Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Divergent Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian Science Fiction
Series: Divergent Book One
Pages: 487

Buy on Amazon!

With its target market being geared towards young adults; its first person narration being told from the perspective of a strong-minded teenage girl; it’s bring down the government plot set in a sci-fi dystopian society, it’s no wonder Divergent is constantly being compared to The Hunger Games.

That being said Divergent is it’s own story with its own characters with their own sets of flaws – in other words it’s not derivative of Suzanne Collins’ story.

As a young adult book, Divergent should be pleasing to its target audience – young teenagers.  It will probably please them more than the Hunger Games, as Veronica Roth focuses on using a dystopian science fiction backdrop to tell a story with the moral codes you would likely find in a high school.

Finding an audience outside the teenage realm will be a lot more challenging for this series, but some adults may enjoy the fast pace and a nostalgic look back at their youths.

As for me Divergent is a success from a marketing point, but from a literary point this book has a lot of flaws and oftentimes oversimplifies morals and other adult related issues.  Divergent’s not a bad book, but there aren’t a whole lot of praises to sing either.

Set in a futuristic Chicago, the city is divided into five different factions that are each based off of a personality trait.  Factions come before blood in this society, joining one makes them more important than your family.

Tris Prior is 16 and is being prepared to choose the faction she will join for the rest of her life.  While testing for a faction, she discovers that she could belong to many different factions, making her divergent – and putting her life in great danger as the government hunts down and kills these people.

This is Veronica Roth’s first book and she is a very young author.  That being said, the lack of experience shows, and the prose used to tell this story feels like it’s one degree above what would be acceptable at a major publishing house. The art of metaphor and simile seem to be particularly lost on the author.  Consider these examples from the book:
“I feel like there is a bubble in my chest that expands more by the second, threatening to break me apart from the inside.”
“I feel like I just walked into a downpour and all my clothes are heavy with water.”
“That space feels charged with electricity.”
The last one of these quotes is a recurring nuisance throughout the series. Where as Stephanie Meyer has taken a lot of flak for her use of the word “sparkle”, Veronica Roth could just as easily be ridiculed for “charging everything with electricity.”

Being divergent is kind of ironic.  In Roth’s book each person is separated into a different faction that defines itself based of one dominating personality trait.  In the “rare occurrence,” that someone has more than one personality trait they are divergent.  The irony of course being everyone has more than one personality trait (or multiple dominating personality traits), and would thus be considered normal.

People that only had one personality trait would actually be different … and probably pretty scary.
The concept of divergence is the centerpiece of this story, and it raises so many questions in regards to logic about the plot – why would creating a government based off of single personality traits be a good idea? – that it largely ruins the book for any actively thinking reader.  The moral codes are overly simplified – there are only five personality traits a person can choose from?  Granted this is a young adult book, I believe most teenagers are smart enough to handle something more complex.

Like Katniss, Tris is a strong female character but she is a lot more flawed. She makes some decisions that are hard to empathize with, and she also acts impulsively which results in some ridiculous mistakes. As Tris’s only 16 these types of mistakes are at least somewhat believable, and forgivable. The bottom line though is she’s a character you can empathize with.

Like all young adult books this story has a romantic subplot.  Overall the romance is handled and written decently; it’s certainly not as bad as the Hunger Games’ love triangle.  The major issue with romance comes with timing.  Some of the places in this book where little romantic forays are placed can be distracting and in one particular case downright awful (see below spoilers for book one).  For the young readers, the book does a good job of introducing the feelings that come with first being in love.

Divergent at its best is a fast paced story. It can’t go more than 20 pages without their being some huge dramatically tense scene or some sort of action sequence. It can be read quickly.  For fans of young adult books, Divergent certainly is a recommended read.  However, if young adult books and all the pitfalls that can come with them bother you – or if those metaphors at the top really bother you – then Divergent is not for you.

Spoilers For Divergent Book One Below

The final two pages of Divergent were so over the top and ridiculous I still have no idea how they made their way into the book, or at least made their way into the book when they did.

The part I’m talking about is when Tobias reveals that he loves Tris and then she passionately kisses him. On its own this doesn’t sound bad, but the timing … that’s a whole other story.

This make out session happens within hours of Tris witnessing her mother getting riddled with bullets and shortly thereafter she witnesses the same thing happen to her father.  She is also forced to shoot and kill one of her best friends, and Tobias nearly blows her head off while he is being mind controlled. To top it all off, the entire faction that Tris and Tobias grew up in is almost entirely genocided.

You would think these two characters would be shell shocked … but no … they’re like, “lets make out instead,” like they totally didn’t just witness this horrible massacre and the brutal deaths of loved ones.

Really Veronica Roth?


Score: 6.0

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