Sunday, May 15, 2011

Divergent - Veronica Roth

Veronica Roth
Katherine Tegen Books
Copyright: May 2011

The product description:

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, 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 to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating 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 a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.
 I've seen Divergent compared to The Hunger Games in other reviews, and I have to say, I can see where the comparisons are coming from. Like that series of books, Veronica Roth's debut novel is set in a society that's managed to put itself back together after some kind of terrible war. It's in the aftermath of that war that society takes on the shape it has at the start of the book.

The glimpses we get of that society - through the eyes of Beatrice - are intriguing. I would have liked more of them. We learn quite a bit about Beatrice, but at the same time, it feels like there's a whole lot about the world that she doesn't know - especially about the other factions. And, even about her own family. It rather felt to me as though family was meant to come in second to the faction in terms of loyalty.

Actually, having finished reading Divergent this afternoon, I'm not really sure what I think of the book. I enjoyed the read, but there were things about it that bugged me. And at least one of these is just personal preference: font size. When it comes to a book, I like to feel that I'm getting full value from the book in terms of the amount of story there is. Divergent feels somewhat deceptive on that count. The font size is pretty large, making the book a quick read.

While the book was definitely exciting - what else would you expect from reading about a faction where initiation tests include doing things like jumping into and out of a moving train? - at the same time, it felt flat too. I think it was that most of the focus was on Beatrice, or Tris as she chose to be called and Four. As a result, the other characters and the world didn't seem to be completely developed as much as it could have been.

Also, Beatrice seemed surprisingly ignorant at times, but a lot of that could be because of the way the world is set up and controlled - eg the school and what it teaches. But still...

For all that this review seems to be mostly negative, I still have to say that I enjoyed reading Divergent, and I'm curious to read the sequels - it's a planned trilogy. It's just that, to be honest, this book isn't going to be making it's way onto my favourite books list.

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