an Abnegation-born initiate.

The final act, and last third of the book, becomes an all-out race for survival, a race to get somewhere safe. This part of the book is relentless, characters dying left and right, and tension-filled stand-offs.

I felt like this was the part I was waiting for, the THG-esque fight against the Big Bad. I think the first two thirds did a great job of laying the groundwork of world-building and also giving a sense of "wrong-ness" that was rewarded in the last part. Nothing concrete is resolved in this book but obviously with a sequel already out, and the third one on its way, this is fine, good even. I definitely want to continue reading in this world.

2 comments on "Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth"

  1. I read this and the sequel a while ago. Twas good, although I'd hesitate to compare it to The Hunger Games - simply because they feel like very different series.
    I'd also recommend reading The Killables - Gemma Malley.

    1. Yeah, I forgot to put a note to say that I don't actually think there is much to compare the two series apart from the fact they are both dystopian future novels with female protagonists. So I'll put it here.

      And thanks for the rec, shall put it on my to-read list :)