Divergent by Veronica Roth

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Divergent
Somewhere inside me is a merciful, forgiving person. Somewhere there is a girl who tries to understand what people are going through, who accepts that people do evil things and that desperation leads them to darker places than they ever imagined. I swear she exists, and she hurts for the repentant boy I see in front of me.

But if I saw her, I wouldn't recognize her.

Beatrice is nervous. She has a test coming up soon. The test. The test that will determine her future. On a particular day each year, all sixteen-year olds have to take a test that will find the dominant quality they possess and thus find the faction that best suits them. A day after the test, they have to make their choice. If they choose a different faction from the one they were born in, they cannot return back or meet their parents. Beatrice's test doesn't go as expected, forcing her to keep a secret, and she ends up making a choice that surprises everyone. However, when she begins to hear hints of a growing conflict, her secret becomes suddenly life-threatening and she has to do something to save herself.

Finally, the review I've been writing in my head for two months but have been really reluctant to translate that to paper (or bytes). I almost feel like I'm standing among a sparse group of people on one side of the fence facing a huge fanbase who loved this book. Honestly, I found just one other person on my Goodreads friends' list who rated this book at 2 stars, everyone else gave it 4 or 5. I'm bordering at 3. You see, I didn't get the appeal of this series. At all. And that was quite disappointing because it is being touted as the next Hunger Games phenomenon, and I loved the Hunger Games series! Just recently, soon after the release of the first HG book, someone in the publishing industry was asked what next after the entire HG movies were released. And he pointed at the Divergent trilogy. I could only look down disappointed. (I wish I had noted down who said this, but right now you only have my word here and it's true.)

Divergent is the first book in yet another YA dystopian trilogy in a market that now seems saturated with them. I love me some good dystopia. I love watching dystopian movies and I like imagining all the possible ways the world can reach a state of utter chaos and mismanagement. (That makes me better appreciate today's world as we know it.) Divergent is actually good. It invests in the concept of a test to determine one's true calling but hides that behind the idea that the individual always has choice in the matter. Quite unlike The Giver, in which what you were deemed good at becomes your job for life, but still not too different for me to not raise my eyebrows. There are five factions in Divergent - each valuing a particular trait - truth, insane daredevilry bravery, selflessness, knowledge, peace. Obviously, there are people who do not fit in either. They become the homeless who have to live on other people's kindness (usually those of the Abnegation faction). And then there are people who spoiler... mumble ... spoiler. As our heroine of this trilogy is.

My big issue with the book is that I felt the author was trying too hard to create the dystopian world. Unlike many other utopian and dystopian lit I have come across, this world never quite felt natural to me. A lot of the elements felt too convenient, and so much goes unexplained, violating the 'Show, Don't Tell' adage. I was reminded of too many other books while reading this one. I am by no means saying that the idea isn't original. It is, to a limit. I just felt that I had read other better similar books, especially The Giver and The Hunger Games. I ended up feeling that the world was standing on some weak stilts. Even the conflict at the end felt artificial and its motivation felt very weak. Although there were very vague hints of some impending danger, the conflict felt to me to have come out of nowhere - without sufficient buildup and anticipation. I guess I could say that it felt more like a terrorist attack than a planned war. But at the same time, knowing something about the coming conflict, spoiled the element of surprise that terrorism usually brings.

As is customary now in YA dystopia, there is some romance too. Actually, cross that. There is just a little more romance than I felt comfortable with. Which is okay. I've never enjoyed the fixation with romance in YA books, but its presence didn't really bother me because I expected it. What did bother me was how lame it all sounded. There is an unapproachable guy who is up to his forehead full of secrets and we have a heroine who is feeling somewhat attracted to that image. Ring a bell, anyone? At one point, the romance felt too sugary and eye-rubbing for me to even enjoy it.

I did like (a little) Beatrice's character. I didn't care for any of the other characters - almost all of them felt very flat to me. I initially felt guilty that I was again being too demanding of strong characters before I remembered that there are other YA books with strong characters. I liked Beatrice because of the reason I like a woman/girl character - she is independent, thinks for herself, can protect herself. I also liked the whole training session in the book - there are skills to be learned and the competitors are ranked by their performance. A little game in any book is always welcome.

I should probably end my review now, lest I get some tomatoes hauled at my face. If you haven't read this book yet, you may not need to take my opinion here. There are PLENTY of readers who loved it, which makes me the oddball, something that rarely happens with dystopia. Last weekend, I went and picked up Insurgent (the second book in the trilogy), because that's how confused I am about my reading choices, but I am yet to open a page of that book. I am thinking it is something I could read over the weekend in a couple of sittings, just to know what happens, but unless Insurgent does the Divergent formula a little better, I may not find my thoughts on that book any different.


I borrowed this book from the good old library.


23 comments:

bermudaonion (Kathy) said...

I have a feeling I'd be on your side of the fence. Here lately I don't seem to like the books everyone else has loved.

Jill Broderick said...

I wouldn't really disagree with most of your comments. But having read a million, zillion dystopia books by now, I still think this one stands out above many others!

Tina Reed said...

I had to return this one to the library this morning because someone had a hold on it. I only read a few pages so it wasn't as if I was into it yet, but it is on my list to be checked out again, even though you had some issues with it.


My problem with these trilogies is that if the first one is just okay...then the rest usually go downhill from there.

nealcall said...

Now I want to read it and review it too! I don't know why, but I have this devilish desire to poke at the books that people love. They can poke back, that's fine! It's so much more interesting for a conversation to say, "What!? You liked THAT movie/book/mattress brand?!" than it is to say, "Oh, nice. Yeah, it was pretty good."


http://englishmajorversustheworld.blogspot.com/

zibilee said...

I admire you for saying what you really think, and even if it's not what the rest of the crowd thinks, I value your opinions, and will be thinking of them when I read this one. I have also been hesitant to start for fear that it won't work for me, but if it doesn't I know I won't be alone!

pattismith said...

I appreciate your honesty..your review is detailed enough for me to know I probably wouldn't like this. I just finished The Hunger Games trilogy so I'm a little behind everyone else...but for me, it will be hard for any dystopian to follow The Giver and Hunger Games...and lots of other people disliked Mockingjay and I think it was my favorite? I haven't posted my reviews yet but they're coming. It will be interesting to see if you change your mind with the 2nd book in this series :)

Helen Murdoch said...

I don't necessarily think this is the next Hunger Games, but I did enjoy it. And, I look forward to reading Insurgent this summer

Athira / Aths said...

I seem to have a mixed record with such books. That makes it harder for me to figure out if I want to read a hyped up book or not.

Athira / Aths said...

I am probably more in the middle category. I have read more dystopia than the "average" reader but not so much that I can say I've exhausted the genre. I guess for me this book fared poorly in comparison. Maybe once I read more such books, I will begin appreciating Divergent more. Actually, thinking back now, I do feel I've been a bit too harsh, but I'm looking forward to seeing how Insurgent is. Have you read the second book?

Athira / Aths said...

I do hope you enjoy it better than I do. And I agree, very few series hold my attention as I read book after book. Most of the time, by the time I'm done with the second book, I can't wait for the series to end.

Athira / Aths said...

I do agree "controversial" books make more fun to discuss than the ones where everyone sits on the same side of a table. If you are going to read it, I'm looking forward to some nice crazy discussion.:)

Athira / Aths said...

I hope you enjoy this more than I did. I don't really know of anyone who didn't except for that one person on my goodreads list. I may just be too demanding here.

Athira / Aths said...

I guess when you read a few really good books from a genre, other books tend to pale in comparison. For me, I found many elements of Divergent to have already been covered (better) in other books. That made me not like this book much.

Athira / Aths said...

I enjoyed the book while I read it, but I did find myself rolling my eyes too often. I am hoping to read Insurgent this weekend (this is the problem with series - it's hard to stay away from them.)

nealcall said...

I like being on the other side of the fence, and either winning someone over, or getting won over. There's no fun in dogmatic opinions.

Vasilly said...

Thanks for the honest review.We all have books that we didn't particularly enjoy but everyone else did. :-)

Athira / Aths said...

We certainly do! Makes me wish I waited until the hype died down to read it, but well, it happens, right.

Amritorupa Kanjilal said...

It happens all the time that everybody just gushes on about a book, and I'm totally nonplussed about how they could like it so much.

Athira / Aths said...

I've been in that boat too, usually when the hype is still reigning. Mostly I try not to fall for it, but sometimes doesn't work.

Samantha.1020 said...

Sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy this one that I much. I actually really enjoyed it but I'll admit that I haven't read a lot of books like it. I haven't even read The Hunger Games yet (yikes!) I'm curious to hear your thoughts on Insurgent if you do read it...but I'll probably skim your review since I haven't read that one either. I'm so behind :)

Ryan said...

From wizards to vampires to Greek gods to dystopia. Any guesses what the "next big thing" will be? My guess is metamorphosis (as in The Fly).

Nishita said...

Just thought I'd say hello. Just discovered your book blog from over at Veens, and you have reviewed a lot of great books. I am going to bookmark it for future reading picks.

Young_1 said...

This has been on my to-read list for a while and i always seem to easily pass it on the shelf when paroosing my favourite section of most shops! I think i may have to borrow it from the library rather than buy as fear it may not be worth it. I am currently getting through Mockingjay and getting a bit sad that it is the last one! Hope you are well x