Now while I know there have been plenty of reviews of this YA novel, I wanted to participate with the present buzz that is surrounding Divergent. Also due to the film adaptation coming out in March, I wanted to first read the book (there tends to be gaps when books are adapted into films). This also fulfills one of my reading resolutions which is to read more dystopian novels. I do not read many YA novels simply because the writing can be a bit plebeian at times, however I decided to join in on all the hoop-lah with the book and give it a try.
Divergent starts off in a dystopic Chicago where people are divided into five factions: Abnegation for the selfless, Candor for the honest, Amity for the peaceful, Erudite for the intelligent, and Dauntless for the brave. Every year those who turn sixteen select the faction they are to belong to for the rest of their lives. The story focuses on Beatrice (who later changes her name to Tris) who is faced with the decision to either stay with her family in Abnegation or choose a different faction. Each person is put through a simulation test to determine which faction they best belong to. When Tris is put under the faction test, her results come back as inconclusive, marking her as Divergent. Being Divergent is extremely dangerous and Tris is sworn to never tell anyone her secret. Later at the choosing ceremony, Tris decides to join Dauntless, the faction that is deemed for the brave and are the protection for the city. It is here, where Tris’ journey from demure and modest girl to daring and strong woman begins.
The novel is pretty much a giant training module of the Dauntless initiates. Tris and her fellow Dauntless initiates participate in a series of psychological and physical tests and fear simulations to determine if they are cut out to be apart of the Dauntless faction. Tris meets a slew of characters who later become her friends and enemies; she must then determine who she can trust and who she has to cautious of. When trouble arises among the factions, Tris’ character, relationships, and romance are all tested for strength and endurance.
For a YA novel, Roth did an excellent job in creating a world where we the readers can get swept into quite easily. Beatrice/Tris is the typical girl character who is easy to relate to and I often found myself cheering her on. I particularly enjoyed the developing relationship between Tris and her Dauntless trainer, Four. Their relationship doesn’t feel forced it and I like how Roth gave them a slow progression into a fiery yet blooming romance. The novel is a short read (it took me about four days) and it is easy to follow along. Besides the characters of Tris and Four, the others are a little one dimensional with little to no back story. The later part of the story focuses on the troubles brewing between the two factions, Abnegation and Erudite, but I didn’t really feel like there was much context provided for the tension among the factions; maybe I will have to read Insurgent and Allegiant to find out.
Overall Divergent was a satisfying read. The writing isn’t spectacular,but it’s not bad either. The dialogue is simple and I often felt I was sitting amongst high school peers. Roth develops an heroine who doesn’t attest to being completely diffident and develops a confidence which makes her brave. The novel doesn’t change/alter my literary reading in any way, and I only gave it three stars on Goodreads. With the upcoming film, I’m interested in seeing their rendition of the book. To my understanding, the fandom surrounding Divergent is nothing shy of immense, as I would assume the rest of the series. I will probably read the rest of the trilogy, although it won’t be anytime soon. At the end of Divergent there are bonus materials including: Q & A with the author, inspirational quotations, writing tips from Roth, a Faction quiz, discussion questions of the book, and more. With all of the “bonus material” and not to mention a sneak peak look into the sequel, Insurgent, I felt like my middle school student self, fawning over characters and daydreaming over which Faction I would “belong” to. I don’t think the extra materials were necessary as it felt the novel was being overly publicized.
YA novels typically aren’t my “thing,” but I was willing to give it a try. I can’t foresee myself reading a lot of YA in the future, but I am always up to reading something different and out of my element.
Here is the trailer for the upcoming film: