Roth, Veronica. Divergent. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2012. Kindle ebook.
Reviewed by J. d’Artagnan Love
When I first sat down to read the first book in the Divergent trilogy, I was convinced that it would just be a rip off of the Hunger Games trilogy. From reading the description on the book cover, it looked like Roth might be grabbing hold of the streamers on the rocket success of The Hunger Games. Beatrice Prior, the protagonist must choose her faction. In the city of a dystopian Chicago, at a certain point in their lives teenagers must decide which faction they belong to and each faction represents a particular value as a response to a war that happened long before the start of the story. This is all very similar to The Hunger Games, particularly with the strong-willed female protagonist and post-war factions or districts.
That is about the extent of the overlap, though. As stated earlier, each faction represents the polar opposite value of what people believed caused the war. Further details aren’t really given about this war, but perhaps that is coming in the next couple of books. The Dauntless faction values courage and believe that cowardice was the cause of the war. The Candor faction values honesty and believes that lies were the cause of the war. You get the point.
Beatrice grew up in Abnegation, a faction focused on extreme selflessness. She is not allowed to have her own desires; she is not even allowed to look into a mirror because that is considered self-serving. Beatrice must decide if she will stay in her faction with her family, or join a different faction and never see her family again. To avoid spoilers, I won’t say which faction she decides to join, but the majority of the book traces her progress of initiation into this faction.
Before deciding on a faction, students are given an aptitude simulation test that indicates what factions they have specific strengths for. Most students end up with strengths aimed at one particular faction. In rare cases though, some students will have strengths for multiple factions or no factions. These students are called divergent and Beatrice is one of them. Not much is explained regarding her divergent status other than the perception that those who are divergent are dangerous and thus, in danger so Tris is not allowed to tell anyone about her divergent status.
Divergent is a nice set-up for the future books in the trilogy. There wasn’t much work done in developing the “world” as most fantasy or dystopian writers tend to do. As a result, it was difficult to really grasp exactly why Chicago was in its current state and what that current state was. If I were to grade it like a teacher, I would give this book’s world creation a C. I also thought that the middle of the story really dragged. It was full of teen angst and initiation processes and romantic tension and eventually I became bored with this. By the end of the book, the action started to pick up again and I liked it enough to be curious about what happens in the second book in the series. I am hoping for more action, less angst, and better plot development in book two.
Weaknesses aside, I had fun reading this book and if you are a fan of dystopian literature, it’s worth it to give this one a shot. Just remember it is written for a teen audience!
3 darts out of 5
Bookshelf Project Status: returned to the library.