4.9 out 5 stars
Divergent was first published in April 2011 by American author Veronica Roth and is the first in a trilogy of young adult, dystopian novels set in a futuristic Chicago which has been cut off from the rest of the world by a giant wall. The novel centres around the narrating character Tris as she discovers that she’s Divergent – she fits into more than one of the five personality traits that make up the factions being ruled in Chicago. She has to hide her Divergence so moves to the faction Dauntless where she meets more challenges than she could have possibly imagined.
I enjoyed this story so much! It was kind of slow in places which brought my star rating down, but it was an interesting story. I’m going to sound like a lot of other reviewers when I talk about The Hunger Games in this review, but there is no denying that my familiarness with that particular series enabled me to get through this. I give The Hunger Games as my example because there are a few similarities between the novels (the factions/districts, the poverty, the overbearing government, the age of the narrating female character, etc.) but I feel that this story and the rest of the series has a shot at standing out in the dystopian genre.
I liked the idea of the factions based on personality traits – it was an interesting concept, and by choosing the five main traits that truly define human beings really made the story’s darkness show through. It’s simple psychology wanting to place people into cliques based on who they are but as it is pointed out through the Divergents, no one really is just one personality trait. Someone may have a stronger sway towards selflessness but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t intelligent.
Basing the story in a familiar setting like Chicago rather than renaming a country also helped to draw a better understanding of the area despite the obvious alterations. There is no explanation as to what happened to create such a destruction, why the wall is up separating Chicago from the rest of America, and what exactly lies beyond the wall. So many questions are left unanswered and I wasn’t sure if it was on purpose or whether it was just a bunch of plot holes that Veronica Roth hadn’t thought of yet. It felt too disjointed and I didn’t like that.
I enjoyed the characters – all of the characters, even the villains – and just how well paced the majority of the story was.
Tris is a very cool character – I enjoyed reading about her. She isn’t perfect which I loved. She was flawed – she cried, she got angry, she was smart, she was strong, she kicked arse and got her arse kicked (a lot) and dealt with so much that I can’t help but admire her. She’s a breath of fresh air when it comes to females in literature. Her relationship with Four was fantastic. It wasn’t forced, it was brought in slowly and it was based on trust rather than necessity. Tris needs protecting just as much as she is capable of protecting herself and others. She defends Four, she protects him in his Fear Landscape and stands up to his father when they are reunited near the end of the novel. Four protects Tris when the bullies try to throw her into the rapids, he doesn’t baby her, he knows that she is capable of stepping up and being strong but lingers in the background to give her that final push she needs. That is the kind of relationship that needs to be promoted more in literature! Where The Hunger Games has a girl who can’t make up her mind which boy she wants and toys with their emotions, Twilight has an unhealthy obsessive relationship which encourages self destruction when someone leaves, this story showed a relationship built where they need each other but can function separately and independently! The only other character that I have enjoyed in situations like this (peril, fantasy and action) is Hermione Granger. (The book version, not the film version – the film representation of the character annoyed me beyond belief.)
Furthermore, her parents (though I initially disliked her father) were amazing role models. Her mother especially. The strength in those characters and their willingness to put their lives on the line so that their children could live was amazing. They did something when things went wrong, they didn’t go catatonic, they didn’t freak out and shut down. They knew that their children were capable of great things but still needed help and those final moments with them broke my heart in very good ways.
The writing style for the novel was pretty simple. I didn’t find any grammatical errors like I have in some other books, but it wasn’t anything spectacular. Everything was described just enough that I could picture it vividly – from the description of Tris, to the Pit and her tattoos. I felt that enough information was given and in such a simple way that it didn’t feel overwhelming. The pace was a little underwhelming occasionally, but more often than not this was an exceptional story.
Overall, I thought the story was interesting and a nice take on the dystopian genre. What people don’t seem to take into consideration when reading dystopians is that there are only so many ways the world can end and things are going to start sounding similar – for example look at the zombie sub-genre. What people forget when they talk about the similarities between Divergent and The Hunger Games is that THG was not an original concept when it first came out – it was swamped by comments that it was similar to Battle Royale, so Divergent may be similar but everything has a similarity to something. Either way, I look forward to reading the rest of the series.