I never seem to read or watch anything when it’s in the hype because I don’t want to conform to the hype – which I wouldn’t do anyway – and because when these books come out I have a trillion other things I am doing.
Anyway lets just jump right into this review. I would like to mention that the reason I decided to pick up this book after I came back from holiday is because I watched the Divergent movie on the plane back from Turkey and it was very good. Good enough to make me pick up the book as soon as I got back. I just thought that was worth mentioning! *Spoilers alert* – you have been warned. The Divergent series is the debut novel of writer, Veronica Roth.
This book follows the story of a young girl called Beatrice Prior who later shortens her name and is referred to as Tris Prior. It is set in a futuristic, dystopian setting where there are five factions that divide the people in the city by certain characteristics:
- Abnegation: Selflessness
- Amity: Peace
- Candor: Honesty
- Dauntless: Brave
- Erudite: Intelligent
However once the children of these factions are sixteen they have a choice. A choice to move factions or stay where they were raised. The catchphrase being: faction before blood. Once they decide to move factions their loyalties must change and they have to leave the life they knew and their families behind. Beatrice Prior is born into Abnegation but chooses to move to the Dauntless. The rest of the novel is about how she has to adapt to this new environment, train and be dauntless. However things are never so simple. There are many tribulations Tris must go through which include deaths, murders, leaving her faction… getting involved with her instructor at Dauntless aka her love interest Four – yes like the number.
In all honesty the foundation of this novel does seem to mimic Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games series. However I can’t help but like this book. I finished the first book in two days and I had ten-hour shifts at work on both days. I feel like there is a more human approach to this storyline, the focus is centred on how people can struggle to fit into fixed groups of society and what happens when conformity is broken. I believe Roth reflects both on our society today and on us as humans who have become conditioned into labelling and categorising who people and ourselves our. So despite the foundations of these two YA books being similar Tris’s struggles are different to Katniss Everdeen’s struggle because in The Hunger Games the fight is mostly between the oppressive Capitol and people. I believe Roth is ultimately questioning humanity more-so than society but both are parallel one can argue. Despite this cliché love interest I believe there is density to both characters, Tris and Four are more than what they seem on the surface and this makes the novel even more compelling for me to read because character development is something I look for in a novel. If the characters are believable then I believe even if the settings are slightly off or the writing style isn’t to my taste I can get through the novels and that is exactly what happened here. Although cliché I don’t believe that in this book specifically that Tris’s fancy for her instructor makes her weak or jeopardises her character, this is the same for Four. Both characters can be identified outside of their relationship, they have separate identities but are still in a relationship and both have different strengths. This is a different kind of relationship, a new dynamic to relationships in YA that revolve around being in love.
The other factions are marginalised in the first book and you don’t really get to know much about them but since this is the first book in the Divergent series and the relevance of knowing information about the other factions isn’t overwhelming for the understanding of the story I’m glad Roth hasn’t included pages and chapters of irrelevant history and details about each faction. Everything should be on a need to know basis. I feel like how much Roth shares with the reader is just enough to keep them reading and curious and satisfied at the same time.
Simply put I like the story of this book. However like with many YA novels, I don’t like the way this book is written. Maybe I expect the language in these books to be more sophisticated because the audience is slightly older. I don’t know if I’m being picky but I feel like the language in these novels is oversimplified and so instead of taking a few sentences to explain something it is dragged out over pages. I would like to commend Roth on her strong and positive portrayal of a female protagonist, but I will discuss that in detail in another post because it’s an area of interest for me.
I do love the novel and the characters, but I think that every dystopian YA novel and YA author who contributes to it, is becoming comfortable with having the same/similar foundations. I just want to read something that is more authentic from the dystopian YA genre.